‘Well, Meg. It’s that time again.’
Fred stands on the door step, puffing on the last of cigarette. Meg holds the door open, waiting for him to finish. The sky is bloctchy, black and brown. The streetlights make Fred’s shadow look like a heaving black blob.
‘You’re letting all the warmth out.’ She shivers. Fred tosses his stub into the bush and crosses the threshold. He wipes his feet slowly and deliberately on the doormat. Meg cannot watch him any longer and heads into the kitchen, exasperated.
The remnants of the pasta bake, which she had just warmed up before he arrived, are now cold. She picks at the pasta shapes with her fork. When he comes in, he pulls out the chair, scraping it along the tiled floor, and starts to take his coat off.
‘No.’ Meg says, ‘You’re not going to be here for that long.’
‘Well, I gotta count the money, don’t I?’ He asks, leaning heavily on the chair.
He’d put on weight. No, muscle. He had always flourished as a bachelor. Underneath his coat he wore a nice suit. Zara Men maybe. TM Lewin?
Fred produces a money clip from the breast pocket of his suit. It barely contains the thick wad of cash between its teeth. Fred waves it with a smile. Meg barely blink.
‘900 for rent.’ She rattles off, ‘160 for school dinners. Lex needs a new PE Kit. That’ll be 50. Rowan’s going on holiday with Godmother and he’s going to need spending money.’
‘Let’s call it 100.’
He counts out the notes, licking his fingers, desperately trying to not to cackle with glee. Meg doesn’t watch the money the way he watches the money. She watches him. How different his very features seems. His soft smiling eyes are mean. Greedy. Lost.
‘What about you?’ He says, sliding the pile of money towards her. ‘You wanna do something? Your hair looks like it needs some love.’
‘I can look after myself, thanks.’
‘Doesn’t look like it.’
‘Well, whatever it looks like, I don’t need anything from you.’
She stands up and chucks the pasta bake in the bin.
‘Maybe not money…’ He says, quietly. When Meg doesn’t turn around, he gets up, joins her at the sink.
‘When was the last time you-‘
He places a hand gently on her shoulder, moves it slowly down her back. Meg suddenly turns around, the fork from the pasta bake hovers dangerously close to Fred’s Adam’s Apple.
‘Take your hands off me.’
He backs away.
‘You think you can come in here, waving your blood money at me and what? Get back in this house?’
‘Do you even care about your kids? Because you never ask about them. You’ve been here for half an hour and you haven’t mentioned them once.’
‘Go home, Freddy. You’ve done your song and dance and now I’d like you to leave.’
Fred picks up his coat, defeated.
He throws his coat on and leaves. The money on the table flies about in the gust.