The Daily Mirror headline that morning:
MCBRIDE OR MCMISTRESS?
Spotted! It looks like the sexy on-screen romance between married TV star Brad McBride and his sexy co-star Felicity Shaw has spilled over into reality, if our sensational pictures are anything to go by. Shots of the couple smooching in a booth at The Roof Gardens emerged this morning, along with further images of a distinctly sheepish McBride leaving Shaw’s
London flat in the early
hours of New Year’s Day.
‘They couldn’t keep their hands off each other in the club, they didn’t seem to care who saw them,’ one reveller, who didn’t wish to be named, told the Mirror. ‘I saw them leave in a cab just after midnight; from the way they were going at it in the club, I bet that cabbie had an eye full!’
Representatives for both McBride and Shaw have so far declined comment.
it’s not what it looks like. I can explain.’
It was pretty tricky not to believe them, truth told. There weren’t many conclusions to draw from the photos of Brad and Felicity Shaw besides the glaringly obvious ones. Brad could always have been inspecting Felicity’s tonsils with his tongue in a purely platonic way, or maybe she was sitting in his lap with her dress around her thighs because her legs had suddenly stopped working, and there was always the outside chance that he’d been caught leaving her bijou townhouse looking rumpled at dawn because his car had mysteriously broken down right outside on the night of the infamous New Year cab strike that never was. That would be the same night three days ago, the very same one that Brad had called her on to say that he couldn’t make it back for the weekend as early as planned because filming had run over schedule. It had surprised her that they’d filmed during New Year week, but
Alice hadn’t made a fuss.
She’d had to get used to her husband being public property since he’d been
catapulted into stardom, and as his wife she’d quickly had to get used to being
photographed for publicity and showbiz events. She didn’t enjoy it but knew
Brad needed her to smile for the cameras, and she’d be forever thankful that it
had allowed them to buy Borne Manor, the Shropshire
country pad of their dreams. Or Alice’s
dreams, in any case. Brad had liked the place well enough, but London
was calling for him in a way it just wasn’t for Alice. It seemed simple enough – they’d keep
their London flat as a base and buy the Shropshire house as their long-term family home. Except
there was no family as yet, and it seemed from the photographs that Brad had
decided that life with Alice
wasn’t quite bright lights, big city enough for him any longer. Folding her
arms wearily, she looked her husband in the eyes.
‘Go on then.’
His eyes narrowed. ‘Go on then what?’
Pack your case and leave. ‘Explain,’ she said. ‘You said you could explain the pictures.’
glanced down at the newspaper on the table. ‘I’m listening.’
She wrapped her dressing gown closer around her as she slid into one of the dining chairs, weary already even though it was barely eight a.m. The expensive dove grey cashmere robe had been a Christmas surprise from Brad just a week or two ago.
Alice found herself wondering if Felicity
Shaw was at that very moment wearing the same thing. Her husband was big on
efficiency; she could well imagine him doubling up on identical presents.
Brad paused, tongue tied and uncertain.
‘Erm, well . . .’ He shoved his hands through his dark hair and then scrubbed his palms over his cheeks, unable to meet her eyes head on. If she’d have been looking for classic signs of lying, the red flags were all there. Touching his face and covering his mouth, rapid eye movement, shallow breathing beneath his expensive shirt. It was a poor show for an actor, really,
thought, detaching herself mentally from the situation for self-preservation purposes.
She watched him wriggle on the hook, slippery, trying any which way to get
himself off it. She wasn’t going to help him. She couldn’t. All of her efforts
were concentrated on holding herself still in the chair rather than flying
across the room and tearing his face off.
I’m so sorry,’ he said, suddenly urgent, crossing the room and pulling out the
chair beside hers. He sat facing her, his kneecaps against hers, close enough
for Alice to
smell the familiar scent of his favourite shower gel. ‘It was nothing. She
doesn’t mean anything to me.’
‘It was one night, baby, a stupid, stupid mistake.’
His words washed over her skin, scalding, not in the least bit soothing. Did he imagine that it would be less of a betrayal if he said it had only happened once? Which it hadn’t, of course. Lots of little things had happened over the last few months that hadn’t quite added up, a dinner receipt here, an inconsistency in Brad’s recollections there, and each time
Alice had allowed herself
to sweep it under the carpet, or had at least looked for innocent explanations
instead of jumping to the worst-case scenario. This though . . . these pictures
. . . there wasn’t a best-case scenario to find here, only the ugly truth of
deception and infidelity. Those warning signs did nothing to deaden the blow of
evidence; hard facts turned out to be a lot harder to swallow than suspicion.
Dread prickled cold and clammy beneath her skin and her morning coffee rose bitter
in her throat. She knew that what she said next mattered. Go, or don’t go.
‘Tell me what I can do,
Alice. I need to make this right again.’ Brad
squeezed her hands. ‘You name it and I’ll do it.’
Was it really her responsibility to tell him how to right his wrongs? And why did he assume there was something he could do to balance the scorecard again? Even so, finding the strength required to say the things she needed to say next was the most difficult thing she’d ever done.
‘There’s only one thing you can do now, Brad. Pack a case. Leave.’
‘No! I won’t.’ Urgent desperation thickened his voice. ‘
Alice, please, we can
work through this. I love you, and I know you love me.’ He gripped her hands
tighter still. ‘Our marriage is worth that, surely?’
Oh, he had no idea how badly he’d just screwed up. She nodded, digesting his words slowly, fury heating her blood.
‘You didn’t think it valuable enough to stop you screwing Felicity Shaw, yet I’m supposed to think it’s worth fighting for. Is that what you’re saying?’
She lifted her eyes to his and watched him scrabble for the right words when there weren’t any.
‘That isn’t what I meant,’ he said quietly. His phone buzzed in the pocket of his jeans. They both glanced down, knowing in her eyes, guilt in his.
‘You better get that,’
said, keeping her voice even as she stood, scraping her chair back on the
flagstones. ‘I’ll go and find you a suitcase.’ Alice