It had never been at the forefront of his mind, but as he lay there, it occurred to him that he’d now be free to roam as he chose to in pursuit of photography locations. The downside was that he’d have no one with whom to share his photos. It was also true that, with that freedom, there was a risk of boredom. He couldn’t know if the excitement from his hobby was in part due to it being difficult to find opportunities to practice.
Just before he slept, he wondered whether his sister Betty might have contacts who could help him find a suitable rented home. She was still working as an architect.
Ashes of a marriage – Breakfast, Day Two, Monday
Frank had set an alarm on his phone but he’d already woken up when he heard the heating switch itself on. He drew the curtains open as quietly as he could. It was already quite light. He wanted to be up and about to begin gathering whatever of the items on his list he could collect without disturbing his wife’s sleep. He washed, shaved and dressed as quickly and quietly as he could.
Carrying his backpack and a bag of clothes that he’d moved the previous night, he tried to avoid those stair treads that creaked as he descended to the hall.
He didn’t want to bring any suitcases down from the loft, so he walked through the breakfast room side door into the garage and retrieved a box and a roll of black rubble sacks. Things like his shaving kit bag, a first-aid box, his laptop, printer and cables went in a box – also from the garage. His camera and lenses were in his backpack to which his travel tripod was strapped. The most essential paperwork he needed was in a couple of the box files from the garage. Once that was done, what remained to be packed was a few items of clothing to last him through the week.
He loaded his goods into the car boot. It was surprising how much he’d be able to manage without. He returned to the kitchen to prepare his breakfast. He’d only just started when he heard his wife moving about upstairs.
He took his breakfast into the breakfast room and began eating his muesli and thawed out supermarket summer fruits with milk. He looked around the small windowless room – the hall at one end, the kitchen at the other, the dining room on one side and the garage at the other. He thought of the plans they’d considered for change but had never got round to doing. They might never get done now and this might be his last ever meal in the house. That wallpaper, well, she might be able to persuade David to emulsion over that for her. The only good things about the room were the copper pendant light, the reproduction painting of a canal in Venice and the small circular, drop-leaf table with its four chairs.
She came downstairs in dressing gown, nightie and slippers. Her hair was still in rollers. He watched as she came in from the hall. She stood in front of him.
“Did I hear the car door a moment ago?” she asked.
He agreed and told her that he was nearly packed and would get anything else he needed from the wardrobe when she used the bathroom later. She sat down on the other side of the table, her arms folded in front of her and resting on the tabletop.
“Oh God! Frank,” she said, “You’re not really going to leave me are you?”
“Come on Charlie,” he said, “Don’t pull the injured wife stunt at this stage will you. We’re well past that now.”
“But we’ve been married for over forty years,” she said.
“And I don’t have forty more left to get things right,” he said, “ Listen Charlie, life’s too short – for both of us. If I go, you’ll have your precious kitchen left to your sole use. For my part, I won’t be spending the remainder of my life tiptoeing around you, wondering how soon it will be before you decide to have a hissy fit. These next, final years aren’t a rehearsal, Charlie.”
“But where will you go?” she asked. “I will worry you know.”
“If it helps, I’ll still keep in touch. I still love you Charlie, but we just seem to get on each other’s nerves, don’t we? We need some space, and just because we don’t seem to be able to live together doesn’t mean that I never want to see you again.”
He went through in minute detail with her his plans for the separation. She listened as she made her breakfast and some tea for them both. They discussed and, eventually agreed, a fair monthly allowance. She was glad that he was no keener on a divorce than she was.
“Frank,” she said, “I am sorry about yesterday. I was wrong to speak to you like that. I’m also sorry that I’ve made you so unhappy. I won’t try to stop you leaving if that’s what you think is right. I promise that I won’t leave your things bagged on the driveway. That would have been stupid and childish. One…. no, two final things. Will you stay until we can phone Gloria and David so that they’ll know that what’s happening is something that we both agree about.”
She looked at him and he nodded agreement.
“Secondly, will you phone the bank from here so that we can be together to agree the appointment? I can see that it makes sense to split the joint account.”
He was happy to agree to both requests.
She finished her breakfast then went to get ready, while he retrieved whatever clothes and so forth that he felt that he hadn’t moved out the previous evening.
The sun was shining, birds in the garden were singing. What a glorious yet strange and sad day to begin a new life.
I took this photo while walking Ted, my daughter’s Japanese Spitz dog, on an area of reclaimed industrial land near where I live..
I used my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera to take the photo using a 28-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 full-frame lens. The shutter speed was 1/25 secs @ f/8 and focal length 37 mm. The ISO was 100. The shot was handheld and I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.