Quiet Woman – Jenny Bridge

He knew as soon as he saw her that she was a quiet woman. In fact, it was her very
quietness that attracted him. Later he reflected on how strange it had been that in the
rowdy bustling restaurant his attention should be caught by silence.
She had not even been sitting at a nearby table. He had been seated, as ever, in the
centre of the restaurant surrounded by sycophantic waiters and a crowd of noisy cronies,
all hanging on to his every word, paying him the extravagant and meaningless
compliments due to a man of excessive means.
She, on the other hand, was alone – a table for one in the dimmest corner where waiters
were slow to appear and the service they offered perfunctory.
Once he had spotted her he found it difficult to stop his eyes straying over to her table. Her
stillness and her aura of calm fascinated him. He felt the need to make contact, to see
what she looked like when she smiled, to hear her voice. He knew it would be quiet,
soothing. But already she was asking for her bill, picking up her small plain handbag and
leaving the restaurant. He was too late.
After she had left he felt unsettled somehow, unable to get his usual pleasure from the
raucous laughter and the loud voiced company he normally craved. He paid the
extortionate bill in his normal flamboyant way and left early.
Unusually for him, sleep was slow in coming that night and his mind returned repeatedly
to the woman in the restaurant. He could barely remember her appearance but her calm
stillness had imprinted itself on his brain.
He was surprised, though of course delighted, to see her again the next week. Still alone
in the dim corner, quiet and calm. This time he would not let her escape. He scribbled a
note and gave it to a waiter to deliver. He watched her take it, fold it carefully and put it,
unread, into her bag. She left shortly afterwards. He did not see her small smile of
satisfaction as she did so.
He waited eagerly for a response to his message. He had asked her to contact him and
given his phone number, signing it with his well known name. That alone was usually
enough to bring any woman running. There was, however, no call from her.
The following week she was there again. She showed no sign that she knew of his
presence, nor that she had received his message. He was distracted and irritable all
evening, his eyes turning constantly to her table, his senses craving the quietness she
possessed. Again he sent a message. Again it was in vain.
After three weeks he was exhausted. He was hardly sleeping and was quite unable to
concentrate on anything except the thought of the quiet woman.
Each week she appeared at the restaurant and each week he sent his scribbled note, the
message becoming more and more desperate. On the fourth week as she stood up to
leave, she handed a brief reply to a waiter. It bore only her phone number.
He rang as soon as he arrived home. There was no answer. He tried for three more nights
before finally his call was answered in just the quiet calm voice he had imagined she would
have.
Gently, she agreed to his request to meet for dinner, but stated a preference not for the
expensive establishment he had in mind, rather for a quiet modest little restaurant of the
sort he had not frequented for years.
The next few months were the happiest of his life. They fell into a habit of meeting
regularly and he was able to watch her growing confidence in him. To his joy, she began to
demonstrate real affection for him. He tried to buy her expensive presents and spoil her
with lavish treats but she had no interest in material matters, stating simply that it was his
company she enjoyed and that allowing her to spend time with him was the best treat he
could give her. She seemed content to be with him, sitting with that quiet stillness listening
to his stories, his views, his philosophy of life. He drank in the attention as if it were a fine,
intoxicating wine. She spoke little herself, apparently preferring to listen and thus he knew
very little about her. She had a job of some sort in a lab – a chemist he thought she had
said. He didn’t even know where she lived or where she came from. His prodigious
interest in himself left no room for other people’s details. He only knew that he was
addicted to her company and that he must possess her.
He was surprised when she acquiesced so quickly to his proposal of marriage. He was a
little disappointed that she insisted on a quiet celebration. He had looked forward to a
lavish wedding and the opportunity to show off his new bride. The trade off, however, was
that it would happen quickly and so, within a month, they became man and wife.
The post marital disillusionment that had set in rapidly with all his other marriages did not
happen. Although she had none of the exotic beauty of his other wives she bewitched him
with quietness. He continued to bask in the comfort of her presence. He had hoped that
she would stop working after their marriage but she could be surprisingly adamant about
some things and continuing work was one of them. He missed her enormously during the
working day but the joy he felt when he heard her key in the lock every evening more than
compensated.
They rarely went out. Even he was happy to stay at home and talk to his quiet woman.
She would lie with her head in his lap listening, encouraging, soothing. One night he told
her that he had never loved anyone so much and that he wanted to be sure she would be
comfortable after his death. He was, after all, some forty years her senior.
For the first time since they had met he saw a black shadow cross her normally peaceful
face and she spoke sharply to him, forbidding him from even thinking about such awful
events.
“Promise me you will never mention such a thing again, ” she cried.
Stroking her gently, he agreed but resolved to arrange his affairs without further
discussion. Moreover, he determined that she should be a rich woman now, while he was
alive, whatever her wishes. .
It was just after they had been married a year that he began to feel unwell. Frequently tired
he suffered from headaches and major stomach upsets. How lucky he felt to have such a
wife to tend him at this time. His previous wives would have left him alone, he was sure,
going off to enjoy their theatres, their exhibitions and their noisy friends. This wonderful
quiet woman stayed at his side, talking softly, bathing his steaming brow and bringing
drinks that she had made specially for him in the hope that they would bring some relief.
But relief did not come. He grew steadily weaker, age descending on him relentlessly.
One night she took his hands in hers and looked at his finger nails. They looked different.
They were turning white. As he lapsed into a deep sleep she smiled to herself and
muttered,
” Not long now.”
That night she packed her small suitcase, put her passport, credit cards and a bulging
wallet into her handbag and quietly let herself out.
By the time his body was discovered she had left the country.,
On the plane journey the quiet woman shocked her fellow passengers with her raucous
laughter, her strident demands to the cabin crew and her cry of exaltation as they landed.
She could not help herself. It was always such a strain being quiet for so long. But she
would not have to do it again. This was her final marriage. More would not be necessary.
After all the quiet woman was now a very rich woman.

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