© Jane Carlton
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You me and he makes three
A short story
To repeat a really well known phrase ‘there were three of us in this marriage’ but it must be said ours had survived and even prospered. I didn’t see the third party of course, I seldom spoke to him but I knew he was there because Christopher knew he was there and he always came to the table to eat with us, although he never ate, of course not, he wasn’t there. He was called Roger by the way and accompanied Christopher everywhere, even on our first date.
Now you might think that meeting a stranger off the internet was risky enough, although these days it’s relatively common but when that date turns up and there are two of them, one of whom you can’t see, you might think I had grounds for making my excuses and leaving. However, it was not to be, firstly because I was fascinated that a grown man should have an invisible friend and secondly, having been bought a drink, his invisible friend played no further part in our conversation which was witty, intelligent and charming. Christopher appeared to me to be the most undisturbed man I’d ever met and yet he had an invisible friend. I didn’t understand it.
What confused me more was, on leaving, instead of drinking his drink for him Christopher merely commented that poor Roger had something of a hangover and therefore would not be drinking up. If Christopher had gulped it down himself and made some sort of excuse I might have thought he had some deep seated drink problem but he didn’t and he certainly didn’t leave the pub drunk.
It has to be said Christopher was a gentleman, he made no advances upon me as we politely said our goodbyes. He simply shook my hand and suggested that we might do it again shortly.
‘Well, why not?’ I thought, impressed and at the same time intrigued by the notion of Roger, even more so because I was a psychologist and whilst I didn’t view Christopher as a patient, he presented an intriguing proposition.
It must be said, I wasn’t desperate for a man in my life. I’d been married and divorced and seen my two children off to university. So, while I hadn’t missed out on the roundabouts, I still quite fancied another go on the swings. I'd retained my figure more or less. I still had my looks, at least in candlelight and I still enjoyed the company of men, despite my husband’s idiotic infidelity; so, why not get on the internet and see who was out there? They had been my thoughts. After all delivering therapy all day to the depressed and sometimes demented wasn’t always conducive to a happy frame of mind.
Christopher hadn’t been my first date of course. There had been several others, most of which had consisted of a drink or dinner but not much else because none of my dates, God bless them, seemed to have had much more to offer than their wallets and stilted conversation which usually began with ‘and what do you do then?’ As if I hadn’t told them on the dating site! As soon as I mentioned psychologist, most effected a laugh and accused me of trying to analyse them, which I’m sure they found flattering but nothing could have been further from the truth. I don’t go around analysing people unless I’m paid to do so. I tried to explain but the damage had already been done, not that it mattered because of those I dated none had raised that much interest. Oh, they were nice I suppose and they’d done their best and I always offered to pay but somehow they all failed to ‘butter my parsnips’ as the old saying goes.
Christopher, on the other hand, had something about him. Apart from the fact that he was tall and good looking, his profile had read like a Boys Own adventure.
Of a military background, he’d seen service as an officer in Iraq, the Yemen and Bosnia. He’d swum the English Channel, played rugby for the combined services and had provided close protection for many visiting foreign dignitaries. Of course it all sounded too good to be true…no mention of an ex-wife or children…no mention of injuries and mercifully and to his credit no mention of walks along beaches, sunsets or penchants for fine dining. I was intrigued and had made contact.
Naturally I had my suspicions about his profile but surprisingly they were I soon put to the sword because on meeting him it all appeared to be true; not that he boasted or hogged the conversation with tales of his derring-do, in fact it had proved difficult to get him to talk about himself in any great depth but when he did you could just tell that he wasn’t lying.
Our second date was similar to our first, although this time we had dinner, ordering three of everything to cater for Roger, much to the mystification of the waiter. Roger had apparently been looking forward to meeting me again. Which was nice I suppose but a little odd. However, his presence was soon forgotten as Christopher and I began to get to know each other better. I have to say, I was soon hooked. I couldn’t actually believe that this charming gentleman with sparkling eyes and wicked sense of humour had given up his evening to share a table with me. Was I being too self-effacing? Not really, I knew my limitations and they didn’t really stretch to entertaining men of his calibre or so I was led to believe after what my ex-husband had drilled into me during one of our many rows.
Again we parted after dinner but this time with a kiss and the promise of another meeting very soon. I didn’t bother asking whether Roger would again be accompanying us because I’d already grown used to the idea and would probably have missed him if he hadn’t.
Date then followed date and then eventually a date was fixed for our wedding. Second time around for me of course but for Christopher, it was his first. He’d had plenty of girlfriends as you’d expect, he was well into his fifties, but he had never found anybody to settle down with and nor had Roger. Roger loved me apparently, almost as much as he did, which was nice to know. Roger was to be best man but how that was supposed to work I had yet to discover. However, Christopher had proved to be so caring and so resourceful that I didn’t doubt for a second that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
And so the great day rolled round. We hadn’t booked a Church because neither of us were particularly religious and I being a divorcee it could have proved problematic. Instead, we’d booked a stately home, not the whole home, that would have been far too lavish, just the part of the home that hosted such occasions. My children were there as were some close work colleagues who all knew about Roger but somehow my future happiness seemed to overrule any scepticism they might have privately shared. I know we made a picture perfect couple, I’ve still got the dress, just to remind myself. Some of Christopher’s army friends turned up too along with his sister, whom I liked and his aged mother but to say it was a busy wedding would be to exaggerate. It was all rather intimate and sedate despite the ornamental surroundings.
During the ring ceremony Roger was apparently shaking so much that Christopher had to take over, it made sense, poor Roger.
Now, you might think that I should have had it out by now with Christopher, particularly in light of my profession but honestly I couldn’t. In my view Christopher genuinely believed that Roger existed, so who was I to disabuse him and why should I? Roger was a sweet guy, he caused us no problems and often provided us or rather me with entertainment. The looks on waiters and barman’s faces for a start, to say nothing of the hoteliers on our short honeymoon where we booked one double room and one single for our friend. It was expensive of course but Christopher seemed to have enough pensions and investments to cover it. What’s more because it was agreed that he should move into my house, he was able to sell his flat which meant that, with my income added, financially we were pretty comfortable.
I do have to say that life with Christopher was very sweet. He was kind, supportive, generous and always hugely attractive. All my girlfriends fell for him and I thought I was the luckiest woman in the world and I suppose I was…for a short time.
However, this silver cloud sadly came with a very dark lining indeed. For after less than a year of our happy marriage Christopher contracted cancer and despite the best efforts of the doctors and surgeons, he died.
Being a psychologist I was used to dealing with grief in others but when it came to myself, I was lost. I had support of course, my children were wonderful as were work colleagues and friends but grief is an intensely personal thing, some handle it better than others and I was one of the others. It wasn’t that I was blubbing onto every passing shoulder, far from it, I sort of shut down.
If I had been a theatre, they’d have called me ‘dark’. No light shone in me, for a long time. I simply went through the processes of life like an automaton. Work was out of the question as was leaving the house. I was aware of course that I’d had a pretty good life before I’d met Christopher. After all, in the bigger picture, he had been only a very small part of it and yet that didn’t seem to matter. It all seemed so irrelevant.
You would have thought a psychologist of all people would have been able to reason it out, find some therapy to deal with it but in this case that old chestnut: ‘Doctor heal thyself’ simply didn’t resonate. Nothing resonated. There seemed nothing I could do and I eventually began to lose friends and even my family. I couldn’t understand why, surely it wasn’t because I insist on wearing the dress I’d got married in. Why shouldn’t I? I wore it in memory of the happiest day of my life? So, it has a head-dress, what was wrong with that? Alright, so I might keep the flowers from his funeral; even though they are dead they still remind me of his smile. Why should I want to get rid of them?
I’m growing used to the term ‘Miss Havisham’ by now. I think my daughter first coined it; ‘God mum, you are turning into Miss Havisham.’ Maybe I am but don’t I care? Not really, as far as I’m concerned I’m grieving in my own individual way. It will pass. Anyway I don’t think I look too bad. I wear plenty of make-up, particularly on my lips and eyes, to disguise my sorrow and I more often than not carry a bouquet of flowers just to cheer me up. I think I look rather sweet, I know Roger thinks so. I’ve forgotten to mention Roger but throughout this whole gloomy affair Roger has hardly left my side. He’s become my rock.
Dear Roger, so compassionate, so patient. I think over time, my family have grown rather jealous of him actually and that’s another reason they’ve all but deserted me. I know my son disapproves but he has his own life to lead and I have mine and if I choose to live it with Roger, then so be it. I know Christopher would have approved. Roger is wonderful and such a good housekeeper. I know others can’t see it but I can. I can see how hard he works. For instance, the other day, two busy-bodies turned up at my front door, social workers I think, sent round by my daughter. She’s sent doctors before but I gave them short shrift I can tell you. ‘Don’t you know that I’m a fully accredited psychologist and I’m completely in command of my wits….thank you.’
Anyway, these two busy bodies proceeded to tut when they saw the state of my house. Tut? Okay, so it was a bit of a mess and the washing-up was stacking up in the sink but Roger hadn’t got round to sorting things out yet. He’d been too busy in the garden which had become frightfully overgrown since Christopher’s death. I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about and put it down to their OCD, they needed therapy! When I mentioned it to them they sort of half smiled but I could see they didn’t take me seriously. They treated me as if I didn’t know what I was talking about despite me being a fully accredited psychologist. That annoyed me I can tell you and I soon had the door closed behind them.
What is wrong with everybody? Why are they treating me as if I’ve lost my mind? I’m a fully accredited psychologist you know and it’s up to me decide who has lost their mind and who has not and I can tell you it certainly isn’t me. Roger wouldn’t have asked me to marry him if he thought I wasn’t right in the head.
Oh yes, he’s asked me to marry him by the way and I of course have accepted with the proviso that Christopher is our best man. I don’t think that’s going to present a problem, do you? Actually rather I’m looking forward to settling down with Roger and of course having Christopher as his invisible friend. I’m already wearing the dress and carrying the bouquet as you know. All I’ve now got to do is send out the invitations….I’ve got lots of invitations, lots and lots of lovely invitations which I’ve made myself and coloured them in with the crayons Roger has given me… would you like to come? I'm sure you would. Go on, please come, please.