Josie was just collecting her thing ready to go home when she heard her name. Martin, the director of the current production of the Sletan Theatrical Society, was shouting across the Village Hall to her. “Josie, could 1 have a word please,” Then he said, “OK everyone. Let’s call it a day. We’re all tired and I think the play’s shaping up nicely. “
Josie went over to him and watched as Martin, a tall man, pulled the stage curtains closed. He looked handsome with his Roman nose and dark hair which she noticed was greying at the edges.
The other members of the cast were getting ready to leave and one of them shouted across, “We’re going to the Black Horse for a quick drink. Are you coming?”
“Yes, lovely idea, See you there,” replied Martin.
Josie found herself alone with Martin. This unnerved her so much she really couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. At each rehearsal for weeks now she had avoided close contact with him because she found him so attractive. His flashing brown eyes, his boyish smile and his irreverent sense of humour all entranced her.
His soft voice came into focus, “Josie, is everything all right? Are you finding it difficult to work with me? Because I am with you. You never look at me when I am trying to get my points across and I have the impression you don’t like me very much. I know I’m not the easiest director to work with.”
“Martin.” Just saying his name made her head swim. “Martin, it’s just the reverse.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Oh! I can’t be more specific. It would embarrass me.” She could feel her throat tighten. “You see I admire you so much I ” her voice died.
“Oh! Thank goodness for that,” said Martin, “Because I had just the opposite idea. You see I’ve found it difficult myself. I find you very attractive as well. I’ve been trying not to treat you any differently from the others but it’s been hard. I asked you to stay behind tonight to clear the air between us.”
“Well, I don’t know what to say,” said Josie. “Obviously I’m very flattered.”
“I also wanted to see if you would come out to lunch with me sometime.”
“That’s very kind of you,” said Josie. “Unfortunately that won’t be possible as I’m married.”
“Oh! Please forgive me. How crass! I’d assumed you were either single or separated. I’ve never seen you with a husband or, for that matter, any man at any of the Society’s functions.”
“No, David doesn’t like me belonging really. He hates to see me make a fool of myself on stage and refuses to get involved.” She wanted to continue and tell Martin how David took no interest in any of her activities; that he was completely indifferent to her; that he was an absolute swine. But she desisted.
They set off in their separate cars to the Black Horse. Josie, however, just drove straight past. She couldn’t face seeing Martin in the company of the others after the exchange that had just passed between them.
When she entered her house she heard the television blaring. “Where the Hell have you been?” David barked destainfully at her as she opened the lounge door. “Make us a cup of tea, will you?” He was slumped on the sofa watching the television, his large stomach protruding through his partially buttoned shirt.
What a slob, she thought, comparing David’s churlishness with Martin’s good looks and consideration.
I mustn’t think like this. After all he is my husband of 22 years and father to my daughter. Not that he’s been any sort of father. As Gemma has recently come to realise. Perhaps it’s my fault though. If I had thought more of him maybe he wouldn’t treat me so badly.
She took him his tea and resolved to make a real effort. When he joined her in bed she cuddled up to him, kissing him gently on the cheek and sliding her hand inside his pyjamas to caress the hairs on his chest.
“Leave it off, will you?” David hissed at her. “I have to be drunk to fancy you. I mean you’re middle aged, aren’t you? And I only like firm young flesh.”
Stung with the harshness of these words she turned away and cried gently into her pillow.
“Sorry if that was hurtful,” said David in an unapologetic voice on hearing her sobs. “I’ve always believed in having an honest relationship.”‘
Next morning they barely spoke. But then that was quite normal. Josie still felt bitter at David’s remarks of the previous night. Not that his treatment of her was much worse than usual. What had changed was the defiant nature of her thoughts. Her attitude had dramatically altered since her contact with Martin.
As soon as David left for work the plan that had come to her in the sleepless period of her last night’s rest resurfaced.
‘I’ll contact Martin and take up his offer of lunch.’
She tried to be discreet in her search for the phone number of Martin’s workplace so as not to compromise her marriage publicly. In the end though, she was forced to call Linda, a compulsive gossip. “I need to speak to him urgently about my part in the play as it’s ‘no scripts’ on Thursday,” she said as convincingly as possible.
She’s bound to put two and two together and make one hundred and sixty four. Still. What the hell!
“Hello, Martin, it’s Josie,” she found herself saying.
“Oh hello, how nice of you to ring,” he said in his reassuring masculine voice. “Have you reconsidered my offer?”
“Well actually, yes I have. I hope you won’t think me forward now you know I’m married.”
“Of course not. After all who am I to judge you? Anyway we’re only planning to have lunch together. When would you like to go? I’m free today but after that not until next Tuesday,” he said.
“Oh! Today,” she said breathlessly, hardly believing this was happening. They arranged to meet at a wine bar they both knew.
When she arrived she saw him waiting at a table for two positioned on its own in a snug alcove. She had chosen to wear a feminine flowing silk outfit that she felt attractive in. He smiled, then stood up and conducted her to her seat, his approach putting her at ease immediately.
“Like a true gentleman,” she teased.
“Would you expect anything else?”
She chose a prawn salad and had one glass of dry white wine. He had the lasagne and drank mineral water.
“I’d love to join you but I don’t feel comfortable with clients if I’ve alcohol on my breath,” he explained.
She learned that Martin was a widower with one son who was away at college. His wife had died tragically of cancer five years ago at the age of only 41.
In return she told him how unhappy she had been through much of her marriage and how even her 21 -year old daughter had urged her to leave her husband; how early on in the marriage she had given birth to a still born baby boy they had already named Gary and David had become disillusioned; how the delicate, considerate lad she had married changed almost overnight into a rude, insensitive slob; how she had stayed with him because she felt guilty about the effect the still birth had had on him; and how she had recently give up the hope that one day he might get over the trauma and return to the person she had married.
Sometime during this exchange of personal history Martin looked full into Josie’s dancing green eyes and told her that she was very, very beautiful.
The lunch was over too quickly. Martin had an appointment.
However he suggested they both drive to a local beauty spot for the coffee he had already prepared in a flask. They sat in the lovely spring sunshine on a bench overlooking the multicoloured patchwork of woods and fields.
“Isn’t this wonderful?” They both spoke out the same words at the same time before laughing at the coincidence.
On the way back to the car she took his arm.
“This has been the most wonderful moment of my life since Patricia died,” he said, immediately regretting the qualification. “In fact I’d go further than that.”
Josie lifted the finger of her other hand to his mouth. “Sshh,” she said, “Don’t make any comparisons. Because we’re here together doesn’t in any way detract from your life with Patricia. That was another time. This is now.”
“What about you?” asked Martin. “Are you happy?”
“Blissfully,” she replied. “But I’ve some important decisions to make.”
He drew her to him and gave her a gentle kiss. He broke off just as she could sense his passion rising.
“That’s the first kiss since ……” his voice faded as he realised he was falling into the same trap.
“It’s the first proper kiss for years for me too,” she replied.
“Sorry, I really do have to go now,” he said as they separated.
Back at home Josie felt lightheaded. She could still taste his kiss and smell his masculine odour. However as the afternoon wore on and David’s arrival became imminent her mood darkened. He’d kill me if he found out Oh God. I’ve got to finish this marriage. I’m so miserable with David and I could be so happy with Martin .
She really had no idea how David would react if she did pluck up the courage to tell him. Would he become violent, self pitying, suicidal or what? It would be dramatic whatever happened.
At 6 o’clock she had to have a drink to settle her nerves, or so she told herself. By 7 she had finished a whole bottle of white wine and was definitely quite drunk. David woke her at 7:30 when he came in. However, instead of being vile and berating her for being drunk, as he normally would have done, he made her a coffee, himself a cup of tea and sat down opposite her in the big arm chair. She knew then something was brewing. Perhaps someone had seen her and Martin at lunchtime and informed him.
“Josie, I’ve been meaning to talk to you for some time but somehow I’ve never got round to it.”
Josie just couldn’t figure out what was coming next.
“I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to hurt you.”
Hurt me? What is he saying? He hurts me continuously.
“I can’t go on any more. I want a divorce.”
“Is there another woman?”
“I’m sorry, yes there is, Well more of a girl actually.” She noted he couldn’t help a self-satisfied gloating tone creeping into his voice as he said that.
“Don’t you worry on my account. I’ll be fine.” Josie felt her eyes welling up as she spoke. “But go now, please, for my sake. We can sort the details out later, possessions, finances and that sort of thing.”
David looked at her, as if for the first time in years. “I’m sorry,” he said and touched her gently on the back of her clasped hands. “I’ve never been able to forgive you for Gary although I know logically it isn’t your fault.”
Then he stood up and walked out of her life.
Josie waited more than a week before speaking to Martin, giving herself time to sort out her head. She had to force herself to attend the two intervening rehearsals, arriving late, leaving early and determinedly avoiding Martin’s eyes. She knew this would be hurtful but he would have to understand. Various images of him kept appearing in her mind as vivid as a slide show. Occasionally she would touch her lips with her tongue and recall the pleasure of their kiss.
When she was ready she invited him round, cooked him an evening meal and they shared the most romantic evening either of them had ever experienced.