I woke up to the dulcet tones of an argument in progress. The children didn’t want to go grocery shopping, their father was insisting we go as a family. Must keep up appearances after all. I went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and got dressed in my usual shopping day jeans and t-shirt. My entry to the kitchen was accentuated by a yell of, “It’s not fair!”

A door slammed a moment later as I made my way to the coffee pot. I saw my opportunity but bided my time, made some toast. The argument continued. I intervened with a suggestion. The father should go by himself. Of course he couldn’t, he didn’t know what to buy. Hmmm, what to do? What about if … just an idea … what about if I went? Alone? Of course the children are too young to stay home by themselves.

My heart was racing as I climbed into the car alone. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been out by myself. I’d warned them all not to expect me before lunch, I was going to shoe shop and dress shop and browse every shop in the mall! What a liar I was.

He hadn’t been happy about it but the kids had been ecstatic so, list of their requests in hand I headed out. I parked and made my way inside, my eyes going to the spot he’d occupied the previous week. Empty. I checked the time, I was a few minutes earlier than the previous week. I got a coffee from the stand nearby to recharge and sat on a bench to wait. Thirty minutes later the coffee was gone and I was still waiting. Maybe he got the hour wrong I thought and got out my mobile to look busy while I waited. The time came and went and I had to face the truth. He wasn’t coming.

I made myself get up and browse the shops nearby but I didn’t go far. Just in case. What an idiot I was, thinking he’d be there again. Why? For some woman he’d fucked in a maintenance closet? I was so pathetic. I went and did the shopping like the good little housewife I pretended to be. I smiled and chatted and acted like I didn’t hate myself.

I saw him, my green eyed stranger, as I pushed my shopping trolley full of all the things the children and their father wanted towards the exit. He was with another woman, she was young and pretty, smiling up at him as they walked along together. There was a child in his arms, a toddler, maybe three or four years old. I didn’t know what to think about that but I hated myself a little bit more right then.