Janey had tried to put it out of her mind. She had told herself repeatedly it was all in her imagination. She was paranoid – and not without cause. Her first husband had cheated with his secretary – oh, it was such a cliché! Janey was sick with embarrassment at the thought of it. “We have to talk,” he’d said – after she’d caught him with that bimbo bent over his desk. And yet there was nothing to be said. Now he was long gone. Janey couldn’t even remember the secretary’s name. Something less than classy, she supposed.
And now – oh, she hoped it wasn’t the case – it looked like it was happening again with El. He had taken to coming in later and later from work. He’d let himself in, call out “Hi, Janey” and go directly upstairs to change before she could come out of the kitchen. He’d shut himself in the bathroom and run the shower. When he emerged, he was bright as a button and full of beans, and he would pull her into a hug and goose her, and she would swat him with a tea-towel and say it wasn’t the time for that. Giggling she would fix dinner and consider herself the happiest of women but – what if it was happening again? What if El was diddling his secretary? Did El even have a secretary? Janey didn’t know. Come to think of it: she didn’t know exactly what he did for a living. Perhaps she’d never asked because she didn’t want to imagine. She didn’t want to conjure up pictures of El at work. And what his office was like. And his secretary. As long as she was ignorant of these things, Janey couldn’t drive herself around the bend imagining.
But the old fear was back, like a recurring nightmare, like a disease come back to bite her in the brain.
She nipped upstairs with a screwdriver and removed the lock from the bathroom door. If El asked her about it – and surely he would – she would say she was going to give the door a lick of paint. Because you see, a wife can be as devious as her husband.
She waited in the spare bedroom, her stomach rumbling treacherously as it yearned for the food cooking in the kitchen. She folded her arms across it and willed it to be quiet.
Later than ever, El’s key turned in the lock.
“Hi, Janey!” his deep voice sang out in the stairwell. Janey heard his nimble footsteps as he sprang up the stairs.
Whistling, he went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. Janey strained her ears but his notes didn’t falter as he noticed the lock was missing – if he noticed the lock was missing.
She listened to him shower and then, steeling herself, she stole across the landing. The bathroom door was ajar. She could see his shirt and trousers on the mat. Janey crouched and reached her hand in through the crack to snatch his shirt. She would check it for lipstick or perfume or blonde hair – any clue she could find.
Before she could inspect the shirt for telltale signs, the door opened wide. Steam billowed out on a gust of humid air. Janey looked up. Instead of her husband, a green-skinned creature with elongated limbs was smiling at her, a towel hitched around its narrow waist. Pale membranes nictitated across its wide yellow eyes.
“Ah, there you are, Janey,” the thing said in El’s rich voice. His throat grew bulbous, inflating like a beach ball. “Darling, we have to talk.”