I reach over to give him a cuddle but he moves me out of the way, I’m blocking the television. I ask him if he remembers the time that we stripped naked and made love by the river, on that glorious summer’s day. He never even looks up, provides not even a grunted acknowledgement. I start to get pains.
They begin in my arms, my shoulders mostly. I tell him about it and request a massage but he shushes me and angrily snaps that I am disturbing his enjoyment of Team GB.
I don’t care about the Olympics, or sport generally. I guess he thinks that I’m being silly, attention seeking, trying to drag him away from his beloved, important sports events.
It’s just that the pains have rapidly become unbearable and I’m worried and can’t cope. I go out, shuffling slowly to the pharmacy, and purchase the strongest painkillers but, after several intolerable hours, they haven’t even dulled it. It spreads to my back and it’s so excruciating that I have to demand to see the doctor. My skin feels as though it’s burning and my bones feel like they’re growing, wishing to break through my tender flesh.
The doctor examines me and exclaims that it’s a curious case, but not the first one that he has seen this week. He tells me that I have ‘Olympic Fever’ and prescribes me a cream to rub in, three times a day.
‘But I don’t even like the Olympics!’ I protest, disbelieving his peculiar diagnosis with wide eyes.
‘And this is why you’re ill!’ He bellows, ‘You, and women like you, ruining your poor husband’s enjoyment. Do you let him watch Match of the Day in peace? Well, do you?’ He’s shouting now, he removes his spectacles to reveal mean eyes.
I silently weep. It’s true. I confess it. Every Saturday night I parade around in a corset, stockings and high heeled shoes in a vain attempt to lure him away from Gary Lineker and the sofa based boys club. It stopped working months ago. Tears race down my hot, crimson cheeks.
‘Collect your cream and for the love of all that is precious, let your husband watch his sports without the nagging and petty resentment.’
I nod meekly and scrunch the prescription into my tiny coin purse.
Upon my return, I gaze at my husband who is watching the tennis. He’s shouting obscenities at Andy Murray again. I zip my mouth and leave him to it. I make his favourite sandwiches, egg and cress, he doesn’t care or offer any thanks, but I still keep quiet. I attempt to apply the cream but it’s impossible to reach the most painful area at the top of my back.
I ask my husband to do it and he glowers, he’s trying to watch the gymnastics now and reminds me about what a selfish bitch I am. I throw the pot of cream against the wall but he doesn’t flinch, his eyes are fixated on the screen.
I run up the stairs, upset, slamming the door shut behind me with a temper. I crumple to the floor and the sobs arrive, choking cries stick in my throat. I’m sick and dizzy and I feel a ripping sensation in my back which is the most diabolical agony. I stand up, rip off my clothes and look in the mirror. I look different. I’m changing. I turn around and freeze. Out of the top of my back, wings are sprouting, white feathers cover me, and some fall to the salmon pink bedroom carpet. I can’t move or make a sound. Fear renders me useless.
As I hear my husband’s celebratory cheers from the floor below, my entire body contorts. I fall back to the floor and see spindly bird legs replace my soft, womanly ones. I touch my face and feel the sharp beak that used to be a button nose. It takes mere minutes and I am a bird. I perch on the window sill, timidly stepping forward on to the ledge outside. I’m not alone. Kirsty from number 24 flies out of her house and soars into the blue sky. Maureen from 32 follows her, flapping her wings with power and freedom. They coo in encouragement, I should join them.