It had rained heavily last night. The streets were still littered with puddles. It was 7.00 am but the sky was still overcast. Not that it stopped anyone from going about their work. The birds were flying out of their nests to find food. As were the fishermen. And the thousands of working class men and women. Perhaps the only people who did not have any work were the ten odd families standing here around this lamppost. Leaning on it, I looked around at these people, waiting for the fishing boat which was to take them to the ship waiting out there in the sea. It was a small harbor and a ship that size could not anchor here. At this harbor, it was customary for a small fishing boat to ferry people to and from the large ships which patiently waited for the passengers in the open sea.
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Standing next to me was my husband of two weeks. Our honeymoon had been delayed because his father was on the deathbed on the day we took our vows. In fact, it had been a hurried wedding at the hospital chapel because my father-in-law wanted to see his only son married before he moved on to the next world. I had known John since I was twelve and he fifteen. We had grown up together, practically like brother and sister. So imagine my surprise when last month he proposed to me. But then I figured that I did not have that many suitors and at twenty nine, I wasn’t getting any younger. If I did not want to grow-up into an old maid, I better take whatever was on offer. And what was on offer wasn’t all that bad.
John is a nice and caring man and ran a profitable business. While he does not have the traditional good looks, his rugged looks have a charm of their own. Having grown up together, he is aware of my mood swings, my likes and dislikes and all my idiosyncrasies. Yes, I know, a young lady like me is not supposed to have any idiosyncrasies, but than I can’s help if I find the corset too tight and prefer to wear it extremely lose, giving the impression that I am plumper than I really am. Since John knows that I am thinner than I look, it makes me feel very comfortable. And what better qualification can a husband have than that he makes his wife feel comfortable. So when he proposed to me last month, I accepted his proposal. We had planned the wedding about six months later, but than the condition of my father-in-law deteriorated and five hours later I was a married woman.
After a long and painful illness, John’s dad finally passed away two days ago. The funeral took place yesterday and on my mother-in-law’s insistence, we decided to go on our honeymoon. She wanted to spend some time alone with her husband’s memories. So John made these last minute arrangements last night. I barely got a few hours to pack. And no time to sleep. Not that it matters. I will catch up on my sleep once we are on the ship.
I wonder what is taking the fishing boats so long. The two fishing boats had left hours ago with our luggage. They should have been back by now. Well, what can one do but wait. Just like everyone else. All the other families seem to be waiting patiently. There is nothing out of ordinary about the other families joining us on the ship. The only person who stands out is that young lady in white, standing back there with her husband. With her good looks, I am sure she never had any problems with suitors. I wonder what her story is. Is she too an orphan, like me. My mother had passed away in child birth and last year my father too had succumbed to the years of loneliness.
My father was a rich merchant in the city. After his death, John had started taking care of his business. That, coupled with his own business and his father’s failing health left him little time for anything else. In the two weeks of our marriage, we had barely spent anytime together. He would be at work all day, and spend the night at hospital, tending to his father. This honeymoon would be a break from the strenuous routine he had been subjecting himself to.
The boats have finally arrived. That old man with stick reminds me of my father. Just like my father, he seems to be a businessman. And judging from his clothes, a rich one. He is accompanied by his secretary. Just as my father was when he went out on business. My father did not have many friends. John’s father was the only person with whom he liked to spend time. At business, they were stiff rivals. But in personal life they were the best of friends. John’s father had taken ill soon after my father’s death. Everyone said that the loss of a dear friend was the cause of his ill health. Perhaps they were right.
The fishermen are laying their nets. Within a few hours these nets will be full of fish and the fishermen will take home a rich haul. John’s mother had cooked fish on the day of my father’s funeral. She had insisted that I spend the night at their place since I was alone at our ancestral home. Since then, I had spent every night at John’s place. I would visit my home every morning to get it cleaned. But the vast emptiness of the huge house was too depressing and I would go back to John’s place within a few hours. Then six months ago, I stopped going there altogether. It was an old building and within a few months it began to fall apart. So last month John had offered to sell it for me. I had signed the necessary papers and John had managed to find a buyer willing to buy the old decrepit house for a reasonable some. He had deposited the money in bank for safe keeping. The day after the sale had gone through, he had proposed to me.
We can see the ship in the horizon. It’s a huge ship. We are going to Venice for the honeymoon. I remember the last time I was there with my father. He had gone there on business, and I had roamed around the streets enjoying the weather. One day he had returned to the hotel, very, very angry.
“Never trust anyone with your money”. He had almost screamed that advice at me. Apparently, his secretary had run away with the money he was supposed to hand over to another merchant. My father had lodged a complaint, but the man, or the money, was never found.
The secretary, my father had hired after that had come with very good references. But my father still refused to show any faith in him. He was still working in my father’s business, helping John with handling the business. Last week he had visited me and requested to a private conversation. He is a strange man. He had spent thirty minutes with me, trying to make me understand the accounts. I never had any aptitude for numbers and I told him so. He finally left but before leaving he said something strange. He said “Never trust anyone with your money.”
I wonder how he knew that my father had said the same thing years ago at a Venice hotel. And what did he mean by it. He is a strange man. He is an accountant. I guess, all accountants are strange people. Otherwise, why would he say such a thing. I don’t have any money. I have never carried any money. Father used to take care of money all my life. And after his death, John took over. If I don’t have any money, how can the question of trusting anyone with it arise. That secretary is really a strange, strange man……
Monet, C. (1874). Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor, Le Havre. Oil on Canvas. Web.