Dennis froze as the lowermost stair creaked under his foot. The landing lit up as the bedroom light came on. Holding his shoes, Dennis felt foolish. What was he afraid of? It’s only the wife. What can she do?
And there she was, at the top of the stairs, arms folded, brow knitted, eyes glaring.
“Sorry, love,” he offered a smile. “I was trying to be quiet.”
“Where the hell have you been?” Dennis’s wife snapped. “And what time do you call this?”
Dennis didn’t know which question to answer first so he merely shrugged. His wife marched down the stairs and nudged past him. She barged into the kitchen – to fetch a rolling pin? Dennis swallowed hard. He put his shoes by the front door and padded after her, ready to face the music.
“Rosemary, love…” he began. She was at the sink, filling the kettle. At the sound of his voice, her shoulders stiffened. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, that makes it all right then, does it?” she pushed the words through tightened lips. “You do know what tonight was, don’t you?”
Dennis wracked his mind. It wasn’t their wedding anniversary; he knew that much. He cast a glance around the kitchen. The used wine glasses on the counter, the dishwasher humming away like a busy bee…
Oh. Oh, shit.
“I’m sorry,” he moved closer, put his hands on her shoulders. She shrugged him off and shoved him out of the way so she could plug in the kettle.
“You knew how much this meant to me,” Rosemary’s voice faltered. “You knew I wanted to make the right impression.”
“Oh, love,” Dennis felt terrible. “I’m sorry. I truly am. But I’m sure you did all right without me – probably better off, truth be told!”
She shook her head. “Don’t try to play it down. Where were you, you selfish bastard? Probably down the pub as usual.”
Dennis reddened. “I only popped in for a quick half – bit of courage, you know – but you know how it is. You get talking, someone buys you a pint so it’s only fair you stop to buy them one and –”
“I don’t want to hear it!” She busied herself with a cup and a tea bag. “Well, aren’t you going to ask me what they were like?”
“What were they like?”
“Oh, he was quiet. She gave the impression of being in charge. The one who wears the trousers. Under the robes, I mean, of course. The way she hypnotised the chicken – it was like something off the telly. It lay there good as gold while he sharpened the dagger. And – you’d have been proud – they let me lead the incantations. Me! My first time! And I got all the words in the right order! I thought I’d be tongue-tied but no. I don’t know, it was like something took over me, some kind of trance. It was… magical!”
Dennis saw his chance. He slipped his arms around her waist and nuzzled her neck.
“Will it work, do you think?”
“I hope so, baby,” she kissed his chin. Her hands clasped his over her belly. “I think I can feel it. The seed. Growing within me. How lucky we are to be chosen! The Dark Prince is on his way!”