I AM GOING OUT FOR A WHILE AND I AM NOT COMING BACK,
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by Stoyan Valev
Translated from Bulgarian by: Ivailo Dagnev
He mentioned it, in passing, while finishing his tea off.
“I’m going to be late for a few days during the week.”
“Why?” his wife asked in astonishment.
His real estate business firm was flourishing.
“I want to oversee the big deals personally,” he answered while tying up his neck-tie in an exquisitely beautiful knot in front of the mirror.
“Why can’t your employees do it?”
“They are no good at that. Well, I’ll be back by ten at the latest,” he put his jacket on, took the attaché case in his hand and kissed her goodbye.
He had been working like that for two months when it occurred to her to check out on him. Why, she had no idea. Maybe it was under the influence of the novels and films which she was watching and reading so ravenously? She did not know. Who knows how desires are born in the human soul?
Both their girls were students in the secondary school and were allowed to be out until ten. So, she had enough time on hand to follow him and come back home without anyone noticing anything.
She put on her favorite gray raincoat and parked herself in the semi-dark corner against her husband’s office. At five past six sharp he came out and, as usual, headed for his car in his businesslike manner.
She stopped a cab and ordered the driver to follow him.
The man parked the car in front of a big apartment block. She paid the cab driver and went after him.
He went into one entrance and quite confidently started climbing the stairs. She was stalking him silently like a cat.
He stopped on the second floor, produced a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. At that moment the lights in the corridor went out and she saw that the lights in the apartment were on! She seemed to have heard music, women’s voices and laughter. When he closed the door behind him, she came close to the door and peered at the name-plate. It read – ANITA DEKALO.
She climbed down the stairs with staggering feet and stood outside in front of the entrance.
The windows of the whole apartment were lit. It was more than clear that he was with another woman – at this very moment, a few meters away, behind the lit windows…
Her tears started to shed on the muddy pavement.
She shook her head and told herself – I will expose him and get a divorce!
She knew where he kept his gun. He bought it some years ago but he never carried it with him. He taught her how to load it, how to put the cartridge in place. Thanks God, she could handle it. Why know all this, she was asking him then. You have to protect yourself from the thieves, he was laughing. It was he though, who was the thief now – he was stealing their happiness being together, the scoundrel!
She was holding the gun in her hand, caressing it, asking herself – why do it? She gave him everything. Well, she didn’t let him go to extremes. There were times when he used to hint that there were other things worth doing in bed. She wouldn’t let him, no way. She couldn’t overcome the shame. And the fear that the girls would somehow understand what she was doing in bed.
She knew it was absurd, but this fear scared her stiff. She read the hot descriptions in the novels with bated breath, watched porn on the VCR. The thought that she might be a woman like that, excited her. However, there was something when they were in bed that paralyzed her. You are thirty six, he told her last summer, why don’t you stop working, I earn enough – you can see it yourself, I want you to look after the kids, be a housewife and… here he made a portentous pause, a woman! She didn’t listen. The kids, completely immersed in themselves, didn’t talk to her much, besides, the school, the sports, their friends, occupied all their-so-hard-to-focus-on-one-thing time. She didn’t blame them – they were children after all. The house was in apple-pie order, fully furnished, and with the appliances he bought all the household duties were reduced to a mere hour or two. Well, I failed as a woman, as long as he had found a lover, he sighed in despair and cried a hundred times over …
Never had she, even in her wildest dreams, dreamt that she would meet such a man. He didn’t drink or smoke, she never saw him get nervous, he was always smiling, careful, gentle. If only he had a bad habit, she wished! He had only one passion and it was completely harmless – playing chess. On Sundays - he worked on Saturdays as well - he would sit and play chess against himself. Sometimes, his only friend used to come, a lawyer himself, who worked for her husband in the office. Nothing but “Chess! Mate!” was heard for hours on end.
When he came back at about ten o’clock, she served him dinner. She was watching him as if she saw him for the first time in her life. No change to his behavior did she find either. As usual, he browsed in the newspapers, watched some television, and quietly dozed off in the armchair. When he found himself in the bedroom, he fell asleep at once.
She couldn’t go to sleep at all. She struggled with the desire to touch him but when she thought of him being in another woman’s embrace, she shuddered with revulsion, horror and anger.
On the following evening she waited in front of the apartment block.
He arrived at about six, the windows were lit again, but now the curtains were drawn.
She waited for ten minutes, her whole being shivering from impatience and, holding the gun tightly in her pocket, she pressed the bell button.
It kept ringing for at least a couple of minutes before a voice was heard from behind the door which seemed to her strangely familiar. Yes, it dawned on her, the lawyer! So, they were going whoring together! She was furious now, her hand pressed the gun still harder.
“Who is it?”
Mustering up all her strength, she altered her voice as much as she could and almost screamed:
“I am auntie Martche, from the upper floors, I want to give you the hot water bill!
The door opened and the lawyer saw himself being at gun point. He turned pale and timidly blabbered:
“Wait!”... “What are you thinking?”... “Don’t do that!”… Don’t you know me?”
“Move!” she said sternly and pushed the gun into his belly.
Panic-stricken, he began to retreat. She went into the apartment and kicked the door closed.
“Come on!” she ordered quietly but so menacingly that the lawyer obediently walked along the hall to the kitchen with staggering feet. He opened the door and squeezed himself in like a mouse.
She stood at the door.
Her husband was sitting in front of the kitchen table – the chess-board was set before him. He raised his head, saw her - gun in hand, but didn’t seem surprised a bit. Instead, he asked almost absent-mindedly, as if he saw her with the vacuum cleaner:
“Are you playing the cowboy, darling?”
She felt lied about, ridiculous and silly and the gun suddenly felt like lead in her hand. Still, she found the courage to ask:
“Where is she?”
“Who?” he said, without lifting his head from the chess-board.
“Anita Dekalo!” she said curtly and even stamped her foot.
“She went out for a while and is not coming back!” they answered simultaneously and cheered up, started laughing.
She placed the gun on the table and sat down. She was looking at them with growing bewilderment. Giggling, the lawyer started to explain:
“ She’s my aunt, actually. When she had been taken to hospital for a breast cancer operation, she said on leaving: “I’m going out for a while and I’m never coming back.”
“Why didn’t you change the name-plate on the door?” she said pungently. The name-plate, bearing a woman’s name had mislead her.
“What should I put instead?” smiled the lawyer.
“Your name, of course, not mine!” she burst out.
“But I don’t live here. I come only to beat this miserable wretch,” and he pointed at her husband with deliberate disgust.
“Please, forgive me!” she started crying. “I thought… just like a damn fool!” her tears were trickling on her sides.
“What did you think, darling?” her husband asked her gently and moved a piece. The lawyer made his move at lightning speed and sniggered.
“Well, I,… I thought there was some other woman…you were coming to…” she uttered the words and burst into tears once again.
“Why should I, when I have the most wonderful wife in the world?” he smiled, stood up and kissed her on the forehead. “Let’s go home,” he took her hand, “and you, fool, keep learning, I’m sick of beating you.” he looked contemptuously at the lawyer.
“You run, because you’re afraid, my friend. You are a deserter! We haven’t finished our game yet! So, I win in that case, remember that.” the lawyer was talking while following them. Suddenly, he came back, went into the kitchen and caught up with them again. “Take your gun,” he handed it to the woman “I’m afraid of such objects.”
She drew back. Her husband took it and pulled the catch. He slipped it carelessly into his pocket.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you come to play chess?” she asked him when they were climbing down the stairs.
“I don’t know.” he answered. “Perhaps, out of stupidity, darling. You know already.” he put his hand around her waist and held her tightly to himself.
She huddled up to him. Gosh, what a fool I am, what an idiot, she accused herself, he loves me so deep! A sweet wave of pleasure swept her.
The lawyer poured a glass of whiskey, sipped at it and smiled cunningly. Still holding the glass, he made for the bathroom. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. He turned the faucet and refreshed himself. Then he dried up and was just drinking up the rest of his whiskey when the girl – naked and innocent – stood up before him and in a half-perky, half-grumpy way twittered:
“Come on, big guys, we’ll wet our pants from desire!”
He waited until she got out of the bathroom, grabbed her and yelling, invaded the room.
The other girl stood up from the bed.
“Girls!!!” the rejoicing lawyer declared. “Tonight, there is a change of plans. It will be only the three of us, but I’ll prove to you that I am the right man for the job. We’ll make war, not love!” and he charged in a well-thought attack. The enemy counterattacked.