A Point of View

Paola Bertoni

    “One ticket please.  A single.”
    “Marylin, how long will you be away for?”
    “For ever.  I hope.”
    I know you love your job, working at the station.  I know you can’t get your head around the idea that people want to escape this little Welsh town you love so much. But I can’t bear it.  I can’t stay in a place where every day is exactly the same. 
    Do you really think this is all that?  A perfect place? Sure, tourists love Aberystwyth. They love the sea, the castle ruins, the idyllic countryside. They swarm here every summer, and for two weeks go on and on about how they love it here, how they’d love to live here.  Then they always go home.  
    From what I gathered, working at the B&B, the holidays only serve to distract from the daily boredom; they go on holiday to escape, then return back to live another year as before. It’s the same with the summer holidays, you fall in love with a place, and then realise that it was just a distraction – come the end of the summer, it doesn’t matter anymore. 
    I met Elliot at my interview.  Elliot and his wife were looking for a receptionist – a friendly face for the customers.  He invited me in to a small, brightly-lit sitting room with a giant window overlooking the sea, and sat himself opposite me in a wicker chair. I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I was nervous; he was a handsome man, and I think he just wanted to be liked. He talked about his passion for the sea and boats. He left me that day with a smile. 
    Nothing happened, and he certainly didn’t say anything, but that day changed things.  Within a few days he’d called me, using work as an excuse. He took me for a coffee – a celebration in honour of me getting the job, he said – to this delightful little place on the pier. It was elegant. And full of couples. Believe it or not, I didn’t read between the lines; I thought this was a nicety from employer to employee.  
    The funny thing is, the hotel isn’t even his; it’s his wife’s. On reflection, I think this explains why he didn’t leave, despite the numerous betrayals. 
    Ah, so you knew all about it too?  I wonder why it happens like that in small towns: everyone knows but no one speaks. Do you know his wife, too? I hated her pretty early on, even before the Elliot situation.  I think she lived exclusively for her family.  Her life was made up of few simple things: nappies, school runs, and that’s about it.  Even the B&B didn't actually interest her; from what I gather they stumbled into it as a means of using all the spare bedrooms. 
    At one point I thought she may have been depressed, but when I mentioned it to her she told me she wasn't just fine - she was great.  Then she proceeded to retreat back into washing, ironing and endless laundry.  
    Some days she used laundry as an excuse; she'd escape into 'doing the washing' and be lost in her thoughts for hours.  She had a fixation with lottery tickets.  She'd buy loads of them, then rip them to pieces after staring at them for hours.  I think she wanted a change, but she was also scared of it, so she kept herself firmly in a life that she knew.  And didn't enjoy. But she kept up her façade in public, that of a happily married family woman.  I don't know if she still loved her husband, or if she suspected anything. Although it seemed she believed everything he told her. 

    Elliot.  He enchanted me with his mannerisms, his secret smiles, coffee on the pier watching the sunset, orchids at reception with the excuse of them 'making the B&B more beautiful'. You wouldn't have been able to resist either; he knew how to be charming. He made me fall in love with him, imagining a new life - one outside of the boredom of Aberystwyth.  
    The first time we kissed we were sitting on the pier watching the boats.  Very quickly after that we found ourselves in the spare room, unable to stop ourselves giggling.  After that, we had to scramble to get the room back in order before she came back with the kids. I didn't enjoy that part.  That moment of passion, though, hand in hand with the possibility of a different future - one with Elliot. Well, that was enough to remove the guilt.  Or at least allow me to ignore it. 
    Why should I have felt guilty? I didn't like doing things in secret, living a second life in the shadows, but I didn't want to hurt anybody. Now I know all those 'I love you's and 'I'd be with you if I could's were banalities. Nothing more than his stock phrases.  
    I was free.  
    I had nothing to hide, and everything to live for.  I should have known that for Elliot it was a... holiday from his normal life. Had he been honest with me about the fact that he just wanted a diversion from his boring life, I think it could have worked.  I also needed something to get me through the daily grind of life in Aberystwyth, and he made me feel alive! 
    Instead he harped on with fake promises. 'Love love love', until even we had a certain predictability about us. That was when he started looking for another escape.  Even if his wife thought that you needed to go all the way to Norfolk to buy a used car, I knew that it was just another excuse.  An excuse to escape with his new lover.  
    He knew that I knew, yet he denied everything.  I'll never understand why some people don't have the courage to take responsibility for their actions.  All he had to do was tell me that it was over, and it would have been fine. Instead he hid behind ever-thinner excuses, fearing that I would tell his wife. 

    You want to know if I'm going because of him?  Well, yes.  But not because I feel hurt, or because of the rumours that will no doubt circulate. I'm leaving so that I don't become like him.  When I heard that there was another woman, I was angry. It hurt that I wasn't enough.  Everyone wants to be unique, to be special, to be wanted. But, if there's already a wife, you'll never be that person, even if he promises eternal love.  

    Elliot's professions of love showed me what I didn't want to become.  I didn't want to wake up ten years from now stuck in a life I didn't like, with a person I didn't love, unable to leave them for fear of starting again. 
    Yes, I'm scared of leaving.  Of starting again. But instead of complaining about the difficulties of life, I'm here. I'm at the train station with my ticket in my hand, my suitcase by my side, ready to face the future. 

2020 A Chance to Write publications.