The Exchange

Deep in his pocket, Marcus twirled the beads of the brooch as he walked towards the Royal Exchange. His thoughts moved to the sensual feel of the beads on his fingertips and what might happen later. He hoped the brooch would do the trick. It hadn’t cost much, but it was the thought that counted. He hadn’t really been thinking about her when he bought it. He’d actually bought it for that other one – what was her name, Julia. They all liked gifts. It was surprising how little you had to spend to make them grateful. He walked through the doors. There she was, sitting with a white wine on the edge of the crowd. She saw him, stood up and they kissed, slightly awkwardly. A waiter took his drink order and Marcus asked about her day. As she talked, Marcus’s face demonstrated riveting attention, whilst his mind wandered up the skirt of the girl behind her. She blinked back tears and clasped her glass with both hands, her wedding ring chinking against the coolness.

“I want to tell you something.”

Smiling, he ignored her. “I bought you a present.” He put the brooch on the table.

“Thank you. I want a divorce.”

He hadn’t expected that, but suddenly he realised, he had every day for the last twenty-odd years of their marriage.

“Darling, have you met someone else?” He paused, dramatically. “Think of the children.” He felt only intense irritation.

There was nothing for it. “My announcement was that you can get the house redone – I got the wink about my bonus.” He’d never intended to throw that in, but it was still cheaper than a divorce. How unsurprising the tears stopped, he thought, as she smiled at him.

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