(Fulfilling a request from Lillian to show this short story. Apologies to those who read this before.)
‘I dated your son for five years, five years and one month to be exact.’
Kay Bennett looked up from her laptop and wondered if she should continue with her plan; it had taken long enough to type even one sentence.
Feeling despondent she clicked Save and leaned back to think what to say next. She could hardly say she and Roger had met up a tree or that she was playing Jane to his Tarzan. It was the truth but no-one would believe it.
Although the windows were gaping the room seemed airless. Kay jerked open the neck of her blouse and prayed for cooler weather. Roger had written a poem about her room but it was totally untrue. He made it sound glamorous instead of being littered with magazines and generally untidy. Every day she vowed to clear everything away before he came but there were usually remnants of the last meal on show, dishes unwashed, the kitchen table a dumping place for jars of Marmite or Marmalade, depending on what time he arrived. Yes, the poem was totally misleading but as Roger said, an estate agent would appreciate it if they decided to set up home together. Kay knew he would sulk if she told him she could never sell the house. It was her parents’ home; her mother would turn in her grave if she thought her cottage was being abandoned.
Of course, Roger’s mother knew about his poet’s mind and unique sense of humour. But she couldn’t know how they teased and taunted each other, each trying to outdo the other with wit and poetic lines. His penchant for rhyme gave him top dog status, at least in Kay’s eyes. He won the game with poetry and won her heart in the process.
Kay looked aimlessly around the room. The outfit she was to wear that night was hanging on the door; an inappropriate dress for her figure but she’d managed to squeeze into it at rehearsal. It would be her first solo role, the part of a shop girl.
If she hadn’t joined the drama group she and Roger would never have met. The room was filled with mementos of different plays. Hanging on the wall by the fireplace was a framed bill board announcing a performance of Blythe Spirit in which Kay and Roger had tiny roles, their first time in a new partnership. They had been teamed together from the start. She was Cinderella to his Prince Charming, Juliet to his Romeo. They were so right together, a perfect alliance. The prompt jokingly complained there was nothing to do when she and Roger were on stage.
Roger said he had fallen in love with her during a performance of Love Story. He had leaned across her sick bed and quietly declared that he had never seen anyone so beautiful. He said it with such feeling, his voice trembling with emotion that Kay couldn’t be certain if he was still playing a part or if he really meant it. He assured her afterwards he meant every word.
And now, feeling the agony of parting, she knew she’d been nothing more than a gullible fool.
Kay wanted to tell his mother that it was entirely her fault. Her continual denigration had sent him in search of a dream; one they’d enjoyed together for five years and one month. Kay could tell her it was selfishness that made her attack her son’s activities. She knew she would never lose him but she couldn’t resist aiming blows at his self-esteem. He was a devoted son so Kay could only put it down to insecurity on his mother’s part. She would have felt even more insecure if she’d known what was going on.
Needing air, Kay left her desk and pushed the window further out. Birds were swapping places at the feeding station, blue tits, a robin, and a swanky woodpigeon trying to edge his way in. The garden had sprung into life. She gazed at the marigolds lining the edge of the small, tidy lawn, took in the new rose on a bush she’d once thought was dying. Did beauty ever really die, she wondered? Leaving the window open, she turned back to the room.
There was a pile of photographs on the coffee table. She was going to sort them out the night before but her heart wasn’t in it. Memories got in the way of the healing process but it had to be done. The decision had to be made whether to keep them or … or what? Roger certainly wouldn’t want them and, if he did, his meddling mother would only throw them away.
Squatting on a rattan stool, pushing an empty coffee cup to one side, she selected a picture of herself with Roger and Roger’s dog. They walked Bessie in the park three evenings a week. The animal was never happier than when she ran wild around the trees and chased daring rabbits until she flopped exhausted at Roger’s feet. Perhaps she should keep that one; the dog hadn’t done her any harm.
The gifts Roger gave her were heaped in piles. DVDs, romantic films they both cried over, books, birthday cards she’d held close to her heart, the purple fur mules, silk scarf, and a gold chain bracelet. And of course, the photographs!
Selecting a more recent snapshot Kay gazed at the countenance of the man she had adored for five years and one month. And still did, even though he had now vacated her life. He looked so handsome in his business suit, the one taken in a hotel room, looking e HHHHe …slightly ill at ease because of his preference for more casual clothes. The less the better in her view since his body was that of a sun worshipper, lean and bronzed, with no sign of an ageing flab.
There was nothing they didn’t know about each other, no area left unexplored. Likes, dislikes, concerns and worries were shared, support given when business matters needed careful thought, praise when things went right.
Holidays were zealously planned until the time came, when enthusiasm quickly turned to reluctance as they went their separate ways. Roger with Mother and Kay with a friend. Wardrobes were examined, items discarded if they no longer fit the tune of their lives. He helped with the shopping; wanting to choose the colour and style of her outfits, examining his choice in the long fitting-room mirror. Kay smiled at the memory and the insaneness of it all, but the smile faded when she remembered her impulsive suggestion that he let his mother go away on her own while he came away with her.
Fingering one of the CDs, Kay silently reminisced. Their love of music was a shared experience, quickly realised when Roger turned up at her door armed with CDs from his own collection. Every one already on her list of favourites. Kay remembered the first one they played together, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers … Islands in the Stream. It was claimed as their song and they rocked in unison whenever the CD was played.
Suddenly compelled to hear her favourite, Kay reached for another disc and took it to the record player, leaning against the wall as the music tumbled into her mind: Somewhere Out There. She remembered the tingling that crept over her as they listened, hand in hand, sitting close on the green rug in front of the fire. It was Kay’s first sign that she was truly in love. Listening to it now was pure torture. Impulsively stopping the music she hurried across the room, back to the computer, cursing when she saw it had gone into hibernation. Quickly pressing the button, she brought it bring it back to life, began to type.
Angry words bristled around her brain as her fingers raced over the keyboard. “YOU NEVER KNEW THE HALF OF IT,’ she wrote. ‘YOU NEVER KNEW IT WAS ME HE TURNED TO WHEN YOU HARASSED HIM ABOUT HIS WORK.’ She paused to wipe a single tear sliding down her cheeks; then sat, elbows on the desk, hands covering her face, giving way to grief.
There were bad times. Roger’s important job gave him headaches and he could have done without the continual hassle. He frequently had to juggle the amount of time he had to give to his work with the demands of life with Mother. He was in a real dilemma when things went wrong at home. Sometimes he couldn’t think straight. He often said his head was in turmoil and he didn’t know which way to turn. Kay had the not unpleasant task of soothing away his troubles. She was good at that. She always seemed to know the right words to use.
Kay was appalled at the amount of chores he was expected to do, the sort of chores best done by women – laundry, ironing, and other general household tasks. Having to juggle a responsible job and maintain the domestic arrangements wasn’t fair. It was fine for women, they had supreme organising talents.
So what was wrong with the woman who bore him? She wasn’t infirm and her work, whatever that was, only took up a few hours a week. Kay had to bite her tongue when he talked about it, reminding herself that she was the pacifier. It wouldn’t have been any use nagging and telling him to act like a man instead of a mouse. Though she had to admit it had crossed her mind. In her darkest moments it occurred to her that she was the sop he needed rather than the woman he desired above all else. Kay dabbed her eyes with a tissue to stop more tears spilling out.
It was a long time before they got round to sex. In the beginning it was just talk. Kay had been reluctant to give herself to a man before marriage so they contented themselves with teasing, cheeky innuendos. Some merely made her laugh; some made her want to pursue the margins of temptation. They agreed that she shouldn’t go where she felt uncomfortable. Photographs changed her ideas. Seeing him undressed, his manhood rearing, she soon wanted the real thing. They began to experiment, to see how long they could last before their bodies exploded with desire. At those times Roger said he couldn’t live without her. Certainly Kay felt she couldn’t live without him. Only now did she recognise that Roger was a mother’s boy. Only now did she realise how much her life would be ruined if they married.
But nothing lasts forever. At his home the domestic row that had been brewing for weeks finally erupted. The situation was serious. Kay never heard the full story and never will. Roger abruptly pulled the plug. All Kay had now was silence … and memories. It happened two months ago and she was only now getting used to the pain of abandonment. Never again would she hear his voice or see his beautiful face. It was time to exist without him. And she would.
During those months Kay had done a lot of thinking. It had come as a shock to realise how much she’d been used. She’d been a fool, a pawn in the game he played to thwart his mother. The knowledge didn’t alleviate the hurt or relieve her shame.
The screensaver on the laptop showed a picture of Roger, taken when he was sunbathing in France, the white swimming briefs bulging in such a way that Kay’s thighs jumped. ‘Never again Roger,’ she whispered as she set about removing his image from her screen.
‘I dated your son for five years, five years and one month to be exact’
Seeing those words again she began to type, finishing the sentence. ‘….. and I have great pleasure in handing him back.’
She wouldn’t send it, but it did her good to say it. The affair was over. No more intrigue, no more Roger, no more father of her unborn child. It was all an act, drama without end, the performance of his life. But her role would continue. There must be no more tears, there were plans to make, a future to face, a child to love. Lifting her eyes heavenwards Kay prayed she would never be as possessive and suffocating with her own offspring.
Goodbye Roger. Take good care of your mother.