That’s all her letter said. Just 11 words to show for 14 years of marriage. OK, they weren’t great years, but even so.
I didn’t look for her, why would I? I wouldn’t lower myself, but did I bloody look for that scumbag Ernie. How could she do this to me? I was mad, how dare she do this to me. I didn’t know any bloody Ernie, which is probably just as well as I would have gone and killed him right in front of her if I had. I certainly wasn’t going to look for that bitch, but by god, she was going to pay. When I found the letter on the kitchen table I stormed round to her sister Joan’s demanding to know who this, this bastard Ernie was and which stone they were hiding under. Joan said she didn’t have a clue who Ernie was but that ‘ whoever he was and wherever they are she was better off without me and that she should have left me years ago’. Cow. I know she knew where that slag was although she kept her fat lips shut. I’d have hit her but I didn’t want to dirty my fist. Now I’m just glad I never have to see her ugly face again. Those next few months I seethed hatred for someone I’d never met. I even hit that guy in the pub just because he was called Ernie as he was the nearest thing I could take any revenge on.
Stella will come back, tail between her legs. She may hate me for what I did, but she needs me. She won’t last a week without me. That’s what I told myself. Six years on and that’s still what I tell myself, and I’m right, I know her. Sooner or later she will come back and then we’ll see what’s what. How dare she. She didn’t take much stuff and I burned all the rest in a huge pyre in the garden. Clothes, photos, the lot. You can still see the scorch marks on the back wall. I smile when I see them as they remind me that I’ve destroyed her life much more than she was able to destroy mine.
One day she will come back, or I will see her in the street or something then god help her.
They know me as Tish here, though my real name, my previous name, is Stella. My apartment looks over the beautiful Santa Maria Bay with the blue Sea of Cortez making my soul soar every day. I swim in the warm water every morning then sit on my balcony, watching the boats bob in the harbour as the locals get ready to take them out fishing. 6 years I’ve been here now and I have loved every minute, every Margarita and every bronzed pescador, like Ernesto. I may be 60 now, but he keeps me young, calling me ‘la Belleza’ – the beautiful! Ha! Give over, Ernesto. He’s 32 years younger than me and I know he has all the pretty chicas around him when I’m not with him. But I don’t mind. Not really, I know he only wants me for my money, but I squeeze him for every centavo from each peso I lavish on him.
It’s funny his name is Ernesto, after it was ERNIE that called my premium bond numbers up all those years ago and gave me my opportunity to escape. Trevor never knew a thing. One day my life was an interminable hell, a sometimes violent misery of an existence in Newbury, trapped and in fear of a man I was meant to love, but had grown to hate. Ten days later my sister, sworn to secrecy, was seeing me off at the airport with all my worldly possessions in a suitcase, a dream in my heart and a million pounds worth of pesos in a hastily opened Mexican bank account. I was so desperate that Trevor would never find me I had to go somewhere he’d never heard of, that even I’d never heard of so I chose Santa Maria as my mother’s name was Maria and, well, Santa always brings presents doesn’t he. I know. Pathetic, but in that tiny way I could still feel a little bit close to mum and, I suppose, it meant like I had her with me in some way as well as someone kind like Santa looking over me, bearing in mind I had never travelled further than a camping trip to France before. Stupid really, but it helped as I was so scared.
And now the money has nearly all gone. Six years of bliss and smiles and now just enough to pay one more months rent and joy with Ernesto – or the price of a flight back home.
If I were brave I would calmly swim out into the Santa Maria bay at night, past the harbour to be with mum and give myself up to the current and the sharks. But I don’t know if I can be that brave.