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CONVERSATION

by

Maggie Montford


Victoria chops a sandwhich in half as though hacking off an enemy's head. Behind her, her new husband, David, stands pouring drinks. They've been back from their honeymoon exactly two hours.

"This flat is too small for us," Victoria observes, pressing the knife downwards, watching ketchup ooze out.

"We'll move, I promise. As soon as we can," says David. "How would you like your vodka, darling? Tonic, or fruit juice?"

"I'd like a bloody Mary," replies Victoria, without looking up, or even smiling.

"Sorry--no tomato juice."

"Then I don't want anything."

"You're sulking, aren't you? I can tell you're sulking. Your face is all pinched."

"Thanks for the compliment."

"It's not a compliment. Come on, Vicky, tell me what's wrong. There is something, isn't there?"

Her face turned away from him, she speaks slowly, precisely.

"Well--if you must know--I think I made a mistake. In fact, I know I did."

He's only twenty four. They'd looked forward to being married for months. She said the one thing she wanted in the world was to be his wife and spend the rest of her life with him. At the altar, she spoke her vows as though she believed every word of them, gazing into his face, her eyes luminous. She's gazing at him now. Only there's pain, and confusion instead.

"A mistake? You don't mean that. Do you?"

"Yes. David. I mean it. I made a mistake. Marrying you. An error of judgement. I should have thought about it more. I'm sorry, but it feels...all the past fortnight...it feels...all wrong."

He turns on his heels, performs a brief, manic dance, and then turns to face her again, an expression of complete bafflement on his face, as though he's been told some joke he can't understand, but is struggling to get it.

"Nice one, Victoria! That's cool! Real cool! You made an error of judgement! Brilliant! Absolutely one hundred percent spot on brilliant! You know how to pick your moment, don't you?"

She stares down at the sandwiches, the knife clenched in her hand.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to come up. At least...not so soon..."

"The sooner the better it would seem! Christ, Vicky! What do you want? A divorce? A separation? A sandwich? Or a glass of water? This is brilliant! Brilliant! If it wasn't so bloody awful!"

"A glass of water will do. For the time being."

He turns to the sink. Fills up a glass. His hand trembles, and his voice, when he finally manages to speak again, emerges in monotone.

"I could tell there was something wrong. Even before Venice. And when you sat in that gondola I could tell, though you tried not to show it, you were hating every minute of it. I though it was--"

"Nerves?" She shakes her head. "Aunt Esther did the same thing. That's weird, isn't it?"

"Aunt Esther? What...?"

"My mother's cousin. She found out, on her honeymoon. I never thought it could happen again, not twice in the same family. You'd think once would be enough. It's just as bad for me, you know."

She stares at the floor, struggling against tears.

"Look, I'll have that drink now. Fruit juice'll do."

There's a long, tense silence while he mixes her drink. When he crosses the room again, her closeness unnerves him.

"Those sandwiches look awful. You've used too much ketchup. God! What a mess, Vicky. What a flaming, fucking mess!"

"You'll get over it. In time. I mean, we'll both get over it. But I'll never do it again, that's one thing I've learned."

"Do what?"

"Get married, idiot! As soon as we signed the register, I felt like a prisoner..."

"Well, bully for you, kid! Bully for you. You seemed okay. Couldn't wait to get your knickers off..."

"That's not fair! I was terrified, if you want to know. Look. David. I liked you as a lover, you were great, really great. But as a husband--"

She shakes her head, with violence, as through trying to ward off a buzzing wasp. "As a husband--no, no, no!"

"I don't understand you. Maybe I never will. But thanks for being honest," he says, after a long moment.

"It's okay. I'm glad I've said it," she says, offering the plate of sandwiches, her hand steadying as the feeling of relief begins.







ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Maggie Montford is in her early fifties, works sporadically as a bookseller with her husband, Peter, and has previously published work on the BBC as well as poems in little reviews. Her stories have also been published on the internet.






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