Our words were:
duty, event, exchanged, hefty, hole, missing, particular, piece, quality, quizzical, riot, roast, secret, see, segment, sixty, spend, tapped, terrific, traditional, wire.
Sixty years together in a traditionally conservative marriage and at the point in my life where I should be cruising, all about to hit the fan.
The first ten years were terrific. I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle and would tell all and sundry that I was happy to spend my remaining years with this one, good woman.
But she had a secret, see. While I saw everything with those rosy glasses, she was involved in a lengthy extramarital affair. At first, she was waiting for the kids to leave the nest, and then I had a health scare. She wanted to be kind. She felt duty bound, vows exchanged were not to be thwarted, she said.
She waited a bloody life‑changing amount of time to break the news. To face me. In the end, she chose the event of the christening of our first great grandchild to create the hefty hole in my heart. Broken into segments, as cleanly as if cut with piano wire.
I was tucking into the particularly delicious roast prepared with love by ‘her’ hands for the celebratory feast, when she asked if we could chat. I looked up at her, oblivious to the cuts she was about to impart, and felt gravy sliding down my chin and a large, odorous burp escaped my lips.
She grimaced, then smiled brightly again.
“When you’re ready, darling,” she said.
I continued to eat the quality meat. Only the best for our table. I raised my fork to get the attention of my riotous extended family.
“Oi, you lot. I get the sense a surprise is in the offing. Any of you know what Mum has up her sleeve?”
There was a pause in conversation as several faces turned toward me, various degrees of stupidity, disinterest and general boredom reflected back. There was only one quizzical expression, shown in raised eyebrows and a nervous smile. That was the face of Johnny, my longest and dearest friend.
“No? Nobody? Alright then, must just be something between Joanie and me”, I called. ”Carry on!”
I got up from the table and followed my beloved wife to the nook, our cosy winter space. Scene of many a companionable evening, cuddled together in front of a roaring fire.
“My darling,” she began. “There’s no easy way to say this …”
“What is it, Joanie? Just say it, quickly. Rip the band aid,” I said, encouragingly.
“I want a divorce,” she said.
“Wow, not what I was expecting,” I said. I sank into the nearest sofa. “But it is probably about time.”
“Sorry? Um, you’re not surprised,” she said. “I’m in love with Johnny.”
“Ah, Johnny. Our Johnny? Johnny imbibing of our fabulously rich celebratory feast, right now. In the other room. That Johnny?”
“Yes. What other Johnny could it be,” she asked. I could see that she was puzzled, intrigued, and frustrated all wrapped in a messy package.
“Just checking, my love. Because, that Johnny has been my lover for the last twenty years,” I said.
“I … can’t believe it,” said Joanie. “He … we’ve been talking about leaving you for years.”
“As have we. We have discussed and planned what we’d do with the divorce proceeds. Where we will travel to, where we’d live …”.
“No,” she said. “No. That can’t be right.”
“Do you think, darling that he has hedged his bets and we’ve been tapped for our marital fortune?” I asked Joanie, angry and confident that we’d both been played. “He has always been a greedy bastard.”
As we have done for over sixty years, we came to an easy telepathic decision. We were a team. Together we could conquer all. And we would not be played.
We walked back into that party, took our places at table and I threw into the conversation … “Has anybody heard … Uncle Johnny has syphilis. Unfortunately, he’ll be checking into a sanatorium tomorrow.”
Stunned silence and a beetroot red, sweating Johnny jumps to his feet and crashes away from the table. Without a word, he wobbles to the door grabs his coat on the way and slams the door behind him.
“Well,” said my elderly mother. “That was different.” [701 words]