(This story just turned up in my head the other day and wouldn’t go away until I wrote it down.)
He was up early and well gone to his work on the farm, as always. She found the envelope on the kitchen table, propped up against the tomato sauce bottle that was already attracting flies in the burgeoning heat of the day. Well, that’s a bit romantic, she thought. Hadn’t picked that up in their limited conversations to date. She put the kettle on and added fresh tea leaves to the pot. They were both old-fashioned that way.
Sitting down at the laminex table, she opened the envelope and began to read.
Kate (no Dear she noted)
Talking’s never been something I’ve had much use for and the only way I know what I think about anything is if I write it down.
Unless I’m mistaken, and I don’t think I am, you’d like this occasional weekend thing to become a permanent arrangement. I can see the sense in that but I want you to be clear about what that will mean for our future. Women say they want honesty in a man but in my experience they don’t really mean it. Now’s as good a time as any to find out if you’re different.
I don’t want to marry you but I do want to spend my life with you. Instead of getting rubber-stamped by the Government or the Church, we’ll have this contract and we’ll have each other’s word that we’ll stick to it. Without that, life together would be pointless. And, besides, nothing about me will ever change. There will be no negotiation.
I’ll work hard all the rest of my life to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table. You will be responsible for the household. I’d prefer you didn’t work but if you do, the household mustn’t suffer. I want plain traditional food. You can eat whatever your like.
If you want children, that’s fine with me but you will raise them. I will never mistreat them but I will not coddle them, because the world will not when I’m gone. They will learn tasks appropriate to their age and take responsibility for their actions.
If you have visitors or relatives to our house I won’t be interested in talking to them. You and the children will be all the society I need except for necessary business arrangements.
We will continue to have sex as long as we both want it but I won’t be ‘making love’ to you.
I will never say ‘I love you’. I have no idea what ‘love’ is except people say that there wasn’t much of it around in my house when I was growing up. I guess you can’t miss what you never had.
We will be faithful to each other. I know myself well enough to know that will be true for me for all time. If you are ever unfaithful to me, the contract is ended.
I will almost certainly not remember occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries and I will ignore all attempts to rope me into Xmas.
There won’t be any cuddling on the couch and watching TV and I won’t be interested in going anywhere to be entertained.
There won’t be any deep and meaningful conversations about books or what’s in the news.
You must be thinking, “Where are the good things about this contract?”
You will have financial security as long as you live. The farm produces well and is pretty much drought-proof. If I die before you I don’t expect you to keep the farm and the place will fetch a good price.
You will have children (if you want them) to love and nurture as you wish and they will grow up knowing how to be resourceful and resilient, putting them well ahead of the pack.
You will have a faithful and respectful partner that barely drinks, doesn’t smoke, is rarely ill and will stay strong for years to come.
You will live in a community that has kept its values and its connections tight and in that sense you’ll never be alone.
And we will sit on the back porch at dusk and look over our land and not have to say how much it means to us. We will know what we’ve done together and that’s enough peace for anyone.
So, if that’s a contract you can live with for the rest of your life and never reproach me or yourself for the choices you have freely made, let me know tonight.
She put down the letter, made her pot of tea, took it out to the back verandah and sat in her favorite cane chair, gazing at the landscape that could be hers forever.