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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Life Experience
- Published: 04/06/2016
‘Never too late’
Margery Roe leaned towards her husband and pointed out at the ocean; the sun glinted off her glasses and made a prism rainbow of lights on the small white café table between them.
‘’What kind of a boat is that John?’’ she asked.
‘’I do believe it’s called a catamaran’’ he replied lifting his eyes up from his paper. ‘’Why do you ask?’’
‘’No reason’’ Margery shrugged.
‘’Then why did you enquire of its make or model?’’ John said sternly back, ‘’couldn’t you see I was reading the paper, why ask if you had little or no interest in the vessel.’’
‘’I’m sorry’’ Margery shifted again lowering her voice ‘’But you haven’t spoken to me for over an hour’’ she said watching John as he threw a face while sipping his coffee.
‘’Did you put sugar in my coffee Marg? I clearly said no sugar, didn’t you listen’’ Margery just ignored his last remark and carried on observing the throng of people playing and sun bathing on the beach, secretly wishing she could do the same.
‘’I’m on vacation Marge, we are on vacation’’ John hissed deliberately accentuating the ‘we ‘at her in his usual hoarse cigarette induced voice while shaking his open paper vigorously like a pair of agitated seagulls wings, ‘’so I prefer the quietness, I want to sit and just read without speaking’’ he went on. ‘’I don’t want you troubling me about every damn boat the goes by when it is of no real benefit as to what type is passing. If you continue to disturb me I will walk back to the house and leave you sitting here on your own, do you understand?’’
Margery rolled her eyes and stuck out her lower jaw when he wasn’t looking and silently mocked him. John had not always been so grouchy, she remembered. When they had met at collage he was an ambitious young jock with a mop of auburn curls and a jawline like James Dean. Every girl in her class wanted to be his partner at the summer and Halloween dances, every single boy sought to run and play football just like him. He was popular with the teachers and the ground staff alike. Everybody loved him. Nineteen seventy six was the year they first kissed after a three week boyfriend, girlfriend understanding. John had liked the French variety of kissing, something he had read or heard about in one of those magazines the boys passed around the class, she knew the type. But she never cared for it much herself, she felt like he was trying to massage her tonsils with his tongue. Mostly it just made her feel sick, but he was the most popular boy in school so she thought herself lucky that he was paying her any attention at all, and guys always know more about sex, didn’t they?.
‘Do you feel a chill?’’ John enquired, noticing her shudder as she recalled their love making over the years. John may have been popular, but he was no Casanova in the bedroom department, that was for sure. He never bothered her much anymore that way, thank god, she mused, and she wasn’t complaining, she figured he was getting it elsewhere and that was ok, rather whoever than me, she thought. Besides he had done it before, ten years into their marriage with his secretary at work. A little blond bimbo he had hired, more for her ample bust than her typing skills she was sure. He thought she never knew about the affair, but she was smart enough to see all the signs of a cheating husband, the extra hours at the office, the smell of perfume on his clothes, a variety she never used, and the business weekends away to Las Vegas (she had seen his credit card bills), come on, who buys farm equipment in the desert for Christ sake. Jenny something or other was her name, but she couldn’t remember much more, and anyway it was of no importance, she was sure once he got fed up with her he just moved on to the next one anyhow.
‘’Yes’’ Margery replied with a curt smile ‘’Just someone walking across my grave is all, can I top up your coffee dear?’’ She finished pointing at the small silver pot that the very handsome young waiter had left them earlier. ‘’I’m sure it's gone cold by now.’’
John grunted, then shook his paper again. ‘’No sugar, mind’’ he groaned without looking, leaving Margery to drift back to her lonely thoughts as she poured. ‘’Won't be long now’’ she whispered to herself, topping up his coffee.
‘’Did you say something?’’ John asked her, not bothering to lift his head.
‘’Oh no dear, now drink up’’ she said sliding his cup towards him ‘’Nothing of any consequence’’
The school had won the California Trinity League for the second time in three years, she recalled, and John had been nominated as the most outstanding running back the school had ever produced since the sixties. He was cocky and sure of himself, that much had not changed, but most of all back then he made her laugh with his goofy Jerry Lewis caricatures he would do. Her favorite being Jerome Littlefield in ‘The Disorderly Orderly’ he even knew all the lines off by heart. Now he looked ever more like an aging version of Jerome only with less hair and a pot belly that threatened to burst the buttons on his favorite blue Hawaiian shirt. And they rarely laughed anymore. Their college years were good, mostly, John played football and she was able to secure a place as a cheerleader, largely because of him she was sure, but she didn’t mind, at least she was able to hang around with the clique who followed the team. It made her feel good but she knew she was never really like those plastic Barbie dolls with no brains, she wanted to be a veterinary doctor when she graduated, but heaven forbid she should disclose that to any of them. Socialites, and society wives was their only ambitions, working for a living was not the way, oh no. Yet she fell into that very same trap.
John raised his butt cheeks and blew off onto the plastic chair he was lounging on, generating an accentuated farting sound that made a lady in a white hat sipping a drink from a champagne glass at another table look round and make a face at him; typically he paid her no notice, continuing on, oblivious, to read his paper. It allowed her a half smile; she always found the sound of farting funny but she didn’t want to make it obvious. It was then she observed another boat sail across the horizon, it was a tall ship she knew even though it was quite a ways out with four pearl white sails, she was tempted to ask him what it was, he was smart that way. For a second time she thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie; besides it wouldn’t be long now.
A few months after they graduated John had asked her to marry him. She half expected it, to be honest, yet it was something that may have been instigated by John’s parents, she always thought, but could never prove. His Mother was always going on while they were dating about how she would love a grand child, nonetheless when she mentioned she still wanted to study to be a vet no one was happy about that, most of all Alice. John’s father, John senior, owned and ran a company that manufactured farm equipment, things like steel ploughs and harvesters and he was well known across the whole state of Alabama for it. hell he even had his own advertisement on the local KCM Radio station every evening at six. A catchy little jingle she remembered sung by a barber shop quartette named the Three ‘R’s . So it was a no brainer that John would go and work for his daddy, which he did after a year’s sabbatical while they built their house. She should have taken notice then she thought as to how they say, like father like son, senior was known for his moods and John had grown to be just like him, in more ways than one, so she really should have seen what was coming.
After that they tied the knot at the small Baptist Church in Greenville. she had worn her Mother's dress. She tried hard to remember the tune they sang on the radio as she watched the ship sail by, bits floated in and out making her hum to herself and resist the urge to cap her eyes with her hand against the sun in case John noticed and made some cavernous remark about her failing eye sight now that she had reached forty and being practically over the hill.
John coughed and spat on the ground, interrupting her train of thought regarding the radio jingle.
There was no honeymoon; John senior didn’t think they were necessary ‘A waste of good money’ he declared in his speech at their small wedding reception in the church hall. ‘time and cash better put to building a home‘ was how he put it before drifting off into his well rehearsed monologue, one she had listened to endless times before, of how he was so poor when he was young he didn’t have shoes to wear and all his clothes were hand me downs. Bullshit of course, his family always had money, everyone knew the Roe’s in Butler County Alabama. John senior's Dad Richmond owned the biggest ranch; mind you she had never had the pleasure of meeting John’s grandfather however, he was killed when he got caught up in a newly acquired cotton harvester. Apparently he came out the other end looking like a giant hamburger, terrible thing. She remembered her Maw talking about the accident however and that it got a mention in the papers, but little did she know then she would be related to one of the richest men in the whole state, Maw thought he’d keeled over after having a coronary and then got caught up in it.
John senior passed away five years after they had wed, a massive heart attack they said. Alice found him still sitting on the toilet with his pants around his ankles and his head in his lap when he failed to come down for breakfast. He was motionless, holding the morning newspaper in his hands still lying open at the business section. Rumor was he dropped dead because he took a hit on his hidden money he had ferreted away to avoid paying tax in Latin America, a debt crisis in the early eighties, a boom and bust recession wiped out millions across the globe. Nobody mentioned anything about it, not that she was privy to that kind of information or inclusion. He’d just turned sixty. John took over the business after that and with him being an only child he had full control, his mother was never interested anyway in what her husband got up to so long as she was able to spend money she was happy to let him get on with it. But she went down hill quickly after John senior died, took to the drink for a while until, about a year, Margery tried to think, or 'til her liver gave up, she couldn’t be sure. And that only left the two of them.
Children would have been nice, she thought, but maybe god knew better, maybe he knew that having them wasn’t the right thing for them both. She was fine, she knew that too, but it never happened and she would never have brought up the subject of, well, John's fertility, that’s how it was back then. And in a way it made this easier.
The sun that had been on her shoulders when they sat down to have lunch had now moved onto her back and she felt its warmth through her cotton white dress. Time had passed slowly on their second week on the island of Oahu. She preferred this place more than Honolulu’s busy bustling town, it was quieter and the beaches were nicer. Their vacation home was less than a mile from the small café where they had just ate, they were frequent visitors since they had bought the house, one of the only good things to come from their marriage. She liked to sit and watch the people enjoy the ocean. oh how she wished she had learned how to swim long ago, but maybe it wasn’t too late, besides things were gonna change and soon.
Margery rubbed her temples and sighed as if she was experiencing a sharp piercing pain in her head. time had passed, seventeen years to be precise, and most of them she just went through the motions of being a faithful wife. But lately she had become restless; she had never forgotten her youthful ambitions to be a vet. Her love of animals and her desires to help them when they were sick, yet John wouldn’t even let her have a dog. in every way he had controlled her life from the moment they had met, and she was sick of it. The pain she felt was her own apathy of a wasted life.
Things came to a head a few days after they had arrived; it was John's forty first birthday and she had arranged to take them to dinner to celebrate. They had dined at John’s favorite restaurant close to the beach, enjoying cool white wine and champagne, oysters and fine steaks. John was in a good mood for a change and she had thought this was the right time to express her desires to go back to school, maybe resume her studies. ‘It’s never too late to follow your dream John’ she had said to him across the table after dinner.
She had watched nervously as he leaned back into his chair and lit a cigar, a cloud of white smoke swirled from between his teeth and for a moment he said nothing, she thought that he was about to smile and say how proud he was of her, of how much he loved her and that yes she should follow her dream. Instead his smile became a smirk, his eyes narrowed in disgust and abhorrence at her. ‘’You will never become what you yearn for Margery,’’ he hissed at her. ‘’I own you, and you have nothing without me. forget your stupid dreams, they will never happen.’’
What hurt the most about what he said was, he was right, he had laughed in her face, she did have nothing without him. Margery felt her lip tremble reliving the evening. after dinner they had gone home and she went straight to bed in silence. she knew it was useless to try and talk to him. While she was undressing in their room she could hear John pouring more drinks and even though he had spoken to her that way in the restaurant she knew that meant nothing to him and that shortly he would come in as if every thing was just fine and expect her to be ready for him. But this time she was determined it would be different.
Margery tenderly touched the ridge of her discolored cheek bone with her fingers making her give a little yelp of pain; it was still slightly swollen and sore from John’s fist. Thankfully he had fallen asleep not long after and she had been able to cover up the worst of it with some of her expensive make up. In the next few days she had begun to reflect on how her life might be in another five years, ten years, or longer. Would she still be able to live with a man who constantly changed like the wind, a man who blew hot and cold telling her she was his love each morning while each evening he hated her? What kind of life could that be, but John was right, he possessed her like a man owns a slave.
A small tear found its way from the corner of her eye and stung her grazed cheek, out on the ocean more and more ships had covered the horizon. Too many to count, she could see and it was pointless asking John what type they were because he would be unable to speak anymore. The sun was low in the sky and people were packing up to go home. The air around her felt still and calm and for the first time since she was a young girl she felt that maybe it was never too late to follow her dreams.
Margery unfolded her hand, exposing a small test tube of clear liquid she had been holding there since John had ordered his coffee; he hadn’t seen her dispense three small drops of the liquid into his cup after she poured it for him, he had been too busy reading his newspaper. He had drank it readily and more easily than she had imagined, complaining only of its sweetness. She did not need to read the small label that was wrapped around the cylinder, she knew what it said. To be a Vet she must study not only how to care for the animals but also study the drugs required easing their pain, or their deaths if they are broken beyond repair. She knew the toxin she had chosen would be undetectable in a human but uncertain how long it would take to work. But the counting of the ships and the pleasure she got from watching the people enjoying their lives helped her pass the time.
John had gone quiet about ten minutes ago and his head had slumped forward as if he was just sleeping in his chair, his chest still and unmoving. He didn’t deserve to get away so easily, she thought, but she felt as if she was like the clouds that were now drifting across the small marina, free and light. She placed the tube in her handbag and wrapped it in a small white handkerchief; a small smile graced her face before she called out to the handsome young waiter who was clearing the empty tables around her.
‘’Yes madam’’ he asked approaching ‘’How can I be of service?’’
‘’Could you please call an ambulance’’ Margery feigned a worried look. ‘’I think my husband isn’t breathing, the men in his family all have a history of heart trouble, hurry please.’’
Will Neill 2016