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. Why not start with part 1, and work your way through? Enjoy!
Marcelle was watching the end of Four Corners when Gary arrived home that evening. While Gary fetched a beer from the fridge, she reached for the remote, and turned off the television.
"You're home very late again today," she said. It sounds like I'm accusing him! Calm down.
"Things are pretty hectic, preparing for our meetings in Thailand," said Gary, opening his beer, and taking a long swig.
Marcelle sighed. Thailand. Gary was about to lead a delegation to negotiate a deal with one of the public universities in Bangkok. With both government and corporate funding drying up, this deal was essential for the faculty to remain viable. Marcelle had been very supportive of the extra time Gary had put into this project. If Gary was having a fling with a student however, then the time that he spent with her was probably under the guise of preparing for the Thailand trip.
"I just haven't seen much of you lately," said Marcelle, forcing an apologetic tone.
"I know." Gary sighed. A moment of silence followed, broken by the screeching of car tyres out in the street. Gary spoke quietly, "I think it's fair to say, we've drifted apart over the last few months, even years."
Marcelle wasn't prepared to talk about their relationship tonight. "I know," she said, "but you have a lot on your plate preparing for the Thailand trip, and you leave next week. Can we agree to work things out when you get back?"
Gary sipped at his beer again, seeming to contemplate the offer. "I think that's a very good idea," he said, and then with a little smile added, "Don't do anything rash before I get back, will you?"
Marcelle suddenly saw the truth in his smile, his eyes, and the way that he spoke. Now she was certain. He is guilty as sin and I know what I'm going to do about it. With the decision made, Marcelle found it easier to relax and take charge of the conversation. She asked, "So, how is the preparation going? How many people are going on this trip, anyway?"
"Half the faculty sees it as a junket, and now everyone wants to come along," said Gary. His voice had taken on that slightly patronising tone of his lecturing mode. Marcelle smiled: now that she'd got him started, Gary would simply blather on. Her smile appeared to encourage him, and he continued enthusiastically, "As Dean, and the one who initiated the whole project, I've been very firm on this. There'll be only the six of us. There's the heads of mechanical, electrical and civil, two students, and of course, yours truly."
Gary explained, "The students will give the Thais a bit of a preview of the kind of graduates we can produce. Cindy – your friend Laura's daughter – and Robert are our best two final year students. Their project presentations will really impress."
Marcelle let Gary chatter on about the trip for over half an hour, before she went up to her room, complaining of a headache.
To be continued...