Jason Quinn had always found his wife's gaze unsettling, especially the speed at which her sapphire eyes could turn to a thunderous navy. Today they were the shade of a calm sea after a storm.
Bracing himself, Jason steps over the threshold into the hall where his wife, Lisa, is waiting for him. The welcoming smile on her lips not quite reaching her eyes. Undoing his tie he removes it in one swift movement before stuffing it into his trouser pocket, then unbuttons his shirt at the neck.
“Sorry I'm late," he said. "Traffic was bad.”
Jason nods in agreement, the tight knot of tension in his stomach relaxing at the calm tone in his wife's voice. Following her into the kitchen he flicks the switch on the kettle without checking the water level, knowing Lisa will have filled it in anticipation of his return. The familiar scent of the Shepherd's pie in the oven making his stomach rumble as the moisture in his mouth runs dry. Bruised memories of the previous evening flicker at the edge of his consciousness. Closing his eyes for a moment Jason takes a deep breath and pushes them away, then fetches the milk from the fridge.
“I've made your favourite for tea...” Lisa leans against the counter by the sink, watching her husband make the hot drinks, her eyes never leaving his face, a trait Jason had adored until the day they tied the knot. Lisa was his childhood sweetheart. They'd sat together in the same classroom at secondary school, two souls drawn together by the absence of a parent's love.
When Lisa moved away to another city he'd lost contact for a while. They said it would be better that way, that Lisa needed a fresh start but Jason had felt the loss keenly. Lisa eventually returned to his home town when she was twenty-one: beautiful, poised and a magnet for men, but she hadn't expressed interest in anyone except Jason. They were married on his 24th birthday. Jason had felt proud that day with Lisa on his arm, as she had charmed the guests and joked that he'd never have an excuse to forget their anniversary.
Trying to control the slight tremor in his hands, Jason lifts the kettle and pours the hot water into two mugs. Squeezing each teabag he removes them one by one and turns to dump them in the bin at the side of the worktop, his movements stiff and careful. Adding milk to one of the mugs he hands it to his wife, turning it so she can grasp the handle. Taking it from him, Lisa stirs the milk into her tea slowly, while studying the prune like texture of the skin on her husband's left hand, her expression as clinical as an animal stalking its prey.
Jason had been careless the day he was burned. He'd stopped late at work to help someone in the office. When he'd arrived home he'd made the drinks as usual, choosing to ignore the pent up fury coiled within his wife's slim frame. The events of the day had poured from his lips in a desperate bid to fill the empty spaces as he walked into the kitchen. He hadn't realised how close Lisa was to him when the boiling water from the kettle had shot across his hand. At least that's what he'd told his colleagues at work the next day, the dressing on his hand masking his shame. The pain had been excruciating as Lisa calmly drew him over to the sink, turned on the cold tap and shoved his hand underneath the running water. Jason had been grateful for his wife's quick reaction the first time, had appreciated her administrations despite the pain. Lisa had been considerate afterwards, had even kissed his hand better, her lips cool against his hot skin, before making his favourite for tea.