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Ben’s voice, seemingly ever deeper, brought her back to the present.
‘Shut the door.’
Bette swallowed again, her eyes smarting, but did as he asked and then headed back to the kitchen.
‘Mama, what’s this?’ Sasha asked, pointing at her schoolbook.
Bette glanced at the wall clock. Tina was taking her sweet time with the dog.
‘Um . . .’ The word Sasha was pointing at was ‘accidentally’. Jesus, Bette thought. ‘Just skip that one,’ she said.
‘But I have to learn it!’
‘You have to learn it by Christmas. Just do the words you know, for tonight.’
Sasha scowled and let out a sigh the depth of oceans. And then Angie appeared.
‘What’s wrong with the wifi?’ she asked, as if Bette was a renowned wifi-destroyer.
‘How should I know?’ Bette replied. Then she heard the front door open. ‘Ask your mother.’
Angie turned and went to see Tina just as Solly scampered into the kitchen and leapt up at Sasha, depositing little grey-brown paw prints on what had been a pretty clean floor. Bette closed her eyes. This time last week they’d been at the Pierre, in bath robes, watching movie trailers and drinking cocktails and having sex . . .
‘How is it?’
Tina’s voice sounded tired as she came into the kitchen a couple of hours later. The kids were all in bed, or at least in their rooms, and Bette was standing at the central island applying anti-inflammatory gel to her right hand.
‘Getting better,’ she said. ‘I think I could open a wine bottle with it . . .’
Tina gave a shallow laugh and went into the utility room to deposit the laundry she’d collected from upstairs. Their rule was no alcohol at home on school nights, and they rarely broke it.
‘Everybody okay?’ Bette asked when Tina came back.
‘Sasha’s still paranoid about brushing her teeth, so thank you for that.’
Tina’s chiding tone was softened by the twinkle in her eyes. Bette looked sheepish. After their rather energetic and frequent lovemaking at the hotel, her tendons had swollen up and she had to wear a compression bandage for a few days. Inevitably the kids wanted to know why, so Bette said she’d been brushing her teeth wrongly, which made Sasha determined not to have the same fate befall her.