29 Apr


He said,
“I hope you don’t think I’m being forward or anything like that, but can I ask your name…?”
And she said,
“Saphie … I’m Saphie … who are you?”
He smiled a rugged sort of smile and murmured, “You can call me Rusty. It’s not my name, but everyone who matters calls me Rusty. It’s a lovely name, is Saphie.”
And she said,
“Everyone who matters?”
And that grin of his was quite contagious. “Including you,” he said so quietly only she could hear it.
And she asked,
“Then who is Rusty?”
“You want me to tell you the story of my life, and we’ve only just met?”
She smiled. “It’s a start,” she suggested.
“Well, I’m the man you see. Of a certain age, single, I’ve been single for ages if that puts your mind at ease…?
“Why should it?” she asked, a little quickly.
“Because I don’t see a ring on your finger. Because you’re sitting here with a cold cup of coffee on your own and you don’t look as if you’re waiting for someone…”
“It wasn’t cold before you came along…”
“And because I want it to be relevant,” he said, firmly. “Look, I’m no Romeo seeking a stranger to be his Juliet! I’m an ordinary bloke looking to spend a few moments with an ordinary girl…”
“I’m a bit on the geriatric side to be called a girl!”
“Ordinary woman, then.”
“I doubt there’s anyone more ordinary than me,” she sighed. “But I’ve lived, all right! And loved over the years. It’s been a good life, and now I’ve reached a sort of quiet time…”
“I had a wife, once,” he sighed. “A woman I loved. Constance she was, though she wanted me to call her Connie. She bore us two lovely children, both daughters, Jane and Angela…”
“You had a wife?” she asked when he took his first pause for breath.
“Had,” he replied, sadly. “She passed away a couple of years ago. The kids were off our hands and independent when she got ill. That was a blessing, because they didn’t have to see her die. I did, though. In a way it was a privilege…”
“A privilege?”
“You wanted the story of my life…”
“Carry on.”
“We hadn’t had a single row in all the years of our marriage, and it wasn’t because one of us kowtowed to the other but because we both seemed to think the same things and want the same things… no man could have been happier than I was, and I’m sure no woman happier than she. And when we learned she was dying, no man could have been more miserable. She never showed it though. She bore her illness almost until the bitter end with a chilling kind of calm. And when she finally found she could take no more – she was in unendurable pain – she asked me to help her on her way.”
“That’s dreadful!”
“Not at all. I didn’t have to think about it. If she wanted to end her life I wanted it as well. It was one more chapter in the harmony with which we had lived our lives throughout our marriage. And now she needed it to end. It wasn’t wanted, nothing as mediocre as that. She had a vast and chilling need, the one to die. To put an end to the unbearable in the certain knowledge that was all she had left to her – the unbearable – and that it would engulf her right up to the end, no matter how that end came.”
“This is all so sad,” she whispered. “Don’t tell me any more. It should all be so private, so personal, so nothing to do with strangers … and I’m a stranger.”
“That’s why I’m talking to you.”
“Because I’m a stranger?”
“Exactly. When I’ve finished my story, the one of my life that you asked for, you’ll know one thing about me that would send me to jail…”
“You mean, you did what she wanted?”
“You didn’t want to hear any more!”
“And you ended it for her?”
He nodded. When she looked into his face – he was too old to be called middle-aged and too young to be called old, a bit like herself, she supposed, in that limbo that used to be old age but isn’t any longer, there were tears in his eyes. He still loves her, she thought, he still finds himself thinking about her every day, dreaming about her every night, and talking to strangers about her…
“Don’t say any more,” she breathed. “I might have guessed things but you haven’t told me so I can’t point a finger and say you confessed to … to … to…”
“Murder,” he sighed, and the word was like that, like a sigh.
“Murder,” she murmured.
“It would have been murder to have let her live,” Rusty said. “It would have been the cruellest and most callous thing I or, I suspect, any man could do! What love would have been in that? What kindness? Telling her that she’d have to bear the pain, the worst of pains that even the morphine barely touched! I couldn’t do that to her! I mean, who could, if their love was deep and wonderful and all-embracing?”
She nodded, not willing to commit herself to words.
“You asked for the story of my life,” he smiled, “and that’s just a piece of it, a big precious piece, but not the whole.”
“And you’ve been on your own since then?” she asked.
He shook his head. “It took me six months to find someone else,” he muttered. “I was on the rebound all right, and she was so unsuitable I weep when I think that I ever touched her with the same fingers that had held Connie’s hands! But I did. Her name was Agatha and I curse the day I ever met her.” He sighed slowly, thoughtfully, regretfully.
“When I killed her it was murder,” he added, fiddling with a paper in front of him and almost smiling. “But then, she asked for it, thinking she could ever…” He looked with big wide eyes to her seat, where she had been sitting.
But Saphie was ten yards down the street, and moving ever more swiftly away from him.
© Peter Rogerson 08.03.14



  1. pambrittain April 29, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    I love this story, but you’ve left me hanging on the last one you started. I think I only was able to read one of two chapters.

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