I wrote this story a while ago now, and when I read it the other day it had me in tears. Which I think is a good thing! See what you think.
I won’t lower myself to comment on the manner of your departure yesterday. I will restrict this correspondence to practical matters only. But I will say that I disagree with you strongly – I am not an ‘emotional vacuum’, as you so eloquently put it. Still, that is your view, and your justification for throwing away thirty years of marriage, so I suppose there is nothing I can do about it now.
Despite your assertion that you ‘never want to see me again as long as you live’, we will need to meet to discuss matters such as the house. (You can’t seriously expect me to sell up and move now I am retired?) Are you planning on telling the children of your decision or shall I? There is also the matter of your blasted dog – you went on and on about getting it for months and now you leave the thing behind! Not allowed pets where you’re going, you said. What kind of place is it, anyway?
No, that’s nothing to do with me. I don’t want to know anything about your new situation. You have made your bed and now you must lie in it. I refuse to feel guilty about having this enormous house all to myself, despite the fact that I rattle around in it somewhat now you are gone…
Your dog is whining to be taken out so I suppose I must comply. I really am perplexed by this whole situation, Jean, and must say you have surprised me. I never thought you capable of such cruelty.
Well! I feel compelled to put pen to paper as you refused to let me say my piece on the phone just now. Where did you pick up these words like ‘entitled’ and ‘recompense’? Have you really been to see a lawyer? Already?
Most of all I resent your accusation that I should have seen this coming. What man can be expected to read his wife’s mind, especially when she spends all her time out of the house going to art classes and God knows what? You gave me hints, did you? Well I’m sorry I was dense but I thought we were happy, in our own way.
The girls are devastated. Although no doubt they’ll take your side when you present your case – you certainly seem to have it all worked out if today’s conversation was anything to go by. There is nothing I can do, it seems, but go along with whatever you want. I put my foot down at selling the house, though. I worked hard to provide for my family and I’ll be damned if I’ll be held to ransom for it now.
As I said, your arrangements are of no interest to me, but I was surprised to find your phone being answered by a man. Was he some kind of trade’s person? If you are in a fix, Jean, I would still be willing to do minor repairs for you, despite how you have behaved.
I’m afraid I have some rather bad news. Your dog got himself run over yesterday. I would have phoned and told you in person but I feel you would rather I didn’t. Your voice the last time we talked was decidedly frosty.
Anyway, the blasted animal got away from me on the main road by Sainsbury’s. Before you start, it wasn’t my fault. I had to go shopping; the cupboards were empty and I’d run out of those flimsy ‘ready-meals’ Sandra brought in. It was most distressing, finding my way around that huge warehouse of a store, and I was in quite a state when I came out. The dog (I refuse to use it’s given name – Tinky just isn’t the thing for a grown man to call out in public) was in a frenzy of excitement and what with all the shopping bags and my walking stick (yes, the Arthritis has flared up again), I lost hold of him.
The vet said it would have been instant so there’s no need to upset yourself over it. I must admit, the house does seem even emptier now. Anyway, I thought I’d have a little ceremony for him on Sunday. He’s in a bag in the shed at the moment. I thought the spot under the cherry blossom would be suitable. Perhaps you’d like to come along, say goodbye properly. You could pick up those things you said you needed – I didn’t mean it when I said I wouldn’t let you in, Jean, and I haven’t changed the locks really.
Anyway, must go now. All the frozen ready meals I bought have defrosted on the dining room carpet.
Yours truly, Roger
First of all I must apologise for my behaviour on Sunday. Whatever the provocation there is no excuse for that kind of childish display of temper – and tipping a drink over you was unforgivable. I hope your dress isn’t ruined. Wherever did you buy it from, Jean? I’ve never seen you in anything so – becoming.
The girls have told me that I must ‘move on’. I’m not quite sure what this means. I hope it’s not another veiled reference to selling the house because I am remaining firm on that. I have put years of work into this garden, and now Tinky is buried here as well – you can’t expect me to hand it over to someone else at my age.
The girls also tell me you have a new ‘friend’. I am not so stupid as to be incapable of working out what this means, and I suppose this ‘friend’ is also the person who answers your phone whenever I call. For the record, I don’t think calling one’s own wife two or three times a day counts as stalking!
Perhaps you could ask your ‘friend’ to keep his opinions to himself. Also his hands – you are still my wife, Jean, and we had thirty years together and two beautiful children. Was I so terrible as a husband? I worked hard, I provided well – maybe you could enlighten me as to what I did that was so wrong?
I wonder whether you could see your way clear to calling round one afternoon, maybe on the way back from your art class. I realised the other day that I have never seen any of your drawings and I would like to. I am aware that I should have shown more of an interest before.
The thing is, Jean, I need to ask your advice about something. I’ve had a letter from the council about some bill or other – it seems it hasn’t been paid. I’m afraid I have no idea what to do about it, it was you who used to take care of that kind of thing. I never realised how much work it was, dealing with all these bills and direct debits and goodness knows what. Maybe you could give me a brief lesson, now that I am on my own for good. Am I, Jean? Am I really on my own for good?
I’m not sure I can do this anymore, my love. I’m afraid being brave isn’t working quite so well. Sandra told me to wash my clothes the other day and I had to tell her – I had to admit to my own daughter – that I have no idea how to use the washing machine. She said I wasn’t coping without you. She also said that you are coping perfectly well without me. That doesn’t surprise me, Jean. It is clear to me now that I always needed you far more than you needed me. I just wish I’d noticed it sooner. I wish I’d appreciated you. I wish…
Oh, Jean, please come home! I can’t bear being here without you. All those years of working late and not being – what was it you called it? Emotionally available. All those years of not being emotionally available to you were for this – for our retirement. So we could spend time together in our lovely house, drinking tea in our lovely garden, shaking our heads at the rest of the world. I must have lost sight of it along the way somehow. I must have forgotten how to talk to you, how to show you my feelings.
But I remember now, Jean. I remember how beautiful you are first thing in the morning when you look out of the window and see a robin on the bird table. I remember the sound of your laugh when you hear something funny on the radio. I used to find it funny too, Jean. I had just forgotten how to laugh.
I’m sorry this page is ruined by the little splashes of water. Please ignore them and think only of this – we have a solid foundation, you and I, and if you are willing to give me a second chance I promise I won’t let you down. Please come home, Jean. If you decide you really can’t then I will sell the house if that’s what you want. I couldn’t live here without you anyway.
Yours, with love, Roger
Thank you so much for meeting with me yesterday. You looked beautiful, and I felt proud to be in the company of such a clever, accomplished woman. The lunch was very nice and yes, I would like to meet there again next week. I had thought of suggesting we went to the museum after – only if you have time, of course. There is an exhibition by a local artist and I thought it might be of interest to you.
I hope you liked the flowers – I know roses are your favourite. I have planted a new rose bush in the garden – near to where we buried Tinky – and it should be flowering by the summer. Maybe you will be home to see it. I know you said you couldn’t make any promises, my darling Jean, but I am going to allow myself to hope. I felt something new yesterday and, by the look in your eyes, you felt it too. I felt – happy. Thank you, Jean. Thank you for giving us the chance to be truly happy.
All my love, Roger