Here's an excerpt from Obsession
I am drunk; liquid-limbed, mind-pumping drunk, and so is my husband, Rob. Craggy features, softened by shadows, move towards me across the mosquito candle placed in the middle of the camping table, as he smiles at me and tops up my glass. I shiver a little and zip up my jacket. The low sky of this Breton night has brought the sort of chill that predicates frost. But although frost won’t happen in July in the south of Brittany, during this camping holiday, I have not felt warm enough. Not once. Not at night, curled up beneath my inadequate blanket, or in the day when I’m supervising our children around the unheated swimming pool. The extra layer of body fat, cultivated after the arrival of our third child, is not protecting me from the cold.
Our children are asleep in the tent behind us. I feel their silence and the exhalation of their breath, deep rooted and satisfying. At least I don’t have to watch their every movement until morning, as I do during the days. Holidays aren’t holidays any more. We just take our children to a different place to look after them. A place that is harder work.
Everything about this camping holiday is exhausting. Standing by the pool for hour after hour, checking that they’re not drowning. The boredom of watching and waiting for the occasional sight of a familiar head coming out from behind a plastic palm tree or poolside dolphin. Holding giggling toddlers as we are tossed down knotted plastic tubes, sliding along until we’re spewed out into the water, the movement almost breaking our backs. The endless cooking of barbecues – washing burnt gunk off the griddle. As far as I am concerned this is the best part of the day; the children are in bed and I have Rob to myself.
For this is what I like. Rob to myself. We married just over ten years ago, so we were alone for several years before our children were born. We met at the training hospital when I was a trainee nurse and he was a junior doctor. I will never forget the sight of him walking down the ward towards me, that first cracked smile. No doubt someone looking in would consider our relationship argumentative. Some of our friends say that they never have a cross word. How do they achieve that? Why do we argue? My mother says it is because we care. Whatever. It isn’t really a satisfactory day without the rumblings of a discussion.
Tonight, sitting opposite my husband, a surfeit of alcohol pounding through my veins, I am filled with a new kind of mischief.
‘Who else would you go for, if you could?’ I hear myself slur.
‘No one,’ he slurs back.
‘I don’t believe you. You tell me and I’ll tell you,’ I push.
Rob sits in silence.
‘Come on,’ I say. ‘Let’s be really honest – to compound our relationship.’
He looks at me and puts his plastic wine glass on the metal table.
‘But Carly, we don’t need to compound our relationship.’
‘I think we do.’
Green eyes burn to emerald.
‘I don’t want to know who you fantasise about.’
‘But I want to know about you.’
A jawline held taut.
‘I don’t fantasise about anyone.’
‘I don’t believe you.’ I pause. ‘Anyway, I don’t need to know who you fantasise about. We’re just playing a game. Give me a name, someone you quite like.’
He shrugs his shoulders.
‘I quite like Jenni.’
Jenni. NCT Jenni. Placid and peaceful with doe-like eyes. Endlessly, endlessly kind.
‘What about you?’
I don’t reply.