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When a fifty-year marriage slips away, what happens to the couple?  Do they slip away too?  Let’s find out in Part 1 of Wait.  Wait is a 3 part story.  Thanks.

   

PART 1

 

FRED STOOD ON THE antique chair.  He shifted his weight to his left and right foot.  The chair was sturdy.  A wonderful piece of furniture.  He hated to treat it in such a disrespectful way.  His black shoes were scuffing up the chair’s white upholstery.  That would have driven Barbara to kill.  He laughed a silent laugh.

 

The set of four Walnut Chippendale Chairs was a gift to Barbara.  She loved antique furniture.  He loved buying it for her.  No one was allowed to mistreat any of her antiques.  If anyone did, they were banned from their five thousand square-foot museum.  A museum was what he called their house.  Barbara called it home.

 

Barbara would have been driven to kill if she had seen him in that chair, and if she was there.  Since she was not, it did not matter.  He could scuff up the chair and anything else he wanted at will.

 

A tear rolled from the corner of his eye and down his cheek.  It lingered for a second and dropped onto the marble tiled floor below.

 

Fred reached up over his head and took hold of the noose and pulled on it.  A saxophone played an old song in the background.  He shook his head and thought, What timing?

 

There was a version of the song with words.  This version was just music.  The name of the song escaped him.  He wished he could remember it.  It was once one of Barbara’s favorites.  How he had forgotten so much about her.

 

He slipped his head through the noose and around his neck.  He moved his feet into the right position and tightened the noose.  He exhaled and looked off in the distance and wondered if he should wait.  He looked down.  A cell phone was in the chair between his feet.  Its screen was black.

 

What if the phone’s screen lit up?  What if a call came?  He told himself he was only delaying the inevitable.  It was not as if he was killing himself.  He was already dead.  Barbara saw to that earlier.  This was just the final act.

 

He reached over his head and pulled down on the rope.  It was secure and tight around the upstairs’ railing.

 

He did not want to get hurt from jumping off the chair.  Not finishing the process would only add misery to the pain he was feeling.  His heart would not be the only thing that was broken forever.  Becoming an invalid by his own hands would be hell to live with.

 

He put his forefinger and thumb on his tie and made sure it was straight.  When they found him he wanted to look his best.  He checked the buttons on his jacket.  They were all buttoned.  He slid his hands over his jacket.  A five-thousand-dollar suit should not look like junk on a man.  He laughed again.

 

Damn.  Even when the end was near, she found a way to enter his thoughts.  He could hear her saying, in her calm logical voice with love in every word for him, Darling, you’re about to end your life.  I don’t think you should be concerned about how you look at the moment.  Instead, think about whether this is the best solution for what you feel.”

 

“I love you,” he whispered.

 

He knew full well it was too late.  The words he spoke in this final hour were for his benefit.  Not hers.  He wished he would have said them more often to her and meant them.  He had squandered all those years they had together.

 

Each morning he would tell her how much she meant to him.  While he spoke the words, another woman’s perfume would drift from his body.  For him it was a souvenir from the night before.  It was just one of many.

 

For her it was another stab in the heart.  A kick to her stomach to remind her where she ranked with him.  A brutal slap in the face to let her know she was not in charge.

 

Yet she took it like a woman who loved her husband and wanted to hold on to a marriage that she cherished.  But, he refused to see her struggling and drowning to hold on.

 

Selfish and full of conceit, he could only see what he wanted.  He bought her everything she wanted.  She never had to want for anything.  Why wouldn’t she be there for him?  Her bed should have been available to him.  He had needs.  Some were extraordinary.  Beyond what she could provide.  Why shouldn’t he have pursued the unimaginable and made it his?

 

One night, in their bed at two a.m., Barbara told him she could not take it anymore.  He was killing her. He was killing her from the inside out.  She needed to know he would be there when the time came.

 

He pretended not to understand what she was saying.  Instead of apologizing and saying how wrong he was, he said nothing.

 

At nine a.m. that morning she walked out the front door.  She never said anything to him.  He would not have known she was leaving if he had not seen her from the window upstairs.  Going down the driveway to the street she was pulling her giant suitcase behind her.  It took a few minutes for it to register with him.

 

He rushed downstairs and out the front door to the street to be with her.  He put on his casual act and asked where she was off to so early.  The look she gave him crushed him immediately.  She did not have to say where she was going.  To spare him, she stayed quiet.  That did not stop him from pretending that things were not too bad.

 

A taxi stopped at the curb next to them.  The driver got out and walked over to them and stood and waited.  The situation was uncomfortable for all of them.  Barbara looked at the driver and told him to load the suitcase in the trunk for her.

 

While the driver loaded her suitcase, she and Fred stared at one another in silence.  He searched desperately for the words to put an end to what was happening.  He always had the right words to say.

 

Barbara waited for him to come up with the right words or actions to get her to stay.  She wanted to help him.  But, if he could not say it, it would not be real.  Which meant he could not save them.

 

The time had come for him to reach out for her.  It was time for her to mean more to him than anyone or anything else.  It was not happening.

 

Both their eyes were dim.  The excitement was gone.  Neither of them had anything left to save the other.  In that moment, they both realized the chance to save their relationship was gone long ago.

 

The driver opened the passenger’s door.  There was a slight pause.  Nothing was said.

 

Fifty years of marriage and friendship ended when she stepped into that taxi.

 

He watched her as she sat and looked ahead.

 

Her eyes filled with tears.  She was yelling at him internally.  Say it.  Say it.  I will get out and stay.  Just give me a reason.  Damn it.  Say something.

 

The driver seemed to sense this was the last chance for them and shut the door.  He went around to the driver’s side and got in.  He put the car in drive and paused as if to say to them, do you understand that this is your last chance? 

 

She looked out the window at Fred.

 

The driver sensed it was time to go and drove off.

 

Fred breathing hard now.  Seventy-five years old.  This was not the way he saw himself going out.  The only love he had ever known was gone.  The only life he had ever wanted was finished.

 

He clamped a handcuff on one wrist.  He then put his hands behind his back and handcuffed the other wrist.  He could not embarrass her again.  If his hands were free, he may try and cower out of it.  She needed to know that, in the end, this was the most heartfelt apology he could give her.

 

He looked at the phone between his feet.  It should not light up, he thought.  He did not deserve it.  She deserved better.

 

He looked up and stepped off the chair.

 

Some take the loss of a relationship harder than others—especially when they know who is to blame.  I hope you enjoyed Part 1.

Thank you for stopping by.

Stephen Wallace