Don't ask why, but I decided to tackle the most unsympathetic character, including the aliens, in the show. I have always felt that a good Air Force wife should have had more sense. Looking back, I began to see that maybe in an era of change, someone had gotten short changed by her family. I haven't watched my tapes in – a while, except to delve into them a couple of weeks ago while I was writing and to keep the annoyances (children) out of my hair for a while. So, if I ever knew Mary Straker's background, I've forgotten it. I've always seen her as an Air Force brat, brought up in a time when the outside world was changing its perceptions of how women should be while the military hadn't quite caught up yet. – in this I speak of military wives, not members

An ongoing series of vignettes.

Disclaimer: not mine. Not for prophet – er – profit

Time: Recently

Place: A nice two story house in England

Synopsis: Mary Straker Rutland confronts her past – a little at a time.


The house seemed empty. Too empty. Odd, she hadn't noticed it before. Mary wandered through the rooms, sorting through random memories. She stood in the doorway of the small bedroom down the hall from the master bedroom. Tears filled her eyes, but didn't fall. The single bed, made up for company. The desk, empty now that she was alone again. The colors and toys were long gone. It had hurt too much to even look at them, to look at the models his father had given him, to look at the toys and books and games Georgeny left spread out over the floor.

*He'd* had them boxed up and given away almost before the funeral was over. She sniffed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. How had she missed how much he resented the boy? How had she managed to convince herself that all this was normal? A bitter laugh surfaced. Normal. Right. Fifteen years of marriage shot down as surely as the first brief fling with Ed. Her face hardened slightly. Ed. She hadn't thought of him in – oh, what? Two or three days? Odd how he surfaced in her thoughts, no matter how much she tried to get rid of him.

Mary walked down the stairs to the first floor. The sitting room was littered with boxes. Pictures and keepsakes, things that were supposed to remind one of the good times, the best times. She looked at the mess and laughed. This resembled her now more than the orderly scrap books her mother had always kept. She sat down and opened a box. Older items. Things from long ago. Letters. Photos. Oh, god. Why had she kept these? She pulled the 8x10 glossies out of the bottom of the box and sifted through them. Ed and a gorgeous woman with dark skin. Ed and an equally lovely pale skinned woman with wide dark eyes. She sniffed and blinked. Why did it still hurt? That was fifteen years ago. The son she'd carried the day she told him she wanted out of the marriage hadn't been born, hadn't died. All that hurt between them, and still, there was such a sense of betrayal at the sight of these images.

She started to rip the photo in her hands in half, then paused. She looked at it again, frowning. She looked at another, and another. There was something wrong with these photos. She reached over to the folder on the coffee table next to her to pull out a similar photo; color this time, of George and his mistress. She looked at it and then at the ones of Ed. Something was so different.

Her mouth fell open slightly as she made connections she'd never noticed before. George Rutland looked – happy. He was smiling. He was – obviously fond of his companion. He was touching her and smiling. In contrast, the black and white glossies were stiff, stilted, businesslike? No. That was – why meet them in such out of the way places? Why the secrecy if they were just business?

Mary put the offending color photo back in the folder before spreading out the glossies and looking at them. Her face crumpled a little. The sheen of tears in her eyes was making focusing a bit difficult. But it was clear, with the knowledge of the intervening years to apply to what she saw, without her mother's constant harping about how Ed wasn't good enough for her, she could see the differences between the photos that put paid to her second marriage and these.

She touched the photos, the images of Ed and knew with painful clarity that he had never betrayed her. Whatever these photos represented, it wasn't betrayal, it wasn't infidelity. Her tears fell silently. Oh, god. She'd been so young, so foolish. He'd been so – So damn close mouthed! She choked back a watery laugh.

/ No, my girl, it wasn't all your fault. Something was going on. Just not what you were forced to believe. Pregnant and abandoned, wasn't that what Mother said. And she sounded so – so sympathetic. I wonder what it really was. /

She looked at the photos again. Ed, ramrod straight, as though he was still in uniform. There was no unbending, no - still in uniform? She dug through the other boxes to find their wedding pictures. Rutland had frowned on keeping them, but she couldn't bring herself to part with them. Yes. Even in uniform that day, he'd been as relaxed as he ever got. The entire set of his being was different. She dug further. Photos on duty. Photos with that General – what was his name? She shrugged her shoulders, impatient with herself. His name was irrelevant. What was important was the way Ed looked – yes. Oh, yes. That was it, exactly. The ramrod straight bearing. She looked from photo to photo.

Ed was working when he was with those women.

She teared up again. He was working. And it was – In a blinding flash; Mary suddenly understood that Ed had never retired. Whatever he was doing while he "became a movie studio executive" was just – oh, what the hell was the term? A cover. That was it. The studio wasn't real – oh, all right, she amended to herself, it was real. But it wasn't the total story.

She wiped her eyes and continued to stare at the pictures. An older and wiser woman was inclined to want to kick herself for falling into the trap so neatly laid by her mother. Mary sighed and shook her head. No, not a trap, just a misreading of events prompted by the older woman's dislike of her daughter's husband. Mother always thought he was too good looking. She had never understood Ed's devotion, to his career and to – sniffle – oh, god, - and to her.

She let the tears fall as she cried for lost innocence, for lost love, for the angry ache she still felt when she thought of him. She wrapped her arms around one of the sofa pillows and allowed herself a good cry.

After a while, she sniffed, blew her still dainty nose and got back to the business of sorting. One illumination was enough for today. She sorted all the photos and keepsakes from Ed into one set of boxes, taped them shut and labeled them carefully. They would go to the new apartment, to be sorted through and evaluated at leisure.

Mary looked around the room, thinking of the years she had spent here with George. Well, that was over. She looked at the folder. The evidence he had said he wouldn't fight was in there. The unsigned divorce application was in there, too. He'd agreed to the divorce, walked out of the house, climbed into the car and died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage in the lift at work.

She let herself feel remorse for his death. She hadn't wanted him dead, just out of her life. It wasn't fair. Life wasn't fair. She continued to sort through the keepsakes.

She would keep the photos with Johnny in them. She wanted all the photos of her baby she could find, regardless of who else was in them. As for the rest, why keep reminders of a life that had gone sour? Well, maybe a few. They'd had some good times together. Those were the things she should remember. She finished sorting things out, neatly taping and labeling the few boxes she would keep. She took the rest out back, dropped them into the dustbin, dusted her hands and walked back into the house.

Mary stopped in the entry hallway and felt terribly alone. She felt the way she had when she thought her husband was the defining parameter of her life and he wasn't there. Poor Ed, she'd needed to know she was important to him so terribly. Rutland had made her feel important, and he had lied. She straightened her shoulders. After two failed marriages, maybe it was time to find out who Mary Straker Rutland really was. Maybe it was time to be herself and not what someone else wanted. Or what she thought someone else wanted.

With a quirk of a smile, she let herself remember one of her favorite lines from "Gone with the Wind". "I'll think about it tomorrow," she whispered in the silence. With a watery chuckle, she walked into the kitchen to make some tea.