19th April

The Accusation

‘How long have you known me, Brent?’ Douglas asked, as he handed out the drinks from a silver salver. Malt whisky for them, gin and tonic for Aileen. They were in the conservatory. All very civilised. Brent relaxed into the big, soft armchair.

‘Twenty years,’ he said.

‘Twenty-two, actually. And Aileen for seventeen. You were my best man, and you married the chief bridesmaid, Aileen’s best friend. Isn’t that right?’

‘Statement of the obvious, Douglas,’ Brent said. ‘Yes, I married Sophie.’

‘Poor dear Sophie,’ Aileen said. She was staring out into the garden.

‘Yes,’ Douglas said. ‘Poor Sophie. What I’m saying, Brent, is that we’ve been friends a long time, all of us. Haven’t we?’


‘You probably know me as well as anyone does. Wouldn’t you say?’

There was something tight in Douglas’s voice. Brent didn’t like it.

‘Probably,’ he said.

‘You see,’ Douglas said, sitting down at one end of the big sofa, ‘we have a problem, which I’d like to sort out. The problem is, Aileen thinks I’m having an affair. She thinks I’ve been playing away from home.’

Brent took a mouthful of whisky. ‘Oh,’ he said.

‘And I thought, because you know me so well, you could tell her how absurd that idea is.’

Aileen turned her head towards Brent, her face blank. Help me out here, he thought.

‘You’re my character witness,’ Douglas said, watching Brent very intently. ‘You know I wouldn’t do that, don’t you?’

‘No, I don’t think you would,’ Brent said cautiously.

‘Of course everybody’s capable of doing stuff behind someone else’s back,’ Douglas said. ‘And no doubt I’ve flirted with some stranger at a party now and again. But an affair? Why would I have an affair? I mean, look at her. My Aileen.’

Brent said, ‘I don’t know what to say.’

‘I’m asking your opinion,’ Douglas said. ‘Do you think I’m having an affair?’

‘No,’ Brent said.

‘Good,’ Douglas said. ‘That’s settled then. Marital bliss is restored.’ Aileen took a huge slug of gin. ‘Don’t be such a prick, Douglas. Just say what you really want to say.’

Brent sat up. The room bulged with anger. He braced himself for whatever was coming next.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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