Cameron was up first, leaving Beryl to another half hour while he showered and shaved and made a pot of tea. He'd made reservations for The China Garden for dinner and had bought her a Luxury Continental Assortment from the hand-made chocolate shop on Cheap Street (which was anything but). What was it about hand-made chocolates that made them four times the price of normal ones? Personally, he'd take the hygiene of a machine over a plastic-gloved Rita Pendleton any day. He'd never seen her without a dripping nose. Still, Beryl liked them and that's what mattered.
He set the chocolates and a card on a tray and put the kettle on to boil, then went back upstairs for a shower, setting the water running to heat up while he shaved and brushed his teeth. By the time he came downstairs to make the tea, all Beryl had for her birthday was a card with a chocolate paw-print on the envelope.
Knuckles took one look at Cameron's face and set off at a run, his claws scrabbling on the hard kitchen floor and looking almost comical. If he hadn't just eaten the whole box chocolates Cameron might have laughed but he could hardly give her a slightly chewed empty box. Whoever said it was the thought that counted had never tried to explain an empty box to his wife on her birthday.
"You little bugger." He scowled as Knuckles peered around the corner of the dining room and whined. he knew without looking the stubby tail would be going nineteen to the dozen. "You're not supposed to eat chocolate, idiot."
He retrieved several of the chocolates from the box lid and arranged them on a saucer with a red serviette from the pantry (they'd bought a packet last Christmas and only used two each) scrunched up to look like a nest. He took the tray upstairs and woke his wife."
"Oh, you shouldn't have." It almost broke his heart to see her crestfallen expression when she saw the tray and realised he hadn't.
"Sorry, love. The dog got at them while I was in the shower.
"Oh no. How many did her eat?"
"The rest of the box. About twenty?"
"Oh dear. He doesn't do well on chocolate."
"He seemed all right.."
He was interrupted by the sound of a large dog with diarrhoea.
"It's my birthday." Beryl patted his arm. "My day off from cleaning."