This is another extract from a novel I am planning to write about a British couple in the Dordogne. This part is written from the man’s point of view. They are invited to dinner by their friends.
Dinner was reaching the end. It was getting dark. We were no longer hungry after the foie gras, salade de gesiers and lush dessert but the wine continued to flow. Debbie and Fred kept talking, comparing house prices in the South West, redecoration, his job in an investment bank and their son Tim who was a little genius, very advanced for his age and currently studying at Bedales. Isabella was sitting next to me. Her husband was unwell. She was very quiet. To be fair Debbie and Fred were not giving her much of a chance to voice her feelings.
“Are you really planning to stay here all year?” Debbie shouted in her shrill voice.
“Yes, we are, very much so.” Isabella sounded very determined.
“Well, I can tell you, it gets really quiet in the Winter. Not much to do here, apart from a few shopping trips to Bergerac and Perigueux or even Bordeaux if you’re lucky.”
“It suits me fine” I answered. I am planning to work on my novel.
“Ah, the great novel of the century. Isn’t that an old fashioned concept?”Fred had put his glass down and was leaning over me, somewhat aggressively I thought. But maybe it was just my imagination or my overblown male ego.
” I am sure John will find plenty of inspiration for his novel” piped in his wife. “And what about you?”she turned to Isabella “are you planning to start a family any time soon?”
Isabella let out a hollow laugh: “Well, we’ve got plenty of time.” I offered her some more wine.
Then I heard a laugh. It was Tessa. She was talking to some French guy Fred and Debbie had invited. He did odd jobs on their property and some gardening. His name was Gabriel. He was still a student and from what Tessa had told me yesterday he pretended to be a Marxist. He spoke no English, so since Tessa was the only one to speak proper French, they had been sat next to each other. She was laughing and laughing. I realise she was completely drunk. Her cheeks were flushed, her blond hair dishevelled, and she was gazing at him with a look of utter abandon. The top two buttons of her shirt had come undone and her cleavage left little to the imagination. I felt a sense of outrage. I was a respectable man, I worked hard for a living, I deserved a woman like Tessa. What could that French layabout say for himself? And what about her? How could anyone fall for her crude manipulation, her pathetic attempts at flirtation? She is 38 for God’s sake and she is MY WIFE. I tolerate her of course but I will not be made a fool of. This is what I was thinking, trying very hard to stay calm. She was talking to him again, whispering something in his ear. I finished my glass in one go.
Isabella was telling me all about her IVF:
“You’re so patient to listen to women’s problems. My husband is fed up with it I think. He wants us to give it up. But I really really want a baby. It´s so draining though. It takes all the pleasure out of sex. You feel… You feel a little bit like an animal, demeaned. And he doesn’t appreciate all the efforts I make to get through this.”
I understood. I understood everything except Tessa’s behaviour. I tried to be nice to Isabella. With her chestnut eyes and Bambi looks she moved me in a way.
Then Tessa laughed even louder. She had spilled some wine on her dress. I must have clenched my fist. There was a thud on the floor and blood dripping in my hand, not much, just a light trickle. I had broken my glass. The wine was starting to soak the carpet.
“Are you okay?” Isabella asked.
” I’m fine don’t worry.”
” You know, I don’t think what she’s doing is right.”
” I’m going. Will you thank the hosts for me? I’m sorry.
” Are you sure you’ll be okay to drive?
” Don’t worry. I might go for a little walk first.”
I got up, grabbed my coat and made way for the door. My head was pounding. I could still hear Tessa’s voice and laughter as I left the house.