And then it all came tumbling out, all Ella’s pent-up frustrations and suppressed ambitions, all the resentment she had tried so hard not to feel at having to put her own desires second, at having to put John’s career first.
“I’ve been so bored, John. I’m capable of so much more than just keeping house,” she admitted.
“Do you think I don’t know that? Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” her husband asked softly.
“I don’t know,” Ella said wretchedly, “I didn’t know how to.”
John jumped to his feet, running his fingers through his neatly brushed hair.
“I don’t understand, Ella. You’re telling me you’ve always wanted to teach, that teaching is the most important thing to you, yet you’ve not once mentioned it in the whole time we’ve been married! Do you have any idea how that makes me feel, knowing that my wife was too feart to tell me of her dreams? Did you think I’d trample on them, and tell you it was me or the teaching?”
That was exactly what she had thought. Ella stared at him, aghast. How could she have got him so wrong? She’d thought herself miserable before, but now she felt as if the very foundations of her world were cracking beneath her feet, and it was her own fault.
* * * *
John shook his head, his temper replaced by a deep sadness that nigh on broke Ella’s heart.
“I can see by your silence that’s exactly what you thought.” He shook his head, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. “One of the reasons I loved you was for your intelligence. When we talked about me taking this post we both knew it would be a sacrifice, living out here with no opportunity for you to teach, but I don’t recall us saying it would be for ever, any more than I recall you raising a single objection.”
“What?” John frowned.
“You said loved. Not love,” Ella pointed out sadly. “Don’t you love me any more, John?”
He pulled her into his arms, holding her so tightly that she could hardly breathe. The familiar scent of him, his tweed jacket, his soap, the Macassar oil he put in his hair, made her ache with longing.
“Say you love me, John. Say you forgive me.”
Gently, he pulled her from him.
“It’s not about whether I love you, Ella, or even whether I forgive you or not. It is a matter of trust. You couldn’t tell me what was in your heart. You married me knowing that you were compromising yourself, and by doing that, you have compromised me. You’ve hurt me. I need some time to think about all of this. I don’t want to make it worse by saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment.”
Ella swallowed hard.
“Tomorrow, then?” she asked, smiling tremulously.
John shook his head.
“I think we both need some proper time to reflect on things. Maybe it would be best if you went to your mother’s for a wee while.”
“A wee while? How long? John, you can’t mean – are you saying you don’t want to be married to me any more?”
He shook his head, but Ella did not feel reassured.
“Ella, I’m saying I need some time and space to think. You go to your mother’s. I will come and get you. I promise.”