Charlie flung the house keys towards the living room table as his wife Evelyn closed the door behind them. With a loud orchestral clinking of metal on the lacquered surface the keys slid off underneath the sofa, completely missing the pot Charlie had been aiming for. Evelyn rolled her eyes and tutted loud enough so it wouldn’t go unnoticed. “Darling, you really shouldn’t do that, you never ever get it in the pot, and scratches are beginning to show.” Charlie had already bounded across the room to rectify the situation.
Evie continued to drive the point home. “You know that my love for our table and loathing for your aim is in equal measure dear.”
“Sorry”, a voice replied from underneath the sofa. Evelyn peered round the corner and could only see Charlie’s rear end as he rooted around the dust and dark for his now lost keys. “My aim will improve, I promise. One day I’ll get the buggers in.” Charlie was clearly oblivious to the fact that Evelyn’s source of discontent was the treatment of the table, and not her husband being a bad shot.
Evelyn slipped off her overcoat, gently shaking the snow from it. The forecast said it would be like this for at least another week, apparently a result of the Indian summer just gone. She fondly remembered the warm summer days just a month earlier, and being out until 6pm with the sun still out. Now it was dark by the time the hour hand hit four. Evelyn hated winter. She went to the closet tidily hanging her coat up, and from the corner of her eye, beyond Charlie’s jiggling bottom, spotted her husband’s jacket flung on the sofa with the same disregard he had shown the keys earlier. She quickly smiled realising her boy would never grow up, and moved from the hallway into the kitchen to prepare a nightcap.
“Ah, found it!” she heard, a triumphant cry as if Charlie had just discovered Blackbeard’s treasure. He came to the kitchen and leant on the doorpost dangling the keys victoriously in front of Evelyn. There was a gleaming smile on his face, a bit too much glee for someone who has found his front door keys having only lost them thirty-seconds earlier. Evelyn thought it was adorable nonetheless.
“Shall I have another go, see if my hand-eye coordination hasn’t improved in the last five minutes?”
“I should think you might find your laptop sailing out the window if you put Aunt Mable’s table through that again.” Evelyn replied.
“Mm, actually I’ve had enough goes today come to think of it. Could you pass the cheeseboard over?”
As Evelyn did so, Charlie took the board from her and immediately placed it on the tabletop next to him, taking up his wife in a long, loving embrace.
“I do love the way you put up with my silliness – how you cope I have no idea.” Charlie gazed into Evelyn’s dark brown eyes and kissed her.
“Well that certainly helps,” Evelyn replied, breaking away to get the two small glasses of port from behind her. Handing one over to Charlie, Evelyn motioned him into the living room where they collapsed together onto the sofa. With Evelyn lying on Charlie’s lap, she looked dazily up at the ceiling.
“It’s such a shame that the parties we go to have such potential for great fun but are ruined by such boring attendees.”
Charlie, leaning back on the sofa with his eyes closed played with Evelyn’s hair letting her chestnut locks fall between his fingers. He was seemingly away with the fairies. Evelyn continued anyway, “Take tonight for example: charity fundraiser held in the Butterfly hall of the Natural History Museum, with Michelin-starred food and Chinese acrobats. I repeat: Chinese acrobats. One of the girls was dancing on a chap’s head for goodness sake! And yet why do I come away feeling slightly short-changed? Because I have to be sat in between a right-wing tax attorney and a food importer from the US. Did you know that California produces about 70% of the world’s supply of prunes? Absolutely tragic conversation that one…”
Charlie looked down at his wife. “Evie. That was a first world problem if I ever heard it.”
“A first world problem. It isn’t easy being a privileged citizen of a developed nation is it? Like when you have so much stuff you just don’t know what to ask for for Christmas, or when you get a paper cut from pulling out a fifty from your wallet. Or in this case, when you attend an event to help kids in Africa but you have to sit next to people who don’t entertain you enough for an hour. It’s a problem, but it’s not really a problem.”
“Am I detecting some degree of indifference to my ‘first world problem’ then?”
“Spot on sweetie, spot on.”
Evie stopped staring at the ceiling and looked at Charlie with surprise. “Unbelievable – what other ‘first world problems’ am I guilty of?”
Charlie closed his eyes again. “Do you really want me to go into it? There’s quite a list and it’s almost 2am.”
Evelyn did not know if she had heard quite right. “There’s a list? You’re talking about a list? That means there’s definitely more than four, otherwise we’d be going through a…a ‘memo’ rather than a ‘list’.”
Charlie gave Evelyn a knowing smile and said nothing.
Evie grabbed a cushion and began to playfully whack her husband. “Right, well bring it on buster,” she countered, “I can take what you’ve got on me, I don’t even care. These aren’t first world problems, they’re Evie’s problems, and so logically your wife’s problems, which ultimately, no matter how fairly, end up as the husband’s problems anyway. At least this will be a reminder as to what you’ve got to sort out for me…”
“Well, if you insist.” Charlie said. “I’ll just get my notepad.”
“You’ve actually been writing these down?!”
“Don’t worry, you’re the first person I’ve shown. Apart from my mother.”
“Okay, okay!” Charlie put his hands up in immediate-surrender. “I’m teasing – there’s no list.”
Evie still looked to arm herself with another cushion.
“Every joke is a half-truth Charlie, even if there’s no list I bet you’ve still got a couple of things you could mention.”
“You want me to dive in?”
Charlie cracked his knuckles. “Well, there was that time you complained the ice cream was in the freezer for too long so it was too hard to scoop out of the tub…or when you opened the wrong door on the advent calender I gave you and got really upset-”
“I didn’t get really upset,”
Charlie began to stroke Evelyn’s hands. “Sweetie, you went bonkers and decided to open all the windows and eat all the chocolate because the ‘spirit of Christmas was now broken’. ”
“I got a little upset.”
“Or when only 93 of your 1,000 Facebook friends wished you happy birthday, or-” Charlie suddenly stopped quite abruptly both his sentence and stroking Evelyn’s hands, and looked at her. “Evie?”
“Yes sweetheart?” she answered.
“Where’s your wedding ring?”
Evelyn glanced down and seemed surprised that a faint tan line was now where a band of gold should have been. “Oh! I suppose I must have taken it off when I did the washing up”
“You never take it off when doing the dishes: you wear marigolds.”
“Well sometimes I take it off-”
“No, no you don’t.” Charlie said, “In three years of marriage there was only one time you took your ring off. And you know when that was…”
Evelyn sat upright, and gave a piercing look. “You don’t need to bring that up.”
“I’m just reassuring myself it’s not happening again-“
“Well it isn’t,” she snapped, “you don’t need to worry about those type of things. I’m going to bed. Goodnight. I’ll see you in the morning.”
At that point Evelyn stood up and walked off in a huff. Charlie was not in need of his phsychology degree to recognise something odd about his wife’s behaviour. He was concerned. Usually Charlie was the type of man to let sleeping dogs lie and move on, but when it came to his relationship with Evelyn, that bright star in his otherwise dull life, he would rather remove the thorn from his marriage’s side than let it remain undisturbed to fester into something worse. Unfortunately when it came to discussing these types of matters, Charlie had the tact and subtlety of a brick in a sock – he was not known for using a fine pair of tweezers to retrieve the thorn, but rather industrial-sized pliers. Charlie would regret pushing the issue later on. Little did he know, this would be the last night he would spend with his wife.
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