The Everglott Insight – 1950’s story

The Everglott Insight

 

George and I are perfect, we have our routines and we have our habits. Mrs Applebee says that these are essential for a healthy marriage. I’ve learnt so much from reading her marriage bible, ‘The Good Wife’s Life’, I know that when George arrives home from work I should already have dinner set flawlessly on the table – the linen tablecloth ought to be “cleaned and creaseless” with pristine cutlery to accompany the golden centrepieces. I would never dream of complaining if he was late for dinner and would greet him with a smile regardless of the hour. I arrange his pillow to his requirements and offer to take his shoes off – I speak only in a low, soft voice when I do so.  Most importantly I never burden him with my trivial problems – he absolutely does not need to hear about the poor selection of washing powder down at the supermarket or that the steak he likes has increased in price by nearly 60 cents.

I love George’s mischievous side smile. I adore his brown eyes and the way they close slightly when he laughs. I love the way he’s always so carefully dressed, neat tie and crisp shirt. He is amazingly confident and such a gentleman.

I respect his work and white collar wage; he buys me the latest kitchen appliances, I’m the envy of the cul-de-sac. ‘Microwave technology’ is cutting edge stuff, you know: A fifty-minute meal made in a fraction of the time – perfect for those leftovers. Now I don’t have to slave away over the stove for myself when George works late. Revolutionary!

Janice has yet to invest in such avant-garde equipment and when I stopped by the salon yesterday she told me about Mary playing back seat bingo with Charles Denver and if what Betty told me about Charles Denver is true, then he’s as strange as they come. Apparently he’s “positively snowed with little Miss Mary Humphreys” when only last week he was taking mousy Diana for milkshakes at Harley’s. I for one do not indulge in gossip but boy does Janice get me talking when we meet for lunch on Friday afternoons; she’s so outrageous. I’ll be chattering away, sipping my lemonade, eating fruit parfait and would you believe it, its 4 o’clock and I haven’t even prepared dinner. Janice has been my dearest friend for many years now – she has dark locks which are always curled so effortlessly, we exchange beauty tips often but somehow my victory roll isn’t quite as victorious as hers. She’s committed to her high school sweetheart Gregory; their love was made in the shade after he took her down to the district in his rag top.

Today I was finishing up dinner, slicing up carrots with my new Höiser knives, gazing out onto the lawn, when something peculiar occurred. Debra Fisherman was making her rounds with the Avon brochure as usual, wearing her pastel pink beret and the company’s “magenta pearl from the lustre collection”. Every single day I wave her off through the kitchen window and she flashes me a glossy smile – she barely attends Thursday’s book club anymore and I do miss her tendency to drop product names into sentences. Last time we spoke she was raving about page 102, “Occupied and Pies”. I’ve also been meaning to repurchase some of that lovely cherry soap so tomorrow I will flag her down and maybe even invite her in to split a choux bun.

I was almost done vigorously clearing the worktop when I heard a familiar voice and a flamboyant giggling, just outside on the porch. George was later than usual so I hurried towards the noise, apron and all, with my hair only just pinned back. Drawing the door open I was astonished to see Janice, throwing her head back and chuckling with George – her silky mane bouncing as she laughed, not perfectly pinned as usual.

“Nancy!” she said excitedly, latching onto my arm and pulling me out onto the porch.

George shuffled past me at this point, moving into the house bearing his suitcase and usual work apparel.

“Your man is a credit to you! A real keeper.” She raised her voice, louder now so George could hear. He turned and grinned before closing the door behind him. I stood, perplexed for a minute, Janice saw my expression and jumped to explain.

“I’m such a klutz; I was just about to stable the horses when I backed straight into a lamppost. George happened to be passing by and offered to drop me off here. We still on for Friday lunch Nance?”

I nodded to her, not able to construct an appropriate response. Janice’s explanation didn’t clarify much, if anything, it just confused me further. She talked at me for the next twenty minutes non-stop about the latest “scandalous revelations in the Mary and Charles outrage” but instead of engaging is such exposés I waved her off, eager to get inside and authenticate her tale.

“George?” I bellowed into the sitting room, my face flushed and lined. “What time do you call this? I’ve had dinner prepared for hours.”

“Nancy, baby, you’re acting kind of strange and I’m not sure I like it.”

“I’m not sure I like you working so late.”

“You see that rock on your finger?”

I brushed my thumb across the golden ring gently, avoiding his gaze.

“Unless you’ve had smog in the noggin, you’ll remember that you wouldn’t have that if it weren’t for me. Fetch me a packet of due backs and gimme a smile Nance.”

I didn’t argue back – I inhaled into a smile and placed my lips against his cheek before moving off into the kitchen to fulfil his request.

I hate George’s twisted smirk. I hate his dark eyes and the way he squints when he laughs. I hate his pretentious way of dressing; his stupidly straight tie infuriates me. He is arrogant and an utter sleaze.

“I had such a stressful day at the office today Nancy. You know I don’t want you blowing your top as soon as I get home; we’ve had talks about this. “

I didn’t respond honestly.  Through my graceful words there was a twang, a hostile spit. “Yes George, you are entirely correct. I absolutely should not bother you after work”

*************************

The rain was so fierce that night and the droplets gathered like shards on the window pane. I peered out onto the drive; the whole street had warped into magnificent, unclear illuminations vaguely shaped like the neat houses that reside there. My copy of ‘The Good Wife’s Life’ was on the window sill, dog-eared and open on page 77 – ‘How to Love Yourself’. George was turned away from me. His back was exposed to the pallid moonlight which crept through the slit in the curtains; the bedsheets clung tight around his waist and his hair was sprawled on the pillow. He had never looked so perfectly undone. Neatly hanging on the wardrobe door was his navy suit; it was a world away from the unfastened man that had his head buried in his pillows. His case was filled with freshly ironed attire, crisp and ready for his business trip the following morning. I perched at the edge of our bed, clutching the glossy framed photograph from our wedding – my smile is as big as our promised future, his shirt is as white as our privilege. We’ve become lost in the blandness of one another since then.

I slipped myself between the sheets and he immediately rolled over, draping his arms over me and scrunching his knees up behind mine. The sheets elevated with every breath he took, creating a generous cavity for the cold chill to exploit.

The hours sloped by and the ticking of our gifted wedding clock echoed in the stagnant silence. I moved over his sighing body, pulling the lamp cord which brightened the yellowing room. On his mahogany bed-side drawers were dispersed the insides from his blazer pockets; numerous match books he’d acquired from bars, his car keys and an inconspicuous hand written note. When further inspecting I could only make out a location, the rest was illegible – “The Blue Room” in chunky capitals stood prominent against the pallid paper.

Working late? I bet. I also bet you picked her up at 7pm, sharp. I bet she was probably wearing that red dress you complimented her on last Summer when we had our annual neighbourhood barbeque. I bet her hair was perfect and polished, like always. I bet you placed your eager hand at the bottom of her spine and gently lead her into the dimly lit club, parting the rouged curtains and summoning a table for two. I bet the interior was lavish; heavily draped in navy satin and velvet. I bet you sat across from her, a candle flickering between you both, how romantic. I bet you ordered your usual, a Manhattan with an extra Maraschino cherry, and I bet you finished with “And whatever the lady is having”. I bet you gazed as she swindled her fingers around her martini glass, her cherry lipstick prints thick and smeared across the rim. I bet you denied her first offer to dance but took her hand in yours regardless and wound her out between the seats to the modestly lit dance floor. I bet you didn’t think twice about me.

I left the note, flattened furiously with my hand, on my pillow. I rushed downstairs, pulled on a coat and some shoes and left for Janice’s immediately. The journey to Janice’s was shorter than I had anticipated; the bitter morning breeze didn’t have time to bring me to my senses and I marched forward still, eyes fixated on the pink painted bungalow at the end of the road. Taking a glance down at my attire, I realised my rather bizarre choice of coat – a satin dressing gown draped over my nightwear was not what I had planned. It was too late to turn back now; I was at the front steps. I could have played it off as if I needed to borrow some sugar for George’s breakfast but the weather’s attempt at cooling me down was pitiable and my flesh was sweltering with rage.

My knock was softer than expected; my hovering knuckles had lost their integrity. The wind had hit me finally. Maybe they hadn’t heard and I had chance to sneak away, slip back into bed and forget about it all entirely.  Regret swelled in my throat when I saw the parting of a lace curtain and when the door swung, revealing a sleepy eyed Gregory with his face covered in pleats from the creases in his pillow, I almost buckled. Squinting at the sun, he swayed his hand in front of himself looking for a sufficient sun-block, half-awake.  I was hoping to catch Janice off guard – but this is much better. I would quiz him about his guilty wife’s whereabouts the previous night and pray he took interest in my prying words.  When he spoke his voice was fractured and hoarse “Nancy? Is that you? What time is it?” His hand rubbed gently at his sleepy blue eyes.

“Oh Gregory, I was just wondering if Janice was home?”  I wavered my weight from one leg to the other, hands deep in my dressing gown pockets. My mouth was exceedingly dry and my tongue lapped at the roof in desperation for moisture. The words had been uttered and there were no excuses to follow.

“She’s gone to visit her Mother, left for the bus only five minutes before you showed up here on my door step.” He lowered his hand as the sun stooped behind a house. I lent my hips against the archway, fashioning my dressing gown to look a little less insane. Fiddling with my hair through my fingertips I could see him tracing my figure, his unblinking eyes darting away apprehensively but returning shortly. He coughed to break the tension, eyeing down at his navy socks and avoiding my gaze.

“W-W-Would you like to come in for a coffee and I’ll see if I can call the station?” He shuffled back into the house, gesturing for me to enter. He looked puzzled by my appearance and hastiness but invited me in nonetheless. I perch uneasily on the sofa; I’m always taken aback by Janice’s bold interior choices – flamboyant hues paired with interesting objects she’s acquired from travels; lime green is definitely something I’d give a miss. She has this hideous vase her grandmother gave her, she pretended to hate it however kept it on her mantelpiece – when glancing over her décor I couldn’t find it and a selection of framed photographs had been placed face down.

He made his way into the kitchen, reciting my usual coffee ratio. I couldn’t help but notice the whisky decanter, usually full and for decoration purposes, empty in the cabinet. Why didn’t Janice tell me she was having a trip to see her family?  “I’m gonna call the depot now, I should just catch her.” I could hear the swipe and whirr of the rotary dial, his mumbled voice and a forceful slam of the receiver.

Gregory and I were great friends during our early teenage years before I introduced him to Janice – He was the quirky boy who would carry my books and fumble in my presence but I cared so deeply for him, like a brother, that I kept him around. I shook him off on to Janice after a night of awkward kissing and handholding, a shoddy attempt to make myself feel something for somebody who adored me irrevocably. We were awkward. Our noses colliding, our hands hesitant and uncertain where to go, his politeness conflicting with his lust. His hand carefully explored the fullness of my curves, curious fingertips slipping underneath the edge of my shirt as my breath danced along his neck.

Janice changed him a lot, he created a whole persona to please her: Uptight business man, ambitious and ruthless. He swapped comic books for cocktails and become her ideal man. I almost couldn’t recognize him without his glasses on but you can definitely see him squinting at the paper, shaking it to straighten it and distract from the fact he’s visually compromised. I almost feel bad for pairing him with Janice – she expects a lot from the poor guy.  Page 59, “A Man Knows Best – He Anticipates That Too”, is something I see Janice browsing often.

He strolled in, armed with two coffees and a smile forcing his cheeks to bunch enthusiastically. “Everything alright?” I lowered my tone as if somebody might’ve been listening.

“Oh, yeah, she’s already gone. I hope whatever it is that you need her for can wait?’ His voice is so light-hearted and musical. He uses one of the downturned photo frames as a coaster for his swarthy coffee. His eyes are set on mine. Through a sip I nod, unsure whether or not to accuse his wife of cheating or to make him cheat on his wife.

 

*************************

I’ve been thinking about the numerous encounters we had over that first year, and how different each of them were. Some were purely based on the drive we both possessed, the libidinous actions more telling than the conversations we had that day. During some you made me feel lonely, while I was lying right next to you. If I spoke, I swear I could hear an echo because the distance felt that far between us. Then there were the times where the way your look lingered in my direction completed me. The space between us, or lack thereof, made what we were feel infinite- it was like we had our own air that only us two would fill and breathe in.

There is this one specific encounter, though, that I just can’t quite grasp what to call it.

When I arrived home there you were, waiting. The moment I was in reach, you pulled me in and kissed me, not saying anything. Before the door even shut we were already blindly making our way to the couch, pressed against each other, sticky skin and all. No shying away from what we wanted. In each passing minute we became more and more a part of each other – somewhere along the way we somehow slid down to the floor with our bodies still tangled. Every movement was seamless; our new whereabouts went by unnoticed. We hadn’t said one word yet but it felt as though we had just blurted out our darkest cravings. The sensation does not even have a name – it wasn’t just desire although it looked that way, and I feel it’s something I will possibly never experience again, definitely not with you. It just doesn’t seem feasible to recapture that. No explanation can ever truly cover the extent of that encounter, and labels for it are impossible. I guess it will just forever be known to me as that one night we spent on the floor.

We are different now George. Some days you don’t even look me in the eye and I can only dream of a sentimental hand hold. Page 31 – “How to please your man”. I have studied the steps religiously and when I think I’ve cracked it; you move over without so much as an acknowledgment.

*************************

I placed my coffee down too enthusiastically and the contents leapt out onto the makeshift coasters and Gregory’s pants. He patted himself gently with the bottom corner of his shirt and I shook the frames and placed them back onto the cabinet – a grey photo of him and Janice glared at us, an additional coffee stain complimenting the already prominent crack in the glass.

I don’t know why I thought this was the right time but I couldn’t stop myself, it was almost like it wasn’t me speaking but the way he looked at me definitely confirmed they were in fact uttered from my mouth and not anybody else’s.

“Our partners are having an affair.”

He didn’t seem surprised or particularly bothered – in fact I thought for an instant he actually looked relieved.

We knew what we did next was equally as wrong. Furiously stuffing clothes into suitcases and hasty hands attempting to get the car boot shut before the neighbourhood began stirring.

“Have you got a packet of matches Gregory?” He wasn’t thrown by my sudden request and thrust a burgundy box into my palm, a yawn escaping as he did. The flames engulfed the page, lapping up the glossy exterior like an eager cat with thick cream. Ash drifted to the ground like great dirty flakes of snow, sprinkling onto the kitchen tile. “The Good Wife’s Life” was no longer for me.

The words “Just drive” have never felt right in my mouth till now – reckless abandonment fuelled that entire day.

Now I still to this day have no idea if George and Janice were indeed an item but just saying it aloud gave me liberation – I felt a sense of freedom in the way it mentally excused me from that god awful commitment. It didn’t matter if he had cheated on me or not, I felt at ease either way. I hope it’s true because I spent so much of my life with my nose between pages questioning what I did wrong.

*********************

I placed my coffee down too enthusiastically and the contents leapt out onto the makeshift coasters and Gregory’s pants. He patted himself gently with the bottom corner of his shirt and I shook the frames and placed them back onto the cabinet – a grinning photo of him and Janice beamed at us, an additional coffee stain complimenting the already prominent crack in the glass.

I don’t know why I thought this was the right time but I couldn’t stop myself, it was almost like it wasn’t me speaking but the way he looked at me definitely confirmed they were in fact uttered from my mouth and not anybody else’s.

“I think George is having an affair.”

His hand reached for mine immediately, his thumb glided over the back of my hand in a soothing motion. Suddenly I felt so silly and redundant- Page 41 deals with these issues quite efficiently, I don’t know why I felt the need to vent to somebody I barely knew anymore.

Now I still to this day have no idea if George and Janice were indeed an item but just saying it aloud made me feel pathetic – I felt an overwhelming sense of idiocy and the way it questioned the integrity of our marriage made me squirm. It didn’t matter if he had cheated on me or not, “It’s the wife’s’ responsibility to keep her man interested”. I hope it’s false because I spent so much of my life invested in George and I don’t know any different.

 

 

*Reader note: there are two endings because I left the ending up to the reader’s preference and imagination – they get to decide how Nancy’s story continues*

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