I know that all of you are going to hate me for this, but this is something that I have in my head for a long time and the truth is that I didn't want to write it because it is difficult. But I like challenges and complicated things, so here we are.
Some of you may not like the theme of this new story so I don't blame you. Please, if you are going to comment don't be rude, I have other more beautiful things to read if you want.
This story is already fully written, it won't take many chapters, so I'll try to update often.
As always, English is not my language so sorry if you see something that is not correct.
Shelagh blinked at the advertisement in the newspaper. It was a bit silly, but if she thought about it, absolutely necessary. Who was in charge of drawing and painting Christmas cards, holiday postcards, birthday greetings? She had never thought of it.
Now before her eyes was the announcement. A "major printing press" needed illustrators. Those interested should send a folder with proposals and data. If the printing press liked it, there was job. They didn't pay much, but it wasn't too bad either
She thought of Angela, the family artist was perfecting her strokes at a speed worthy of someone very talented, but she was not yet of legal age, and here it was specified that they must be "people over 21 years of age, and without age limit" .
She ran her eyes through the cold empty kitchen. On a chair, there was Angela's box of colored pencils, they were the ones she used the most although she had dozens of them, in all the colors that the human eye was able to distinguish.
Without much thought, Shelagh went to work. She took the pencil box and an abandoned notebook from Teddy that he used to do homework erasers or to tear out pieces and make balls of paper to tease his sisters.
She began to draw the first thing that came to mind, with an ease and speed that she thought she had forgotten after so many years.
The work resulted in a somewhat awkward example from her own garden but not inconsiderable. She was proud of both: the drawing and the garden, and she could dedicate more time to both of them now that her children were grown up and she had been away from work for months.
She began to plan what times she could sharpen her drawing skills, and how long she could have a finished folder to send. Lately she had so many free hours, that if she used them all, her drawings would be ready in a week. She didn't think they would take her, and she didn't need the money either, but it didn't hurt, not when her daughters were about to start the university, and Tim still worked at the hospital for most of the month without pay.
She smiled, if she tried hard, she would make it.
The front door closed with a terrible knock. Shelagh looked at the clock.
"God! The dinner!"
She had spent most of the afternoon drawing and thinking, when all she had to do was dinner.
"Shelagh I must eat and go, things are complicated with a mother and the new doctor is really useless so…Where's the dinner?"
Shelagh blinked rapidly again. She didn't know since when it became customary for Patrick to just walk in, dump all his troubles on her, and leave. Gone are the days of greetings with kisses to annoy Tim, and the simple but important "How was your day?". Now all was limited to dining, complaining, and disappearing.
She knew perfectly well how busy he was, always knew and was always his support in that, and in everything. But she also knew perfectly well that he had so many opportunities to retire and have a quiet life away from demanding patients.
But Patrick rejected that over and over again. Now he no longer worked, he taught. That's what he told her, but she knew it wasn't like that. He worked as always, even more, and complained about all the new doctor who had the misfortune not to like him.
So far from holding back her tears at how her situation had changed for…months? Or years? Shelagh felt her anger rise and turn all against him.
"Patrick, you could at least say hello to me? Since when have you become so rude?"
He paused in his frantic race against time, looked at her in surprise, then snorted in exasperation.
"Hello Shelagh, how are you? I need to leave soon, what happened to the food?"
Anger bit her and she let it out.
"You don't even have the decency to ask if something has happened to me, or to the children. Anyway, I didn't make dinner because I just forgot the time. But I'll start it now, I already have something prepared and…"
"Did you forget the time?" Shelagh, do you feel good?"
Her anger faded a little. He was visibly concerned, and not just because of the lack of food. Very reluctantly, she smiled at him.
"Yes, Patrick, I'm fine. Just look, I amused myself with this." She approached the table, took her drawing and showed it as if she were a proud girl. "I saw an advertisement in the newspaper. Want to believe they are looking for card illustrators? I thought by now those things would be done with computers or something. You have to send a folder with drawings and they notify you if you stay or not. I thought…"
"No, Angela cannot get into this, she is in her last year of school, she will only waste time."
"I didn't think about Angela, I thought about myself."
Patrick put the drawing aside. He looked at her shocked.
"Of course, why not? There are days when I get very bored, the children are already grown up, May loves to cook and even takes care of making the food many times, Angela also helps a lot at home, and Teddy also. And since I don't work anymore, I thought this would be fun."
"We don't need money. We are fine."
She contained a snuffle. It was the same thing he said when he asked her to quit her job. They didn't need money, they needed time. She complied, and he never did.
"I know. However, it wouldn't hurt to have my own money again."
"But Shelagh, draw? For...cards?" His tone was derogatory. The fury began to grow faster.
"Yes, cards, what's wrong with that?"
"It seems stupid to me."
She opened her mouth, unable to believe what she had heard and what she saw: Patrick was already standing, putting on his coat to leave.
"Why does it seem stupid to you? And why are you leaving?"
"Why am I going to stay if there's no dinner? I'll buy something out there."
"Patrick I will heat what there is, it will not take more than five minutes."
"Let it go, better keep drawing your…cards."
She walked quickly, to stand between him and the door. He looked at her annoyed.
"Shelagh I have to go."
"No, I want to talk to you."
"I told you that I should go and do you want to talk now?"
"Now, or whenever, you always have the same answer: I can't! Patrick, what's wrong with me? Why do you hate me?"
He stared at her, then shook his head.
"Hate you? Shelagh, how could I hate you, what are you saying? How can you think that?"
"It is very easy to think when I hear what you say. Look, if I left the job it was because the money was not necessary, and because you wanted more time with the family. I did it, but you didn't stop working."
"Again with that…"
She licked her lips, felt hot and parched. She took a breath to continue.
"If I did it was also because I felt useless with the other nurses, so young and updated."
"That's nonsense, you were always the best."
"I was, but I wanted to continue being so. I wanted to do that specialization in the university, and you also said it was stupid. And I curse myself every day for having listened to you."
Patrick stopped looking at her, buttoned his coat. She leaned against the door, willing not to let him go.
"Why do you do that? Why do you hate me"
"Shelagh, I don't hate you! I...thought it wasn't necessary. I thought I would stop working but I can't do it, it's working or going back to smoking, or being here bothering you. Okay, go back to work if you get bored. I need to go now, let me go outside."
"I will return if I do that specialization. I will not make a fool of myself in front of the younger ones."
He sighed, defeated, shaking his head.
"There is no money for that."
"Perfect, I'll do the cards."
"Shelagh, no. You will not do it," he waved his index finger in front of her, as he did every time he wanted her to obey him. As if she were his daughter. She took the finger in her fist and pulled it away. He stared at her in shock and almost fright.
"Why should I obey you? Because you are my husband?"
He took off his hat, annoyed.
"You won't go to university because you're getting older."
"Now you call me an old woman. You are too and yet you are working."
"I'm not saying that! Shelagh, you can come back as my receptionist, Miss Higgins is tired of me and wants to retire. You will have a job, your money, you will not be bored."
"I don't want that. I want other things, and I want you to stop working."
"I'm sorry, but it won't be like that," he put his hat back on his head. "Step aside, I'm late."
She barely moved and he passed, brushing her entire body and shutting the door with another slam.
Shelagh walked to the kitchen, took the drawing she was proud of, and tore it into pieces.
"Dad won't come to dinner?"
Shelagh smiled, as best she could, at her youngest son. He ate voraciously, as his 13 years demanded.
"Teddy, breathe between each bite please," she laughed barely, and her son finally stopped to take a sip of juice.
"I'm sure they fought again."
Angela's voice was sharp, direct to the target. Although they did not share blood, the girl was an exact copy of Patrick in her character, and that, combined with her adolescence, kept her very far from being a little angel. She was mobile, stubborn, she was never at home, and lately, like her father, she had all her artillery against Shelagh.
May cleared her throat and smiled tightly.
"Surely not, Angie, why do you think that?"
"Look, Mom doesn't even answer us. It is clear that they fought." Angela rolled her eyes, as Tim did, and May gave Shelagh her shy smile.
Although they did not share blood either, May had grown with a very similar character to Shelagh, so like their parents, the girls fought quite often.
"We don't fight, Angela," Shelagh answered at last, stabbing at her food with the fork.
"You lie. I know you well."
"I know you well too Angela, and I know very well that you were late to school today because you met that boy."
Angela dropped her spoon onto the plate and crossed her arms, looking defiantly at her.
"Why are you diverting the conversation?"
Shelagh sighed. She understood her daughter and her changes, but she knew very well that the reason for Angela's almost permanent anger was Robert: a boy Angela had a crush on and Shelagh wouldn't accept. She knew his family, she knew they were bad people, but the boy had her daughter entangled and Patrick accepted him, and she did not understand why.
They had argued thousands of times for that reason.
"Dad likes Robert." Angela's voice was decisive.
"Your father likes everything you do because you are just like him."
"That is not true! Besides, he is not my f…"
"Angela!" Shelagh was already standing, looking into the eyes of her most rebellious daughter, "Don't you dare say that. He is your father and I am your mother, this is your family, whether you like it or not. And this goes for everyone."
She looked at her three children, all with their heads down. Angela had mutated into a little girl, her eyes filled with tears.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that." She whispered.
"It's okay Angela. Come on, eat the food before it gets cold."
They returned to the food, although Angela did not stop crying.
"Dad is angry with me because I don't want to study medicine."
She took her daughter's hand and squeezed it. That was another big problem. Just as Patrick had accepted his daughter's boyfriend without restrictions, he just as easily rejected her future project. He totally refused to let Angela study art, something Shelagh supported. Suddenly her head started to hurt, there was too much to think about and discuss.
"He will accept that, love."
"I want to be a veterinarian" Teddy intervened, "It's similar, isn't it?"
Shelagh smiled, peace seemed restored.
"Anyway, I still don't understand why you don't accept Robert."
Shelagh grabbed her head, peace only existed for a few seconds.
"I already told you, I have known his family for years and…"
"But he is not the same! I am your daughter and that does not mean that I'm unhappy like you!"
Both parents screamed in unison. Patrick dropped his coat and closed the door.
"How do you say something like that to your mother, young lady?"
May sighed, exhausted, pushing her plate away. Teddy just yawned, pouring himself another glass of juice.
"Why do you say such a thing?" Patrick said without stopping looking at Angela. She did not seem to subside before her father's gaze and Shelagh swallowed, if the girl challenged him things would be worse.
"Angela, darling…" She reached out to touch her daughter, but the girl pulled away.
"This house is disgusting. You two are too."
She wanted to leave, but Patrick caught her wrist. She complained, but he didn't release her.
"Patrick, leave her."
"No, she is going to listen to me. Say sorry to your mother, Angela."
"I won't, because I told the truth. She is unhappy with you and wants me to be unhappy with Robert too."
"Oh, Robert again…"
"It's your fault, Patrick, but you were delighted when the boy told you that he will study medicine."
Patrick released his daughter, who escaped straight to the stairs. He turned to look at Shelagh.
"You only cared about that," she continued, "that the boy will be a doctor. You didn't care about the safety of your own daughter. She is only 17!"
"Shelagh, I live thinking about her, and everyone! The boy is good, you are the one who does not want to believe it."
She sighed, exhausted. She realized that her other two children were watching television.
"God, now they will never end." She heard Teddy complain.
"Patrick you only care about your patients, for months you have not cared what happens in this family, because you are never here! The children stopped being children, they stopped being your pets to play and you got more and more into work. Even all your frustration with patients is directed at me, you always did that and I'm tired!"
"And again the work! This is all about the cards, isn't it?"
"What cards?" Teddy asked, walking past her, opening the fridge to pour soda into a glass.
"A silly job that your mother wants to do."
"Why do you disqualify it like this? Why do you think anything other than medicine is silly and stupid? You even told that to Angela!"
Patrick stopped to contradict her when he saw Teddy looking at them with disdain.
"Let's talk about this another time, Shelagh."
She turned, saw her son. She felt terrible.
"It's true. Sorry, Teddy."
"I don't care," answered the boy.
"I shouldn't do it. I shouldn't have argued with you in front of the children." Patrick sighed as he sat down on the bed. She saw him visibly sorry.
She just nodded. He was right, they always avoided fights and more when the children were present but now everything seemed to explode at every moment.
"Shelagh, about that boy Robert...He's a good guy. But yes, I liked him when he said he will study for a doctor. I was angry with Angela, I think she will waste her future studying...art, or whatever. It seems to me that being with someone who is studying something more serious will guarantee that she does not throw everything overboard."
"Patrick, you must allow her to study that. She is stubborn like you, and she won't want to do anything else. But that boy...I'm afraid that the same thing will happen to her as to her real mother. I wouldn't force her to give up a baby for adoption, of course, but I don't want her to ruin her life when she has talent and potential."
"She will ruin it by studying that. Do you know what they do? They get together to "make art" and there are only...orgies and drugs. She thinks she will paint like Michelangelo and she will only end up smoking weed. Also Edward is doing so badly at school, what the hell is wrong with that boy?"
"Maybe...he's just a little upset with the situation here."
"What situation? We are a family like any other, he mustn't make meaningless excuses."
Shelagh sighed. She didn't want to keep talking about everything when Patrick saw nothing wrong and she saw everything wrong.
They lay quietly, and she dozed a little until she heard him get up. After several minutes without him coming back and without listening to his movements, she went down to the living room, expecting to find him reading papers or doing work things.
What she saw left her frozen.
Patrick was sitting on the sofa, with tears in his eyes, looking at the photo of Marianne that was always on the piano, as a reminder to Tim, although he had not lived in the house for a long time. Shelagh had not wanted to get the photo out, after all, Marianne had been Patrick's first wife.
Now she felt an intense wave of jealousy. She swallowed hard.
Patrick missed Marianne. He missed another life he had with another woman.
She felt a tear run down her cheek and slowly made her way up the stairs, quietly. When she reached the bedroom, sobs attacked her.
Patrick spent several nights repeating that attitude. He thought she didn't know, but now she sneaked down every night, feeling like those women who follow their husbands to discover them with their lovers, only that her husband was reunited with the photograph of a dead woman.
Patrick had few friends, but he had not seen them for a long time. She consoled herself by thinking that he was looking and crying at that photo telling it his problems because he had not nobody to speak about it.
"I still love you, my darling."
The whispered words stabbed at her heart.
"I miss you so much, why did you go?"
She felt the ground beneath her feet vanish. Suddenly the foolish doubt that she sometimes had and that she always discarded, appeared no longer as a doubt but as a certainty: she was just a replacement. A little wood to cover a hole. She was always Marianne's substitute, someone to take care of Patrick, cook food, do laundry, and have sex with him. Nothing else.
The pain quickly gave way to a new sensation she never felt toward him.
"I hate you."
She couldn't hate him, but she needed to tell him, to tell him that he gave her a life of lies and that she didn't want that anymore.
If she ever had the courage to change her life radically, now she could too.
The next morning was the same chaos as ever. Angela woke up late, fought with everyone, left without eating. Teddy took advantage and ate his breakfast and his sister's, and May left in silence, barely saying hello to her parents. Patrick was about to run away too, but Shelagh stopped him by squeezing his arm. He looked at her annoyed.
"Patrick, I need to talk to you. And it will be now."
He blinked at the severity of her voice. He seemed a little scared.
"It is what I wonder. What happens?"
"Oh no, again with that?"
"Yes, again, because you say that everything is fine and normal, but if everything were like this you wouldn't have spent nights crying with a photo of your wife."
The word wife was a remarked hiss, looking him straight in the eye.
"What...what are you saying?" He smiled nervously, extended his arms towards her, "Shelagh, you are my wife."
She let out a sad laugh.
"Really? Do you think I didn't see you crying with that photo?" She pointed to the photo of Marianne, immaculate on the piano. "You clearly miss her, don't deny it because I heard you say it."
"Shelagh, that's private, why are you spying on me now?"
"Tell me the truth Patrick Turner," she continued, ignoring him, "I was always her replacement, wasn't I?"
"Why did you spy on me?"
She did not answer, knew that he would first try to argue, and then reconcile. He did exactly that.
"Answer me, Patrick. Was I just the replacement? Did I never manage to be like her?"
"Don't say that! It was not so! Shelagh, honey…"
He tried to get closer, but she pulled away. This time they wouldn't solve this fight like this, he wouldn't shut her up with kisses.
"Shelagh, come with me," he stretched his arms towards her, "Shelagh, I love you."
"Do you really love me? Because it doesn't seem like it."
He ran his hand through his hair, which fell onto his forehead. She wished she could touch it, but she wasn't going to give in to it.
"Okay, Shelagh, do the cards thing. I hope they give you the job, you get money, and you go to university. I'll pay what you need."
"It's not about that anymore, Patrick, and you know it well."
He dropped into a chair.
"I will not leave the job, it is my life and I will not allow you to take that away from me."
"I'm not trying to take anything away from you, I just want to take care of you and take care of ourselves, but you won't let me do it!"
He sighed, ran his hand through his hair again, staring at the floor.
"You are always the victim here, Shelagh. I always took care of you, I protected you, I did everything you wanted. Now what else do you want? I gave you everything but you never, never left the guilt. You always felt guilty for leaving the Order and nothing I did worked."
She felt as if he had slapped her. It was true, she always lived with that guilt, but she was happy. She believed he was too.
She sat across from him, tried to take his hand, but he pulled it away. She saw that his eyes were full of tears, like hers.
"And you always pressed. You always wanted to know, you always asked, but the one who had to live with the nightmares was me. You are so annoying sometimes. And you always handled me with pity, like a good nun you were, always appealing to be the victim and the only one who was right."
"Patrick, you don't need to offend me."
"I'm just saying how I feel. Because I can't tell anyone, just a photo of my dead wife."
"Is that why you hate me?" A sob crossed her words.
"I would never hate you, Shelagh, even if you killed me."
"But you don't love me."
He did not answer, and she swallowed, feeling the anger begin to build. She felt him grab her by the chin, forcing her to kiss him. She pushed away from him and stood up.
"Don't touch me, Patrick. Please."
"Shelagh… I'm...I'm sorry. We can change all this, I know. A thousand things happened before and we overcame them."
"No Patrick, not anymore. This is the end."
She took a deep breath and forced herself to say the words she thought several times and refused to say.
"I want the divorce."
He stood up slowly, still looking at her.
"What did you say?!"
"What you heard. I want to divorce you."
He approached her, took her by the elbows although she struggled to release his grip.
"Shelagh! My God, no! You can't leave me!"
"Why not?" She cried, already free of his grasp.
"Ask me to kill me but don't ask me for this. I can't live without you. Please, Shelagh, please! I love you, I love you forever, please, you can't leave me!"
He took her in his arms again, seeking to kiss her, but she separated again. His pleading gaze turned to ice and he took her arm again.
"There is another man, isn't there?" She heard hatred in his voice and was afraid. Patrick's jealousy was always present from the beginning, children of his fear at seeing her much younger than him. But over time they had stopped being funny and exciting.
"What? Patrick, what are you saying?"
"You leave me for another man, that's it."
"You know that's impossible."
He took her by both arms, forcing her to look at him.
"Then tell me that you love me. If you don't love me, I will set you free."
She didn't tell him, because she wasn't even sure. The resentment she felt had taken over every cell in her body, and she felt only that, resentment and pain, and the desire not to see him so as not to give in to him again.
He released her slowly, she heard him suck through his nose.
"Very well, Shelagh," his voice trembled as he walked away a few steps, "We will do as you want. We will get divorced."