Graham called Janine into his office. He shut the door and loosened his tie.
‘I thought you should know,’ he said. ‘They’re closing the Auckland office, running everything from Melbourne.’
The skin around his tired eyes reminded her of crumpled sand.
When the staff lunch was over they sat together sipping coffee and picking at small squares of Christmas cake.
In the car park they leaned against the side of his Jeep. He handed her a small box wrapped in gold paper. He kissed her on the cheek. ‘Happy Christmas.’
The paper was silky against her thumb. She waved as he drove off.
At home she washed dishes, unpacked groceries, swept and scrubbed the floor. Geoff wandered into the kitchen, his bare feet making dirty paw marks across the cleaned floor.
‘Your feet,’ she said.
‘Chill out, Jan.’
He opened the fridge, pulled out bread and ham. ‘Did you get tomatoes?’
Last Christmas Geoff and her brother-in-law Pete spent the day drinking beer, yarning about hunting trips and guns. Her sister, Angela, dozed under the sun umbrella. In the evening Janine carried the uneaten Christmas cake back upstairs.
‘I don’t know why you bother,’ Geoff said.
This year the cake spent another day nestled among the beer cans. After the others had gone to bed, Janine bent over and placed her cheek against the surface of the cake. It was smooth, aromatic. She took a few steps back and wiped her hands on her skirt. She picked up Geoff’s rifle, pointed it at the centre of the cake and squeezed the trigger.
When she boarded the plane for Melbourne the smell of cinnamon, allspice and brandy had almost faded from her skin and hair.
As the plane accelerated and lifted into the air she smiled.
Chill out, Jan.