This is one of the first short stories that I wrote back in 1997. 10 years later I would publish it on my now defunct but still accessible ‘Short Story’ blog: La Racontrice. When I read it, I think of the writer I was then and the writer that I have grown to be and I smile with gratitude as the journey continues. I have massaged the text a little but the story still remains the same.
She decided to call him. It was 7:15am, she knew he would probably still be asleep but she needed to speak to him since she hadn’t really spoken to him since the funeral. She looked at herself in the mirror once again, she assured herself that at her age she looked stunning for a widow. The word had a sort of nice ring to it. Widows were meant to be pitied and treated delicately for having loved and lost. She must have loved her husband once. It was so long ago now that she could barely recall any amorous emotions she may have felt for him. She had gotten married on the rebound and she was glad she had chosen well. Her family and friends were astounded by her choice. The ex-beauty queen and the rich intellectual – not an unusual combination in those days, but still unusual for her. Back then, she had tried to live like a married woman and she had put on a façade for a while but it wouldn’t last for long. Within three years of marriage she had given him two children, first a daughter then a son. Her son was three months old when she took her first lover – he was the friend of a friend. She had met him at an outing and the attraction was electric. Their affair had lasted all of nine months then she got bored and started to look elsewhere. She couldn’t remember exactly how many lovers she had had in all her years of marriage but as the years passed they grew younger and younger. Her latest catch was not just her lover, he was her best friend, her confidante, her everything. They had been together for four years and she could not imagine life without him even though he was old enough to be her son’s best friend but she did not care. She had set him up in a computer software company which was doing so well. He was so brilliant and she loved him tremendously and would do anything for him no matter what the cost. She had been able to afford it on the generous allowance she had been receiving from her husband. As she picked up the phone and dialled his number, her heart beat faster in anticipation of hearing his voice
“Hello”, the male voice on the other side sounded drowsy.
“Hello darling. Did I wake you?’
‘Hey! You know I’d wake up for you anytime. What’s up?”
“I just wanted to hear your voice”.
“Are you okay?” She loved the concern in his voice
‘I’m fine. I’m just tired of this mourning routine. I can’t wait for it all to be over so that I can get on with my life.’ She could hear the rumpling of the sheets. He was probably sitting up in bed
“What time do you have to meet the lawyer today?”
“Do you want me to pick you up afterwards?”
“No, thank you darling. Let’s meet at the usual place okay”.
She paused and then continued. ‘Tell me something nice’
“I love you”
“I love you too”. She felt her heart soar and said softly, “Bye”.
The girl lying next to him scowled at him. ‘Liar,’ she said and laughed weakly. “When are you going to get rid of that old bag?”
“Give her a break,” he said “I mean she just lost her husband,” he said, feigning a mournful look.
“Yeah right,” she said throwing him a mock punch which he playfully dodged.
He pulled her closer and whispered softly into her ear.
“You know I have to do this, don’t you?”
She did not respond.
Outside the sound of the newspaper vendor’s horn broke the stillness of the morning air
The car sped past the two policemen at the check point without slowing down and as he looked in the rear view mirror he could see them shaking their heads. Of course they knew who he was. Which police man in this town was going to stop him anyway? He loved this car. It was the latest model and it purred like a cat. He knew he would be bored with it soon, but that did not matter since he expected to get a new one with the money the old man would leave to the eldest son of the family. The eldest son of the family. It felt good to say. His sister was the first born child, but he was the first son. He could not wait to get control of the company. He knew that his old man had been a bit disappointed with the way he had turned out. A series of professions had been suggested for him, but eleven schools on three continents and an infinite amount of money dispensed and he did not even have a first degree or any profession to speak of. Not that it really mattered to him after all as far as he was concerned there were more fun things in life than going to school, getting a degree only to tie a rope round your neck from morning till night. He had watched his father – who preferred bow ties – do this for years and he honestly felt it was a waste of time. Besides, why make any money when someone else could make it for you. He glanced at his phone to check the time. It was quarter past nine in the morning. He tried to remember if he had been told the will reading was at 10.00am or 11.00am. He would have called his mom to ask but he didn’t want to talk to any other member of the family just yet. He hoped he hadn’t gotten the days mixed up. Well he would just tell the lawyer he came to say hello and politely ask what day the will was going to be read.
She looked at the kitchen clock it was 9.15 am. Her husband had dropped both children off at school, but she had decided not to go into the office and he had also decided to take the day off. Even though, they had asked for the immediate family of the deceased to be present at the reading, her husband had seen how crushed she had been by her father’s demise and had offered to go with her – even if he would just hold her hand. If only he knew how much that meant to her. Something in her told her to expect a surprise. In the last few years of his life, her father had changed from the sad and withdrawn man she had grown to love to a boisterous barrel of fun and she could not help but assume that another human being was responsible. She had known about her mother’s friends since she was a child, but her father was either too naïve or too much in love to realize that his wife had been cheating on him for years. Somehow she wished she had asked him while he was still alive. Who or what had put that put the sparkle back into his eyes? At least he had died happy.
No phone calls. She had left those firm instructions and in the last two days, everyone had complied until yesterday, when her housekeeper had said it was urgent and the man was a lawyer. She had refused. Lawyer or not she was not going to speak to any one. The last thing she expected was the man to show up at her front door nor did she expect the message he brought with him. She was taken aback by the contents of the letter he had handed to her and on opening the brown manila envelope she recognized the handwriting of the man she had loved and lost to death. As the tears streamed down her face she couldn’t care less who was watching her, sitting down in her living room, she remembered how generous he had been to her in life and even after his death he was still taking care of her. The lawyer was about his age and when she wondered aloud if he had any inkling of their relationship, he had nodded knowingly. His words rang in her ears. “He said to me once that you brought a lot of peace and happiness to his life” His words made her weep silently. They had a long discussion which he ended abruptly by glancing at his watch and announcing that it was quarter past the hour and he had an important appointment at noon which he needed to get ready for. She walked him to the door and said good-bye knowing that it was a final end to a chapter in her life that she would never forget.
He had been his friend for over fifty years. They had gone to the same schools and done everything at about the same time. But they had not shared the same kind of happiness in love and he knew that even though like him, his friend had been married for a long time, he had been truly unhappy. That is, he suspected until the day he met her. She was his best kept secret. His friend did not even share this secret with him, until the very end. He looked down at the piece of paper in front of him and hoped for the life of him that his friend would be content with the way he had handled this particular affair. According to instructions he had gone in person and met the lady who had changed his friend’s life. She was obviously shattered by his demise – he could tell just by her appearance and the way she spoke slowly almost stuttering.
Now, he braced himself for the next stage of this game and wondered what drama would unfold as a result.
There were five people seated in the room all facing the distinguished looking gentleman in the dark suit seated behind the desk. He cleared his throat and began to read slowly and steadily.
Last Will and Testament of…
To my two grandchildren, I leave half of my estate to be held in trust for them by their mother until they are 21 years old. I also bequeath a sum of money to be disclosed by my lawyer for their education up to university. My daughter takes complete control of the company she has run so efficiently for the last five years.
To my wife I leave her lover and the knowledge that I was not quite the fool she thought I was.
To my son I leave the pleasure of earning a living. For thirty-five years, he thought the pleasure was mine. He was mistaken.
May I add that I write this will with complete sanity of mind. Please find attached a copy of the medical certificate certifying my sanity.
The silence that filled the room was deafening