Jenny stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, dark circles under her eyes proof that she’d been overdoing it again. Why couldn’t she sleep before four in the morning? The answer snored from the rumpled bed. She sighed, knowing she’d have to spend an extra half hour making her face acceptable before leaving for the office. Filling her fingers with cream, she began.
Their affair had started three months ago, Sam was fun, lively, and energetic, Jenny liked him. She also liked the hard body, the masculine frame, Sam certainly was attractive. When their relationship was in its infancy, Jenny hadn’t worried too much when he spent so much of his free time at the gym, but now, it had become an obsession.
He expected the same dedication to fitness
from herself, and with sparkling ability, to party night after night, whilst
running the home in her spare time. Sam was confident she could do
it, Jenny was less so. Despite her decreasing confidence, she valiantly
persisted in the effort, ignoring the obvious signs of mounting stress.
Wearily, she applied a thick layer of foundation cream to disguise the
papery fragility of her skin.
She began smoothing a neutral shade along her jaw line, pondering on Sam, and how she’d entangled herself in this particular labyrinth. Her previous boyfriend, Robert, had inflicted nothing like the pressure of life with Sam. A studious undergraduate from the LSE, undoubtedly destined, qualifications in hand, for plush offices and international investment banks. To this end, he spent much time with nose buried in books, and constantly worrying about his chances in the next exam. At first, Jenny found him stimulating, and really enjoyed meeting his student friends, sitting up all night, participating in lively debate, while Robert argued with his peers on the economics of running a country. However, months of staying home cooking and cleaning quietly, while her partner agonised over his books, began to deflate Jenny. She began to look out at life, and eventually to imagine a companion, someone who would take her out on the town once in a while.
Jenny had been badly hurt before Robert, a professional charmer took her heart, and her money before he vanished, after a year’s torrid and wild romance. It was a further month after his disappearance before Jenny discovered that three of her friends were in similar straits. One poor girl underwent an abortion, to rid herself of his offspring. He’d actually persuaded her to become pregnant with his child. Once he could access their joint bank account, he fled, leaving his prospective wife and child to fend for themselves. Jenny glumly realised her own place in the pattern of things. She consoled herself with wine, thankful in the knowledge that she, at least, hadn’t been forced to cut his child out of her own body.
Her old friend, Max Factor, attempted to smooth the lines from her face, as she worked, the memory of Alan surfaced out of her subconscious. A small smile hovered around her lips, she hadn’t thought about him for years. Alan, the first, and probably the nicest, love of her life; she recalled the innocence of those mutually happy days. Sweet seventeen, dynamic at college where she was learning to design clothes. Jenny met him in the refectory, quite a startling meeting, he actually spilled 7-up down her jeans, she could hardly ignore him then. He was studying engineering, she could at least see his talent for engineering a meeting. Apparently, he’d studied her from afar since the start of term and this was his method of introducing himself. She was amused, and they went out together for two years. Marriage was vaguely discussed, but not planned; neither wanted a commitment before career moves had been made. Alan became a habit easy to break when the next man entered Jenny’s life, good old, reliable Alan faded by the wayside.
Jenny began working for a fashion magazine, employed as tea and message girl, the only position available, and the first step toward working for a big name designer. She fell instantly in love with Peter in her second week at the office, his blonde hair, blue eyes, and long legs walked into the stationery cupboard. He asked her out to dinner, she accepted. For the next few weeks he treated her to the theatre, to parties, and to his loft apartment in Docklands. In a short while, he asked her to move in, with, delight and exuberance, she did. It was a couple of months before his latent violent streak made itself felt. Jenny suffered much humiliation during the four months that she stayed with him, she eventually found the courage to walk away. It never failed to amaze her, when considering her relationship with Peter, that she had stayed so long instead of leaving at the first blow. Love and blindness were the words that kept coming to mind.
She carefully powdered the shiny surface of her face, the brush moving as though to sweep away some of the memories, if only it were that easy. The weekend seminar in the country, and Stuart, the accounts clerk from the office. Jenny was still convinced he had disabled her car himself, although she knew she could never prove it. He kindly offered to show her an isolated restaurant, nesting in a picturesque vale in the Welsh mountains, and indeed, they enjoyed a fine meal together. Stuart was pleasant company, or so it seemed. He turned nasty in the car, frantically trying to force himself upon her. Jenny fought back wildly, and it was the timely appearance of a police patrol car that rescued her from the rape, which certainly, he’d planned from the commencement of the weekend. The recollection made her shudder, almost causing her to smudge the carefully applied eyebrow line.
Another memory flooded her mind, Tony. Oh, Tony. So sweet, so sympathetic and so stoned. She had tried every drug in the book with Tony. He took her on a psychedelic fantasy ride, into the multi-coloured drug dream world of the chemically adventurous. She, uneasy with the feeling of losing control, was conservative in her experimentation, her tolerance level much lower than Tony’s. Fortunately, she turned her back on that life with relative ease, unlike her lover. It was a pity he got busted right when he was about to give up, Jenny felt sure he would have succeeded, with her help. She was, at that time, unaware of his previous drug convictions, and subsequently, she thanked her lucky stars that she’d made the decision to visit her parents’ home in Hereford, for a weekend break. It was there that she heard the news of the police squad, storming into his Streatham flat. Yes, one could say it had been quite an experience living with Tony! Jenny breathed a sigh, and rolled her eyes, glad to close the book on that episode.
At twenty-eight, Jenny had been around the track more than enough with different types of men, and wondered if Mr Right was actually out there, or if it was just a marketing ploy dreamed up by advertising executives and women’s magazines. She thought about it as she applied soft beige shadow to her eyelids, patting away the excess with a cotton bud, and concluded that no match is perfect. Her partner’s faults must be tolerated, in the same way as she hoped hers would be. Jenny despaired of ever learning the trick of finding a man both exciting and trustworthy.
Curling her lashes around the black mascara wand, Jenny noted the altered volume of snores drifting from the bedroom. She hesitated, hand poised over the left eye, he didn’t stir, thank God, he would expect her to make coffee for him. She relaxed as he grunted, turned onto his side, and the snores began again.
She returned her thoughts to an appraisal of this current relationship, as she watched the rise and fall of the bedclothes as he breathed. Sam liked to go out and about, he appreciated her cooking and homemaking abilities, and he was a passable lover. The problem with Sam was, despite being unemployed, he wouldn’t lift a finger around the flat, and it looked like he never would. A typically lazy male, and incapable of understanding what real sharing meant. Jenny could see the pitfalls of a life with him, she’d soon be overwhelmed with the pressures of keeping house and career balanced, while waiting for him to get home from the gym, where he kept himself looking good. It wouldn’t take long for her life to become swallowed up in his existence, oh so easily, a little bit at a time.
As she spread lipstick over her full lips, Jenny came to her decision. Sam simply had to go, she couldn’t keep up the pace he was setting, and if he wouldn’t look for work, she would support him no longer. She couldn’t respect a man whose strongest characteristic was his vanity. Better to be alone than tied to such a man, no matter how attractive his body. She could no longer burn the candle at both ends for him either, she knew her looks would fade as quickly as the spark was fading from this relationship if she continued.
By the time she pushed the hairbrush through
her thick brown curls, Jenny was composing a speech to would evict him
from her bed, and her life. With pearl stud earrings fixed to her
lobes, she stepped back, surveying her features critically. Pleased
at the repair, she winked conspiratorially to her reflection, extinguished
the light above the mirror, closed the bathroom door, and purposefully
approached the sleeping figure in the bed.