Hannah’s Story

Hannah`s Story

Jealousy and resentment

 

Hannah Wilcox was reliable and trustworthy.  She always arrived at work seven minutes before her starting time; was totally committed whilst she was there; achieved all that could be expected of her.  A model employee.  She needed her work and was determined to keep her job, even though she often found the workplace atmosphere unpredictably stressful.

 

Her employer, Ralph Cox, was the head chef at the tiny, unpretentious restaurant that he, and his wife, Marisa, owned near Lemon Quay, in Truro.  It was a flourishing business, and they employed Hannah as their part-time book-keeper.     The only difficulty was that Hannah, a single parent in her early twenties, was stunningly attractive.  Her ready smile and desire to please was not a problem for Ralph, but a constant challenge for Marisa. 

Marisa was a jealous woman, with a huge temper that would often be ignited in the most innocuous circumstances.  A big lady in every respect; when she entered a room, her remarkable presence would fill it, like unset toffee being poured into a jug.  Upon her departure, there would be a hard, sticky ambience left in her wake.   She was not a happy woman.  Unfulfilled.  Frustrated.  Who would want to own a pathetic little tea room like this? she would think to herself.  The prestige she had enjoyed, in the past, overshadowed everything, and left her dissatisfied with the life that she shared with Ralph.  Their marriage had lost its spontaneity and excitement.  She wanted to be like other women she knew in their late forties; exploiting life to the full, like those gorgeous women in American movies – fast cars, fast living; never short of anything.   Impulsively, she spent money she did not have, building up huge debts.  Recently, Ralph had paid off her three different credit card accounts.  In return she treated him to an operetta of insincere `darlings`, before beginning on her next spending spree.

She resented Hannah`s youthfulness.  She disliked her genuinely pleasant manner.  She hated her good looks – slim build and casual dress.  In fact, it did not matter what Hannah wore, she always appeared more attractive than Marisa.  

 

Ralph had worked hard to raise the standard of the Welcome Home Diner.  It was not intended to be a cuisine for specialist palettes.  He had identified a business market for good, honest, down-to-earth, home-made, traditional, English fare.  And, over the past four years, had built up a regular clientele who kept the restaurant afloat during those difficult months when casual visitors were sparse and income plunged.   Despite Marisa`s constant criticism, the business had reached a place of stability.  It had taken many hours of work; hours that were not focused upon Ralph`s demanding wife.  The backlash was self-defeating for her, resulting in his unconscious desire to work even longer hours.  Life was not easy for Ralph, except when he was in his kitchen.

 

Marisa would have given anything she owned to have been rid of the diner, and Hannah.  But, even she, in her naive, simplistic view of business, understood that Hannah could not be dismissed without there being reasonable grounds for dissatisfaction over her performance at work.   But she dreaded the times when Ralph`s eyes settled upon that young woman.  She imagined what he was thinking, and her fantasies spread their malignant web to capture what Hannah would also be thinking.  It was inevitable.  Or so Marisa thought.  She was being eaten up by a projected scenario that convinced her that, when she was absent from the restaurant, Ralph was being unfaithful to her.  She had to do something about it.  Hannah had to go, preferably by her own choice.  But how?  She knew Hannah needed to work.  With little Jamie to feed and rent to pay, she had to supplement the state benefits she received.     Marisa also resented Jamie.

 

Hannah and a special friend

 

One of Hannah`s duties each working day was to deposit the restaurant`s takings at the bank.  It was not a long way to go, which was fortunate because she considered it an unsafe practice to walk through the city streets carrying, what she considered, large sums of cash, albeit hidden in her jute shoulder bag.   However, once the money was received safely, she would walk the short distance towards the Cathedral and enjoy a break for lunch and a brief talk with a special friend.

`How are you today?` the Cardman asked, with genuine interest and a broad smile, as Hannah approached him.

`Fine, thank you.  You`re not so busy as normal,` she observed, almost teasingly.

`Ah!  Not so many people about.  But how is that lady for whom you work?`

`Just as difficult,` Hannah answered, seriously.  `It feels as if she`s trying to catch me out all the time.  It`s not always what she says … she just looks at me like a cunning fox, ready to pounce.`

`That`s not good, Hannah,` the Cardman sighed.   The Scribes and Pharisees entered his mind.  How they tried their best to find a way … some things change very little with the passage of time.  His thoughts returned to the present.

`It seems to me, she`s been a problem to you ever since you started working there.  Is it getting any better?`

`No, worse if anything.  I just need to carry on regardless.  I need my job,` Hannah smiled, covering up the deep, psychological pain that Marisa inflicted upon her.  `But she`s off to Italy in a few days time,` she added, gleefully. 

`Singing?`

`Yes.  She`ll be happy for a week or so.  The crowds will make a fuss of her and she`ll be the great soprano, Marisa Mogervisch, once again.`

`She is always Marisa Mogervisch, Hannah.  That`s the problem for her, and for you.  Marisa Cox is not who she wants to be.  I wonder if it was ever any different?,` the Cardman reflected, although he knew the answer.

`I guess she must have been happy with Ralph for a time.  She left it late to marry.  I wonder if she should`ve remained as she was.`

`Yes, I know what you mean,` the Cardman agreed.  `Sadly, she`s an unfulfilled and unhappy lady.  Let`s hope that she`ll come back from Italy revitalised and more content with life.`

`Don`t hold your breath,` Hannah laughed and began to walk back to work.  `See you tomorrow,` she called back over her shoulder.

`How`s that lad of yours?`

`Wonderful.  He`s with my mum all day.  He`ll be spoiled to bits!`

The Cardman watched as Hannah hurried away.  Don`t be late back to work, girl, or you`ll have to face the consequences, he thought.  It was such a shame.  Indeed, it was a shame for Hannah, but, the Cardman considered, even more so for Marisa.  Life can be relentlessly painful for those who do not have what their hearts long for.  And, in her case, it was not to do with singing, as Hannah imagined it was.  No.  Marisa`s problem went far deeper.  Far deeper.

 

Two days later

Jealousy and resentment grows …

 

The last day before Marisa flew to Rome was damp and dull.  It suited her mood.  She sat in the closed restaurant, almost hidden under the subdued lighting of early morning.  Marisa often found herself sitting there.  It was the contrast she enjoyed, and would think about all the regulars who would sit at the tables for their lunchtime meals.  I quite like this place when it`s empty, she admitted to herself, feeling the sense of anticipation as the restaurant waited, eagerly, for its people.  She waited, too.  Ralph would soon arrive to start his early preparations for the day.  And then Hannah would come at exactly nine-twenty-three.  Begrudgingly, Marisa had to agree that Hannah was a good timekeeper.  Her daily routine was predictable.  A twinge of guilt meandered through Marisa`s head; then, she dispelled it.  I need to know, she reasoned with herself.

Ralph arrived, unlocking the glazed front door and walking, purposefully, to the kitchen, unaware of Marisa`s presence in the far, darkened corner of the restaurant.  He loves that kitchen, she observed.  If only … if only, I was as important to him.  There was the sound of pans clattering and then Radio Two blasted out.  Marisa was not impressed, but silently endured the ordeal from her hiding place.

She did not have to wait long before the door bell rang.  It was nine-twenty-three.  Ralph hurried to the front door and unlocked it.  Hannah, unsuitably dressed for the weather, in a low cut white blouse, entered the restaurant with her expected smile.  Marisa waited for the embrace as the door was closed behind her.  It did not happen.  Against the background of some ancient, innocuous Barry Manilow love song, she waited for the two lovers to throw themselves at each other, relishing their time alone.  Again, the observer`s eyes were disappointed.  Hannah just collected the post from the counter and made her way to the stairs and the first-floor office that beckoned her.  This was not what Marisa expected or, even, hoped for.  She wanted proof for her speculations.  This morning would be her last opportunity to catch them before she jetted off to Italy.  She waited.  Perhaps the restaurant, itself, was too public, with its large plate glass windows each side of the central door.  She waited for Ralph to discreetly follow Hannah upstairs.  She waited.  And waited.  Ralph continued with whatever he was doing in the kitchen.

It was another fifteen minutes before Marisa decided nothing untoward was to happen.  She could not stay hiding much longer because the cleaner would soon be arriving and all the restaurant`s lights would be switched on.  Marisa chuckled as she considered the ridiculous scenario of Mary finding one of her employers crouched in the corner.  Marisa crawled along the carpeted floor and slid outside through the front door, unnoticed.  She counted to 10 then entered, using her key and sang out, `Ralphy, I`ve arrived.`

Ralph immediately turned the radio`s volume down and went to greet her.

`I thought I`d come in and see if Hannah needs a hand this morning,` Marisa lied.

`That`s kind of you,` Ralph replied, unaware of the farce that had preceded Marisa`s second entry of the day.  `She`s upstairs.  Arrived at exactly nine-twenty-three,` he laughed.  `I can set my watch by her.`  It was a joke they both shared.

 

Marisa entered the office as Hannah was counting the cash from the safe, having been deposited there after business the previous evening.

`Good morning, Marisa,` Hannah said, looking up, startled by the other lady`s early arrival.

Sensing this, and trying to hide her true intentions, Marisa told her she wanted to help.

`I`m nearly finished, thank you.  I`m afraid there`s not so much to count today.  I thought I might take it to the bank and have a slightly earlier lunch break, if you don`t mind.`

Marisa smiled, insincerely.  `Of course I don`t mind, my dear.`  And she wondered what Hannah was planning to do.  If it did not involve Ralph, she resolved, it was not her business.  But she was suspicious.  She also felt angry, having failed to observe the two lovers together.  I will follow her, Marisa decided, and will see where she goes.  Then, as she watched the young woman at her work, she realised how much she loathed her.  Marisa wanted to be twenty-something again.  She wanted to have a body that others would admire.  She wanted that smile and warm personality; her twinkling, hazel eyes and soft, infant-like skin.  She wanted to be young again – free to do as she pleased.  As noon approached, Marisa watched Hannah carefully place the envelope of cash in her bag.

`I`ll just go to the toilet, then I`m off to the bank,` Hannah informed the older woman, who nonchalantly read through some letters at the other desk in the office.  `Okay, dear,` Marisa responded, glancing up from the irrelevant correspondence.

 

*******

 

Carrie was one of the regular cashiers at the bank; Hannah always enjoyed a brief conversation with her.  She was a motherly soul and Hannah was never quite sure whether Carrie`s warmth towards her was the result of her training or because she genuinely regarded Hannah as someone special.  Not that it mattered, really.  It was always a good experience when Carrie was the cashier on duty.  But, not on this day.

`I`m sorry, Hannah, but this cash doesn`t tally with your paying-in slip.  I`ve got to reduce what you`ve shown.`

`Oh?  I counted it through twice before leaving the office,` Hannah replied, surprised.  `How much is it out by?`

`Two hundred pounds,` Carrie told her.

`Two hundred pounds?,` Hannah gasped.  `It can`t be short by that much!`

 

*******

 

The words just echoed in her head.  Two hundred pounds.  Two hundred pounds.  Hannah had checked the contents of her bag.  The money had not fallen out into it.  Not that it could have done, of course.  Once she had counted all the bank notes they were wrapped around with a rubber band.  She would have lost all of it or none.  She could not understand what she had done. 

On this day she decided to return to the restaurant instead of taking her usual walk.  She searched the office, hoping to find the recalcitrant ten pound notes hidden somewhere in the drawer of her desk or even lying on the floor, reluctantly waiting to be picked up.  They were not there.  Wherever Hannah looked she could not find them.  Eventually, she re-examined her calculations, hoping to find an error that would reduce the amount of income, accordingly.  That did not help, either.

Marisa entered the office.  `Oh!, are you not having a lunch break?` she asked, feigning surprise.

`No.  Actually, I have a problem, Marisa.  I seem to have lost two hundred pounds from the takings.`  It was said innocently; helplessly, like a child who had climbed too high and needed an adult`s help to return to the safety of the ground.

`Two hundred pounds!` Marisa exclaimed in horror.  `How could you lose that sort of money?`

`I have no idea,` Hannah confessed, resigned to the fact that she had lost the cash whilst it was in her care.  `I`ll just have to replace it …`

`You certainly will, my dear,` Marisa said, showing no concern for the young woman.  This was a crisis beyond Marisa`s understanding; she would be unable to empathise with Hannah`s dilemma.  Whenever she needed money it could always be found, even if it was Ralph who was the saviour.

Hannah needed air.  The tension in the office was beyond what she could endure.  `I think I`ll go for a walk and have my lunch,` she declared, before leaving the office without looking for Marisa`s approval.

 

 *******

 

When Hannah reached the Cardman, he was standing alone.  She was relieved, having tossed around the unspeakable thought that she may not be able to find him. 

He caught a glimpse of her as she turned into the square.  She was troubled, he could tell.  More troubled than normal.

`What`s wrong, Hannah?` he asked, immediately she arrived   She told him.

`So,` he reasoned, `you have to make good the difference?`

`Yes.  Where am I going to find two hundred pounds?`  A rhetorical question.

The Cardman stood and thought through the problem.  He knew the limits of Hannah`s financial budget.  `You haven`t got that sort of money,` he said, quietly, to show her that he totally understood the situation.

`No.  I never have anything left over each week, after paying my rent and buying essentials.  There`s never anything spare …`  She began to cry as the reality of the situation struck her.  `What shall I do?`  She felt totally helpless.

Whether she would be accused of stealing the money had never occurred to Hannah.  Taking something that did not belong to her was an entirely alien concept.  The Cardman knew this and did not want to worry her any more than she already was.  It was enough for her to cope with the fact that she had lost the money.

`Have you checked your bag, thoroughly?` he asked, gently.

`Yes.  Three or four times.`

`Is there any way it could have fallen out as you walked to the bank?`

`No.  All the money was bundled together.  If I had dropped it, all the cash would have been lost.`

`Mm,` the Cardman thought hard.  `Try and remember what you did with the money once you had counted it and placed it in your bag,` the Cardman helped her to relive the normal routine events of the morning.

`I put the cash in the bag and then left the office …` she replied. But, then, it occurred to her.  The thought made her uneasy; to find fault in someone else was not comfortable for Hannah.  But … suddenly there was an explanation for the mystery.  Paradoxically, the relief of realising that she had not lost the cash was contrasted by the enormity of her new discovery.

`I left the bag on my chair for a minute, or so, when I went to the toilet,` she told the Cardman.

`Carry on,` he urged her, unsure of the significance of Hannah`s comment.

`The bag was left unattended,` she added.

`Yes?`

`But the office was not empty.  Marisa was there.`

 

The Cardman intervenes

 

Marisa Mogervisch was somewhere high above the English Channel, travelling south, when the Cardman entered the restaurant.  The lunchtime rush was over and a waitress attended to a few late arrivals.  He sat down at an empty table, covered by a red, gingham tablecloth.  Gabriella came to him with the usual broad, welcoming smile filling her tanned Spanish face.  Her sparkling eyes looked upon him with a conscious affection, for he was well known and liked, even if most people did not know why they actually liked him.  What they saw was an ordinary man.  He did not stand out for his smartness or expensive tastes; for he was always casually dressed.  And yet, he was different.  He always made people feel they were special.  He was like a brotherly figure; someone in whom one could confide, if they wished.  And Gabriella, being the only girl of the seven children in her family, loved her brothers.  This man was like one of them to her, albeit much older.  Gabriella enjoyed serving him on his infrequent visits for lunch.  And when she approached him, he made her feel as if she mattered.  It was a good feeling.

`The special`s all gone, I`m afraid,` she said, apologetically, in her distinctive native tongue that sang out the words.

`Never mind.  Sausage, mash and beans will do nicely, Gabriella.`  And that was the other nice thing about this man – he used her name.  It was important to her; names are important.  Indeed, he made her feel special.

`And,` he continued, as she brushed her bouncy, auburn hair from her eyes, and wrote down his order on a tiny pad, that fitted snugly in the palm of a hand, `a cup of coffee … and … a chance to speak with your boss, if he`s in today.`

`Of course,` Gabriella smiled, `he`s always here.  Can you imagine this place without him?`  She went off to the kitchen, laughing.  That was another thing about this man.  He made her want to laugh.  It was not always what he said, but just his presence, really.  When he came into the restaurant it was like being given a fresh bunch of roses.  And yet, Gabriella thought, this was not a perfect simile because cut flowers soon die.  She hated seeing dead flowers in a vase; better to remove them before they could reach that stage.  But the scented roses that come in with the `man with the cards` never die.  They live on.

When the Cardman`s lunch was ready, Ralph brought it to him, and sat down, opposite, at the table.

`Gabriella told me you wanted to see me,` he explained.

`Yes.  Thank you.  Have you a minute to talk?`

`Of course,` Ralph replied without hesitation.  He also found the Cardman`s company refreshing.  He knew he was a religious man, but he had never imposed his views upon him.  Not that Ralph would have minded if he had, being quite settled in his belief about creation and the Creator.  There has to be something more to life than being married to Marisa, he chuckled, but kept his thoughts to himself. 

`We haven`t seen you for a few days …` Ralph observed.

`Been too busy, Ralph.  It`s amazing how many people have sought me out.  It`s been tiring, but very rewarding, nonetheless.`

`I would have been one of them, if only I could have got away from here,` Ralph admitted, surprising himself by his openness.

The Cardman looked up at Ralph`s serious face.  `Why, Ralph?`

`It`s not easy living with Marisa,` he replied in a whisper, not wishing to be overheard.  `She`s not a happy woman, you know.`

`I`m sorry to hear that, Ralph.  Hannah has told me she`s gone to Italy for a while.`

`Yes, she`ll be happy there.  But it won`t last.  It never does.`

`She is not Miss Mogervisch, anymore,` the Cardman reflected.

`No,` Ralph agreed, `that`s not what she really wants, anyway.  It helps, of course, but only for a while.`

`And you, Ralph.  How are you?`

`Mostly okay, thanks.  I have my bad days, but … I`m okay.`

 

There was a pause in conversation as the Cardman ate his food and Ralph considered how his work helped him.  He was always busy.  He needed to be busy.

`Do you know anything about Hannah losing some of the cash, yesterday?` the Cardman eventually asked.

`No.  I haven`t heard anything about that.  How much?`

`Two hundred pounds.`

`Phew.  That`s not good,` Ralph considered.  `Where did she lose it?`

`She doesn`t know.  She had counted it and put it her bag.  When she handed it to the cashier, at the bank, it was short,` the Cardman related Hannah`s story.

`That`s odd.  How can money just go missing?` Ralph was puzzled.  And then he thought and remembered Marisa being upstairs all morning.  He did not like the conclusion he reached.  The Cardman was watching him and Ralph guessed what he was thinking.

`You`re thinking what I`m thinking,` Ralph said, quietly.

`Probably,` the Cardman replied, thoughtfully.  `She insists that Hannah repays it.`

`And I`ve just baled her out from £4,000 of debts.`

`One can often see the speck in another`s eye whilst ignoring the log in their own,` the Cardman mused.

`But, it would seem, Hannah is not in the wrong.  Why would Marisa have done this`, Ralph questioned, `when she can have whatever she wants?`

`No, Ralph,` the Cardman corrected him, kindly, `money can`t buy lasting happiness.`

`Try telling that to Marisa…`

`I believe she already knows,` the Cardman suggested.  `But, I think, she has used this in an effort to fulfil a need.`

`What need?`  Ralph was surprised that there was something about Marisa he did not understand.

`The need to get rid of Hannah.`

`What?` Ralph exclaimed.  Then in a hushed voice asked, `Why would she want to do that?  Hannah`s brilliant at what she does.`

`Jealousy.`

`Jealous of what?` Ralph asked, a little indignantly.

`She thinks something is going on between you and Hannah.`

Ralph laughed.  `Me and Hannah?  She`s a lovely girl, I`ll admit.  But … something going on?`  Then he stopped and looked seriously at his friend.  `You don`t believe this, do you?`

`Why should I?  I know you and Hannah well enough to realise that this is one of Marisa`s fantasies.  The trouble is, she probably believes it – at least, superficially.`

`Enough to accuse Hannah of stealing?` Ralph asked, in a tone of disbelief.

`It would seem so.`

`Poor Hannah.`

`Yes, Ralph.  And poor Marisa.  Jealousy gradually grows within until it becomes unbearable … and then people can do things that are out of character.`

`I find it hard to believe that Marisa would do such a thing,` Ralph admitted.

`That`s my point, Ralph.  It becomes something uncharacteristic.`

 

There was a silence between the two men;  a pause for Ralph to comprehend what had been said.   It had not been spoken maliciously.  The Cardman was as concerned for Marisa as he was for Hannah.

`What can I do to help her?` Ralph finally asked.

The Cardman produced a business card from his shirt pocket.  `I haven`t given you a card before,` he said, smiling, `but this one is different.`  He passed it to him.

`Who is Henry Masters?`

`Henry is a professional counsellor.  He is very good at what he does.  A little radical in his approach, maybe.  But he gets results and deals with many difficult clients …`

`Am I hearing you right? You want Marisa to go and see this man?` Ralph was astonished at the suggestion.

`It could work, Ralph.`

`She won`t agree to it.`

`Perhaps you`ve got to be a little cunning, my friend.  You could use Marisa`s vanity as a way of getting her there,` the Cardman suggested.

`How?`

`One of his talents is in art therapy.  Would Marisa agree to go and have her portrait painted?`  The Cardman`s eyes twinkled, mischievously.

`And I thought you were a man of the cloth …` Ralph teased him.

`The cloth needs to be cut to fit the situation.  There is nothing wrong in what I have suggested.  It is for Marisa`s good; and yours, too.  You are quite right when you say she would not agree to see Henry if she knew what he does.  But, what is wrong with a little encouragement, making good use of her egocentricity … one of her less attractive characteristics?`

Ralph thought for a while.  He read the card again, then put it in the pocket of his apron.  `I`ll ring him.  Thank you.`

 

The first step to healing and reconciliation

 

Marisa was excited.  She had never had her portrait painted; had spent many a long session with photographers during the heyday of her singing career; but had never sat for an artist.   I will feel like the Queen, she considered as she walked up Lemon Street.  The large town house looked a little less pretentious than Windsor Castle, but she could use her imagination.

Henry Masters met her at the door with a warm handshake.  She was invited into his studio, an untidy room with gaudy, red flowered wallpaper and a large couch, draped in pink.   Without preamble, Henry – tall, slim, elderly, with receding white hair, and an austere expression – asked Marisa to pose on the couch.  He admired her flowing, navy dress.  `You will look divine against the pink,` he told her, as he retreated to the easel, brushes and palette in hand.   

Marisa had not considered how long it would take to create her portrait on canvas.  Before long, she began to get restless, like a child with poor concentration.

 `Darling, do I really have to sit here in this position so long? ` she said, impatiently.  `I know you need to capture me on canvas, but you are so dreadfully slow!`    Her life was crammed full with living, like an overflowing drawer, and thus, similarly, lacking in order.  She could not sit still for very long.  

Henry yawned a nervous yawn.  An eternity of tolerance was needed today; of treading lightly on egg shells, for, he knew, the great Marisa Mogervisch was a highly charged being.

He felt a certain trepidation in what Ralph had asked him to do.  Here was this internationally loved soprano; and yet, renowned for her short temper as much as her wonderful voice.  She was in his studio surrounded by such busy patterns on wall and floor and chair, and looking so busy, herself.   It was a difficult assignment this.

`Darling, don`t forget the cat,` she instructed through clenched teeth.  Marisa loved cats and she had brought her spoiled, aging and overweight “Moggypaws” with her.  Henry nodded in obedience.   `This is an absolute nightmare, darling,` she added.

Her continued use of the word `darling` made Henry uneasy.  What would she be calling him in a few minutes time, he wondered?   Clearly she found the discipline of sitting quietly in one position hugely disturbing.  Henry felt the famous Marisa volcano preparing to erupt and he would be the target of her hysterical advances.

He did not need to wait long.  To Moggypaws` alarm, she suddenly leapt from the couch and was behind the easel in a split second.

`Let me see, let me see your wonderful work of art,` she exclaimed with wild enthusiasm, like some over-excited school child.  The tirade that followed is best paraphrased.  She tore into Henry like someone possessed, crying theatrical tears, gesticulating wildly and using language he had never heard used by one of the gentler sex.  He was stunned into defensive mode.

`Do you call yourself an artist?` she yelled at him as she threw herself upon the couch.

`No,` he replied, with honesty.   She immediately stopped her crying and looked at him in disbelief.

`Pardon?`  Had she heard right?

`I don`t call myself an artist,` he said, calmly.  `I am not an artist and have never professed to be one.`

`Then … what am I doing here?` she asked, puzzled, now more intrigued than annoyed.   `Ralphy arranged this.  He said it would be good for me to sit and be still for a while.  What is all this about?`

 

Henry looked at her with his true professional`s eyes.  He felt a deep pity for her; she had been deceived by Ralph, but only with her best interests in mind.  She needed help that he could not give her, being too close to the tragedy that had almost wrecked her career and threatened to wreck their marriage, too.    And so, with a little encouragement from the Cardman, he turned to Henry – Henry Masters, with the broad shoulders, trained to withstand the fiery arrows of hostility.   She now sat on the couch as a little child, whimpering like her precious Moggypaws.  In the past few minutes she had regressed 40 years, and Henry felt an enormous sympathy for her.  How she would wish to turn back the clock.

He spoke softly to her. `Come and let me explain this picture.  I think it may help you.  This is not a game; I`m not playing with your emotions but merely trying to help you.`

`My husband had arranged this.  He knows what you do?` she asked, with the innocence of a young child.

`Oh yes, Ralph was very clear what he expected from me.  He was also most concerned for you and how you have been of late,` he replied with a calmness that betrayed his fear of the tirade restarting at any moment.

She laughed an insincere laugh.   `How does Ralph think this will help me?  Treating me like an infant, not telling me why I was coming here but making me believe that you were an artist,` she retorted, resentfully.

`Come and see the picture again,` Henry urged her.    No response.

`I do believe there is healing in this for you.` he added, now overtly taking his professional stance.   Expecting her to throw another fit of anger or even to stomp out of the room, he was immensely relieved when she quietly rejoined him behind the easel.

`All this red is your anger,` he explained, pointing to various scarlet brush-strokes across the paper.   She looked at the picture and then at Henry, and said, with growing understanding, `like all the ghastly red in this room.   Especially designed for me?`

`Yes,` he replied.  `Now look at all the purple lines, intermingled with black.`

`That presumably is me?` she asked.

`Indeed, you are very perceptive, Marisa. It reflects your solemn mood which, at times, is even darker; you see, purple then black.   But notice how it swirls around all over the paper; never a straight line, and never sure of where it will go next.`

     She looked at Henry with tears welling up in her eyes.  `So, what does this tell me?`  she asked, ready for the next challenge. 

     `It illustrates your exaggerated movements; of how you cannot keep still; of how you are running from something that you will never be able to escape from,`  was his risky reply.

He led Marisa gently to the couch and helped her sit down.   She placed her hands over her eyes and wept.  And wept.

Henry sat opposite her, now in his more familiar position, aware of the huge, pent up emotions that were bursting from his client.   But her weeping was more controlled; no more theatre.  She was like any other, poor soul, who had lost someone very dear to her.   And all her anger, all her bitterness and resentment needed to be safely released.

She looked across the room at Henry with a half smile.  `You know that I would never, ever, have agreed to this if I had known what you do?` she said.

`I know,`  he replied in a whisper.

 

There was an uncomfortable silence.  Marisa looked at Henry with intelligent, searching eyes and realised that her deepest, most hidden thoughts had been exposed.  No more hiding behind the bright lights; no more masks; no more need for assertive `darlings`; someone had connected with her true self.    She felt immensely vulnerable.

`How dare you.   But … thank you,` she said with genuine submission.

 

Marisa had made the first step of her healing and reconciliation.  A very big step, and they were to meet together, in a more formal and regular manner, for many months.   And, eventually, she would be fine.  Marisa Mogervisch, the famous soprano, would be as her doting fans would expect her to be.  In time, her marriage to Ralph would flourish, again.   She would never forget her life tragedy, but, in Henry, she had an advocate who would help her cope with her brokenness.

For Marisa, the release from the hell that tormented her life, meant that, whilst never a day passed without her remembering, she could live again.

 

Apology

 

Hannah Wilcox looked up from her work to see Marisa entering the office.

`Sorry to disturb you,` the big lady said with a reluctant smile.  `I just wanted to have a quick word …`

Hannah prepared herself for an inquisition.  She had not yet been able to repay the two hundred pounds but was hoping to do so within the next two or three weeks, when the results from various cuts in spending should have improved her bank balance a little.

`Can I sit down a moment?` Marisa asked, submissively.  `I owe you a very big apology, Hannah,` she continued. 

`You do?`  Hannah was surprised by Marisa`s childlike demeanour.  Was this another act of theatre?

`Yes, my dear.  I have wronged you.  You see, I removed the two hundred pounds from your bag.  It was me who stole it.  And I am deeply sorry to have lied to you and put you through such a worrying time.  I am truly very sorry.`

Hannah was shocked by this confession.   `But … why?  Why did you steal what is your own money?` she asked.

`Because I wanted to discredit you,` Marisa bravely admitted.

`Discredit me?` Hannah whispered, unbelieving.

`Yes, my dear.`

`But, why, Marisa?`

`I am jealous of you.  You see, you have what I`d like to have.  Youth, good looks, a lovely personality, and …` she stopped before she could say the hardest part of her well-rehearsed apology.

Hannah waited, patiently, totally bewildered by the openness of this other woman.

`A child,` Marisa finally continued.  `You have a child.  We once had a child, Hannah.  Her name was Amy.  She would be almost your age now.`

`I`m so sorry, Marisa,` Hannah said, comfortingly, `I had no idea …`

`No, you wouldn`t know. We don`t talk about it.  We have tried to live on as best we can.  Ralph has thrown himself into his work; and me, when I`m wanted, I immerse myself in my singing.  But it doesn`t work, Hannah.  All this activity only fills the gaps on the surface.  It doesn`t reach what`s beneath.  You see, Amy was only seven when she …`

 

Marisa was silent for a while.  It had taken immense courage to speak with Hannah.  `I needed to tell you myself, my dear.  It`s probably the hardest thing I`ve ever had to do.  I would like you to forgive me, if you can.  I promise never to hurt you again.`

And, with that, Marisa stood up and left the office.  Hannah looked blankly at the closed door.   Had this really happened?  She could not settle back to work, knowing where she needed to go.  An early lunch beckoned and she just hoped, and prayed, that the `man with the cards` would be in his usual place. 

 

She needed his listening ear …