The Secret Party

Entry by: Briergate

14th March 2016
"Yes, love?"
"Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Seriously, please? Shut. Up."

Jack started to cry in the back seat, while Harry reacted to her outburst by kicking the driver's seat rhythmically, so Jess felt each blow in the small of her back. Reaching for the radio, she turned it up as loud as it would go, trying to drown out Jack's shrill sadness.

She shifted forwards in her seat to escape the rhythmic pounding from Harry's angry feet, and tried to focus on the road, conscious that she couldn’t lose her temper without potentially losing control of the car.

Pulling in to the driveway, Jess turned the engine off and rubbed her eyes, smearing her work makeup across her face. She sat for a moment, slowing her breathing down, until the boys' relentless noise propelled her from the seat. Grabbing her handbag, she lifted her two year-old out first, and ignored Harry's complaints as she opened the front door and shepherded Jack inside. The dogs barked as he wandered in, and she slammed the door for a moment so they wouldn’t escape as she retrieved Harry.

With Harry in, the dogs out, Jack's nappy changed and the dogs in again, Jess walked to the kettle and flicked it on.
"Mummy, I want a drink"
"Drink. Drink Drink."
"There's puppy poo on the carpet and it smells bad."
"Mummy? Mummy? Mummy?"

Jess followed the usual evening routine, fielding paws, removing clothes and shoes, handing out milk, turning the television on, switching the channels every few minutes, emptying Harry's school bag, scanning his homework book, and emptying Jack's nursery bag. She moved quickly, her hands always doing different tasks, scooping Jack up with one hand while she tidied the kitchen, nudging the puppy out from under her feet, picking up the mail, and deftly dressing both boys in their pyjamas.

She sat for a moment as they both drank their milk, finally permitting herself the chance to relax, but Harry kicked out at Jack, who promptly burst into ear-splitting shrieks, and then Harry started crying because Jess admonished him. The puppy leapt up on to the back of the sofa, yapping at an imaginary assailant through the window. Jess pushed hair from her tired eyes, and stood again, restoring order unconsciously as she soothed Jack, hugged Harry and threw a cushion at the dog to make it quieten down.

In a few minutes, Jess had brushed teeth, encouraged face washing, tidied the milk cups away, and herded the boys upstairs. Settling them both into her arms on the bottom bunk of their room, she read a book, stroking Harry's hair and cradling Jack as she read. The boys stilled, sleep creeping up as her voice grew slower and quieter, nearing the end.

Tucking them in with kisses, Jess stepped out of their room, clicking the nightlight on and turning the radio in the bathroom on to a classical station. She moved quietly, picking up clothes, tidying toys away and neatening each room until all was tidy, and made her way downstairs avoiding the creaking third step. Bundling laundry into the washing machine, she set it going and fed the dishwasher with a tablet before it, too, swished into action. She fed the dogs, and straightened up the kitchen until the surfaces gleamed with bleach and everything was tidy.

Jess stopped for a moment, surveying the house with a quiet sense of satisfaction. She stretched, and glanced at her laptop bag, considering whether she had the energy to do more work before bed, but quickly dismissed the idea. She could hear the echo of her boys ringing in her ears, a cacophony of shouting, crying and whining, and shook her head to try and dispel it. Padding through to the living room, she took off her heels and sat for a moment, staring into space enjoying the silence. The dogs settled down, snoozing in the new quiet.

After a few minutes, Jess took a packet of baby wipes and swiftly removed her smudged make-up, walking through to the kitchen to throw the used wipes away. Suddenly, she hesitated, and then opened the fridge to peer in. Smiling to herself, she took out a chilled bottle of prosecco, some olives, and sundried tomatoes, a small bar of dark chocolate which she had stashed behind some lettuce to keep it safe from the boys. She placed the items on a tray, grabbed a glass, and took them through to the living room.

Glancing down at the tray, she started to smile more widely. She put her mobile phone in to the docking station and hit the app that filled the room with mellow music, and then closed the blinds, turning on a corner lamp and lighting a scented candle. Taking down a weathered shoe box from a high shelf, she sat on the floor by the table and stretched luxuriously, before pouring the prosecco out and savouring a long sip. Opening the olives, she alternated between eating and sipping until the warmth of the wine reached her limbs and she sighed in pleasure.

Reaching for the box, she tenderly lifted the lid and took out a handful of papers and photographs. She picked one up and looked at it for a long time, her shoulders relaxing as her breathing slowed. She traced her finger down the image of the man before her, until tears fell on to the print. Wiping it carefully, she replaced it in the box, looking at the rest of the pictures. Sipping her wine, she sometimes smiled at the images, and sometimes let more tears fall. She retrieved a small box from beneath the papers and opened it gently, taking out a ring and slipping it on, letting the diamond catch the lamplight.

For two precious hours, Jess examined the contents of the box, until her bottle was empty and her eyes dropped in exhaustion. With regret, she glanced at the time and then carefully, ritualistically placed each item back inside, finally sealing the lid and pushing it back on to the shelf. She tidied all evidence of her evening away, hiding the empty bottle of prosecco beneath rubbish in the bin, rinsing her glass and putting it away.

The house was silent and warm, the music finished, as she took a quick inventory of the kitchen and living room to make sure there was nothing left out to evidence the fact that for a short time, Jess had been more than just 'Mummy'. For a very short time, she had felt alive and vibrant; a feminine, young, attractive and exhilarated woman.

Walking upstairs to her bedroom, Jess wiped away any leftover tears, peeking in to the boys' room to hear their gentle breaths. She smiled down at them, her heart overflowing with love for each, before pulling the door to, undressing in darkness, and lying down to sleep, alone.