The Emily RosebyRhein1©
This story has no sex. Sorry. It is just a man trying to use his past to understand and handle his present. If you want to leave comments, thanks. If you just want to bash the main character for being a wimp please remember that this is fiction. Thanks.
Did you ever have one of those moments when something that happened years before pops into your mind and it seems so fresh that it feels like it only happened yesterday? Well, I did and in fact it is happening right now.
I'm not really sure why the Emily Rose popped into my mind but it was probably the way my subconscious is trying to help me cope. You see, when I got home tonight I found my wife of thirty two years all dressed up and waiting for me. To say she looked great would be an understatement as Carol is still a stunning woman when dressed to the nines.
At first I thought this might be a special occasion and I began to look forward to a good night but events quickly deteriorated. It was evident that Carol had spent some time preparing herself as she was in a new dress, hairdo and sexy heels. In fact she was a vision of loveliness and it only reaffirmed how much I loved her and how thankful I was to have her in my life. However, within three minutes of her ushering me over to the dining table where she had a Southern Comfort Manhattan waiting for me she dashed all my feelings into dust.
In this story I'm not even going to bother telling you how Carol, my wife for the present anyway, and I met. What for? The fact that we are ending it tonight and how she chose to do it is more significant.
Somewhere between her apologizing for falling in love with another man and going into detail how it had just happened, my mind slipped back to the Emily Rose. As Carol was always a bit wordy there was plenty of time.
It was 1975 as I recall, and I was stationed on a Coast Guard Cutter operating out of Portsmouth New Hampshire. My ship was the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute and we had been on fisheries patrol nearly two weeks.
Normally, these patrols were just boring and routine but this one had taken a different turn. At the edge of the Grand Banks a distress signal had come in from a stricken ship, the Emily Rose. My ship poured on as much speed as we could and reached the injured vessel in a little over five hours.
Upon reaching the scene it was clear that this ship was in dire straits as she was clearly down by the bow. Being a member of the boat crew it fell to me and two others to operate the ships small boat to transport a damage control party to the sinking ship and then stand by.
The Resolute hovered about two hundred yards from the Emily Rose as my small boat circled around waiting for the call to take on survivors or bring more equipment from the cutter.
When we had first gotten on scene I could see the tips of the Emily Rose's propeller but it quickly became evident that more and more of that propeller was coming out of the water. Waiting in a small boat gave me ample time to observe the ship and I noted a few items about her.
The first thing I noticed was that the Emily Rose was British. On her stern was clearly labeled her home port of Liverpool. The second thing I noticed was her age. This vessel had to have been at least forty or fifty years old but she was in remarkably good condition. The ship was about a hundred and fifty feet in length and clearly showed that as fishermen went, this one's captain liked his ship clean and well maintained.
As it became apparent that we were losing the battle with the sea for the possession of the Emily Rose, our boat was called back to the vessel to start ferrying the crew over to the Resolute. The crew, about a dozen or so, all looked bleak, as if they were all waiting to hear of the passing of a close family member. This was, in a way, a correct assessment as a sailor does tend to form a deep attachment to a ship. However, this crew remained very calm and disciplined throughout the ordeal, another testament to their captain.
Within in ten minutes of landing the crew onboard the Resolute and then returning to our stand by position the sound of a large explosion reverberated from deep inside the ship. When the eruption faded the boat coxswain yelled, "That must have been a watertight bulkhead letting go!" Almost immediately after he called that out it became clearly evident that the Emily Rose suddenly dipped deeper into the sea. All of us in that boat knew then that the Emily Rose had little chance of survival.
Our radio went off a few minutes later with orders from the damage control officer to return immediately to the Emily Rose and take off all unneeded personnel. As we returned we embarked the captain of the vessel who came along only under protest as he claimed the right of any captain to be the last to leave his stricken vessel. As a young man I was struck by his calm deportment and dignity in this trying situation.
This was the first I had seen of the man and he boarded our boat in the fashion of a true British officer. He was wearing an officer's bridge coast with a visor hat and had a beard that was speckled with gray. When he moved it was almost with a military presence and you just felt that this man was born to command. However, when you took a closer look, you could almost read the distress in his eyes but by his demeanor he handled this forced removal as if it were an everyday occurrence. The man let no emotions escape, did not raise his voice or argue with the officer in charge. Instead, he acquiesced to the situation and comported himself with dignity and pride.
Halfway back to the Resolute we were ordered to return immediately to the Emily Rose to evacuate the damage control party. That damage control party was the old girl's last hope; without their pumps and shoring up, she was now being consigned to her fate.
We did as ordered, removing the boarding party post haste and began our trek back to the ship. Nobody talked as we left the Emily Rose except the officer in charge of the damage control party who only said, almost to himself, "There was no more to be done. The only thing keeping her afloat is her main bulkhead and when it goes she will sink like a rock. I couldn't justify risking my men based on the structural integrity of one bulkhead."
Everyone in that boat knew that they had done everything possible to save the ship but there comes a time when you realize that no matter how hard you try there will be no success. As we headed back to the Resolute nobody felt good about it.
Just about halfway back to the ship the last bulkhead let go. I had never heard a ship die before and I hope to never hear it again. The vessel literally sounded like a woman screaming in pain that lasted for about thirty seconds, although it seemed much longer.
When the Emily Rose gave out her death scream I looked over at the old British captain onboard and noticed that he was almost biting his upper lip with his lower teeth, however his face registered only calmness as the vessel he commanded entered into her final death throes. The only tell about his emotional state was in his eyes which showed an indescribable sadness.
After the bulkhead collapsed and the screeching of the tearing metal abated it sounded like someone had turned on a large fire hose in the ship as the gushing water could be heard clearly in our boat. There were a number of large bangs and even one porthole was blown out of the hull as the ship seemed to be dragged down under the water.
The end of the Emily Rose came quickly after her main bulkhead collapsed and within a minute the vessel disappeared into the ocean depths. As she dipped out of the world of men I couldn't help but notice a tear run from the old captain's eye.
After returning the damage control party and the captain to the Resolute my small boat went back and patrolled the area looking for debris. After patrolling the area for about two hours we picked up a lot of flotsam that included some life preservers and mostly wooden crates. Confirming nothing rose up from the wreck that would be a hazard to navigation we concluded our mission and returned back to our ship.
The next day the British captain of the Emily Rose was shown all the items we salvaged from the sea but he only picked up a life preserver the had the ship's name and home port stenciled on it. As he held it in his hand he looked at our captain who had accompanied him and said, "I'll keep this Captain, just to prove that she once existed." The captain of the Resolute must have felt the man's pain as he only replied, "I understand completely Captain, what are your plans now?" The old British captain smiled for the first time since I had first seen him, "What else Captain, carry on with my life and find another ship."
That was the last time I saw them together and to be truthful the last time I had thought about the Emily Rose until today.
"Steven! Steven! Are you alright? Why aren't you listening! This is important!" I looked over at my soon to be exasperated ex-wife Carol and responded, "Yes Carol, I am fine, considering. Sorry."
Her face blanched at that comment but she continued on, "Steven I still love you, but Roger, well, he touches me in an emotional way that you never have. I love him Steven. I never wanted it to happen and I never asked for it, but it did happen. He makes me so happy Steven and I truly want to be with him. I wish I could do this without hurting you Steve but that would be impossible."
She just stared at me awkwardly, I could only assume she was hoping for some reply or maybe some absolution from me but I was only mute and so she pressed on, "Look dear, I only want what's mine and no more. I have taken all the money from our savings and the CD's. I feel that is fair as I am letting you keep the house and your retirement." Her voice trailed off as I sat looking unresponsively at my drink.
Carol seemed to be getting vexed as she piped up once again, "Steven! Have you been listening to me?"
I picked up the drink and took a slug, then putting it down stared at her as calmly as that British captain stared at his dying ship those so many years ago. In a flat emotionless voice I replied, "I have indeed listened to everything you said Carol but I can recap if you like. Let's see, you met Roger at work. You two talked and found out all the things you have in common. You started to have feelings and so did Roger. Soon you were holding hands and it escalated from there, then you decided to leave me after thirty two years of marriage for a school girl crush. Did I miss anything? Oh wait! I did! The most important thing is that you want to be fair so you only took every spare dime of cash you could lay your hands on in lieu of your half of the house which we still owe a boatload on and as a bone I can keep my retirement. There, I think that covered it."
Carol's face drained of color as she seemed to finally grasp that this was the end of us in reality. Without too much fuss she removed her wedding rings and placed them in the palm of my hand. As I looked down on them I was reminded of the captain of the Emily Rose taking a life preserver from the wreckage and repeated his sentiment, "I'll keep these Carol, just to prove we once existed." She looked at me with a worried expression and her eyes finally began to mist up as she rose from what was once our table, in what formerly was our home.
"I have to go now Steve. Please, take care of yourself." I nodded my assent and stood also, a memory of that captain's behavior flashed through my mind and I determined that I would handle this situation with dignity as I said with more cheer than I felt, "Well at least let me help you with your bags Carol." I think she was shocked at how well I was taking it but then again I had had a good role model in that British captain so many years before.
Grabbing her suitcases and loading them in her car only took a few minutes and it struck me how quickly my marriage had disappeared, just like the Emily Rose had once her last bulkhead had failed. Standing next to her car Carol once again looked at me and very gently ran her hand across my forehead brushing back a lock of my hair that was out of place.
With concern written on her face and a wavering voice she timidly asked, "I know I have hurt you Steven and I am so sorry for that, but I hope you know I had to go because I never would have been happy again if I stayed with you and I would blame you and treat you badly and neither one of us would be happy again. Please forgive me my love."
I wanted to hate her but that was just not in me at that point, maybe later when it had all set in and the shock wore off but not now. With no malice I managed to get out, "I forgive you Carol and I set you free. Find your happiness while you can and have a good life."
The tears were rolling down her cheeks liberally now as she managed to sobbingly ask, "What will you do now Steven?"
With more confidence than I felt, I smiled and replied just as that British captain had so many years ago, "What else Carol, carry on with my life and try to find another to share my life."
Carol's hand on my head ran through my hair with almost urgency as she looked into my eyes and said, "Will you kiss me goodbye Steven? Will you kiss me like you still love me, please?"
I looked at her sadly replying, "I never go after another man's woman and as you have now given yourself to another, I can't, so no Carol, I cannot kiss you. I have set you free and forgiven you. That is the extent of my largesse." I gently removed her hand from my head and returned them to Carol's side.
With those parting words Carol's resolve broke down and she was sobbing openly as she got into her car and left. Just as quickly as the Emily Rose had disappeared from the sunlight on that fateful day so long ago, so now had my marriage vanished with equal dispatch today. I never dreamed that a dead ship lying at the bottom of the ocean for decades would someday be my inspiration in such a trying time as this, but it was.
As Carol drove off to her new life I recognized that I now had to start finding mine. I was scared and depressed over the prospect, but at the same time just a little bit excited over what the future might hold. Again, I was reminded of that British captain on board the Resolute when asked what he would do now, his response would be my guide from now on, "What else Captain, carry on with my life and find another ship."
The divorce went through quickly and Carol was as good as her word and let me keep my full retirement and our house. I saw Roger at the final decree and was not all that impressed but then again I didn't have to live with the guy like Carol did. I could tell that she really cared for him and it was good to know that someone would be there for her.
I would like to report that the final time I saw Carol was in court but it wasn't. After our divorce I started to join support groups for single adults and did quite a lot of dating. I never found anyone that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but then again, I was a bit gun shy after Carol.
About a year and a half after the divorce I ran in Carol in the mall. It was near Christmas and I was out shopping for those few gifts I needed when I nearly ran into her in a store. At first she was shocked but then she hugged me and with an excitement I had not seen in her face for years asked me to go for a cup of coffee. I thought about it and decided why not, so off we went to catch up on each other's lives in the intervening time since the divorce.
Carol told me that she and Roger were no longer an item and that I was right, it had just been a schoolgirl crush. She told me how Roger had promised to marry her but when it came right down to it he didn't want the responsibility. She apologized profusely and then shocked me when she said, "Steve, I know I was a fool but I still love you. Is there any way you could see your way to forgiving me and taking me back?"
I looked at her blankly, "Wow, Carol I didn't see that one coming. I don't know what to say. Things are a little more complicated now. You see, I started dating a wonderful woman a while back and we have been getting real close. I don't see how I could take you back without breaking her heart and that is something I can't do. Do you understand Carol?"
I could see that Carol was bravely trying to hold back her tears and keep her emotions in check, "I understand Steve. I was a fool to let you go. We had a wonderful marriage and now I miss it every day. I let it all slip away for a man who proved to be nothing more than sweet words and promises." She got a serious look on her face as she haltingly asked, "If it doesn't work out between you two, would you still consider me?"
I looked at her smiling, "In a minute Carol, in a minute!"
Drying her tears with a napkin she gave me a sad smile, "If you don't mind me asking, what's her name Steve?"
This time I couldn't help myself as I broke into a grin, "Well Carol that is the funny part. I met a lovely woman named Emily, Emily Rose and we just seemed to hit it off right from the beginning."