Just over twenty-four hours later, David was sitting in bed, reading a magazine, when Juliette entered their bedroom and walked across to the dressing table. She crossed her arms and took hold of the hem of her tailored white T-shirt, with her company’s logo embroidered neatly into the lower right-hand corner. As she often did, she watched her reflection as she pulled the garment up slowly and over her head, before shaking it out and taking it to the Ali Baba in the corner of the room, by the bathroom door.
David lowered his magazine and watched the ritual with interest, pondering the thought that this girl was still able to stimulate him as powerfully as she had ever done. Indeed, he was about to allow his thoughts to wander distractedly along that path when the more pressing need brought itself afresh to the forefront of his mind and his thoughts went back to the strange e-mail he had received that morning in his hotel in Nuremberg. At first, he had put the use of the wrong Christian name down to a lapse of memory, for Juliette had a cousin by the name of Mark, but as he had read the e-mail, it became apparent that the cousin had not been in her mind at all.
Lawyers would have had their time cut out trying to draw any conclusive proof of misplaced intentions on the part of Juliette, but a husband who suspects he may be losing his wife’s affections does not work to Judges’ rules and the instruction of his mind is not subject to the provisions set out in the Police & Criminal Evidence Act. Suspicion alone is enough to provoke a response from a man who feels threatened. This having been said, David’s response was not conventional – for one very good reason. His life revolved around Juliette and her happiness, so it would hardly have been appropriate to lay into her verbally and risk saying things that could do irreparable damage to their relationship. As for physical intervention, if this was to happen, it would have to be very different from that which he had witnessed throughout his childhood and adolescence, as his long-suffering but deeply loyal and devoted mother had tolerated, without demur, the violent manifestations of inadequacy to which his father -like his father before him – had always been prone, whenever things did not go entirely his way. David had been appalled at this, but had, at the urgent insistence of his mother, resisted the temptation to challenge his father. The abuse had, nevertheless, left mental and physical scars on both wife and son.
To many people, the options would have been either to leave home at the earliest date or to tackle the problem head-on. David, however, was not ‘most people’ and he had resolved to find a way of dealing this that would leave minimal problems in its wake. To an extent, he had been successful and information had actually reached the single neurone that usually controlled Bob Malence’ sad life, telling him that it might be wise not to provoke even a mild-mannered son, who might yet prove unpredictable and might not always acquiesce to his mother’s pacifying entreaties. Thus, once David had become a man, Bob had decided that the best way to cope with his inadequacy would be to pickle it in alcohol and hope that it would cease to trouble him. It had been an effective course of action, but one that had left him as inanimate on the inside as he was incommunicative on the outside. As for Juliette, it was difficult to tell which of the options would have been better, but at least she was no longer in physical pain.
Whilst David was processing these thoughts at lightning speed in his mind, a parallel process was in operation, seeking to work out a strategy for preventing the collapse of the most precious structure amongst all his designs. The conclusion that he reached, as he watched Juliette’s reflection in her mirror, as she lowered the zip fastener on her beautifully-tailored jeans, would have startled onlookers even more than news of the marriage had stunned the families.