Merlot time

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1340 words.

Adrian closed the door and threw his keys into the elaborate glass dish on the hall-stand.
There were no shoes underneath it, so he guessed that Fiona was late home from work. Again. He couldn’t be bothered to remove his suit jacket, but pulled his tie loose, and opened the neck of his shirt. Wandering into the open plan apartment, he headed for the kitchen area.

He took a large glass from the clear cabinet, and slid a bottle of wine from the built-in wine rack underneath. He had to buy the wine these days. Ever since Fiona had decided to stop drinking, she had made such a song and dance about the shopping bill, he had agreed to buy his own wine. Shopping bill. That was laughable. They never went shopping anymore. Fiona now ate a healthy lunch near to where she worked, so didn’t see the need to have much in the house. “We shouldn’t eat so late. A good lunch should be enough to see us through.” How many times had he heard that?

It was alright for her. Five feet tall, and a tiny size six. A few mouthfuls of organic hummus and an apple would fill her up. Adrian thought about the good days. Those times when they went for a nice Italian meal after work, or ordered in pizza and watched a DVD. Can it have only been three years? It felt like another life. He cracked the screw top on the wine, wondering why she still insisted it had to be in the wine rack. She had sneered at his £5 a bottle supermarket Merlot. “Please don’t ever offer that stuff to our friends, whatever you do.” The soft Edinburgh accent that had once been music to his ears now sounded like someone dragging a crowbar down a metal fence. She paid more than that for her sparkling Swedish piss-water that probably came out of a tap on an industrial estate in Stockholm.

Filling the glass almost to the top, he walked over and collapsed into one of the god-awful designer chairs that she had insisted on buying. They looked like something made from discarded parachute harness attached to an old bike frame. But each one had cost almost a month’s salary. Adrian let his eyes fall on the sofa opposite. No arms, tiny chrome feet, and a lime-green covering that looked like sick. About as comfortable as sitting at a bus stop.

The apartment was very smart and trendy of course, Fiona would have wanted nothing less. Still flushed with lust and love, Adrian had agreed to buy it, even though the mortgage was almost half of their joint income. Not long after moving in, he was less enamoured with having the bedroom in the living room, and a bathroom that was only separated by a wall of glass bricks. Not a single place for privacy, despite the huge square footage. At least it had a great view of the river over the Juliet balcony, but the lack of outside space of any kind soon made him feel housebound. And once she had her nest in the city, Fiona started to become a very different person indeed.

She openly admitted that she had selected him from the many available on the up-market dating site. Tall, athletic build, good teeth, and a steady job, he fitted the bill perfectly. Adrian could now see behind those superficial reasons. He had few friends to bother her, and although he was educated, his degree was not a patch on her double first. On top of that, her salary was almost twice as much as his, and she never let him forget that. The tiny woman wore the trousers in their relationship, though not literally, as she spent her life in expensive dresses, and shoes that cost even more. Tied into the purchase, afraid of failure, he had tolerated her decision-making. The holidays in exclusive villas in Tuscany, the work colleagues who hardly acknowledged his presence at functions, and the gradual process of moulding his life into hers, until it was really just hers.

A promotion had made her even worse. Spending stupid amounts on things like tiny kettles, or a huge coffee machine that dominated the worktop. “You don’t even drink coffee!” He had said, with a wry smile. “But it will be there for guests.” She always said that, but they never had guests. One thing about this huge apartment, it had nowhere for guests to stay. Just ‘pieces’, as she called them, dotted around to imply good taste and high income, eschewing comfort, or the feel of home. Not that it was a home, at least not for Fiona. She worked later and later, and was constantly out after work too. It was all so important of course, and had to be done. “Networking, don’t you see?” Driving home the point that he could be home by six, because he just had an ordinary job.

Much later, he was aware of the door opening, and the clatter of shoes dropping onto the wood floor in the hall. The summer evening meant it was still light as she walked through into the living area, and perched on that repulsive sofa. She had spotted the empty bottle, and stared across at him, slumped in the parachute webbing chair. “I see you started drinking early again. Did you eat anything?” He grinned, and shook his head. When he had glanced into the huge refrigerator that took up half the kitchen, he saw it contained a half-empty box of Mediterranean couscous, two lemons, and six bottles of Swedish water. The irony was that the thing was connected to an Internet app. That had made him laugh out loud.

Fiona stretched out her legs until her tiny feet made contact with the acrylic coffee table. That table had once adorned a house in the 1970s, and even then was horrible to look at. She had bought that at an auction, during her shabby-chic period last year. She reached forward, plucking at the shiny sheer tights that covered her toes. The seams on the reinforced sections had become twisted in her shoes, and she carefully adjusted them back into place. He looked at the feet that he had once lovingly kissed and caressed, the perfectly even toes wiggling under the mesh. They now seemed disgusting to him, like her voice, and the ribs that showed along the sides of her body.

“I had a late meeting with Sanjay, and we went for some Tapas after. If you are not going to talk, and just sit there, I might as well go for my shower, and have an early night.” Her tone was businesslike, non-confrontational. He hated the lack of emotion, the resistance to anger. If you never had an argument, how could you enjoy making up later? Adrian stood suddenly, wobbling a little as he walked over to the cupboard. When she heard him slide the second bottle of wine from the rack, he saw her disapproving shake of the head. “Really? Another bottle?” Still a flat monotone. She didn’t even bother to turn around to admonish him, just addressed his empty chair.

Enjoying his second glass of Merlot from that bottle, Adrian once again marvelled at the fact that it had not smashed when he had hit her with it. A full swing with his strong right arm had delivered the blow with considerable force too. Enough to knock her sideways off of the sofa, onto the floor. She hadn’t seen it coming of course. No time to cry out, or move. Topping up his glass, he thought it strange that there was no blood. She hadn’t moved since it happened, and after a while, he realised that she wasn’t going to. Her half-open eyes stared through the railings of the balcony, appearing to be watching a party boat making its way down the river; bright lights, and noisy revellers.

He raised the glass in her direction. “Cheers!”

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43 thoughts on “Merlot time

    1. Not quite the same as this one, but domestic violence was common, and just as likely to be found in a million pound mews house, as on a council estate. I have met a few like ‘Fiona’ over the years too…
      Cheers, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Pope (Niccolò di Montachiesa, aka Ignatius I) versus the Magician (Sean Davoitzler, aka “Merle”):

    The sand has hardened into sandstone. Niccolò peels away the Styrofoam cup. “Bottoms up!”
    “Oh!” puffs Merle. “That’s child’s play!” He takes the sandstone block, which is in the shape of a truncated cone, and carves a happy face into it, as if it were made of soft clay.
    Niccolò is impressed. But he is not one to be easily outdone. He takes the sandstone block and squeezes it like a sponge, creating a stream of red wine. “I assume you like Merlot?”

    (p. 175, “Pope on the Dole”)

    It would be a miracle if I could read your story and not think of this scene in my book. (Yes, I know. Shameless self-promotion!). But I must congratulate you on “Merlot time.” It’s an excellent story with a psychological drip-drip-drip that leads progressively to a logical and inescapable conclusion. Your descriptions here make this a delightful read. A real gem!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another corker… (Not sure I intended that but…). Didn’t realise the reference to Sideways, a film I really enjoyed, although I don’t drink wine… I might be digging a whole or a blow for myself here. Thanks, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As I read this..scrolling down each verse..I was beginning to dislike this woman who flourished so well on the outside but seemed to have a less charming inside to her supposed lover Adrian. The glass was surely half empty from.the start and by the end I felt as though a strange sense of relief perhaps swept past him at that very moment he watched her lay there so still..remembering how it feels to have his glass at hand..full. It’s a wonderful written story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A new genre. Pinot film noir. Where I live, there are wineries all over the landscape. I’ve heard people bad-mouth merlot, but never understood why, until now. Apparently the sulfites in inexpensive red wine make you into a homicidal maniac. Excellent story, like Fiona, I didn’t see that coming.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Robert. Merlot has had a bad rep since the film ‘Sideways’, I believe. (Hence my use of the ‘hidden’ pun, “to knock her sideways off of the sofa”…) It is usually my wine of choice, unless I have Pinotage of course! It even led to me being given (yet another) the nickname of ‘Merlot Pete’, by one group of friends. Glad you enjoyed the story.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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