‘Yes. Nowadays, we can afford it.’
‘You’re sure? The last thing we need is for you to be doing this job and us to fritter the money away and end up back where we started.’
‘Sam. We’ve been through this. We’re not even going to go for dinner anywhere more expensive than Harbour Lights until the debts are paid off. What we can do is spend, what is it? Fifteen quid? Going to watch a film. Another few pounds on a drink to take in with us. It’s fine.’
I shiver in my lightweight coat and think of the money I spend in London without even noticing it. Tuesday will be the first day of November. The past month has been tempestuously autumnal: sunny for five minutes, then suddenly hailing, then sunny again. When I have been in Falmouth, the sky has filled with rainbow after rainbow. They must happen in London, but I never notice a rainbow in London. There is always a building in the way, or something happening at eye level.
‘Cold?’ my husband asks, and I nod. ‘Let’s go home.’
‘It’s already been a month,’ I remind him, as we cut through the marina, using the five-digit code to get through the heavy metal gates. We are not supposed to do this, but whenever they change the code, Sam finds out the new one from work, and we use it as a cut-through constantly. It saves us a few minutes, but more than that, it is always interesting: today, for instance, there are some dressed-down but clearly rich people down on the wooden jetty, fussing around next to a small yet magnificent yacht. They look up as the gate slams behind us, and raise their hands in an efficient wave of acknowledgement. If we have the code to the marina, we are in their circle and worthy of a wave. Our feet clang as we cross the metal bridge, and there is, as there always is, a puddle on the other side of it which requires nimble skirting.
When the second heavy gate has clanged shut behind us, Sam takes my hand. I like the way it feels. In spite of everything, we fit together in the same way we always have. We will be, I suddenly know, all right. He is pining away at home, not just for me, because that would be pathetic in a man who is approaching forty, but for the family life that should have been going on around him. We have never spoken of it, but I know that imaginary scenes from that life-that-never-was ambush him at every turn. I picture him at home in the evening, probably eating a bowl of cereal for pudding, with the television on. From the corner of his eye he catches a glimpse of a serious four-year-old, the child we would have had if it had worked out the way we blithely assumed it was going to, before it didn’t. There is a baby asleep downstairs in the smallest bedroom, and the two- and four-year-olds share the bigger one.
Instead, he is all alone. We haven’t spoken about adoption lately, but I know he is thinking about it. For the moment, I want to avoid the topic.
‘Shall we order a pizza?’ I am using my brightest voice to mask the fact that I am desperate for hangover food. Sam is standing in the conservatory, which juts out from the side of the house and, depending on my mood, makes me feel either that I am hanging over an abyss, or that I am suspended magically over the whole world. He is staring out over the docks and the water, to the mansions across the estuary, the curve of the town around the water of the mouth of the Fal.
He does not reply. I go to stand next to him. He puts an arm around my shoulders without looking round.
‘We can’t have Domino’s,’ he says, and as I watch he seems to pull himself together, to drag his focus back from wherever it was and on to me. ‘This is your only evening. Earlier we were going to the cinema. Which do you want to do? I could cook for us. Or we could go back out and do something.’
We both look back at the view. It is raining in Penryn, down the river. The clouds that partially obscure it are the dark grey that signifies a downpour. In the