••• The International Writers Magazine: Fiction from Abigail George
‘How was your day, Dawid’ Dawid ignored Marguerite.
‘Time heals. Time is supposed to heal all wounds. Isn’t that what they say?’ said Dawid in a contemplative mood.
‘Do you believe it though?’
‘Believe what they say about time, I mean, Marguerite.’
‘Oh, I don’t know Dawid. Why are you asking me after all this time?’ said a slightly irritated Marguerite.
‘Patrick would have been seventeen this year. Don’t you wonder what he would have looked like, Marguerite.
Marguerite wanted to say with her whole heart, ‘You don’t touch me anymore, Dawid. We’re living a lie. Our whole marriage is based on a lie. That we still desire each other.’ Marguerite didn’t know where to begin. Instead she said this, ‘Can I get you a drink, Dawid?’
‘A whisky, thanks,’ Dawid said absentmindedly. He turned away from her, gazing at the mantelpiece above the fireplace.
‘The television is not on, Marguerite. Be a dear and put it on for me. I just want to forget about today.’
‘Yes, it’s been a long day. One of those never-ending days.’ Dawid moaned.
‘I thought you wanted to talk.’ Marguerite hovered near him.
‘Where’s that drink you promised Marguerite?’ Now it was Marguerite’s turn to ignore him.
‘About what? Talk about what exactly, Marguerite. What do you really have on your mind that you want to talk to me about?’
‘What do the two of us have to talk about? Everything, Dawid, everything. Life. Let’s talk about life in so many words or in not so many words.’
‘Marguerite, by now you should know we’re an old married couple who have weathered enough storms in our relationship. We’ve come to that point in our relationship when we’ve run out of things to say to each other. We’ve come full circle. We’ve come through thick. We’ve come through thin. We’ve been through worse than this. If we have nothing to say to each other at the end of the day, it is not the end of the world.’ Marguerite sighed. ‘What do you wish to talk about my wife.’
‘It’s not important. I mean, if it’s not important to you to talk about how our day was I won’t push you,’ were the words on Marguerite’s lips but again she said nothing. She left the room to fix her husband’s drink.
She was standing in the foyer when she heard a movement behind her.
‘You’ve put Patrick’s picture away again,’ said Dawid in a neutral voice. ‘I don’t want a fight, Marguerite. I’m not in the mood for a fight or for one of your moods. Just tell me where you put his photograph.’ Dawid ran his fingers through his hair. To this Marguerite said nothing, gathering her thoughts before she voiced her opinion. There was a pettiness in Dawid’s voice. Did he want to provoke her?
‘I think it was our other son, Dawid. The one you seemed to have forgotten all about after Patrick’s death. Do you remember him, do you remember Owen? The son who can’t live up to your expectations,’
Marguerite was about to let Dawid have it, but come hell or high water she decided she would be the sober one in this relationship. Instead of knocking back whiskies like there was no tomorrow after a long day at work, she would be the grown up she decided. ‘Here’s your drink, Dawid.’ She held the glass out to him and he took it from her, took a gulp from it.
‘You know Marguerite, I don’t think you really understand me sometimes. You think I’m some kind of monster towards Owen, but I’m not. He has to learn that he can’t have it his way all the time. I don’t understand him. Perhaps, I’ve been too easy on him. I mean he lives in this house. He comes and goes as he pleases. He is living the life that I always wanted for myself when I was his age. My father worked his whole life to put food on the table for my sister, for me, for my brothers. Owen needs to get a job. What does he want to do for the rest of his life? Live off my money and grow fat? Fathers often do not understand their kids. I wish you could see the view from my understanding. Of course, I love him. You think I don’t love him?’ Dawid looked at Marguerite helplessly and when he was finished with his first drink, he poured himself another one.
Marguerite watched Dawid carefully. She watched him put the stress of the day behind him, and with each sip that he took of the whisky she felt ice making vibrations of waves in her veins. ‘I give up. You seem to have given up on us. On Owen, our son. My son,’ and with these thoughts on her mind, Marguerite turned and left the room. Thought she would make a fruity cocktail for herself. She was in dire need of one, to settle her nerves, her anxiety. Not for the first time that day, she felt like crying. Going into the bathroom, letting the water run into the bath, faucets open wide and just sobbing.
Marguerite felt as she stood in the kitchen making supper, that she was on the point of losing all self-control. It hurt. This, this hurt. This break in her heart. This ice storm or whatever it was. Everyday Marguerite’s internal monologue began something like this, ‘For your sacrifice, Dawid, I would have given you the world.’ She had loved Dawid once, when she had been a girl and now, she thought to herself, did she still love him, did she understand him? His love for Owen?
Marguerite simply ignored the glass on the coffee table. It would leave a stain if she was not careful but she didn’t care. The mood she was in these days, she was beyond caring about Owen or Dawid for that matter. Dawid had filled it with ‘the whisky that did not kill pain’.
Marguerite was a strong, pretty woman. Capable in all of her loveliness but already there was an internal struggle written there on her face.
‘Where’s my supper, Marguerite?’
‘In the oven, Dawid.’ Where it always is, when you’re working late, Marguerite wanted to add, but she was too late. Dawid had already disappeared into the kitchen, to heat up his shepherd’s pie in the microwave. Marguerite lived in exile now and worshiped Owen. Their only child now who still lived at home with them.
The following were things that Marguerite would never disclose to Dawid, her husband of twenty-five years.
‘You don’t speak to me anymore, Dawid. Once you spoke of your wounds, your loneliness as an outsider in high school, covering that up with being the clown who never got the most popular girl but got close enough to her to know her secrets, to be her best friend. You hurt me like crazy and I think of leaving you in that moment, but I am not brave to survive in a world of the stigma that the world of a single woman in her mid-forties carries. Who will love me then, with my stretchmarks and wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes, mused Marguerite even on the good days.
Marguerite thought back to the night that she was traveling to Johannesburg from Port Elizabeth back to varsity (the University of the Witwatersrand) after the Easter weekend. The bus driver was talking about a woman’s sex drive and his own sexual impulse loudly in the front of the bus to the hostess. She couldn’t tell if it was his own woman or somebody else’s. Most of the passengers were asleep on the bus, but Marguerite was wide awake. She had made this trip many times before journeying from a dark Port Elizabeth to a Johannesburg morning but this time it was different. Dawid would be waiting for her at Park Station in the morning to welcome her back. She had met Dawid at the university (he was studying law and she was studying English literature). In those days, Marguerite had wanted to be a teacher. They had hit it off. Spending all their free time together and over months they soon became inseparable. Nowadays all she did with her free time was entertain budget beater recipes.
‘Just let it go.’ Marguerite told herself. She thought of Dawid on their wedding day in the Dutch Reformed Church. She had gone to Sunday school, been confirmed there, attended the youth on a Friday night. He had looked so handsome. They had taken their vows in front of family and friends. She thought of the reception afterwards at the country club and at just how quickly time had passed.
‘Of course, you’re going to miss him, Dawid. Patrick wasn’t just your son, he was ours.’ Marguerite wanted to say. The room was dark. The television was on, but it was barely audible.
© Short fiction by Abigail George
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at gmail.com
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