Will stood by the large bay window, looking out over the perfectly manicured, verdant green lawn, the sprinklers swishing as they rotated back and forth. He peered anxiously down the tree-lined street and checked his Tissot watch for a fifth time. Dressed in a Porsche Design tracksuit and latest-model Nike running shoes, he hopped agitatedly from foot to foot on the deep-pile woollen carpet. His wife had informed him it was a colour named Morning Clouds but it looked suspiciously like off-white to him. The large room, with its high ceiling and open fireplace, had been called a Reception Room by their estate agent when they’d first viewed the house five years ago. It was simply furnished with two soft brown leather sofas and a low glass and metal table. The wall behind him was dominated by a large canvas with sweeping splashes of red oil paint, which his wife had bought online. It was apparently by some feted, up-and-coming artist but reminded him of blood spatter evidence he’d seen once on a television police drama. They rarely used this room, preferring the cosier Family Room at the back of the house, which at least had a television.
From the window, he saw the bicycle come around the corner onto the street and stop outside the first house. Will went from the Reception Room into the double-height hallway and left the house through the large, porticoed doors, closing them carefully behind him. At the end of their garden path he waited, jogging on the spot in an attempt to limber up, all the time watching the approaching cyclist. The neighbours’ mailboxes clanged as they closed after letters were thrust inside them and he glanced nervously up at the first floor window of his bedroom. But there was no movement there and the street was empty except for the postman, the first stirrings of a workday morning not yet begun. The cycling mailman pulled up beside him, muttered a “mornin”, and reached into one of his panniers, retrieving three pieces of mail which he was about to put into Will’s mailbox.
“I’ll just take those thanks.”
The postman glanced at him suspiciously but then seemed to decide that a mail thief was not likely to be loitering in this neighbourhood at 6am for a bounty of a handful of bills, and so he passed over the letters and cycled on. Will didn’t open the envelopes but instead shoved them quickly into the pocket of his trackpants, glanced again at the bedroom window and jogged off towards the end of the street.
He circumnavigated the neighbourhood, running along quiet, shady streets and through well-maintained parks. Moving here had been a push for them but the safety of the area and the proximity to one of the highest-ranked schools in the city had really left them no choice if they wanted what was best for their family.
On returning to the house, as he stood in the hall removing his running shoes and socks, he could hear the sounds of breakfast emanating from the kitchen. Sally and the kids were now up and about. He took two of the letters from his trackpants before joining his family.
“You were out early this morning,” his wife said without turning around from the stone-topped bench, where she was plucking slices of toast from the bulky chrome toaster.
“Mmm, yeah. Was feeling a little flabby after all that rich food last night.”
He leaned over the table, kissing each of his children on the top of the head, distracting neither of them from their bowls of day-glow cereal.
“At least you could eat most of it. Cheryl obviously hadn’t even thought about what I’m allowed to have.”
Seven months pregnant with their third child, his wife had stuck stridently to the advice on pre-natal diets that she’d read during her first pregnancy for all three of their children, denying herself fish, eggs, soft cheeses, salads and even the merest whiff of alcohol. She turned and placed a full toast rack on the table, taking one piece and spreading it with peanut butter for their 3-year-old son. Their daughter, older than her sibling by 2 years, helped herself to a slice and, in a sense of taste which confounded her father, proceeded to cover it with Marmite.
“Did you pick up the mail on your way in?” his wife asked.
“Yeah, just these two for you.”
He handed her the two envelopes and, dropping the official looking one in favour of the brightly coloured direct mailing one, she proceeded to open it with an unused butter knife. While she flicked through the small, glossy catalogue of baby gifts, he went to the oversized fridge that looked like it had been designed in the 1950s, and poured himself a glass of orange juice.
“Look. A Gucci baby carrier,” she said, turning pages.
“What’s wrong with the baby carrier we have?”
His wife pouted and he leaned over her shoulder, placing his hands on her distended belly, as she swept to the next page. His,”Cool, a Starship Enterprise feeding spoon!”, was met with a look of disdain and she snapped the brochure closed and grabbed the other piece of mail from the table.
He already knew from the envelope that it was the latest harbinger of woe from one of the numerous credit card companies they were indebted to. His total of four cards paled in comparison to the nine in his wife’s name and this bill was for one of hers. He glanced quickly at the long line of digits at the bottom of the statement and turned away.
“It’ll just have to be the minimum payment again this month,” she said, pinning the bill on top of five or six others already on the cork board on the kitchen wall.
“I need to take a shower or I’ll be late for work,” he responded and exited the kitchen without looking at his wife.
Upstairs, he passed through their bedroom into the dressing area and stripped off his tracksuit and underpants, removing the third envelope from his trackpants before dropping them into the laundry basket. He slid the letter into the inside pocket of the jacket of a dark grey Armani suit hanging beside others on the rail and went next door into their Italian marble tiled ensuite bathroom.