wasn’t the kind of person to just stand around daydreaming. But that morning he
was surprised to catch himself doing just that: smoking a cigarette in frond of
the big window of his bedroom, instead of the trees of the park across he was
looking at the ocean; the street lights transformed to towering palm trees, the
annoying morning city noise faded into the tranquil sounds of calm sea-water
washing out on a golden beach… the menacing looking dark grey New York sky
changed to a brilliant, endless blue all of a sudden, a golden sun right in the
middle of it… and the frantic screeching of birds trying to find cover from the
imminent storm turned into the happy chirping of seagulls chasing each other low
over the water…
The whole scene was incredibly relaxing and Terry allowed himself to mentally ‘stay’ there a while longer… even though he knew he would physically be there in only two days time, he couldn’t wait! He was due to board a ship destined for the Caribbean island of Barbados later that afternoon and his anticipation of the trip had kept him awake the past few nights. He could not remember when was the last time he felt excited to the point of daydreaming about going anywhere.
Terry had been offered the leading part in a movie that was to be filmed in the island over a period of six weeks. Even though he preferred working on the stage rather than the movies, and he had turned some serious film offers down in recent months, he had agreed to do this one unequivocal, knowing very well it would bring him neither success nor money: it was the idea of spending six weeks away from everything and everyone in New York that was more enticing than the job itself. Such was his need to be away for a while that he had added two weeks of vacation prior to the six weeks of filming and now he couldn’t wait to spend two months living on the beach with a cocktail at hand!
A sudden knock at his door crashed him back into the reality of his dreary bedroom. Damn… he was not there yet! Irked, for he knew who it was and he had no desire to see them, he blew the smoke and stamped the cigarette out just as his door opened and Susanna Marlowe entered his room… as usual without waiting for his invitation. She looked too sour to be really upset and if her lower lip wasn’t protruding so much, he might have actually believed she was genuinely pouting.
“Would you like me to help you pack, Terry?” she asked looking overly sad.
Terry bit the inside of his lower lip to stop himself from laughing. Susanna was always relying to her maid to pack her bag if she had to stay to the hospital overnight; she wouldn’t know where to start if she had to pack cotton balls in a matchbox, let alone pack his suitcases for a two month trip.
“I’m almost done”, he said casually. He had left the packing for the last morning before his trip so that he can keep himself occupied. He was now half way done with the second suitcase which lay open on his bed. She started approaching him slowly her eyes tearing up with every step. Terry knew where this was going, so he instantly busied himself with opening the closet, drawers and cupboards on the pretence of checking whether he had forgotten anything he might needed.
“Why can’t I come with you?” she asked sadly for… well, Terry didn’t know; he had lost count of how many times she had asked the same question the past week.
“You want me to tell you again?” he asked sarcastically. “The 2579 times we’ve been through this already wasn’t enough for you?”
“But I want to come with you…” she pleaded again sitting on his bed next to the suitcase.
“But I don’t want you to come with me!” he thought and considered it a great success that he had actually managed to stop short of shouting it at her face. “And I want a lot of things I can’t have, Susanna, you’ll live…” he said coldly.
“I’m going to the Caribbean for two months in September… would you come with me…?”
She was sitting across a table from him, holding his hand and looking lovingly at him with those huge green eyes of hers…
“I would go anywhere with you…” she said then burst into laughter…
The image flashed through Terry’s head so suddenly he momentarily staggered backwards. Frowning, he shook his head to clear it wondering where it had come from. He knew he had “asked her” to go with him many times in his mind in the past few weeks, but this image was so clear as if it has actually happened. Slightly shaken he nevertheless shrugged it off as wishful thinking on his part and he turned his attention back to Susanna who thankfully had not noticed anything.
“It’s a shame this trip came up in such a short notice” she was saying in her high pitched voice which lately was getting on his last nerve. “If we had had more time to organize it, we could have made some arrangements so I could come too. Just imagine… it would be like we were on our honeymoon…” she ended with a faraway look on her face.
Terry didn’t trust himself to answer this. For one, he didn’t want her to know he had actually arranged that trip three whole months earlier – plenty of time to make arrangements for her to join him had he wanted her with him. For another, she didn’t know about the two weeks vacation he had added that were meant to be his ‘away from her’ time; and for a third, the image she had just invoked in his mind – so unlike the one he had had a moment earlier – was threatening to make him physically sick. To distract himself he opened a drawer with greater than needed force, checked its contents decided he didn’t need anything from it and banged it shut again.
She continued sitting there looking unhappy, watching his every move. The constant scrutiny was getting to him.
“Susanna, don’t you have anything better to do than just sit there watching me? I am only packing a suitcase, for God’s sake!” he said annoyed. “Stupid question”, he thought as soon as he uttered it. She had absolutely nothing else to do, let alone something better.
“But I want to come with you…” she repeated still pleading her case. “I am sure we can still make arrangements to…”
“For the thousandth time, Susanna, I will be busy with work; I won’t have time to look after you. And what are you going to do while I’m working?” Terry tried to make it sound as if her wellbeing was what prevented him taking her with him.
“Well, perhaps Mama could come with us too to keep me company…”
“Perhaps you and your damn Mama can go and I can stay here, in that case!” he thought bitterly. The reference to Mrs. Marlowe was enough to make his blood crawl and to speed up his packing. She had been visiting relatives in her hometown in Ohio for the past two weeks but she was due back later that evening to be with Susanna in his absence and Terry was anxious to get out of the house before her return. “I cannot afford 8 weeks in the island for all three of us” he said coldly taking a bunch of ties off the rack of his closet and throwing them unceremoniously in the suitcase.
“But, Mama can sup…”
“NO!” he said categorically, finally raising his voice. “You are not coming, end of story, do not ask again!”
“You don’t want to take me with you”, she said then hid her face in her hands and burst into tears.
“You guessed that damn right”, he thought opening the drawer of his bedside table. It was the wrong one. He felt the familiar pinch in his heart seeing the place where his harmonica should be, empty. He had lost it weeks earlier, he didn’t even remember where or how, and he had yet to get over it. He slammed the drawer shut and turned to look at her – she was still bleating behind her hands. Terry had seen that happening way too many times to be moved.
“But, I am going to… miss you so much Terry… I am missing you already…”
“Oh stop it, you’ll give yourself a headache. It’s not like I’m leaving for ever”. “Unfortunately” he thought.
“It will seem like forever to me… I love you so much…” she stood up and approached him slowly. Terry knew what was coming and it amused him to see that she would still try it on even after he had blown her off time and again. He rested his hands on his hips and waited. As he had expected, she let her crutches fall on the floor when she reached him then she wrapped her arms around his waist looking at him seductively. She raised herself on her toe and pecked him on the cheek, straggling against his rigid posture. His unresponsiveness however had never deterred her; she tried to kiss him on the lips, but that’s where he drew the line.
“I need to finish packing” he said reaching for her hands at his back to free himself.
“You have enough time to finish packing, won’t you spend some time with me?” she asked in a low voice with a smile that betrayed her intentions.
“I don’t think so…” he said succeeding to keep a straight face when hers turned sour. “And I don’t have time either, my Mother is coming to pick me up shortly. I promised I would have lunch with her today before I left”. Susanna didn’t like this, her expression turned even sourer.
“You should be spending today with me, since you will be away for so long, not with your mother…”
“I’ll be spending the day with whoever I want, now please let me finish packing!”
“But Terry, I am your fiancé, won’t you miss me at all?” She sounded irritated, even though she was still putting on the seductive façade.
Terry studied her face intensely for a few moments; behind the irritation and the seductiveness she had put on, there was no mistaking the adoring look in her eyes, full of expectations he knew he would never be able to fulfill. Guilt overtook him momentarily for being unable to return her affections, and once again he felt obliged to reach deep inside him, to search even the most arcane depths of his soul, hoping to find something, even a tiny speck of emotion that he could take and cultivate into a feeling towards her…
Unsurprisingly, he found none… he had searched before… there had never been any...
No… He was more than certain he wouldn’t miss her.
“I think I will be kept so busy during filming, the only thing I will miss will be some free time” he said flatly knowing very well he would only have to work about four hours per day. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really have to finish packing”. He finally managed to detach her from him but he still had to support her as she brought her hands to his chest.
“Will you at least bring me back something wonderfully exotic?” she pouted playing with his tie.
Terry had a vision of a thick, angry snake mouth open and fangs ready to strike, wrapped around her neck. “Sure” he said helping her to remain standing while he reached for her crutches.
The doorbell rung at that moment. “That must be Mother” Terry said “and I still haven’t finished packing, she will have a fit!” He made sure Susanna had her crutches then went to open the door.
“Good morning!” he told his mother, bending to pick up the newly delivered pile of mail off the floor and trying to sound cheerful.
“Will I have to come in and meet her?” she asked sharply.
“For five minutes only, I need to finish packing…” Terry said apologetically and she sighed, rolling her eyes.
“It’s not such a good morning then, is it…” she murmured grumpily entering the apartment and Terry smiled behind her. Susanna had gone out of her ways during the past few months to make herself liked by Eleanor Baker; so far however his mother had remained resolutely unimpressed with her prospective daughter-in-law and she would do whatever she could to avoid her. Terry found the whole affair amusing.
“Go to the bedroom, I’ll be there in a sec” he told his mother then walked to the sitting room where Susanna had settled. Eleanor grunted a “hi” to her from the door then rushed to the bedroom.
“Check to see if there are any bills I need to take care off before I leave, will you?” he told Susanna handing her the mail and she nodded sadly. “We’ll go finish packing”.
By the time he got to the bedroom, his mother had already gone through the contents of the suitcases, had decided that the only things missing were toiletries and shoes and she had applied herself into collecting those and packing them neatly in the suitcase.
“Don’t know what you’re doing, going on that trip right now!” she muttered. “Not only that movie won’t pay even for your expenses but you will end up being out of pocket to take part in it! It won’t give you any significant experience either, and …”
“I’ve already told you Mother, this isn’t about making the damn movie”.
She looked at him then and all her acting talent weren’t able to hide her concern. “I understand very well what this is about, which is what makes me even madder! You are making a bad job choice just to get away from everything and in the meantime your name will be on that junk’s credits and it will go into your CV, too!!! It won’t look very good if your very first movie…”
Both of them jumped, startled. The blood curling scream had come from the sitting room.
“What the hell?” Terry said and looked at his mother who shrugged indifferently.
“It’s drama time!” she said sarcastically.
They both hurried to the sitting room where Susanna sat looking at a piece of paper she had just taken out of an envelope, shaking with anger.
“What is this?” she shrieked, waving the paper in Terry’s direction, beside herself with fury. “What is this?”
“Well, what the hell is it?” Terry asked annoyed at her tone. He approached her and took the document off her hands. He looked it and read it but… there was something wrong: his brain wouldn’t register what he was seeing and reading. He frowned deeper, read the front, turned it at the back… nothing: No matter how hard he tried to figure it out, he couldn’t begin to fathom how such document could even exist.
Eleanor came and stood next to her son and looked at the document over his shoulder. Terry turned and looked at her – she looked momentarily as dumbfounded as he felt, then her expression changed into one of intense astonishment. He looked at the certificate in his hands again trying to figure out how in the hell he could be holding an official piece of paper from the State of Illinois, authorizing everyone to celebrate the rites of matrimony between Mr. Terrence Graham Grandchester and Miss Candice White Ardley...