Sunday 27 – Tuesday 29 November 2011
‘The history in these walls,’ Emma said, ‘I don’t even know where to start. It’s just so beautiful. This place, this place will be the start of a new phase for Lance and I.’ Wide-eyed, she looked around the ballroom. The once polished marble floor was in need of some attention, as was the rest of the house, but it still held it’s Victorian beauty. She envisaged opening the house to anyone wanting an historical venue for a conference or wedding, and had even considered how she might operate the home as a bed and breakfast, or short stay accommodation facility. McGovern Court had so much potential in Emma’s eyes.
Lance wasn’t as convinced. At the end of the day, the money that would be used to purchase this, or any other monstrosity, was his. He didn’t, however, have a say if he wanted to keep his wife happy. He was not as fascinated with history in the same way Emma was. It seemed to captivate her to the point of obsession. For Lance, history was interesting, but not life altering or so captivating that the world stopped until he discovered everything there was to know about an event, or place, or person.
He sighed, quite loudly, and it drew Emma’s attention.
‘Well,’ she said with an irritated tone, ‘I’m so sorry to bore you, darling. Heaven forbid that I might find something other than cricket, of any interest what-so-ever.’
It was futile to respond to Emma when she was in this frame of mind. Lance stood, hands in his pockets, and kicked at the floor the way a chastised child would if his mother had turned that tone on him. Some things Lance chose to wear, and Emma’s irritation was one of those. He learned long ago that fighting against her irritation would only result in him sleeping on the sofa, and on the end of her silent treatment for longer than was humanly possible to put up with.
When he cautiously looked up, Emma had returned her attention to the snobbish real estate agent, who was so obviously pushing for a sale because of the enormous commission she would receive. Lance didn’t like the redhead; she was slippery in attitude, and personality. He picked that up from a mile away but Emma, determined to gain entrance to McGovern Court, had knowingly bowed to the woman’s sales pitch. It would end up only one way, and that was with Lance signing a personal cheque for some obscure, and large amount of cash, and Emma walking away with the keys to another, almost derelict structure that she had unattainable dreams of renovating and making a profit from. Emma’s projects never made a profit.
‘So . . . what are your thoughts, Mrs. Carlisle?’ The estate agent’s thick Scottish accent made her question practically impossible to understand. Despite having lived in Scotland for eight years, Lance was still having some level of difficulty understanding many of the locals. He wanted desperately to return to his beloved London, where he felt that people generally spoke proper English, or at least an English that he could understand without requiring any translation.
‘Oh, Adele, I adore it. I really do. It’s perfect, well, aside from the work that will need to be done, you know, to renovate it.’ She threw a sly glance towards Lance, who had returned his eyes to the floor because he knew what was about to come – demands for money.
‘Does anyone care what I think?’ Lance asked quietly.
‘Sorry, honey, did you say something?’ Emma snapped.
He shrugged his shoulders, and contemplated repeating what he’d said. If he did, the outcome wouldn’t be pleasant, in a very public manner. If he didn’t, he’d be lumbered, again, with a piece of real estate that no one would ever want to buy, and no amount of sugar-coating it for possible buyers would ensure its sale.
‘Given that you’re going to spend my money, do you even care what I think?’ he was taking a risk in speaking out.
‘Let’s take this outside, Lance,’ she pulled at Lance’s arm but he refused to move.
‘No, we’ll do this here, Emma.’
Adele, the slippery estate agent flushed with embarrassment at the first sign of marital conflict.
‘I’ll just be outside,’ she commented as she strode out of McGovern Court. Emma watched her go, and immediately turned on Lance like a rabid dog when Adele was out of earshot.
‘How dare you? What the fuck do you think you’re doing speaking to me like that in front of a stranger?’
Lance, usually docile, snapped back, ‘You spend my money left, right, and centre, without any thought for how difficult it is for me, or for how hard I have to work to make it. You’re a selfish bitch. A selfish, money hungry bitch, and if you want to buy this shithole, you’ll have to pay for it with your own money because you’re sure as shit not getting any of mine.’
His outburst shocked Emma. She had expected that he would remain as placid as ever at her attack, and had not anticipated that Lance might just have had enough.
‘You son of a bitch!’ she screamed. ‘I fucking married you when no other woman wanted you. You were a social leper, an outcast, until I married you. The least you can do to repay me is finance my dreams, you pathetic piece of crap.’ She slapped him hard across the face to emphasise her last word. Lance’s cheek flushed red almost as soon as the crack of the slap echoed through the empty room. This was the Emma he had come to know.
It was his shameful secret: he was a man who was beaten, often, by his wife. A humiliating, debasing, emasculating secret that he hoped no one would ever discover. He could remember the moment the first beating took place, and he was sure that he would be able to list every beating that came after too. Thankfully, his appetite for contact sports covered any excuse needed to explain bruises, breaks, and lacerations to his friends and family. Not that he believed that anyone really cared what happened to him. Emma was right in saying that he was a social leper. He’d never fitted in with any of the people that he called friends. They all thought that he was a little odd, maybe too effeminate, ‘a bit poofy’ was how one of his friends had once described him to a new acquaintance when they thought Lance was out of hearing range.
He’d married her in order to fit in. All of his friends were either married, engaged, or in long term relationships, and Lance had never wanted that. He was quite happy on his own, with no one to answer to, no feelings to consider other than his own, no need to play nice all of the time. But pressured by his family, he had befriended the first woman who looked his way, Emma Johnston. Little did he know at the time, that she had orchestrated their first meeting having researched his family background, the wealth associated with the Carlisles, and Lance’s financial prospects. His Internet marketing company was making big strides in the industry, and Lance’s face was regularly plastered on the cover of all manner of magazines and newspapers. Emma smelled his bank account from a mile away.
‘Lancey, you’ll give me exactly what I want, or I will destroy you,’ she sneered.
‘There’s nothing that you could do, Emma, that could possibly destroy me, as you put it,’ he replied, feeling defeated by her malice again.
‘I’ll tell anyone who will listen,’ she started, formulating her plan as she spoke, ‘I’ll tell them all that you like little kids, and not in the way that normal people like kids.’ She leered at him, happy that she would have hit the mark with this threat.
Lance sighed. He’d heard all of her threats before, and none of them could be proven, but when mud was thrown, it tended to stick, and slander like the one that had rolled off of her tongue so easily, would tarnish his reputation at the least, annihilate him at the worst.
‘You know what, Emma?’ he asked. ‘Go ahead. Do it. I give up.’ He threw his hands up in defeat. She laughed and slapped him playfully on the shoulder.
‘Oh, Lance . . . sweetie, you’re no good at this acting like you don’t care thing. I can see it in your eyes; you’re terrified that I will actually do it. And I will. You shouldn’t be left in any doubt that I will.’
‘I don’t care,’ he said, ‘but you’re not getting anymore of my money. You want to buy this place, use your own.’ He waited for her reply, heard her gasp and try to hide it, then he let out a tiny laugh.
‘What, you asshole?’ she asked him.
‘You don’t know what to say. For once in your miserable life, you really don’t know what to say. All those threats, for all of those years, and finally now, you don’t know what to say. Oh, there is a God after all.’
She paced the floor in front of Lance like a caged lion. He had stolen the wind from her sails simply by denying her cash.
‘I want this house,’ she spat out. ‘I will have this house, Lance.’
‘And I want a divorce, Emma.’ He turned his back on his wife and walked out of the house leaving her flabbergasted and alone.
‘Mr. Carlisle?’ Adele enquired as he walked past her to his car.
‘My wife is trying to figure out a way to pay for this house, Ms. Robinson. Sadly for her, it won’t be my cash that finances her into her next dream. Enjoy dealing with your client, and oh, I’d get in there and sign her up before she changes her mind.’ Before Adele the estate agent could respond, Lance was in his car, and driving away from McGovern Court. He didn’t care how Emma was getting home, but he was going straight to his solicitor’s office to have divorce papers written up. Emma was right one last time; McGovern Court really was going to be the start of a new phase for them.