Echoes of a Bitter Past
Copyright© 2010 by Texrep
Life has an even tenor and with the drama over my life settled back into its orderly fashion. My work continued much as it had been for the last few months. Some would have described it as boring but with my interest in what we were doing and the questions that I asked, the research technicians tended to look on me as part of their team rather than just as the functionary required to drive their test bed. With no reason to go to Birmingham anymore my contact with my erstwhile neighbours and Mavis dropped off to the occasional phone call. She was always happy to hear from me and I found it difficult to bring our phone conversations to an end as she seemed loathe to allow the call to end. One of our conversations was very illuminating. It would appear that apart from his original seduction, David had shown no interest in Mavis as a sexual partner.
"Ricky, Apart from that one evening I feel that I am still a virgin."
"He needs his head sorted if you ask me." My reply was flippant but Mavis's reply shook me.
"Is your head sorted, Ricky. You're welcome anytime." Was she being flippant now?
She often asked me if I was seeing anyone. I didn't want to lie, but I felt that I should not tell the whole truth. Instinctively I knew the truth would upset her. So I suggested that what with work and studying; I was back at the Technical College by now; I had little time for a social life. I don't think she believed me completely. We continued our phone chats on a regular basis. In deference to her tight budget if she phoned me, I would immediately call her back. Her call some eight months after the funeral started a significant change.
"Ricky, I have had some news."
"Good news or bad news?"
"I think good. My solicitor has managed to find David. He's in Edinburgh; living with a woman who it would appear has his child. He has replied to my solicitor and says he will agree to a divorce on the grounds of his desertion with the condition that I don't ask for support for me or Richard."
"Can he do that?" I had absolutely no idea about divorce law in the U.K.
"It appears that if I agree, yes he can."
"What are you going to do?"
"Agree of course. It's about time this joke of a marriage came to an end."
Six weeks later Mavis phoned again. "Ricky my divorce hearing is happening at the Court next week. My solicitor has asked me to be there. Do you think you could do me a big favour and come with me? I hate to ask really but I shall be all alone there, and you know how places like that can intimidate."
"What day is it?"
"I'll try. They owe me a day for working the Bank Holiday, so I'll ask if I can take it then. I'll call you when I know."
"Thanks Ricky. If there is one person in this world I can trust it is you." I felt some guilt upon hearing her declaration. The one time she really did need me, I let her down.
We arranged to meet in The Minories, just outside the Lewis's department store. From there it was just a short walk down Corporation Street to the Courts. Why is it that these places are so forbidding? The ceilings so high, the way that people spoke in hushed tones, Ushers and Policeman regarding us with suspicion, as if we were there to be punished. We eventually found the Family Court and Mr. Cox, Mavis's solicitor met us outside. He told us to take a seat as the case being heard at that moment was running over.
"I'll come back and get you when the Court is ready for us." With that he vanished leaving us to sit on the hard bench in the gloomy corridor. Mavis was shaking with nerves and grabbed my hand for support.
Mr. Cox returned twenty minutes later to tell us it was time to go in. He didn't do much for Mavis's composure when he said that the Judge was Mr. Justice Detheridge.
"A stickler for the rules." Was his description. The Court was a surprise. I think both of us were expecting the formal court shown in films, with the Judge sitting on his high bench. Not so. The furniture consisted of two heavy oak tables set in a 'T' shape. The large leather upholstered chair was obviously for the Judge and the chairs set either side of the table which formed the stroke of the 'T' could only be for us minions. Mr. Cox took his seat and motioned Mavis to sit beside him, he pointed to chairs set around the wall for me to sit. I believe the arrangement was to put people at their ease. It didn't do much for me and I could see Mavis literally shaking as she sat.
The Judge entered after a couple of minutes and I was preparing to stand. No one else did so I remained where I was. Apart from the Clerk of the Court, the Court stenographer, Mr. Cox, Mavis and me there was nobody else in attendance. The Judge read through the deposition, talked quietly with the Clerk for a moment and then addressed Mr. Cox.
"Mr. Cox. The application is fairly straightforward and I see that the Defendant, Mr. Russell is in agreement. I am perturbed, first that he isn't represented here and second, that no arrangement for support is mentioned. Could you enlighten me?"
"Yes My Lord. My client has agreed not to seek support for herself nor for the child of the marriage. It was a condition stipulated by the Defendant in return for his agreement."
"Does your Client have independent means?"
"No My Lord."
"I am not happy, Mr. Cox. The Defendant deserted the Plaintiff and now in return for his agreement to divorce is seeking to avoid his responsibilities. I am minded to make an order for support just to remind Mr. Russell that he cannot escape his responsibility so easily. Without independent means your Client is likely to become a charge on the State." He addressed Mavis directly. "Mrs. Russell. Have you made arrangements to support yourself?" I could see that Mavis was trembling so much that it would take time for her to answer.
Why I did this I don't know, perhaps a sudden rush of blood to the brain. I jumped to my feet and said to the Judge.
"I will support Mavis!" Everything stopped and everyone looked at me. After a moment the Judge addressed me.
"And who are you?"
"I'm sorry Sir. My name is Richard Gilson."
"Very well Mr. Gilson. You address me as 'My Lord'. What connection do you have with Mrs. Russell?"
"We have been friends all our lives, we grew up together. We only lived four doors away from each other. My Lord."
"And why should you offer to support Mrs. Russell?" I didn't know the answer to that question myself. My reply was timid and weak.
"I am her friend." Mr. Justice Detheridge regarded suspiciously.
"I see." He turned to Mr. Cox. "Mr. Cox. Did you have any knowledge of this?"
"No. My Lord. Perhaps I could have a moment to confer?"