‘I’m leaving you.’
Tony stared at his wife as she stood in front of him with her favourite travelling bag by her side. It was tattered in places that didn’t count which was why whenever he teased her about it, she would shrug and say ‘as long Mr Tatters can hold my clothes in, I’m good’
He looked up into her face and felt a shard of fear slice through his chest. She had that determined look on her face. The same look she had when her father had said he wouldn’t let her marry him. The same look she had when the doctor had told them their daughter would never be able to walk again. He had come to both fear and respect that look. He feared it more when it was directed at him as it was now.
He asked quietly. She shrugged impatiently.
‘Things haven’t been the same for a while Tony and if you were honest, you would admit that’’.
Tony tried to think fast. It was true that their marriage had been predictable for some time but he hadn’t given it much thought, not with his business facing the profit decline that had confronted it some months ago.
‘Is there someone else?’
She threw a look that was both withering and scornful in its intensity
‘You wouldn’t notice if a bomb hit our home would you?’
With that she picked up her bag and walked with purposeful strides to the door. Tony stood there like a statue. Frozen with panic… In a millisecond he saw his life without this strong and fierce woman and he saw how bleak it would be but he couldn’t move a limb to stop her.
‘What about Sarah’? He managed to choke out. Sarah was their daughter, the one person who gave him a sense of pride apart from the Amazon staring at him with a faint sheen of tears in her eyes.
‘She’s with mother…I’ll send the papers over as soon as I can’
And then she was gone. How much time passed before he moved an inch, Tony would never know. All he knew was the incredible sense of loneliness that threatened to drown him. He noticed that his fingers were trembling and stared at them as if they were alien carrots trembling in the cold wind. The house was filled with loud quiet. She had taken the life of the house with her. It was as if she had sucked it into her and walked out with it.
The wheels of his brain sprung with creaking reluctance into action. What had she meant when she said that he wouldn’t notice if a bomb dropped? He remembered a conversation they had had a few months back when he had his nose buried as usual in the reports he had brought back home to work on…
‘You hardly have any time for us anymore Tony, You promised that when we got married and the business stabilized that you would spend more time with me and Sarah’.
He had barely looked up as he replied. ‘Baby you know that I would spend more time with you if I could but the business is expanding and it needs my attention now more than ever’.
There had been a stillness that prompted him to look up. She was backing him at the kitchen sink; her shoulders stiff with tension. ‘
Baby? He had gone over and turned her around. Her eyes were filled with a starkness that struck him as odd. He paid the bills and made sure they had the best of everything didn’t they? What more could she possibly want from him?
‘What’s wrong honey? She turned to him and grabbed a fistful of his shirt. ‘Don’t make me…. He bent close to her head to hear her more clearly. He was a good six inches taller than his wife who stood at an adorable five seven. ‘Don’t make you what honey’? She had shaken her head violently and begun sobbing with a hysteria that had alarmed him.
Sarah who had been playing in the corner of the dining room stopped in her normal act of trying to dismantle her Mickey Mouse toy and watched her parents with a wide eyed gaze that would have probably unnerved them if they had seen her. He had managed to calm her down but had never really coaxed her to complete her sentence.
Now, he wondered what she had wanted to say then. How many birthdays had he missed or forgotten? How many valentines had he stayed up late, working? How many times had she had to inform him about doctor’s appointments for their daughter? When had he let his work take over his life and destroy his family right before his eyes? He heaved a shuddering breath as he felt panic tighten its grip on him and looked at the wedding picture that was perched on the side table. Five years of marriage and he had failed. They looked so happy in the picture he just wanted to go back to that day.
Suddenly his gaze fell on the bible next to the wedding picture. It had been a gift from his mother shortly before she died. He barely used it. In fact, his wife used it more than he did. He could count the number of times he had been to church on his fingers and still have plenty fingers left. What did God think about this entire situation? He wondered… then burst into a fit of hysterical laughter. God? He didn’t even believe in one. The bible was his mother’s last and desperate attempt to get him to turn to God as she often said. What God thought in this matter was totally irrelevant. He felt a rage take over him that was mighty in its potency.
He stalked towards the table and picked up the bible. With a roar of pain he flung it far across the other side of the room then started moving round and round like a caged animal ready to attack. The bible lay on the floor with its pages fluttering under the air stirred by the ceiling fan. He walked towards it and was calculating giving it a well calculated kick when his eyes fell on the passage opened up in front of him
‘’I know the plans I have for you, plans of good and not of evil; plans to give you a future and a hope’.
He went limp as if he was a balloon that had just been pricked. Suddenly, he found himself on his knees with bible clutched in his hands sobbing. ‘God, God, God, God, God….’
like a mantra he chanted it over and over again as if hoping he could find some answers in repetition…soon he changed it and began to say ‘God help me’, ‘God help me’ , ‘God help me…’
He felt an awful sense of nothingness overwhelm him and he suddenly remembered one of the verses his mother used to read to him when she put him to bed.
Vanity upon vanity…all is vanity
What had he worked for?
What had he achieved?
The questions threw him into a vortex of depression. His mother had thought him how to pray many years ago and now he struggled to recall some of the prayers she had made him recite. All he could remember were his bedtime prayers… He had to do this…surely God was bigger and could handle this sudden crisis?
He knew no marriage counsellor could help them now…maybe God could? ‘God’, he muttered hoarsely, I’ll do anything… anything… ’just don’t take my wife away from me…don’t take my family away from me…help me keep them…please…please…please…’
He didn’t know how long he was hunched over on his knees when a sound from the front door stirred him out of his soliloquy. It sounded like someone whimpering. Stiffly, he rose to his feet and warily approached the front door. He could hear the sound more clearly. Someone was in distress.
He wrenched the door open and saw his wife sitting on the porch. Her bag was by her side and she was backing the door, shoulders hunched and shuddering. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Lois? He scrambled to her side. His hands hovered over her, afraid to touch her and wanting so much to touch her at the same time.
Lois looked up at him, her eyes red rimmed. ‘Was that what it was going to take to get you back’? She asked in a wobbling voice ‘Oh Lois!! Never had he been so glad to see Mr. Tatters. He had her in his arms instantly, muttering all kinds of promises…and she was hugging him back…she was hugging him back…