Life on earth, each day as it comes, one step at a time, it should have been easy it wasn’t - one woman, one man and one moon to separate them. That giant luminary shining from the heavens came between them time after time after time.
Joe tried to make light of it, by his love for his wife, he tried to pass it off as just a whimsical thing, but each month as the moon grew bit by bit till a great white ball lit the sky, he became more and more uneasy by his wife’s obsession of a full moon.
“I’m beginning to have my doubts about you.” He laughed a little nervously one evening as his wife stood outside in the garden in the dead of night. Joe wondered if the neighbours had started to notice yet. Thought their garden was flanked by a high brick wall with only a few attic windows overlooking their handkerchief sized lawn, Joe worried incessantly that others would see his wife standing out there and begin to wonder about her.
“Are you ready to come inside yet?” He queried a little louder as his wife appeared not to have heard his last comment, still no reply. “Catherine?” Joe called. She turned toward the sound of his voice but her face from the light of the house was expressionless though Joe knew that on closer inspection he would see the sadness in her eyes.
“I said are you ready to come inside yet, its cold with the door open.”
“Then close it.” Catherine replied and turned back to her study of the moon. Joe sighed and grabbing his coat from the peg he tugged it on, walked out into the garden and closed the door behind him. It cost enough to heat the house without letting it all go outside on a winter’s night.
“What is this strange obsession you have with the moon?” Joe reached Catherine’s side. “I’m beginning to believe you missed your vocation. I take it you’d rather have been an astronaut?” He chuckled.
“Catherine…you might not have noticed, but every month you come and stand out here and pay homage to the moon. I’d just like to know why?”
He had her attention at last, “Its beautiful.” She breathed dreamily.
Joe had to agree, but then…”So are a lot of things but I don’t see you paying them such respect. Come on Cathy its cold out here, let’s go in.” Joe told her irritably tugging at her arm. Catherine prised his hand away, “In a minute, just give me some time. I like looking at it.”
“Yeah, well its not going anywhere, and besides it doesn’t do you any good. You’re so miserable after paying your monthly respects, and well…if you really want to know…I’m growing tired of it.”
“I’m not doing anything wrong. Wouldn’t sit right on the divorce papers, my wife was unfaithful when she had an affair with the moon.” Catherine laughed at how ridiculous that sounded. Joe was annoyed, “I’d never divorce you. I love you. Took me a long time to make you mine, and I’m not giving that up in a hurry. But Cathy, I’m worried about you, coming out here month after month to look at the moon. Tell you what, I’ll buy you a telescope, would you like that?”
“I can buy my own telescope, and no it wouldn’t be the same. I like coming out here, its part of the pleasure, enveloped by the night, and the moon is so magnificent.” She paused, “Joe, can you remember the first time you saw the moon?”
“The first time? Are you kidding me? Who can remember the first time they saw the moon.”
“I knew someone once that could.” Catherine told him simply and tenderly. Joe looked at her long and hard, “Who was that?”
“Just someone.” The way she said it caught him off guard and he whispered hoping he was wrong, “Not what’s his name?”
Catherine nodded, “Yes.” And the way she replied with such reverence frightened Joe. “You’re still in love with him aren’t you? And that’s why you come outside to watch this frigging moon month after month, because it reminds you of him?”
Catherine said nothing. She couldn’t argue, neither could she agree. Joe was a good man and she loved him, but it wasn’t that same deep over riding everything else kind of love that she had felt for the man that could remember seeing his first sight of the moon.
“Do you want a divorce?” Joe asked nervously, and Catherine caught the catch in his voice, knew it had taken everything in him to ask. She shook her head, “No.”
“You sure about that?” He queried uneasily.
“Quite sure. I love you.” It was true she did but Joe would never have her all yet he knew that. Had always known that Catherine didn’t love him the way he loved her.
“Where is he?” Joe had never asked the question but it had burned through him ever since Catherine had accepted a date with him. He’d been dying to know what had happened to what’s his name?
“I don’t know.” Catherine replied with a tremor to her voice, “No one does.”
Bundling his coat more firmly around him Joe asked tactfully, “When did you last see him?”
“Almost two years ago. He was sick, went away, left his family…no one saw him again after that.” Catherine’s tone was expressionless, hollow, without feeling yet Joe detected that it tore her heart in two.
“Do you think he’s dead?” Joe ventured trying to stop his teeth chattering. How Catherine didn’t feel the cold beat him. She seemed acclimatised to cold weather.
“I don’t know what to think.” The catch was there in her voice again and Joe wished he’d never asked.
“Want to talk about it?” He offered gently. Catherine shook her head, “No.”
There seemed nothing more to say but Joe had learned more in the last few minutes than he had since…well since that first date really for when it came to what’s his name, Catherine was a closed book. He didn’t even know the guy’s name, that’s how quiet she was about it. But now Joe thought he understood and at least that was something, the reason why Catherine worshipped the moon. She saw ‘him’ in it, reflected in its brilliance, his wife saw that other man in ways he couldn’t even speculate to know how.
“I’ll make some hot cocoa.” Joe told Catherine as he turned to go back inside, “Will you be much longer?”
“No. Just a few minutes more.” Joe nodded and left her side to walk back to the house.
Catherine listened as he opened and closed the door, stepping inside between, then returned her attention back to the moon and her recital to her true love as she had done every month since Vincent had disappeared, by writing or finding a piece of poetry to speak to the moon believing that Vincent could hear her wherever he was.
That done, Catherine pledged her usual promise, “Oh Vincent wherever you are, know that I love you, I will always love you my darling.” Sobs tore at the back of Catherine’s throat but she held them in for Joe’s sake. He was a good man and he loved her, and he hurt when she hurt but she could not explain Vincent to him, or to anybody above, only to his family could she disclose her heart’s secret and she didn’t see them as often as she would have liked these days.
Finally Catherine bid the moon goodnight and turned to go back inside the house, the warmth from the heating hitting her the moment she opened the door, “Phew its hot in here, you turned up the heating Joe?”
“Nope, you’ve just been outside too long. Your chocolate is ready, want cream on top?”
Catherine said yes and went into the lounge where she noticed Joe had already drawn the curtains to block out the moon from his sight. Catherine let it be, after Joe had retired for the night would be soon enough to see the moon and then she could start dreaming all over again.
“Here.” Joe handed her a mug of hot chocolate with fluffy cream on its top, Catherine thanked him and sipped it and he laughed when she withdrew the mug to see cream on the tip of her nose. Catherine rubbed it off, “Shame,” Joe told her “I could have licked it.”
Catherine ducked behind a curtain of hair as Joe had known she would, she always did when he mentioned anything like that, and though their love making had always been tender and loving it had never been adventurous much to his regret. And there were times in their marriage when he felt that Catherine’s input into the relationship was a half-hearted affair. Still Joe often overlooked that fact, revelling instead in the truth that she was his wife, that after all that time of dreaming and hoping she had finally married him. Although…Joe sighed, perhaps had she not been expecting his child then they might never have done so but their child that was not to be, as not a month into the marriage she had lost the baby in miscarriage. Joe had never got used to that, he had loved that child from the moment Catherine had announced she was pregnant, standing like a half scared rabbit caught in the headlights of an approaching car, her eyes big and wide with anxiety agreeing only to his proposal of marriage because she deemed it was the right thing to do, for the child’s sake.
Joe finished his chocolate, “Well that’s me done, are you finished.” He asked standing and holding out a hand for her mug. Catherine downed the remnants and lifted the mug toward him “Thanks Joe.” She told him and he got the feeling she didn’t just mean the cocoa.
“Are you coming to bed?” He asked feeling almost as though he were walking on eggshells. It had been like this every full moon since they’d married ten months earlier, there were times when he had wondered if they would see their first anniversary times like now when she seemed as far removed from him as she’d ever be.
“In a minute. You go up.” It was the same every time Joe could have quoted her word for word. He shrugged and took the mugs out to the kitchen. Moments later Catherine heard him switch out the lights and start climbing the stairs.
With one lamp illuminating the room, Catherine got up and walked to where it was and turned it off. There, in the darkness she let her eyes adjust then ducked around the curtains standing between them and the glass and looked out at the night sky. Infinite sadness washed over her then, sorrow for all she had lost and what she had become, a hollow of her former self only just surviving, her heart only just beating and keeping her alive. Catherine touched her abdomen knowing it had been that unfaithful part of her that had brought her to the state she found herself in, married to Joe Maxwell. Not a day went by that she did not despise that fact even though she loved him in her own way. But for the child that never was, Catherine would never have married anyone ever. She had vowed that during the weeks and months that she had waited for Vincent’s return, traipsing the tunnels looking for him, running to meet each search party as it returned wearily with despair at bringing back no news until that fateful day when Father had announced, ‘no more’. They had searched every inch of the subterranean levels and unearthed nothing. Wherever Vincent was, he could not be found, or did not want to be found, and Father said they had to learn to respect that. That day Catherine had lain on Vincent’s bed and sobbed her heart out and that evening she had left the tunnels for good, except for the odd visit that always left her heartbroken.
“Oh Vincent, where are you?” Catherine mouthed the heart wrenched words directing her gaze to the moon and had to tear herself away or stay there until sunrise. “Be well my love, be well.”
Slowly she mounted the stairs each footstep feeling like lead, as though she were going to meet her doom, Joe would want to make love, or if not, then to cuddle her close beside him, both of which Catherine resented but played the part of the dutiful wife with as much love as she could muster. But her heart belonged to another…it always would.