The Farewell

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Different couples have their individual ways of seeing life.

Submitted: December 13, 2015

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Submitted: December 13, 2015

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THE FAREWELL

If in later years they were asked where they had met and who they had been with at the time, it might have been very difficult for some of them to remember with exactitude. One thing for sure was, that they had then been very young, with only a couple of them being over thirty. They all lived in or around a tiny town tucked away from any bustling city, which meant that the locals or anyone who went to live there, were thrown into quicker relationships than if they had lived in a larger place. The reason for this was, that everyone there was a stranger, there was no hierarchy of older generations. The oldest people were the ages of the newcomers’ parents, there were no great-grand-parents. Although the atmosphere was stultifying, there was quite a lot of petty crime and small-time crooks. It was how those out of work managed to survive. A Sunday morning lie-in was often disturbed by the sound of a police car’s siren wailing as it drove to the houses of the usual suspects. Nevertheless, the local bad-boys had become wised-up to the law, and how the officers who carried out the law operated, and many a young and inexperienced policeman had knocked on the door of a well-known criminal’s home, only to be told to return when they had a search warrant. Naturally, by the time the policemen had got back, there was nothing to incriminate anyone. Some of the police helped out those they were meant to be arresting, by buying some stolen article or being presented with a backhander. Everyone and anyone who lived there, sooner or later crossed paths with the law-abiding, and those who weren’t. The local churches did very well out of the darker side of the social element, and never complained. The non-law-abiding citizens were happy to give the churches a healthy donation, as a way of showing that they were not ‘all-bad’. The Christmas dinners, the New Year’s parties, were paid for by the ones who didn’t wish to show their faces. Those acts showed the police up as being tight-fisted, and the last thing a worthy man of the law wanted, was to be called a ‘Scrooge’. So in the end, the social gatherings in the town were run by the two opposing elements. The rest of the population was either in ignorance, or just didn’t care how an out-of-work man could afford a luxury car, and glamorize his home. There were also women who had never gone out to work, but wore the latest fashion bought in the most expensive stores in the nearest large town. That was the way it was, and when the group was asked after, they had moved far away, what it had been like living there, none of them had very much to say on the subject. How do you try to make those who had never been there, understand what it had seemed like to live in such a contrasting society?

 

“The first time I saw this place was in January some years ago. Although it was after Christmas, the weather was still freezing cold. The town was under a deep layer of snow, and with its uneven landscape of small hills, was more similar to an illustration in a child’s story book. When the snow had cleared, and with it any romantic ideas I had had about the place, I saw it for what it really was,” Ernest said to his new pupils at the start of the autumnal evening classes. He gazed at the faces staring at him and wondered what on earth he was going to teach them. None of them were under thirty and some gave the appearance of being nearer fifty. Unlike other evening class subjects, Ernest’s speciality, English Literature, was well attended, and rarely did many drop out during the course, which lasted from September to June of the following year. They were a good mix of men and women, and Ernest enjoyed that as much as anything, because they were always commenting on how they saw the different characters in the books they were obliged to read. The reasons Ernest had for telling his new pupils how he had reacted to Littlemarsh, were because he wanted them to know that he was new to the town, too. Ernest’s wife, Rowena, just couldn’t understand why her husband had to go out to work two evenings a week at the Adult Educational Centre. Ernest did it, not just for the money, but because he preferred to meet new people and not spend his evenings watching television. He also enjoyed the pupils approach to a part of the national heritage which he was happy to indulge in himself.

 

Their friends, Sidney and Lisa, were unlike them, in that they enjoyed going to the local pubs and clubs, mixing with the locals. Sidney worked in an armaments factory. Lisa was an assistant to the manager of a wholesaler’s. They had never-ending amounts of money, and showed it off, too. At that time, it was fashionable to grow avocados in pots, and many were the young people who had one winding its way along the living room floor around the window frames. Sidney and Lisa was such a pair, and if a thing wasn’t in fashion then it wasn’t for them, and they gave many of their whims and fancies to Ernest and their other friends. Whereas Rowena made an effort in the kitchen, Lisa did the minimum, and her only dish that was worth eating was gammon with a slice of pineapple on the top, and heated under the grill.

 

There were times when nobody wanted to associate with anyone else, and it was hard work to think up a good enough reason for not accepting an invitation to a party or a dinner. Sydney and Lisa never turned down an invite, and were to be seen socialising at most dos. Richard and Gilda were the odd ones out, due to the fact that they worked odd hours and had minimal time to go anywhere other than their home. Gossip had it, that Richard had been married before, and that he and Gilda were living together. There’s never smoke without fire, and eventually the story got round, that he had been violent, and that his wife had walked out on him. Whatever the truth was, they kept themselves to themselves, and every so often would show up at a party or a dinner. Richard and Gilda were slightly older than the others in the fragile group, that made them even more fascinating to try and get to know. Lisa loved gossip, and at the few gatherings where Richard and Gilda had appeared, she had done her best to get something out of Gilda. She had no success, and then went off in the direction of others less secretive. Gilda was a natural blonde, which gave cause of alarm and jealousy among the local female population. Richard and Gilda paid the same attention to all the members of the group without distinction. At the same time, Keith and Callie were considered too normal to be true. “There’s something odd about those two,” Lisa commented to Sidney, pointing out Richard and Gilda.

“Rubbish,” Sidney said to his wife “You don’t like it because they aren’t particularly interested in you. That’s all.”

Lisa wasn’t too keen on her husband’s opinion, and went to get herself another drink. There was a long table holding many bottles of drink, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Lisa marched over to the table and poured herself a large glass of wine. Rowena was chatting to Keith, who was involved in the local politics. He was starting out on what he hoped would be a fruitful career, and enable him to leave the law practice he was working in.

“The thing is, that the land designated for parks would bring in more money if there were houses on it, and the revenue would be continuous, whereas it’s more than likely the parks would be neglected by the very people they had been created for.”

“In other words you’re saying that a park is a waste of money,” Rowena said in response to Keith.

“Said in those words, I suppose it is. In some towns they have had to remove the parks, due to lay-abouts boozing and taking drugs. Now, we wouldn’t want that in our little community, would we?” Keith added.

Rowena saw an escape from Keith’s politicking by saying, “I just have to try some of those canapés that have a good look to them. See you around.” She departed, knowing that she had not been very nice to Keith, at the same time thinking that he ought to try being on the other side of one of his promoting himself chats.

That night, when they were back at home, Rowena said to Ernest, “The next thing will be posters of Keith all over town pushing for votes.”

Ernest was cleaning his teeth and made a great show of not listening to Rowena’s words. He wasn’t a fan of Keith’s, and did his best to avoid him, but as luck would have it, they met up more often than Ernest liked. He also knew that Keith had a lady friend, and had asked himself whether or not Callie knew all about it, and stayed with him for wanting to be a politician’s wife.

That same night in the privacy of their own home, Callie asked Keith, “Do you think Rowena and Ernest will vote for you in the next local elections?”

“I’m not sure, but they might. I was speaking to Rowena this evening, but she slipped away to get herself some canapés. What a woman - to prefer canapés rather than my chat!” Keith moaned.

Callie was putting her clothes away in her cupboards, and asked herself if Keith would ever come down to earth and start behaving like an adult man.

 

Richard and Gilda were staring out of their bedroom window and commenting on how a patio would be an advantage. “A patio would mean that we wouldn’t have to step out into mud whenever it rained, and we could make it decorative with large flower pots, amongst other things,” Callie added.

“The next time we go into town, we need to find a shop that deals with patio making materials,” Richard told her.

 

As one thing leads to another, so things began to heat up on several fronts. Keith was more and more about getting into more serious politics. He went on canvassing for votes in his constituency. Keith was a rather handsome man, which had always been a great help to him, in all aspects of his life. He had met Callie through his looks and his innate talent for seducing women of all ages. As far as he knew, Callie had no idea that he possessed that talent. Keith’s work as a lawyer didn’t suffer as much as anyone would have thought, and he managed to lie his way out of why he wasn’t at work when he should have been. The first doors he knocked at were in the evening, when the men in them were at home, too, having their dinner or having finished eating, and not very keen on having a would-be politician turn up and destroy their evening’s pleasure - whatever it was. Some men grabbed at their jackets on seeing and hearing Keith’s van and car, announcing over a loudspeaker that he was their next representative. The women who had seen Keith’s picture in the local newspapers, welcomed him into their homes, and his assistant took care of all the more boring aspects of canvassing. The tea-cups were put away, and the ladies of the houses got out their husbands precious bottles of whiskey or brandy, with chocolates thrown in, just to make Keith’s visit more memorable. There was competition in all this, because his female voters wanted to be the ones to stand out, and be in the front line if there were any jobs going in the party’s offices. Callie would be accosted by the fervent female followers of her husband, and wondered what they saw in him.

 

Ernest and Rowena, although friends of a sort of Keith and Callie, kept themselves to themselves during the political campaign. Ernest always had a romance with one or two of his pupils during the course year. It was to be expected, and no one ever gave the game away. That autumn, in the classes during the weeks following his declaration of how he had first seen Littlemarsh under a heavy blanket of snow, gave him food for thought - Antonia was Ernest’s evening class fling. She never stopped pestering him for one thing or another. He told her that she couldn’t expect him to put his job in danger just because he was going out with her. The weeks leading up to the exams before the Christmas break, were fraught with anxious behaviour from Antonia and the rest of the class. What Ernest didn’t tell anyone was, that the educational authorities had authorised the exams to be held in different centres from the ones where the students had studied. On the last evening before the exams were to take place, Ernest gave them an envelope each, with the information regarding the change of centre. The change was, of course, to avoid cheating or the teachers helping the students during the exams. Ernest left the evening class that evening as fast as he could, wondering whether he would have a class after that night, or not. The Christmas break was nearly three weeks long, so the most likely outcome would be the loss of a few, but not all, of the students. Rowena was sitting at the kitchen table making paper flowers for presents. She wasn’t partial to spending a lot of money at Christmas, or any other time of the year if she could help it. Rowena was a saver, and put her wages into a holiday fund, a furniture fund, a clothes fund, and a repair the car fund. Ernest paid for everything else. The couple lived very well with Rowena’s frugality and Ernest’s evening classes. When Ernest got home and saw the crepe-paper covering the table, he knew Rowena was making her Christmas presents. “How did it go when you told them the exams were going to be held in another centre?” Rowena asked, as she twisted wire through the petals.

“They weren’t very happy about the change of place, but if they want to do the exam, then they have no other choice but to do it in another centre.”

Ernest went upstairs, had a shower, put on his pyjamas, and went to bed. Rowena wouldn’t go up till she finished all the flowers. Two days later, on Sunday, Ernest and Rowena got into their immaculate car, and drove off to their parents for the holiday.

 

Sidney and Lisa went on a cruise with all his family, and made a thorough nuisance of themselves by eating too much and getting drunk, and Lisa flirting with as many men as she could while on board. There was the small matter of missing money, and credit cards, apart from some items of jewellery. If their friends back in Littlemarsh had been witness to all those carryings on, they would have never been in doubt how Sidney and Lisa were able to afford their glamorous life style. The cruise came to an end, without anyone being found guilty of misappropriating another person’s possessions. Sidney and Lisa treated all their relatives to a slap-up meal and a present each for Christmas, paid for with their ill-gotten gains. They were still partying when they returned to their home. Sidney’s mother was indignant about the thefts of the cruise and declared, “I’m not so keen on another cruise after all the thieves we’ve been mixing with. I bet it was that quartet that sat on the nearest table to us that did it.”

Sidney’s father replied, “How can you say such a thing! Did you actually see them going into another cabin, or touching clothes that weren’t theirs to feel if there was a wallet inside one of the pockets?”

“Come on now, Dad, let’s get on with enjoying the holiday, it’s the season to be jolly, isn’t it?” Sidney said to his father, and at the same time wondered what his father would have said and done, if he had known it was his spoilt boy and wife who were behind all the scandal of the thefts.

 

The first week of January after the festivities of Christmas and New Year were over and done with till the end of the year, Ernest looked up the exam results of the pupils, and happily discovered that those who had sat them had passed. He felt lucky that the centre sent them up on internet, and he hadn’t had to wait till the first class. Antonia was still pestering him, and he told her, “Antonia, you have to think that we aren’t a couple, but teacher and pupil, so unless you can accept that, then I’d prefer it if you’d keep a distance - for both our sakes.”

Antonia gave him a long hard stare and shrugged her shoulders, saying, “If that’s how you want it, then that’s that. See you in class, Prof,” and on those words, Antonia walked out into the corridor.

Ernest thought he’d handled what could have become a sticky situation very well, but he still had a doubt about what Antonia might do.

 

Keith was more than busy with the elections, which would be held in the late spring. Callie had her own devices to occupy herself with. She was never short of someone to talk to, which meant she loved a good gossip. She also laughed about Keith’s shenanigans with some of her friends. Callie had often thought that Keith was unaware of how silly he made himself look at times, but it never lost him the support of his lady followers. Keith was getting involved with Bridget, who was crazy about him. She rather fancied herself as being a politician’s wife, and had no scruples about pushing Callie out of the way, nor her own husband, Rhys, either.

 On one of their more romantic encounters, Keith and Bridget, who were upstairs in the matrimonial bedroom, were shocked into action by the sound of Rhys’s key turning in the front door lock, and him calling up the stairs, “Bridget, are you up there?”

“Yes, Rhys, I am. I’ll be down in a minute. Don’t worry. I was having a tidy up.”

Rhys went off into the sitting-room and the two lovers heard the sound of the television. Keith crept downstairs and slipped out of the back door, and then had to run to the end of the street to get his car. He was in such a hurry, that his usually pristine appearance had taken second place in his afan to get out of the house. He was busy zipping up his trousers and straightening his tie and sweater as he was running. He made it to his car, started it up, and drove to the common, where he fixed himself up before driving off to another future voter. In spite of all his adventures with women, Keith never lost his cool, and seeing him later on in the local pub ‘The Sceptre and Orb’, none of his pals would have ever guessed.

 

Sidney and Lisa, who had long been in the stealing game, sold off the jewellery to a fence who was an associate of theirs. They stashed the money away, and took the decision to move as soon as they could. It wasn’t long before they left the town of their distaste, and moved to a more affluent area, as far away as possible. Their rent was fully paid up, and they left no clues behind as to their future destination. Ernest, Keith, and Richard, had a farewell drink with Sidney, who said to them, “I don’t give any of you much more time here, there are better places to live your life out in - than this. See you again, maybe. Bye.” The others said nothing to the women in their lives, better they found out for themselves through other ways.

 

Richard and Gilda were busy with the design and work on the patio, at the same time the house that backed onto theirs was up for sale. Richard kept quiet about Sidney and Lisa having left, and Gilda was well and truly in the dark about anything to do with them.

One evening, Richard and Gilda woke up to the sound of digging. Richard got out of bed and carefully pulled enough of the bedroom curtain back to see out. It wasn’t easy to see what was going on, as there was no moon and no street lights either, as the local council had them turned off at midnight in order to save money. Richard wasn’t too keen on being caught putting his nose into another’s business, so he went back to bed.

The next morning Richard showered and dressed, then went out into the garden to see what had been happening in the opposite garden the night before. He saw that a new patio, a twin to his, had been put right outside his sitting-room French windows. Richard thought nothing of it and went inside to tell Gilda.

“That’s a funny thing to do when you put your house up for sale. That’s the sort of thing you do after you’ve just moved in,” Gilda said, munching on a piece of toast.

 

That winter, there were two houses up for sale. Richard and Gilda thought it a good idea to move away, and left one night after loading their possessions onto a trailer, and vanishing into the darkness.

When the summer came the new owners of the house opposite complained about a nasty smell in the garden. The builders were called in to break up the patio, and found the decomposing corpses of dead dogs. All the previous year a number of dogs had been reported missing, and the answer to their disappearance was solved.

 

In the house where Richard and Gilda had resided in their unmarried bliss, the new tenants saw how the patio had become uneven after the heavy spring rain, and that was also dug up, and the well decayed body of an unidentified woman was found. All that was left was her skeleton.

When Ernest and Rowena knew about that, they asked for transfers away.

 

Keith and Callie stayed on because his politicking had been so successful, they both knew he would be in Westminster before very long. Bridget still had thoughts of snatching him away from Callie, but in the event - she didn’t. Keith had promised he would get something for Rhys as a goodwill gesture.

The farewells were said and forgotten about soon after. The only ones who stayed faithful to their convictions were - Keith and Callie.

 


© Copyright 2019 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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