S T Vasectomy Clinic - 18
By Jane Hyphen
Bizarrely he was back at The Driffold in what seemed like a fraction of the time it had taken on the outward journey to the paddock. He wiped the palm of his hand along the laurel hedge in front of his house, feeling the waxy surface of the leaves and attempting to pull one off but the stem was too strong. Pausing by the gate, he observed the building for a few moments. Maybe Cece had been right, it was a sad house now, she’d kept on mentioning how she wanted to sell up and so far he’d disagreed with her. Looking up at the dark windows, the building somehow looked larger, as if their shrinking relationship was causing parts of the property to become barren like desserts, hostile and uninviting.
The place was once busy with comings and goings, glamorous visitors in expensive cars, parties and the general hustle and bustle of successful people. Many of their professional acquaintances had retired and moved to faraway places but there was more to it than that; St John and Cece had gradually stopped going out locally too. They had once frequented local restaurants and bars but now their presence in the community had been reduced to just a couple of professional engagements a year, local business awards and the like.
As a young married couple, Cece had been as much a teacher to him as he had been to her. He had shown her the finer things in life and she had adapted to them readily, harmoniously and without dazzle or drama. She had taught him that all people are born equal and should be respected as such, regardless of education and class. This lesson had helped him greatly in health service, it had meant that he listened to the nurses, acknowledged the porters and other staff and they in turn adored him. He was grateful to Cece for this, since his own parents, in particular his father, had been incurable snobs.
He wondered about Nina, what kind of background she’d had, he hadn’t dwelled upon her CV, in fact he didn’t recall ever having seen it. Cece had selected her and called her for an interview, she probably had it filed away somewhere but it would arouse suspicion if he were to ask to see it. It seemed to St John that Nina somehow was possessed of an extraterrestrial classlessness. She didn’t belong in any category, everything about her was neutral and this was what enabled the wide landscape of possibilities which he couldn’t stop obsessing about.
It wasn’t as if he hadn’t had affairs before; there was Anne Pilgrim from the laboratory at the hospital, they had an on/off fling for three years when St John was in his forties. He’d had a brief affair with a student several years ago, a young lady who carefully and shamelessly set a trap for him. Then there was somebody he’d met at a male fertility convention in Stockholm; that relationship had been different, in so many ways.
This thing with Nina was new to him, it was based above the waist. He didn’t want her to flirt with him or wear revealing clothing. She was like an unopened present, perfectly wrapped, fresh and unmarked, something he was saving for later and just knowing it was there kept him alive, energised.
It was a good thing that he had reduced his social life with Cece since it meant that there would be less embarrassment and explaining to do when he began his new life, his free life with Nina. The seam would be barely noticeable, the creases smoothed away with a hot iron, there would be no need for guilt or messy financial affairs. He wondered about the value of their home, somewhere between a million and one point four and he had savings too, investments, a generous pension, his ongoing consultancy fees and the clinic.
For years he’d been working so hard and had barely thought about all the money he’d accumulated. Wealth was something he had been bathing in since infancy, like warm comfortable water, he would have soon felt the cold had his money run out but somehow he’d barely noticed the heat as more and more had been added. He resigned to book an appointment with Owen, his financial advisor. Financial security would form part of the bedrock of his proposition to Nina, this idea made him feel attractive and robust.
He entered The Driffold in good spirits. Cece was in her dressing gown warming up some oat milk. ‘I wondered where you’d gone,’ she said. ‘I was worried.’
‘Really? I just went for some air Cece, it’s a nice evening.’
‘It’s night! Where did you go?’
‘Oh just around and about. I’ve been thinking about the house.’
She stopped what she was doing and turned around. ‘Oh yes?’
‘Yes, I think you might be right. We should get it valued as soon as possible with a view to putting it on the market.’
Cece looked very surprised, her hazel eyes widened and a furrow of suspicion formed between them. ‘What’s brought this on, I thought you loved this house.’
‘I do. Well I did but it’s full of ghosts now. It’s a shame for us to carry on here when a family could move in and make use of all these rooms instead of them standing empty, it’s unhealthy.’
‘But we’re going to be family soon!’
St John took a sharp intake of breath. ‘I thought you wanted to sell. God Cece, why are you always so bloody perverse!’
‘I do want to move house but it’s just when you say a family could move in I feel like you’re forgetting about the baby.’
‘Well….like I said, this house is full of ghosts and you don’t want the baby to grow up in a haunted house do you.’
She eyed him up and down, confused by his sudden change of heart. ‘I suppose not.’
‘We could look at those new houses they’re building near where the chicken farm used to be.’
‘Yes, why not?’
‘But you hate new houses!’
‘Well I’m open to new things. We could get a couple of houses so I can have my own space and sleep properly, after all I am a surgeon. I need my concentration. I can’t have the disruption of a screaming baby all night, especially at my mature age.’
Cece screwed up her face. ‘A couple of houses? Are you alright St John?’
‘Yes, perfectly fine.’
St John poured himself a glass of water, removed a bottle of Pernod from the cupboard and poured some in, watching it turn opaque.
‘You’re up to something,’ said Cece
He ignored her and took the drink upstairs to his bedroom. He couldn’t wait to begin his clandestine detective work, to find out more about Nina. It was a strange thing but sometimes he struggled to picture her face and yet other times it would pop into his imagination as if she were standing right in front of him. The image of her face had a stabilising effect upon him and he suddenly found himself desperate to see it. He tried so hard to visualise her but for some reason he kept seeing the rather rough and thoroughly suspicious face of Cece’s mother instead.
It was possible that Cece regularly accessed his phone and went through his browsing history, he wasn’t in the habit of locking it and if she smelled a rat she would leave no stone unturned in finding it. However something inside him had changed recently and he no longer cared enough to dwell upon what his wife thought. Besides, it would be easy to make up a story about simply checking up on his employees' backgrounds, especially if he included Louise and Faith in some searches as well.
He drew the curtains closed and got undressed, into his dressing gown and climbed into bed clutching his phone feeling a little excited about the untapped world which lay behind it. Previously he’d barely used the internet feature on his phone, except perhaps to access an address or some other business details. The world of social media wasn’t something he strived to be part of, he felt it beneath him and he’d always had secretaries to look after his engagements.