Chapter Twenty Four
They say that life goes on. Julie went though the motions of ‘going on.’ After Vicki’s death there seemed little point in anything. She moved out of the marital bed and into the spare room. She was unapproachable, and Philip never touched her again after the day of Vicki’s death. Not even so much as a tap on the shoulder. At the funeral she had refused to have him near her. He was flanked by his family on one side of the grave. She flanked by hers, on the other.
This time, instead of bolting and leaving him on gut instinct, she planned her move with precision. After three months of intense, debilitating, suicidal grieving, she went back to work fulltime. The home meant nothing to her now, the garden lay to overgrow, neglected. Her role in life was to work. When she worked she stopped thinking and that somehow kept her alive when she had nothing left to live for.
In the early days she was suicidal, she even took an overdose one night and had to have her stomach pumped, leading to a three day stay in hospital and a compulsory six week counselling course. The counsellor was vapid, with huge eyes that screamed, wherever you are now, I’ve been and come through it. It might have helped her to rant about how much hatred she had for her husband. She could have discussed the many ways in which she fantasised about killing him, but she didn’t. She talked enough about healing to fulfil the terms of her course and keep her from being sectioned.
She was her own counsel, one thing and one thing only kept her putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next breath into her body…revenge!
When she was strong enough to deal with it, Julie sought legal advice about commencing her divorce. She had an appointment with a solicitor, two in fact, because the first one refused to represent her.
She sat in front of the power horse’s desk where a black granite plaque announced a black granite woman, Miss Monica Dupont. The woman was hungry, a self confessed man-hater, specialised in representing women in the divorce courts. Julie told her story, and with each point against Philip, Monica’s smile became wider as she totted another thousand on the final settlement. Julie didn’t exaggerate or embellish, she simply told the story of their marriage from beginning to end.
‘The bastard,’ Monica said when Julie had finished. ‘You want revenge?’
‘Oh God yes, I want revenge more than you can ever know.’
‘Lady, we are going to nail this bastard to the wall by his balls. I swear to you, by the time I’ve finished with him, he won’t have a pot to piss in. We are going to take him for every penny he’s got. You want the house, the car, half of his pension, what else has he got?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘I want a divorce. I don’t want a penny of his stinking money. I’ll deal with the revenge side of things in my own way.’
‘I don’t understand.’
Julie went on to tell Monica about the promise she had made to Violet. She spoke in a flat monotone when she spoke about the horrible things Violet had done to her.
‘My God, all the more reason to hit them where it hurts. Listen to me. You are not a gold digger. You have earned every penny of what I’m going to get for you. For fuck’s sake woman, do it for Victoria.’
Julie was taken aback. She hadn’t expected a solicitor to speak like that. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t want anything, only my own surname name back.’
‘Then I can’t help you. I’m very sorry, you have an excellent case, but if you won’t let me do my job, then there’s nothing I can do.’ She had already stood up and was walking to the door to show Julie out. ‘If you change your mind, please get back in touch and let me at him.’ She smiled coolly as Julie passed, but the contempt that Monica felt for her was apparent. A woman, who wouldn’t financially strip a bastard husband to the bone, was a lower life form in her world.
The second solicitor was an impassionate man. He had no qualms about representing her. He wasn’t interested in hearing her tales of woe. He wrote down the salient facts, just enough to show irreconcilable differences, and ran with it. It was the easiest divorce he’d ever dealt with. There were no kids involved, no assets to split. Julie had clear grounds for divorce. The papers could be served quickly and then, six weeks and one day from the Decree Nisi, the Absolute would go through without question. Roland Johnson would file a few forms to the court, send out a couple of papers to the spouse, write a, thank you for your custom and congratulations letter to the plaintive and take his nine grand, plus expenses.
For his part, Philip didn’t make waves. While they still shared a house, he was considerate enough to leave his coming week’s rota out for her on a Sunday night. They both spent ridiculous amounts of time at their respective jobs. Julie arranged her shifts to fit around his, so that, wherever possible, they were never in the house at the same time. She worked in the same nursing home that she had before Vicki’s death, but had come out of the kitchen to work as a hobby therapist. She needed no qualification but took courses as another means to keep her away from home and to better herself at the work she did. She found it soothing and it helped to stop her from going mad.
Occasionally it was impossible to avoid Philip and their lives collided. She would make herself something to eat and then take it with her into her room where she wouldn’t come out until he’d gone. They met rarely, but when they did, Julie didn’t look at him much. He made her puke. Once, soon after Vicki’s death, when she had made eye contact with her husband, she had felt her gorge rising, and had to run to the toilet and purge her stomach. She didn’t have to accuse him verbally, or lay blame for their daughter’s death at his door, her actions did that for her, but that didn’t stop her doing it, too.
When she passed the threshold to his room and knew that he was in there, she would stop at his door and rattle the handle to get his attention. Sometimes she’d do it deep in the night when she could hear him snoring. ‘Wha, wha’s going on?’ he’d say, snuffling himself out of sweet dreams, and she’d hiss through the door, ‘Murderer,’ just to keep it fresh in his mind.
She stopped the secret mortgage payments to his account. She even stopped helping her family out of their financial crises. She ate at work mostly, and apart from her basic living expenses, almost everything she earned went into her leaving Philip, fund. She did have one necessary extravagance. Twice a week she studied. She used her office at work and from seven until nine in the evening she hired a private tutor who worked with her extensively and set her complex exercises to complete as homework. She bought newspapers to help her with her studies and slowly read them cover to cover in her lunch breaks and when she got home in the evenings. Her life was full and busy. She allowed herself no time to dwell on things that were gone.
Three months after going back to work and six months, to the day, since Vicki’s death, Julie went into her daughter’s old bedroom. She remembered it as a nursery. She thought back to sitting in the peacock chair with her child at her breast during the three am feed. It was her favourite time of the day. Some parents hate that feed, but Julie loved it. It was when she felt at her most peaceful, with the radio playing her favourite music and Vicki all warm and cosy, staring up at her with blue eyes as she fed. The baby would make greedy gulping noises as she took from her mother and Julie had thought that Vicki would be there to give everything she had to for the rest of her life.
Her mind jumped forward and Vicki was five, they were lying on her Barbie bed together, Vicki’s eyes heavy as she fought to keep them open until the end of the chapter. ‘What happens next Mummy? Will Violet Beauregard be a blueberry forever and ever?’
‘I don’t know. Wait and see shall we?’
‘Violet Beauregard’s very bossy isn’t she Mummy?’
‘And she’s called Violet, like Grandma.’
‘Yes, she is.’
‘And Grandma’s very bossy, too.’
‘Yes, she is.’
‘Does it hurt being a blueberry?’
‘Oh I shouldn’t think so. Now then where were we?’ Vicki’s face was screwed up in thought and wasn’t for being derailed in her ruminations.
‘It would be very, very funny if Grandma turned into a blueberry.’
Julie laughed with her daughter, ‘It would, love, especially if she kept her bright red lipstick.’ Vicki got giddy after that and Julie had to settle her again and inevitably, Phil had shouted up the stairs that she should have been asleep by now.
It was another week before they visited the hotel. Julie nearly choked on her teacake when Vicki had piped up, ‘Grandma, do you like blueberries a really, really lot?’
‘What a strange question child. Where on earth did that come from? You say the oddest things out of the blue, dear.’
‘Yes but, do you like blueberries.’
Julie tried to side-track her daughter before this became embarrassing. Vicki, tell Grandma about the horse that we fed on the way here.’
‘No Mummy, I need to know, if Grandma likes blueberries.’
‘I suppose I do. I don’t dislike them.’ Violet said, humouring Vicki.
‘Bloody horrible things, dry all your mouth out,’ Donald piped up from behind his paper.
Vicki gasped and put her hands over her mouth in delight. ‘See, Mummy, she is, she is.’
‘I am what? Victoria-violet, do start making sense, dear.’
‘Violet Beauregard is Grandma, when she was a little girl. What’s it like turning into a blueberry Grandma? Does it hurt?’
Julie smiled as memories of her daughter flooded her mind and tears of regret flooded her eyes. The room had been packed up after Vicki’s death. Most of her things had been taken to the charity shop. Now it was used as a store room. She picked up a small material doll with yellow hair, from the top of one of the boxes that hadn’t been closed properly. Bringing the doll to her nose she was sad that she couldn’t smell her daughter. She almost took it with her. But she didn’t need a cloth doll to remind her. She put it back in the box and pressed down the flap. She looked around the room for the last time. Julie didn’t see the boxes; she saw the mobile over the cot. She saw the Barbie bed. She saw Vicki’s brow furrowed in concentration as she struggled to tie her first pair of lace-up shoes. Julie closed the door softly behind her so as not to disturb the ghosts of times gone by.
She went out of the front door and posted her keys back through the letter box. She would miss her family, but could live without them. The only real love in her heart was for her dead daughter. She hadn’t told a soul that she was leaving. She had her handbag over her shoulder. Her handbag, bought with her money. It contained her purse, money, driving licence and passport.
At check in, the girl raise her eyebrows, though checking in without luggage was becoming more common these days what with skinny baggage allowances and obese fines for exceeding them. Julie’s only regret was that her divorce would take some time, so she hadn’t been able to change her passport back to her maiden name. The papers were to be served on Philip that day. She had arranged for them to be handed to him at work, hopefully in front of the entire shop floor. She may legally still have the curse of the Woods name hanging over her, but she intended to live her life as the uncomplicated and very free, Miss Julie Spencer. But the unexpected happened; Julie found that the Spencer name didn’t fit her either. Fate was about to step in and Change her beyond all recognition.