It is Christmas Eve. Gloria hates Christmas Eve, in fact she hates any part of the bloody festive season as it was five years ago on Christmas Eve that her husband, Ken, left her. Technically he didn’t leave her, he just didn’t come home from the pub.
On that night, Gloria had gone to bed feeling very satisfied with her evening’s work. The turkey crown was ready to go in the oven, the sprouts and stuffing were sitting waiting in the fridge and the Yorkshire pudding mix, yes Yorkshire puddings because Gloria and Ken believed that Yorkshire puddings went with any roasted meat, was ready to be poured into hot sizzling fat. Gloria had long since stopped making her own Christmas pudding but the microwaveable pudding would be just as good – with custard of course.
When Gloria woke up on Christmas day five years ago Ken’s side of the bed had not been slept in. At first Gloria was unconcerned, she knew that Ken would snore a lot after too many pints of beer and she expected to find him in the spare bedroom or on the sofa downstairs out of consideration for her. But he was in neither of these places. Instead there was a note that had been pushed through the letter box.
It said “I’m sorry Gloria, I won’t be back this time. I have found true love and happiness with someone else. Take care and Merry Christmas. Ken xxx.”
Gloria thought this was a huge joke first of all but then it sunk in that perhaps Ken had gone for good. She re-read “I won’t be back this time.” He had disappeared for a few days, once for six weeks, a few times during their marriage, but he always came back with lots of apologies, promises not to do it ever again and an expensive piece of jewellery. And Gloria always took him back – because she loved him.
But this was different. Ken did not come back. She heard that he was with the barmaid from their local, The Dog and Duck, who had finished work on Christmas Eve to return to her family in Glasgow and Ken had gone with her.
It was a huge loss for Gloria despite Ken’s history. It was textbook stuff – denial then anger then bargaining then depression then acceptance. “I don’t believe this. He surely will come back soon” followed by “I’ll kill him, I hate him, why did I ever marry such a selfish git?” followed by “If he comes back I’ll be a better wife so he (and his hands) don’t need to wander” followed by “My life might as well be over, I’m a nobody” followed by “Life goes on I suppose, I have to make the best of it.”
Thank you Elizabeth Kubler-Ross – Gloria had done a course on loss and bereavement the last but one time he had disappeared.
But Ken did not return to his wife and their marital bed. Sadly and slowly Gloria adjusted to and accepted what was the biggest loss in her life. Despite Ken’s reputation the feelings of her loss had been long-lasting and painful and even embarrassing, as if she was slowly cottoning on to what others had known or suspected for years. She had loved him – totally and absolutely. But slowly over time the pain became less, she began to make a new life and she gave herself permission to have new relationships. Since Ken’s departure five years ago the only contact from him had been birthday cards, usually with a piece of jewellery which Gloria figured was his way of hedging his bets, keeping the door open for when he chose to return home. “I hope he does come home” was eventually replaced by “He will be shown the door, the other side of it, if he comes back here.”
So Gloria gradually got used to being on her own and eventually she even enjoyed it. Life was good. Life was far less problematic not having a husband who had a reputation for wandering eyes and hands and, most likely, other wandering parts of his body. Anyway she had a boyfriend who was a delight. Who needed people like Ken?
But this Christmas was different. That morning. Christmas Eve morning, she had received a letter from a solicitor in Glasgow. Ken wanted a divorce as soon as possible, he was getting married – but not to the barmaid from The Dog and Duck. And now she and Ken had been separated for five years he did not need her acceptance that their marriage was over or her agreement to a divorce. He was asking that she employ a solicitor and arrange for the house to be sold so he could have his half in the divorce settlement. He was happy for her to have the contents of their home, half of the proceeds of the sale of the house would be all he was asking for. Furthermore he hoped that this could be completed as soon as possible and with as little ill-feeling as possible.
Gloria chuckled. Whatever love she had had for Ken had long gone. But she had a secret. Their house was neither her house nor their house. It had been bought for her by her father, a successful business man and an early lottery winner, and it had remained in his, her father’s, name. It was Gloria’s dad’s house. Gloria’s dad had never liked or trusted Ken. He couldn’t articulate why he felt this way but he confided to his wife, Gloria’s mum, that their daughter had married a slimy toad, a smarmy git and a total good-for-nothing. His initial intention to transfer the title deeds to the house to both Gloria and Ken on their wedding day had therefore never materialised. He bought them cutlery instead.
For the years before her marriage and the ten years of her marriage Gloria, and then Gloria and Ken, had therefore been living rent free in someone else’s house. And Ken didn’t know. Ken had never asked. He just assumed that the house was Gloria’s. He was never asked to contribute to a mortgage and he just figured that those payments were coming out of Gloria’s bank account. His assumption that he would be entitled to half of its value after their marriage broke down was quite reasonable had the house in fact been Gloria’s. But it wasn’t Gloria’s.
Gloria fell on to the floor. She was laughing too much to keep upright, she had a pain due to laughing too much and she needed a hanky to dry her tears of amusement. She thought, “Oh to be a fly on the wall when he hears the news that he is entitled to nothing. Oh to be a fly on the wall when his current fiancé gives him the elbow when she discovers he has nothing.”
Yes she would take up Ken’s suggestion. After Boxing Day she would see a solicitor and together they would reply to Ken’s solicitor with a full explanation of the financial intricacies – and disappointments as far as Ken was concerned - of her and Ken’s marriage. She wondered if she could put in a claim for a contribution towards the rent during the past five years. That would scare him.
As for now she had to get ready. Bill was taking her out for a Christmas meal in a very posh restaurant and after New Year they were going on a cruise. Life was good, in fact life was very good.
About the author
Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching. Her first children's novel The April Rebellion, has recently been published. Judith is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire forty-five years ago and is married with nearly four grandchildren
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