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The Silent Wife

By:Kerry Fisher

ture had come along to liven up the precise hallways of the Farinelli households. It was astonishing that Maggie was only thirty-five, the same age as me. She wore adulthood so lightly, as though it were a state to be dipped into when absolutely necessary, an interruption to having fun and letting tomorrow take care of itself. With my neat bob, pearly pink nails and the knee-length dresses Massimo loved, I could have passed for ten years her senior.

So despite Anna muttering about the marriage being ‘doomed’, I didn’t feel sorry for Maggie. I felt envious. Envious of that burning intensity of new love. Of their optimism. Of their hopes for the future.

I imagined Nico laughing at her singing to the radio, dropping a kiss onto her head as she sat at the table, tucking her scarf into her coat before she headed off to work. I felt a pang of nostalgia for the days when Massimo would slip into my office and sweep all the carefully documented papers off the desk, the minutiae of the accounts I’d been auditing receding, blocked out by the ferociousness of his kisses. The ‘working’ dinners where we’d be so absorbed in each other we’d only tear ourselves away when the waiters started sweeping up. I ached for the connection that opened the door to belonging, to feeling part of a family again.

I wished I’d let Dad come to this wedding. Massimo only had his best interests at heart: he didn’t want Dad to become confused by all the new faces, but Dad still loved music and this 1960s song was right up his street. Any recognition from him made my day. And I’d have loved to have seen him in his suit again, smart and smiling, like he used to be.

Like we all used to be.

I turned my attention back to Nico and Maggie as they began their vows, catching sight of Francesca’s rigid face as I did so. Despite Anna’s doom-mongering, I thought Nico marrying again was a good thing for Francesca. Given that my mother died when I was a toddler and now my dear old dad was fading like an ancient Polaroid photo, I’d have been delighted to have had a warm, jolly stepmother to help me along. Maybe if I’d had someone to talk to, rather than protect, I’d have had a different life all together.

But before I could disappear any further down that path of then and now, my seven-year-old son, Sandro, spotted a spider scuttling under the chair in front of him. Since our cat, Misty, had gone missing a few days earlier, Sandro was even more sensitive and clingy than usual, his pale face carrying the air of someone who’d read the instructions for aircraft evacuation and was just biding his time until the emergency presented itself. The exact opposite to the little I’d seen of Maggie’s son, Sam, who looked as though suppressing a mischievous chuckle was a daily challenge. Sandro started to fidget. He nudged me and pointed. I leant down and whispered that it was only a little spider, that it wouldn’t hurt him, when it suddenly encountered Beryl’s shoe and ran straight back towards him. He screamed, clambering up onto his chair.

Anna was turning round, frowning, no doubt clocking up more ammunition for one of her ‘Lara does her best but she really has no control over that child’ speeches. Massimo leaned around me, trying to get hold of him but Sandro started running along the empty chairs. I chased along the row after him, grabbing his hand and leading him out of the room, glad of an excuse to leave all that Farinelli expectation and accusation trapped behind me. Though I could still feel the opprobrium snaking under the ornate door I’d tried to close quietly behind me. I held Sandro to me, waiting for his tears to abate.

I forced out a calm tone of, ‘It’s all right, it wasn’t very big.’

‘I’m not really crying about the spider, Mummy. I want Misty back.’

‘We all do, darling. She’ll turn up soon, don’t worry.’

I hoped a seven-year-old wouldn’t be able to detect the doubt in my voice.



Nico and I managed one blissful night away in a fifteenth-century coaching inn as a ‘honeymoon’. We’d decided to take a longer holiday on our own when the kids were used to their new family life, which, judging by Francesca’s behaviour a fortnight in, might be at the turn of the next century.

Nico gradually introducing me to Francesca over the previous year hadn’t worked. We’d tried to edge towards a family atmosphere, with curry nights in and cinema nights out. I could count on one hand the times when she hadn’t made some barbed comment about how Caitlin had been better/thinner/fitter/funnier than me. I could have been the world expert in wing-walking and no doubt Caitlin would have been able to do it on a pogo stick. In the end, Nico had gone for the ‘like it or lump it’ strategy, though we’d agreed that Sam and I wouldn’t move in until the week before we got married, as a way of drawing a definitive line in the sand, when, for better, for worse, we’d have to find a way to get along together.

‘Do you mind moving into the house where Caitlin lived?’ he asked when he proposed, months before we’d set a date.

I’d waved away his concerns, thinking it seemed churlish to have any reservations about moving from the mouse house of a flat I lived in with my mum and Sam to Nico’s Victorian terrace house, with its two bathrooms and four bedrooms. I did try to work out how to say, ‘I don’t want to sleep in the bed you shared with her, let alone the one she died in,’ without sounding like an insensitive cow, but I couldn’t.

As though he could see into the crappest, most mean-spirited part of me, Nico said, ‘We’ll choose a new bed together.’ He didn’t elaborate and I was ridiculously grateful not to have to wonder which side of the memory foam mattress was Caitlin’s.

As it turned out, buying a new bed didn’t make me feel at home. Two weeks after our wedding, I was still waking up thinking I’d dozed off in the middle of a photo shoot for a glossy interiors magazine. Grey cushions with a