This week’s Tuesday Tale:
Dimples. I looked at my father and then back to the woman at his side. The woman wore bright red lipstick the shade young women reserve for an evening out on the town. It was not a color appropriate for a quiet dinner with a gentleman and his son. She had my mother’s emerald studded necklace cinched around her throat. In earlier years I would have disputed with my father in private over such bestowing mother’s finery to his mistresses, but the jewelry meant nothing to my mother now and she would not have us argue. There weren’t any similarities between this new woman except those dimples. Mother’s smile dazzled men. I think that’s why he did it, my father that is. I think that’s why my father got rid of her. He couldn’t stand the jealously. His love for her out grew his ego so he sent her down to the ocean where she loved to be and divorced her quietly with a handsome salary. Men like my father could do that without recourse. I resented him for it, but I don’t think mother did. I asked her about it once when I went to visit her.
“Your father doesn’t want a wife, Timmy.”
She still calls me Timmy as if I’m still her little boy clad in blue striped overalls over a white onesie and a diaper. I’m a man of thirty now dressed is a silk suit as I recline with her at the country club for brunch. I know she isn’t mentally deranged as father’s physician pronounced, but I still wonder how a woman’s dignity can be preserved after such humiliation. My father never abused her by fist or force, but I heard the arguments. I felt her pain as he unjustly riled her for being a flirt and a whore behind his back. The fights would end with her crying meekly in a corner.
Like the proverb, her beauty faded. My father could not handle a plain wife any more than a beauty and so the emotional abuse continued. I’m of the opinion that her looks faded because she was unloved by the man she was devoted to and not age. Old age never took anything from my mother. In fact, I believe it is coming back to her the longer she spends by the sea. The dark circles are beginning to fade from under her eyes and there is a softness about her mouth that had long disappeared.
“Your father wants his ego more than anything in the world. He can’t conduct his business without it. Don’t let his fancies concern you, Timmy, but learn from him and do the opposite.”
She smiled again and pat my hand. I must have been in a daze because I was startled by the touch.
“Learn from him and do the opposite. I wish you could promise me that, but promises are cheap.”
She smiled. The dimples in her cheeks pulled her face into a doll like glow.
I didn’t visit her often. I should have, but between business and sleep I never found the time. I think that’s why he removed her to the coast. He wanted to keep me from her, to isolate her. I thought about hating him for it, for divorcing her, but she insisted that I shouldn’t.
“Don’t, Timmy. It’s not worth it. I’ll be happy here. Look,” she nodded toward the shoreline. I was dropping off the last of her belongings as she settled in to her new home. Her bungalow was furnished with a balcony overlooking the beach. It was the only kind gesture I could appreciate my father for and she made sure I noticed. Somehow my mother still loved my father and wanted to protect me from him.
The third time I visited her, I was forty-two. Life had treated me cruelly with love, but that was my father’s doing. He found fault with any woman I presented and I was compelled to agree. I don’t regret most of the girls I lost to his judgment, but at forty-two I found one that I couldn’t leave. I decided to see my mother.
Courtney Boose, artist
“She’s the one, mother. She isn’t afraid to meet father, but I don’t want to see her destroyed like he destroyed you.”
Mother reached out to touch my hand. I believe she has grown more beautiful as the years have stacked against her. The sea was reclaiming its mermaid princess. Her skin had a pearl glow now and her eyes sparkled like the stars reflecting off the night waters. Mother did not talk much while I visited her that last time, but she held my hand and smiled softly.
I thought of that smile as I sat with my own mermaid princess. Anna was the picture of serenity as she sat opposite of me on the yacht deck. The moon glittered off the ocean waters and off the diamonds in her ears. Anna was my match. I could look her in the eye and she could rile me or seduce me at will. But despite her ability she respected me. I held her hand the way my mother held mind and in my ignorance I wondered if my father every loved my mother. If he had, how could he have hurt her?
We wed in the spring as the frost lifted and the trees budded out. I tasted jealousy in our first year and have many times since. I thought it bitter at first and spat it from my mouth, but jealousy is a dangerous opponent. Anna came to me after one such bout. She held my hand and perched on her tip toes to whisper reassuringly in my ear, “In this crowded room with men great and small, I notice only you.” While other men may look admiringly upon her in her gown that lies like skin against her elegant form, I deny jealousy the pleasure to drive and deprive me from my bride.
Thank you for reading! Did you like these characters? If you were the divorced lady, what advice would you have given your son in the end?