I know Tats is unhappy because she has put on weight. Itâ€™s always the same; the more miserable she is, the more she eats. So I know how unhappy she is before she even mentions it. And typically, she doesnâ€™t mention it until we are almost out of time, but for once she cannot run away because the car keys are in my hand and not hers.
There are conflicts in her life; work and family, family and work. I ask her what she really wants, but she rushes off on a tangent about her brother. I need to be cautious; I cannot be a fool in size seven boots this time â€“ I will have to try harder to be a wary angel. Only Iâ€™m not much good with wings. For some reason I remember the day we giggled into the Ann Summers shop and bought our first vibrators. At the till she turned to me and said rather waspishly â€œAnd I donâ€™t want to know anything about how you use it.â€
But we are not joking now. She circles the main issue like a cautious but hungry animal, trying to work out if the food on offer is laced with poison. I know it is hard for her to talk â€“ when it finally comes out the double whammy is that sheâ€™s had to agree to go to marriage counselling â€“ sheâ€™s going to hate that even more. She thinks that bringing the problems out into the open will make them worse; while they are buried they can safely be ignored â€“ with luck, they may even go away.
I comfort her by telling her I know what she means â€“ but in equally guarded terms. I remember only too clearly the evening before, lying in bed and wondering how much longer I can bite my lip; and realising that my silence has to be permanent. Oh, I started the ball rolling with a question… but it wasnâ€™t answered. Nor will it be. My marriage has to remain as perfect overall as it is in almost all departments, and for that to happen, certain feelings need to be kept to myself.
Her marriage is already in shreds â€“ and I know that it is not her priority anymore; so much has been obvious to me for some months; it was impossible that her husband wouldnâ€™t notice in the end. Even her children have probably noticed by now.
As we walk to my car she says to me â€œYou know, when Iâ€™m really lost, I ask myself what Willow would do.â€
I raise my eyebrows. â€œTats, believe me, you donâ€™t want to know!â€