Lydia sat and looked at the earring. It was gold, a small hinge open as though leaving a gaping door to an unfolding mystery. It wasn’t hers. She picked it up and held it carefully in her hand, impressed at the way it shone in the sunlight. Placing it into her bag, she got out of the car, unable to focus on the front door key which hung amongst others on her key ring. She eventually unlocked the door, unaware of the clouds which quickly gathered, blocking out the sun and darkening her thoughts. Still staring at nothing, she closed the front door softly, standing in the hallway, her mind now racing with suspicion. She didn’t want to be right. Her life was content; she had already started planning the next phase. Dropping her bag onto the floor, she looked at the wedding picture which hung proudly close by. Her and Michael desperately in love, a future beckoning them as they glanced back over their shoulders towards the photographer. The happiest day of her life. Lydia had married the man of her dreams. Yet with the discovery of an earring that didn’t belong to her, it was slowly turning into a nightmare.
She had an hour to go through his things, turn his wardrobe and drawers upside down to find whatever she needed to find. She wasn’t sure what it was but she would look for hotel receipts, an extra set of keys, items of clothing she had never seen, anything that may point towards her suspicions being correct. But she didn’t want to be right; she didn’t want to assume her husband was having an affair and that their marriage was a sham. Her actions may find answers she didn’t want to learn.
Leaving the bag in the hall, she ran upstairs and into Michael’s private study. It was a room she rarely went into. Now she found herself in what felt like unknown territory; a large rectangular room with book cases arranged floor to ceiling along two walls, a large antique desk near the window and a computer set up on a smaller table beside it. The huge executive chair had been neatly tucked under the desk. A few papers were scattered on the top together with a portable phone and answering machine. Another wedding photograph displayed their smiling faces once more, the day Lydia could only remember as being filled with happy thoughts.
She stood for a moment, unsure where to search first. The desk was the best option, she thought, but upon trying the top drawer she realised it was locked. The feeling in the pit of her stomach became overwhelming as she tried the next drawer down, then the next and the next. All locked. Secrets hidden away from prying eyes perhaps; betrayal becoming the only reason for such furtiveness. She tried to think she was being paranoid, but the image of the gold earring raised its ugly head again and her desire to find out the truth led her to the book shelves. Layers of reference books, fiction and biographies gathered dust as they sat meticulously in library fashion. Nothing untoward reached out the Lydia whilst she ran her fingers along rows of alphabetical spines. It would help if she knew what she was looking for but there seemed nothing wrong with the titles that leaped from hardbacks and paperbacks, none of the words registering in her head. She took one last look around the room before leaving, closing the door behind her, hoping her husband wouldn’t realise she’d been in there.
His dressing room was the next place she looked, an adjoining room to their master suite where Michael arranged his clothes in military fashion. Another room in which Lydia rarely entered, she once more felt out of her depth as she began rummaging through drawers and shifting coat hangers along rails. It seemed everything was as it should be, including a section of the room being used for several pairs of shoes. She hated moving his things about but she knew she needed to find out whether or not he had been unfaithful. Walking back into the bedroom she glanced out of the window to see his car entering the electronic gates, a dark blue Bentley gliding along the gravel on its journey to the garages. She stood still, thinking about the earring in her bag, about the questions she wanted to ask. He drew up by the house, applying the handbrake before gracefully getting out of the car and walking towards the stone steps that led to the front door. She heard his key in the lock and decided to stay in the bedroom, now realising he was talking to someone on his handsfree.
“I’ll be there....of course I do....I’ll have a look for it, it’ll be there....stop worrying..” His voice carried up the stairs and Lydia froze. “Seven-thirty....bye....” He closed the front door, not noticing Lydia’s bag on the floor. Making his way into the kitchen, he put his briefcase on the island and went to the fridge just as Lydia arrived at the door.
“You’re early,” she said.
He turned around, startled by her sudden presence. “I wanted to get ready for tonight. Meeting a new client and it could prove a good contract.” He took a carton of fresh orange from the front of the fridge door. “Been out?”
“Just to the gym,” Lydia replied, keeping her gaze as she turned the earring over in her fingers. “I took the Porsche.”
Michael took a glass from the cupboard and poured himself a drink. “I don’t know why you go to that gym. We have a gym here.”
“I like to meet my friends there. I’d go mad if I stayed here all day.” She walked into the kitchen and looked at his brief case. “So where are you meeting this new client?”
“Golf club, I’m supposed to be there by seven-thirty.”
“Are you eating there or shall I make something?”
“Sorry, darling, I’m eating there. I should have phoned you. Why don’t you go out tonight?”
Lydia pondered that question for a moment. She had every intention of going out that night but she had no intention of telling him where. “I’ll ring Janet, see if she fancies a curry or something.” Folding her hand around the gold earring, she put it into her pocket, deciding now wasn’t the right time to confront her husband. He wandered over to her.
“I don’t suppose you’d like an hour in the Jacuzzi?” he asked, nuzzling her neck.
“No, I wouldn’t. I have a few things to do upstairs.” She pulled away from him, leaving him a little bemused at her unexpected refusal to make love.
“Well I’ll just have a swim then, before I get in the shower.” He put his glass of orange on the table, nonchalantly walking towards the door which led to the indoor pool. Before opening the door he turned round to face Lydia. “Sure?” he asked.
“I’ll go and ring Janet. You enjoy your swim.” He seemed none the wiser as his wife moved into the hallway before she went back into the kitchen to open his brief case. She knew the combination; it was their wedding anniversary, 110807. Fortunately, he hadn’t changed it since and she was able to open it.
A mass of papers and folders lay clumsily on top of each other, not the tidiness she would have expected from him. A fountain pen and a calculator sat in the top pockets while a few brown envelopes poked out from inside the lid. She lifted a few pieces of paper, delving deeper into the chaos that seemed to interfere with Michael’s precision. Then beneath everything, right at the bottom of the case was a brochure; ‘Tweedside Country Hotel’, a five star establishment that nestled amongst remote countryside in the form of a grand mansion house. She took the brochure from the case and opened it. A number had been written on the inside of it, ‘120’, with '7.30pm' and the words “don’t be late” scribed across a picture of an oak four-poster bed. Lydia’s heart was beating too fast, she was beginning to feel light headed as her suspicions rose and a sickly feeling enveloped the pit of her stomach.
She replaced the brochure underneath the pile of papers, carefully tucking it in as though hoping to put the matter to bed. But it was too late, her mind already made up, she knew she had to follow Michael that night, and she suspected it would be to the Tweedside Country Hotel.
Copyright Kathryn Brown 2012