Ignorance is bliss.
With his arm gently draped around the shoulders of the woman he loved, sitting as she did in her chair, the one she always chose – perfect angle to the TV, not too much light from the lamp, but enough to read her magazines by - Pete had little doubt in his mind that life could get much better than this.
As the cold cathode-ray tube in the corner of the room blared out the opening strains to the theme of the current flavour of the week talent show, he let his mind begin to wander. It’d been over a month now, since the Incident, and still nothing had come of it. For the first few days, it’d been Hell for him – jumping at every knock on the door, worrying every time the phone rang (as if they would call to let him know they were coming) and constantly looking over his shoulder on the few occasions when he did leave the house.
But there was never anyone there, the calls were usually his mother, and the people at the door were most likely salesmen and the occasional religious zealot. Little by little, he’d relaxed, and enough time passed that he began to believe he’d genuinely gotten away with it.
And why shouldn’t he? He wasn’t a bad man, after all. The Incident was nothing but a minor speck on an otherwise gleaming and perfect record of behaviour for his thirty-two years of life, and the idea that he might, in some way, be held accountable in a negative fashion for his actions, surprised him more than it disturbed him. In a world where “the system” allowed for rapists and child molesters to roam free after mere years of incarceration, it was hardly fitting to imagine that he, Pete Wayfair, of 17 Park Lane, Briddleton, might be made to suffer for one tiny moment of indiscretion... Preposterous!
All of which didn’t stop him worrying, though. Each night, after evicting the cat into the cold dark recesses of the garden, after checking the doors front and back of the house twice to ensure the safety of himself and the woman he loved, and after extinguishing the last candle and making his way up the heavy wooden staircase to the room where he slept, he would lie in bed, listening. To his guilt-ridden mind, every noise was them surrounding the house, closing in, preparing to take him. Every rustle was the fabric of one of their coats, and every hooting owl or screeching bat was them communicating to one another through some form of clandestine language.
He barely slept for the first week or so, tossing and turning, sweating profusely – and the few slices of sleep he did manage were punctured with images of the Incident, anyway: hardly something that he wanted to be reminded of. Eventually he realised that he could use alcohol to drown out some of the excess fear and slept soundly from then on. A small nagging voice, that first night that he cracked open a bottle of vodka and finished the lot in an evening, had suggested that maybe being drunk to the point of catatonic wasn’t the best approach to preparing oneself for a possible midnight incursion and incarceration attempt, but the voice was soon quietened, drowned out with the sharp acidic taste of thirty-seven-and-half-percent-proof bliss – straight, no ice.
The woman he loved felt cold tonight, so he raised himself briefly from the double chair on which they sat, faltering slightly as the room span around his head, and picked up the blanket that lay draped over the nearby table. As he covered her up to the shoulders, she almost smiled in the same way she had on the day they were married, and seemed to nod in appreciation.
Ah, the day they were married. He remembered it well, even now, even with the alcohol clouding almost every other sense, his brain still allowed him the facility of almost perfect recall – it wasn’t just the Incident that suffered this fate.
It was a glorious day in June when they had wed – and, quite unlike the forecasted weather and the expectations of everyone involved, the sun had warmed all present and the rain had never dropped a drop. The woman he loved had looked so radiant in her dress – she was almost the image of perfection, truly the most beautiful thing he had ever imagined. Why she showed interest in him, little old Pete Wayfair of 17 Park Lane, Briddleton, he’d never been able to fathom. Perhaps she liked a bit of rough, or perhaps she found herself as lost in his eyes of deep blue as he found himself in hers of green. Perhaps she just saw the diamond underneath. Whatever the reason, she’d chosen him, and from the moment they’d met, he’d been almost completely besotted with her. In conversation, he would never refer to her by name – always, instead, he would call her simply, “the woman I love”. Whilst some may have found this cheesy, or possibly even offensive, she hadn’t. In fact, she’d taken to the appellation quite kindly and even occasionally referred to herself in the third person with it, though only in private.
On the night of their Wedding day, once they were alone and lying naked in each other’s arms, spent from their first amorous encounter as a married couple, he presented to her a gift of a silver necklace, on which hung a small heart-shaped amulet. Opening the charm revealed the words:
To the woman I love – may you always be so, and may my words always be captured in your heart.
She’d cried, that night, in his arms – tears of happiness for the first time in her life, and he’d held her until she stopped. Then they made love again, the intimacy of a truly connected and perfect couple, and fell asleep entangled in each other’s souls.