When Josh comes home on Thursday night, there’s a car parked outside the house that he’s never seen before. If it was just a black BMW or similar, he probably wouldn’t even have noticed, but it’s not. It’s a small, green Mini. It’s not the kind of car that his neighbours – all stockbrokers, lawyers or doctors – would drive. Still, he’s no sooner noticed it than he’s forgotten it. Probably just someone visiting.
Inside, his wife Amanda is in the kitchen doing laundry – shoving sheets and pillowcases into the washing machine.
She turns to smile at him over her shoulder. ‘Hi, babe. Good day?’
He nods, a little lost in thought.
‘Don’t you usually change the bedding at the weekend?’
She laughs. ‘Oh, you’ve noticed then?’
‘I pay attention.’
‘The puppy dragged his muddy paws right across the fucking duvet.’
Their marriage is a happy one. She’s a good mother, a great lay, a fun person to generally hang out with. It’s been ten years, and he’s never had any reason to doubt how solid their relationship is.
But in the last month or so, something seems to have shifted. He can’t put his finger on it, quite. What has happened since then? Nothing of note: a supper club, a business trip, a kid’s party. Could she be having an affair with someone at work? It just … it just doesn’t seem likely.
A few hours later, that thought too has slipped his mind.
Amanda has tried hard to be a good wife. It’s not that she’s fallen out of love with Josh – god, far from it, she’s never met another man whose kisses alone can make her so wet – but a couple of weeks ago, she got blindsided in a way she could never have foreseen or protected her heart against.
Since then, she’s seen Charlie twice. She can’t go to his place – he’s separated, but still living with his wife and kids – which is not ideal, because it means they have to meet at hers, and inevitably, when they do, things tend to get messy.
The first time, he’d offered to change out of his work gear before he came round. It’d taken her a while to reply to that message.
Amanda: But I quite like it?
Charlie: OK, I’ll keep it on <clown emoji>
Both occasions have played out similarly – he’s headed over after work and they’ve shared a bottle of wine together at the kitchen table before they’ve fucked. She doesn’t want it to just be sex – she likes the bits outside of the bedroom, too – the bits when they’re just talking. He makes her laugh, and for those few hours of the day, she can forget that she has responsibilities.
The talking is good, but the sex is better.
There’s something about the way he unsnaps his braces, the way he pulls down his oversized, polka-dotted trousers to let the thick heft of his cock bounce free, that makes her want him to bend her over the nearest flat surface and immediately shove himself deep, whether she’s wet enough or not. She’d worried, when she’d slipped him her number during a children’s party, of all things (although where else would she have met a clown?), that she might find fucking him too ridiculous in practice. But it’s not ridiculous. It’s fun, and hot, and … kind of sinister, although that just makes it seem even hotter.
She was careful, the first time. Afterwards, she combed the bed for evidence and it was lucky she did, because she found two green hairs curling synthetically on the Egyptian cotton sheets. That freaked her out – she’d laundered the whole lot.
The second time, he brings her a balloon in the shape of a sausage dog and he’s wearing checked trousers, enormous shoes and a bright blue jacket with a large fake sunflower pinned to the lapel.
‘What’s this?’ she asks, fingering a yellow silk petal.
‘Never you mind,’ he says, which is what he always says when he’s planning to pull some of his tricksy clown bullshit on her later.
At one point, she gets up to go to the loo, and when she comes back, he is resting his chin on his hand, and gazing at her with a look of soft adoration, although it takes her a while to realise that’s what it is – it can be hard to look past the painted-on smile to see what he’s really thinking.
‘I love you,’ he says, and although part of her is thinking What, already?, another part of her not only understands what he’s feeling, but is starting to feel the same.
Not that she’s ready to say it. To fill the awkward silence, she slides back into the seat next to him, reaches for the bottle, sits back and –
He bursts out laughing.
She grimaces. A whoopee cushion? A fucking whoopee cushion? What does he think they are, eight years old?
‘Fuck you,’ she says, but he is still laughing, and then he comes round to where she’s sitting and he crawls under the table – Jesus Christ, she thinks, everything about this is ridiculous – pulls her knickers to the side, and puts his hot mouth right on her cunt, licking her folds and sucking her clit until she forgets all about the damn whoopee cushion. Eventually, he slides two thick fingers inside her and shunts them back and forth, occasionally curling them as if he’s beckoning someone towards him.
Amanda’s head lolls back – she can feel the most incredible orgasm building inside her and she’s completely overwhelmed. All of a sudden, she’s coming, hard, and a torrent of liquid is gushing from her as if her own body has become the circus joke. When Charlie withdraws his hand, it is soaked with her juices. He holds her gaze as he licks his fingers one by one.
When he has left, she tidies, frantically. She moves the balloon animal to the playroom, mops the kitchen floor, hides the wine bottle under the rest of the recycling. She checks she hasn’t missed anything, and then she checks again.
Josh gets home just after six – he’s done the nursery run on his way back from work and she is filled with gratitude and affection.
‘There are some big-ass footprints on the mat outside,’ he says. ‘You’re not gonna leave me for some hot giant guy, are you?
She laughs, nervously; looks meaningfully at his crotch.
‘You’re plenty hot and giant enough for me, my love.’
‘Hold that thought,’ he says. ‘I’ll try and make bath time speedy.’
If you’d told her before the affair started that cheating would make her more hungry for her husband’s cock, not less, she would never have believed you, but it’s true.
She unbuckles his belt; snaps open his button-fly.
‘Fuck me,’ she says, pulling her dress over her head, and sliding her knickers down.
‘I want to taste you first,’ he says, and for the second time that day, a man drops to his knees in front of her. This time though, she waits in vain for the feel of soft lips against her flesh. This time, there is only the sound of her husband’s voice, caught somewhere between confusion and disgust, saying ‘Why is there lipstick on your cunt?’
She loses them both. Josh asks for a trial separation and she ends things with Charlie because she can’t look at him without recalling the mess she’s made of her life. Every other weekend, she’s alone in the house. It’s agony.
Josh, meanwhile, tries to put on a brave face, to act as though he isn’t dying inside. There are so many places he has to pretend. The office, the pub, the kid’s parties where he is the only dad flying solo.
Towards the end of one such party, the entertainment – an old-fashioned clown with a green wig, painted face, red nose and huge checked trousers – comes into the kitchen. He helps himself to a drink and a mouthful of crisps and he takes a seat opposite Josh.
Suddenly, a thin jet of water hits Josh right in the face. It takes him by surprise, so he doesn’t immediately understand that the clown is the culprit. Then he notices the sunflower on his lapel; realises it’s some kind of joke prop. He frowns. The last thing he’s in the mood for is this twat’s childish bullshit.
‘Sorry,’ the clown says, with what might be a smirk – it’s hard for Josh to tell because of all the face paint – and he passes Josh an oversized, orange handkerchief. ‘Did I get you? My bad. Although … a bit of squirting never harmed anyone, right?’