Joan had always believed that David loved her, but since he had this long affair with Maria it had to be the end of their 15-year-old marriage.
Of course, there had been other matters in their relationship, which were too painful to recall. As a serving officer the family had lived abroad for three years. He always had a roving eye for beautiful women. The servants were not safe when David was in the vicinity . . .Joan almost forgot to count the women who had complained to her and had to be replaced.
Back on their home ground David’s behaviour became intolerable.
She had put in for the divorce, but needed a decent maintenance allowance for her and the children, who were aged 12 and 10.
She was hoping that David would continue to pay the mortgage on the house, in which she and the children were living. He had a large life insurance, apart from the remuneration he would receive on leaving the forces. Maybe he could pay off the house, which was in both their names.
Months had passed, since she last heard from him. Then she received a letter in which he invited himself to visit the children. Joan asked her solicitor if it would be all right for David to come to the house with
Divorce proceedings running. She was told that his visit might be a good idea for them to come to some maintenance agreement at this opportunity, so that this case could be speeded up in due course.
David arrived and brought presents for the children, obviously trying to soften the blow. It looked just like old times with him being in their midst, but she knew that all the love she had ever felt for him was dead.
She was able to look at him like somebody she knew, had known for a long time, but had a most uncomfortable feeling inside. She tried to read a book, casually, but found it hard to concentrate. He must leave soon, she thought. Why was she insisting that the children should continue to see their father? He was worthless as a father, a womaniser, a pervert, a man who said that black was white, who would spy on courting couples with his binoculars, and who had made awful sexual demands on her.
At Christmas the children had asked if their father could be invited. Again he fetched presents, and took them to a show. The children obviously enjoyed their father taking an interest in their hobbies and school progress. Shortly before he left, having sleeping accommodation on an army camp, David followed Joan into the kitchen, where she was preparing a drink.
To her utter astonishment he told her that his affair with Maria was over. They would never marry. He begged Joan not to proceed with the divorce.
“ I feel so much at home with you and the children. Please give me another chance! My life seems meaningless. Please try to forget the past and let us start again! I`ll soon be leaving the army and we’ll be able to
make a new life for us. I would do anything in my power to make up for the pain I have caused you and the children. I feel very lonely. Suddenly I have no aim in life, if I cannot live with you and the children as a family!”
Joan looked at him. “You are too late, David. The harm has been done. The past will always come between us. I feel sorry for you, but I cannot start again. My love for you is dead. Although my financial situation would be much better for the children and myself, I cannot go back and live with you, not even to please the children, whom you may visit occasionally.”
David stared in front of him, looking tight-lipped and grim.
“You would be better off if I was dead. All your troubles would be over, and so would mine.”
He said good-bye and left.
Joan stood in the kitchen, trembling, knowing she would never let him touch her again.
At the end of January Joan had seen the solicitor again. If only the matter could be settled soon. The effort of settling for a reasonable maintenance seemed terribly time-consuming.
To her great dismay, after her return home, she found David at the door.
He looked ill. He should not have arrived for another two days, having announced his visit to see the children. He said he felt very ill with `flu symptoms and had driven for six hours from the camp to arrive in absolutely poorly conditions at Joan’s door!
“I am sorry for turning up like this! I should not have arrived until the weekend, but I was feeling unwell and since I have no one to look after me, I thought that I could come here. Would you please let me in and could I lie down?”
What could Joan do under these circumstances? She let him in, but not without giving vent to her anger: ”David, you have a nerve to come here and expect me to nurse you! It is ironical, isn’t it! You did not need me anymore, not so long ago. You did not want me. You preferred a younger woman, who no longer wants you now. Suddenly you realize what a mess you have made of your life. You say that you are lonely. But you never thought of the loneliness you created for the children and me through your action! Believe me, the only reason for helping you now in your hour of need is a purely humanitarian one!”
David occupied their son’s room and Joan called the doctor, who diagnosed `flu and three days in bed. She and the children took it in turns to fetch David’s drinks. Joan mopped his forehead, took his temperature and changed the sheets. She did this like a nurse, in a detached manner.
When David got a little better he sat up in bed, and broached the subject
of their divorce again.
“I hope that you had time to think it over, not to go ahead with it, Joan. Many a man makes a mistake and gets away with it.
I am asking you again to reconsider the matter. I have made a mistake and I am sorry.”
Joan sadly shook her head. ” No, David. It is too late. There is no going back. You and I have grown apart. We have nothing in common. I do not mind you seeing the children, who enjoy your company, which is obvious. I will do my best to put up with this situation. I know what it was like, when I was a child, to have my father taken out of my life, forbidden by my mother ever to see him again. I do not want my children to go through that. But I cannot live with you ever again!”
David stared at her. “You will get married again one day. I cannot stand the thought of it. I would not be able to come and see you. I would be all on my own. I have no one. Maybe the children will turn away from me one day.
Things would have been all right if I could have married Maria, had it not been for that b****y father of hers. I hate Maria! My nerves have been bad for months! I have practically lived on the barbiturates my doctor prescribed for me. Day after day, to keep my sanity! Now I am here in this house and I feel that I am belonging. I am part of the family again. I have something to look forward to if only you will drop the divorce proceedings!”
Joan stood at the window, looking at the snow-covered scene. Such peace out there! Slowly she turned to David. “No, David. It can never be.” She left the room without waiting for a word from him.
The following morning she took his breakfast upstairs. She found David slumped over the bed. She called his name. No answer. She tried to feel his pulse, looking for signs of life. His eyes were closed, as if sleeping, but she suddenly knew that he was dead. He was dead!
She phoned the doctor, who confirmed what she already knew. The `flu epidemic had taken many lives, her doctor said, but there would have to be a postmortem.
The doctor found a piece of paper in David’s pyjama pocket, behind a neatly folded handkerchief, which he passed to Joan. She unfolded it and let out a stifled noise. The doctor looked at her, stretching out his hand, “May I see it?”
It was addressed to the police. ` I came to visit my children. My wife hates me because I have asked her for a divorce. My solicitor will confirm that she is prolonging the proceedings by making constant higher demands regarding the maintenance. I wish to marry another lady and we hope to start a family. My wife resents me coming to see the children, of whom I am very proud. My life insurance is of a considerable sum and I fear that my wife wishes to claim it before I have a chance to marry Maria. I was unfortunate to catch the `flu virus.”
David must have taken an overdose of those barbiturates and Joan’s fingerprints were on the glass, in which she had brought him some orange juice. Why would he commit suicide? Was it because she would never take him back and Maria had finished their affair?
Joan was shaking and crying with the shock of what had happened. She had to break the news to the children about their father’s death.
Her daughter cried bitter tears. Her son seemingly took it with indifference. It would be the shock.
Suddenly the boy placed his arms around Joan’s neck and pressed his face against hers: “I did it for you, Mum. I put barbiturates in his drink last night. He did not deserve to live. He paid with his life for all the heartaches he caused you. I’m sorry, Mum. I love you.”
Joan slumped on the sofa, feeling faint. Her son looked at her wide-eyed. Her daughter was crying hysterically.
The doctor opened the door to the police.
© Copyright Erika Seetzen-Woods 2006
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Erika Seetzen-Woods.
Published on e-Stories.org on 16.02.2006.