I wasn’t invited to the funeral. That I saw the announcement of his death in a newspaper was as odd as that first meeting, drawn to the words, as if emboldened, on the inside pages of a publication left open on a train. Would he want me there to witness his sudden eclipse from all our lives?
It was enchanted, one evening, twenty years ago. Our eyes met, two strangers amongst the crowd, and a spark ran from one side of the room to the other. There was no escape. As he came across to say; ‘Who are you?’, we knew. We could see straight into each others’ hearts. Caught on the spike of romance, thinking love.
It could have been, I once thought, if he hadn’t been married. He couldn’t leave her, wouldn’t leave me, and of course, I didn’t push him hard enough, either way. What could we settle for? Friendship? An affair?
When she found out, there was the row, the silence, the phone call. I was to blame, the temptress. And then back he’d come. It’s such an old story, repeated over and over from time immemorial. All women know the lethal mix, understand that they will be the evil doer. And yet we fall.
I knew that I was no different. Kept up the pretence that I would cope. Built up a barrier of cynicism, that I was big and bold enough to play second fiddle. But was I? More secrecy, further degradation to my self-esteem. It is hard to believe, in retrospect, the lengths I went to, a woman wanted when it suited them, and it was them. I’d become the puppet.
Nobody knew me, the woman at the back of the church, for none had met me nor I them. I watched from afar as he was lowered into his grave, a bag of flesh to rot, a string of bones. It was over but as I turned to look over the rows of gravestones and trees to a hedge which borders the cemetery from the sea, he was there, walking back to meet me.