Friends

01 May 2012

Trust Not The Vow ...- Chapter 28

Rachel let herself into the house and picked up the mail, while Rex bounded towards the kitchen, as always ready for food. It felt like a million years since she left the house that morning, when she was filled with rare optimism. Going through to the kitchen, she watched Rex drinking water as though taps were running dry. His tail wagged with the pleasure of it. Oh, to be a dog, she thought, as she doled out a further repast of tripe. Food and drink was all it took to make him content. She opened the back door so that he could go out, folded the woolly she'd been carrying round all morning, then hung her keys on the hook in the hall and began to sort the mail. Bills, every one! She stuffed them in the letter rack for Gary.

The telephone did its usual ping before letting rip its demanding peal. Unwilling to respond she stared at it, as if doing so would gag it once and for all. If it was Gary, she would accuse him straight out of lying and interrogate him about the house, but really it would be far better to wait until they came face to face. On the other hand, it might be her mother paving the way for a visit. That was definitely out of the question. Only one person would be welcome today and that was Eric; as a rule his Saturdays were spent visiting the family and he wouldn't want to change an established arrangement on account of her. The strident tones went on and on. She tried to deaf them out, but they irritated too much and she eventually snatched up the receiver.

‘Good day. Is that Rachel?’

The lilting tone was familiar.

‘It's Terry Marshall. Is Gary there?’

He's with you, screamed Rachel's brain. For the second time that day she suffered an uneasy dread.

Terry said: ‘I've only just got back.’

‘Got back?’ Rachel whispered the words.

‘From Brussels. My colleague's fully recovered. It was a long haul for the poor bloke. You can't imagine how seriously glad I am to get back to England.’

So where was Gary? Where was he if he wasn't with Terry Marshall?

The need for answers was like a heavy weight pressing down on Rachel's crown; the onset of palpitations in her chest was fierce. An urgent confrontation was crucial otherwise her doubts would drive her insane. A confrontation for three: Gary, Terry and her, would disentangle the jumble of falsehoods. That is, if Terry would agree to visit. If he did, it would instantly prove who the liar was; there would be no need then for him to come.

The idea of accusing Gary in Terry's presence was appealing, as was the opportunity to watch Gary squirm. He would try to substantiate his stories, he was good at that, but unless Terry could by some miracle fly at great speed across the Dover Straits, he could not possibly be the object of Gary's desire. Therefore, Terry's presence would foil any argument.

‘Would you like to come to dinner?’ she said. ‘Say, Friday evening?’ She chose Friday, because that was when Gary did his ritual bathing in readiness for the weekend diversion … with Terry!

Without hesitation, Terry accepted the invitation and they agreed a time. She would cook something appetising for the occasion, she told him, which she privately considered would be unusually special.

RACHEL spent the evening with Rex at her feet and the whisky bottle in her lap. She held a glass brimming over with undiluted spirit and tried to focus on it as she brought it to her lips, spilling an ample quota in the process. She was drained, having spent hours mulling over the problem of Gary. It was as plain as day that he no longer wanted her … never had, for that matter … but she still hadn’t fathomed why he needed to tell such blatant lies. Images penetrated her stupor. Mario and Gary! Or rather, Mario's head on Gary's body! Whoever it was came dangerously near. She puckered her lips to receive an imaginary kiss, feeling hot lips as if they were real. She stirred seductively, and the whisky bottle slid to the floor. ‘Look, Terry,’ she bawled. ‘Look what he made me do.’

Rex flicked an ear, then wandered out of the living room door.

Senselessly intoxicated, Rachel followed the dog upstairs, kicked off her slippers, and climbed into bed, fully clothed. She hugged and stroked the pillow, and chuckled, vowing to behave herself if it made love to her three times before daybreak. She felt sick and rolled onto her side, hoping the queasiness would go away. Before long she fell into a troubled sleep.

She dreamed Mario was chasing Gary round an Italian lake, brandishing a bronze orb and yelling that he was a regular man. The path veered sharply towards the water but Gary ran on, disregarding Rachel's warning cry. Hampered by wet jeans, his pace slowed. He begged Mario to leave him alone. On the opposite bank, Terry and Ralph stood outside a rather ugly oval shaped spacecraft. They were squabbling about the dangers of smoking. By the phenomenon of illusion, Rachel found herself at the entrance. She tore aside the cobwebs and darted in. Music filled the cabin. Red lights flashed on an instrument panel, then changed to orange and green. After an echoing fanfare, a grave voice broadcast that the penultimate act was about to commence. Rachel found a three-legged stool and sat down. Suddenly, there was Eric, dressed in a magician's black robes, feeding carrots to a white rabbit. Behind him, Gary lounged on a purple couch. His jeans were still wet. Mario was hitting him with the bronze orb, castigating him about his slovenliness, while Ralph loaded Gary's mouth with cigarettes. Terry's role was that of assistant to Eric, and Rachel watched eagerly as ingredients for riddle-solving were piled into a cauldron. After a series of chants and a few waves with a baton, Eric triumphantly extracted a slip of paper. On it, written in blood, was one word: ‘Traitor.’

GARY was reading the paper when Rachel emerged, at an hour when he would normally be elsewhere. Seeing him made her want to strike out, to impale him with corrosive indictments. She guessed she wouldn't after all be able to wait until Terry came to ferret out the truth. Caustically she remarked that he was back early. He looked grim, but made no reply. ‘Couldn't you sleep?’ she asked, determined to labour the point and see how he wriggled out of it.

Gary went straight into an accusative mode. ‘You left the door unbolted all night.’

The best defence strategy is attack.

‘Oh, did I,’ she said, matter-of-factly. ‘It's as well, otherwise you wouldn't have got in.’

Fuming, she trekked into the kitchen and hunted in the drawer for a packet of aspirin. How dare he criticise her when there was so much to condemn him for. Furiously, she seized the kettle and stuck it under the tap. She needed an injection of caffeine to deal with the forthcoming cross-examination. After taking three aspirin tablets, she sat on the stool to wait for the water to boil. Her knees felt singularly weak, her stomach decidedly indisposed, though she couldn't be sure if it was the effect of too much whisky or the prospect of conflict. She brushed the back of her hand across her brow and blinked hard to dismiss the gathering tears. Weeping wouldn't help. She needed to be astute when facing Gary with Terry's giveaway call. She made the tea and covered the pot with a cosy, letting it brew for a while. Strong and sweet was what she needed, lots of tannin to line her stomach, lashings of sugar to take the taste away.

Rustling newspaper in the next room presented her with a sense of urgency. Gary could be planning to go out again. If she didn't make haste, the opportunity might be lost. Briskly, she poured tea into her favourite mug: decorated with fairies, a gift from Eric at Christmas. It gave her confidence for what she was about to do; maybe the connection with Eric was transmitting his courage to her. Stirring in three heaped spoonfuls of sugar, she took the mug in both hands and eased herself off the stool. Taking a deep breath, she sauntered to the open doorway.

Watching Gary closely, Rachel leaned on the sideboard to make the announcement. ‘Terry rang yesterday,’ she said, and was pleased to see his genuine mortification and the way he writhed as he scoured his brain for an excuse. Intent on making him quail, she went on, ‘He's back from Brussels.’

Gary's eyes were riveted on his slippered feet. He grunted, evidently at a loss for words.

Feeling in complete control, Rachel drank her tea. For the first time in their relationship she had the upper hand. She was no longer bewitched. ‘I invited him to dinner,’ she said. ‘I thought Friday might be good, since that's your night in.’

Gary continued to inspect his feet.

Rachel walked to the table and put down her mug. ‘So,’ she said, her face deadpan and her voice flat. ‘Where were you last night?’

Gary brought his eyes up to hers and in a low, reluctant voice he professed to having stayed on at her mother's.

Friday and Saturday!

Nausea returned to the pit of Rachel's gut. She clenched her hands at her sides. ‘What for?’

‘I told you when I rang.’

Rachel exploded. ‘The truth,’ she shouted. ‘You surely haven't been moving furniture non-stop since Friday night.’

A guarded expression masked Gary's face, preventing Rachel from discerning the true state of his mind. Thus, she had no inkling of what was to follow.

Leaving his chair, Gary went to stand by the fireplace. He stood with his legs astride, one hand fingering the edge of the carved mantelpiece. Then, ashen-faced, one hand gripping his other arm, he turned to face her. Impulsively, she held out her hand, thinking he was in for a heart attack.

Gary overlooked the gesture. ‘You'd better sit down, Rachel,’ he said.

This is it, Rachel thought, idiotically noticing that the landscape picture was askew. This then was the end. She had gone too far, asking for honesty. She felt Gary's warmth as she sank into the chair he’d vacated, the lingering smell of hair oil on the cover. A whisky bottle was near the hearth, inches from Gary's foot. Rachel sat perfectly still, taking in the silence, using it to conserve what remained of her equilibrium. The chief mug-fairy graciously smiled. If she stayed as quiet as her, maybe the trepidation would pass.

‘Amy and I are lovers.’

The trepidation didn’t pass. It grew, slowly, to a ghastly height, in keeping with the enormity of the confession. Icy tentacles crept up to strangle Rachel's heart. A surge of vomit filled her gullet. She raced to the bathroom, falling up the stairs in her haste. She made it in time, dropping to her knees and disgorging sour smelling, whisky laden sick into the toilet pan.

In between bouts of biliousness, she lay curled on the bathroom floor, holding a blue towel to her mouth, one hand pressed against her abdomen, repeatedly enunciating the word Lovers, LOVERS, L-O-V-E-R-S. But none of the utterances diminished the immensity of the shocking revelation. She knew the situation was here to stay. Had she sufficient mettle to fight back?

LATER ON, Rachel conversed with Gary as though they were two sensible adults dealing with a tricky but solvable quandary. ‘Why did you marry me?’ she asked. She really wanted the answer to that one.

‘I needed a permanent excuse to be near Amy.’

She shivered with nerves. ‘You didn't love me then.’

‘I did. I do,’ Gary cried.

‘But only as a friend?’ Her nails dug into her palms.

Gary had the courtesy to look remorseful as he mumbled an affirmative.

‘What about Dad? Did he know?’ Rachel would kill him there and then if the answer was yes.

‘Good Lord, no.’

Slowly, she exhaled. ‘And that's why you married me, to take heat away?’

Gary nodded.

NOW that she knew the facts, the questions that flew into her mind were no longer important. Not any more. She felt bathed in a healing balm. Picking up the fairy-mug, she traced the outline of a flower-petal skirt. She still possessed a desire to inflict the same agonies on Gary as he had on her but the longing to escape, to proceed to the next stage of her life was too overpowering. What that stage was, she had no idea; nor, surprisingly, did she care.

(to be continued)

9 comments:

Brian Miller said...

oh goodness, i was all excited for her to confront him and then my stomach dropped...ugh how quick those tables turned...great continuation val....

Akelamalu said...

I knew it!!!! The baby's Gary's isn't it???

Montanagirl said...

Oh my - what a strange turn of events! I believe she should disclaim her mother and Gary both, and move on with her life.

Ron said...

I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!

I had a suspicion a few weeks ago that Amy and Gary were together!!!

And bet the baby is his!!!!!!

GREAT turn, Valerie!!!

Oooooo....I can't WAIT to read what happens next!!!

Have a terrific Tuesday, dear lady!

X

Valerie said...

Hi everyone. For obvious reasons I can neither confirm nor deny. It is a case of wait and see :O) ... not much further to go now.

Denise said...

Yes!!! Can't wait for the next installment. Thanks for the quote on my suet cake mystery. Yes, my cage has been torn apart too, quite a few times :)

An English Shepherd said...

Well what happens next...!

HermanTurnip said...

"‘Amy and I are lovers.’"

SHOCKER! Wow! That....I....just....didn't see that coming.

*golf clap*

Well done!

Bernie said...

Yes, I thought so. What a delightful story. I am looking forward to how it will all work out and come together soon. Thank you my friend, so enjoying this. xo