'What was all that about?' he would ask, when Clodagh returned to him, looking exasperated, amused, exhausted, but never cross, and she would try to explain, and then stop explaining, because after about one minute of her explanation he would probably have put his arms around her and started kissing her, and it is almost impossible to explain and be kissed at the same time. He found himself amazed that despite all these domestic ups and downs, the magic they had discovered in Marbella was not lost to them. Things still seemed to get better with each passing day, and he loved his wife to the very extent of his being.
And now it was Sunday morning. Warm sun, warm bed, warm wife. He turned his head and buried his face in her neck, smelled her silky, fragrant hair. As he did this, a warning chord struck. He was being watched. He turned his head back and opened his eyes.
Emily and Anna, in their nightdresses, and with their long straight hair tousled from sleep, sat on the brass rail at the end of the bed, observing him. Eight and six. Was that too young to start sex education at school? He hoped so.
He said, 'Hello there.’
Anna said, 'We're hungry. We want breakfast.’
'What time is it?'
She spread her hands. 'I don't know.'
He reached out and found his watch. 'Eight o'clock,’ he told them.
'We've been awake for ages, and we're starving.’
'Your mother's still asleep. I'll cook you breakfast.’
They did not move. He eased his arm from beneath Clodagh's shoulders and sat up. Their faces showed disapproval of his naked state.
He said, 'You go and get your clothes on, and clean your teeth, and by the time you're ready, I'll have breakfast on the table.’
They went, their bare feet pattering on the polished floor. When they were safely out of sight, he climbed out of bed, pulled on a 1towelling robe, closed the door of the bedroom silently behind him, and went downstairs. In the kitchen, Henry snored in his basket. Bill stirred him awake with a toe, and the old dog yawned, had a good scratch, and finally deigned to climb out of his bed. Bill led him to the back door and opened it onto the garden, and Henry made his way out of doors. As he did this, Breeky appeared from nowhere, looking more like a battered old tiger than ever, and shot past Bill's bare legs into the kitchen. In his mouth was a large, dead mouse, which he laid in the middle of the floor and then settled down to devour.
It was too early in the day for such cannibalism. At risk to life and limb, Bill removed the mouse and dropped it into the trash can under the sink. Breeky was furious and set up such a caterwauling that Bill was forced to calm him with a saucer of milk. Breeky drank this as messily as he could, splashing milk all over the linoleum, and then, when the saucer was emptied, leapt up onto the window seat, closed his eyes to yellow slits, and started to wash himself.
After he had wiped up the milk, Bill put on a kettle, found the frying pan, the bacon and eggs. He put the bread in the toaster and laid the scrubbed pine table. When this was done, the two little girls had still not appeared, so he went back upstairs to dress. As he pulled on an old cotton shirt, he heard them going down to the kitchen, chattering in their high-pitched voices. They sounded happy, but a moment later there floated up to him a wail of despair that chilled his heart.
With his shirt still unbuttoned, he shot out onto the landing. 'What is it?'
Another wail. Imagining every sort of horror, he bolted downstairs and into the kitchen. There Emily and Anna stood with their backs to him, staring into the goldfish tank. Anna's eyes brimmed with tears, but Emily seemed too stricken to weep.
He crossed the floor, and over their heads, peered into the tank. At its bottom, on his side, with one round lifeless eye staring upwards, lay the goldfish.
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