This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 1170 words.
Choosing a husband with a German name wasn’t the brightest idea perhaps, she knew that. But at the time, he was as good an option as any, and his name was irrelevant. Later on, she had cause to regret it, when constantly asked to explain it, and endure listening to numerous questions and theories about how it had arrived in her husband’s family. In truth, Hannah had never wanted to get married. She was always happiest playing sport with her friends, especially Netball. But after being selected for that big game, then being dropped immediately after, her mood had descended into a dark place, and had never really recovered. So when Ian had asked her out on a date, she had agreed. He was too easy, she saw that immediately. Rather immature, and keen to please, she could control him like a puppet. So she did. The marriage was her idea, and he went along with it. Better to be married to someone as dry and boring as him, rather than a man who might try to dominate her, perhaps even ruin her life.
Having the baby seemed like the thing to do, and Ian went along with that too. Hannah wanted to be accepted in some sort of social circle at first, and being a mum provided an instant opportunity. The trouble was, she had felt nothing at all for Roland. He looked like one of the distant relations on Ian’s side, with his white-blonde hair and blue eyes. They named him Roland, but Hannah secretly thought of him as her ‘little Nazi’. Everyone talked about maternal instinct, and the bond of love between mother and baby. But all she could think about was getting no sleep, having to clear up his mess, and constantly keep an eye on him. She managed to maintain some kind of image to the outside world, but it wasn’t easy. Smiles came hard to her face.
But once she could dump the boy at school, life returned to some semblance of normality. Her coaching and team-training gave her not only purpose, but also some reputation in that part of town. Extreme exercise calmed her down too. It suppressed the black rage lurking just below the surface of her mind. Go through the motions. Feed the boy, and Ian. Get the boy to sleep, leave her husband slumped in front of the TV, then life could start, if only for a few hours. That social circle she had sought was soon abandoned. Pudgy women who had never lost the baby fat; droning on about milk pads, dress sizes, and what they were going to cook for dinner. Once the boy started school, she dropped them all at once. Hannah didn’t need anyone else in her life.
Roxanne Mellor was worth cultivating though. Her enthusiasm for children was obvious, and she was happy for Roland to spend as much time in her house as he liked. Hannah pretended to be nice to her, but could only just manage civility. Another saggy-breasted milk-cow, destined to adore her strange little boy until he grew up and abandoned her. She knew the type, instinctively. Still, it meant less work for her, and it kept Roland happy too. On the few occasions she had to return the favour, she watched both boys growing up fast. She sensed a weakness in Finn. He was certainly intelligent, much brighter than her own rather dull son. But he wasn’t right. Something in his eyes. Something dark. Hannah knew about dark. And when she looked at him, he looked back, lowering his eyes. He knew that she knew. Hannah liked to have that power over him. She preferred weak men, and weak boys too. They presented no challenge to someone like her, and could be used. In her case, she used Finn to occupy her son, along with Finn’s doting mum, and her strange older husband, who looked as if he should be her father.
Hannah knew that wasn’t right. That said something about Roxanne, and it said a lot about Anthony too. She understood though. He was a man past the age of playing football with his boy, or taking him on adventurous trips. As much as she used his son to look after the needs of Roland, he abandoned his fatherly role to her own boy, allowing him to be Finn’s protector and companion. It had worked out just right for both of them.
So Hannah would bide her time, until it suited her not to.
“Goodnight, Mr Mellor”. Anthony waved at the receptionist as she left for home. Young Kerry, always asking when she could move on to the role of sales. She was keen as mustard, and knew a lot about cars, but he didn’t have the heart to tell her that her main asset to his business was to serve as eye candy for the customers. Something to smile at when they walked in, and glance across at as they pretended to appraise the various vehicles parked inside the showroom. Keep them interested long enough for the two experienced salesmen to be able to pounce. He wandered out to the front, and bent to lock the double glass doors. He would leave by the back as usual, after setting the alarm. But not just yet.
Returning to his comfortable office, he relaxed in the padded leather chair. It wouldn’t take too much effort to think of an excuse to get home late. A difficult customer, some problem with a delivery, perhaps even breaking down on a test drive. He had used them all before, but was still sharp enough to shuffle the order around, so it never sounded too similar. Otherwise, it would be back home to his excitable wife, and an overcooked dinner. Having to say something suitably encouraging to Finn, and listening to Roxanne drone on about mortgages, house prices, and how things were picking up, after the long slump. He would have to put on a show just long enough, hoping that she would eventually retreat to one of her documentaries on the TV, and he could seek sanctuary with his laptop in the spare bedroom.
Anthony was tempted to fire up his work computer again, but couldn’t be bothered to wait for the length of time it took to load. Checking his watch, he decided to give it ten more minutes. Then he would ring home, and make his excuses. She could put his dinner in the oven to keep warm. It couldn’t taste any the worse for that. And Finn would be up in his room, doing homework, or messaging his friend. He changed his mind about the computer, and pushed the button. As it flickered around, and whirred interminably, he thought about the coming weekend. Hopefully, Roland would be over again. That would keep Finn preoccupied, as well as making Roxanne distracted.
As the screen came to life, he leaned forward and began typing a url into the top bar.