Jacky Fowler's Stuff

August 19, 2010

Piece by Piece

Filed under: FridayFlash — jackyfowler @ 2:50 pm
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I always thought that going through your husband’s pockets must mean you already had your suspicions about what he was really doing on all those evenings when he was ‘working late at the office, darling.’ I knew I could trust you – even though those evenings were getting more and more frequent. So I wasn’t checking the pockets of your jacket for any other reason than to make sure they were empty before I took it to the cleaners. I was putting it away when I noticed the mark on the sleeve. I couldn’t let you look anything other than immaculate, so I decided to slot a visit to the dry cleaners into my round of errands that morning. There was nothing. Until I got to the inside pocket and found a lacy hanky. Of course, I thought you’d taken one of mine by mistake, but when I pulled it out to put it in the wash, I saw the initial “S” in the corner. My name is Joanne.

***

 “Sorry, I’m a bit late love, meeting went on and on – as usual. But it was important, so I couldn’t just leave. Hope dinner’s not spoiled.”

I was amazed at how calm I felt, I even managed not to flinch at the peck on my cheek.

“Nothing to spoil, my darling. I haven’t made dinner tonight.”

Oh, it was worth sitting there, resisting the insistent urge to carry on as normal, just to see the look on your face. A freshly-cooked, home-made dinner was always ready for you whenever you got home – it was something on which I prided myself.

I drew out the lacy hanky and pushed it at you, my fingers shaking only a little.

“What? …. It’s not one of mine.”

“And it’s not one of mine either. But it was in your jacket pocket.”

“Then …. someone must have lent it to me when I couldn’t find mine – or something. And I just forgot to give it back.” It was said in such a strained tone that I knew you couldn’t possibly expect me to believe you.

“Yes, that’s what I thought must have happened …… until I started looking elsewhere. And then I found other things in your pockets, your desk drawers – the credit card bills, the receipts. I can’t remember the last time you bought me a dozen red roses, or took me out to dinner at the best restaurant in town, or bought me an outfit from that expensive little boutique I love. And I most certainly didn’t get diamond earrings for my last birthday.”

“Oh.”

“You know, I don’t think ‘oh’ quite covers it – do you Gary?” My hands curled like claws in my lap, the nails cutting into the skin of my palms – keep your temper Joanne, it’s important to keep your temper.

“I suppose I knew you’d find out sooner or later. I did try to tell you, but I knew how badly you’d take it. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you straight out.”

“Aah, so it was a little treasure hunt was it? You leaving bigger and bigger clues, and me stupidly trusting you and not seeing them – until now. Who is she?”

“Sarah – she works for me.”

“Then you’ll have to fire her.”

What? I can’t do that.”

“Oh yes you can. It’s over Gary – I’ve found out and that’s the end of it.”

“No. No it’s not.”

Your voice was so calm and so certain that for the first time I was frightened as well as angry. Keep going Joanne, he has to see reason in the end.

“Look, I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t matter. Of course it does, I trusted you absolutely – ‘forsaking all others’ we promised.”

“No, Joanne, I don’t …..”

I couldn’t bear to hear you say it, so I rushed in.

 “Think of how happy we’ve been together, just you and me – you’re my best friend, my lover, my husband – you’re everything to me – my whole world Gary. You have to see that the only thing to do is end it with her. It’s the only way.”

The pleading in my voice sickened me, why couldn’t you just see what was so obvious? Pull yourself together Joanne – don’t grovel, you’re not the one in the wrong here, you’re not the one who’s been having some sleazy little affair. The anger hit me again, wave after wave of it, so in firmer tones, I laid it on the line for you.

“I love you, but I can’t share you. Forget about her and I’m prepared to forgive you. We can just get on with our lives – pretend it never happened.”

“But it has happened Joanne. I’ve been unhappy for a long time – you never seemed to see that. You ignored me whenever I tried to talk to you about it – changed the subject, started talking about new cushions or curtains or …” You shook your head.  

“Sarah saw that I was having a bad time, and she listened to me, tried to help. We’ve been seeing each other for over a year now. We’re in love, and I’m really, really sorry, Joanne, but I’m leaving you. I’m moving in with Sarah – we’ve decided we want to be together properly.”

Standing there, tears in your eyes, and such a desperate expression on your face, I had to believe you meant it, and my world shattered with your next words.

“I know it’s a lot to take in, but I might as well get it all out now – I want a divorce Joanne.”

 ***

Well, now you’re gone. I’m lying here in the bed we shared for fourteen years and what am I left with?  The scent of you on my pillow, the memory of your last kiss goodnight to take into my dreams. But you won’t be coming back, Gary, that’s quite clear. So I have to let you go – out of my life forever. I don’t think I can manage that – not all at once, so I’ll have to let you go piece by piece.

***

Of course, I panicked when your boss ‘phoned a few days later to find out where you were.

“He’s at a conference in Birmingham until the end of the week. He went with a colleague, Susan – no, Sarah, that’s it, Sarah. But you must know that, surely?”

“Oh,  that explains … You know Joanne, I’m afraid I may have some bad news for you … I think I’d better come round and see you.”

I screamed. “He’s dead! You’re telling me Gary’s dead, aren’t you?”

“No, no, Joanne. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to imply … That’s not it. He’s not dead, I promise, he’s not dead. Just hang up and I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

 ***

That’s when it all started. The police getting involved. Because I had to report you missing, and your boss reported Sarah missing too. There was no conference in Birmingham. There was money missing from the firm, quite a lot of money, taken over the last year or so. It would never have happened while I was working for you, darling.

They checked her flat and found she’d packed several bags, much more than was needed for that non-existent sales conference.

Eventually, they found your car in the long-stay car park at the Eurostar terminal, which tied in with the fact that I’d been unable to find your passport when they’d asked me to check what you’d taken with you. I think they’ve even involved Interpol, and there have been reported sightings of the two of you, but nothing concrete.

 ***

Everyone’s been so kind. Our – my – neighbour, Maureen has come round to check how I’m getting on almost every day.

“It’s criminal what he’s done to you, Joanne. Leaving you for some little tart at work when you’ve done so much for him. And to take that money from his work, that’s … well, words fail me. Letting you down like that. You know, most women today are too busy with their own career to look after their husbands properly, but you spoilt him. That’s what it was, you spoilt him.”

I just smile and tell her it was what I wanted to do.

“But what are you going to do now, you’ve only got a little part time job, that won’t keep this house going, will it?”

“That was just me ‘keeping my hand in’, I don’t really need to work Maureen, don’t worry about that.”

“Well, that’s good then,” the tone almost belying the words. “I’m so glad you’re coping. You’re a star Joanne, you really are, I thought you’d be a quivering wreck after all you’ve been though.”

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, that’s all I can deal with at the moment.”

 ***

 

 But it’s hard, so hard – even harder than I thought. I have to remember that this is what you chose – you wanted to leave me  – and you left me no choice but to say goodbye. There’s no point in holding onto all the things that once made up our life together, that’s all over now – there’s no going back. So, your car’s gone from the garage, all your clothes from the wardrobe, your spare razor and aftershave from the bathroom. The monogrammed gold cufflinks I bought you for our tenth wedding anniversary, they’ve gone too. And, like a miser hoarding her treasures, I’m letting the memories go in a skinflint fashion – one by one. Tomorrow I’m going to be really strong and look through all the photographs in our wedding album before I destroy them.

 ***

So here I am at last, I’ve let you go from my life piece by piece and I’m holding the very last little bit of you I have left – here on the bridge where we first met.  Slowly, oh so slowly, I open my hand and let go of the box that holds your hand – your wedding ring still on your finger – and watch it sink to the bottom of the river. Goodbye, my darling, goodbye.

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