A Wife's Rival

By Marie Elise Robinson


Ralph Elton tackled his grapefruit with complete absorption. With the soup he began to throw off the day in the city, to relax in his suburban home.

"What did the doctor say about Junior's tonsils, Mary?"

"He thought it best not to do anything about them until spring."

"Damned good roast. Frieda is improving. Do you think she'll stay here in the suburbs?"

"What's that dear, an estimate of the chair?" Ralph asked without any keen curiosity to know.

Without a word Mary handed him the pad and at the same time a letter somewhat the worst for wear. On the paper was an exact transcript of their conversation. Puzzled, Ralph turned to the letter in his own handwriting--written nine years before. "And darling," he read, "You are so colorful, so sparking, that ours will not become one of those in-the-rut marriages that..." He looked up with a quizzical smile and saw that Mary was looking a little grim. "What's the matter, dear?" She made one of those quick expressive gestures that he loved so well. "Don't you see? That's just where we are--in a rut! Our dinners together used to be so gay. Now--oil, upholstery! Our conversation used to-ah-effervesce."

"You've been reading too much Noel Coward."

"I was never more serious in my life. And I have a plan."

"What are you up to, Cricket?" The old name slipped out. Ralph looked the picture of the indulgent husband ready to humor her in any whim.

The Plan

"Once a month I'm going to be just your favorite."

"What's that?"

Mary became more eager, more persuasive as she warmed up to her subject. "I'll take some of my prettiest clothes and come in on an afternoon train to a New York hotel. You'll join me for dinner and maybe the theater or a concert. We'll stay overnight--no leaving before the final curtain to make a train." She paused for breath, then rushed on "Even thoughts of home and the children will be taboo. Wouldn't you love it, Ralph?"

"It sounds a little far-fetched, darling, but maybe---"

"Yes. Just one evening a month will keep our marriage from getting musty."

On Friday, Mary packed with joy. She had bought a new and reck-less evening dress--she usually chose one with an eye not to tire of it after endless wear--and an extravagant array of cosmetics. She hugged Junior and Sister. She left the market order with Frieda. For a dizzy moment, looking in the hall mirror, she felt she looked like an actress. The taxi was there. She was off.

Flowers were waiting for her in her hotel room. Ralph came at six, debonair and charming.

Love Vignette 3

At dinner, he talked airy nothings. They went to a brittle revue; they danced afterward. If Ralph thought with qualms of a hard day at the office on the morrow, he gallantly kept silent.

"Let's do it again next month," Mary was radiant as they danced.

What-No Flowers!

The month passed. At last the Friday came. She packed, the same evening dress, it's true, she hugged the children, she left the market order with Frieda and she was sure she looked like an actress.

There were no flowers in her hotel room this time. Mary ordered a corsage to brighten her dress. She was almost ready.

Six o'clock--no Ralph. He must have had a busy day. Half past six, still no Ralph. Mary began to worry a little. The gay, somewhat saucy bits she was saving to tell him at dinner were crowded out of her mind. Seven o'clock, no Ralph. At eight, with a panicky feeling, her hands a little cold, Mary phoned home.

Frieda answered. She sounded excited. "It's Mary," she was heard saying in the background. She handed the phone to Ralph.

"Mary! Where are you? Are you OK? We've been calling all around the area-our friends, hospitals, the police, everybod---and then his voice changed to sheepish--On no! Oh my god! I-I forgot. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Stuff at work, tired, but no--no excuse. I'm really sorry, dear."

"It's been a month, and I know your work has been hard lately. It's all right. We'll do it again. I'll take the 9:10 to Larchmont. I'll see you soon."

"I'll call around and let everybody know you're OK. I'll meet you at the station. We'll have some of those late night canapes that you love so much. I really feel stupid. I love you. I'll see you then."

"See you then. Goodbye." The "favorite" sat in her hotel bedroom, a little lonely, her corsage drooping. So, mused Mary, this kind of forgetting was not like before she was married.

...But then she had another thought. Her family was so worried about her that they called around to all those friends and hospitals and the police.

This kind of concern was not like before she was married, either.

The End

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