Bathtime with Sarah Brightman
Tamlyn Ailsa MacPherson
Sarah Brightman’s voice made the walls tremble, as her rendition of O Mio Babbino Caro belted from the old Hi-Fi at great deciblage. It was Scott’s favourite playlist, although he would have never admitted it to his friends at the clubhouse. Charlie hated it, but it reminded her of him, and for this night… this special night, it would serve its purpose.
She turned the hot tap to release a gush of steaming water over that ridiculous looking cascade-style spout that Scott had insisted made their new bathroom look modern and trendy. She dabbed at the stream with her fingers until she was satisfied with the heat, then pulled up on that little do-dad that seemed to suck the plug into place. What was wrong with a dangly thing on a chain, she had no idea, but if you’re going to waste money you might as well as keep with the times.
Scented oils drizzled from the plastic body-shop bottles that she had been given as a Christmas present by her mother-in-law. The whole room began to smell of vanilla. She turned out the light and lit the candles she had arranged throughout the room. There were around thirty in total, scattered along the far rim of the bath, the window-sill and the back of the sink.
One finishing touch was all that was required. Taking three pairs of latex gloves and a scrunchie from the cupboard where she kept her hair dye she remembered that she needed to touch up her roots. They were a good half an inch of mousey-brownness now and ruining the illusion that she were a natural redhead. She grumbled to herself for having forgotten as she tied her hair up into a quick-release bun and fumbled with a pair the gloves like a teenage boy trying to put on a condom for a bet.
Finally, secure and tight. She stuffed the other two pairs of gloves into the front pouch of her handbag. Reaching up to the top of the cabinet, she grabbed the leather pouch containing Scott’s pride and joy… his grandfather’s straight-edge razor. He only used it to shave when they had guests. He liked to leave the bathroom door open so everyone could see him shaving with it like a proper dapper gent. In reality he looked like a pretentious pillock. When it was just the two of them, he used a Gilette Mach-whatever like every other guy on the planet.
Charlie knew that ‘she’ had been there. The day she had left to stay with her brother and his boyfriend, Scott had jumped at the chance to bring ‘her’ round. Nineteen years old, with espresso tits and eyebrows waxed to a pixel’s width. That bitch’s skull must have been full of peroxide. No one’s hair was that platinum blonde, but there was never a dark root in sight. She started as an intern, and within three weeks she and Scott had fucked in hotels up and down the country.
What made it worse was that Ginny-Louise (yes, that was her real name) wasn’t even Scott’s intern. She had been Charlie’s intern at Grange, Grant and Draper Solicitors. They had joked together about how Ginny-Louise was only working to meet a rich husband and live as a kept woman. It turned out that the husband she took a shine to first was Charlie’s. Now Charlie was not exactly a card carrying radical feminist, but she did find Ginny-Louise to be something of a tumour in the equality cause, however she reasoned, her father was a rich banker who traded his wives in every ten years for younger models, so this adhesion to a life of tropheyism was hardly her fault. Still, lessons had to be learned, and learned hard. She wondered if Ginny-Louise would appreciate it, given that Charlie had no intention of letting the meticulous planning of the past month be known to anybody.
As for Scott, she had wasted her twenties on him. She made the mistake of falling in love with an estate agent ten years her senior. Most people don’t realise estate agents tend to be self-serving, disingenuous cunts until they try to buy or sell a house. For Charlie, it was when she found him hitting on her fifteen year old cousin at her Dad’s Christmas bash. He was twice the poor girl’s age at the time. Charlie made a terrible mistake; she gave him the benefit of the doubt. Eight years of blank internet histories, late office hours and weekend business trips. Scott had the nerve to try and pressure Charlie into having children but the thought of being tied to Scott for life in that way made her hyperventilate and reach for the Valium.
She didn’t need him and his money, not any more. Her screenplay for a drama about 1970s vampire hunters in northern England had been picked up the day after she had left. What should have been a happy occasion that meant she could leave that awful law firm with it’s money and bum grabbing partners, was marred by Scott’s sudden refusal to consent to a divorce when he realised how much money his nearly-ex wife was suddenly worth in royalties.
Charlie sat herself down on top of the toilet seat and pulled the razor out of the leather pouch. Discarding the chamois leather pocket on the bathroom floor she looked at the carved ivory handle. Some poor elephant a hundred years ago died to give some bastard a nice razor. She felt sad for the poor creature as she unfolded the blade and stared at it in the candle light. Scott had indeed sharpened it recently; most likely to show off to Ginny-Louise. She closed the blade and opened it again… and again and again, looking in to her own eyes reflected in the flawless Sheffield steel.
The next step in her life was, to say the least, a transformative one. What she was about to do was something she had always been told was vile, corrupt and sinful, but it felt so right. Then she froze.
The crunch of Gravel in the driveway, the footfalls on the step, the key in the lock and the creak of the door followed by the beeping of the security alarm as Scott entered the disarming key. A pointless exercise as there was no alarm on the back door. It was all for show, just like Scott. Charley very gently placed the folded razor into the soap dish and removed the latex gloves, stuffing them in her handbag, from which she took a champagne glass, wrapped in tissue.
“Ginny babes?” Scott called up the stairs. “That you Ginny babes?”
The music was still blasting throughout the sound system. Placing the glass from her bag on the side of the bath, next to the one she brought up from the kitchen, Charley popped a bottle of nicely chilled champagne from the fridge.
Scott climbed the stairs. His gormless grin rounded the door three seconds before the rest of him, but it was wiped off his face to see his wife sitting there on the toilet, champagne glass in her hand.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, looking over his shoulder.
“I live here!” Charley replied “Don’t worry, I haven’t killed your little pet. It’s her pilates night isn’t it?”
He looked at the bath and the second glass.
“What’s going on? Who’s that for?”
“Us! I thought we could maybe…”
She got up from her porcelain throne and stepped up close to him, giving the best puppy eyes she could manage, the fingers of her left hand lightly brushing his tie knot as she looked down at his lips and bit her own.
“…maybe come to some kind of arrangement. I miss you.”
He raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“What’s going on with you? This morning I get divorce papers from you with an utterly unreasonable settlement on them, and now you wanna jump my bones?”
“I felt bad about that… you… you didn’t sign them did you?” her eyes conveyed mild panic.
“No, of course I didn’t!”
“Good. Well…” she tugged at the knot, slipping it down the length of his tie until it popped undone, then she pulled it away from him. “..why don’t you get in the bath and I’ll go slip into something a bit more appropriate.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Because I know that bleached blonde floppet is a passing phase and that you and I are a much better team. If you can stop being a Penis-led twatsack for five minutes, you’ll see that.”
He smiled as she walked out and into their bedroom. Chuckling to himself and shaking his head in disbelief, he undressed. What a pussy magnet he was… and a rich one to boot.
The bath was hot, and the champagne in the glass perfectly chilled. The scent from the oils wafted in his nostrils and the warming glow from the candles instantly dissipated all worries about the nasty divorce papers sitting on the coffee table in the living room. He reached out to the razor in the soap tray and picked it up, unfolding it and rolling the handle between his fingers.
“I’m sorry!” he called out. He didn’t sound sincere, like it was an afterthought… a formality to express the relief at not losing out on Charley’s big fat royalty cheques. “You’re right, she’s a proper floppet!”
“Can I have that in writing? She called back.
“I haven’t got a pen!”
“Phone me!” she called back. “Phone me and leave it on my answerphone! That way I can listen to it whenever you piss me off… oh, ignore the message, I haven’t had time to change it.”
He laughed again, sniffing and snorting slightly as the heat in the bathroom was making his nose run. He reached down the side of the bath to his trousers and pulled his iPhone from the pocket. He scrolled through the address book until he came to ‘Thieving Frigid Bitchzilla’ and hit ‘dial.” It went straight to answerphone.
“Hi, this is Charley, I’m probably driving or in the bath or something. Please leave a message after the tone, unless you’re my soon to be ex husband, in which case, shove your iPhone up your arse!”
He shrugged off the message and sniffed once more.
“Charley… Charley… I’m sorry. I hope this makes you happy. I only ever wanted you to be happy.”
With another sniff, he hung up.
“You REALLY do need to change your answerphone message!” he called back to her. “What’s in these candles by the way? They’re making my nose run. It’s not lavender is it? You know lavender makes my nose run!”
“No, not lavender! Rose oil I think” Charley called back. She lied. It was Lavender.
The track on the stereo had changed several times but it began to play Pie Jesu, again by Sarah Brightman. This was his playlist. She was spoiling him. He placed the razor into the soap dish next to his head and lay back, taking another sip of champagne. Breathing in the scented oils, candles and Sarah Brightman, he felt a great sense of relaxation and perfection. His life had been chaos three minutes earlier, but she had come back for little more than an insincere apology. He was the man! He closed his eyes and all was right with the world.
He didn’t hear the shuffling footsteps of his wife as she re-entered the bathroom, and he scarcely stirred as she knelt down behind him, her fingertips lightly brushing the hairs on the back of his neck. He smiled.
“I really don’t get you sometimes.” he said.
“Good, that means I can still surprise you.” she said.
“That you do babes, that you do!”
She wrapped her arms around him and breathed him in. One last moment of fantasy; one last moment where she remembered that she loved him and pushed back the tide of hurt he had caused her. She pretended it had all been a bad dream, and that it had been the real Scott she had fallen in love with, not one of his ‘customer service’ personae.
“I love you.” she whispered to the fantasy in her arms. Her left hand slipped away from his shoulder and her right slid tighter round him.
“I love you too babes!” he grinned.
It was a lie. The tone gave him away. Any doubts that she had about what needed to be done just filtered away as the fingers of her left hand gently lifted and opened the razor. Holding the blade by the spine, she manoeuvred it so that the the handle slipped between her right fingers.
“Babe… are you wearing gloves?”
Time hung for a moment… that moment between life and death. Certainty and uncertainty danced around them to the heavenly sounds of Sarah Brightman’s peaking voice.
The blade was already in motion as it bit under his left ear and bit deep, drawing sharply and swiftly around his jaw to the Adam’s apple, whereupon she let the blade drop onto his hand that darted up to pull it away on instinct. It splashed into the water as Scott kicked and thrashed for the two and half seconds it took for the blood from his carotid artery to empty up the wall and down his naked chest, turning the bathwater deep red. The glass was washed over the side, smashing on the floor, the champagne mixing with the bloody waves that broke upon the overpriced tiles.
She stood up, her hands in the air, momentarily disbelieving what she had done. Like she had with so much in her life, she compartmentalised the shock and leapt for the door before the red water touched her. The bags on her feet and old overalls on her body were spared the majority of the spill, yet once clear of the bathroom she immediately stripped them off to her street clothes underneath and, along with the latex gloves, placed them in an anonymous bin liner. She did not look back as she bounded down the stairs, and paused only to double check that the divorce papers were visible on the coffee table.
She had already drunk the lemonade from her champagne glass and re-bagged it, thus making sure that the same amount of liquid was missing from the bottle as was in Scott’s stomach. The third pair of latex gloves were fumbled with as she made her way out. Swiping the back door key from the kitchen counter, she slipped out into their sheltered garden, locking the door behind her and placing it back under the ghastly gnome next to the pond.
She took one last look up at the house. The dim flicker of the candles made the frosted bathroom window pane sparkle as the muffled tones of Pie Jesu faded into nothing.
She bounded the fence into the woods behind the house that she knew so well from the days they had a Labrador, and across the corn field on the other side of the trees on that moonlit night. Her head thudded like snare drum and her breath hurt as she ran, black carrier bag of evidence flapping and rustling at her side.
She got to the Range Rover, slipping off the now muddy trainers and swapping them for the ballet pumps she kept in the footwell. The trainers and third pair of gloves went in the bag. The bag went in the boot, and she went to a layby on the A1 and waited. She placed her deactivated phone on the dashboard and just stared at it. Sighing, she turned it on. The alert ‘One voicemail message‘ popped up on the screen. One last deep breath and she hit ‘play’ and then ‘speaker’.
There was a pause, as Sarah Brightman played in the background.
A man sniffed loudly.
“Charley… Charley… I’m sorry. I hope this makes you happy. I only ever wanted you to be happy.”
He sniffed again.
“To repeat message press…”
Charley hung up. Tears streamed down her face as she stared at the screen. Her fingers slowly tapped… 9…9…9
“999 Emergency, which service do you require?”
“Hello…” her voice was steady and unfaltering “…I just got a voicemail from my husband… I think…”
The tears stopped and a great smile stretch across her face.
“I think he might have done something stupid!”