Read by Katy Darby
Simon looked at the range of rubber gloves in front of him. They took up a whole shelf in Sainsbury's, stretching from basic single use gloves that looked faintly medical, to bewilderingly fancy gloves, hot pink with feather trims and glittering diamante edging.
What does Alisha like? he pondered. He could picture her standing by the sink, elbow deep in the soapy water. Yes, when she twisted round and picked up the next item he was sure she was wearing gloves. Yellow gloves? He grabbed a couple of pairs of the bright yellow type and put them in his basket.
Simon found that he was just staring blankly at the wall of cleaners in front of him. Oh god, how could there be a whole frigging aisle just for cleaning products?! He normally bought anything cleaning related from the pound shop. The bottles would then sit under the sink, untouched for months until Alisha needed them. She'd always cringe slightly when she picked them up.
She deserved better. He'd woken up that morning curled up to her soft body, so perfect in his tired and worn bed linen. He'd looked at her beautiful face, fresh against the unfresh pillow, and known that he had to make her happy. Get a decent present this year. No more cheap bottles she hated to touch. He'd thrown them all away before sneaking out this morning.
He picked up a random bottle. Flash. Perfect for kitchens apparently. Next to it, a Sainsbury's own brand. One pound cheaper. Nice. Wait. No. No. Only the best for Alisha. He nodded to himself and picked up the Flash and placed it in his basket next to the Marigolds. Done. He threw in a new set of sponges as well, dithering slightly over whether to get the ones with the integrated scourer or not.
Next came the bathroom cleaners. One proclaimed its power against 'Mould and mildew'. Another was for 'Shine and Sparkle'. These both sounded good to Simon. Alisha would surely like both as well. He grabbed a bottle of each.
Then there was some bleach for toilets and some bleach for kitchens. This was a confusing new world where bleach changed depending on the room function. Again, one of each type went in the basket.
Next, some stuff that foamed, good for ingrained dirt supposedly. Dusters with a fresh lemony scent. He tested some air fresheners, and picked the one that made him gag the least. He was on a roll. No expense spared for his girl.
He took his now bulging basket to the till. Alisha was going to love this! It was going to be the best Valentine's Day present ever!
He crept back into the flat, and peeked in the bedroom. Alisha was still there sleeping peacefully away, looking as amazing as ever. She was an exceptionally heavy sleeper, making cute little snuffling noises as she slept, not that she'd ever admit it.
Simon looked at his watch. It was still only eight. He pulled the door shut, leaving Alisha to her dreams.
Alisha woke up, and stretched lazily. The room was bright, and the bed was empty beside her. She leant over to the alarm clock; it was mid afternoon. Strange for Simon to let her sleep in so long. Normally he'd be whining about his lunch by now. But the heavy bedroom door was shut. Maybe this lie-in was his present to her; she'd certainly had worse ones before.
Time to face the day. She rolled out of bed, careful to put her feet in the slippers rather than let them touch the carpet.
She stepped into the hall, and nearly fell over. The carpet, normally so weirdly sticky, was soft and plush to walk on. It was even a deep red, rather than the normal greyish tinge. She bent and ran her hand through the tufts - it came back clean. She looked up, the cobwebs were gone, the pictures were hanging straight. What had happened?
She walked down the stairs, noting that they too were clean. No papers littering the steps. No abandoned coffee mugs.
The lounge was also spotless. The plates of old food - gone. The random assortment of socks - gone. Even the wooden coffee table softly gleamed.
Alisha moved into the kitchen, to find Simon stripped just to his boxers and a pair of Marigolds, scrubbing away inside the oven.
Simon looked up at her, his face tired but proud. "Happy Valentine's Day love," he said, beaming at her.
"Come back to bed, sweetie. And bring an extra pair of those gloves."
(c) Elisabeth Simon, 2016
Elisabeth Simon lives and works in London, and is always trying to find more time to spend writing. She's wanted to write since she was little, but has only just realised that she needs to actually do something about it.
Katy Darby has appeared in over 30 plays in Oxford, Edinburgh and London, and won the Ronny Schwartz scholarship to the Oxford School of Drama. She’s directed several London theatre productions, including the Time Out Critic's Choice comedy Dancing Bears: she prefers being behind the camera but sometimes steps into the limelight.