Monday, 14 October 2013

The Necklace

There was no escape. Emma sang along to U.2’s ‘With or Without You’ and meant every word.
He was poison in her veins, a dark lust in her blood, a bright stain across her life. His danger had drawn her, a stranger down a dark alley promising riches. The safety of his embrace had kept her.
“You are in a pickle.” Said her sensible friend Jenny.
“Got any advice for me?”
“The same advice as I’ve been giving you for the last three years.” Jenny laid a hand on Emma’s arm. “Ditch him.”
“I can’t.”
She couldn’t. It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried. Every so often the tension would build to screaming point and she would let him have it. He was selfish. He only wanted her for one thing. She was just a bit of recreation for him, a break from his boring, frigid wife. And, by the way, if his wife really meant so little to him, why did she still call the shots? A mistress’ standard complaints; a cloned tirade.
Then she would say: “That’s it. I’ve had it. Find yourself another girlfriend” and he would calmly take her in his arms and whisper words of adoration, of a future he would carve out for them both, if she would just trust him a little longer... Of faraway places and long nights of peace, a time to love one another without interruption, ration or shame. And he would kiss the trail of her tears. Only you, my darling. Please don’t leave me. Only you.
With such words he kept her. Then he promised to make it up to her in some way, taking her out to dinner or sneaking her off for a weekend away
and she would forget all the reasons why she couldn’t live with herself any more. The healing whispers of skin on skin drawing her back into his enchanted world, where no-one would ever find them. Safe in this world, there was no place for the ‘little things’, the trail of clues that lead to the inescapable fact that there was no place for her in his real life. That their enchanted world would one day melt away to nothing under the burning sun of their daily betrayal.
“He’s using you.” Said Jenny.
“He’s not. He loves me. Look at this beautiful necklace he just bought me.”
“Evidence of ownership.”
“Actually,” she said defensively, “it was a birthday present.”
“Your birthday was a month ago. Don’t tell me, he forgot it until you casually dropped it into conversation.”
She didn’t answer.
Forgotten birthdays, cancelled dates, times interrupted by phone calls: “Sorry, darling. I’ve got to get back. Fiona wants my input on picking out new curtains for the lounge.” The ‘too much information’ of his domestic life; she was used to it all. The little things.
Still, it was a beautiful necklace. She looked at it now, a silver locket, Victorian-looking, encrusted with marcasite and garnets.
“That must have cost a bit!” She exclaimed when he had given it to her, on their last weekend away - after she had, as Jenny guessed, dropped hints about her missed birthday. “Where did you get it?”
“Never you mind, darling.”
It would be too cheesy to put a photo of the two of them in it, of course. Not to mention indiscreet. Perhaps she didn’t need a photo – the locket itself surely proved that he loved her, didn’t it? Something so beautiful...
Jenny said she should give him an ultimatum. “Tell him: it’s her or me.”
“I wouldn’t do that to him.”
“No, you wouldn’t do that to yourself, because you think he would probably choose her. Am I right?”
“No. You’re not.”
Jenny looked at her sadly. “Husbands never leave their wives for their girlfriends, you know that. So, pre-empt it. Leave him. You’re worth more than his crap, Emma.”
Jenny was wrong about him. He loved her, not his wife; he told her so all the time. But she couldn’t help being curious about Fiona, the wife she had never met, her unseen nemesis. The woman who pulled her strings from afar. She had a picture in her head, a comforting one, of someone frumpy, a couple of stone overweight, ugly glasses and sensible shoes... But, somewhere in her subconscious, she knew this was the wrong picture. Had she seen her before?
Then she remembered. He had given her a card the Christmas before they got together, when he was still just the boss she had a crush on. It featured a photograph of him with his family, wife and two boys, smiling with smug contentment at her: We’ve got each other. What have you got?
Emma rifled through her dressing table drawer, home of everything pointless she couldn’t bring herself to throw away. Old love letters. Orders of Service for weddings. Nauseating Christmas cards.
She found it. There he was with his boys, Jonathon and Callum, who were grinning like they’d sprinkled methamphetamine on their cornflakes instead of sugar. And there was Fiona.
She was beautiful. Blond and elegant, her blue eyes sparkling into the camera, a perfectly manicured hand placed territorially on her husband’s shoulder.
Emma stared at the photo and his real life stared back at her accusingly. There’s no place for you here.
She looked more closely. Around Fiona’s elegant neck hung a silver locket, garnets and marcasite, mock-Victorian and very familiar...
The phone rang. It was him.
“Hello, darling! Fiona’s taking the kids to her mother’s, later. Shall I come over?”
Her heart trembled at the sound of his voice, an echo of emotion. Then she heard her own voice, cool and controlled:
“Sorry, I’m busy tonight. I’m doing some internet research to find out how much I can get for a rather nice silver locket some cheapskate gave me when he forgot my birthday.” She crumpled up the card she was still holding in her hand. “One previous owner.”

The copyright of this post belongs to Alison Stickings. 22.9.13

No comments:

Post a Comment