(This is a continuation of the story from last week, Part 2 of 3)

Mike was fuming by the time he got back to the room he shared with Kate (the bimbo). One look at his face and she decided for her own good, that it was better to leave him alone. She retreated to the dressing table and started cleaning off her make-up, while stealing glances at him from time to time. He sat down in front of the TV, quiet and brooding. It was obvious he was not watching the TV but was preoccupied with other things.

Mike was upset, deeply upset about many things. He ruminated in his mind, why anything about Linda should be upsetting. He had written her off that many years ago. She had been no good to him, never had a child, was lazy and never made any money while they were together. He hadn’t missed her. But he didn’t like the fact that she seemed to be getting on well without him, married to a rich man, looking better than she ever did while they were together. She was enjoying life without him! It annoyed him greatly.

He caught Kate’s eyes in the mirror and looked away. She had given him a tentative smile which he ignored. He couldn’t wait to get off the ship and back to real life. The Linda matter had left a bad taste in his mouth. He needed a plan to show her. He found it difficult to concentrate on what he was watching. He recalled the interaction they just had. He got angry all over again. And this time, his anger arose because he didn’t know why he was so angry. Why would seeing Linda bother him so much? He regretted divorcing her. Maybe if they had just been separated, he would still have a hold on her. The divorce was meant to be a punishment. She had cried and begged him when he told her he wanted a divorce. He sighed, and Kate caught his eye again in the mirror. This time, she had a worried look. He decided to humor her. Maybe that would help take his mind off Linda. He smiled at her.

‘Hurry up and let’s go to bed,’ he said and winked at her. ‘It’s our last night here. Let’s make the most of it’. Her eyes lit up and she felt relieved. Maybe he wasn’t angry at her after all!

X X X X X

 

Linda clung to her husband as they made their way to their cabin. He was in no rush and it felt as if the encounter with Mike had not happened. He was quiet though, and appeared deep in thought. She waited until they were alone before she said anything.

Immediately they got in to their room, he locked the door behind them and turned to give her a long, deep kiss. She responded with zeal and looked into his eyes, trying to read him. When they broke up, he was the first to speak.

‘You know, with everything you’ve told me about that man, I shouldn’t have been surprised. He is a piece of work!’, he spoke with his hands still tightly wound around her and holding her close. She felt comforted, safe in his arms.

‘I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry you had to meet him and I’m so glad you put him in his place’, she replied with a sigh, putting her head on his chest and snuggling into him.

‘I love you’, he whispered into her ears and she chuckled.

‘I love you too’, she replied, I’m glad I have you’.

x x x x x

 

Mike made an effort to look out for them at breakfast the next morning, but they were not there. He wanted to see them again. He hadn’t made up his mind what he wanted to say to them, but he knew he had to see them again, particularly Linda. He had just about given up when he saw them walking in hand in hand. He observed them from afar, no need to rush. He watched them as they approached the buffet set up and filled their plates with food. His eyes followed them as they found a table and sat down to eat. Samuel was backing him but Linda was sitting opposite Samuel and facing him (Mike). She couldn’t have noticed him, unless something were to distract her and cause her to move her eyes away from Samuel. She had eyes only for him. They were so engrossed in each other.

Mike snickered. He couldn’t understand how come the two were acting like young teenagers in love! Linda was at least 42 years old, if he remembered correctly, and her husband could not be younger than 50 years old from the looks of him. What was the rave about?

Linda’s eyes generally roamed the hall. A lot of people were still having breakfast, while some had finished but were just exchanging pleasantries, sharing their experiences and looking forward to disembarking. Her eyes went back to Sam who had cracked a joke. She laughed, and continued scanning the hall, without paying much attention to anyone in particular. She had looked away from his direction and then immediately looked back. She had noticed him. Her smile disappeared and she removed her gaze from him. She put her face closer to her husband and said something to him.

Mike had expected the husband to look back at him, but he didn’t. They both continued eating. He noticed that her eyes did not come back to his area, which would have been awkward for her, because that meant not looking straight ahead. Mike pushed back his chair noisily and headed out of the hall with Kate in tow.

Thirty minutes later, Linda and Samuel also left the breakfast hall and headed to the deck. She wanted to see the water again, and the change of scenery as they neared land. As they got on the deck, she noticed a lone man to the far left, gazing at the water. It was Mike. She initially felt like abandoning her idea but on second thoughts, she felt that she should not allow Mike deprive her of the joys of this trip. She made up her mind that they would keep to themselves, if he did the same. And he had not noticed them anyway, as he was intently gazing on the sea.

 

Mike had come up with a summary of his feelings. He was angry at Linda for not being a good wife to him and he was angrier still, that she had the audacity to go on and marry someone else. That was why he needed to see her and talk some sense into her. Not that he wanted her back, but it would be nice to know that she was alone and available again.  He wondered if she still had the same old phone number.  He would call her as soon as he could, from another number, just in case she still had his old number. He would wait until they had disembarked.

A week later, Linda’s phone rang with a number she did not know. She was home, in their room, arranging her stuff and making the room more user-friendly. Samuel’s room had been very sparsely furnished. He had the basics and that was all. She wanted it to be a cosy, homey room, so she had added a few items of furniture and was now in the middle of perfecting the look. She picked up the call and said ‘Hello’ heartily. She froze when she heard Mike’s voice at the other end.

‘Hello, Linda’, he said warmly.

She replied, cold, ‘Hello’. The smile had disappeared from her voice. She wished Samuel was with her.

‘Please don’t hang up. I just needed to talk to you’.

‘Okay, what is it about?’

‘Why would you just go and get married like that, without even letting me know?’

‘Letting you know? You divorced me, or have you forgotten?’

‘Why are you raising your voice at me? I am talking gently to you now!’

‘I’m not raising my voice. Why did you call me?’

‘I wanted to talk to you now. How is Mama?’

‘Mama is fine. I really can’t talk now. I’m busy, so if you don’t mind…’

‘Linda, I am your husband…’

‘You are not my husband’, she cut in sharply. ‘I am not married to you anymore. I have another husband now and if you respected yourself, you wouldn’t be calling me in my husband’s house’, she shouted at him.

There was a pause, as Linda allowed the words to sink in. She expected Mike to react. In the old days, if she were to talk to him like that, she would have earned a dirty slap. She was comforted by the distance between them, and by the fact that she was no longer his wife. He couldn’t treat her like that anymore. Good riddance!

Mike fumed silently. She was getting to him, and he didn’t like that. However, he was careful not to burst out at her, because that would derail his plan. He needed to see her again. But he didn’t know where she was and needed to find out from her, as smartly as possible. He calmed down and started over.

‘Linda, Okay, I know you’re not my wife. But we can be friends. No harm in that. I would like to come and see your husband. You know, to apologize to him about last time’.

‘No need for that. When he gets back from work, I can call you and you can apologize to him then’.

‘Okay, Linda, I will be expecting your call’.

‘Okay. Bye’.

‘Bye’.

After she hung up the phone, Linda went to lie down on the bed and hugged Samuel’s pillow. She was suddenly overwhelmed by thoughts of the past. Mike. She recalled what her mother had told her once she noticed Mike was a regular visitor in their home.

‘Linda, I hope you’re not getting serious with this your Mike o’.

‘Aha, Mummy, why are you asking?’

‘I don’t like his eyes. He looks mean. And he’s always greeting me too much and trying to crack jokes with me. There’s something about him I don’t like. He seems too wily and cunning, not straightforward’.

‘Mummy, he’s very nice o. And he has been consistent. He seems to like me genuinely. And he has a good job and prospects. I haven’t noticed anything bad in him’.

‘Don’t think because you’re getting old, you can’t find another man. 32 is not too old. A good man can still come along. You shouldn’t settle just because you’re afraid of getting old alone’.

She had thought to herself then, that her mother was talking from both sides of the mouth. In one breath, she would ask her to get married soon, as she wasn’t getting any younger. In the next breath, she’s saying she shouldn’t rush into marriage. To be true to herself, she didn’t really love Mike. But she liked him enough to marry him. He seemed to love her a lot, so she assumed she would eventually fall in love with him. And she wanted to get married, and he was there, ready, willing and available. The marriage only lasted four years. Four miserable years full of sorrow, tears and pain.

Mike was unloving, lacked understanding, was set in his ways and had grown up believing that a man had a right to beat his wife if she was not cooperating with him. She was unable to voice her opinion without reprisals. All efforts to accommodate him proved abortive. In his mind, she had set roles which she must fulfill or get punished; clean the house, cook meals and make herself available for sex as often as he wanted it. He did not allow her to get a job. Instead, he insisted that she find a business to do, so that she could be flexible when the children came along. The children never came. She never got pregnant even once. That was another source of anger. He called her all sorts of names and insinuated that she must have been promiscuous, hence her childlessness.

She hugged herself as she recalled the feelings of pain and sorrow that she had had to deal with. Samuel was so different. Samuel was ten years older than her and safe. He was a widower when they met and already had three children from his late wife. She felt no pressure at all. He was lonely and needed company, and she was just as lonely. A major attraction for her was his kindness. He was always kind and gentle with her. Very understanding. He never forced her to do anything. And she had tested him on many occasions before she ever accepted to marry him.

 

X X X X X

 

Samuel was pleasantly surprised when he got home and saw how she had transformed their room. He hugged and kissed her.

‘This is lovely!’, he exclaimed. ‘Wow!’

‘I’m glad you like it’.

‘I love it and I love you’, he said, cuddling her.

Linda quickly summoned up courage, while he was still cuddling her.

‘Mike called me today’, she said, quietly. ‘He said he wanted to apologize to you about his behavior ‘.

Samuel lifted her head so that he could look into her eyes, before saying, ‘Really?, I’m surprised. He was ready to beat me up on that day’.

‘Well, I told him that I would call him later tonight, so that he can apologize to you directly’.

‘Why not invite him to dinner? I need to let him know that you’re mine now. You know such people will disregard boundaries until they come across someone who will not take their trash’.

‘I don’t want him in this house’.

‘He can’t touch you while I’m here. And I will let him know that he is not allowed to harass you under any circumstances’.

‘I don’t trust him. He sounded funny on the phone, as if he was bating me’.

‘Don’t worry about it. Call him and invite him. When he comes, I will do all the talking’.

Linda did as he asked and Mike was very glad to accept the invitation, even at short notice. She texted him their address and they waited.

 

Dinner was uneventful. Mike seemed either subdued or brooding, Linda couldn’t tell exactly. He spoke very few words and seemed unwilling to talk to her. All his conversation was directed at her husband, although she noticed that he kept looking at her. It was unavoidable as they were sitting face to face, with Samuel sitting at the head of the table. She tried to be civil with him, while making sure all her attention was focused on her husband. It was just the three of them at home, and when she had finished clearing the dinner table, she excused herself and retreated to the room, leaving the two men to have their discussion.

Samuel joined her in the room about thirty minutes later. She was sitting in her rocking chair, with her feet raised up, reading a novel, and looked up when he opened the door.

‘How did it go?’, she asked, looking worried.

‘Oh, I think it went well. He was rather apologetic and very sober. Maybe he had been drinking that night. It seems he’s a different person today’.

‘He might just be pretending. I don’t trust him. He was always erupting at the least expected time. He was always so unpredictable, The littlest thing could trigger a major outburst of rage!’

‘You’re free from all that now. Nothing like that is going to happen ever again’.

Samuel moved to her and bent down to give her a kiss.

‘You’re safe now’.

‘Thank you’, she said, holding his face close to hers. ‘I love you, love you, love you’, she said as she kissed him again.

X X X X X

 

Mike’s head was swimming as he made his way home. He was glad for the invitation, especially because it afforded him an opportunity to know where Linda lived. Now he had her address, the rest would be easy. He hadn’t made up his mind what to do yet, but he needed to teach her a lesson. Who did she think she was, flaunting her husband before his face? He hissed out loud. Useless girl that she was. He would show her.