Legal Widow

The children have been decanted into three different households where they will be fed and bedded down in far more style, I am sure, than they ever get at home.

The hamster has a new carrot. The rabbit has an entire frisee lettuce which the children rejected in disgust. “Too scratchy, mummy!”

I am in a posh frock and the biggest earrings I’ve ever dared buy (fake pearls the size of gobstoppers and only £5 in the local Mother of the Bride shop sale) because tonight We Are Going To The Opera.

I am in the pizzeria we always used to meet in before going for a night on the town, which was also before the children, before all the overtime and sometime before the 11th century, by my count.

Unfortunately, I have been in the pizzeria on my own for about half an hour now, with the clock ticking dangerously round to the time when the first soprano will warble her way on stage, the time when ushers will start throwing themselves in front of us to stop us barging in during an aria, and we’ll be forced to sit on the steps to the upper circle and share Liquorice Allsorts.

The restaurant is crowded with couples, as it always is when you’re sitting there with a sign saying “Her date stood her up” over your head. I drink three glasses of house red in quick succession.

As the clock reaches three quarters of an hour late, the Lawyer sidles in with his “How stupid am I?” expression on his face.

I can recognise this expression quicker than Liability can get a video into the machine. It pops up when he raises the shiny silver bottom of a frying pan from the soapy water and asks “What on earth was on that?” To which the reply is, of course, “The non-stick coating.”

Back to the restaurant. It turns out he has stood outside the travel agent on the next road down for the last half hour. “Why a travel agent?” I ask.

The answer is that he knew, absolutely knew, where the pizzeria was, and that it had become a travel agent when he got there and the restaurant must have closed down. And I had got the place wrong, and where was I? It took 40 minutes before a small voice inside him piped up, suggesting it might be the Lawyer’s sense of direction which was wrong.

The arrogance, the certainty, the rightness, is breathtaking. It allows him to say “No you didn’t,” when I’ve asked him six times to renew the car insurance and have just discovered I’ve been driving three children around uninsured for three months. He’d pass a lie detector test on it.

I, on the other hand, would probably ask “Are you sure?” if challenged on the day of the week. It comes of wanting to be liked, a fault from which the Lawyer has never allowed himself to suffer.

The evening is in ruins, and my husband is giggling helplessly before me, burbling about cheap flights to Majorca. I take charge.

I scatter coins on the table, and stalk off to the opera, where I command the Lawyer to buy a programme, T-shirts for the children and the jumbo pack of Chocolate Eclairs, and proceed to lecture him on Puccini’s suspicious attitude towards women.

It’s a very small victory. But I have him over a barrel.