Lillian By Carol Gimbel
I’ve always enjoyed the view from this lovely place. Seagulls circle in an azure sky. In the distance, sailboats dip and dance on waves which are quite calm today. My husband Alfred slows the car to make the exit and flips on the turn signal. His friends call him Fred; some call him Freddy, but I’ve never known him that well. I rest quietly on the seat beside him. We slip out of traffic onto a two lane highway that hugs the coast.
I’m his first wife. And his third wife.
He met his second wife, Chianti, on an Aspen ski trip back in ’91. We went with another couple, friends of Alfred, who are avid skiers. Me, not so much. So while the three of them hit the slopes, a term I’ve always thought sounded stupid and dangerous, I spent my time reading by a cozy fire and sipping hot chocolate and Merlot. Not at the same time, of course.
Three of them trouped out that morning, but four trouped back in for dinner. Chianti, a Norwegian ski instructor who they’d rescued when her ski-lift chair stalled, was with them. She stood out in the group. With that porcelain skin, long blond hair, and irises the color of robin’s eggs and almost as large, she would have stood out in any group or a cast of thousands. I knew I was a goner by the way Alfred was looking at her. And from the way he wasn’t looking at me. In fact, he didn’t see me. They walked right past me laughing at something hilariously funny that Chianti had just said. She mistook him for John Travolta, an error he didn’t bother to rectify until after he’d slept with her three times.
The ink wasn’t dry on our divorce papers before they were married in a “divine little chapel nestled in a quaint village” somewhere in the Swiss Alps. According to them, they spent their honeymoon on the slopes. Evidently not all of the honeymoon, because their son, Rayne, was born exactly nine months from the time they were married. His sister, Raygan, was born soon thereafter. Their youngest daughter, Rayna, was fifteen when her mother died in a skydiving accident.
Chianti had only been gone a couple of months when Alfred showed up at my door, which I never have opened. I hadn’t remarried, because Alfred turned me against men forever. I wouldn't have married him again if the car accident I’d been in the year before hadn’t crushed my right leg. After that, I couldn’t work, my insurance had run out, and I couldn’t afford premiums. Medical bills were piling up.
So I dug out that pink suit I wore the first time I married him, and we were joined in holy matrimony in a quiet ceremony that might’ve been charming if the justice of the peace hadn’t been drunk and Alfred hadn’t forgotten to get flowers and pick up my sister.
Rayna lived with us until she graduated from college. She spoke only two words to me, “Shut up,” in the whole six years. When I pointed that out to Alfred, he said I tend to be overly sensitive. Rayna wore her mother’s good looks and attitude of entitlement like a Miss America contestant, which actually, she had been. She also wore her daddy wrapped around her little finger. She married some football player she met at UCLA who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. The happy couple bought a large house in the Keys and ever since, she’s been wanting her daddy to come live with them. I thought he wouldn’t, because he’s so stubbornly independent.
I’m one of the things he’s decided to leave behind. And this brings us to why we’re on our way to his favorite fishing spot. It’s a little cove protected by a cliff on one side and a point on the other. I don’t fish, but I enjoyed hearing the gulls and breathing in that fresh salty air. I usually sat in a folding chair near Alfred. I now realize that I’ve spent a good deal of my life sitting while others did what they enjoyed.
Alfred parks and comes around to open my door. He carries me down to the shore, hugging me close as he pedantically threads his way through the rocks. He stands quietly for a moment, just looking at a spot somewhere beyond the horizon.
“Well, Lillian,” he says finally. He clears his throat. “You’ve always liked this place.” I wait to see if he is going to say anything else. He doesn’t.
He opens the urn and tosses my ashes. The breeze carries me for a moment before I settle on the surface of the surprisingly warm sea. I rock gently on a wave for a moment before separating and sinking. Alfred watches for a few minutes, and I wonder what he is thinking.
Alfred turns and walks back up to the road. He pauses and looks at the pewter urn engraved with proof that I once lived.
Lillian Joy Schrinkle
August 31, 1970 to August 20, 2016
The only joy in my life had been in my name. I don’t know what my mother was thinking.
As Alfred passes a trash can, he remembers his famous college basketball hook shot and tosses in the urn. He reaches the car and, without a backward glance, is gone—on his way to the next big adventure.