Ad­dic­tive, provoca­tive and com­pletely re­lat­able

An ex­tract of Just My Luck

Chinchilla News - - NEWS - BY ADELE PARKS

Satur­day, 20th April

I can’t face go­ing straight home to Jake. I’m not ready to deal with this. I need to try to process it first. But how? Where do I start? I have no idea. The blank­ness in my mind ter­ri­fies me. I al­ways know what to do. I al­ways have a so­lu­tion, a way of tack­ling some­thing, giv­ing it a happy spin. I’m Lexi Green­wood, the woman ev­ery­one knows of as the fixer, the smiler (some might even slightly snidely call me a do-gooder). Lexi Green­wood, wife, mother, friend.

You think you know some­one. But you don’t know any­one, not re­ally. You never can.

I need a drink. I drive to our lo­cal. Sod it, I’ll leave the car at the pub and walk home, pick it up in the morn­ing. I or­der a glass of red wine, a large one, then I look for a seat tucked away in the cor­ner where I can down my drink alone. It’s Easter week­end, and a rare hot one. The place is packed. As I thread my way through the heav­ing bar, a num­ber of neigh­bours raise a glass, ges­tur­ing to me to join them; they ask af­ter the kids and Jake. Ev­ery­one else in the pub seems cel­e­bra­tory, buoy­ant. I feel de­tached. Lost. That’s the thing about liv­ing in a small vil­lage, you recog­nise ev­ery­one.

Some­times that re­as­sures me, some­times it’s in­con­ve­nient. I po­litely and apolo­get­i­cally de­flect their friendly over­tures and con­tinue in my search for a soli­tary spot. Satur­day vibes are all around me, but I feel noth­ing other than stunned, stressed, iso­lated.

You think you know some­one. What does this mean for our group? Our frim­ily. Friends that are like fam­ily. What a joke. Bla­tantly, we’re not friends any­more. I’ve been try­ing to hide from the facts for some time, hop­ing there was a mis­un­der­stand­ing, an ex­pla­na­tion; noth­ing can ex­plain away this. I told Jake I’d only be a short while; I should text him to say I’ll be longer. I reach for my phone and re­alise in my haste to leave the house, I haven’t brought it with me. Jake will be won­der­ing where I am; I don’t care. I down my wine. The acid­ity hits my throat, a shock and a re­lief at once. Then I go to the bar to or­der a sec­ond.

The lo­cal pub is only a ten­minute walk away from our home but by the time I at­tempt the walk back, the red wine has taken ef­fect. Un­for­tu­nately, I am feel­ing the sort of drunk that nur­tures para­noia and fury, rather than a light head or heart. What can I do to right this wrong? I have to do some­thing. I can’t carry on as nor­mal, pre­tend­ing I know noth­ing of it. Can I?

As I ap­proach home, I see Jake at the win­dow, peer­ing out. I barely recog­nise him. He looks taut, tense. On spot­ting me, he runs to fling open the front door.

‘Lexi, Lexi, quickly come in here,’ he hiss-whis­pers, clearly ag­i­tated.

‘Where have you been?

Why didn’t you take your phone?

‘I’ve been call­ing you. I needed to get hold of you.’

What now? My first thoughts turn to our son. ‘Is it Lo­gan? Has he hurt him­self?’ I ask anx­iously. I’m al­ready tee­ter­ing on the edge; my head quickly goes to a dark place. Split skulls, bro­ken bones. A dash to A&E isn’t un­heard of; thir­teen-year-old Lo­gan has dare­devil ten­den­cies and the sort of men­tal­ity that thinks shim­my­ing down a drain­pipe is a rea­son­able way to exit his bed­room in or­der to go out­side and kick a foot­ball about. My fif­teen-year-old daugh­ter,

Emily, rarely causes me a mo­ment’s con­cern.

‘No, no, he’s fine. Both the kids are in their rooms. It’s… Look, come in­side, I can’t tell you out here.’ Jake is prac­ti­cally bounc­ing up and down on the balls of his feet. I can’t read him. My head is too fuzzy with wine and full of rage and dis­gust. I re­sent Jake for caus­ing more drama, al­though he has no idea what s--t I’m deal­ing with. I’ve never seen him quite this way be­fore. If I touched him, I might get an elec­tric shock; he oozes a dan­ger­ous en­ergy.

I fol­low my hus­band into the house. He is hur­ry­ing, urg­ing me to speed up. I slow down, de­lib­er­ately ob­tuse. In the hall­way he turns to me, takes a deep breath, runs his hands through his hair but won’t, can’t, meet my eyes. For a crazy mo­ment I think he is about to con­fess to hav­ing an af­fair. ‘OK, just tell me, did you buy a lot­tery ticket this week?’ he asks. ‘Yes.’ I have bought a lot­tery ticket ev­ery week of my life for the last fif­teen years. De­spite all the bother last week, I have stuck to my habit.

Jake takes in an­other deep breath, suck­ing all the oxy­gen from the hall­way. ‘OK, and did you—’ he breaks off, fi­nally drags his eyes to meet mine. I’m not sure what I see in his gaze, an al­most painful long­ing, fear and panic. Yet at the same time there is hope there too. ‘Did you pick the usual num­bers?’

‘Yes.’ His jaw is still set tight. ‘You have the ticket?’ ‘Yes.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘Yes, it’s pinned on the no­tice­board in the kitchen. Why? ‘What’s go­ing on?’ ‘F--k.’ Jake lets out a breath that has the power of a storm. He falls back against the hall wall for a sec­ond and then he ral­lies, grabs my hand and pulls me into the room that was de­signed to be a din­ing room but has ended up be­ing a sort of study slash dump­ing ground. A place where the chil­dren some­times do their home­work, I tackle pay­ing the house­hold bills, and tow­er­ing piles of iron­ing, punc­tured foot­balls and old train­ers hide out.

Jake sits down in front of the com­puter and starts to quickly open var­i­ous tabs. ‘I wasn’t sure that we even had a ticket, but when you were late back and the film I was watch­ing had fin­ished, I couldn’t re­sist check­ing. I don’t know why. Habit, I sup­pose. And look.’

‘What?’ I can’t quite work out what he’s on about, it might be the wine, it might be be­cause my head is still full of be­trayal and de­ceit, but I can’t seem to climb into his mo­ment. I turn to the screen. The lot­tery web­site. Brash and loud. A clash of bright colours and fonts.

1, 8, 20, 29, 49, 58. The num­bers glare at me from the com­puter. Num­bers I am so fa­mil­iar with. Yet they seem pe­cu­liar and un­be­liev­able.

‘I don’t un­der­stand. Is this a joke?’

‘No, Lexi. No! It’s for real. We’ve only gone and won the bloody lot­tery!’

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