Letitia’s heart constricted as she slowed her car to a halt on the driveway. Absent-mindedly she made her way to the front door - had she locked the car? She went back to check, then took a deep breath before entering the house. The hall was dark, mausoleum-like. The ticking of the grandfather clock was like a scolding in her ears. The clock had belonged to John’s parents. It marched at their pace, a pace which John had inherited. Slow and deliberate.
She embarked upon a tour of the house as though through the eyes of a stranger. It was rather grand. John liked a bit of grandeur, and as a partner in a practice of solicitors he could afford to indulge himself and his family. The sitting room was full of overstuffed dark green leather furniture, which Letitia had always found rather slippery and uncomfortable to sit on. The walls were a deep shade of rose, and dark William Morris print curtains did their utmost to deter daylight from creeping in through the windows.
Letitia opened the dining room door. The dark wooden tabletop gleamed like the surface of a bottomless pool. Matching dark dressers on two walls loomed over her. The third wall was lined with glass cabinets containing her collection of ornaments. John’s mother had given her the first, a china shepherdess, shortly before she and John had married. And since then, for every birthday and Christmas, and at the birth of her two children, Katherine had added yet another piece of ornamental china to Letitia’s collection. Letitia hadn’t had the heart to tell Katherine that she didn’t care for ornaments. At least by keeping them in glass cabinets she didn’t need to waste too much time dusting them.
Dusting was something Letitia hated. And vacuuming. Thankfully she had a dishwasher, but Letitia even found herself resenting the time she spent putting the dishes back in their cupboards. Given free rein, Letitia had to admit she would probably live in total squalor. She remembered the chaos of her student bedsit, back in the dim mists of ancient history. But John was an orderly man who insisted on an orderly household, and to keep the peace down the years Letitia had done her best to toe the line. With two small children underfoot Letitia had been able to get away with a degree of mess, but they had grown and departed many years ago. Richard had become a solicitor like his father, and was married with a young son. Claire was a translator, and had been living in France for nearly five years.
Ah, Claire. Letitia thought fondly of her daughter. Where Letitia had lacked confidence in her own life she’d made sure her daughter had every advantage to achieve what her heart desired. Fly, little bird.
Apart from the steady ticking of the grandfather clock the house was deathly quiet. Letitia made her way upstairs. She had to admit she liked her bedroom, which was a warm, buttery yellow. Two years ago she’d moved out of the master bedroom while recovering from her hysterectomy. She was pleased John hadn’t made any mention of her return, but then he’d always complained about her snoring.
Letitia opened the door to the attic and switched on the light. She soon found the suitcase she wanted. Back in her bedroom, she opened her wardrobe and reached for a carrier bag on the top shelf. It contained a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts, both new, with the price tags still attached. In another bag was a pair of trainers, also new. From her chest of drawers she selected half a dozen t-shirts and a warm jumper. She took one dress and one skirt from her wardrobe. Secreted in her underwear drawer was a bag containing new underwear which she popped into the suitcase. Pretty, lacy things. She packed socks and sunglasses and sandals, then went to her en suite bathroom for cosmetics. Then from a drawer in her bedside cabinet she took her passport and ticket.
John didn’t seem to mind that she was going to France to stay with Claire so soon after her last visit. She wondered how much he’d mind when he discovered she wasn’t coming back. Her heart did a backflip when she thought of the step she was about to take. Nobody knew of her intentions, not even Claire.
But it was time. Their marriage was long dead. They had no common interests apart from the children. At times she thought they didn’t even speak the same language. Sometimes she would look at John and wonder when he had turned into a total stranger. At what point had he tipped the balance from dynamic young man to belligerent old bore?
Letitia knew she had to break free and start living the life she wanted. A simple life in the south of France. Not among the glitterati in the coastal resorts, but up in the wilderness of the mountains. She would stay with Claire in Toulouse until she found a place of her own. Luckily her mother upon passing last year had left her a nest egg that would buy a simple cottage. She’d done her research a couple of months ago on her last visit to Claire. And she’d have enough money left to buy a little car. She knew she’d be able to live simply but well enough on her pension. Letitia looked forward to tending a little garden of fruit and vegetables, and to spending her days painting and making jewellery. To learning French properly, and getting to know her neighbours. To playing music a bit too loudly, and dancing every day. And spending more time with her daughter. Doing things they enjoyed. She hoped Claire would understand that this new life wouldn’t include her father.
Letitia zipped up her suitcase and glanced at her watch. The taxi was due in ten minutes. Just time to say farewell to her old life, to her old home full of things she didn’t want or need. From now on she intended to travel light.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015