It was Friday night when my wife, Maxine, came into the room where I was watching TV. I recognized from the way that she was dressed that she intended to do some serious partying. This was news to me, for as far as I was aware, this was just going to be another night for both of us spent in front of the telly.
"I'll probably be back late, Darling, so don't bother waiting up for me. I have to go, that's my cab."
"But where—" was all I managed to get out before she was out of the room and I heard the front door close. I reached for my phone and hit the speed dial number for hers, but all I got was that: 'This number is currently unavailable, ' message. I was more than a little miffed at her, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I would just have to wait to have words with her later.
Well, I must have dozed off during the evening, because when I woke up again it was 02:38. I hadn't heard Max come in, so I assumed that she was still out. I decided to give her another hour, but I still tried her phone again, with the same result.
It was gone four in the morning when I heard a car pull up outside the house, followed by the sound of a door closing shortly afterwards, and then a key in the front door lock. Max must have seen that the light was still on in the sitting room, so she came in. it didn't take Sherlock Holmes to see that she was pissed as a fart.
"I told you not to wait up, Baby! I'm well knackered! You comin' up to bed now, Honey?" I just sat and glared at her: I knew her well enough to know by the way she looked that she'd probably had more than alcohol inside her. "Please yourself!" she exclaimed, before heading for the stairs. I was now wide awake and fuming, but this wasn't the time or the place for a confrontation, so I made myself a cup of coffee to give Max time to fall asleep; which in her condition I didn't think would take long.
At five o'clock I had calmed down enough to go to bed myself. I was going to show my displeasure with my wife by sleeping in the spare room, but I needed a few things for the morning so I went to our bedroom first. Max had managed to undress herself, but as it was a warm evening so she was lying on her back on top of the bed rather than under the covers. Although by now it was getting light outside, I turned on the ceiling light, although the dimmer switch was on low. Max is a very attractive woman, so even though I was angry, I couldn't resist the chance to see her shapely, naked body on display before me.
"What the fuck!" I said quietly. What I saw made me fetch my camera, and after spending several minutes photographing different parts of her body, I collected several items from the bathroom, a number of envelopes, and one of those sealable freezer bags. It probably would have taken a large explosion to wake my beloved wife from her slumbers, but I still tried to be especially careful as I scraped the dried creamy-white residue from different parts of her body and as I took swabbed samples of what was oozing out of other bodily orifices. The freezer bag was for Max's discarded and seriously damp knickers.
By now the combination of hurt, disgust, and plain old fatigue had caught up with me, so gathering up my mini rogues gallery of evidence, I finally got to bed, and shortly thereafter, a deep if somewhat troubled sleep.
We were both dead beat on Sunday morning, but at least I had the benefit of not being hungover as well. I got out of bed around nine, and when I went to the bathroom I could see through the open bedroom door that Maxine appeared to be still comatose. I'm usually a morning tea drinker, but I decided that I'd try coffee to give me a bit of a helping hand in getting my brain into gear. After a quick wash I dressed and walked to the local convenience store to buy a daily newspaper; they also have a machine that makes coffee and hot chocolate, and I chose the former.
Although the guy that owns the shop must be ten or fifteen years older than me, I've known him for ages and if I've got the time, we chat. The coffee was a bit on the strong side for my tastes, but it was hot and there was plenty of it. The fact that it was so hot gave me a reason to stand around and chat while I sipped it and he served his other customers.
By the time I'd walked home again, thankfully my head was clearer and I sat down with a bowl of cereal, after which I placed the newspaper on the table and started to work my way through the most interesting looking bits.
"Morning, Love," a fragile sounding voice said as Max entered the kitchen. I ignored her. She took the seat opposite me at the table. "Look, Matt, I'm sorry, okay! I went out with Marcie and a few of her workmates and got a bit pissed, and now I feel like shit, so I don't really need the silent treatment from you. It was just a few drinks, and it's not like I make a habit of it, is it."
I continued to ignore her, and I just washed up my bowl and spoon then picked up the paper and went into the sitting room. Max didn't follow me straight away, but after a few minutes she stood in the doorway and said:
"Okay, Matt, play your silly game. You know that you can be a real child sometimes. Well screw you, I'm going back to bed!"
"Just a few drinks with the girls was it!" I said to myself, "Yeah, and the rest, you lying slut!"
We had our own computer at home, but I decided to take a trip to the public library to see if I could find the information I wanted. I'd heard all about forensic laboratories and DNA testing, but that was in TV programmes and I had no idea how I could go about getting it done on private. In stories I'd read online they make it sound so easy, but I didn't even know if there were companies here that did it, or how much it would cost. I assumed that the library computers might get busy so I might be at it some time. Max and I often did our main shopping on a Saturday, but I guessed that if she felt as rough as she said she did, she would probably want to give it a miss today.
Well, the library was a big help, but quite honestly I could have got all the information at home without the wait to get on a PC. I found out that there are quite a lot of private labs who can test pretty much anything from cigarette ends, to blood, to nail and hair clippings, and of course, semen. I could have started the ball rolling and ordered DIY collection kits online, but I had a few questions about my samples: for example, the legality of obtaining them without consent, and whether my previous collection methods were viable. A lot of the tests advertised were also for determining a child's paternity, but all I wanted to be able to prove was that the semen I collected from Max belonged to someone other than me. If I could show that, I thought I had reasonable grounds and evidence for a divorce. If she'd have admitted it I wouldn't have been pleased but we might have got past it; but Max lied to me and for me that was the clincher.
I decided to leave my phone calls until Monday, however, so I would have to get through the rest of the weekend, and then once I'd talked to the testing companies, for however long the tests would take. It was going to be hard on both of us, but unlike in fiction, I didn't think that I could just pretend that everything in the garden is rosy.
I was in no hurry to go home, so I stayed in the library until late afternoon. I used to spend hours in my local library when I was a kid, and of course while I was at university, but since I graduated and started work I'd gotten out of the habit. Not only that, I think most people who have access to the Internet use that as an information resource at the expense of the printed word nowadays.
When I did finally get home, of course Max wanted to know where I'd been, but I was still not talking to her. I suppose I made matters worse when she put my meal in front of me and I just pushed it away and unwrapped the fish and chips I'd bought in with me: we'd had rows before, but I'd never done anything like that. She sat and stared at me.
"Matt, please, we've got to stop this! I'll say it again: I apologize for going out and getting in so late; I was just letting off a bit of steam. Can't we at least talk about it?" All I did was carry on eating. Max put her head in her hands and I'm pretty sure that the sobs and the tears were genuine. I wasn't actually as cold as I made out, but my resolve held and it was Max who got up and left the room and I heard her footsteps on the stairs. But there was no slamming of doors or anything; Max isn't like that.
My supper eaten, I decided that I couldn't just sit around as if nothing had happened, so I took myself down to the working men's club where I could more or less guarantee that I'd see a few friendly faces. It is where my dad used to bring me and my brother, Eddie, on a Sunday lunchtime while mum cooked the dinner. Dad doesn't come here so often any more; not since Eddie got killed in Helmand Province. I never felt that Eddie was dad's favourite or anything, but he was the oldest son, so I can understand why dad took it so hard for a while. But I still had mates who went there, and if it wasn't busy, I could usually get a game of snooker or darts.
I've never been a particularly big drinker, but I stayed there until about eleven o'clock. I don't know how Max spent her evening, but the meal she cooked was still on the table. I hate wasting food, so I blitzed it in the microwave and ate as much as I could before binning the rest. My emotions had been up and down all day, so I once again took myself up to the spare room that night. Some time later, I'm not sure when, I heard the bedroom door open, then a few seconds later close again. I just closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
Max was already up and in the kitchen when I came down Sunday morning. She didn't speak but she made me tea and put it in front of me.
"I'm going to Mum's this afternoon: I'm not cooking if you're not going to eat it. You can either go with me or make your own arrangements, again." There was heavy emphasis on the last word.
I took my usual stroll down to the newsagents for the Sunday paper, George, the owner, wasn't in the shop and his part-time help was serving, so I didn't stay. Max and I spent the rest of the morning trying to avoid each other. My in-laws only live about a twenty minute walk away, so at one o'clock-ish, Max said: "Well, are you coming or not?" I just shook my head. She didn't argue, she just sighed and left. I had thought about going round to my parents', but I didn't fancy having to explain why I was on my own, so I headed for the Prince Regent Tavern—known to the locals as the Prince—where Max and me sometimes went instead of cooking. I was still in a strange frame of mind over Max's behaviour, and it occurred to me that, one way or another, it was costing me a lot of money to be miserable.
Max got home about ten that evening, as we both had to work in the morning. As I was in the sitting room with the TV on, after locking the front door she went straight to bed. I gave her another hour before I went up.
Luckily, or otherwise, I leave home before her in the morning, so we avoided any further awkward silences. I first met Max when we used to get the same train to Liverpool Street each morning, but she works somewhere else now so we don't travel together anymore. We are allowed to use the office phones for most things, within reason, so as soon as my colleagues who I share an office with went to lunch, I started to call some of the DNA labs I had numbers for. After talking to a few, I found out what I needed to know and I chose one of them to deal with. I made a note of what I had to do and I paid for the service using my debit card; Max and I have a joint bank account, but also our own personal ones. The only down-side, was that they probably wouldn't get my samples in time to process them and then give me the results until the beginning of next week, unless I chose their express service. As the results weren't that important, only the official notification, I opted for the cheaper, standard, four working day, service.
The atmosphere at home when I got in from work was decidedly chilly; but fortunately for me, Max decided that an evening with Marcie Douglas was preferable to the cold shoulder from me. This did allow me to get my collected semen samples packaged up for posting, together with one of my own for comparison. I also decided that I couldn't keep the silent treatment going for another week, although I would avoid any arguments, if possible, and it looked like the spare room would be mine for the time being. The following day I paid a visit to the Post Office during my lunch hour.
"Are we talking again yet, Matt?"
"Yes—but I'm not ready to forgive and forget, Max." She even managed a slight smile; no doubt believing that the crisis had passed.
"Okay, Love—well at least that's a start. Have you eaten yet, or do you want me to get you something?"
"Only if you're having something."
"All right; pasta's quick. You've got time to have a shower then put your feet up."
And that was how it went: both of us speaking, but saying the minimum and trying not to tread on each other's toes.
"Are you coming to bed, Love?" Max asked me later.
"No, I don't think I'm ready for that yet," I replied, tersely.
"Oh, okay then!" She sounded genuinely disappointed and the look she gave me matched her tone. "I suppose I'll see you in the morning, then." I just looked at her and nodded.