After she’d been cleared of all charges, Marjory visited Charles in the psychiatric hospital.
His throat was heavily bandaged and he had not yet regained the ability to speak, but with the aid of a pen, paper and an orderly to unstrap one arm from his strait jacket, he was able to communicate, after a fashion.
’Why Mr Bowmont? Why?’ She asked softly, depressing the intercom switch on the bullet proof partition which separated them.
Charles scrawled for a moment, onto a sheet of soft tissue, with the large rubber safety pencil they’d given him. An orderly held his reply up to the glass.
’Because I love you darling.’
Marjory shook her head, blinking her red rimmed eyes, somehow managing to hold back the tears.
’Damn you. Damn you. Damn you! Don’t you know how guilty I feel? It’s not my fault that breaking that restraining order was your third strike.’ She paused to catch her breath. ’Why me?’
Charles drooled a little, and the orderly carefully mopped up a small pool of saliva that had gathered on his chest. Painfully, he wiggled a rubber pencil across a moist sheet of paper once again. The orderly held out his brief retort.
’Good point, never thought about it’.
At home, Marjory, alone and in floods of tears, could find no respite. She tried reading, but not even her favorite Marian Keyes novel could distract her. She spent half an hour watching TV, but even ’Ricky’ offered no consolation. It was terribly odd, on any other day ’Mothers pregnant by their daughters
husbands’, would have set her giggling like a school girl on a shivering horse, but not today.
Eventually, Marjory wandered upstairs and pulled down the ladder to the attic. Charles’s letters were where she’d left them, stacked in a dozen large boxes under the 2004 section of her ’Heat Magazine’ collection.
She picked a box at random and opened one sweetly perfumed letter.
’Dear Marjory,’ it began, the words embossed in intricately stylized calligraphy. ’This morning, we mounted the summit of Everest. Around us lay the wonder of the Himalayas, starkly clear in the high thin air. All I could think about was how much I wanted to share all of this beauty with you.’
A photograph was paper clipped to the letter, Charles against a blue sky, fingers out like Nixon, face burnt red from the cold and snow cap reflected sunlight.
Petra called, the girls were off to get pedicures and pick up some summer frocks in BT2. Marjory hung up and opened another letter.
’Dear Marjory’, another intricate font, this time with an oriental feel. ’Today the Nobel committee let me know that I am to receive their annual Peace prize. It’s just an honorary award (for my work in Northern Ireland and East Timor), but somehow I’m prouder of this than of my Booker Prize, Sacchi shows or development of that Aids vaccine. Gosh I know I sound like a fearful braggart, how odious. I simply wanted to let you know that today your opinion is more important to me than any silly accolade.’ Marjory sat back on her haunches in the dusty attic, and began for the first time to think. On her second visit to the psychiatric hospital, Charles seemed even more surprised to see Marjory.
’Charles,’ she said, her eyes on the floor. ’I’ve been such a fool. I… I dismissed you out of hand. I’ve given it some thought, and perhaps… Perhaps we could get to know one another better. After you’re released of course.’
This time they’d propped Charles up before one of those early learning computers, which speak a sentence after you’ve typed in it’s constituent letters. Clumsily, he poked at each large button, then hit speak.
’Leeev me A lone,’ said the robotic voice.
’I’ll come tomorrow’, Marjory said, when you’re feeling better.
Next day, Charles refused to see her. She tried calling, but his voice hadn’t yet healed, might never. She wrote letter after letter, as she read each of his. All the testaments to his obsession she’d kept as evidence for the police. He never answered. As the weeks passed, the shucks and candies of Marjory’s old
life fell away. They seemed so trivial now. She immersed herself in the body of work that Charles had carried out in her name. She read his novels, visited galleries in which is installations were on show. On the day they moved him from the psychiatric hospital to a federal prison, she stood with a supportive sign,
smiled and waved. She started an internet campaign to have his conviction over turned, collecting funds with button sales and a controversial nude appearance on the Montel Williams show.
Years passed. Charles’s first appeal failed; but Marjoy’s hope never flagged. She knew that if she could somehow become a person he could respect, he could forgive what she’d done to him – how long she’d taken to return his love. And she did love him, thought about him, sent him the few gifts that were allowed.
And still, he would not see her. She began the long process of physical and intellectual transformation.
Quitting her job in PR, and returning to college to gain a masters degree in microbiology. She began running, took part first in womens mini marathons, then the New York Marathon, and finally regular 100k ultra marathons. Finally, after eight years, two failed appeals and one dramatic parole hearing, at which
Marjory delivered a thirty eight stanza poem, explaining in ancient Greek her arguments for his release; Charles was allowed go free.
Marjory waited for him at the prison gate, recognised him, even after all these years. Even with the crooked walk that indicated prison love. Even with his infinitely tired, dead eyes. He paused at the gate.
His mouth worked for a moment, and he began to speak, voice still rough after all these years.
’Cheers love,’ he said, and wandered off. Marjory stood there for a long time, speechless. ’Love,’ he’d called her love. Softly she folded her
arms, smiled, and began to rock from side to side. He loved her and she loved him.