I’m an important man in Hawker’s Drift.
That may sound presumptuous, even arrogant. But it is true nevertheless. I help the wheels turn, all those bits of town business that people take for granted, don’t even see; land deeds, property sales, wills, birth, marriage and death certificates, divorces (admittedly, not many of them), all kinds of disputes. I arrange the collection of the town’s taxes and make sure everyone is up to date with what they owe, not a cent more, not a cent less, I keep the town accounts, I minute town meetings. Heck, pretty much everything required to keep the whole town running tickety. And what do I get for all my hard work?
A drunk, half-mad wife and a slightly deranged old prune of a secretary.
I was, I am now somewhat embarrassed to admit, a little bit intoxicated by Lorna when I married her. She’d seemed wild and headstrong, full of vitality and interested in just about everything. But that was twenty years ago and I’ve long since worked out she wasn’t wild and headstrong at all.
She was simply as mad as a bear with its head stuck in a beehive.
The first time I saw Molly McCrea, she’d been with that brash, uncouth husband of hers, walking down Main Street. The sun had been setting and her hair seemed to be afire as she threw back her head and laughed loudly at something Tom said.
That laugh; so rich and earthy and full of promises.
I’d stood outside my office, keys dangling in my hand gawping. I’ve always enjoyed looking at women, but as a man of standing and decorum I only ever look discreetly, I’m sure you can understand that. I can’t have people jumping to the wrong idea about me, that wouldn’t do at all. A furtive glance here, a sly peek there, but that first time in the street, I just stared at her like a simple-minded bumpkin at his first county fair. I hadn’t even realised my mouth had been hanging open until they’d turned the corner.
I daydreamed about her all the way home, wondering who she was and praying fervently that she wasn’t just a transient visitor to Hawker’s Drift. I imagined her laughing like that at my jokes; nose wrinkled, eyes half-closed, head thrown back, riotous hair rippling down her back. I had a faint, faraway smile on my face all the way home. In fact, I’d had it right up to the moment I sauntered into the house and Lorna had started screaming at me.
I find myself married to a woman who despises me and in love with a woman who doesn’t even notice me. My sorrow and happiness weigh heavily upon my shoulders, although I carry the burden stoically, of course. I am a respectable man after all. But now the Mayor has come to me and offered to help me. All he wants is my loyalty in return, and he has that anyway. I sat and thought about it for a long while, but there was no decision to make. I deserve to be happy. I have earned it. I have given Lorna everything of myself, as I promised her father I would.
So I shook the Mayor’s hand, and in return he has promised me most sincerely I will be rewarded with all my heart’s desires…