It was meant to be a fresh start, but they destroyed the four-poster the first time they took to it. They’d stopped to laugh guiltily, then carried on. Marianne assumed it was fixable.
The bed remains but supported by brinks instead of legs. An early game of catch destroyed the mantelpiece and a stray foot kicked a hole in the corner of the bathroom door. They tiptoe around the house, careful not to disturb the riddled wood.
Mike is away talking to the bank and Marianne sits on the living room floor as she peels the wallpaper like skin. All she finds is dust and another layer of dried paper. She goes deeper, and finds more layers, and eventually, wood. She tries to stick the paper back.
The house is not beside other houses, it sits alone at the end of a short path with a big wooden gate. It was their fresh start. Only the gate was still solid.
Marianne sits among the paper fragments and runs her fingers across the floorboards. Up close, very close, you can see the holes, like a sponge, but you can’t spot the beasties. She tries, but whatever is destroying their home is invisible to her.
The man who gave them the news was matter of fact but embarrassed, like a doctor. Over the phone, before he’d come out, he’d said it was unlikely their problem was structural – or as bad as they seemed to think. He wandered round the house as they stood in the kitchen, gripping glasses of water, but when he was done he apologised.
They called out another man and spent hours online, thinking there must be an alternative solution. Everyone said the same thing.
Mike comes home with the bad news and they go back to their lopsided bed. Afterwards, she lies on his chest and tries to lose herself in the skoosh of his breath, but her ears are filled with the sounds of tiny, hungry mouths.