Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Perfect Life.

Category: Short Story

A Perfect Life.

With the toe of my shoe I kicked the lid of the tin trunk closed, fumbled for the handle, and manoeuvred it up from the basement step by step. I dragged it along the corridor to the library where my husband Andrew lay sprawled across the carpet next to his desk.

He laid face up, grey hair still neatly in place. The out-of- date suit jacket unbuttoned and one leg of his trousers rumpled to expose a fish-belly white calf. I thought of the times those pale legs twined around mine. Not quite believing he was really dead I stared into his glazed eyes, lifted his hand and felt for a pulse.


Mother disapproved of our relationship. ‘He’s too old for you. There’s still time to back out,’ she said

With the wedding headdress arranged securely to my dark curls, I met her worried eyes in the mirror. ‘For the last time, Mum - I love him.’

‘And it’s not his money?’

‘No, it’s not his money. Now will you stop fussing?’

I discovered later, although we lived comfortably, it was on royalties from his previous years as a composer. I asked why he’d quit, and his face darkened.

‘I ran dry that’s all,’ he said.

The first years of marriage passed uneventfully. I cooked meals which Andrew ate without comment, his iron grey head bent towards some book by the side of his dinner plate.

During trips into town, I ate a solitary meal in the little cafe beside the Music College, where I first met Andrew lunching between lectures. When his guest tutorial ended we continued to see each other.

We held hands at concerts, while my heart kept pace with the music. We ate at a small French restaurant. Our first kiss was by a lake in Keswick where artists Turner and Constable had once walked the shore.  He took my face between his hands and proposed – in that breathless moment, all thought of my music career disappeared.

His home, an ivy covered, gabled house, was situated deep in the Yorkshire countryside. Small mullioned windows let in very little light. Heavy carved oak furniture glowered disapproval from every corner. The addition of fresh flowers and gay cushions did little to lift the oppression, and excitement at being the mistress, of what was almost a manor, quickly faded. 

For a while Andrew was delighted by what he called my chatter, but somehow his laughter became less frequent. I tried to engage him with some film plot I’d watched on TV He’d listen with a polite smile, making no comment, a nicotine stained finger marking the place on the page where I’d interrupted his reading. As time dragged by, the polite smile was replaced with a frown and he didn’t bother to look up. The realisation that I was little more than a house-keeper entered my mind. Had I become less attractive since our wedding day? The bathroom mirror reflected the same fresh face and shiny brown hair. The figure still trim and curvaceous, still beddable,  and yet most nights Andrew preferred to sit in his study reading until long after I had given up waiting.
Books procured his attention and dragged him deep into another world. I came to hate the sight of his bent head as he pored over a classic novel, taking notes for forth-coming lectures.

I day-dreamed how life would be without him, I’d sell the dreary house, travel, find a lover, maybe several.


An owl hooted a salute as I dragged the tin trunk across the garden lawn, big as a football pitch. At its end it dropped steeply to a deep lake. Breathless and elated I pushed the trunk over the edge. It crashed through undergrowth and with a splash hit the water. A few cries from startled birds, and the garden returned to its former nightly sighs.

Breeze chilled my sweat-soaked clothes; shivers took hold as I made my way back to the library. Exhausted I dropped into a chair. Adrenalin that fuelled my trip across the lawn with the trunk had dissipated. Elation gone, I felt empty. Tears ran down my cheeks, and I slid to the ground.

Andrew lay as I left him. I leaned across and closed his eyes, straightened his trouser leg, and stroked his cold cheek. 

‘I’m sorry darling – you understand why I did it, don’t you?  If it hadn’t been for them -those damned books - we could’ve had a perfect life.’

I fumbled for my cell phone and punched in a number. ‘Hallo, my husband had a heart attack… no, no pulse….’