Chapter 1

IT is that time of day when a couple reconfirms the terms of their relationship. Bedtime! Who will initiate? Will they make love or just have sex? Who will be on top? Will there be any love at all? Will it be the tenth time this month or the tenth time this year? Is ten times a year even normal?

Carole sat hunched over her Dell XPS writing an article for Women’s Health magazine. It was the first of March and the devil winds were blowing outside, stirring something in Carole, like an animal after hibernation. She thought of her love life. In bed by ten, then quick, dysfunctional sex if they had the time. Then a kiss goodnight. Carole wondered if this was how her marriage would be from now on. She continued typing.

Do either of them have the energy for sex after a long day, a long week, or a long marriage? ‘Does he want to sleep,’ the wife wonders.

‘I want sex every day,’ the husband is thinking.

The phone rang, jolting Carole. She reached across her desk to silence it before the second ring. She looked at her Bulgari watch. Ten.

“Hello?” On the other end was static, possibly from a car phone.

“Hello. Hello. I can’t hear you.” The line went dead.

“Hmm.” Carole put down the phone and continued reading the article she’d titled, “The Problem with Marriage.”

She’d been writing online articles for three different women’s magazines for the past ten years. Lately all she could think to write about was how unsatisfying sex was.

“Okay,” she mumbled to herself. “Let’s see.” Carole crossed her arms and sat back in her Raynor Ergohuman chair, a birthday present from her husband. She used to get satin nighties and expensive perfume, now she got chairs for her posture and Nespresso Coffee Machines for her Coffee Morning Club. Maybe she’d write an article on the decline of romantic presents with every passing year of marriage. Thirteen was lace—she might get lucky this year.

“Ahem!”

Carole jumped in her chair, banging her thigh on the heavy black armrest. “Don’t do that!” She rubbed her leg, wondering why Matt never said hello or excuse me like normal men? Lately, he was in the habit of sticking his head into whatever room she was in and just coughing or making a noise, and every single time Carole would jump out of her skin.

“Are you coming to bed?”

Carole knew it was no accident what he did. He was tired of going to bed alone, he’d said it to her so many times lately.

Carole turned to see Matt smirking at her. His wavy brown hair was wet after a shower, and he smelled of citrus from his Bergamot cologne. She sat up straight and ran her hand over her messy blonde hair. “I just have to finish this article.”

Matt sighed. “Don’t be long.”

“I’ve got a new nightie. I’ll model it for you.” Carole hoped that would keep him waiting.

“Great.” Matt gave Carole his lopsided smile, his eyes half closed.

Carole waited for the tingling urge, the one she’d felt since the first day they met fifteen years earlier. Carole remembered that day.

She was at a fresher’s party in a London pub, surrounded by loud music and drunken students.

“Hi,” Matt yelled over Livin’ La Vida Loca.

“Hello.”

He held out his hand. “I’m Matt from the US.”

Carole shook his hand and smirked at him. “So am I. From the US. Sorry. Your pickup line won’t work on me.”

Matt laughed. “Finally someone I can understand.”

They talked all night and by sunrise they were sober and in each other’s arms and she felt a sensation, a tingling in her loins and in her heart whenever he walked in a room or touched her.

She now watched her husband turn his back, his shoulders broad and strong, and she realized she felt nothing, no urge. Carole tried to remember when they last made love. “Today is Sunday.”

She counted on her fingers. “Shit, eight days.”

Carole started to type faster.

He touches her breast. She hopes he isn’t rough, or maybe she likes it rough? She doesn’t move as he pulls on her nipple. Why does he always pull on her nipple? She doesn’t turn to face him.

He wonders if this is rejection.

It isn’t, she just wants him to work for it.

He doesn’t want to work for it. He’s tired. He hopes she isn’t holding out for a huge production. Just let me do it!

He kisses the back of her neck.

She wishes he would nibble her neck. She sighs.

Is that a good sign or a bad sign, he wonders? What does she want? He prays for an answer one day.

She waits for the spark, for him to wipe away her day and capture her heart like he used to.

He just wants to stick it in or better still, have her suck it. That’s how he forgets his job, his responsibilities, and his regrets.

She tries to step up to the plate, to get the game going. But she can’t. She’s tired of doing this sex thing his way. She wants him to make an effort and not squeeze her into the last minute of the day. Only then will she let loose.

He falls asleep waiting.

And she’s kind of relieved.

Carole slammed shut her laptop, hurried into the bathroom, had a five-minute shower, and changed into a rose-colored satin baby doll, two hundred and sixty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents from Fox and Rose. She spied herself in the mirror and thought her arms were a bit flabby, her neck looked older, and her stomach needed some toning. Squeezing twins out five years earlier was still showing on her size six body.

“Let’s do it,” she whispered to herself and crept quietly into the bedroom ready to do a seductive walk to the bed. The bedside lamp was off and Matt’s low snores told it all.

“I wouldn’t wait for me either,” Carole mumbled as she slipped under the soft cotton quilt. It’s not like I give him massages anymore, she thought, or special love. “What’s the point of waiting,” she whispered. She lay on her back, unable to sleep, when her cell phone pinged.

“Shit!” She’d put it on the bedside table and forgot to switch it off.

“Who’s that?” Matt mumbled.

“Nobody, sweetie.” Carole shielded the light and tapped the screen to see the message: Student arriving tomorrow as agreed. Sue and Frank xo. She’d completely forgotten. Carole began mentally making a list of all the jobs she needed to do before nine a.m. The list was long, maybe she should stay up all night.

“Go to sleep. Please,” Matt pleaded, and patted Carole’s thigh.

Feeling quite futile in her baby doll, Carole got out of bed and changed into her pale blue T-shirt. It was the one she’d slept in for seventeen years since she met Matt and borrowed it during a sleepover. It had the word MORON written across the chest in red, now pink lettering. The letters had flaked off, so all that could be seen now was ON.

“Matt.” She nudged him. “Matt.”

He rolled onto his back still asleep. Carole saw his lips move and his groin jerk and wondered what he was dreaming. Was he dreaming of sex? It couldn’t be with her, was it with someone else? Were they wearing a black bra and panties like she used to? Carole watched his mouth move and he groaned.

“Matt!”

Matt jolted his head off the pillow. “What!”

“Sorry, sorry.” Carole kissed his cheek. “Go to sleep. I can wait. You were dreaming.”

Matt rolled over. “Good night!”

Carole went back to her den. She began to type.

The problem with Marriage: Part Two

How many times has your husband said, “Let’s have a quickie”? And how many times have you said, “Okay,” because to be honest, it’s better than nothing? But is it?

Carole shivered. It was cold in the den. She closed the laptop and went back to the bedroom with a resolve to wake her husband and demand he seduce her. But the sound of his deep snores put her off. She left him sleeping. After all, he had responsibilities, his own company—he needed his sleep most of all.