Luella shrugged and looked at the clock again, 9.35pm. She was going to bed. He’d do a lot of shouting to find her in bed instead of waiting to feed him and possibly demand she make up beds for his friends from town to stop over for the night. On the other hand, he may not make it home that night, he’d done that so many times when he got on the booze with his friends from town. If it were not for her Dad slipping her money secretly occasionally they’d not survive. The bank account had been closed long ago when Sam discovered Wes had threatened and raided her money. She cleaned up in the kitchen before going to bed then after washing up in the bathroom she settled into a deep sleep.
The doorbell trilled. It seemed like a dream but urgency of it sounding several times finally woke her up and she put on her dressing gown. If it was Wes, why hadn’t he let himself in? Probably drunk and someone was delivering him home. She shook her head in resignation for the drama to follow and carefully negotiated the stairs. She remembered one time him pushing her down those stairs in anger so clung to the rail strongly in the memory.
Then she approached the door slowly and peered through the observation eye built into the door. Ronny? What was he doing here this time of the night? She checked her gown to see she was decent, and her heart quickened. Every time she visited Wes parents Ronny was in the background. She could feel his gaze without even looking. Many times she’d greeted him only to see the hurt, concern and frustration in his eyes. He shouldn’t have come this evening no matter what the circumstances. But was there something wrong with his family?
Ronny stepped inside looking self-conscious. He greeted her without looking.
“What is it Ronny, has something happened to one of your family?”
“Yes!” He said softly rubbing his neck and motioning her to the lounge chair. Both sat down, and he looked around uncomfortably.
“You’re Dad’s coming over as soon as he gets back from town with my Dad.”
Luella was wide awake now. “OK Ronny, tell me what this is all about!”
“It’s about Wes.”
Luella groaned. “Drunk again and gotten into a fight?”
“Worse than that!”
Luella shook her head, nothing could shock her about Wes. He was an abusive lying excuse for a man.
Ronny finally plucked up courage. “Wes is dead!” He waited for the explosion of grief.
“Thank God, I’m free again!” There was no grief, there was no sympathy. Luella had erected a barrier into which love for this man could never enter. The promises had been broken almost from the first day of their marriage. There had been no love between them just a tolerance for the beatings physically and mentally. While he may have the edge in strength she had the staying power and moral high ground he could not understand. The realization she had that upper hand destroyed what little self-worth he possessed in his criminal career and she’d watched him sink lower and lower in the company of his rough friends from town. His escapades with the loose women of town were no longer rumours but widely discussed facts. He revolted her.
“What happened?” She asked this almost as an after-thought.
Ronny studied her face. He was surprised at her reaction though could fully understand it. He shared her revulsion about his brother. He relaxed.
Wes went off with some of the guys from town today and its not hunting season. Apparently, the rangers were waiting for them. Wes had been drinking and shot one of the rangers. He’s dead! Wes must have realized he’d be picked up so took aim at the other ranger putting bullet holes in the patrol wagon and injuring the driver. He sped off to town and bought a couple of police patrol cars out. The police hunted him down in the woods, there was a shoot out with the group and Wes was killed.” Ronny paused to see Luella’s reaction.
“Ronny could you tell your Dad and mine I’m really tired and would like to sleep on it tonight. I’m OK. In fact, I’m very happy but that’s between you and me. I know I can trust you, but suppose I have to fake it at the funeral for both family’s sake.” She smiled and patted him on the head.
“Ronny thank you for the eye communications you’ve signalled through this sorry marriage. I feel you’ve always been there for me and that’s the only thing that I’ve had to bring me comfort over the years. I’ve seen how you’ve handled little Anna whenever I’ve visited your house. That’s a comfort too. I notice you’ve never tried to have any girlfriends. Tell me something don’t you like women?”
The tension was broken, and Ronny began to chuckle, then both began to laugh. “I only like one Luella.”
Luella indicated the door. “I’ll need your support dealing with all the well-wishers and helping me show some sympathy for my departed husband when it’s really not intended Ronny, you can come back tomorrow if you’d like to do that for me? Go, tell our parents I’m OK but don’t want to have any visits tonight.”
Ronny smiled broadly. “I could be the best husband Luella!”
“I know you could, but It wouldn’t be for quite some time. We’ll talk about it tomorrow and you’ll have to promise to take me far away from this community with all its unhappy memories.”
“I promise!” Ronny left the home full of happiness. He thought of his dead brother.
“Thanks Wes, it’s the only decent thing you’ve done in your sorry life releasing Luella from her torment. I’ll look after her now and you can bet I do a better job of it.
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