Welcome to "Farewell Gift", a 2,500 short story I wrote earlier this year. I've decided to present it to you here on Surge Bin in five parts. Enjoy!
"Gary is having an affair, with one of his students," said Laura.
"Yes, Marcelle. Your Gary – your husband."
Marcelle sat at the kitchen table, not moving. She felt winded.
"Have some tea," said Laura.
Marcelle sipped the tea, feeling it revive her. "How did you find out?" she whispered. The words caught in her throat.
"Cindy told me, this morning. It must be one of her friends." Laura's daughter Cindy was a final year Bachelor of Engineering student in the faculty that Gary was Dean.
Marcelle nodded slowly. "I suppose she'd know," she said. "Who is it – do I know her?"
"She won't say," said Laura.
"She's got to!"
"If Cindy has had a friend confide in her, she won't breach that trust. I brought Cindy up to make her own decisions about right and wrong. Once she's made that decision, she won't move," said Laura. Before Marcelle could object, she added, "But I've been thinking about that. Does it really matter who the girl is? She's as much a victim as you are! It's Gary that's betrayed you and abused the trust of his position."
Marcelle sipped her tea and nibbled a Tim-Tam as she sat and pondered over the situation. After a few minutes, she realised that Laura was still sitting opposite her at the table. "Sorry, I zoned out for a while."
"Don't be sorry. Right now, you just need a friend. I'm here to help you through this, no matter what."
The women discussed how they should deal with the situation. While Marcelle knew that she wanted a divorce, she also wanted Gary to suffer. "He has abused his position of trust, and needs to be punished for what he did," she said, more than once.
Laura was certain a formal complaint about the affair to the university wasn't the answer. "Say we succeed in getting Gary the sack for taking one of his students to bed. He's not going to get another job in Queensland! If he's lucky, he'll find a position with some second-rate uni across the country, at half the salary. How is that going to benefit you?"
Marcelle frowned. She didn't want to find herself divorced, without a job, and with an ex-husband unable to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed. She rested her head in her hands and groaned. She had to admit, "I can't see a way out of this mess."
"I can," said Laura.
"There is one way that Gary can be removed from being Dean, and be properly punished for what he's done. You would be left with everything. Everything."
Marcelle didn't consider herself a greedy person, but her heart quickened at the thought. "How?" she asked again.
"The same way that I got everything from my husband Ted," said Laura. She took Marcelle's hand in hers. "Just consider: if fate had it in store for Gary to just – pass away – wouldn't your problems be solved? Don't even think about how, for now. Just think about if. Do you want a future without Gary?"
"I don't want a future with Gary - I don't even want to see him again," Marcelle replied, her voice steadier then she expected it to be, "but I'm not certain I want him dead. That's a big call."
"Take some time and think about it. When you're ready, we'll talk again. To keep your options open though, you'll need to act as though you've heard nothing of Gary's affair, for the next few days or so."
Marcelle wasn't sure she'd be able to do that, but knew that she had to. She was glad to have Laura on her side during this time, not just for tea and sympathy, but for practical advice. Very practical advice.
"Look," said Laura, "How things go forward from now on is your decision alone. You will need to live with the consequences, both good and bad, no matter which path you choose."
To be continued...