Red heart image for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day owns February. The color RED means ROMANCE singing the timeless words . . . I love you.

I have friends who recently married, or celebrated wedding anniversaries, or got engaged — all within the last six months.

Writing my last novel, The Last Merry Go Round, is about a marriage — a fractured marriage . . . to say the least.

Why do people fall in and out of love? This question, for a writer of fiction, tugs at the brain and heart, trying to write passion and not sappy-dime-store-romance with the same plot . . . boy-meets-girl . . . blah, blah, blah.  Romance, especially this month — February — when I’m seeking an agent to represent me, seems a poignant thought.

Marriage and relationships, I feel, are based on . . . trust, respect, communication, and love . . .   When examined, they each entwine into infinite paths of relationships.

Developing my story about marriage, The Last Merry Go Round, a home void of all sense of trust, respect, communication, and love — has given me respect for the three words . . . I love you. 

What planted the seed for this story?

Many years ago, after attending a seminar class at UCLA, I was walking in Westwood. The morning was quite still. It was a lazy sunny start of my day as I contemplated what to do with my time. As I waited for a traffic light to change, I saw a Porsche convertible car stopped at the light.  Inside, a couple was arguing….well, it was mostly him. The woman’s face bent down. Her chin buried into her chest. She was quiet. She was motionless. He asked her a question. She lifted her head and turned to looking at him, but before she could answer, he reached across and backhanded her several times across the face, as he called her all kinds of vile names. The light changed and the car sped off. The image stayed with me. This is where I got the story idea to write The Last Merry Go Round.

Here is the first passage from The Last Merry Go Round:

First thoughts today:  The coffee is cold. And I can say with full honesty, sitting across the table from Richard, in our twenty-eight years of marriage, the word yes has brought me little happiness. I know and believe from all I’ve come to accept, the longer I stare at the kitchen’s cracked plastered wall in need of repair; this image symbolizes our love and marriage. The light in a once romantic and naive sixteen-year-old falls dimmer and dimmer. Oblivion paints a foregone conclusion. If only Richard had cared to listen. But this isn’t the morning. He’s too happy. His just-shaven face energizes and re-energizes the more he talks and talks. The patient wife doesn’t interrupt. A dutiful smile passes from her face to his. Richard is who I am, and what I am is lost between the beginning and the end of his sentences.

“All my time invested courting Jared Longview will finally pay off.” My husband holds out his empty coffee cup—minus the word please, a foreign word. 

The obedient wife pushes away from the table. She moves unenthusiastically to the coffee maker. Silence is necessary while pouring his drink. She listens, trying to remember it all, because a test will come. It always does.

“Father can no longer deny my abilities.” The husband’s grin changes into robust laughter. “Damn. My portfolio will be quite substantial from this deal.”

The refreshed coffee in front of him goes unnoticed. The wife wishes for that thank you. She’s a fool. Richard’s consumption lay with Richard and money—lots of it. The Wall Street Journal, a preoccupation must, with breakfast, now has his attention. Fist pounds on the table means the stocks are up. Grunts and curses are losses.

The cussing appears minimal. “There’s nothing crucial today. I get to keep the cars,” he chuckles into the wife’s direction, “and you, my dear Diane . . . get to do what you do to look good for me.”

My appropriate cue: A cute upward turn of my mouth, plus several affectionate strokes to his arms. Yes. I’m trained well. A pinched smile and hot-second glances settles into my husband as he turns the paper’s next page.

Apple slices and black coffee satisfy the wife’s-mustn’t-gain-weight-husband-rule. The wall clock says seven. Cups clang onto saucers. Newspaper rustles. She sits expressionless. Hands folded. She sits watching time watch her. She hopes for something—love between them. Now, maybe a lightning bolt crashing through the ceiling and killing him like it did to the priest in The Omen. No, I don’t mean it, at least not at this moment.

“Anyway,” he clears his throat and stares at nothing in particular, “at last I’ve proven to the goddamn SOB I am the one with more damn balls than my two older brothers. I’m the one who brought in the multi-million dollar account any law firm would’ve killed to get. I deserve to be the fucking head managing partner. Me. And he’d better realize that . . . or else.” His animated face holds all my attention. “This deal goes to the press in a few days. Can you imagine what this means, Diane? Can you?”

Continuous talking leaves no empty space for me.

Anxiety deepens sweat into my palms with an onset of abrupt quiet. He lights a cigarette. Long deliberate puffs accompany his eyes closing. A mischievous smile plasters his mouth as he leans back into his chair. His words or else, threats are never without thorough calculation. Would he dare hurt his father, Lloyd? Yes, stupid. Remember Richard’s vile anger has left insurmountable stomach pains because of those beatings.

“I must celebrate,” he laughs, a wide-awake expression, “with something I’ve had my sights on. Damn stock market rallies high. Good luck fills my cup.”

The wife dares not criticize or question the need for another possession. Already an acquired Maltese, Picasso, and rare 1st editions in his library give him huge bragging rights amongst his friends. The six-car garage houses only a fraction of his hobbies. Why doesn’t he understand his wife wants love, not material things?

“I need some damn reward. Jared Longview stands as the biggest bore I know.”

Does he not know I’ve not participated in this conversation? When will he leave? The clock reads seven-fifteen. He must know the time after checking his Italian gold wristwatch—the one I didn’t give him. Why does he linger? What small comment requires no malice in agreement with my husband? I must converse something intelligent while he studies my face, or, as in the past, he’ll accuse me of taking no interest in his career.

“All Jared’s wealth and he and his frumpy old wife live in the same six-bedroom brick house he got born and raised in. They don’t entertain. Go to bed by eight o’clock. Drive used cars. Can you believe the old bitch clips coupons like they’re on welfare? What do you think, or don’t you care, Diane?” He asks leaning closer.

Stumbling over an answer, “Well, I . . . ,” because nerves steal my words. Hate Richard’s inquisition drills.

“Need I ask you again, Diane? What the hell do you think?”

Answer or he’ll call you stupid as he has many times before. But be careful. The intention must never be I’m smarter than perceived or that he’s wrong.

“I guess you never can tell what happens behind closed doors.”

His nonchalant shrug may get me off the hook. “Yes, Diane. You never know. Do you? Yes, my dear . . . a house disguises many things. Doesn’t it?”

Behind the closed door of a nice home can live a tortured life
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Patricia Tramble
Patricia Tramble
5 years ago