The shock was too much for him, he had to sit down. At first he could not to take it in. He just sat there trying to think what it meant. He sat for a long time, minutes, hours, holding the contents of the envelope he had unsealed in his hand. Dusk fell, but still he remained in his chair, thinking back on his life, unaware of time.
It was five weeks since Joyce had died. Although in her seventy fifth year she had died suddenly and unexpectedly. The funeral was over and the family had gone home, carefully taking it in turns to ring him each evening to make sure he was alright.
He had not let them sort through Joyce’s possessions. He had not been ready then and wanted to be alone to linger over the memories they brought to mind one last time before parting with them as he knew he must. Today he had started sorting through her things, inhaling her scent on the elaborate lace handkerchief she kept for use at weddings. Finding Josh’s first baby shoes, a rough sketch on a scrap of paper of the house they had built together and an old letter from Joyce’s sister in England. How all these things told of their life together. Then, at the back of the drawer, he had found the sealed envelope.
He had been twenty five years old when he decided to emigrate. He knew the job and prospects on offer in Canada were too good to turn down. If he stayed in England he would be in a dead end job all his life, if he was lucky enough to have a job at all.
Then three weeks before he was due to set sail he had met Joyce. By the time he was due to embark he knew that he didn’t want to leave her. He asked if he could write to her and when he had become established and had saved up enough for her fare and expenses, if she would come out to Canada and marry him. She had said “yes” that no matter what lay ahead they would get through it together.
Now he sat and pondered. Had she not meant what she said? Had she really not trusted him at all? Had she not loved him as much as he loved her? Had she thought it would be a bit of an adventure at his expense?
He had been moved by her complete faith in him, that she would leave family and friends behind and travel alone to the other side of the world to an unknown future. It had been difficult. They had both worked to the point of exhaustion. The bitter winters and isolation had been hard on them both as they started their own small business and built their home and family.
He picked up the envelope again. He took out the return ticket and saw that it had no time limitations. She could have left him and returned to England at any time. God knows, there were many occasions when he was close to despair himself and would gladly have given up and returned to the old country if HE had had a return ticket.
No, this return ticket did not mean that his Joyce had not loved him enough. It meant that even though she had the means to escape the toil and hardship, she loved him so much that she had chosen to stay with him through thick and thin.
He roused himself and made a cup of tea. What a lucky man he was to have had such a wonderful woman to share his life with him.
Chris Pettit 2010