The Secret Life

Six months before my husband Arthur celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday I began inviting his old business partners, friends and well-wishers to fly in from Los Angeles for the day. “A gala event,” I told Arthur several weeks before the party. Nonplussed by my declaration, Arthur merely looked up from his book noticing me for the first time as though I were some rarefied animal in a dusty encyclopedia which lay dormant on the shelves of his study. Undeterred, I arranged an outside party on the terrace with food, tables and chairs for five hundred, buckets of iced champagne and a well-stocked bar. I ordered deep red Talisman roses which I had flown in at full bloom, and I hired a band to play Glenn Miller tunes all afternoon.

I measured the success of my party by the number drunken tributes, ribald humor, and geriatric jokes among Arthur’s friends. And what would a birthday be without a cake and candles, but blowing out the candles blew the life out of Arthur because at the end of the party he did the most extraordinary thing—he died. Too much excitement. Too many candles.  After a lifetime of amity, he left me to piece together a new life. Only later did I realize that Arthur was more than just an enigma; he was a stranger.

I arranged a small service at Garden View Cemetery.  The interment was brief; the flowers immaculate.  However, a young man, maybe forty years old, lingered on the periphery. I recognized him several days later as the same young man who stood knocking at my studio door. Visitors annoy me when I’m painting. My painting studio is off-limits to everyone including Arthur when he was alive, but somehow this young man-made it his business to disturb me. “Enter,” I said. The young man walked into my studio with a sunny air of familiarity and ownership that unnerved me, but his smile caught me by surprise. “Arthur?”

Trifecta: This week’s word is enigma; noun \i-ˈnig-mə, e-\–3: an inscrutable or mysterious person


18 thoughts on “The Secret Life

  1. This really drew me in. You have an attention to detail without lingering unnecessarily on emotion. It made your ending all that more delicious.

  2. Interesting! Did she die at the end, or is Arthur even more of an enigma? Dying at your birthday party would certainly be a hard act to follow.

  3. “Too much excitement. Too many candles.” I can just hear the organiser of the party saying, “Oh, I’m so dreadfully embarrassed,” to quote Monty Python. Perhaps I thought of that quote because it seems like more than embarrassment; it was someone’s life. And it suddenly occurs to me how selfish that statement is.

    Not that your character is selfish.

    But hey, interesting twist at the end. Makes me imagine him as some sort of immortal. Is it possible that this “young” (lol) gentleman simply looks like Arthur…?

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