Peter turned back into the lounge and stood facing Karen.
‘Well I hope you’re satisfied. Making my own mother turn against me,’ he accused.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Karen began. But Peter cut her short.
‘Don’t tell me not to be silly!’ he shouted. ‘Don’t you ever do that to me again.’
‘What exactly have I done?’
‘You know what. You’ve been sitting in here, making plans with my mother, secret plans.’ He paced the room. ‘Pushing me out in the cold. You’d do well to remember who you’re married to.’ He marched to the table, picked up the mug of untouched coffee and spun to face her. ‘And why haven’t you drank your coffee? I suppose you think I’m poisoning you.’
‘Of course I don’t. I just forgot,’ Karen said. ‘It’s cold now. I’ll make another one.’
She stood as she spoke and grabbed the cup from his hand before he could object, took it into the kitchen and tipped the contents into the sink. She filled the kettle and switched it on at the wall. Peter followed her.
‘I know your game,’ he said. ‘You think you can get my mother on your side, don’t you?’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Karen said. ‘Margaret was being kind. She wants to help both of us. She’s worried about how things are.’ As soon as she spoke the words, Karen realised she’d made a mistake.
‘Worried about how things are?’ he asked. ‘What the hell have you been saying to her? Telling her lies about me, I suppose.’
‘No,’ Karen denied. ‘I haven’t told her anything. I wouldn’t dare.’ She felt sick. ‘Look Peter, I don’t know what’s happening to us, but things are getting worse aren’t they? Between us, I mean.’
‘What are you saying?’ He sounded more angry now. ‘Do you want a divorce? I can make your life a misery if you try and divorce me. You wouldn’t be able to manage without me. No money, no home, nothing.’
‘That’s not what I meant.’ Karen could feel the terror rising. ‘I just can’t see a way forward, that’s all.’
‘I’ll tell you the way forward,’ he said. ‘You stop all this nonsense about working at the hospital and get rid of that baby. Then we can make a fresh start.’ He paused. ‘If you really loved me, that’s what you’d do.’
‘I don’t understand. One minute you want me to keep the baby and the next you don’t. What do you want?’
‘I’ve told you enough times. I want you to be a good wife. Show me you care about this marriage. Stop living in a fantasy world.’
‘Thinking you can have a career in that place. Believing I can bring up a child that’s not even mine.’ He paused. ‘Just get yourself sorted and get back to how you used to be!’
‘I can’t do that,’ said Karen. ‘Even if I gave up my job, I couldn’t give up the baby. It’s a part of me now, surely you can understand that. I know it must be very hard for you, but I just hoped that once you saw the baby you might change your mind.’
‘I’ll never change my mind. So you’ll have to change yours.’
‘I can’t,’ said Karen. ‘This is my own flesh and blood.’
‘Your flesh and blood, but not mine!’
‘I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.’
‘We’ll see about that.’ Peter gripped her wrist and pulled her to face him. She could smell the coffee on his bitter breath. ‘You’re still my wife,’ he spat, twisting her wrist and forcing her against the sink unit. She felt the cold of the metal on her back.
Peter glared at her a moment longer. As he turned and walked away, Karen felt a flutter in her belly. She placed her hands on the swelling of her womb. A feeling of love surged in her heart as she became conscious that it was her baby stirring.