“Hi, I am Luke. And you are Greta, right?” he asked, sitting beside me in an empty chair.
The woman beside me stood up and moved to another seat. I believed she didn’t like the look of me or maybe I smelled bad.
“Yes,” I said.
“Nice to meet you,” he said, holding out his hand for me to shake.
I shook his hand and nodded. My brain was going insane.
“You look familiar. Have I seen you before?”
“I don’t know. Maybe in your dreams?” I said.
“Did you watch the Court News the other day by any chance?”
“No, never owned a television before in my life. Why?”
“Oh nothing. Not much of a problem. No big deal,” Luke said, and stared at the floor. He looked like a lost puppy.
“What’s the problem, Luke?”
This was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I was once again lying to my first ever boyfriend who had no clue who I was. He did ask if we had met before, but maybe that is what guys use as pick-up lines these days. Turns on women all the time. However, his presence today didn’t feel usual like in the older days. It was as if he were acting in a drama performance and forgot his lines.
“Well, Court News were talking about this girl who ran away years ago. Her husband and I were on the show together.”
I gulped. I think he was suspicious. He looked at me with puppy eyes every time I caught a glimpse of him flickering his eyes towards me as he talked. I think maybe he could remember me. But how? I had to keep lying. I had no other plan. This had to work.
“Yeeeeeessssss?” I said cheekily.
“Well, you see, his name was David and he said his wife was Greta Wilfred. Are you his wife by any chance?”
“Why would you need to know? What are you planning to do with her?”
Luke paused and looked deeply into my eyes like on the first day we met.
“I wanted to meet her. I need to find out some things. You have heard the story, right?”
“It’s all over the news, isn’t it? You said it yourself.”
“But you said you didn’t have a television. So how do you know?”
I was stuck in the deep end again.
“Friend from next door … police … everyone. You don’t need a television to find out these things.”
“So yes or no? Are you David’s wife?”
“I must say, I never thought I would have to answer this question, but I guess I am. But he was having an affair with someone else.”
“Oh, is that what he told you?”
“He was never home to tell me.” I gulped, letting a tear slip down my face.
“I’m so sorry. Here’s a tissue,” he said. “You should also know your husband was not having an affair with anyone.”
“And how the hell would you know?” I yelled, trying to draw attention to myself.
“I know about you, Mildred Shortstreet …”
“Wait? What?” I said.
Luke took my hand and pulled me into a quiet talking room at the back of the dining hall. It was a storage room filled with boxes and nothing else. He locked the door behind him as people began to stand from their seats and stare
“Mildred, I know it’s you. David might not have had an affair with anyone, but he has betrayed you. He told me everything since the day you ran away and turned up at the caravan park all wet, stinky, and upset. I know it’s a lot to take in, but the news went around a couple of months ago about you, and my number was displayed on the television screen. I offered one million dollars for anyone who had contact with you. My parents were rich people and I won the lotto a couple of years ago and hadn’t spent the money since. I thought this could be my chance to find you. So he rang me up, and we have been meeting ever since. We have been telling stories. I am so sorry,” he said, his eyes moist.
“Then why did my husband storm off the stage in the middle of the news?” I said, more tears dripping down my face.
“We told the news station to make him play up and pretend nothing happened. I guess your husband was over everything about myself trying to find you and couldn’t take it any longer. It took some guts to hide you for such a long time.”
I was bawling. First day in a new home and I get told my husband, who I had been married to for about forty years, betrayed me to my first boyfriend and stepbrother. Luke touched the top of my arm.
“Mildred, I am so sorry. Your first day should not have been like this. I should not have told you.” He started to walk out of the room.
“Wait, Luke. Please.” I wiped my eyes and face.
He stopped and shut the door again.
“What did he tell you?”
“He told me you and I were meant to be together. Love at first sight. He was sick of watching the news reports and listening to the radio reports. He wanted you and me to be happy. He told me it was the right choice. He didn’t take the money. David told me he once loved you too at first sight, but he had already spent enough time with you. He still loves you; he just wanted to give me another chance to make it up to you. He told me money wasn’t going to make anything better. According to him, diamonds should be kept and not given away,” Luke said.
I jumped into his arms.
“Oh, Luke, I missed you so much,” I sobbed happily.
“So did I, Mildred. So did I. By the way, can I still call you Mildred?”
“Only when you are with me. The whole world doesn’t know who I am yet.”
“Oh, I think they do.”
He led me outside. Claps, cheers and roars filled the room. My eyes bulged. My happily ever after had come true. Judy was also in the room. She ran over and hugged me.
“How did you know?” I asked her.
“David told me. He made sure I visited you whenever I got a chance to and that the secret stayed safe. I am very good at lying, aren’t I? You are the first patient or friend that I have ever lied to,” Judy said.
“Oh Judy!” I screamed, squeezing her tighter.
I always knew this day would come. Words couldn’t describe the mixed emotions I felt. I felt unhappy I would never get to see my husband again. Judy told me, however, that he was never in custody. He was being sent away. He’d joined the army at sixty.