General Fiction posted April 2, 2014

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As police exhume a body, a man reflects on his marriage.

The Last Time I see Rosie.

by PhilipCatshill

Before the sun breaks over the horizon, a couple of police officers throw a white cover over a metal frame. The guys with shovels stand at the ready, waiting for the minister to give them the nod. When the prayer is over, they dig. They dig until the hole is deep enough to pass webbing straps under the coffin. As they haul it out of the ground, I turn away. This is something I don't want to see.

I guess I'm drawn to the house where Rosie and I started our lives together. Despite the plush furnishings and expensive ornaments here and there, the house seems empty and bare, just like those far off days when we were young and in love. When we first moved in, all we possessed were a few sticks of second hand furniture and a threadbare carpet on the floor. Those were the days when work was in short supply, but hey, when I woke up every morning with Rosie at my side, I'd bear a smile so wide my cheeks ached. I couldn't have been happier if I had been born a prince in a palace. I don't smile now.

Rosie always said with a bit of hard work, we could get a business off the ground and change our lives. The going got tough for a while, but with Rosie wanting to change this and that, I worked our way to better times. We could have moved away a dozen times over, but Rosie liked this neighbourhood. She said the people here made her feel like a lady. She acted the part too, and did all the things she figured a real lady should do. Along came the gym sessions, the tennis club, and a facelift or two. Even the storekeepers showed her deference. Maybe if I had slowed up a little life might have turned out different, but the business had to prosper, else I'd never have afforded those luxuries that only a fortune could buy.

I could kick myself now for the fool that I am. Seems my being busy all the time left my Rosie with too much time on her hands, and in one way or another, she had to fill out her day. Of course she was discreet at first, so I guess it was a while before I figured I wasn't the one putting that smile on her face. The tennis coach, the mechanic, and perhaps half-a-dozen other young bucks who kept their eyes fixed on her wallet rather than her looks. That would be around the time the rows started. "Just give me a rest, Harry," she'd say. Always struck me as strange, like most would say, "give it a rest," but not Rosie. She'd say "One day of rest isn't a lot to ask."

It seems strange being back in the house. I look around at all the pretence of mourning: the drapes drawn across the windows, the remorseless tick of the antique mantle clock stopped at the hour of death, the flickering flame of candle, put there for the sake of remembrance. The glass over her photo on the mantle reflecting the candle flame.

I whisper her name: "Rosie."

The candle flame flickers. Then I catch the scent of her perfume: feel the air move with the swish of her dress: hear the creak as she sets a foot on the stair. I have the overwhelming sense she is near.

Slowly, very slowly the door swings inwards. A chill fills the room. There she is. The woman I loved and married all those years before glides into the room just as radiant and serene as she was on the last day I'd seen her. That last day when she had snarled her contempt and loathing in the bitterest of ways, and said, "I'd do anything to be rid of you once and for all."

I call the name again: "Rosie."

She turns with eyes wide as though the sound of my voice has startled her. Those slender fingers cover her lips. I wonder if she means to scream, just like she did that last day, but not a sound leaves her lips. Her hand stretches towards where I stand, so I back away a step or two.

I don't know why the candle falls, but it does.

"Yeah," I say, "You were just enjoying your day of rest. The one you nagged me for all those times." I ignore the flicker of flame on the plush chair. "I worked so hard, just so you could change your life. I never figured out what was wrong with just being like everyone else, but no. You wanted to be different; you wanted fame and thought my fortune would bring it. Well Rosie, they've opened the grave my sweet, so pretty soon, your name will be headlines in the paper. You'll have all the fame you ever wanted."

I can't be sure whether she hears above the roar of flame or the sirens, which seemed to be getting nearer. I hear the guys shouting and their hammering on the door, but I'm not going to move. This is the home I shared with Rosie; I'm not about to leave. Besides, the fire fighters have the flames doused before fire takes much of a hold.

Whatever they found in that coffin must have clinched it. The charge is murder.

The last time I see Rosie is at the trial.

That judge describes the despicable way she poisons her hard working husband as a cruel and callous murder. He gives Rosie thirty years to get used to her new lifestyle, but I guess I have all eternity to enjoy mine.

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