Margaret plunged the trousers back into the lukewarm water and gently squeezed the fabric. She checked her instructions. With a sinking heart she realised that part one of washing these silk trousers had already taken her ten minutes. There were a whole seven other steps to get through until she finished.
‘Alright, love?’ George queried as he wandered into the kitchen to get himself a drink out of the fridge.
‘Mmm,’ Margaret didn’t bother to turn round to look at him. She knew he would be wearing that ridiculous dressing gown and she found she couldn’t bear the sight of him.
‘Those trousers giving you any trouble?’
‘No, they’re fine.’
‘Good, good,’ and with that George left her to it.
Margaret hissed with irritation. He could have least asked her if she needed any help. They were his crazy, silk trousers in the first place and just because she was the wife she was stuck with the job of washing them. Why couldn’t he wear normal trousers like any other human being? Oh, she knew why, she just wished she’d known why twenty-seven years ago and then maybe she wouldn’t have married him.
Although, she should have had some inkling when each of the trousers she’d picked out for him to wear on their big day had been subjected to George’s fabric softness test. He wouldn’t even try them on if they didn’t match some specific criteria known only to George and his ever sensitive fingertips. She hadn’t known then, she’d been too enamoured with his booming laugh and strong shoulders to question his behaviour.
So, George wore lots of baggy shorts even when it was winter time but that was just George, being George. It wasn’t until Stacey’s christening that Margaret had even realised there was a problem.
‘The thing is love,’ he’d said when she tried to force him into a Marks and Spencer’s two piece suit, ‘I just don’t like the feel of the fabric against my legs.’
‘Well, I don’t like the feel of this belt against my post-pregnancy stomach but I’m going to wear it anyway so that I look nice for our daughter’s christening.’
‘You look gorgeous, love, with or without the belt but I’m afraid I just cannot wear those trousers.’
Nothing she had said that day had changed his mind and in the end they had compromised with him wearing a pair of very baggy trousers with a shirt and tie. During the service she’d though he’d looked rather like a clown.
Two years later and it was Emma’s turn to be christened and they’d had almost the exact same conversation. This time, irritated by lack of sleep and with the demands of two small children making George’s booming laugh less frequent Margaret was much less accommodating. She demanded to know what exactly was wrong with the very soft suit she had spent some time picking out for George to wear.
‘It makes me feel panicky.’
‘The feel of the tough fabric against my legs.’
‘George, it’s cotton. It couldn’t be softer if it was air.’
‘All, I know is that when I wear uncomfortable trousers I feel as if I can’t breathe.’
‘But that makes no sense. The trousers are round your legs not your lungs or nose. Please put them on George.’
But George was adamant and he went to the Christening wearing the same baggy trousers from two years before. This time Margaret heard some of her friends talking about George’s clown trousers and she’d felt her face burn with shame.
Over the years things had become worse rather than better. George was able to wear shorts or very baggy trousers when he was out of the house but as soon as he was home he’d had to strip them off almost as soon as he walked through the front door. Thankfully he had still kept his underpants on.
If the girls had ever had friends over to play George was banished to the shed, where he could tinker with his bike. Although he always had to put his trousers back on to cross the lawn in case any of the neighbours spotted him.
Things had come to a head two years ago when it was Stacey’s wedding. Stacey had pleaded with her mum to get their father into trousers. ‘He can’t wear shorts to my wedding mum,’ she’d said somewhat tearfully, ‘I’ll be a laughing stock.’
After a heated debate in which George told her the panicky feeling was getting worse and that he was even finding putting underpants on a problem Margaret had marched him to see a psychiatrist. He had told them that George was suffering from vestiphobia, a fear of clothes that, if not sorted out, could mean the sufferer may not be able to wear any clothes at all without being plagued by constant panic attacks.
‘Sounds more like a fear of vests,’ George had quipped, ‘and I don’t mind those really. I mean I’m not keen but…’ he’d trailed off when he’d seen the glare coming from his wife. Margaret was envisioning life with a constantly naked George and it was not a pretty future.
After a short bout of therapy George had been able to get into some silk trousers for the wedding. It looked a little odd but it was better than y-fronts.
That was then and now it was Emma’s turn to marry, which was why Margaret found herself trying to wash a pair of silk trousers in the hope George would be able to bare wearing them. Margaret worried that it was a vein hope because over the last two years George had become worse. He could no longer wear pants in the house and had resorted to wearing only his dressing gown. He’d taken early retirement so that he didn’t have to leave the house anymore and his only two outlets were the internet and his shed, which Margaret would only let him into under the cover of darkness. Margaret found it very depressing.
She checked her instructions the next stage is to wrap the trousers in a towel and to put them in the fridge for half an hour.
‘The fridge!’ she muttered under her breath, ‘whoever heard of putting trousers in the fridge.’ But as desperate as she was she proceeded to wrap the trousers in the towel. It was as she opened the fridge door that she saw it.
Her heart rate accelerated.
Her breathing came in short sharp gasps.
She tried to step backwards but her feet were stuck to the floor.
‘George,’ she squeaked.
‘George,’ she squeaked a little louder.
‘Yes, my love,’ said George appearing in the kitchen door, his dressing gown flapping around his legs.
She pointed a trembling finger to the side of the fridge door.
‘Oh love, it’s only tiny.’
‘Do something,’ she pleaded.
George lumbered over to her side and scooped up the moth that had until then had been residing on their kitchen wall.
‘It’s only a wee thing, look.’ George held his hand up to show Margaret the moth now pitching on his fingers but she squeezed her eyes tightly shut.
‘OK, don’t worry pet, I’ll pop him outside.’
Margaret heard the back door being opened and closed but she still didn’t open her eyes.
‘Oh love,’ said George as he came back into the kitchen, ‘It’s gone now you can move.’
Margaret, who was still clutching the damp towel in her hands, shook her head. Her body had started a fine trembling all over.
‘You silly thing, you’re shaking. Come here,’ and with that Margaret heard George undo his dressing belt and pull her up close to his warm body, wrapping the folds of the dressing gown around them both. She rested her head against his shoulders and let out a shuddering sigh of relief.