The final part of my short story. I hope you enjoyed it.
It didn’t take Pam long to realise she had made the worst mistake of her life. At first she thought it was because she was used to being on her own, and she only needed time to adapt to being half of a couple. They came from very different backgrounds and with the disparity in their ages, naturally they would have diverse outlooks, but it was more than that.
When they had first started dating, John had treated her like a queen, buying her flowers and small romantic gifts on a regular basis. To her mind, he was a little insecure and lacked self-confidence, but gradually his true personality emerged. He sulked when she had to work late, or didn’t put him first in everything. It wasn’t so bad when she had her own space, but once they were married there was no escape from his overbearing behaviour. He vetted her friends, her clothes, even her acquaintances and wanted to control her every move.
Initially he accompanied her when she was invited to a friend’s birthday party or a group visit to a theatre or a film, but within a few months her social life died down, and became non-existent. By chance she discovered he had hacked into her email, and from the responses he had sent to some of her friends under her name, it was not surprising they had blocked her. Her only outlet was work, and even there he made her life difficult.
After her outburst in front of Mark she felt embarrassed, but apart from giving her a friendly cuddle, and passing her a clean handkerchief to dry her eyes, he never referred to it again. He was as he had always been, a work colleague, ready to share his opinion about a better way of doing things for the good of the company, but never nasty and always supportive. She had no idea that he and Lawrence were more than employer and employee, and they had other ways of ‘taking care of business.’ The particular evening Pam was ready to leave the office and make her way home was a pivotal moment.
‘Pam, I appreciate you want to get off for the weekend, but I wonder if you could spare me a few minutes,’ Lawrence said. ‘Could you join me in the boardroom for a short while?’
Pam was confused. Work had been going well, new contracts were flooding in, and she had thought they were pleased with her contribution to the success of the company. Her face changed as she followed Lawrence into the room to be greeted by cheers, the popping of champagne corks and banners announcing her 5-year anniversary since she had joined them.
It was typical of Lawrence to have arranged that sort of tribute, and although embarrassed, she loved every minute of the party he had thrown for her. The only stumbling block was when she phoned John to explain why she would be late. Mark had told her they had arranged for a cab to take her home whenever she was ready, but meanwhile insisted she let her hair down and enjoyed herself for a few hours.
John had been nasty and belligerent, accusing her of assignations behind his back until she had switched off her mobile in frustration, and concentrated on enjoying the company of her colleagues. She was a little tipsy when she eventually arrived home to be greeted by a seething husband.
‘Where the hell do you think you’ve been?’ he screamed at her as soon as she put her key in the door.
‘I told you. Lawrence had arranged a thank you party as it was the anniversary of my starting work with them five years ago. It was good of him to remember and acknowledge it.’
‘Right, that’s it. Tomorrow you phone him and say you’ve resigned. No wife of mine needs to work for some guy trying to buy her sexual favours with a cheap bottle of wine.’
‘John, you’ve got it all wrong. Lawrence isn’t like that. He just likes to treat his employees fairly and appreciates them. No way am I giving up my job, and for your information, he happens to be gay.’
Thing went from bad to worse, and the atmosphere between Pam and John could be cut with a knife. Even when she tried to sit him down and talk about their problems openly, he refused to listen and blamed her for being a run-around whore. Considering how and where they had first met, it was almost laughable he could accuse her like that now, when she was in a responsible job and was a respectable wife. She decided the time had come for them to go their own ways.
Had she ever loved him? Looking back she believed she had let her empathy take over her common sense, but now it was time to move on. John had other ideas and for a few months controlled her every move until the day when she had broken down in tears in front of Mark. In the short time she had been married, she had come to realise John’s business dealings were not always 100% above board but she had no proof, and under the law believed a wife was not allowed to testify against her husband. All she wanted was her freedom and the opportunity to live her own life again.
The weekend John was away on business she took the opportunity to start packing up her stuff, ready to move out as soon as possible. With no friends to put her up for a few days, she scoured all the ads, looking for temporary accommodation until she could sort out finances and rent something more permanent. She didn’t trust him, and wanted to be sure she was out of his clutches before she asked for a divorce.
‘Sorry to hear about your husband, Pam,’ one of the guys in the office said as he passed her in the corridor on Monday morning.
‘My husband? What about him?’ she asked, but the colleague who had spoken was already in the lift and didn’t hear her.
‘Didn’t expect to see you here today, Pam,’ someone else said at lunchtime. ‘Condolences.’
Over the course of the day, several people made similar remarks. Pam had no idea what they were talking about, but it seemed she was the only one in the dark. When she saw Lawrence go into his office she asked if she could speak to him in private. His face was expressionless as he told her about John’s body being discovered, apparently the result of a mugging, and that he had been declared dead on arrival at the hospital. An anonymous phone call had tipped off the police where to find him, and although his wallet was empty of cash, they had been able to identify him by his credit cards.
‘But why did they tell you?’ Pam asked. ‘As his wife, surely I should have been the first to be informed. I don’t understand.’
‘It’s probably best not to ask too many questions, Pam,’ Lawrence replied. ‘Mark is good at his job, and we all think the world of you here. You won’t have any more problems. Once the financial side is sorted out, I hope being rich won’t stop you working here. Meanwhile, take some time off to get yourself organised.’
Bemused, Pam stood up to leave, but as Lawrence opened the door for her, they heard a disturbance in the corridor outside. To her horror John was charging towards her, screaming and shouting and demanding his wife leave the premises immediately. She hadn’t expected him home until late that evening but he must have arrived early and seen her half-packed suitcases. Hot on his heels was Mark, closely followed by the security guard.
‘John, stop it. You’re acting like a fool,’ Pam said just as Mark grabbed his arm.
‘Do you know this guy, Pam?’ Lawrence asked quietly.
‘Yes, of course. This is my husband, John. I forgot you’ve never met.’
She noticed Lawrence glance at Mark. ‘I thought you said it had been taken care of.’
‘Sorry, boss,’ Mark replied looking embarrassed. ‘Right place, right time, right name, and I double checked the ID. It just happened to be the wrong John Smith.
© Val Portelli August 2022