The Last Straw: Lorraine Cave

If I were a gambler, which I’m not, I would have put money on the hair.

What I am, according to my husband Jack, is a woman who has let herself go. Well, I’m planning
on taking his description of me literally in the very near future. I’ve booked the flight and the
hotel and soon I shall be letting myself go – to Florida.

Jack was a theatrical agent. We lived off his ten per cents for nearly twenty years but the price I
had to pay was pretending to turn a blind eye to his dalliances with would-be actresses. The last
one was Spanish; dark, temperamental and stunningly beautiful. She was curvaceous in a rather
old fashioned way, like a screen siren from the 1950s – but young enough to be his daughter of
course, or our daughter, come to that.

He brought her back here once, or possibly twice. He liked to do that, drape his girls around our
living room so that they could watch him throw manly logs on the fire or wrench corks from
bottles. I’m no actress but I used to step into the frumpy frazzled wife role as if the part was
written for me. Jack would glow and pose until it was time for them to leave and then he’d
return to being the bored, trapped husband.

It had been my idea to go on a picnic that sunny Sunday. I’d been to Waitrose the day before
and bought all his favourite things, ticking them off my list as I paced the aisles beneath the harsh
supermarket lighting. I caught my reflection at the cheese counter, grey of face with lank blonde
hair, I looked washed and wrung out. I assembled the no-expense-spared goodies in the wicker
hamper while Jack was having a lengthy shower. I’d even remembered to freeze a bottle of
water to keep the cool box at the right temperature for his Chardonnay. Jack would have
bemoaned my failure for weeks to come if I’d spoilt his wine.

Everything was ready when Jack appeared in the doorway and said he had to make a phone call.
To Mercedes, no doubt. I took the news without flinching and sat at the kitchen table while he
disappeared into his womb-like study. It was because I was having second thoughts about
taking the Brussels pâté that I came across the wedge of Normandy brie that was next to it in
the hamper. I know I’m overweight, as Jack is always reminding me, but cheese is my great
weakness and brie is my greatest weakness of all. I cut myself a piece and then hastily replaced
the rest while I scoffed the ripe and delectable cheese.

When Jack reappeared he looked very satisfied – with himself mostly, and proceeded to poke
about in the basket. He had an air of nonchalance as he read the various labels on the
foodstuffs. Then he plucked out the cheese and held it as if it were exhibit A for the prosecution.

“And who, may I ask, cut the nose off the brie?” he said, frowning at the offending item.

And it was this, the proverbial ‘last straw’ which made me reach for the frozen bottle of water
and smash the pompous bastard’s head in.

Afterwards I changed my clothes, washed the bottle and placed it on the drainer in the sunshine,
ransacked his study in the style of a burglar and then took the picnic and drove to Box Hill. I
always enjoy my food, I never rush it. I was in a good mood when I got home so it was a very
real shock to me when I found Jack lying in a pool of dark, viscous blood and I found it easy to
scream and sob down the telephone to the emergency services. I managed to pull myself
together after the police arrived and a very helpful WPC poured me a glass of water from a
bottle that was conveniently to hand.

So, if I’d been a gambling woman I would have lost the bet because what broke this particular
camel’s back wasn’t the long black hair that I’d found under my pillow after all.


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