The pet was delivered during an impossibly pink sunset. I waited nervously at the door, squinting at the white van idling on the steep drive. My wife gave my left shoulder a reassuring squeeze but I noticed her fingers gripped like pincers when the young woman finally climbed from the passenger seat and nimbly stepped to the concrete.
Balancing on her heels with natural poise, the pretty brunette smoothed her skirt before searching for my eyes and smiling wanly.
“I told you porn would be cheaper,” I whispered, covering my mouth with a hand.
Jen giggled and rested her forehead on my shoulder. I smiled, enjoying the vibration of her muted laughter. In that moment, using the unspoken language of an experienced couple, we decided we’d make it work.
That year, three of my friends had left their wives for younger women. I was a 40 year-old personal trainer. Jen used to joke that I had‘a six-pack at the front and a target on the back.
I’d catch her standing naked in front of the full-length mirror, frowning.
“How those bitches have three kids and keep their figures,” she’d say, shaking her head, “I’ll never know”.
My neighbour’s son had once said, ‘I bet she used to be super hot’. It was intended as a compliment but it left me deflated.
That was the moment I decided I’d never leave her. We’d grow old together, and on a weathered veranda we’d reminisce about the night we fell in love, when I taxied her home in a shopping trolley, two miles up and down hills, in return for a kiss.
I turned my concentration to the gorgeous woman gracefully walking up the path. She’d been customised to my specifications. Her beauty shocked us.
Jen and I simultaneously sighed, then giggled again.
Now I knock on Jen’s bedroom door, a little harder this time. As I press an ear against the surface, my gut touches the door (I’m not a personal trainer anymore), and I hear her pets laughing.
“For God’s sake, Jen! Give me a hand here!”
My pet has been playing up again. The once-majestic brunette is rolling on the carpet after smearing her arms and legs with chocolate cake. Our account manager tells me I can’t exchange her. Legally, she’s ‘more like a dog than an appliance’. He didn’t look amused when I joked about putting her down.
Emerging from her room after playtime, my wife laughs at the mess. She puts on a baby voice, calls me ‘chubby hubby’ affectionately and phones the cleaner.
We sit on the veranda. Jen droops over her deck chair in a post-coital bliss. I droop over mine, drunk. She recalls the night we fell in love. After an awkward silence, I change the subject.
I tell her I want to get rid of the pets and bring the kids back from boarding school.
The next silence lasts longer and is much more awkward.