Coral and Marcus

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Two apparently normal and ordinary people are not what they seem.

CORAL AND MARCUS

Coral had always been busy out of the house working, but had been made redundant in the summer. She was middle-aged and had never spent much time at home during the week. The summer holidays were over, and as it was now September, she had the idea that it might not be so bad if she stayed indoors for the Saturday afternoon and tidied up the wardrobe in the bedroom she shared with her husband, Marcus. It certainly could do with a good sorting through, she thought as she viewed with dismay the slipshod way the contents had been slung inside, without a thought of how the articles would look the next time she wanted to wear them. So, without thinking twice, she grabbed hold of the pile of clothes lying on the floor of her wardrobe and put it onto the double bed. Then she took the small torch she kept in a bedside drawer, and holding it in her right hand, swung the beam around the interior of the wardrobe. Right at the back of the wardrobe she saw a dark bundle. Coral got inside with the torch still in her hand, and she was able to make out a sports bag. She grabbed hold of the bag and pulled it towards her. The bag was deposited onto the floor, to be investigated later. Meanwhile, she got a cloth and wiped it around the dusty inside. That done, Coral surveyed the clothes on her bed and began dividing them into groups.

There were so many garments that she hadn’t worn in ages, and she didn’t relish the idea of trying everything on. Still, she would have to be pragmatic rather than precious, as she was no longer working. It wasn’t on the cards just to throw out what she didn’t like, some might come in useful. Coral stood up and went into the laundry room to get the iron and the ironing board and took them into her bedroom. The trousers were ironed first, then the skirts, and lastly the blouses and the sweaters. That way, when returned to their places in the wardrobe they would be ready for wearing. Perhaps it’s because of the haphazard way people throw their clothes into cupboards, they can’t be bothered to iron them or freshen them up, but just go out and buy more.

The dark sports bag was still lying on the floor where she had left it. Coral went into the kitchen to prepare supper. Marcus had gone to play tennis in an indoor court for the afternoon, and therefore wasn’t expected back home for a while. Coral was happy to be alone, even though it was a Saturday afternoon. Many years before getting married, Coral had made up her mind never to go shopping on Saturday afternoons when the entire world and its mother packed out the shopping centres and department stores. Coral had never wanted children, seeing them as the enemy to a happy marriage rather than a blessing. Her parents were happy with the grandchildren that their second son, Coral’s brother, Andrew, had given them, which had taken the pressure off Coral and her other brother to give them any.

The flat that Marcus and Coral lived in was not too large, but exquisitely decorated in muted shades. It was easy to live in, as there were no pets or children to mess it up. Coral wasn’t a natural cook, but she was obliged to, under pressure to keep her husband sweet. That’s what happens when you marry a man who’s experienced with three previous wives. Marcus was a man who wasn’t to be fooled by any woman, hence Coral, every once in a while, made an effort to make a lavish dinner or supper. During the cooking process, Coral never gave a thought to her sorting out of old clothes, and even less of the sports bag. The kitchen clock said eight thirty and she could tell from the smell that the food was ready to be served. Coral went into her bedroom and changed her clothes for something more glamorous, and freshened up her makeup. Marcus might come home sweaty and tired, but he would never tolerate seeing her in any other way but looking like something out of a glossy magazine. Coral knew that he had fallen for her precisely because she had been looking her best when they had met. Since that decisive day, Coral had felt as if she were on a never ending endurance test. It was only when she was alone that she wore her track suits and trainers.

 

That evening, Marcus got back later than he had anticipated, he went straight into the shower and came out dressed in expensive at-home clothes and smelling of toilet water. He would never let the side down. “That smells lovely, darling. Did it take long to prepare?”

“No, it didn’t take any time at all. Why have you got back so late, it isn’t like you?”

“We met up with a man who has a few rundown flats to get rid of, and so we spoke business with him.”

“Are you thinking of acquiring more property?” Coral asked him.

“It’s more than possible. You know how I like nothing more than pulling buildings down and putting up a new block of flats on the site.” (He had never told Coral that’s what he had done with her.)

“They are situated in a very good spot and he has no idea of what to do with them.”

“How many has he got?”

“A whole building of them, it sounds like the building will have to come down anyway, so I think we might go into business with him and see what we can do to get something for all of us out of it.”

“You are always the man on the lookout for a chance of making more money. Well, good luck to you. What are we doing after the meal’s finished?” Coral asked her husband.

Marcus said nothing for a moment, and then, “I’ll check out a few things with my associates and then we’ll get in touch with the man we met this afternoon and see whether or not he likes our plan.”

“That means you’ll be busy for the rest of the evening, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does, but it’s for everyone’s benefit, therefore I don’t mind losing an evening. Then we can watch a DVD if you like OK?”

“Fine by me,” Coral informed her husband, anxious to get back to her wardrobe clear out.

 

After placing the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and switching it on, and Marcus having gone into the living-room ready to spend a long time engaged in business conversations, Coral went into the bedroom. The now-ironed clothes were neatly piled on the top of the bed. One article after another was carefully unfolded and held up against her. Coral was aware that the clothes she had been so keen on buying one or two years ago no longer suited her, because of the colour, or the fashion, or she had put on more weight than she cared to think about. One by one, she repeated the same process and the ‘reject’ pile grew bigger and bigger. At times she wondered what had made her buy certain articles, as she now saw them in a different light. The clothes to keep, were hung up in the wardrobe, and Coral saw that it looked more spacious with fewer things in it. She was on the point of opening the sports bag, when Marcus called her from the living-room to select a film for their evening’s viewing. She knew that if she said nothing they would see a film of his choice which would be a war film or a western, Coral only liked romantic films and put up with what Marcus wanted, inside her plan of keeping him sweet. The sports bag went inside the wardrobe again, and Coral went to join Marcus.

Coral picked out a romantic film from the collection of DVDs that they had to hand in a cupboard in the living-room. “Not that one again,” complained Marcus.

“Why not? I like it, but if you don’t, we’ll choose another one.”

Marcus grunted and groaned and then, when the film had only been on for five minutes his mobile rang. Marcus answered, and from what he said, Coral deduced that he was back into business again for the second time that evening. Coral got up and went into the marital bedroom, and took off her clothes and put on her nightwear. She sat at the dressing-table and combed her hair. The sports bag seemed to be beckoning her to open it and satisfy her curiosity, but Coral resisted the temptation.

By the time Marcus had finished his conversation on the phone, Coral was practically asleep. Marcus went into the bathroom and then went into the bedroom, and found Coral asleep. It made no difference to Marcus whether or not Coral was sleeping, he carried on in his own inimitable fashion. He was more than generous to Coral, and as she was at home now, he foresaw she would be more dependent on him financially. Marcus liked that very much, as it meant he had more say in how the household was run.

 

The next morning after Marcus had left, Coral got up and went into the kitchen to get her breakfast. After her morning refreshing shower that helped wake her up, she got dressed and stayed in her bedroom. The maid arrived soon after, and Coral had left her with a list of jobs she wanted done. Alone in her bedroom, Coral opened the sports bag. She lifted the contents out very gingerly as if she were half-expecting them to explode in her face. There were two swimming costumes with matching latex caps, a pair of flip flops, gym apparel and trainers, and a white towelling robe with the slight stain of cranberry juice still visible on the right lapel. On the top pocket was a large embroidered gold ‘C’. There were three white towels, which also had an embroidered ‘C’ on them.

Coral stared at the objects recently retrieved from the sports bag. While she was staring at them, she tried to feel something, but for the life of her she felt nothing. Had they meant something once? If so why did she have no sense of loss or interest in them? Coral had a faint memory that before meeting Marcus, she had led a rather lively existence with a large group of friends, and then, meeting Marcus, all of that had gone, vanished, disappeared out of her life for ever. Why? Where had all those gone who had formed a part of her life? Whose fault had it been that nobody was around any more? Coral made a decision to do something about things. She wasn’t interested in raking up the past, but she was keen on working out why she never practised sport any more. She unzipped the side pockets on the sports bag, and found her club membership card, a set of keys, and paper tissues in one of them. In the other pocket she found a purse full of money, which she counted out and found she had carried far too much in a purse that was used only for sports. The keys were strange to her, and she had no way of knowing where they had come from. Coral put the sports bag, now empty, together with the towels and matching robe, plus the swimming costumes, into the laundry bin. She would switch on the machine after the maid had left for home. Coral transferred the money to her normal purse and the keys to her handbag.

The old diaries and address books were kept in her dressing table, and she was determined to find out what the keys meant - if anything. Inside the diaries and address books she had always written her name and address as soon as she had bought them. Coral was delighted to discover that she had changed addresses quite a few times when she was single. This intrigued her even more.

 

After her lunch that day, Coral went searching for her old addresses. She knew it would be difficult as it would necessitate travelling to other places. What Coral had not taken into account, was that she had been married to Marcus for over twenty years, and what was it she was going to discover? The first address was very old, and as she got nearer to her destination, she had doubts about the sense in carrying out such a venture. For more than two hours, Coral drove steadily along a motorway she had travelled many times, but with Marcus when they were visiting friends. This time she was on her own and not very sure of what she was doing. The address was a block of apartments that bordered on fields. She stopped the car and stood outside trying to see into her past and understand why she had that address as her own. She walked up to the main door and put the keys in the lock. They didn’t turn and she knew that it was a mistake.

She went into a nearby café and asked the barman, “How long has that building been next door? Was there another block in that place once before?”

The barman said, “There used to be a dilapidated old building there a long time ago full of hippy-type characters, but there was a murder committed on the premises and the place was pulled down by the owners.”

“Do you know the story about the murder?” Coral asked, burning with curiosity.

“Not really, because all those involved left one night, and the dead body was found the next.”

“If I wanted to know how, where could I find out?”

“Nowhere, as far as I know. Nobody was ever done for it. As all those who lived there were considered disreputable, the police weren’t very interested in carrying out a great investigation. Well, that’s what everyone says. Nowadays, of course, the new building is good, and only decent people reside there.”

“Thank you.” Coral left the café feeling rather perturbed, remembering nothing of the building or her being there.

 

As there was still enough light left in the sky to allow her to continue on her way, Coral drove in the direction of the second address where she had presumably lived before she met Marcus. The road she was on, was off the motorway, and led her through pine woods with the late sunshine filtering through the trees. In a few weeks it would rain, making the road through the woods treacherously muddy. There wasn’t any sign of a building of any sort, not even a wooden hut. Coral drove carefully keeping her eyes out for anything where anyone could have lived or stayed. Finally the road came out onto an even busier one. There were some houses in the distance away from the woods, and a couple of pubs and a general store. She had arrived at a village, but recognized nothing. What could she do about the keys? The address didn’t exist. Coral drove around, and then went into the pub for food and information. She went up to the bar and asked for some toasted sandwiches and a salad. She sat down at a table in a corner and waited for her food. The barman took it to her, together with a bottle of water. Coral cut to the chase, and asked, “Do you know this address?” holding out a piece of paper with the address written on it.

The barman stared and asked her, “Who are you, and what do you want coming raking up the past?”

“What past are you talking about? I found these keys with this address, what should I have done with them?”

“Let sleeping dogs lie, that’s what you should have done.” The barman turned round to go back to his bar.

“Why are you so angry? I’ve done nothing. I’ve never been here before this afternoon,” she pleaded.

“The address you’ve got from somewhere was that of a caravan that was in the woods, full of hippies, who were all taking drugs and generally creating havoc with all their music and riotous behaviour. Some say they came from a town on the other side of the wood and added that there had been the murder of a girl in the house they had all occupied.”

“Do you know anything else?”

“Sorry, no, I don’t. The hippy era has passed into history, but has left behind it a lot of misery, what with free love and drugs.” The barman went back to the bar to serve his newly arrived customers.

Coral finished her food and drink and left the pub. The information she had received that afternoon, hadn’t been of any help at all in the search of the origin of the keys. She knew for sure that two of the keys were useless. What next? She got in her car and drove home.

 

That evening Marcus was busy with business as per usual, and Coral stayed in her bedroom thinking about the keys and her former life, her before-Marcus life. She lay down on the bed and tried to remember what her life had been like, once upon a time. On the top shelf of her wardrobe there was a suitcase that she hadn’t used for ages. Coral got down off the bed and standing on a chair she took down the suitcase from the top shelf. The case was dusty and the she dusted it over and unzipped it. She looked inside and saw yellowing newspaper cuttings. Coral took them out and saw her photo with dark hair and a different name staring at her. It seemed she was a person of interest for the police. Article after article, she read of her way-out existence more than twenty years ago. Coral had no memory of any of it, and for her, none of it made sense. She stood up and tore up the articles into small pieces.

“What you should have done, is to use the shredder in my office. I’ve told you countless times not to keep that rubbish.” Marcus was standing in the bedroom doorway holding his mobile in his right hand.

“Marcus, I don’t remember any of this that is written down here. What am I to do?”

“Nothing, the same as you’ve been doing for the last twenty years. When we met you had got over whatever it was that was bothering you, and one day I found the suitcase with the cuttings. I’ve never asked you questions, and you’ve never given me any explications. I don’t need them. I love you as you are.”

Marcus was about to leave the bedroom when Coral went up to him, asking, “How did we meet?”

“You were rather drunk at the time, and trying to get away from a persistent boyfriend. I saw you were in trouble, and took you away from all that.”

“What happened to the boyfriend?”

“He was arrested for drunk and disorderly, and then he disappeared.”

“Where did my name Coral come from?”

“You said it was your favourite stone, so it was me who called you that.”

“Oh, that’s why I have an odd name,” Coral replied.

 

Marcus went back into the living-room and sat down on the sofa. For a moment, he had felt worried when he had seen Coral reading the old newspapers, in case she remembered who they once were. Marcus had always been the big noise in the dilapidated house, but when he saw Coral for the first time, he had made the decision to end all contact with their hippy friends. Marcus had made his money from stealing from his cohorts’ money, and then reinventing both himself and Coral. She had lost her memory from all the muck she had pumped into her body. There had been no drunken boyfriend, it was the story Marcus had always told her. The only fear Marcus had was that someone from the past might recognise them, even with the hair dye and the plastic surgery on their faces.

 

The swimsuits and towels were from a time when they had felt like getting some exercise. There was no mystery in that. Marcus had done well with the rehabilitation of his old hippy house. If only his new associates knew the origin of his fortune!

 

The murdered girl was rather unfortunate, but no one ever discovered the truth, and they never would. Coral didn’t remember, and Marcus certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone.


Submitted: November 09, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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