“Sorry I’m so late, love.”Helen looked up from the ironing. Kevin was beaming and, if she wasn’t mistaken, weaving a little. He wasn’t usually one for drinking, so what was going on?“You don’t look sorry.”He bit his lip, looking so penitent that Helen longed to go over and kiss him, but she wasn’t yet ready to be conciliatory. It was nearly 10 o’clock and she’d heard nothing from him since a hasty text at six saying he was “working late”.“I am sorry to have left you here alone,” Kevin said, “but I’m not sorry I went out.”“I thought you were working?”“I was. Well, networking, that’s what they call it, isn’t it? The boss Miles asked my opinion on some tricky footings. Now, luckily that’s something I know a bit about after that job over at . . .”“Kevin!”“What? Oh, sorry, technical stuff.” He weaved towards her and she caught a whiff of beer. “Suffice it to say, Miles liked what I had to say and suggested I went for a bite to eat with him and the lads.”“A bite to eat? Where? Wasn’t it expensive?”Kevin drew himself up.“Didn’t cost me a penny! He paid for all of it, the beer, too. Lovely bloke, he is, and he says his new project can use men like me as consultants.”“Consultants!”“Yeah. Imagine that, love me as a consultant!”He struck a pose and Helen couldn’t help laughing. “You’ll be brilliant, Kev,” she said, abandoning the ironing-board barrier between them and stepping into his arms.“I’ll do my best. I’ve hated not working these last months.”“I know.” Helen kissed him. “What is this project?”“Did I not say? Sorry, love, bit tired. It’s huge a new retail park right here in Deveroe. The plans go up at the town hall tomorrow, but who’s going to object? It will mean loads of jobs for the town. It could be the answer to all our prayers.”Helen’s mind vibrated with alarm. A retail park?“What will that do to the high street shops?” she queried.“It will be tough on them,” Kevin admitted, “but Miles says most of them are going under anyway.”“Oh, really. And how does Miles know?”“He’s seen their books.”“How?”Kevin frowned. “Er, they’re in the public domain, I think.”“Public domain? This isn’t parliament, Kev. They’re private businesses. Sounds to me like Miles has friends in very high places.”“In that case, good job I’m in with him, eh? Shall we go to bed, Lennie?”“In a minute. Where will this shopping heaven be?”“At the back of Cardill’s. On that wasteland behind the car park. Wouldn’t be surprised if that Xion lot were looking to sell into the whole project, actually.”Helen frowned. Kevin, if not at his most lucid right now, was definitely right. Xion must have known about this somehow. No wonder the closure was being rushed through! The workers had all received their redundancy papers at the start of the week, and just today Frank had told them the factory was to close next Friday. Next Friday! It felt as if the one-hundred-year-old business was being whipped out from under them. Helen had been longing to talk to Kevin about it all evening, but now he was back he seemed to be on Xion’s side!“They can’t,” she objected. “It’s got to be used for community benefit.”“Is that not what a retail park is?”“Oh, come on, Kev, you’re not telling me Miles is doing this for the good of Deveroe? He’s just in it for profit!”“I know that. Just because I’m not a fancy supervisor doesn’t mean I’m thick, Lennie. But if it benefits Deveroe, too, then we’d be mad to resist.”“Cardill’s already benefits Deveroe! What’s the point in having somewhere to spend money if there’s nowhere to earn it?”“Locals can work in the shops, can’t they? Come here.” He came towards her with his arms wide but, furious now, she pushed him off. He stared at her, hurt. “Lennie!”“You can’t just hug Cardill’s away, Kev. This is serious for the town, for me and for us.”“But I’ve a job now, a decent one. We don’t need Cardill’s.”“I need it!” Helen shouted. Snatching up the ironing basket, she stormed upstairs. How dare he come in and brag about his fancy new business chum, all set to bulldoze through Deveroe? How dare he dismiss Cardill’s so casually? She slammed shut the bedroom door. Even as she climbed into bed, though, Helen’s anger collapsed. Never, in their 10 years together, had they gone to bed angry with each other, and she didn’t want to start now. Sighing, Helen got up again and made her way down the stairs.“Kevin?” Silence. “Kevin, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I’m just a bit stressed.”Her husband, however, was sprawled across the sofa, fast asleep. One arm was flung wide and the other clutched something to his chest. Helen crept forward to prise it free and her heart ached. It was the picture of her and the kids from the mantelpiece.“Kevin,” she said, shaking him gently. “Come to bed.” But there was no stirring him and in the end she covered him with a blanket and retreated upstairs alone.