The Cautionary Tale of Mr. and Mrs. Elliot
Sean Eliot is getting a promotion. He’s going to get that office with a view and the pay check to go with it.
Vivienne was on the rebound when she meet Sean. Sean, who did ball room dancing on Thursday nights. The dancing bit surprised her. She didn’t see that in him at all. Usually she would have overlooked him. He wore glasses and his hair was thinning. To date an accountant would be a reaction against every boyfriend she’d ever had; bad-boys, party-boys, pot- heads, musicians and worst of all, the latest; a male model. Sitting all day at a computer does nothing for the six-pack, but she had sworn off those, and men who liked the look of themselves more than they liked her. Sean on the other hand, took her to Tetsuya’s and proposed. She became Mrs. Elliot a month and a half later.
I don’t suppose Vivienne would be the first bride more preoccupied with the idea of the perfect day than her groom. By the time she had finished with the sun-bleached country church it was billowing silver, and could have been a centerfold for ‘Cosmopolitan Bride’. The congregation turned to see Vivienne step beneath the historic arches; dust motes shimmering around her layers of lace. This was her one perfect second, the moment when all of her little girl dreams collided and there at the end of aisle of sweeping sash and bouquet stood Sean, his pelvis slung forward and the shoulders rolled back. His was the kind of posture that looked like you might as well be sitting even when standing. Vivienne’s heels pressed into the spot. Her father squeezed her arm. The Queen of Sheba hadn’t even started when he plunged forward, giving the audience his most generous smile. He wasn’t going to let the only decent man his daughter had ever dated, get away. Vivienne followed, bundling lace after him.
Soon after a disappointing honeymoon, where Vivienne had been mostly unwell – nothing serious, just headaches and low level digestive issues (probably a wedding stress reaction) and Sean became short-tempered because he was horny and had expected masses of sex. In turn Vivienne got indignant and decided she would give him even less (how can there be less than nothing?) But, after the honeymoon, she got completely engulfed in improving his house and they seem to settle into each other.
Pretty soon, their friends meet and mingled. Everyone liked Sean. He was intelligent. informed and kindhearted. Let’s face it, they all appreciated the change. Don’t get me wrong, Vivienne appreciated it too. She appreciated that they paid with his credit card. It was just a nice change from her having to pay for some struggling artist. She appreciated that he had manners. That he was not moody and distracted by his own reflection in the mirror. It was also great that he didn’t slip a couple of ecstasy tablets and suggest a four-some half way through a nice meal. Yes, Vivienne would have to say, everyone was pretty much relieved. Maybe except her. Certain things troubled her, like the jumper he wore to Krista’s. A faded rugby jumper, when most of the men wore a suits or at least something with a label. No one else seemed bothered by that old jumper.
Would Vivienne say that she hated sex? No. What was she like with the muso and the male model? Did she ever say to them, ‘I am just tired.’
Sean was horny again and Vivienne knew the headaches could not go on forever. It was the last thing she felt like but she knew she should make an effort. So she started to kiss back, even threw in some appreciative sounds. His hands were gentle. He reached up and squeezed her shoulders. His grip was firm and Vivienne felt her body respond. The needing caught her guard. Her mouth almost of its own accord began to kiss back. He tasted her hunger and became excited, eagerly pulling off his shirt. Then her eyes. What did they start doing? They started to analyse. His chest It was just a sort of blur beneath the fine hairs. Shouldn’t there be more definition? And just like that Vivienne felt herself flatten out. She didn’t stop him. But she didn’t bother with the appreciative noises either.
After that Sean mostly dropped it.
Not just the sex. He adopted a zero-effort style of communication and while he let himself sink into disconnect. This had the opposite effect on Vivienne. She often felt her frequency rising, until everything about her seemed shrill and metallic tasting and just to release pressure she heard herself say things she didn’t intend to. It was just that sometimes her true self would spill out. The morning show was on (as always) and he had his feet on the coffee table as he dug into a bowl of breakfast cereal. She walked up behind him and said, “You really should think about exercising more.” Sean didn’t move. Vivienne could hear the cereal crunch and waited to see if he would turn and confront her. Very slowly he put down his bowl and began to walk away. (Every day he left it). Well, she was about to bring that up too, but before she could, he turned and placed his eyes on her. Green eyes, almond shaped with dark straight brows. His eyes, she would say, are his best feature. He said nothing for such a long time that she had to look away. He then turned and left for work; but he did not kiss her good-bye. I guess she had turned her head the wrong-way too many times.
Sean did not fight. Vivienne felt her politeness stretching, pulling taut. She made all the effort around the house. She found that if asked enough times he would muster and do something. Then he would forget and revert back. Can you blame her for becoming indignant? She found his hair in the sink after he shaved! She would have left it there for him to clean up, but she suspected he would not notice. How many days was he capable of leaving hair there? Well, an hour was too long for her. She almost gagged as she washed it down. His shoes were another thing. The moment he turned on the TV, off they went. Large sagging shoes, so old they almost had personality. They seemed to sit and watch the TV with him; which he watched a lot. Not so much sport. He liked current affair programs and shows where the experts debate. Not at all her cup of tea.
One day she noticed jogging shoes placed neatly by the back door.
Each morning at about 5:00 a.m he would sneak away. At first she was happy to have some time in the bed alone. He used be lazy in the mornings. So this was new. In time she found she was moving into the patch of warmth he left behind. What was the meaning of it?
She got up to greet him when he came in. She prepared the tea and suggested, as she boiled the kettle, that maybe they could run together. She thought he would be pleased. Instead, his reaction caught her. “I’d rather not.” Did his green eye flicker? Why? Because he was exercising, or because her feeling were a little hurt.
Months passed and many things got away from her. She used to be a regular at the gym before they were married. She thought she had an exciting life. She went clubbing and a phone full of friends. Just the other day she put on her favourite pin strip skirt on and guess what, she found that could no longer fit it. It had always been tight, but this time it just would not zip. As you can imagine she spent the rest of the afternoon sorting her wardrobe and by the time she had finished she had to admit; it wasn’t just the skirt that didn’t fit.
Vivienne thought, they should be making love. It’s not natural, she thought, he is my husband after all. The thought came to her when she stood by the bay window watching him. The lawn mower was not responding. He was pulling the cord back, trying to make it go. When he brought his arm up he looked commanding. Can you believe it? Spying on her own husband like that. When he came in covered in bits of grass and sweat she thought of following him into the shower. She imagined stepping in naked beside him, pressing in against his skin. But somehow it seemed like too big of a step.
Just now he said.
“I got the promotion.”
Hot dishwater blew steam on the window. The cat tiptoed across the floor. Bubbles slid down an overturned wine glass. He was going to get the office with a view and the pay cheque to match. Not that it mattered to Vivienne because for the first time since she meet him she was seeing all the small details. “Should I open Champagne?” she asked.
“If you want,” he said.
Yet it sounded like he had no part in it.
Was it the dim light? His white shirt drew across his chest. He must have shed at least 5 kilos. Why hadn’t she noticed it before today? He stepped in close. At last they were going to reconcile. She let her head tilt and her mouth move open. Her hair tickled the small of her back and he wrapped his hands softly around the back of her neck and took a hold of her hair. His lips moved across her cheek. “I think it’s best.” He said, “For the both of us that I go.” He let his kiss land. Pulling her so she was hard against him and pressing down one long unrestrained kiss to make up for every one she had denied him. Her insides shimmered down into rain and she began to pull at his shirt so she could get to him. At the same time he was pulling back. She had not seen the small sports bag by the door.
He closed the door quietly behind him, just the way Vivienne Eliot had insisted upon in the early days when he used to stumble in, full of eagerness.
By Monique Lawson from Australia