Brett went home early from the office, that was unusual for him. Although it was Friday, he was almost always the last person to leave the floor. The cleaner called him ‘Mr No-life’ behind his back.
Mr No-life made a dinner reservation for two at his wife’s favourite restaurant. He was going to meet her there at 7pm. He needed to go home first, have a shower and shave, change into a clean shirt. He wanted to look his best for her.
They had been separated for two years. Many times he had tried to call her. For some reason, she would not answer the phone, nor return his calls. He had emailed and texted her. No response there either.
He had gone to see her parents, hoping they could help out. Her mother had still been too upset to see him. Her father had told him to give it some time, that things usually worked out by themselves.
An accident had taken his son’s life, and broken his marriage.
It had taken him more than a year to forgive himself for the accident. He had never meant to cause the accident, everyone knew that, but Julianne had not been able to face him. She said she saw Robbie’s face every time she looked at him.
Robbie was not going to come back. Night after night, Julianne had cried her eyes out, she had even talked about ending her own life.
That had been really hard on both of them. The truth that Robbie was gone couldn’t sink in. His clothes and toys had stayed untouched, as they were, his drawings and scribbles left on the walls and fridge door.
Time hadn’t healed anything, they had just tried to make themselves busy to stop themselves feeling and thinking. They had been breathing machines, surviving without any enthusiasm.
Julianne had said she needed a break from living, perhaps a season or two, maybe a year or more. Keep away from people she knew, who reminded her of Robbie. Step away from routines, she needed a holiday away from life.
She had asked him to move out, so she could start her grieving process.
* * *
“Daddy, don’t cry, Daddy, please. I am going to help you to find a new mummy.”
Brett woke up from his dream, his pillow wet from his tears. Robbie’s voice was so clear, like he was standing right next to his bed.
He called out but there was no one in the 2 bedroom unit but him. Robbie was not there, he had died under his car. He hadn’t seen his 3 year old boy running behind his car. Robbie had been excited to know Daddy was home. He had wanted to show Daddy what he had drawn for him.
If he hadn’t reversed the car into the garage, he would have seen Robbie. If he had come home a little later or earlier, Julianne wouldn’t have been checking the mailbox and Robbie wouldn’t have been outside the house. If he had bought a newer car, the sensor would have detected the object behind the car and he would have stopped in time.
All these thoughts confused him further. He lay trapped under his quilt, living in hell on his own.
More than ever he needed Julianne. He needed her love, he needed to hear her say that everything would be alright, that she would be there for him no matter what.
He had lost his son, soon after he had lost his wife. He cried and cried. He could not help the way he felt, he wanted his family with him.
He remembered when he first laid eyes on Robbie, he had thought he was the most beautiful baby he had ever seen. It was the first and the last miracle he had witnessed. How he had loved that tiny little boy.
Why had God played such a joke on him? What had he done that was so wrong as to deserve such a cruel punishment? What could he do to reverse the tragedy? What could he do to have his son back in his arms again?
“Robbie, please come back to my dreams and tell me what can I do to have you back with me? Please help me, I desperately need your help. Don’t leave me, please stay with me.”
There was no answer in the cold and empty room.
* * *
Brett put all the past behind him, he wanted to move on. He accepted that Robbie was gone. He had to make a future for himself and Julianne. They could have another child or two, start a brand new family.
He had been excited when Julianne called. It was about time for them to start afresh. They had had a good marriage before the accident. There was no reason they couldn’t pick up where they had left off.
She had asked him for a quick lunch. They both worked in the city so that was easy to do.
Brett had a different idea. He wanted to spend more time with her. He hoped to persuade her to let him move back home. Lunch would be too rushed for what he had on his mind.
Julianne had agreed. She sounded relaxed and calm, like the Julianne he knew before the accident. Easy going, carefree and untroubled.
They had met at a local gym. It had taken a year to progress from a simple ‘hi’ to a cup of coffee after their workout. It had not been love at first sight nor a passionate romance at any stage of their dating. They had had a steady, uncomplicated relationship. Robbie had been the highlight of their marriage. He had never known Julianne could be so intensely loving. Motherhood had brought out the best in her.
The first time he felt deeply in love with Julianne was when he saw Julianne lying next to Robbie, singing. Her face had been radiant, her eyes glowing, her voice endearing. Robbie looked at her with an adoring expression on his face. That had been the most charming moment he remembered of his wife and son together.
That moment helped him pass two years of lonely life, which had made him stronger. He knew deep inside his heart, one day he would get back with Julianne.
That moment also hurt him at times, when he needed female companionship. He tried to connect with other ladies but their interest had been purely physical. He wanted much more than they could offer.
* * *
Brett arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early. He was surprised to see Julianne had beat him to it. That was a good sign, he thought.
He bent over and kissed her on the check.
“You look well, Julianne.”
“Thank you, so do you.”
They both tried. How strange that they had been comfortable with each other for years, but they felt awkward in front of each other after two years apart.
“I was pleased to hear from you.”
“I have been busy.”
“Good, being busy is good for the mind.”
“How have you been?”
“I’m doing ok, but I miss you terribly….”
The waiter bought over the menus. Brett tried to order the drinks. He didn’t need the wine list. He remembered what Julianne liked very well.
“No, not for me, I am fine with a glass of water. Go ahead and order what you like.”
Brett ordered himself a glass of wine. He was surprised that Julianne did not want any alcohol.
“Not drinking for any particular reason?”
“I don’t want to pull alcohol into my body.”
“That’s a good reason. I should look into it myself, our society is over consuming alcohol.”
Brett remembered that after work each day Julianne would pick up Robbie from her mother and pour herself a glass of wine before settling in for the evening. He didn’t want to talk about Robbie. He stopped his wandering mind when he saw Julianne study the menu.
“I think I am going to have the risotto. I don’t want an entree but you can go ahead.”
“I didn’t know you like risotto.”
“There’s a lots of things you don’t know about me.”
“Well, it would be interesting to find out about the new you.”
* * *
“It’s been so lonely without you by my side.”
“Loneliness brings self realisation. It gives us the chance to gain insight, to understand all one is worth.”
Brett listened keenly. He kept his eyes wide open and tried as hard as he could to read between the lines. He didn’t want to miss any underlying message hidden here and there.
“Do you remember Karen? My colleague, we bumped into her once in Doncaster shopping centre.”
“The one you were having an affair with?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Save your breath, Brett. I saw her give you that look through the shop window.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
“I just did.”
“Was that the reason you wanted to separate?”
“One of them.”
“Karen meant nothing to me…”
“I really have no interest to hear any information about you and Karen.”
“I love you, you have got to believe me. I regret what I did, I’ll make it up to you if you let me. I wouldn’t throw what we had away for that.”
“I am sure if you were me, you wouldn’t do what I do, but you are not me, you didn’t go through what I went through, you don’t feel what I feel, you have no idea how my mind works.”
“Don’t you agree we had a pretty good marriage?”
“To you maybe, to me the answer is no. Many times, you let me down. It was always what you wanted, not what was good for everyone.
You were always interested in talking to everyone. You cared more about what others thought than what I thought. If you had been socialising for some benefit I may have understood it. You got nothing from the interaction but you still slighted me. To me, that was your way of showing me that I was nothing to you but a spare part. You only needed me when no one else was around.
I always bought you a present for your birthday, never once did you get me anything for my birthday. Do you really think you are so wonderful that you don’t have to care for me a bit but I would still always be there for you?
People use birthdays and Christmas time to show their loved ones how much they care by the presents they buy. One year you gave me freshly cut flowers for my Christmas present. One year you gave me chocolates, other times you gave me kitchen appliances, nothing ever personal.
I was in the hospital once. I don’t remember receiving any flowers from you.
I couldn’t stand the mess. You told me you were going to remove the cuttings from the garden. Two years later they were still there.
You said you were going to put up the shelves. They were there in the garage for three years.
It was all done after you were gone.
When we were together, I had no savings. After you were gone, my bank balance is much healthier.
I was disappointed or disillusioned maybe. The situation I’m facing is necessary, if not overdue.
I used to force myself to adjust to many things. At the time it was necessary but not anymore.
Acknowledging this is the hard part, especially because you took more than you gave.
When we first got married, I assumed things would be straightforward. However, that was not the case. Too many broken promises destroyed the trust. No relationship can be strong without respect.
Deep down, I know I really want to continue what I have. My own life for the past two years, to develop a lifestyle that I prefer.”
* * *
The waiter cleaned up the table and took their dessert order. Brett looked at the waiter’s black apron and felt that the colour represented his feelings. Black was not a colour, strictly speaking, it was the absence of all colour and light. It had come to mean fear. It was linked to the unknown.
He was feeling fear and uncertainty. The enthusiasm he had felt earlier was gone without a trace. He looked at the woman sitting opposite him at the other end of the table. Suddenly she was a stranger. She talked differently compared to when they had been together. Her habits had changed, her attitude had changed. It was as if he didn’t know her.
Dealing with Julianne proved to be more complicated than he expected. He desperately needed clarity. He simply wanted to go home.
“I would do anything to make you happy, do anything that you want me to.”
“You said you would look after me when you proposed, it didn’t happen. You said I was the only one that you wanted for the rest of your life, it was a big lie. I could go on and on about what you promised and what you really did. What makes you think I would believe your words again? How are you going to prove them to me?”
“You forgave me once, you can forgive me again, I know you can. I’ll try harder.”
“I didn’t forgive you when I knew you were unfaithful. I had been thinking of Robbie. I didn’t want my son growing up in a broken home. Now I have no reason to suffer for your infidelity.”
“I have not been with Karen for three years. She has a partner now.”
“If God granted me unlimited money, I could buy all the paintings that I liked but I wouldn’t have the space to hang them.”
“What’s that mean?”
“I couldn’t care less.”
“It was all my fault in the past, I realise that. For the sake of the good times we had, give me another chance.”
“I loved you once, those days are gone. We can’t live in the past. Today is the beginning of the future. We choose our own paths. My future has no place for you. Set me free and let it be.”
* * *
How could he have got it so wrong? What had he missed? Lots of men he knew were having affairs but their wives were still with them. Why was Julianne so harsh? When his sister-in-law complained that his brother was having an affair, his mother had said “Well, boys will be boys.” She never left him.
His mother told him that his father had many affairs when he was younger. They didn’t seem to hurt his mother. Why did Julianne make such a big fuss about it?
He didn’t really like Karen that much. She was willing and it was convenient. Lucky Julianne didn’t know about Maggie. If Maggie had say yes to him, he wouldn’t have proposed to Julianne.
Maggie told him that he was a mean spirited man, untrustworthy, not dependable and not good husband material. Maggie was a much sharper person, she never missed anything when she was around. He had been madly in love with her. That was why her rejection had really hurt.
He had proposed to Julianne while on the rebound. He knew Julianne was an easy going person and wouldn’t say no to him.
Brett didn’t believe Julianne would ask for a divorce. He thought if he gave her some time, she would do what he wanted her to do. Women liked to show their anger but it didn’t last long. Nothing a few sweet words and loving gestures wouldn’t fix. That was what they were brought up to be – soft and caring towards their men.
“Let’s finish what we’re here for first. We can enjoy the sweet treats afterwards.”
Julianne took out the divorce papers and passed Brett a pen.