LONDON, ENGLAND |
The home of Alice & Denzel Wrate, their son, Isaac & daughter-in-law, Concepción |
Alice woke to the familiar sound of cupboards being slammed in the kitchen. Her stomach tensed and she moaned. Denzel rolled and wrapped her in his arms.
“I’ll talk to her again today, all right, Lovey?” he said.
Alice nodded and let the silent tear roll down her cheek to the corner of her mouth.
“Have you talked to Isaac?” she asked.
Her husband was silent which Alice accurately interpreted as “Yes, but he won’t hear a thing I’m saying.”
“We can’t live like this anymore. I can’t live this way.”
“We’ll fix it by the end of the month. Can you hang on until then?”
Alice sighed and pulled Denzel’s arms more tightly around her, “I’ll be counting the days, the hours.”
“Brave face, Lovey. We don’t want to lose Isaac, too.”
Alice and Denzel’s thirty-year marriage was being tested by the return home of their youngest child. In truth, they were thrilled to have him back after his two year adventure living abroad. What they weren’t thrilled about was what he’d brought home from Spain: a wife named Concepción, a woman three years older than him, and already once divorced. They were married before Isaac’s visitor’s visa had expired. And now they were in London, living in the house he’d grown up in. A house which was plenty big enough to raise a family with four children, two dogs and a budgie, but felt human-rights-abuse small with Concepción sharing the space.
After dressing, Alice and Denzel stood face-to-face, holding hands, looking deep into each other’s eyes and forcing the smiles that they would leave the room wearing.
Their bedroom door opened right onto the kitchen where Isaac and Concepción sat eating eggs-in-a-hole and drinking coffee.
“Good morning!” Alice chirped.
“Morning kids,” Denzel added.
“Morning, yes, but not good. There’s no cream. A madre que te parió! Alice, you forgot to buy it when you went to the shop. After I told you we were running low,” Concepción said, staring at her cup of black coffee while she spoke.
“I’m sorry, dear. Seems you didn’t look very well. It’s in the fridge,” Alice said, smiling at her son who mouthed a silent, “thank you.”
“Gilipollas. I’m not blind, Alice. There is no cream in that fridge,” Concepción argued.
Denzel walked to the fridge and pulled out the litre of cream, “Put it in there myself, Concepción. You might want to apologize to Alice for being snippy and maybe thank her?”
“Thanks, Da,” Isaac said, opening the cream and pouring some in both his and his wife’s mugs.
“What’s this? That’s not the normal cream. How was I to know you’d bought a different kind? I was looking for the green carton, not a blue one. Someone might have told me. Me cago en tus muertos. Saved me drinking this,” she said swatting her mug, “without it.”
After silence while Denzel made tea and toast for himself and Alice he asked, “What are you kids up to today? Any job leads?”
“The chip shop on Baker Street is hiring. I dropped off my application and have a meeting tomorrow.”
“Wonderful!” said Alice.
“Wonderful? How would you like your husband to come home from work smelling of grease and fish every night, Alice? Mierda! I hope he doesn’t get it. I’d rather live here than have Isaac work in a place like that,” Concepción said.
“Well,” said Denzel, “regardless of what you’d rather my dear, come the end of the month you and Isaac will have to be in your own flat.”
Concepción sniffed, “Of course, I want us in our own flat as soon as possible. Somebody left the toilet seat cover open again and I can only assume it was flushed while open. Me cago en Dios! I’ve had to throw away another toothbrush since God only knows what floated into the air and on to it. I’m ready to keep my toothbrush in my bedroom since you people can’t seem to understand a simple habit of closing the lid on the toilet.” Concepción looked up from her plate at Denzel, then Alice and stopped on Isaac, “I know you didn’t do it, amante. You learn much more quickly than your parents. Shame they aren’t as clever as you are.”
Alice and Denzel excused themselves to his study with their breakfast and closed the door.
“I can’t stand three-and-half more weeks. We have to find a way to get her out of here sooner than that or I might kill her,” Alice said.
“I was looking at our savings and you know, we could afford to pay first and last on a small flat. Get them out of here mid-month.”
“If we give Isaac first and last you know the other three will want the same,” Alice sighed. “We can’t afford it for all of them.”
“You’re right, but, I thought—”
“They already gripe and complain that we let him move back home rent-free,” Alice said.
“We’ll find a way. Without upsetting the others, I promise.”
While Alice read her book, Denzel looked for suitable flats in Bexley, jobs that matched his son’s skills but didn’t involve grease, and, finding neither typed, ‘how can I get rid of a miserable daughter-in-law’ into his search engine. He clicked on the first link to a popular advice forum. Scrolling down the list that showed recent questions and the first two lines of each first answer, his eyes stopped on the question, ‘Help me get rid of my miserable husband.’
Denzel clicked the link, wondering if a husband could be as miserable as his daughter-in-law. The answer he saw sent him to another website and before the hour was up, Alice and Denzel were discussing the pros and cons of trying their luck with Mother Teresa.
“It’s expensive. And I don’t understand how it works,” Alice said.
“Nor I, Lovey, but twelve hundred pounds is no more than we’d spend on first and last. Money we’d never see again in either case. And, if it works, you and I will be the only ones to know about it. No sibling jealousy. And Isaac will be saved more time with…her,” he said waving his arm dismissively toward the door.
“We could never tell him. God bless him, he seems to love that witch.”
“For now. She’s divorced once already for a reason. Without us as the target for her anger, it will soon all be directed at Isaac. He’ll be better off without her.
After creating a new PayPal account, Denzel transferred the full two thousand dollar fee, as pounds sterling. Then he stood and held out his desk chair for Alice so she could type the letter to Mother Teresa.
Dear Mother Teresa,
I’m not sure if you can help me but I’m paying you in advance since I’m trying to be optimistic and hope that by showing you that I have confidence in your abilities you’ll see the solution to my problem. It’s not with my husband. He feels the same way I do and is the one who actually suggested I contact you. He seems to think you only work with women. Anyway, the problem we have is with our son, who we love dearly, but who absolutely must move out of our house and soon. He’s married a young woman who I would call the ‘b’ word, excepting that I don’t like to speak poorly of anyone, even real female dog types.
I know that technically-speaking, there is no jilted lover in this situation, but my husband and I think it would be in everyone’s best interest if my son became a jilted lover. Or, if it has to be, he could be the one who jilts that woman he married. In case you need to know her name, it’s Concepción and she is Spanish. And our son is Isaac. He is 22 and she is 25 and already divorced once. (And for good reason, I suspect).
So I hope that you will use your connections to the greater powers to help our family get out of a most awful situation that was brought about by love. (My husband suspects they married for the sex, not love, but that should be neither here nor there).
Thanking you in advance.
Yours most sincerely,
Alice and Denzel Wrate of London, England
PS – Please do not confuse us with the Alice and Denzel Wrate of Windermere. We’ve spoken on the phone with them a handful of times since there have been occasions where mail goes awry. I understand they have a lovely daughter-in-law. I would hate for you to accidentally ruin the wrong marriage.
Alice and Denzel both slept better that night than they had since their son had come home, knowing that a solution might actually be in the works.
For ten days, Alice awoke with the hopeful image of walking into an empty kitchen to make her morning tea. But for those same ten days the first sound she heard, after a loving “good morning” from her husband, was one, two, three or more complaints from her despicable daughter-in-law.
The afternoon that Concepción started to sneeze uncontrollably, Alice looked at Denzel with eyes that said, “Could this be it? Might she die of a flu?” But when Concepción complained that the attic, where she and Isaac had just been looking for furniture they might take when they moved, was disgustingly dusty, Alice’s heart sank.
When Concepción choked on a chicken bone at dinner two nights ago, again, Alice’s hopes were raised and dashed as the bone spat across the table and hit Alice along with curses about her poor cooking.
“Perhaps we should stop thinking she’ll leave…permanently? Maybe Mother Teresa is a more generous change-maker?” Denzel suggested while he and Alice lay in bed.
“You read her website and that quote about suffering. Of course Concepción will die.”
“I disagree, Lovey. I think it would cause her more suffering to have to live with a husband who’s a chip-maker!”
“Well, if we don’t see some proof of Mother Teresa working her magic by the fourteenth day, I’m sending her another note. Maybe she lost track of us…do you think I should call the Wrates in Windermere, just to make sure everything is fine with their boy and his wife?”
“Be patient, Lovey.”
“Have I not been a paragon of patience these last three months?”
“You have. You absolutely have. And by month end, I promise we will be free from the trials and tribulations of our Torrelavega terror,” Denzel promised.
“I never want to visit Spain ever again,” Alice said, kissing her husband good night.
At two in the morning they were awakened by the phone. Denzel and Isaac picked up receivers at the same time, both saying, “Hullo.”
“I’m calling for Concepción Buixeda. May I speak to her please?”
“It’s bleed’n two in the morning, Mate. Call back at a proper hour,” Isaac said.
“I’m her husband, Mate, and I’ll call when I damn well feel like it,” said the man.
“You got the wrong Concepción. I’m her husband.”
“No, Sir, I’m quite certain I have the right number. Your wife is also my wife. And since she is my wife first and still, she’s not legally your wife. Let me speak to her.”
Isaac handed the phone to Concepción, “Some nutcase thinks he’s your husband. Can you tell him you’re not so we can go back to sleep, please?”
Denzel and Alice lay, heads pressed together listening. Alice had crossed her fingers and gave a silent fist pump when she heard the news. Keeping quiet was so hard for Alice that she began to shake. Denzel covered the mouthpiece and whispered to her, “Take five deep breaths. Calm down or we won’t hear how this ends.”
It mattered little whether Alice was quiet or not. To start, Concepción and the man spoke in Spanish, which neither Alice nor Denzel understood. And second, Concepción was screaming so loudly that it was impossible not to hear her from down the hall.
“I don’t think this man is a stranger,” Denzel said.
Minutes after the yelling in Spanish stopped, it started again in English.
“Who was that man? It seemed you know him,” Isaac said, sounding more confused than angry.
“Of course I know him. He’s my husband,” Concepción said.
“Meaning I’m not divorced. And he says I have to come home now. My son is missing me.”
“Your son?” Isaac said, confusion most definitely replaced by anger. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You wouldn’t understand. You’ll never understand.”
“Try me,” he growled through clenched teeth.
“Eneco and I—”
“Eneco? You told me Eneco was your brother,” Isaac said, loud enough for his parents to hear through two bedroom doors and down a hallway.
“I lied. He’s my husband. We were separated—”
“Separated? You email with him every day! You talk to him…often. How separated are you?”
Concepción swung her head side-to-side and raised her eyebrows, “Not so much separated. He was in prison and I didn’t think he’d get out. But he’s out now and he says it’s time I come home to my family.”
“Your family? I’m your goddamn family now.”
“Isaac, you were never my real family. You were…an escape, mi amado. That’s all. And now I must leave. Eneco’s boys will be here tomorrow night.”
“No,” Isaac said slamming his fist against the wall, “No, Eneco is your brother and you’re making this shit up so that…I don’t know…so that I’ll hurry up and get a job and a flat.”
“As much as I hate your parents, te querré para siempre, Isaac. I don’t really want to leave. But, I have to. I love Eneco, too. I love you both. But he’s my husband. He’s right. I have to go. It’s time.”
“You are insane. I don’t believe you. Where the hell has your son been?” Isaac yelled.
“With my sister and her children. He’s been with her for three years, since he was an infant. He doesn’t know me, but he knows I’m alive.”
Nobody slept that night. Isaac paced the house, returning to his bedroom to yell questions at Concepción several times each hour before the sun rose. Concepción stayed up packing. Alice and Denzel lay in bed talking, trying to understand how Mother Teresa managed such an amazing resolution to their problem. Shortly after the sun rose, Isaac asked one last question of Concepción, apparently didn’t like the answer, punched a hole in his bedroom wall and then tore away in Alice’s car. Concepción was gone before Isaac returned home that night.
Four weeks from the day Denzel transferred the twelve hundred pounds to Mother Teresa and Alice wrote her desperate request for support, Mother Teresa received a note from the Wrates:
Dear Mother Teresa,
First and foremost, thank you. I waited two weeks to write since I could hardly believe it when my son’s wife left. I half-expected her to come back but we got news yesterday that Concepción was caught in cross-fire between rogue Basque nationalists and shopping mall security guards. We understand that her husband who was also killed, was the target. Their son, thank God, is fine.
We’ve told many friends about your wonderful service and expect that within a month or so, several will have saved the money to be able to contact you.
With great appreciation,
Alice and Denzel Wrate of London.