Creative Column – A Happy Marriage by Caitlin Taylor

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We never wanted children. The crayon mess, the alphabet, the whinging. We were never going to be one of those couples who added another screw-up to life’s collection. We had something better: we had each other.

Mark always said we would live the dream. But that required sacrifice. We sculptured greatness from scratch; the job, the jaguar, the mansion. Real estate is a dangerous game, but we won. We owned houses and we owned people.

He stood by the porch, wine glass in hand. The moon sang from above and the stars glowed. They were burning so bright.

Mark walked inside. He had got one over on someone. Making money soon became second nature.

‘I’ve got some great news,’ he said.

‘That’s no surprise. Success was our marriage vows!’ I laughed.

‘A young man is coming here at seven to make a business proposition that will result in a fortune for us.’

Our eyes met. We knew we were going to pounce on the poor chap and eat him alive. As I said, making money soon becomes second nature.

Knock, knock. This was it.

I opened the door, anticipating the smartly-dressed man from previous deals. They were the ones hunted first. They’d end up at the trunk of the money tree, looking up to see us eating the fruit.

But there wasn’t a smart man at the door. His skin was raw, as if it had been savaged. He was more a scarecrow than a businessman. He would be easy to ensnare, a bird that flew into the jaws of a crocodile. So as I always did – sharpened my teeth and got ready for the deal.

‘Good evening, sir,’ I began.

‘Yes,’ the slug replied.

‘What’s your name?’ I said in a sardonic tone.

‘Call me Marcus.’

I was curious. ‘That’s a peculiar name for someone nowadays. Forgive me, but you don’t look like a Marcus.’

‘Well, I was named after my father. Mother wanted it that way.’

My fingers trembled. I was too self-assured. Slowly, the penny was dropping. When it landed, it landed hard, like I had been crushed by a thousand wildebeests.

Our friend Marcus had caught on. ‘You knew her, didn’t you?’

Oh, I knew her! I remembered that tiny bird-woman.

‘I knew you’d get there. That’s the face she wanted to see.’ He started laughing. ‘I am here to make your husband a business proposition.’

I wanted to say something cutting. But I couldn’t. It was cutting me.

My husband walked to the door. For a moment, they were mirrors. One clothed with wealth and the other spat on by neglect.

‘I have a business proposition for you…Father.’

Mark’s mouth curved at the sides. Bastard. After all I did for him. But it was never we, always he. I made something of him – but not with him. A part of him would live on; I would be forgotten.

I never wanted children. They left a mess.

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