I had been away from my husband and two daughters for a month. Finishing the first draft of my novel, I said. But really, I was searching for a way to not write the final good-bye to my marriage.
I was house and dog-sitting for friends who were travelling around the world. It was perfect. Their house was a block from the beach. Their home office equipped with all the necessary gadgetry for writing and editing and being alone. No one knew I was there even though I had lots of friends and family in the city.
I wanted that month to write and think and meditate and find myself on the page, in my marriage, in my life. For that month of solitude that's what I did. I wrote and edited and walked and meditated. I went to yoga, ran along the beach, sat in the quiet of dawn listening to birdsong as I let the muse unfold of her own volition on the page in front of me.
It was a perfect time for reflection and creation and by the last weekend, I was finished. The manuscript down. The first draft complete. I was satisfied. I had always wanted to write a novel. Didn't know if I could. Now I did.
For the final weekend of my month long retreat, my husband flew in to join me. I was excited. Eager to see him. He was going to be the first person to see my finished manuscript. I was excited to show him what I'd done. He too had doubts that I could do it. I drove to the airport anticipating his response. I was so excited, I carried the manuscript with me to the airport.
"Look," I said when he exited the terminal. I held the manuscript out towards him. "I want you to be the first person to read it."
He smiled, gave me a hug, pulled back. He looked briefly at the manuscript. "I'll check it out later," he said. "Let's get my bag. I want to stop by MEC. I’m hoping they have my size in the climbing boots I want."
He carried his bag back to the car. I carried my manuscript with me.
"Let's have a picnic on the beach," I suggested after an unsuccessful stop at MEC. I'd been writing romance for a month. I wanted to instill a bit of it into our relationship. We'd been on shaky ground for some time. The distance between us appearing as an unbridgeable chasm filled with the unspoken promise of what we'd both wanted when we promised to love each other forever. After a month apart I felt hopeful we could repair the damage. I knew I had to be willing to stand in the broken to be part of the healing. I didn't want to throw my marriage out. I wanted to build it up.
I wanted to feel like a honey-mooner. I wanted to be 'in love' all over again.
"Sure," he replied.
He didn't know I'd already bought Champagne and strawberries. Pate and a baguette. "Shall we get take-out?"
I laughed and passed him my manuscript. "I have a surprise." In marriage counselling the therapist had told me to ask for what I want. "He can't read your mind, Louise," she'd said. "Tell him in plain English so he doesn't have to guess. "I'll get everything ready while you check out my book."
He pushed away my proferred manuscript. "Later," he repeated and disappeared to take a shower.
I packed a basket with the goodies I'd bought including my manuscript. When we were ready to head out he picked up the basket and promptly put it down. "Whoa. This is heavy. What have you got in it?"
"Don't peek! It's a surprise," and together we headed down to the beach.
"Isn't it beautiful!" I extolled when we had picked out the perfect spot for our champagne feast on the beach.
Vancouver in the summer when the sun is shining is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Truly.
"Yeah," he replied, laying out the blanket. He pulled back the basket cover to inspect the goodies inside and saw my manuscript lying on top. "Louise. I told you I'd read your book when I'm ready."
"I know. But I thought I could read some of it to you. Just a little bit."
"Can't we just enjoy the view for now?" he asked as he pulled my manuscript out, set it aside on a corner of the blanket and inspected the goodies I'd packed for our picnic. "That's it?"
I nodded. Up and down. I didn't dare speak. I didn't want to cry on what I'd hoped would be a perfect evening.
I clung to the idea of romance on the beach like a drowning man clinging to a deflated life-raft. "We can something at the house later," I interjected.
The idea of more food later seemed to satisfy him as I got busy laying out our mini-feast and he got busy opening the bottle of champagne.
The cork popped satisfyingly, the golden liquid filled each crystal flute I’d brought. We raised our glasses in a toast. I gazed into his eyes. "To us," I said.
He smiled, touched the edge of my glass with his and leaned back, resting his body on his elbows. He looked peaceful. At ease. Relaxed.
I felt hurt. Confused. Uncertain. Was I asking too much? Was I being push?
The silence lengthened between us like the shadows of the setting sun.
"This is nice," he said. "To just relax, enjoy the view and not have to talk."
I thought about the month apart. About my desire to share our adventures of the past four weeks. About my need to write a different ending than "Good-bye" to our marriage.
I looked out at the water, the mountains lining the horizon across the bay. Frighters bobbed where they were anchored in the middle of the strait. Sail boats scuttled to and fro. A family sat at a picnic table sharing dinner. A man played fetch with his dog on a grassy stretch lining the beach. The view was buccolic, serene, tranquil. But, my heart was hurting.
I wanted to ask him if he loved me. I wanted to ask if he thought we were even on the same planet, but I couldn't find the words.
And that was when I heard the crack of his crystal flute breaking.
It could have been defective. A hairline crack I hadn't seen.
But I knew. It was my heart breaking. Our vows splitting. Our marriage ending.
I knew. It was over. Eleven years after it had begun, there was nothing left to say. No more conversations to be written in my head. No more probing for shared secrets and desires, hopes and fears. It was over and all we could do was sit and watch the sunset in silence.
He never read my book that weekend. Never even glanced at it, even two days later when I put it in his lap, on top of the novel he was reading that he'd brought with him.
We were in bed. At his parents place where we'd arrived earlier that day to pick up our daughters before flying home.
"Please," I asked, giving it one more try. "Please read it."
And once again, he pushed it aside. "I promise, I will. Later. Let me finish this book and I'll get to it. I want to be in the right frame of mine to give you my critique."
"I don't want your critique," I told him. "I just want you to be the first person to read it."
"I promise. Later," he repeated before returning to his novel.
Later never came. We separated three months later. I never sent the novel out. Never looked at it again.