Later that day in an evening marked out by routine: a self constructed prison made of ritual she laid the food out on the table. Two pork chops with some vegetables neatly displayed on the plate . Her husband smiling, and pretending to ignore her turmoil, poked the cooked meat with his fork, “Lovely. Just the way I like it” It’s what he said. It’s what he always said. She pushed her arms as if through water, smiling despite the facts. “Shall we watch some TV.” Soon noise filled out the conversation.
That night he laid down beside her, keeping safely at a distance. It was their unspoken agreement. He who had become her sweet and innocent mistake, with neither malice nor stratagem, lacking nothing but direction: guilty only of pleasantries slide off into sleep. She lay trawling through the day’s events. Meeting Bill at the hotel, still the same but somehow different. Older yes but more self-contained. Warm but without agenda. Asking and offering nothing. Talking of his travels and listening to her problems with a kindness mixed with rectitude.
He was not to be her cavalry. The rescuer from her obscure despair: the beacon from some distant fort. Her steps, once sure, had led her nowhere. What had she wanted ? Just some girl who struck out on the wrong pilgrimage, worshiping some god who was never in the building. Her husband, irritatingly without fault or drive, and had failed to offer more than pleasantries. That dream of reaching for adventure. Of dining out with men of interest. Of being slightly more than average, had dwindled to a distant longing till Bill sprang out of some newspaper offering a new horizon.
Her husband’s crime was not being quite good enough. Of settling for second-rate. Of dwelling on the search for safety . What she once thought was verbal brilliance proved to be mere repartee.
In the morning he bought her tea and showered as he always did. Quiet perhaps, but not unusually so. She prepared for work. Custom managed everything, till she turned to him, asking as he left, “What would you like to eat this evening”. “Oh, don’t worry about that”, he said, ” I’m leaving you” . The door closed cutting off her reply.