Reading Sundays: THE MARRIED MAN (Part 9) a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

“I’m forty-one years old and getting married for the first time tomorrow, on Saturday June 21, 1930. At least, that’s what I tell my wife-to-be. I wasn’t thinking of marrying Emmy, until Mother Nature took her course, and now my girl’s in the family way. Though Emmy’s a girl no longer, being over thirty, another reason for being a bit surprised at her condition.

At first, things weren’t so bad between Beat and myself. I enjoyed the status that comes with being a married man, the pay rise, the respect from my mates. I was never madly in love with my wife, I didn’t want that in a marriage. When Dora jilted me, I thought my life had come to an end. That’s actually how I came to marry Beat, she was there when I was feeling sore.

Beat and I got a small house right next to Southwark Park in Bermondsey, just a few doors down from my parents, and in those first few months of marriage, Beat enjoyed setting up house. Then she got in the family way. By that time, Britain had declared war on Germany, and everyone was excited by the thought of a good old fight with the Hun, sure that we, the greatest nation on earth, would prevail by Christmas.

But Christmas 1914 wasn’t happy. Beat lost her baby, and was laid up for several weeks. It never occurred to me to reach out to my wife. She was seemingly content, surrounded by her female relations, and I thought I shouldn’t intrude. But if I have to pinpoint when a certain coldness seeped into our relationship, I would say that it dated from that time. Why Beat blamed me for stoically going to work every day, I’ll never know.

When she rose from her sick bed, my pretty wife was replaced by a termagant, who sniped at me from dawn to dusk.