Driving along the narrow country lanes into town, Jake’s anger develops into a huge black cloud of self-pity. Why did Molly have to go off the rails on a school night when they’ve both got a hard day at work to get through?
He sighs heavily, feeling the snatched bowl of Weetabix beginning to churn in his stomach. Being a foreman at the brewery is a steady job, even if it’s not that exciting, but he needs to be alert to do it properly. It’s not his dream job – not even close – but it pays the mortgage. Last night’s broken sleep was as bad as the early days with teething babies. Jake doesn’t need this. He loves Molly and his four kids, his home, his allotment and his prize-winning leeks; in that order, usually. He likes to cook, if somebody else has done the shopping and if he can use his home-grown vegetables.
He looks after his pride and joy carefully – an ageing Range Rover, temperamental but solid. At weekends, he gives a hand with the cleaning, if he’s not at work or on the allotment. In all his thirty-nine years he’s never really wanted more than a quiet life. Is he demanding? Jake thinks not.
The September morning sunshine is breaking through the mist, but Jake’s mood darkens even more as he drives along the winding lanes to Hopton. The early rays warm the freshly-cut grass along the verge, the evocative smell bringing unwelcome memories of a time, years ago, when he lay in the wild meadow at the edge of the sports field, trying to persuade Molly to let him see her new bra.
‘Honestly, Moll, you can’t get pregnant just by taking off your PE shirt,’ he’d said hopefully. Molly’s aertex PE shirt was all that lay between Jake and the wonderful lace and wire construction that kept her chest in order, but there was no way she was letting him do more than stroke the bare skin of her back.
‘Look, it’s all right for you, no one calls you a slag if you let them feel your… you-know-whats…’
‘But I haven’t got any you-know-whats.’
‘Don’t be pedantic.’
‘How can I be pedantic? I don’t know what it means. Anyway, I only want to give them a bit of a rub – over your bra, not even under it.’ He’d shuddered at the wonderful thought of actually being allowed underneath a girl’s bra.Jake sighs as a sharp pang of nostalgia for such simple times brings a lump to his throat.