Lost Love’s Legacy
Kathy was dreading it, even as she put on her favourite red silk dress, she wondered why she’d ever agreed to go. Standing in front of the mirror staring at her reflection she noticed the odd grey hair.
Not bad for an old ‘un she thought, turning her still slim body this way and that.
She heard Ted jangling the car keys in the hall, he hated to be late. Steady Eddie her father had called him. He’ll never set the world on fire her mother had said and she’d been right. She sighed, nothing for it but to go. If only it was anyone but Ricky Delaney. Her stomach clenched at the name and vivid memories of adolescent yearning flooded her mind. She took one last look in the mirror, forcing herself to smile.
Ricky Delaney’s Retirement Do was being held in a smart hotel on the other side of town.
“It’s only one evening,” Ted said when she confessed that she had no interest in going.
“But I won’t know anyone” she said, “I’ll have no-one to talk to.”
“Of course you’ll know people. You’ll enjoy it once you get there.” He sounded just like her mother. She recalled the dances in the village hall that she’d been forced to attend when she was sixteen. She’d got her ‘couldn’t care less’ impression down to a fine art during hours spent imitating a wallflower.
“You can’t always have what you want” her mother would say, “You have to make the most of what you’ve got.”
What have I got she thought. A husband who falls asleep in front of the telly every night and three children scattered all over the world. But that wasn’t what weighed her down. Not the crux of the matter.
“Let’s get to the crux of the matter” her mother used to say. No, the crux of the matter was that Ted himself would be retiring next year. He’d be home all day, wanting to do things together. Her heart sunk further at the thought of it.
Since taking early retirement she’d made her life her own, had her routines and her freedom. The visits to the Galleries, coffee with friends, long walks and painting. Now it was all coming to an end, she saw herself like the women in the post office queue, moaning about their husbands being ‘under their feet all day’. She shuddered at the prospect.
Ted stopped the car in front of the Hotel entrance. A uniformed valet sprang forward to open her door and drove the car away to the park.
She took a deep breath as they walked up the steps into the plush Reception, her feet sinking into the blue and gold carpet. It was obvious that no expense had been spared, no wonder Ted was so eager to attend.
At dinner she found she was not the only wife brought out of mothballs for the occasion and afterwards she was pleasantly surprised to see Sheila, an old friend and one time wife of Ricky Delaney.
“So, Romeo Rick’s retiring” Sheila said, sipping champagne, “Have you seen him lately?”
“No, not for years.” Kathy held her glass to her lips but didn’t elaborate further.
“Didn’t you go out with him, before you hooked up with Ted?” Sheila’s sidelong glance told Kathy that it was a rhetorical question.
Kathy’s mind flew back to the year she left school. Ricky Delaney was the black sheep of his family, the badest boy in the school and so heart-stoppingly handsome that girls wilted and whimpered in his presence. Kathy had wanted him more than she’d ever wanted anything in her life and she’d do anything to get him. And he knew it.
He played her like a delicate instrument, teasing one moment, serious the next. He chased her in private and ignored her in company. He flirted outrageously with other girls while she watched then swore she was the only one for him when they were alone. He wound her up and let her down, he made promises he never kept and the worse he treated her the more she thought she’d die for him. Finally he took her most precious gift, saying that it would bind them together forever, then left her. Her stomach churned at the memory but her treacherous heart still raced at the thought of him.
It was Ted who picked up the pieces.
Just then trumpets sounded a fanfare and the man himself took centre stage.
“Changed a bit hasn’t he?” said Sheila, delight dancing in her china blue eyes. “Still, I suppose four marriages, an alcohol addiction and two breakdowns does that to a man.” There was no disguising the bitterness in Sheila’s voice.
“I wouldn’t have recognised him.” Kathy recoiled at the vision in front of her. Her handsome hero was old, bloated and decidedly debauched. Kathy gulped several mouthfuls of champagne, trying to stop the thoughts teaming through her brain.
“He’s always been a bit of a shit you know.” Sheila made no attempt to hide her contempt. “Not like your Ted, salt of the earth your Ted.”
Kathy took a deep breath.
“He’s always talking about you you know, Ted, always saying how bright and clever you are. What I wouldn’t give for a man like that.” Sheila sighed.
“Really?” Kathy glanced over to where Ted was standing with a group of his colleagues. A burst of laughter rippled through the group and carried across the room.
Kathy knew that they were laughing at something Ted had said and she suddenly remembered how funny he used to be, how he always made her laugh even when times were hard. She remembered how he used to surprise her with flowers or chocolates or even outings that he’d arranged to places her knew she wanted to go, even if they bored him rigid. She recalled his overwhelming joy when each of their children were born, making her feel like the cleverest most important person in the universe and her heart swelled in her chest until she could hardly breath.
As she looked across at him he turned his head and his eyes met hers. He winked and the rest of the room faded into the background, as if they were the only two people in the room. She couldn’t help smiling.
‘He’ll never set the world on fire’ her mother had said. No Mum, but he’ll always be there for me she thought.
“What’s your secret?” Sheila asked, sipping her champagne.
“Secret?” Kathy smiled. “The secret is to pick the right man in the first place.”
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