It had begun innocently enough, as these sorts of infatuations often do.
They’d only wandered into the furniture salesroom to have a look, not to buy, but when Monica spotted the gold velvet sofa standing coyly in the centre of the store, it was love at first sight. She’d collapsed into the welcoming squishiness with a sigh of contentment and when Paul joined her and they found themselves kissing enthusiastically, transported by passion as only newlyweds can be, she knew it would be exactly right.
When they eventually came up for air, giggling at their own nerve, they saw the salesman standing over them, looking distinctly unimpressed. Monica had never laughed so hard, especially when Paul pulled out his wallet and announced flamboyantly that his gorgeous wife loved this sofa and therefore he was going to buy it for her on the spot! It had been so romantic.
In the seventeen years that followed, Monica recounted this story to anyone who ever admired the sofa. She loved telling the tale because it brought her back to a different era, before the kids were born and Paul began to work such long hours. Back then, all it took to be deliriously happy was to lie cuddling together in front of the TV, Paul rubbing her feet, she feeding him ice-cream. It had been such a happy time and the gold velvet sofa had been at the heart of it.
Over the years, the sofa had sat quietly and loyally in their lives: it was where the kids napped when they were ill, where the dog loved to curl in the afternoon sun, even where the weekend newspapers lay heaped on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was also, one grey autumnal day, where Monica found the receipt.
She’d been plumping up the threadbare cushions that afternoon, wondering vaguely if getting the old sofa recovered in a fresh fabric would be a good idea. Paul had started to grumble that it was time it should be replaced – its shabbiness embarrassed him when they threw one of their many dinner parties. He wanted some leather monstrosity he’d seen in the designer furniture shop – the one with the matching hideous footstool that Monica hated.
The receipt fluttered to the ground just as Monica lifted the old cushions and bashed the feather filling into shape. Picking it up, she saw it was for a pair of very expensive diamond earrings, bought only days before in the high-end jewellers in town.
Happy tears sprang to her eyes immediately – so Paul did still have a romantic streak after all these years. He was obviously going to surprise her on their wedding anniversary. The thought made her heart soar with delight as she quickly shoved it back into its hiding place. Better he didn’t suspect that she knew – that would spoil the surprise.
Their anniversary dinner party the next week was a fun affair. Monica had to cook for everyone, of course, which meant she was rather red faced and flustered at the table, but she didn’t mind, mostly because she knew what was coming – Paul was going to present her with those earrings over dessert. She could hardly eat for excitement – she’d already practised her “surprised and delighted” face half a dozen times in the reflective oven door.
“Where did you get that lovely old sofa Monica?” her good friend Rita asked as she reached out for the gravy and carefully drizzled just a drop on her seared beef. Rita was fastidious about her figure – gravy was only ever to be eaten sparingly, if at all.
Monica was surprised Rita didn’t remember the story – after all she’d told it often enough. But then, ever since Rita had left her husband Dan she’d been very preoccupied. Monica had been so sad when they split – Dan was a very nice guy, but Rita had inexplicably become increasingly irritated by everything he did and said. But then Dan was definitely not the romantic type. Not like Paul.
Monica smiled fondly across the table at her wonderfully devoted husband as she began the story of how he had snapped up the sofa on a romantic whim all those years ago. Paul didn’t smile back though – instead he scowled that the salesman had persuaded them to buy the sofa against his better judgment and he’d been a fool ever to part with a bean for the great lump in the first place. Then he poured himself another enormous glass of red wine and pulled at the tie round his neck, like it was choking him.
The table had gone very quiet then and Monica had felt her cheeks burn. Rita kindly rescued her by piping up that a fool and his money were easily parted, or something along those lines, and they’d all laughed half heartedly, but there was no denying that the atmosphere had been strained for the rest of the evening. Everyone had made their excuses and left early, before Monica even had a chance to serve the petits fours she’d arranged so carefully on her mother’s inherited china.
It was when she hugged Rita goodbye at the front door that she noticed the new diamond earrings glittering at her friend’s ears. A present from an old acquaintance, Rita explained, glancing surreptitiously at Paul when she thought Monica wasn’t looking. It had all become clear to Monica then, in that moment.
Reclining on the sofa now, over a year later, Monica reflected that she was very glad she had never gotten rid of it. Finally getting it recovered had made it feel almost new again and now it fitted perfectly in the living room of the bright flat she’d bought when she left her not so devoted husband behind. Nestled right here, in the scoop of the old bay window, she could happily watch the world go by and reflect how lucky she really was to know her own mind.
It simply was the perfect place to be.