It was almost ten o’clock, and Tabby still wouldn’t settle. Nick tried to hold her but she merely squirmed free, screaming higher, elbowing him in the face. As he stood he knocked his head on the mobile, which tinkled and jangled, throwing anamorphic shadows on the walls and ceiling and Tabby’s red face. Gently, indignantly, spitefully, exasperatedly then resignedly, with hot chocolate, a cuddle and a bedtime story, Nick decided to leave his daughter to her own reason, and curtly shut her door behind him. Immediately her screams began to desist, to his relief; at least Trish could return home now, unconcerned, and see to him without distraction.
Downstairs, he poured a glass of whisky, and resting his forearm on the cool mantelpiece, retired briefly to the thoughtful existence he’d pictured after voluntary severance, leaving Trish, who had always been the higher earner, the sole working partner. With only one income, the retention of a nanny and cleaner would have appeared profligate; his friends teased him, calling him ‘a fifties housewife with a dick’.