Matheson didn’t return that afternoon or that evening. When Shae woke the next morning, Mr. Canton handed her a letter from him, detailing that he had been called away to New York City for his work, and would be gone for months. He apologized for the suddenness of the trip, and for not saying good-bye in person. He would take care of the Matheson properties business from New York. He signed it merely, “- Matheson”. No “love” or “truly” or even a “sincerely”. He wanted “Matheson”, so that is what she would call him from now on.
The feelings of confusion concerning their marriage were gone. She was shocked at his leaving, and annoyed at him for his behavior after Lucy died. She had a special amount of ire concerning his attitude the days following. Every bit of fluttering and dizziness that she had gotten around him, or while thinking about him, had vanished. She chalked it up to infatuation that she had gotten over. She was resolute. Their marriage, in her mind, was a business contract. She’d be faithful to him. When he returned, she’d be by his side at all social events. She wouldn’t try to take up an easy camaraderie with him again, though. She wouldn’t be his friend again. She had what her parents had feared, a loveless marriage. However, it was lack of love from both sides.
She’d had two months since he left to think about. She thought perhaps she might be a little too calloused about the situation, but then again, she’d been left alone right after the death of sweet Lucy. What else was there to do, but resign oneself to the reality their existence.
Shrugging her thoughts off, she turned to the titles in the library. She’d read about 4 dozen of them, in these past two months of loneliness. McClure hadn’t even visited, so she supposed he was off elsewhere on business. He was an engineer for a firm based in Chicago. Her parents would be in Europe for another month. A second honeymoon, they called it. Mother deserved it, and Father needed it. The wives of Matheson’s acquaintances were either in the countryside avoiding the sweltering heat or on the shores of Lake Michigan doing the same. Aunt Martha refused to see her and wouldn’t let her come visit without Matheson around. She blamed Shae for Lucy’s death, even though Dr. Alkire had assured her several times that Lucy’s heart had been expected to give out all of her life.
Unfortunately, Neva Langley and Beatrice Matheson would come calling once a week. It was emotionally-taxing, but at least there was a challenge in diverting from revealing too much information about Matheson’s whereabouts and doings. They had been there yesterday, so there wasn’t much to look forward to today.
Mrs. Klein and Shae had already sewn a couple of new gowns for the upcoming fall societal season. She had exhausted all of the piano pieces that Matheson owned. She supposed she could go buy some more at the store or order some from a catalog.
Most of all, above even the loneliness, Shae was bored. Her life was dull, and much like last November at her parents’ home, she wanted to run up to the attic and scream. Instead, she made her way to the sitting room where the piano was. She started playing an angry piece of her own making. This continued for 5 minutes, until she finished it with a discordant run of notes.
“I don’t think song that would be popular at any women’s fundraising functions,” a male voice said behind her.
Shae swung around on her piano stool. McClure! She stood up and greeted him. He kissed her hand, and she motioned him to sit somewhere.
“I’ll ring for tea.”
“Don’t bother, I can’t stay long.”
Shae couldn’t help, but drop her countenance.
“What is the matter, Mrs. Matheson?”
“It’s nothing, really. I’m just lonely, and– and bored.”
“Where is Rand? Is he not here?”
“No, he’s been gone these two months, ever since that afternoon he found us in what he thought was a compromising position.”
“Is that why he left?”
“No, I think he was able to come to understand that you were merely comforting me.”
“I see. I see. And what have you done in the time being?”
“Honestly, I’ve about gone mad with boredom. I’ve got so much energy that I don’t know what to do with. It’s all I can do to not pace a hole in the rugs. I can’t still myself to read. I need something important to do, and people to talk to.”
“Like some sort of social activity?”
“I suppose. Something to fill the time. I have no one to take care of. Most of the women of my acquaintance are gone. Not that it would matter too much anyway. We have little in common, but I guess it would pass the time.”
“Where did Rand go to?”
“He’s in New York City on business.”
“It just so happens that I’m heading there myself on a train in an hour. I’ll have to see if I can locate him. Do you have anything that you’d like me to give him from you?”
“No. I have nothing to say to Matheson.”
She said his name with enough vehemence that McClure raised his eyebrows, but felt it wise to not question her about it. He stood to leave.
“I must go. I’m glad that I stopped by. Has he written you by any chance?”
“No, not besides the first letter he wrote upon leaving to tell me where he was going.”
McClure’s hands tightened on the brim of his hat, and his mouth formed into a straight line. He was angry.
“Do you mean that he didn’t even have the decency to tell you good-bye in person?”
“And he left you alone a few days after Lucy’s burial?”
McClure muttered under his breath, and worked to control his temper.
“I see. I SEE,” he hissed.
Shae said nothing.
“Well, I see I have quite an earful for Matheson when I see him in New York.”
Shae merely nodded, slightly.
“I’m sorry, but I must go. I can’t miss the express to New York. I will be back in about 10 days. Expect a visit from me, and hopefully at least a letter from your husband.”
He bent over her hand again.
“Take care, Mrs. Matheson.”
“You also, Mr. McClure.”
When arriving in New York City, McClure didn’t have to ask around too much concerning the whereabouts of his friend. Most of the socialites knew him as the handsome new attorney replacing theirs for several months, while he was on an extended vacation for health purposes.
Come to find out, Matheson was renting out an apartment while staying in the city. John McClure stomped his way up the stairs to his friend’s apartment. His temper had cooled while on the train ride, and while doing his own business in the city. However, as he was making his way to Rand’s apartment, his ire was rising again. He pounded his fist on the door.
Rand himself answered.
“McClure. What are you doing here?”
“I should ask you the same question.”
“You already know the answer, having sought it out, if you know where I live.”
“Might I come in?” McClure questioned, gesturing that he was in the hallway.
Rand stepped back and gestured him through the door.
“Have a seat?”
“No, thank you.”
They stared at each other for a few moments. Rand looked like the picture of stalwart morality that he normally did. It looked like he had backed off the drink again too, thankfully. McClure still thought he was still a dunderhead.
“I guess the proper question would be, what are you doing here, instead of back home comforting your wife?”
“Didn’t you do it enough a couple of months ago for me?”
“I barely touched her. She needed to comfort, and you were too inebriated to notice. That was two months ago, you ninny. She is completely alone, and I daresay not doing well.”
“How do you mean?” Rand said, crisply.
“She’s all alone.”
“She’s used to that.”
“Yes,” McClure retorted, “but she is still grieving the loss of a child that she loved deeply.”
“So, am I.”
McClure didn’t say anything at first, but let it sink in. Perhaps he wasn’t being compassionate enough towards his friend, even if he was making a terrible mistake staying here.
“So, grieve with your wife.”
“You know as well as I that our marriage is unconventional.”
“She is more than just a doll you parade about on your arm, Rand. She’s a human with feelings.”
“She’s the practical sort. She understands. We’ll get back on track once I return in November.”
“I’m not so certain of that. I think her days of calling you a friend are gone. You took her companionship for granted. You don’t deserve her.”
“I know that,” Rand conceded.
“Do you know what she calls you now?”
Rand didn’t answer, only shook his head.
“Matheson. She calls you Matheson with ire and vinegar in her tone. She’s incredibly angry with you.”
“All the more reason to stay away.”
“You are a fool,” McClure spit out.
“Stop insulting me, McClure. I have my limits.”
“Aye, and so does your wife. At least write her letters or quick notes, so she has some sort of contact with you. If you don’t, all that you’ve worked for in the Davies community will be lost when you file for divorce.”
“Wouldn’t she? She’s fiercely independent and bright. She’d find her way in the world on her own, without you. She’ll figure that out soon, if left on her own to ponder for too much longer.”
Rand couldn’t contradict his friend. He was right, and he knew it.
“I’m going to visit her when I return in a few days. Would you like me to give her anything?”
Pondering on all his friend had said, Matheson made his way over to the desk, and scribbled a quick note for his wife. McClure peeked over his friend’s shoulder to see what he wrote, and rolled his eyes at it. That would never appease her, only anger her more. McClure would have to take some things into his own hands, if he didn’t want his friend’s work in Davies to go to ruin. Rand handed him the note, squinting his eyes, as if he knew that McClure had peeked at it.
“There. Are you satisfied?”
“The question is rather if she will be, eh?”
When Rand didn’t reply, McClure merely took the note and walked out the door.