“I know that you married me for my money but, I didn’t care because I loved and wanted you so desperately. I still do. I know that you don’t love me and you probably never will.”
“You’re mistaken, you know,” he said quietly. “I do love you.”
“You may love me in your own special way but you’re not in love with me, Gerhardt. It hurts but I have learned to accept it.” She could still hear her mother, God rest her soul, saying, “Why did you have to go and marry him? He’s much younger than you and he’s a foreigner. He’s only interested in your money. Make sure you don’t leave him a penny. Give your money to your favorite charities instead.”
She met him seven years ago at a dinner party. He was there with his girlfriend, Felicity and she was there with Franklin, a wonderful man who was in love with her and wanted to marry her. Unfortunately for him, she wasn’t in love with him and when she saw Gerhardt, she knew that her relationship with Franklin was over. It was love at first sight for her and after she met him and got to know him, she knew that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. They courted for several weeks and then she proposed to him.
Their wedding was a lavish affair. His family flew in from Düsseldorf for the wedding, all expenses paid and stayed at a hotel in London. The couple honeymooned in Tuscany. When they returned, he moved into her Oxfordshire mansion.
Her mother, a widow of ten years, didn’t approve of her son-in-law. “I’ll never understand why you married him instead of Franklin,” she told her.
“It’s rather very simple, Mother. I don’t love Franklin. I love Gerhardt.”
“But, you’ve only known this young man for weeks, Helena. How could you possibly be in love with him?”
“I know it seems incredible but I am in love with him, Mother and that’s why I married him.”
“I think you’ve made a terrible mistake. He will break your heart.”
She hadn’t wanted to believe her mother. She dismissed her words as those of a woman who didn’t like anyone who wasn’t British or from aristocracy. Yet, she couldn’t ignore the nagging truth that Gerhardt wasn’t in love with her. He cared for her but he wasn’t in love with her. They had sex but it was just him fulfilling his marital duties. They didn’t have any children because she was in her late forties, past the age when it was safe and advisable to have children. Gerhardt didn’t seem to mind. She got the feeling that he didn’t want to have children. Perhaps that was also another reason why he married her. If she were to die before him, he would be the sole beneficiary.
“Let’s not talk about this anymore,” he said now, bringing her back to the present. “It’s clearly upsetting you.”
“All right,” she conceded. “I should go now and leave you to your work.” They were in his office at the company where he was the CEO. It was a job he had years before they met and he loved it. His colleagues and friends asked him why he was still working when he could easily retire and just enjoy his wife’s wealth. He could travel and enjoy a life of leisure but he told them that he had worked too hard to get where he was to throw it all away because he was married to a rich woman.
Besides, he liked being in London. After living there for years, he missed the excitement of the city. He could easily pop over to the gym or go for a walk along the Thames or visit Felicity. She had been upset when he told her that he was marrying Helena. “How could you marry her?” she demanded. “She’s older and she’s not even attractive. Is it because she’s rich?”
“I’m not marrying her for her money,” he informed her. “She asked me to marry her so I said yes.”
“As simple as that, huh.”
“Yes, as simple as that.”
“So where does that leave us?”
“We can continue to see each other or I can walk out of your life for good. It’s up to you.” He had moved closer so that they were inches apart. He caressed her bare shoulder, making her tremble and her eyes darken.
Muttering under her breath, she reached up and clutching his head between her hands, she pulled it down so that she could fasten her mouth to his. They ended up in bed. Felicity went from being his former girlfriend to his mistress. He went to her flat during the week after he left the office. He always managed to get home for dinner. So, he was sleeping with Felicity during the week and with Helena on the weekends. Whenever she wanted to make love on a weeknight, he would say, “I’m sorry, Helena, but I’m rather tired.”
He stood up now and after kissing on the lips, they hugged. “Where are you off to now?” he asked.
“To meet Marigold for lunch. Oh, don’t forget that we’re having dinner with the Spencers this evening.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” He liked the Spencers. They didn’t make him feel like a fortune hunter or an interloper unlike some of her other friends and acquaintances.
“Please remember to pick up a bottle of Sottimano Mate Rosso.”
She was about to leave when she paused, “Oh, one last reminder. Don’t forget to order the tickets for the ballet.”
“What’s the name of the ballet again and when did you want us to go?”
She shook her head. “Oh, Darling, you’re hopeless. It’s Marguerite and Armand and the Saturday evening show.”
He smiled. “Don’t worry, I won’t forget to pick up the wine or to get the tickets.”
She touched his face. “I’ll see you later,” she said before she walked out of the office.
He returned to his work. As he promised, he remembered to order the tickets and pick up the wine. He made sure he got home in time to take a shower before they headed over to Winchester. To his relief, Helena and he were the only guests. As expected, dinner with the Spencers was very pleasant.
For the next several years, he found that he loved being married to Helena. She was such an incredible woman and a terrific wife. He ended his affair with Felicity and he was only in London during the week when he had to work. After leaving the office, he went straight home. Sometimes, he stopped at a florist to buy Helena bouquets of her favorite flowers.
They didn’t make love only on the weekends as they did in the past when he was still involved with Felicity but they made love during the week too. They went on trips to South America and on a Mediterranean cruise. One evening in Capri when the sun was starting to set and they were standing on the balcony facing the sea, he turned her to face him. Cupping her upturned face between his hands, he looked her in the eyes and said, “I love you, Helena.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. “Oh, Gerhardt…”
He wiped them away with his thumbs. “You believe me, don’t you.”
“Yes. I can see it in your eyes. I never imagined….”
He leaned over and kissed her on the lips. She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back. They kissed for several minutes and then, he picked her up and carried her into the room and over to the bed where they made sweet love.
Life with Helena was a turbulent tranquility–tranquil because of the sweet, unassuming person she was and turbulent because lately, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen. Then, one evening after he left the office and was on his way down to the parking lot, his cell rang. He quickly answered it. “Hello?”
It was Benson, the butler calling to inform him that Helena was at John Radcliffe Hospital, in critical condition. He immediately drove over there. When he arrived, he found his wife unconscious with tubes everywhere. It scared the daylights out of him. The doctors had gathered her family to update them. “Why did your wife stop taking her blood pressure medicine?” one of them asked him.
“I-I don’t know.” He had no idea that Helena was taking medication for her blood pressure. If he had known, he would have encouraged her to make lifestyle changes which would have lowered her blood pressure and kept it down.
Nine days later, Helena’s heart stopped. Her death was caused by heart disease and hypertension. He was devastated. How could she be gone? She was only forty-nine.
After the funeral was done and the reading of the will in which she had left everything to him, he tried to adjust to life without her but it was tough. He missed her like crazy. The mansion felt big, cold and empty without her. He wanted to sell it but his brother-in-law, Garfield encouraged him not to. “Helena loved this place,” he said. “She was very happy here.”
So, he kept the mansion and remained living there. He planted a remembrance tree in memory of Helena on the grounds. He visited her grave every week and placed fresh flowers beneath the headstone on which was written, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live -John 11:25.
He was very thankful that he had told her that he loved her that evening in Capri. He couldn’t bear the thought of her dying still believing that her love was one-sided. While he wasn’t in love with her when they got married, he had made it very clear to her that he didn’t marry her for her money. Her wealth didn’t matter to him–it never did. He would rather have her still alive and here with him than all of this.