|My Beautiful Missy
© Copyright 2002 by Val Langelair
This is a true story about the ups and downs of marriage
written a few weeks ago after an unexpected hospital stay. To me it shows
the importance of acceptance, patience, forgiveness, communication
She came into our lives at a time when things weren’t going well for either of us. My husband Fran of 13 years seemed to have become bored with me and started to look for stimulation in younger pastures. Being a musician, this was very easy for him as he was frequently away for days at a time playing concerts all over Italy. I was so obsessed with my infrequent monthly cycles and terrible mood swings, that I was convinced I was going through the change and spent my time reading up literature on the menopause and totally ignoring the needs of this once perfect relationship. Everything was just taken for granted from both consenting parties.
“I’m off for 3 days until Sunday Val.”
“What did you say?” I mumbled as I looked up another menopause symptoms page on my computer.
“I said tomorrow I’m flying to the south for a few days work.”
“Oh that’s nice. Where are you playing?”
“In Sicily. We’ll be staying at Gio’s place again.”
“Great. That should save a few pennies,” I said as I returned to my research ending our conversation abruptly.
I vaguely heard a sigh and his footsteps disappearing down the stairs into our basement. I was so caught up in my own world that I didn’t notice the recently acquired indifferent expression in those green eyes of his that once only emanated love.
As time went by things got even more difficult between us. It wasn’t that we argued of shouted at each other, it was more a lack of real communication of any kind. He would go off and come back even more distant. I would retreat even further into my shell convinced that my whole world was caving in. I didn’t feel good about myself and didn’t stop to think that maybe I was ruining my marriage.
Our relationship started 15 years ago when ironically we couldn’t stand to be apart. It was during a summer holiday in Italy whilst visiting a dear friend, that he appeared in the line of new faces. I was instantly attracted to this tall, younger Italian who looked more German with his long blond ponytail trailing down his muscular body. On my return to England we immediately began writing as friends (because I felt the almost eight year age gap justified only friendship) and then out of the blue he packed up and came to live in England. He was so convincing with his words of love and definitely not worried about our age difference, that we married eighteen months down the line after what could be described as a whirlwind romance. We excitedly moved into our first home together (a rented flat) and soon made it our little castle. Six months later we hoped to increase our family (which was fun at first as we couldn’t keep our hands off each other) but as the months went by, then a year, eighteen months and I was still regular as clockwork we thought help was needed. They said we were fine and maybe were “trying too hard.” Another six months and still nothing so we opted for further help in the form of injections to boost my egg production. At the same time to take our minds of baby making, we bought a ground floor flat and spent time working on it. Four more long years of hospital visits but still no patter of tiny feet. I could see he was suffering but so was I and couldn’t stand to see another needle, not even the knitting kind. Then some musician friends called from Italy and he went off for a week to play some gigs. On his return I knew something wasn’t quite right. This was confirmed a few days later with his world crashing decision that he was going back to Italy to look for work as a musician. Not even “what do you think?” or “I’d like to try.” No it was more like “I’ve decided to start again back home OK?” No it wasn’t OK but I wasn’t even allowed a say in the matter. Fine then. What did it mean? Was he going back and that was the end of us or what? He didn’t say and I didn’t ask, so after spending the time left crying a lot and talking about our imminent physical separation, I took him to the airport, kissed him and stood on the other side of the barrier tearfully waving goodbye until he disappeared out of sight.
I threw myself into my work with the homeless, but felt dead inside. Loneliness took over and the feeling of being plain downright old and abandoned. Was I wrong to believe all was going well during those years? No babies had come along, but that’s not the end of the world is it? He called regularly and our marriage seemed to be still on and then after three months, still out of work, he wanted to come back. By then pride had taken over. Although I desperately wanted him to come home, I insisted he try again just to make sure if he did return it would be for good this time with no more foolish adventures. (I know musicians are another breed apart with their eccentric complicated characters, but enough was enough.) He accepted my suggestion and soon found work teaching guitar and playing with anyone who asked him to, obviously now determined to stick to his original decision. Another year or so went by and he was insistent that I finally followed in his footsteps, but I was undecided as I’d recently been promoted. What the hell would I do in Italy anyway? He eventually came to get me and that put an end to my decision making yet again.
Time passed and through my teaching English, him touring and selling our property in London, we finally scraped together enough pennies to buy our own property. Those years were like a prison sentence for me as we lived at his parents house for the whole of that period and weren’t even allowed to move a teacup. We began work on our new home; breaking down walls, pulling up tiles, reconstructing and decorating to our taste. It took five long months (seven days a week, 10 hours a day) and finally we were able to move in October last year. No one can imagine how beautiful it felt to sleep there the first night in the new world we had so lovingly created. Not long after he started to tour again, so happily I spent time keeping home and teaching English on odd days. It was just so good to have our own space again after all that time and appreciate the true meaning of the word freedom. What I had failed to notice was that he’d changed yet again and hadn’t bothered to tell me what was going on in his mind. Any grumpiness or mood swings I put down to him having to get used to being home after sleeping in endless hotel beds.
It was early February this year and he was still on tour. I had finally become bored with just keeping house and moaning about my change of life so decided a visit to my family and friends in London would do me some good. He would be away for a few more days anyway and seemed fine about my proposed temporary absence. Looking back this would have been unusual in the past, but I could only think about me at the time and getting over my new personal crisis.
I spent two relaxing weeks back home and he was extra nice to me when we spoke and sent sweet little messages on my mobile. Great I thought. Absence really does seem to make the heart grow fonder. I had also found out from the doctor that I was just a little stressed which in turn caused my menopausal symptoms. I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to get back to him and light up our relationship again.
It had been pouring with rain all day and as I arrived at Stansted airport they announced that my plane was delayed so I called to advise him. Four hours later we finally took off and the new me couldn’t wait to get home and hug the daylights out of him. On landing I excitedly called him.
“I’ve just landed darling. I’m home.”
“Yes. I can read you know.”
That was a strange way to talk to me after my time away. He must be tired after all that waiting around for my delayed plane. I walked through customs and he wasn’t there, though he was always the first in line to greet me. Then I saw him sitting right at the back of the long queue. He hadn’t even bothered to stand and look out for me. Our eyes met, he smiled weakly then got up and gave me what I can definitely call a half hearted hug. I wondered what was up but once again put it down to us being over tired, so suggested a late night pizza and then an early night.
Days went by and he was nervous about an audition for an up and coming tour, so it was impossible to talk about what was wrong. I continued with my passion of writing, asking every now and again for his advice. In those moments at least he seemed happy about his involvement, so I decided to bide my time.
He made me jump as he walked into the study early that morning. “What do you think Val? Tomorrow I’ve finally got the audition for that new tour. Shall I go up to Milan later tonight and stay at Bepi’s or leave early tomorrow morning?”
I could see in his eyes that he needed some male company.
“Go on then. Just go and have some fun. Chill out a bit. And you’d better come back with the job,” I laughed jokingly.
I didn’t need to tell him twice. He whistled as he packed and I felt happy for him and hoped he’d get the tour. Bepi was a new friend in the music business who seemed to be on the same wavelength as Fran, so I hoped he would calm him down ready for tomorrow. Later that evening we spoke a couple of times and finally said goodnight around midnight. He seemed enthusiastic and happier. I guess Bepi had obviously given him some Dutch courage so it was now worth my temporary solitude for the night. I still wasn’t ready for bed so I happily got on to the computer and continued with new ideas for my book. As I opened my file I saw a new file next to it which I hadn’t noticed before.
“What could that be?” I said aloud as I clicked on it to open it. “I didn’t create that I’m sure.”
Click, click and it opened. As I read the first words I thought I was dreaming.
Ciao amore mio. (This means hello my love.) I read on and discovered a copy of an email from some woman to my husband. In this email she spoke about their brief but intense encounter. How they’d met for a reason and that she’d always be there for him. She ended it by saying that she hoped to see him soon and signed off.
I sat there dumbfounded staring at her name and the words she’d written. I read them over and over again in case I had made a mistake. But the more I read them, the more it became obvious that he had another woman in his life. What the hell was I going to do?
Four hours later and yet another cigarette to accompany my umpteenth glass of wine, I brush my teeth and get into bed. I don’t know why I even bother as I can’t sleep a wink and spend a terrible night changing from anger to hurt to why me? My brain reciting the email word for word and wondering what I had done to deserve all this. My karma from previous lives was definitely cashing in on all my debts and bad deeds in this one.
He called me early afternoon the next day full of enthusiasm.
“Ciao baby. It’s really great to talk to you. I’ve got the job. What do you think about your hubby now? I can’t wait to come home and squeeze you.”
Pause while I collect my thoughts.
”Great. I’m really happy for you.” He could hear that enthusiasm was lacking in my voice.
“What’s wrong amore? Are you all right?” That word “amore” grates on my nerves.
“Fine. Was it difficult? Is the band nice?” I was asking the right questions but with the wrong tone of voice.
“Are you sure there’s not anything wrong amore?”
That damn word again. After 15 years together it is obvious that there is, but I’m not letting on. I want to confront him on his return. I need to look into his eyes.
“I’m sure. I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep very much last night.”
He let it go and said he’d be home later that evening. I waited and waited tanking up on anything alcoholic left that I could lay my hands on just to gain courage to confront him. What was I going to do now? Tell him and then walk out? Tell him then make him leave? I was so confused. It’s not something I’d ever expected from him. I would have put my hand in fire and sworn that he’d never do something like that. Not my Fran. I would have obviously been badly burnt.
I confronted him and showed him that dreaded email and he denied any relationship apart from a friendship. How could he? If it were really just a friendship then why hadn’t he told me about her? His answer “I wanted to but I didn’t think you’d understand so I was looking for the right time.” Damn right I wouldn’t especially as I later found out (accidentally from his mobile listings) that there had been frequent daily contact between them for over a month at all hours of the day and night; especially during my two weeks away when he had the house to himself and the coast was clear. Anyway understand what? That “..she has lots of boyfriend problems and needs to talk to someone..” etc. OK everyone needs someone to talk to about their worries, but why MY HUSBAND? (Couldn’t she talk it out with her own man?) He’s always been too accommodating in every aspect when someone needs help. Much to my annoyance at times.
I felt sick and betrayed. How could he have done this to me after all these years? What else hadn’t I found out about? I wanted to run and leave everything behind, erase it all from my memory but he asked me to stay and work it out. We talk and talk about it all then I find out he’s still calling her, though he’d told me he’d stopped. When I discover this, he cancels her number in front of me saying that he only needed someone to talk to because he was depressed. But why her? It really hurt to know he’d lied yet again. What sort of hold did this woman have over him and what the hell was wrong with me? I’d always believed I was a normal intelligent functioning woman. (It must be all those hormones going haywire upsetting my reasoning.) Any other woman wouldn’t have been seen for dust. We continue talking but I’m not sure anymore whether I want to stay married to him or just bide my time until finances allow me get as far away as possible. He had changed beyond all recognition; in the way he reasoned and behaved. It seemed he was possessed by some other soul and just retained the features I knew so well. My problem was that my uncontrollable emotions kept clouding any decision I had to make even further. In simple language, my still deep love for him. He on the other hand was away so much and seemed to now care about his job and the emotional problems of his new band, more than have time for me. There we go again. Too accommodating where others are concerned. I thought we had a crisis (which he created) and were supposed to be trying to save thirteen years of marriage. What was I waiting for? Love can’t rule everything forever right? I guess it will always be true that love is blind and madness takes over.
I had been pushed to the limits and was about to salvage my life and get the hell out of there, when he drags me along to a gig with his band. The owner of this pub had found a black abandoned female kitten with faint tiger lines down her sides, needing a home. I knew I had some sort of cat allergy (causing a brief asthmatic attack two years ago) but after holding that helpless tiny bundle a couple of hours with no allergic reactions, how could she not come home with us?
From the time she entered our lives the atmosphere of our home changed. She was just so affectionate and delightful to watch that it felt like a real family again. She was our little baby only a furry version. Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t feel she was the daughter we never had, it was just that she needed so much attention and love that it felt good looking after a helpless creature. He changed beyond recognition and we now had this perfect family union; Fran, me and our little miracle Missy. She would get up to all sorts. When he was away on tour he’d frequently call to say hello, just like in the old days. One particular day, I had been playing with her and without thinking, threw a piece of screwed up paper towards her. We laughed as I described to him on the phone how she’d picked it up, brought it back to me, dropped it at my feet then looked up at me. I repeated my action many times and she brought it back every time.
“You’ll never believe it darling. You should have seen her. She thinks she’s a dog. We have a cat-dog.” He laughed at the other end of the line.
“I told you she was special,” he said. “Just like you. Ciao babes. See you tomorrow.”
“Ciao sweetheart.” I cooed down the phone. Had I really got him back for good now?
Many days were spent discovering other tricks and delights that our newly named Missy had in store for us. I would give detailed descriptions every time to him of all the things she’d gotten up to while he was away and he would send love from everyone who he’d eagerly told about her. It became such a pleasure once again to live together and the past terrible few months were completely forgotten.
Two weeks after her arrival and I thought I’d caught a chill.
“Darling that sounds terrible. Don’t you think a visit to the doctor’s is in order?”
“Yes OK, I’ll go tomorrow.”
He looked at me as if he wanted to communicate his thoughts but remained silent.
“You’ve got bronchitis. Take these tablets on an empty stomach twice daily for a week. If it doesn’t improve then come back.” My doctor sounded matter-of-factly and so I didn’t think it was too serious. The second day and third tablet and I felt like death warmed up. I was sure it was the medication as I could feel it coming up into my mouth, so I decided not to take them anymore and slept the whole day instead. Fran came home and saw the state I was in.
“She’s spent the whole day in the basement.”
“Listen darling. Don’t get angry but don’t you think it could be Missy causing these symptoms? Remember your allergy.”
“No. It can’t be her. I don’t have the usual sneezing for it to be my allergy. I’m sure it’s just a bad case of bronchitis. We’ll go back to the doctor and get something else to help me. These tablets are just too strong. OK?”
I could see it wasn’t OK but he didn’t argue. On the second visit to the doctor I was given something less strong to be taken this time on a full stomach. Six more days passed and not much improvement. In the meantime Missy was growing more attached to me as I had obviously imprinted as her new mother, so she was stuck to me on every occasion possible. I loved her more with each new moment spent together, but found it difficult to breathe during the day and impossible during the night without the use of the emergency lung opening spray they’d given me two years earlier for asthma. At the back of my mind I suspected the real cause but didn’t want to lose her or chance losing him again. Stupid I know. I just felt I’d be able to control it all.
Two months went by and my weight loss was noticeable. I wasn’t sleeping at all during the night, coughing frequently, but secretly taking my spray to allow me to breathe for a few hours at a time. He always sleeps like a log and doesn’t even wake up in thunderstorms, so my coughs were nothing in comparison. I now had a further problem. I was over two months late and had signs of being in the first trimester of motherhood. After all these years I couldn’t face doing a test, as I was petrified of finding out the answer. At the same time taking the spray could be dangerous for the foetus so I had to make a decision. A couple of mornings later I awoke and took the spray as usual, thinking all would be well for at least four hours or so. I’d already planned to get a home pregnancy test later that day and sort everything out when I got the results. Two hours later I couldn’t get back to sleep nor catch my breath. My chest felt so tight.
“Fran wake up.” He stirred but turned over.
“Fran please wake up. I can’t breathe,” I uttered gasping for breath. He was up and dressed in a split second. I stupidly took a quick shower as on getting out of bed I felt a little better. What an idiot. I now couldn’t stop coughing in between gasping for breath.
We got to our local hospital in a record 5 minutes and I was immediately hooked up to a cortisone laden drip and oxygen mask. I slowly began breathing again with questions and answers flying left right and centre.
“Does she have heart problems?”
“No but I think she’s allergic to our cat. Two years ago she had an asthmatic attack...”
“You have a cat and she’s allergic to cats. Are you crazy?”
No it’s not like that. We thought…”
“Don’t bother explaining now. Is she on any medication?”
“She’s just finished a course of antibiotics for bronchitis which didn’t help. She’s been taking that spray to help her breathe but I don’t know how often ‘cause I’ve never seen.”
The doctor looked at me. “Just nod to my answers. Once for yes and two for no OK?”
I nodded once.
“Have you been taking a lung opening spray?”
Nod. The mask slipped from over my nose and mouth and a nurse put it back in place.
“How often? Every four hours?”
“Every two hours?”
“Oh dear. That’s much too frequently. Let’s listen to your lungs.”
With that she pulled up my shirt, tapped my back and listened to my lungs.
“I’m sure it’s Bronchial Asthma but I think your wife should see our lung specialist. He’ll be here around 8.30am so we’ll put her into a temporary bed until then. How do you feel? Better?”
I nodded once and they wheeled me into another room and put me into bed attaching another oxygen mask over my face. I was finally taken up to see the specialist and spent a week in hospital on drips and various medication to improve and control my situation. (And the baby? Sadly on my second day in hospital, I began bleeding and it was heavy and abnormal. My pregnancy symptoms disappeared and I couldn’t face thinking about it. I had to get better first.) After my allergy test came back, they came in to talk to me.
“The cat definitely has to go. You are 95,5% allergic to them and while we’re at it to dogs too. Basically you can’t go within throwing distance of these two domestic animals. You can go home in a few days, but you must continue with the cure. Make an appointment at the beginning of November to come back for further controls.”
My heart cried out. What was going to happen to our beautiful Missy? How would I be able to live without her as she’d become more than a little cat to us? Cruel fate was now depriving me of another little one.
The sun was shining as we drove home. When I arrived she wasn’t in her usual place to greet me. Fran had put her in our basement where she had lots of room but was out of the main living area. I walked in and the house was spotless. All the carpets had been removed. As I looked at Missy’s favourite sleeping place on the sofa and she wasn’t there, my eyes filled with tears.
“I’ll go and get her. You wait outside in the garden.”
I walked slowly back in to that warm sunshine and a few minutes later he came out with her and put her on the steps. I called to her.
“Come Missy. Come my baby.” She just stared at me from the first step, looked up at my husband, then brushed herself against his legs. She had forgotten me already in such a short space of time. I called to her again and she gingerly came down the stairs in my direction. She seemed so alien with her now elongated face and huge scared eyes.
“She’s changed. She doesn’t look like my Missy anymore.”
“She’s still your Missy darling. She’s just grown a little.”
I covered my face with a scarf and picked her up. I stroked her and she began to purr. Afraid of another attack I put her down after a few moments.
“You know she has to go don’t you my love? As much as we both love her you can’t risk your health anymore. I know you’ll never admit it, but I’m sure you suspected it was her all along but you didn’t want to tell me right?”
I looked at him and began to cry again. How could I live without my little Missy? She had fixed so many things in my life and had given me unconditional love. Now just because of this stupid fluke of nature I would repay her by sending her away; abandoning her.
He went out and I played with her the whole afternoon from a safe distance stroking her now and again. Even though I was in the garden, my scarf stayed in place and I washed my hands frequently. When my husband returned that evening he announced that his parents would be coming for her the next day.
They came around 3pm but I wasn’t ready to let her go. I needed just another few hours with her and promised their son would take her later that day. That evening after feeding her and caressing her for the last time he took her away. She looked at me with loving but sad eyes and I’m sure she knew that this would no longer be her home. When they left I cried my eyes out.
Fran and I continue our walk together on the long winding
road of life and Missy now lives with my in-laws in the country. She seems
happy as she has found another little kitten to play with, who funnily
enough appeared at their house the same day she arrived. They look like
brother and sister and even though she’s younger by a month or so, rules
him like a mother. I visit quite frequently and she always greets me and
comes to say goodbye when I leave. In my heart I feel she’ll always be
mine, and I’m sure she feels the same way. My beautiful little miracle,
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