It was a small house, overlooking a small ravine. There was no garden, and only a small patch of grass out front. The neighbourhood was equally small, and everybody knew everybody.
The house was one of order. Anne made sure of that. The china figures were always arranged precisely. There was not a speck of dust to be found within the four walls of the house. The furniture was tasteful and white, always spotless. Any reflective surface was polished, as were the floors.
Anne very much loved her husband. She would announce this to all her friends. Of course, only when it was appropriate. They had been married close to twelve years, and in all that time, Anne had not reported even a single problem with her marriage. The closest she came to any form of criticism towards her husband was an offhand remark at dinner with her closest friend, in which she alluded to the fact that John was sometimes careless when arranging his books alphabetically. She still regretted this allegation.
In truth, she and her husband rarely, if ever, fought. There was simply nothing to fight about. He came home to a clean house and a warm meal. They conversed pleasantly when John joined Anne for dinner, and then they retired to the sitting room to read. Anne preferred fictional novels of adventure and love while John chose to peruse the newspaper, or otherwise some intellectual tome. At this time, he was reading through a volume on the philosophies of Plato. Whenever John read across an item of interest, he would comment on it aloud, to be received by gracious statements of assent from Anne.
Afterwards, at a reasonable hour, John retired to bed while Anne stayed up perhaps another hour, preparing for the following day and doing some cleaning. Then, when she was sure John was asleep and that she wouldn’t disturb him, Anne crept into her loathsome place beside John.
Of course, were Anne questioned, she certainly wouldn’t use the word loathsome in describing John. In fact, she herself found her disgust of John surprising. It was, needless to say, an inconsequential moment of emotion, and so Anne felt no need to jeopardize her marriage by not hiding it well enough.
Anne looked upon divorce as the ultimate failure. It was hard to say where she had picked this up, but nevertheless, it duly worked upon Anne in minute ways.
It just so happened, as she was taking her dinner in a small restaurant outside her town on one of the nights John was away, she ran into an old friend of hers from school. There was much talk and re-introductions and the friend ended up joining Anne for dinner.
Her friend had married not long ago, and so there was the customary comparison of domestic bliss. Anne was courteous and listened raptly as her friend praised her loving and kind husband. Anne, in turn, lauded John.
The praise flowed freely, as did the wine. It was times like these their husbands received the most attention. Neither woman wanted to be outdone in their choice of husband.
Anne had been married far longer than Jane, and so she was the first to take her leave and head home.
As she walked, she couldn’t help but wonder if Jane’s marriage really was as blissful as it seemd. Her friend seemed happy. Anne wondered if she seemed the same way. A few lines came to her from one of John’s intellectual tomes. They were the kind she usually ignored, the ones depicting humanity in one broad sweeping motion. She brushed it away and continued on her way.
A while later, when Anne had all but forgotten her friend, John suggested holding some small gathering. He had a notion as of late, to invite some old friends over. He was feeling nostalgic, he said. Anne consented, as she always did when John had some idea. And so they began the preparations. Anne took charge of the menu and the invitations while John discoursed on the proper ratio of meat to fish and the correct way to phrase a summons. Anne made sure to select proper guests and courteously to avoid a mixture which could cause problems. John, on the other hand, took upon himself the grave duty to make sure Anne knew just how important a proper guest list was. Anne cooked the food and John debated the substitution of ingredients. Anne set the table and John read aloud from some manners book on the proper procedure for this.
The dinner party was thusly arranged.
Ah, it just so happened that Anne’s long-time friend and her husband showed up to the dinner party. They came a bit later than most of the guests, when Anne was busy talking to some cousin. She was praising John and privately thinking the party was quite the success and, when she heard a familiar voice. She turned and every thought vanished. The couple came closer and Anne recognized the woman as her dear, school-yard friend.
John asked who this lovely young woman was, and Anne absent-mindedly replied with the name Jane.
They started talking. Anne could barely hear. Jane was telling her to remember Adam. To go back to that conversation long ago.
But Anne paid no heed. She was looking at Adam.
Adam looked so much like John. Dear god. What trickery was this? Anne was amazed into stuttering out a few formalities and making some excuse to go to the kitchen. She silently made her retreat into the backyard from there.
Of course, one couldn’t really call it that, as Anne often thought. It was more a bench located by the side of the house, overlooking the little ravine. But John called it a backyard and so it was a backyard.
Anne collapsed onto the bench and thought about Adam. He looked so…smug. He was so much like John. His manner, his face, his smug, smug smile. She could guess that he knew everything and more. He struck her as exceedingly repulsive. Was Jane happy with him? She put her head between her hands and thought about Jane. She seemed happy. Maybe she was happy. But how could she be?
Anne asked herself if she was unhappy with John. She shook the answer away and stood up. The weight of the lie crashed down upon her and suddenly, Anne wondered what it would be like to go on a train. Speeding and speeding down the country, speeding away. She had even heard there were some countries where the trains reached extraordinary speeds. But she had never been to one of these countries, and she made sure to keep away from trains. It was much safer that way, John said, citing some statistic. And so Anne had never been on a train.
The sky sparkled with stars and she wondered if it was too late. When did the trains stop running? No, it was too late, Anne assumed. Tomorrow perhaps. Tomorrow.
Anne approached the edge of the ravine and looked down. It didn’t seem quite so small, quite so insignificant, when it was dark and she was alone.
She needed to plan, didn’t she? Look before you leap. She didn’t want to fail. Tomorrow she would go on the train. Maybe John would come with her. Adam didn’t look so much like him after all. It had been dim, after all.
She turned and went back to the party.
The rest of the night had been a success. Jane had just been dropping in after all. They left shortly, on their way to a different engagement after all.
It was a great party, everybody agreed.
The next night was the same as all the rest. John came home to a clean house and a warm meal. He and Anne conversed pleasantly about the party when John joined Anne for dinner, and then they retired to the sitting room to read. Anne read a novel about pirates on the high seas and John spent the time reading about different kinds of maps.
After John had retired to bed, Anne went to the backyard to breathe some fresh air. The sky sparkled with stars. It was a new moon. She stepped close to the edge of the ravine and, startled, looked down.
For a moment she felt the brief flicker of some undying love. The next moment it was gone.
Anne went back inside, hoping to finish her book.