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Sep. 21, 2019 | Saturday
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Writers' Circle: The Gift - Ellen's choice
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY HERMINE STEINBERG
WRITERS' CIRCLE

In the previous installments of The Gift, I shared the story of five friends who encountered a magical spirit. Although they had been drinking, it became clear that they weren’t hallucinating and the gift she gave them could change their lives. The enchanted tea could transform them to the idealized version of themselves at half their age. The five friends were given three days to make up their minds. When the sun set on Monday, the magic tea would dissolve into mist. This is Ellen’s story.

Ellen and Brandy, her red miniature poodle, ran all the way home. She was worried Ralph might have arrived before her. Every week she set the table and prepared dinner before meeting the girls so everything would be ready when he walked through the door.

On Fridays, Ralph would meet his friends at the local pub for lunch and a few pints. It always turned into a drinking session that lasted until dinner. He came home inebriated and usually in a combative mood.

When they were working professionals there was more space between them and less time spent alone. Appearances were important to him so his public persona was a charming man who adored his wife and son. In private, he was a demanding, controlling and insecure husband and father who lashed out verbally at what he perceived the least provocation.

He often resorted to physical violence but always expressed shame and remorse afterward. Their son, Sean, left home when he was 18. On his last day in their house, he begged Ellen to leave. She couldn’t. She and Ralph knew each other since high school, grew up together and she held on to the hope that one day he would change. And he did. He became more domineering and threatened that he would kill her if she also abandoned him.

Ellen held a prestigious position as the manager of economic development for the City of Toronto. Everyone was surprised when she announced her early retirement so she could move with her husband to a small town.

Ralph just wore her down. He promised her a better, more peaceful life. He would go to counselling, they would travel, and she could teach at the local university. She gave in but after selling their house in the city and buying his fantasy estate and “image’’ cars to create the right impression in his new community, she quickly realized he now saw himself as the lord of the manor and she as his dutiful housewife.

Working at the university, doing consulting, or even accepting speaking engagements became battlegrounds where he no longer felt the need to restrain himself and used his full arsenal of weapons to demean and punish her if she didn’t concede. Even his charming public persona was abandoned and he often ridiculed Ellen in front of their new friends.

Euphraxia was right when she said Ellen was secretly wishing for a second chance. For months she played out various scenarios in her mind in which she could disappear and start a new life, safe from his reach. But she could never figure out how she would be able to establish a new identity. And now she worried if she accepted Euphraxia’s gift even her own ID would be questioned as she would appear half the age of the person described in her documents.

But time was running out. She also didn’t want to disappear out of Sean’s life, especially now. Cher was a young economics professor at the University of Toronto who had invited Ellen to be a guest speaker on a number of occasions. When she introduced her to Sean, the attraction was immediate and within the year they were living together. When she was offered her dream job in Washington, they moved to the United States. Cher had dual citizenship as she was born in California and moved to Canada with her parents when she was 12. Now they were happily married and expecting a child. More importantly, she took Sean’s family name and all her American ID was changed accordingly.

Ellen phoned Sean and told him she had finally decided to leave but needed his and Cher’s help. Ellen wanted them to meet her in Toronto on Monday afternoon at an Airbnb she had rented. She would explain everything there but it was critical that Cher brought her Canadian ID in which she knew her official name would be listed as Cheryl Thompson.

Later that day she went to a BMW dealership and sold her car. She agreed to deliver it Monday morning in exchange for a cheque made out to Cheryl Thompson in the amount of $60,000. She booked a flight to Vancouver for Tuesday.

A few minutes after Ralph pulled out of the driveway on Monday morning, Ellen took her prepacked bag out of the closet and put Brandy in his travel crate. Her note to Ralph was short and to the point – “Goodbye. I’m starting a new life.” She sent an email to her friends – “I’m taking my second chance. Wish me luck.”

The next day Ellen walked through the airport with Brandy in tow. She never felt so strong and hopeful. She also couldn’t stop from looking at herself in every reflective image she passed. There was no doubt Sean and Cher would keep her secret. Ellen had left everything and everyone else behind to rebuild her life, to have her second chance. Only time would tell.

To be continued ...

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