Everything Under Control

By Carolyn Leeper

Mona Webber just wanted the nightmare to be over. This whole week had been a blur of unreality. She was so tired. Ray had died on Monday, suddenly, unexpectedly. He had seemed just fine in the morning. They had gotten up about eight, had a leisurely breakfast, read the newspapers. Around ten, ten-thirty, Ray went to his workshop in the garage to tackle a new project while Mona played with plot twists for her new cozy mystery novel. At twelve-thirty she went to the garage to see if he was ready for lunch. Ray was at his workbench, slumped over, unmoving.

Her 911 call brought police to investigate the death since Ray didn't die in a hospital or in the presence of a doctor. There had to be an autopsy, they told her, and they questioned her, repeatedly, about Ray's health. She gave them his doctor's name. Ray had had a physical just about a month ago. No, as far as she knew he had not had heart trouble, had never had a heart attack. But what else could it be.

The funeral service had been quietly moving as the pastor talked about his personal connection with Ray; they had belonged to the same service organizations, worked on fund raisers together, played golf every week. A few more of Ray's friends spoke, talking about how Ray had helped them with one problem or another, always been there when they needed him, was a friendly, fun, likeable guy who loved golf and poker.

Finally, they were at the gravesite, in the Highview Cemetary, with Ray's buddies saying their farewells: "We'll miss you, Ray." Mona watched each one step forward, throw the provided flower onto the coffin, and move away. "Sleep well, Darling Ray," she whispered. "Sleep well." Mona touched a tissue to her eyes and said her own private prayer. She returned to the limousine to be driven home. The buffet would by ready and an open bar would be set up on the south patio. There would be a large turnout for Ray. Everything was under control.

People Mona barely knew came in, hugged her, had a drink, chatted with each other, and eventually went away. The caterers cleared up and left. A few of her friends tried to help but they, too, finally, were gone.

She wandered through the empty rooms. No Ray, anywhere. No voice calling her to come into his den. Asking her where she had been all afternoon. Accepting with a grunt her reminder that it was the Garden Club day or her Jazzercise class, or Tai Chi. No more grumbling or muttering about the water bill or the power bill.

Ray had been such a wonderful husband in so many ways, Mona thought to herself. She had never expected to meet a man she could love after the long, happy, even exciting, marriage to Will Wallace. She and Will had worked together, played together, traveled, and loved each other to distraction, for so many years. When Will died...was it really ten years ago...Mona had felt that her life was over. Oh, God, she thought, I had wanted to die myself. But, as they say, life does go on. Mona had to find a new strength, had to make herself keep busy with gardening, volunteer work or community college classes. Then Ray came along. Coming out of nowhere, bumping into her at the grocery checkout. Laughing, inviting her for coffee. Sweeping her off her feet. Charming her. Sending her flowers and gifts. Silly, funny gifts that made her laugh, until she felt like a teenager. It was Magic.

It was definitely magic, she thought, definitely. Suddenly the past was the past and Ray was all she wanted. Practicalities were forgotten and an exciting weekend in Las Vegas made her Mrs. Raymond Webber. The honeymoon was a magic week in Mexico. There was sun and sand, Margaritas and mariachis. Then home.

They sold both their houses, tossed out old memories and bought a beautiful lake view home with wild gardens, patios, decks, and woods all around. Ray handled everything and she was grateful to be spared the numbing legalese. They closed their individual bank accounts and opened joint accounts. They moved all her investments over to Ray's broker. They drank champagne and toasted to their future. She felt secure, loved and cared for.

Until one day she realized she had no cash in her purse, no checkbook, and no credit cards in her wallet. "Ray," she said, "I need to go shopping. Did you change my credit cards into my new name? I haven't seen them come in the mail. And I need a checkbook and a bank debit card."

"Oh, sweetheart," Ray said, "don't worry about it. How much cash do you need? What are you shopping for? It's better if only one of us writes checks. And I really like to keep the credit card use to a minimum, just enough to maintain a good credit rating." He would take care of everything.

Well, that sounded okay, didn't it? The days and weeks and months went by and she never had any money unless she asked for it for something special. She began to feel helpless, bereft. Ray explained that it was for the best, that the way the economy was today, the money needed to be kept under tight control. She cried. She asked for a regular allowance so she wouldn't have to actually ask for money. Ray said no. She could have whatever she needed, when she needed it.

The months went by and Mona got used to their routines, she adapted. If she needed $20 she would ask for $40 or $50 and hide the extra. She got good at it. Until he found her hiding place and took back the little bit of money she had saved up. She cried and he held her and caressed her and patted her on the back and explained that it was for her own good.

Mona loved Ray. No question. He could be sweet and tender. They had a wonderful home, a wonderful life. They went shopping together, went to the movies, ate at nice restaurants. He had poker nights and she had Garden Club afternoons. The days and months went by. They travelled a bit, took a Caribbean cruise, went skiing in the winter. They had a good life.

And now Ray had had such a lovely funeral. He looked so nice in that suit. It was too bad he couldn't have been there to hear the wonderful things his friends said about him.

She would miss Ray. He had meant well but enough was enough. Now she had cash in her pocket, a checkbook and new credit cards in her wallet. It had been a busy week and there were still things that had to be settled. Tomorrow, Mona thought, she would visit the banks and the investment broker, with the death certificate in hand, and see where she stood. There was the life insurance to be collected; thank goodness she had doubled the coverage last year. The real estate agent said the house, with such a desirable location, should sell quickly, even though the market was in a downturn. She would look for a nice little condo.

The police had finally accepted the medical examiner's verdict of death by natural causes, that Ray had simply suffered a fatal heart attack. No one bothered to examine the cleaning products on the workshop shelves or ask about Ray's asthmatic sensitivity. Of course the doctor knew Ray had bouts of hay fever, who didn't in this area? She had experimented for months to find just the right combination of hydrochlorides and fragrances that would do the job and just shut down his breathing without other visible symptoms. The internet was a marvelous resource.

There probably wouldn't be another husband in her future, at least in the near future. Men that rich were difficult to find and even more difficult to dispose of. Better not push her luck. But then again, she thought, in a few years? Who knows? A new husband might be fun for a year or two if he wasn't too difficult to get along with. She would just need to keep everything under control.

Carolyn Leeper is a freelance writer, editor, and poet. She is a retired travel agent living in the Northwest with her husband, Ed, their dog Ginger, and Cora the Cat.

Copyright 2012 Carolyn Leeper. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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