This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 844 words.
George waited as his wife appeared to be composing her thoughts into words. He had no idea why she wanted a serious talk, or what that might be about. When she started talking, he was genuinely shocked.
“I think we need to talk about splitting up, George. Ever since you retired it is obvious to me that we have so little in common. I don’t want to travel around the country every week, and I have my own hobbies and friends that hold nothing of interest to you. When we were both working, we went through the motions, because that’s what people do, isn’t it? But stuck together in the house day in and day out, surely you can see that it has all become rather pointless?”
He didn’t know what to say in reply, so sipped the hot tea carefully and waited for her to continue.
“It’s not that we don’t love each other, but that love has become a habit. There is no passion, no spark, we don’t even really argue. Every day was the same, at least until recently. Then you bought that silly car and started travelling around, and I think that’s when I realised we certainly don’t want the same things out of life. The house is worth twenty times what we paid for it all those years ago, and we don’t owe a penny to anyone. We could sell up and both buy a nice flat, as well as having some money left over. There would be no need not to see each other, we could remain friends, but I suddenly feel the need for some freedom, to explore something different in life. Much like you have been doing, but in another way”.
She seemed relieved, almost as if she had made a confession. Her face relaxed, and she managed a smile.
“What do you think, love? It must make sense to you, I’m sure. Think about it for a while while I do some of my crochet in the dining room, and we can talk later”.
Left on his own with his thoughts, George was conflicted. A new flat and freedom to do anything sounded good to him, but he also liked the comfortable life, the company in the evenings, and he loved their house. He was sure they could work something out around staying together, each doing their own interests and still being a couple. When Eileen came back into the room an hour later, that was exactly what he said to her. Her reaction was surprising.
“That won’t work for me, I’m afraid. I have given it a lot of thought, and quite frankly, I don’t need your approval to do what I want. I have made an enquiry about renting a place until the house is sold, and we need to get someone in from town to value the house and put it on the market. Let’s not waste our latter years in retirement by dragging this out, George. You can stay here if you want, but you will have to agree to show potential buyers around, and keep the house tidy. Or if you prefer, you can take on the rental flat, and I will stay here. What do you say?”
For the first time in his life, George felt rage. Not annoyance or irritation, not even anger. Pure rage. Then he did something he had never even thought he would do.
Standing up, he walked to where his wife was sitting and slapped her hard across her face. Harder than he had intended, hard enough to knock her out of the armchair onto the floor. As soon as he realised what he had done, he felt terrible. But it was too late, he could see that in her face as she got slowly to her feet.
“That is never going to happen again. You are going to have to leave today, and take on the rental flat. Stay in a hotel until you sign the papers, I don’t care what you do. I am going upstairs to pack some of your things, and I don’t want you to speak to me”. Her face contorted into something resembling a sneer.
“Now I didn’t want to tell you this, but I have been seeing someone. A younger man, a man who makes me feel desired and alive. I want to continue to see him, so that’s it. We are over”.
She was at the top of the stairs by the bedroom door when he caught up to her. He wanted to shake some sense into her, vent the frustration he felt. But as he reached out to grab her, his hand caught the material of her dress and tipped her backwards. He watched as if in a dream as his wife tumbled past him down the stairs, falling over and over until she hit the bottom step. When he walked down, he noticed something strange. Her head was facing the wrong way.
Even someone with no medical knowledge whatsoever could tell her neck was broken.