I stood by the gate, sheltering under my umbrella. I could see his frame behind the window, a menacing shadow of bitterness and sufficiency, a real bastard you could say and you would be very close to the truth.
Adrian and I were once married, a lifetime ago. The gate that leads to the house is the path I took every day to the front door and for fifteen years this grand estate was also mine. How I adored this routine in all seasons now seems unimaginable but for a long time it was my greatest pleasure. The trees and shrubs lining the alley were a delight for the senses comes rain or sunshine, changing colours as time went by, offering an array of sensations of the most wonderful variety. The hues of autumn, the blossoms of spring, the scents of summers and the glittering whites of winter never ceased to amaze me. Now, all is lost, desperately lost, myself included and yet I cannot bear to let go of the place. It has been two years since “the accident” and even though I am not prone to resentment I cannot forgive or forget what this man did to me.
We had purchased the property with the money my father had left me. I must warn you, ladies never to marry without drawing up a contract as you may find that property acquired after the marriage or anything you buy during your marriage belongs to both of you, even if you pay for it alone. That’s what happened to me. Following two happy years of wedded bliss, my father suddenly passed away, my mother having departed this earth a long time ago. I was heavily pregnant then and when the child was borne we were ready to move into our new home. The next couple of years were happy enough, Adrian was rarely absent and when he was it never was for more than a few days. The little one might have been three years old when his father disappeared for a whole month. The police were not really interested as no reports were found that he had been involved in an accident or killed or kidnapped. As far as they were concerned he may do as he wishes without the need to inform the immediate family. When Adrian returned he was not the same man; he was so distant and short tempered to that I took care never to be alone with him. Fortunately, between our little one, the gardener, Cook and the nanny that did not happen often. I was baffled to understand how a loving husband could turn into a tyrant but I know now that the first persona was fake and that I met the real Adrian when the going got tough. One thundery night, he came home drunk and smelling of sex. I had never refused him could not understand why he would have been looking elsewhere to satisfy his manly desires. Yet that night I had to admit that not only had he been in female company but that it did not stop him beating me. At the time I assumed it was a one off and put it down to his having been very drunk but as weeks passed, I had to realise that his outings were frequent and upon his return he would systematically seek me out to give me a piece of his mind. If I mentioned anything about it the next day he would threaten to beat the life out of me if I ever dared speak to anyone about it. By that time, I was so scared that I started sleeping in the nursery but that did not stop him. Oh, he was very clever Adrian, he always made sure not to hit my face or arms but he did justice to the rest of my body. I did not dare go to the doctor in case he would find out. I felt trapped and I was scared that he would hurt the baby as he threatened to do so if I ever uttered a word of what was going on at home to any living soul.
Months went by following the same hideous pattern. I discovered that his expeditions were to a young woman living a few doors down the road. What lies he would have told her to gain access to her bedroom I dare not think but now I could discretely study his mistress when he was not around. The young lady was called Emma Wilson, not a very original name I thought but further research taught me that she was in fact the heiress of a vast estate in the north and was due to become an incredibly rich woman in time. Why she let herself be seduced by my ordinary husband was beyond my grasp but knowing his love of money I suspected he had developed a personality to match his aspirations. His good looks would have helped but they were not enough to justify the liaison. I took great care not to ask him any questions or complain of his regular absences and the beating stopped but I was careful not to rock the boat. One morning I opened his bank statement and discovered that he had spent a lot of money – my money – buying flowers, jewellery and pieces of art that never passed through our front door. In fact, in a period of one month he had managed to purchase items totalling $30,000. Rather than him finding out that I had been snooping in his affairs, I burnt the statement. What I did next is perhaps irrational but I left the house and headed to an old friend of mine. I had left a note for Adrian explaining that I had to visit an old relative of mine who had suddenly become very ill. I was hoping he’d believe it as I had sometimes mentioned a great aunt or a distant cousin which he had never met. My friend was very supportive of me and took great care of my every need but I could not stay and after ten days headed back to my home, my child and to my regret the husband I now hated with all the fury of a broken heart.
When I arrived, there was no sign of anyone. I rang the bell several times but no one came to the door. My own key would not work and my only option was to call the house from a phone box. The phone rang for a considerable time and I was about to give up when a voice I recognised – not the maid the cook or the nanny but my very own husband – answered!
“Adrian, I have just returned from visiting my great aunt and there does not seem to be anyone at home and my key won’t work.”
“Ah if that isn’t the lovely Alice! Nice to hear from you. No, your key won’t work because the locks have been changed and the staff have been dismissed. Your child is in a coma following a fall down the staircase and the doctors say that he is so severely injured that he won’t last the week. I have started divorce procedures but as I didn’t know where you were couldn’t serve them to you. In case you were wondering why, the fault is all yours for abandoning your home. You understand I had no other choice.”
His voice is shilling and I am trying desperately to get some sense out of this.
“What do you mean I abandoned my home? I Never did! I lefty you a note and told the staff where I was.”
“It is too late for explanations, just provide an address so we can proceed with the divorce and don’t bother trying to get in. It’s all over!”
And with that note he ended the call. He never picked up the phone again and I had to get myself alternative accommodation. My next visit was the hospital where my child lay asleep and out of danger.
Try as hard as I could, and I turned every stone, he won on every count and got himself the property and everything in it. These were hard months but my son did not die although he went through traumatic days at the hands of his father. Now after the results from the private detective I hired and serving him his own papers, I want to see the look on his face when he realises that not only I have regained everything but that his mistress has mysteriously decided to end their relation. I am standing at the gate under my umbrella and through the window, I can see the look on his face as he reads the paper. It is priceless!
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