The postman stood at my door, a document in his hands with its ominous implications.
“Registered letter for you Ma’am,” he said, shoving a paper at me for my signature.
“Oh my God! You look as pale as a sheet. Have I brought bad news?” he asked, dropping his bundle of letters and staring at my face, as he caught me before I fell to the ground.
When I came to, he was bending over me with concern on his face.
“What happened?” I asked, still in a daze and looking all around me.
“You just fainted, Ma’am.”
Then I remembered the document that had triggered such a frightening chiaroscuro of emotions – hate, anger, desolation, grief – at the death of a relationship in which I had invested the best years of my life. The “Decree Absolute” had torn asunder two young people who had once proudly stood on the threshold of life swearing to love each other till ‘death do us part.’
It had all happened so quickly. Within a period of six months, my loving, caring husband had drifted away from me into the arms of a young woman whom we both had befriended. She was nothing like the type he would have chosen for a lover. Immature, giggly, and probably just out of school, she had married an older man who could give her the rich lifestyle she hankered after, and entry into a social circle that bestowed on her a semblance of respectability.
We often met the couple at Club Concorde where we too were members. We soon became friends. As Olga was so much younger, she often came to me for advice on various matters. Sometimes she visited just for a chat over a cup of coffee. She treated me like an older sister, and it felt good as I had no siblings.
Then tragedy struck. Olga’s husband Desmond met with a bad accident. Crushed spinal vertebrae had damaged his spinal cord and paralyzed him below the waist. For months he lay in hospital unable to use his lower limbs. He was miserably depressed and bitter against his fate, wishing to die rather than live a useless life. During those difficult months, we did our best to help Olga, both with her domestic and emotional problems as well as caring for her husband.
After work, Robin my husband would visit Desmond and try to cheer him up, while Olga took a break and caught up with some rest. When Desmond was brought home in a wheelchair, our care and support for the couple increased. We felt duty bound to help them as best we could. Though I had to give up some of my own activities, Olga needed my help and moral support to cope with her various responsibilities. She was always tired and depressed and wanted encouragement and cheering up. Desmond’s illness and treatment had taken a large chunk out of their savings. Olga, who was always poor in budgeting, found it difficult to juggle and stretch their dwindling resources.
I was totally unaware of what transpired between my husband and Olga. Robin had never given me any occasion to doubt his fidelity. He convinced me that he was held up in the office as his workload had increased. Sometimes he said he had to go out of station on duty, which had never happened before in five years of our marriage.
“More responsibility dear,” he said when I questioned him, “The higher the position the greater the workload.”
So when I was suddenly confronted with the reality that he was leaving me and was filing for divorce, I felt lost and abandoned. It was a pain beyond bereavement.
“Why?” I asked, still unable to fathom the reason for his sudden exit, “In what way have I failed you?”
“Olga needs me more than you do. You’re strong enough to manage on your own. Besides, you’ve got a very good job and numerous friends. But Olga is helpless and needs my support, and I’ve fallen in love with her.”
“But what about her husband?” I asked, surprised.
“Don’t you know he is disabled?” he retorted, “He can’t be a husband to her. Besides, I think he is past caring.”
“Will he give her a divorce too? Who will look after the poor man?”
“We’re not shirking responsibility. We’ll take care of him till the end.”
“Don’t you have any morals at all? How can you commit adultery with Desmond in the house?”
First Robin laughed. Then he shouted.
He had never raised his voice before
“The world is not filled with prudes like you. Fidelity is out and affairs are in. This is an accepted global phenomenon.”
“Go then,” I said, “Be happy with whomever you wish.”
….to be continued….