They grew up together in the little town of Wellingboro. They were baptized in the same church, went to school together, attended dancing classes and followed the same course at university together. From childhood to adulthood they appeared to be inseparable. But it was more by coincidence rather than by choice.
Martha’s family lived a few houses down the road from Jim’s in a street that was as cosmopolitan as London itself. Their families weren’t actually close friends. Oh yes, their mothers met at the grocer’s, in church and at the park. Their fathers frequented the same pub and supported the same football team. But there it stopped. They were just neighbours, not friends as friendship goes.
In such circumstances, Martha and Jim could not but become firm friends and eventually fall in love with each other. Some neighbours said that they actually fell in love when they were born. They each had boyfriends and girlfriends; both had short love affairs and heartbreaks. But, in the end, they only found comfort with each other. They were destined to be together.
Jim and Martha, like all lovers everywhere, had a wonderful and satisfying love affair. They went to the cinema and the theatre, they spent evenings at pubs and had candlelit dinners, they strolled hand in hand in the quiet parks, they sat on secluded benches and talked on a hundred and one subjects while watching days turn into nights and the sky gradually filling with a galaxy of bright shining stars. They got to know each other like the palm of their hands.
Martha especially knew Jim inside out. She could read his mind like a book, know when he’s happy and when he’s sad, when he was relaxed and when something was troubling him, sometimes even what that something was! It was uncanny but it was true.
One fine April day while they were out in the park, gazing at the ducklings in the central pond, Jim had decided to ask Martha to marry him. Even before he opened his mouth to speak, she looked straight into his eyes and smiled. “I know what you are going to say Jim!” “What? What am I going to say Martha?” He replied. “You are going to ask me to marry you!” she responded. “How? How did you know?” he exclaimed bewildered. “I knew Jim, I just knew!” she replied dryly.
They were married soon after, setting up home in the same town, not far from their two families. Jim’s career as a computer technician with Edwards Computer Centre progressed successfully. He proved himself to be an expert in this field and impressed his bosses greatly. After some time, he was called by his boss and told that, in recognition of his proven abilities, he was being appointed manager of the local branch signifying, of course, that his salary would be increased substantially. He was delighted and had no doubt that Martha would be equally pleased.
That evening, after returning from the office, he closed the front door slowly behind him, put his coat and umbrella on the stand, kissed his wife, told her that he loved her and proceeded to the sitting room to sit down on his favourite armchair. “I know what you want to tell me Jim” she said in an anxious manner. “What? What do I want to tell you Martha?” he replied. “You are going to tell me that you have been promoted, is that not so Jim?” she shot back. He was utterly surprised. “How, in heaven’s name, did you know Martha?” “I knew Jim, I just knew!” she replied.
They celebrated at Maxim’s that very same evening, toasting Jim’s success with glasses of red wine. She looked at him and was proud of his handsome Clark Gable features – tall, dark, well-dressed, trimmed moustache. He looked at her mysterious eyes and saw mischief lurking behind them. They were still so much in love with each other. He was working hard and often felt tired, sometimes even exhausted. He thought that a holiday, in a different environment and with a care-free atmosphere, would do him and Martha a lot of good. So one day he decided to surprise Martha by booking a holiday for them both at the Italian resort of Sorrento. It had always been Martha’s wish to see the little enchanting island of Capri, being only an hour’s boat ride away.
He came home tired but with the flight and hotel reservations in his pocket. “Did you have a good day Martha?” “Yes Jim, and you?” “Hard work at the office, must slow down, usual aches and pains, but cannot grumble really”, he said. She looked into his eyes. “You’ve booked a holiday abroad, haven’t you?” she told him matter of factly. “How the devil did she know?” he thought. “Yes, we’ll go to Sorrento and Capri next month. I know you’ll be delighted”, he replied.
They had a wonderful time during their holiday, sipping endless cups of cappuccinos, sitting outside café tables watching the world go by. They finished their dinners with southern Italy’s favourite digestivo – the limoncello – made from lemon rinds and alcohol. From their hotel room they could see the lovely Bay of Naples. And she was captivated by Capri – beautiful, enchanting and romantic. They hired a boat for a visit to the famous Blue Grotto. They vowed to return another time. Her dream had come true. But the holiday was soon over and they returned back to Wellingboro and the work and chores of everyday life.
As time passed, Martha noticed changes in Jim’s body language. He was coming home frequently later than usual saying that there was work to finish. He seldom took her out as he used to do before. Unhappiness was written all over his face. “Is Jim’s love for her coming to an end? Was he seeing another woman?” she thought very worried. She tried to read, as usual, what was there inside his mind. “You are leaving me Jim!” she said one day without warning. “After all these years together, you are leaving me?” “How does she know?” he thought. But he did not reply.
“Have you been seeing another woman? Is that why you’ve been coming home late? Why Jim? Why?” She was excited and jittery. “You’re right that I have to leave you. It’s inevitable Martha, but I’m afraid I have no choice!” he uttered emotionally.
Martha was in a state of confusion. She did not know what to do or say. She fell on the divan, put her hands on her face and cried. This was something she had not been expecting. She was stunned, perplexed. Jim went near her, put his hands on her shoulders and said. “Listen Martha. I’ve been seeing the doctor lately, that’s why I’ve been coming back home later than usual. I’m sick, very sick. The doctor says that it’s a matter of weeks. I’m sorry Martha”. He stopped, sniffed and continued.
“You’ve been reading my mind like a book for so many years Martha but, for the first time, you were not wholly right, you know. Let me assure you that I still love you very much, more than yesterday, but less than tomorrow!”
These words stunned her completely. She got up from the divan, stretched her hands and embraced him tightly to her while warm tears rolled down her cheeks. Then, when the first moments of her emotions subsided, she entangled herself from him, looked straight into his eyes, willing her mind to read their future.
“This is the time when you’re thinking that everything is finished. You’re wrong Jim, it is only the beginning. You’ll pull through and our love will be as good as it ever was. You mark my words!”
Then they fell into each other’s arms again, confident of the future. “I know I’m right”, she said. “I know I’m right!”