Mitchell was glad it was Friday. The deal was done and all the papers that needed to be signed had been signed. He could fly back home to Melbourne and sleep in his own bed for the first time in 3 days.
Emily would be working, Luke and Ben would stay with Emily’s mum till tomorrow morning. He had the whole house all to himself and he could watch any channel he liked on TV, walking around naked. No wife, no children, that was home sweet home to him.
Next week he’d be back to his own office, everything would be back to normal again. He didn’t mind travelling for pleasure, he just didn’t like to travel for work. When travelling for pleasure, Emily handled all the travel plans and arrangements. She chose the cheap fares, hotels, tours and arranged every little detail. She liked to do that so he left it all to her. After being married for 12 years, he had got used to letting Emily be in charge of his whole life, except his working life of course.
That’s why it was so hard for him to travel for work. Going without a strong coffee in the morning could ruin his day. He liked his coffee strong but not strong enough to taste the bitterness. With half a teaspoon of sugar in the coffee, just a hint of sweetness. With a pinch of cinnamon to balance the coffee flavour. Emily knew how he liked it, no one else could do it better, not even himself.
Emily was a nurse, she worked for an agency doing locum jobs. They paid better and were flexible. The only downside was working at night, occasionally during the day.
She knew he would have his dinner in the airport and claim it from the company as a working expense. She texted him and let him know that she had baked his favourite fruitcake, with plenty of dried fruit and sprinkled with lots of Grand Marnier. Yummy. Emily really knew what he liked, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on that cake.
“Mitchell, the look on your face is like you couldn’t wait to be with someone.”
It was Oscar, the lawyer he had been dealing with for the past few days.
“You must still be single!”
“Absolutely! Don’t tell me you’re already in the grave?”
“I am afraid so.”
“Well, lucky you can still travel for work, it’s the next best thing.”
“Where are you going?”
“Family in Melbourne?”
“Oh, a business trip!”
“No, I wish, at least then I could claim something. It’s purely for pleasure.”
Mitchell liked Oscar. They were a similar age, he was smart at what he did, open and pleasant. This was the first private conversation they’d had. He thought it would make the waiting time pass quickly.
“I almost got married once. When she found out about my trip to Melbourne, she threw the engagement ring at me and told me to get stuffed.”
“Well, women are strange creatures, they don’t understand that men have needs. Men understand women’s needs, right? Women need to connect with other women.”
“I guess so.”
“So do men, we need to connect with women too.”
“You’ve lost me; do you mean the same way as women do?”
“Ha, we are men, men can’t connect with women the same way women do. Can you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Let me ask you this. Since you’ve been married, have you ever been with other women?”
“I feel like I’m in court – mmm, yes I have.”
“What was your wife’s reaction?”
“She forgave me.”
“Wow, what did you do to make her forgive you?”
“I told her it was purely sexual.”
“That’s what I told my fiancée, she said she didn’t want to share my body with a prostitute.”
“No, I would never call Amelia a prostitute, she’s a first-rate lady. I never knew a woman could be so wonderful, so unforgettable.
You see, I am a free spirited man. I love to live with no burden, no boundary, doing whatever feels good and I love good things. Good food, good wine, good books, good music and good quality women.
My fiancée is young, well educated, her father has good connections and she would be a good choice for me to marry and have children with.
I won’t give up everything for her though, why should I? I would never ask her to give up her pleasures for me either; that’s just not the right thing to do.
Too many people think that once they’re married, their spouse should do what they have been told.
If no woman understands my needs, I would rather be single. I couldn’t be tied down, I want my freedom.
My uncle died when he was 45. I remember he said to me before he died to live your life, get plenty of experience, better to live a short colourful life than a dull long one. I was only 10. His words were planted deeply in my mind.
I’ve tried many things in my life, I’ve done more than most of my friends. If I get hit by a bus and die tomorrow, at least I lived my life the way I wanted.
Once I went to a course, something to do with the law, a speaker said, to always do the right thing, ask yourself if you got stranded on a deserted island, who would you want to be with on that island? Once you have the answer, remember to treat that person special, work to please that particular person, make that a goal in your life.
I thought about it long and hard. Finally I had my answer, I want to be with Amelia. If we are on a desert island, what else can I do? I don’t have to worry about my reputation, what others would say, what would affect me. I don’t have to care that my family may be disappointed in me, that my boss may disapprove of my actions. I would be free to choose whom I love to be with the most.
Mitchell, how I wish you could see her, she’s the best. She handles everything the way a lady would, there’s nothing plastic about this lady. She’s ravishing, stunning, beautiful, sexy and intelligent, she would spoil your taste in women.”
* * *
The flight was full. Mitchell took ‘The Australian’ before boarding the plane.
His mind was unsettled; he couldn’t concentrate on the newspaper. Oscar’s words hung in his mind, making him restless. They reminded him of a conversation he had once with his own father, who suffered ill health for many years.
His father told him how he wished he had enjoyed his life when he was able to, he realised it a bit too late – ‘regret’ was the word he chose.
Mitchell turned around and looked at Oscar. He was fast asleep two seats behind him. Lucky guy! No wife and children to worry about, spending all the money he earnt the way he wanted, as free as a bird. After a week’s work, he could fly to another city and stay in a hotel, spend the whole weekend with a high class call girl. What a life to have, what a way to live.
Comparing his own life with Oscar’s, all he could think of was how flat, boring, monotonous and wearisome it was.
He had married too young, didn’t have a chance to gain experience with other girls. She was his first real girlfriend. Under her mother’s pressure, he had married her. Her mother wouldn’t let him get away with it.
To be fair, she was a good mother-in-law. Caring, thoughtful, kind with words and willingly baby-sat any time or any day. When Emily’s working schedule was too tight, she would take over the cooking and cleaning and didn’t mind keeping an eye on the boys.
The boys loved their Nanna. She spoiled them with gifts and she couldn’t see any fault in them. How nice to have a grandmother like that. Mitchell’s own grandmother was a mean woman. Not only mean with money but also mean with her feelings. ‘Love’ was not a word in her dictionary.
Emily was 19 when they got married. She was ok, not beautiful but pretty enough, not intelligent but smart enough, not sexy but feminine enough. Mitchell had been 25. He didn’t know much about women.
After they got married, sometimes Mitchell would wish Emily was not as shy and reserved as she was, maybe a little wildness would spice up their lives. She didn’t have close friends and spent all her free time with him and the kids.
She didn’t do much, except read. She read everything and anything. Stock information, current affairs, political issues, football results, sports details. Sometimes he wondered why she read about them? She never really showed any other interest in any of them.
She went to the gym with her mother. They were both members of the local gym. He didn’t know how often she went, she never really talked about it.
Emily was not interested in socialising either. Maybe the night shift had a lot to do with it. She wanted to be fresh when she started her shift and she wanted to rest when she finished her shift. Often the timing was difficult.
Mitchell suggested that maybe she should change to the day shift. He didn’t mind if she brought less money home and her spending more time with the family was more appealing to him.
Emily was used to the night shift. She said that after the boys grew up, she would stop working so hard. What a good mother she was. Mitchell couldn’t deny that she was a better mother than a wife.
A few years ago he had had an affair. He hadn’t been looking for it, he just accepted it when the chance came, with a lady he met in one of the business functions. Annie held a high position in her company, the last thing she wanted was a scandal. The fact that she was many years older than him and he was a married man easily tucked any suspicious away. It lasted for 18 months. He became careless and charged ‘Tiffany earrings’ on the credit card without realizing.
He didn’t know Emily would check the bank statement. He didn’t know she cared much about where the money went. Well, she did. When she asked him, he didn’t lie. He thought she would take the boys and go home to her mother after hearing his confession.
To his surprise, she didn’t. She held him tightly without a word. She told him to end the affair before she went to work that night. Just like that, they never talked about it again, like nothing had really happened.
Annie was not prepared to have a long-term relationship with him, he knew that and he was not prepared to leave Emily for Annie either. They had had what they wanted from each other, they both knew it was a temporary arrangement. They politely said goodbye to each other, no one got hurt, life went on.
Many times Mitchell had the urge to call Annie, to see if she was still on her own, if she felt lonesome, if she wanted some excitement. He was not eager enough to make that first step, that was his problem.
If he was a man with drive, like Oscar was, he would do lots of things differently. He would introduce himself to the managing director, tell him that the $80 million Anderson project had been designed by him solely, not by the group his boss claimed was under his instruction. Last year his boss got a $1 million bonus, it should all have been his.
He knew he wouldn’t go to the managing director, he wouldn’t say anything to anyone, he hadn’t even talked to Emily about it. That was his character, he wasn’t forceful.
One day when he was old and frail, he would complain to his sons and tell them his regrets, just like his father had.
Mitchell didn’t want to be like his father, his father had lived a sad and miserable life. He had made his mother sad and miserable too. They wondered why none of their children liked to visit them. Who would enjoy to see sad and miserable faces?
Oscar had the right idea. He put personal pleasure first. He knew how to live and he knew how to live well.
Mitchell wanted to live well, at least once. He wanted to experience the pleasure that Oscar experienced. That was a much easier goal to reach than the career one. He would settle for that.
* * *
Walking out of the plane, Oscar’s steps were full of spring. He looked like a young man going on a date. The mischief on his face made Mitchell envious.
“Do you think there’s a chance for me to meet your first-rate lady?”
Oscar punched his shoulder lightly. “Wanted to taste the real thing? Good on you buddy, I’ll give you her agent’s number. You see they have really strict rules to protect the ladies. I tell you what. I will go to Travelodge now, you can follow my taxi. Just make sure it doesn’t look like you are following me. My taxi will stop on the way. Amelia will get out of her car and join mine. We will go to the hotel together like a respectable couple.”
“You can say that again. They seriously make it secure for the ladies. I hear some of the ladies come from really respectable families. When you see Amelia, you’ll know what I mean. If someone said to me that Amelia’s father is a VIP, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. You’ll agree with me once you lay your eyes on her, boy oh boy!”
“Thanks buddy, I owe you one.”
They entered two different taxis. Mitchell told the driver to keep his distance but not to lose sight of the front taxi.
It was easy. When Oscar’s taxi stopped, Mitchell asked the driver to turn into a side street where he could see very well what was going on around the area.
On a Melbourne summer evening, it would not get dark till 9 pm. It was 7.45pm. The sunset painted the sky pink, bringing a soft colour to the street. Mitchell had travelled back from Sydney on that flight before but he had never noticed how beautiful Melbourne looked at that time.
He saw a lady walk towards Oscar’s taxi. He opened his eyes as wide as he could. He didn’t see any ravishing, stunning, beautiful and sexy first-rate lady; all he saw was Emily get into Oscar’s taxi.
One reply on “First-Rate Lady”
I was stunned by this absolutely brilliant piece, The First-Rate Lady.
As someone who seldom reads, I struggled as I endured the tons of details, but was rewarded at the end! This is like some modern-day Greek tragedy that is at once humorous and sad, as well as thought provoking as it reminds us how shocking realities of life can be. 5 stars!