Kurt takes everything from Sharon. In return he does at least give her gin, and a bald, ugly pure-breed cat that no-one could love, though she tries. Kurt encourages her to drink, and since it makes everything else far far away, it seems a decent idea.
There's a lunch she gives, serves finger sandwiches and lamb cutlets and mimosas. The other women, especially the young mums, are grabby and adoring with Charles. Why wouldn't they be? His fat little hands, round limbs, the eyes that will break hearts other than just hers. The precocity of his lispings, enquiries about the natural world that demonstrate natural genius and a passionate wonder. Of course she is a partial judge. Of course she can't show it. Her little boy, he is a wonder in himself. She'll never dare tell him so. Brian's eyes, he has, and more than Brian's intellect, and the charm she was once credited with, before Kurt froze the stream at its source.
All the mothers hate her, even the ones with a slew of nannies, whose maternal affection amounts to the pretty things they stock the nursery with. How much they boast of the offspring whose multiple middle names they can't quite recall in order, or according to which distinguished branch of their clan they spring from.
A recent young mother gives her a fierce look, and defiantly picks Charles up and coos at him, about how darling he is, and how she'd like to take him home and just love him to pieces. And Sharon hates her, hates her, would like to kill her. Even this might put him at risk. But that's not why Sharon hates her.
In some species unwanted gets are eaten: perhaps it would be kinder.
Even Cain is a case in point: when she felt a first stirring of tolerance, then mild warmth, is when the beatings started. Poor doomed Cain, a father like that, and a stepmother who rejected him utterly after a promising start. No wonder he's never quite right.
The little blue girl is darling, too, but Sharon has got wise by this time and doesn't even begin, doesn't let her into her heart.
Something wrong, with Kurt, she'd thought so when Brian first brought him home, the admired colleague, the esteemed friend. Brian, her poor fool, good with machinery and figures, and no judge of men. When her llhasa apso went missing, her adored and fondled little Foo-Foo, she'd worried and grieved, but thought no more of it.
When Kurt had done things she'd have called courtship, if she'd not been a married woman, she'd given him harsh words. But she'd not wanted to trouble and sorrow her husband. To come between friends. She'd respected her husband so: admired his passion for his work, for knowledge, the perpetual quest. Sought to make his life smooth and harmonious, to make his path free and clear. A note from Kurt, entirely inappropriate, and she'd ordered him never to speak to her again.
It was a month before one of the maids went missing, Luisa from Puerto Rico. She'd had a fondness for that girl: Brian had teased her often about her acknowledged sapphic crushes, her academic history as a private girls' school Romeo. A crushworthy head girl, captain of hockey, courting and spurning, spooning, mooning and setting loose havoc, raising very minor hells. Nothing inappropriate, of course. Just an affection.
They found her in the lake, blue and bloated, and Sharon had had to write expressing all her condolences to the girl's mother. And if she - saying something was obviously the thing to do, for anyone less afraid than she was. Kurt seemed to know neither caution nor fear. Sharon looked this up, and found it listed as a symptom of psychopathy.
Perhaps if she was very quiet, and avoided attention - avoided his attention - and said nothing - it would blow over.
She felt no surprise when Brian was killed mysteriously in the lab. She was dead alongside him, as good as, how would she feel surprise?
Before looking, before the tiniest most cautious question, she knew nothing would or could be proven or even sanely suspected. Kurt: awfully clever. It seemed to her part of what was wrong with him.
When he came sniffing around again - barely leaving a socially acceptable period - she thought of saying no. But though he'd taken plenty, she still had things to lose. And what did it matter: now?
A ceremony, a ring, the surrender of her body and an awful lot of money: it was nothing at all. She said nothing, felt as little as possible, watched her boy out of the corner of her eye. Hoped herself unobserved. She gave Kurt anything he wanted.
Kurt takes everything from Sharon. He takes anything she loves. And if she -