by Lesley Wright
Anthony didn’t really do arguments, Rachel reflected. If she disagreed with him over something, he just went all chilly and tight lipped, and disappeared behind his newspaper or into his study. Last night had been different though. Over dinner he had raised the subject of their summer holiday, saying that he was considering them taking a trip to Belize and Guatemala, to visit some of the fascinating Mayan Temple ruins. Rachel had replied, quite mildly she thought, that she been thinking that it would be lovely to have a different sort of holiday for a change. Anthony had retorted that surely Central America would be very different, since they had not travelled in that direction ever before.
Rachel had had a particularly trying day, and was feeling tired and irritable. The very thought of another long-haul flight, to trek around in yet another hot, sweaty, mosquito-ridden country for weeks so that Anthony could exclaim over ancient ruins, just made her want to scream. She took a deep breath, and said calmly that what she meant by a change was a European holiday, somewhere like Austria, Switzerland or Germany for instance, where temperatures were lower and less exhausting. They could enjoy the scenery of lakes and mountains and beautiful old cities.
“But what historical sites would we find, and what remains of ancient civilizations could we discover?” asked Anthony in tones of disgust.
“Very few, with luck,” Rachel had snapped back, “but numerous signs of modern civilisation with all its pleasures and comforts.”
Anthony had given her one of his superior, disdainful looks, and swept from the room heading for his study. Heart thumping from her unexpected outburst, Rachel had tidied up and gone for a relaxing soak in the bath, accompanied by scented candles to soothe her.
She fell asleep over her book, only to wake at 2am, when she lay there thinking back over her life with Anthony. It was twenty years since they had met at a party in Bristol. She had just graduated and was introduced to this tall, blond, handsome man who exuded confidence. He was a lecturer in the University history department and five years older than her. He invited her to dinner, and she was impressed by his ambitious career plans. He knew just what he wanted in life, and pretty soon she was on his list. He planned everything, and she allowed herself to be carried along. Anthony was so mature and so sure about everything that any doubts she had about marrying after so short a relationship were swept aside.
Their lives together had continued in the same way, with Anthony making most of the decisions. He asked her opinions, but things always went his way, as he was very persuasive, and sure about what they should do. He was very wrapped up in his work, and Rachel had a responsible job in Local Government. He convinced her that children would spoil their relationship and hamper their careers. Their social lives revolved around the university, and she found herself responsible for entertaining his colleagues and visitors from foreign universities on a regular basis. It was hard to keep up with her own friends and family, because Anthony was so busy. He was Professor Grant now, and highly regarded in his special field of Ancient History. Every summer they travelled to countries with antiquities that interested him, and had visited Greece, Italy, Crete, Jordan, Egypt, Iran – the list was endless. Just occasionally, if they were in a decent hotel, she got a couple of hours by the pool, but then Anthony would joke that she secretly yearned to be a package holiday tourist, which was something he despised. She had seen some wonderful sights on those holidays, but she had also been bored, hot and exhausted for much of the time, and now she felt that she had had enough. At last, she slipped into sleep again.
Waking late in the morning, she found that Anthony had already gone off to a meeting. She felt restless and disconsolate. It was Saturday, and she wanted to do something enjoyable, that did not involve food shopping or household tasks. On a sudden whim, she hurried upstairs and packed an overnight bag. She left a brief note to say that she had decided to go away for a couple of days, and then drove away, heading for a small Cotswold town about an hour away. Once there, she checked into a comfortable hotel, and went off to enjoy browsing the shops, and treating herself to a good lunch.
Back at the hotel, she lay down for a rest while she contemplated what had happened, and considered her options. Should she just enjoy a weekend off, and then return home and apologise for flying off the handle? Did she want life to continue in the same way for another twenty years? The answer to both questions seemed to be in the negative. Outwardly, their marriage appeared to be a success, but in reality it had been a great disappointment to her. She and Anthony were not physically, emotionally or intellectually compatible, and it was time to admit it. She thought of all the things that she had enjoyed before she married, that had gradually been given up. Anthony had no interest in music, theatre, art galleries or cinemas. Now she was lucky to fit in her weekly yoga class and so much of the joy seemed to have disappeared from her life that she felt she had shrunk as a person.
Next morning, over a leisurely breakfast, Rachel considered the prospect of being single again. She had an interesting, well-paid job and a decent pension on retirement. She had her own bank account with a healthy balance. She was still only 42, young enough to start again surely. Tomorrow morning, she decided, she would ring the office to say that she would not be in, check out of the hotel, and then visit the solicitor who had an office in the High Street nearby. Her business sign announced that she specialised in divorce, and it was time.
(c) Lesley Wright 2020