Vickie could never describe the torment she felt on any given day. Why it took two bottles of wine before she could even sleep. How she would hear the whispered conversations about her on buses and trains. Strangers talking about her most private thoughts. How, once she had been though beautiful but now could not even look herself in the mirror.

She is well spoken and educated, so treated with a certain respect by the sort of person that thought those things important. Her Doctor, Helen Moffat,  talked to her like an equal and explained that alcoholism and depression were often linked, that her ‘treatment’ meant a life long dependency on anti-depressants and therapists. Without ever realising she was describing a living hell. To show willing she would give her old mobile number to the well meaning and say all the right things to Doctors and well meaning advisers. Always knowing that the pain she felt was her due, her punishment.

Paul had been the most perfect thing in her life. He had strength, not the strength of a man but the courage of someone who had endured hardship. When he was frail and when the world became too much, she held him above the tides and when she felt like she was drowning he held her tightly in his strong arms and whispered in her ear ‘I will never let you go’. For three glorious years, he didn’t. They walked in parks and talked and ate in restaurants and talked, with food in their mouths and sauce on their lips and laughed and laughed. They held hand in the cinema and at parties they would wander separately and talk to strangers and hen leave together and make the most beautiful love to each other, nothing was forbidden. No thing was too much. They knew each others bodies as well as they knew their own.

The night. That night. She was so drunk she kissed someone thinking he was Paul. As she pulled away, she realised what she had done. The blank idiotic face of a stranger. Looking over her shoulder she saw Paul watching from a distance. She could not explain to anyone what she had done, what pain she had caused. It was as though some loose door in the very attic of her mind had been unlocked. Behind it was some version of herself, some wild feral thing had been freed. Their were claws and teeth and a broken glass, a girl screaming and she herself was punched in the mouth.

Now she lives alone and speaks to no one. In five years she has not felt the touch of another human. Everyday is a random series of events. She used to tell herself that she drinks to forget but she cannot, the weight of guilt is to strong, so she drinks to hope speed her to death. Eighteen times she has had her stomach pumped. The nurses in A&E know her by her first name. She is a wreck, a walking corpse. Every night before she passes out, she hopes that her heart will stop beating.

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My Mala, my Grandmother made me a leather bound journal to take with me when I left the Village. I was a youngerkinder or just 112 years old. Evernight I would write down the events of the day, scraps of old songs and poems. The leather had been well worked and was soft and warm to the touch. I rode North for 9 days to the Village of Ofrencartz. Every night I faithfully noted everything in that journal. Queen Bo’eme had sent out a call across the wolfenworld. Our ancient enemies the Sh’war Bloodkind, foul vampires, had moved further into our lands and were encamped at the base of Tiernan Mountain. From there it was a days hard ride through Crow Valley and they would be inside the Kingdom. The Sh’war had become ever bolder since the rise of a new order in their land, a cult by the name of The Tulwan. Our oldest Allies and once saviours, the Kyprishan-ma’wed, Elemental shape-shifters from the far Island of Krypris had called to our Queen. It seemed that the Sh’war had violated a sacred land to the Kyprishan-ma’wed. The lands surrounding the Tiernan Mountains was Holy to the Kyprishan-ma’wed, I do not know why. I know only a little of their history as they are a remote and reserved people. I arrived in Ofrencratz on the first day of Aba’ad. The Holy month. Normally there would be feasting and strangers would be welcomed guests at any table. Yet the streets were silent tombs. No lamps burned, the Inns were bolted against the clinging fog and I had seen no one for an entire day. As I lashed my horse to a bolting post, I re-set my baldrick so that my sword was closer to my hand and pulled the hood of my leather outrider over my head. Even without rain there seemed a cold, wet hand in the air. A flicker in the falting light caught my eye. When I turned the street was still empty. Ofrencatz is no modern city but it is well used as a meeting point where 5 roads cross. The streets are wide and clean and normally well lit. Without the street lamps burning, and even with my wolfen night vision, it was difficult to see very far. Another flick, a blur at the corner of my eye, had me turn and my sword was drawn before I realized what I was seeing. It was a child. A young boy of maybe 8 years. I hadn’t seen him because he had glamoured at my arrival, the Kyprishan-ma’wed are able to put themselves out of sight. His face was a perfect blank, open mouthed and wide eyed. I put away my sword and went down to one knee. “I’m sorry. Did I scare you?” He nodded, unmoving and seeming to blur at the edges. like ink in water. “My name is Sharisa. What’s yours?” He seemed to focus upon himself, draw himself in and become more ‘real’. “Kai.” He whispered. Out here in the boons, most people use the lingua-frana of the merchants and my knowledge of the language of the Kyprishan-ma’wed is limited but I do recognise a few words. “That means ‘river’ doesn’t it?” He smiled and took a step closer. “Sharisa is a Wolf word. It means ‘like the Moon’.” I laughed. My name is so old that even some Wolfen do not know what it means. “Yes. ‘Like the Moon'” I drew my and through my hair. It is bone white, has been since birth. It happens sometimes in our clan. Black and red hair and blue or green eyes are most common but every generation has a birthing like mine. Slate grey eyes and pure white hair. It’s thought of as a blessing and only ever happens with she-wolfs. “You must be cold Kai. Are your family near?” He looked over his shoulder then crossed the cobbles and took my hand. He led me towards one of the side doors off the Inn and knocked three time. The door opened a fraction and at once I was hit by the scent. Wolfs really do ‘see’ smells, as others see the world. There was… Five men, four women, two near their time, potatoes, straw, a coal fire, new armour, old weapons, leather boots, the honey wine the Kyprishan-ma’wed make called Retak. cinnamon bread, roasting pork, a baby, new born, incense burning and an ‘other’ smell that I had no word for. The man that opened the door broke into a fast, angry sentence in Kyprihaispeak, I couldn’t follow. Then he lifted Kai up and hugged him. From the smell of his skin he was a kin to Kai. “Who are you?” He barked. “Saitrada Poppi! This is my friend Sharisa. She is a wolfen.” Kai smiled at me proudly. Kai’s Father, even I understood ‘poppi’, smiled and waved me through the door. “Food for out guest. I am Yanasai.” He turned to face the room. “Forgive us, we are far from our home and these are bad times. This is my wife Idara, my brother Gand, his wife Imani. And these are our hosts Melchai and Baredin.” We nodded and smiled and a plate of meats and potatoes with bread and preserved and pickled vegetables appeared at the table. They waited while I took off my outrider and sword and sat to eat. Apart from the Kyprishan-ma’wed and the Innkeepers the others had said nothing, the biggest, a buckwolfen lent forward. “Sharisa?” I nodded. “What Clan are you?” I took another bite of the warm pork. “I am Haja-Chael.” He sat a little straighter in his chair and nodded his head, the other Wolfen did the same. “Forgive me My Lady. We though all your clan arrived with her Majesty.” I nodded back and they relaxed a little. The Kyprishan-ma’wed poured retak and bustled about, they were on edge and unfamiliar in the company of Wolfen. “Please. My name is Sharisa. We are all equal here. The youngerkinder male stood. “I… I wanted to say. I’ve never met a stradi before. I apologise if we seemed rude.” Yanasai put Kai down from his hip. “We are all friends here. I’m sorry are your families not allies?” I smiled and explained. “No I am sorry Yanasai. I am Lady Sharisa Haja-Chael of the house of Bo’eme. The oldest of the Royal houses, Stradi is an old word for Royal and I am the Daughter of the Queens cousin. The Princess Cylis. Wolfen are stuffy and obsessed with titles and rank. I am here to fight along with my people and with my allies. The Kyprishan-ma’wed. The oldekinder Wolfen laughed and thrust out his hand. “Your Highness!” He dropped into an exaggerated bow. “I am Tragen. Of the Tofen-shai clan, son of no one you would have heard of. This.”He flicked a thumb at the youngerkinder next to him,”This is my brood brother Garwain, of the Tofen-draisu clan. You wouldn’t have heard of him either.” His smile was infectious and I laughed even though it wasn’t that funny. “Met well.” I said, an old greeting but it seemed to fit the mood. Melchai, the Innkeeper stepped forward with a bowl of berries and pears. “There is a room, not large but the army covers all bills and bedding.” I hadn’t realised until now what that ‘other’ smell was. It was the Innkeepers. They were Umanikind. “You’re a human?” I didn’t mean to sound shocked but I have only ever met two Umanikind in my life. Melchai and his wife smiled. “Oh we are always in the background somewhere Miss. Is your horse posted? Only we have a stable at the back. My son Demind could walk him back there, no charge! Only there’s no militia, no streetlamps, no one about you see. Because of the Vampires.” “Yes, thank you.” I described Pad, my horse and Melchai bustled off to tell his son. The Kyprishan-ma’wed all rose together. “It’s late and we have to be at council tomorrow. Goodrest.” They left to various comments along the lines of ‘goodrest’, ‘goodnight’ and ‘sleep fast’. It left myself, Tragen and Garawain. Tragen was a handsome wolfen, deep blue eyes and a strong look about him, his brood brother was too nervous, too ‘twitchy’ and made my teeth lengthen. Tragen pulled a straw wrapped clay bottle from his shirt. “Retak is like grandmothers water. How about a real drink, your highness?” “Call me that again and you will be a grandmother.” We laughed and even Garawain relaxed and picked up an empty cup, even as it was pouring I knew it was Petascal, used to clean wounds on the battlefield and stains from swords. It was fermented mushrooms, berries and sugar-leaf. It would kill a umanikinder and probably wasn’t safe for wolfenkind, yet we drank it anyway and it made me forget the privilege of my past and relish the war to come. I already knew that I would not be writing in my Journal and that sleep was for others. 2 The small creak of the floorboard span me back into the world. The smallest sound, enough though to put my teeth to lengthening and my nails to their quick. The darkness and the last of the petascal had put me out on an edge but I still saw the shimmer in the air. “Kai?” I had to be sure. “Sharisa. I can’t sleep.” The shadow, glamour of the boy drifted over the room and suddenly he was ‘neath the woolen blanket. His skin was like ice, against my better judgement I put my arm around him. “You can’t sleep here.” “Tell me a story.” “I don’t know any.” I had never had to tend to youngers. Women in my position are not expected to make task-work. Kai slipped even closer to me. “You must know one!” I thought for a moment. It wasn’t a childrens story but I could step over the parts his parents might not approve of. “Very well. I will tell you the story of true love and how your people saved my people.” So I told him the oldest story of my people. ‘Upon a thousand moons, Hephakias, the Mother Moon gave birth to a daughter, Mose Diana Ab’Kai. Who became the New Moon and Daughter of the Old Temple. There were Olderkind Wolfen in the world who did not want a new god and called upon Saidaimer. the Old god-king to intervene. The Old god was half mad and loathed the wolfs. So he swore to bring down this new god in return for the first born of every royal house. They agreed and a terrible deal was forged. Mose Diana was at shantai helene river bathing and Saidaimer’s son Butal came to her as a fox. “Oh beautiful Lady I am most hurt and my leg is broken will you help me?” Butal meant to strike her dead with a poisened comb, but Mose Diana tore her dress into strips and bound his leg and whispered a charm upon him and he instantly fell in love with her. “Oh my lady… we have wronged you.” he cried and passed away into the shadows. Again Mose Diana came to bathe at shantai helene and Saidimer oldest son, the most vicious, Vetor. He intended to rape Mose Diana and fill her full of attrocities. That would eat her alive from the inside. AS he approached he bound his eyes with a silk cloth so that her beauty could not make him falter, then he heard her singing. A song from the earth and bones of the world. His eyes wept and the silk disolved, when he faced her he could do no more than weep. Knowing he had failed he grabbed a rose from an overhead branch and struck the thorn into his heart. Saidimer upon hearing the news tore at his eyes and skin. “My kingdom and power to any that kill this whore!” Saidimer’s nephew Watrewar announced he would kill the goddess and bring ruin upon the earth. He took human form and travelled to the world of the Umanakind. Around this time the daughter of the Kyprishian King had fallen into a terrible sleep that would not end. Mose Diana travelled to the island of Kypris, to pledge her support. No sooner had she arrived than she saw the foul spell. watrewar had built a poisined snake for gold, silver and jewels and tested it first on The Princess Raven. “MY King, I know the mark of this poison and it’s cure. I shall bring Raven back.” Mose Diana fasted for 3 days and then removed her sacred ch’a, her spirit from her body. Her Ch’a travelled through all time and space until it found Raven. She took her hand and kissed her cheek and led her back through the mirror maze into the world. King loes was so overjoyed at his daughter return that he pledge the loayality of his people to Mose Diana. On the second night of a 5 day feast watrewar found the castle of Chai veser and his target Mose Diana. It took less than an hour for his foul magiks to kill 900 standing men, the royals fled to the king who looked to Mose diana. “I will let him kill me. She said. “No more of your people we be harmed.” Raven rose to her feet, her eyes were like beacons, they cast such a light that no one could look upon her. “Father. I have seen through all time. Mose Diana does not die her tonight. This union of our peoples will one day save us all.” The King looked upon her and knew that she was more than she had been, that her travels in the other world had given her the sight. “KIll Him!” He shouted. Sharisa lay still for a moment as he words washed over her. “Did they win?” Whispered Kai. “Yes. watrewar was killed and your people saved our Godess. It is why when you call we will always be there.” “You are brave but you are strong.” said Kai. ” To be truly brave is to be still brave when you are weak or scared Kai.” At some point we must have fallen asleep because when I woke in the morning Kai was still lying in my arms, his little fingers twisted into my white hair. When I had fully woken the new morn brought new news. Kai and his kin has travelled east to the encampment of the Kyprishan-ma’wed. Kai had led my mind to wander to my sister-kin and her litter born, four nephewes and two neices. Youngerkinder I would probably never see again. I thought of my Mala and of Samad, my beautiful black haired boy. I wish I could have said a proper ‘goodbye’ to him. Once more in his arms or in his bed, how the spiral of his chest hair looped around his breastbone, or how his skin always smelled like leather and salt. There was a clatter of plates and a mix of voices from below, but I wanted no company. I only wanted to be among my kinder, wolfenkind. Pad rode out, well rested, along the northern trail. I knew where my people were. I could sense-smell them even back at Ofrencatz. It would be a short ride, they were very close. Pad loped along and my mind wandered. I thought of Kai and how, someday I would like a litter of my own. Of Samad and the weight and the feel of him, his heartbeat next to mine own. How he was gentle yet powerful. Then it hit, like a weight against me. A smell I knew too well. A little white hand. That was the first thing I saw. It was Kai. Ripped open. His parents and about 12 more Kyprishan-ma’wed, all bled white. Torn and broken like an angry childs toys. I rolled backwards from Pad’s back and landed on all fours. The first of them came from the trees and met my sword with a wet crunch and his top half fell back onto the grass. Something bit through my wrist and my sword fell from my hand. I feined a left and jumped to the right as an arrow hit the ground where I would have landed. Already I felt the change and bone and skin became like fire, like liquid and I was Wolf. Claws through skin, and teeth tare. Wolf shows no mercy. Blood fountains into our throat and we feast. They are dead. The fury in my slows as my heart beats slower. The change comes again but this time I do not feel it I just know that I am human form again. There are five of them. Sh’War. Vampires. Unlike their Elderkind they can move in Sunlight. There are pieces of them across the trail. They killed these Kyprishan-ma’wed because they could. It proved nothing and gained nothing. I tasted it in their blood. We can ‘feel’ recent memories in the feeding. This was not war or politics, it was without sense or purpose. That’s when I knew. I knew that I would die in this battle and it was right. The Sh’War had to be stopped. The Kyprishan-ma’wed must be defended and Kai and his kin must be avenged. … My journal is lost. The mud is so churned with blood it is like a swamp. My claws. teeth and pelt are drenched in blood and the Sh’War are all but destroyed. I cling to the the last thought I had. Samad at his smith. I pray to Hephakias. Let me not die without purpose… “Samad Harakien?” Samad turns towards the Drogua Guard. “Yes. I am Samad Harakien.” The guard has a parcel. wrapped in the greiving silk. “She died well, brother.” As the guard walks away Samad unwraps the black cloth. A sword and a leather bound journal. It is Sharisa’s. He recognises the book, she wrote in it every night. His hand tighten and become claws, his talons pierce the leather of the book. He had loved her, always and wished upon the gods he had convinced her not to leave, to ignore the Queens call. Yet she was a Princess, a warrior, how could she not have defended the Kyprishan-ma’wed or defended her own people? The furnace, his anvil, his metalworkings, all of it now means nothing. He made the sword that failed her. How else would she have died but for his failings? For the first time in 90 years, tears streak through the grime on his cheeks.

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Running in the Park.

A noise wakes me. In the grey half light I cannot tell if it is twilight or dawn. I stretch and yawn, both with such luxury at the movement of muscle, I realise I must have been deeply asleep for a long time. I still smell of heavy sleep as I first step out into the street to start my run. I cover the first mile at a pace but settle into a slower rhythm for the second. As I reach the locked park gates, I jump to flip over them landing in a crouch and take off again , faster this time. There is a line of benches , four in a row that I like to vault as I pass  them. After a circuit of the duck pond, there is a six foot wall separating the edge of the park proper from the children’s play area. If I time it correctly I can hit it half way with one foot and using both hands, pull and vault the rest of the wall. The final mile back to my house has a few interesting bumps and corners to bounce off but it is mostly uphill.

Once home, I drop my clothes into the hamper and stand under the shower for at least ten minutes. Once dry I turn on the radio. I have no clocks in my house, so the morning news tells me that it is 8am. A long time ago, I would have run with my brothers but now there is just me and Joachim. We have not spoken in three years. We are very similar in appearance, except that I have the family tradition of hetrochromia. I have one blue and one brown eye. Our last summer in Budapest, when I told him I was to forgo the hunt broke his heart and he has never  forgiven me. I told him that I could no longer hunt even criminals with a clear concision, he called me a ‘base traitor’ and ‘no better than a werewolf’. His word hurt at the time and I was in a great fury and struck him. To our Kind, to be called ‘werewolf’ is a great insult. I moved to London, a remote part with many parks and wooded areas and though sometimes the Hunger does come upon me, I refuse to acknowledge it . It is not easy. Being a Wolven among Humans. It is a nature to hunt down and kill, those we sense have done wrong. The thrill of the chase is not an easy thing to ignore. To survive is to adapt. Though it is a lonely life, it is my life, lived by rules. Better to live and alone and free than be domesticated.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wall.”

This isn’t the only place that I post my shorts stories, lyrics, poems or just my general ramblings, it is the only place where I never receive any feedback at all. I don’t know if that’s because my stories are awful or just ignored…  I have a bit of a magpie mind but most of my stories are about the supernatural. Just a literary interest not a vocation. Not really a life or death affair, it would just be nice to hear back from anyone interested in lovecraftian steampunk aficionados with a healthy taste in the macabre.

Just curious

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On the Sunday I came off my bike, hitting the kerb at an awkward angle and was now the proud owner of a hairline fracture to one of those small bones in my wrist and a lightweight cast that made my right hand pretty much unusable. As I walked out of my office I dropped the four folders I was trying to put into my bag, I was trying to pick them up with my left hand when someone scooped them up and put the papers back. “Need a hand?” He was tall and slim with a shock of red hair and two days worth of stubble. Clear green eyes and even white teeth. He smiled nodding at my hand. “I could have worded that better.” I laughed and took the folders. “It’s just temporary.” I had never, ever done this before but I asked if I could buy him a coffee. He didn’t even so much as glance at his watch. He just said ‘Yes.’

Coffee turned into an early Lunch and a few days later we were having dinner at my favorite restaurant. We ate too much and talked about our childhoods, his in Dublin then London, mine in Chicago then Norfolk of all places.  Our families, his a pair of old hippies who called him Dylan after the singer and mine, terribly straight laced but fun in their own quiet way, who called me James, after my Maternal Grandfather. Over dessert he asked me to stay the night and with I smile I said “I was about to ask you the same thing.”

Everything I ate at that meal is as clear to me as Dylan’s fist kiss, how warm his hands were. How sure of himself he seemed and yet almost reserved when it came to that time in the evening when we had been kissing for so long that we both just wanted to be together.  Afterwards as he walked off to the bathroom I noticed the small birthmark at the  base of his spine. When he returned he traced his fingers over the scar in my stomach and I told him about having my appendix removed when I was 19 after collapsing at a gig in Portsmouth. We must have fallen asleep at some point, I just don’t remember and when I woke I could smell coffee brewing and hear a loud clear voice singing “Sweet Dreams.”

That first year was almost too perfect to last. We moved in together in the August and by the following November we were the proud owners of a house, a dog called ‘Bernard’ and a hideous bright yellow VW Camper we called ‘Max’ for no reason either of us could remember. Late in the Summer of 2015, I was lying on the sofa watching the original ‘Rear Window’ with Bernard lying on top of me and Dylan sat with his legs over mine. I had never felt so content. Dylan was napping, so I turned down the sound. He had been tired a lot recently and I liked it when he fell asleep, he had been doing so much overtime lately. He woke at about 3pm just in time to see Jimmy Stewart all from his bedroom window and ran his hand over my leg. “James? I need to ask you something.” He sounded so serious, not like my Dylan at all. “Are you okay?” “You know I love you. You are probably the kindest person I have ever met and I wanted to ask, I wanted to know. Will you marry me?”

I don’t think I have ever been actually at a loss for words before. We were married in the March, all very simple, just a small do with a few friends. My Brother Ed was my best man and Dylan’s sisters were the two proudest flower girls you have ever seen. Our ‘honeymoon was at a B&B in Torquay that allowed dogs and we swam and slept, ate, walked Bernard, slept, ran on the beach, slept, ate and kissed a lot. I never expected any kind of fairy tale. I never thought that a life like this was possible. We couldn’t face loosing another dog after we had to have Bernard put to sleep, we are both grayer and don’t dance anywhere but the kitchen. We cook each other meals, we take the time to be patient with one another, we row, like everyone does, we still look forward to seeing each other. We still make time for each other. It probably isn’t the most exciting life. We have no mysterious secrets from each other or scary exes waiting in the shadows. We just are.

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I turned off my PC and collected up my files and folders,as I walked out of the lift I nodded to Jim the security guard and handed over my pass. He mumbled something that sounded like “Goodnight Mr James.” But I couldn’t be sure. I smiled and headed out through the side door, mainly because I don’t like revolving doors, they make me feel claustrophobic and mostly because it’s easier to walk to the bus stop from the side entrance. When I got home my cat Bung coiled around my legs, not because he likes me, he was just hungry. I emptied half a tin of tuna into his bowl and mixed the rest with mayonnaise and black pepper and threw it into a slice of bread. I kicked off my shoes and turned off my phone. I don’t think anyone at work, my Doctor, even my family knew how depressed I had become. I felt like a walking ghost, drifting through my days waiting for something, anything to change. I didn’t bother even turning on the TV.

I didn’t realise I was crying at first. That was when I knew.

I took a bottle of whiskey from the kitchen cupboard and shook out a handful of paracetamol. I thought of that old joke. “Why aren’t there any aspirin in the jungle?” As I washed down the first handful with a mouthful of Whiskey. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a coward. This wasn’t some cry for help. I just couldn’t, didn’t want to have to live with this pain anymore.

I first met Tom at a conference. We worked in similar roles and fell into an easy friendship, bored by the other delegates we left as soon as we could and hit a few pubs. We ate in a Chinese restaurant and ended up in a gay bar at 11. He kissed me about two minutes later. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. We laughed a lot that night. We drank and danced (badly) and talked and talked. Within a year we were living together and within eighteen months we bought a house together. He had no family and I just had my Aunt Claire, we had a great bunch of friends but to be honest we were just happy being together.

I took two more handfuls of pills.

It was late August, still hot but not as hot as it had been all Summer. We woke early in a tangle of arms and legs and started kissing and talking and making each other laugh. We made love and then lay together, silent. Eventually Tom rolled out of bed and as he pulled on some clothes he announced he was going to the corner shop for bacon. “Sundays should start with great sex and bacon sandwiches.”

The bottle of paracetamol is empty, so is the bottle of whiskey. Everything is hazy and I feel sick and sleepy.

I don’t know how long Tom was gone, I must have fallen asleep after he left, I only woke up when the phone rang and then grabbed some clothes and jumped into a taxi to get to the hospital. Tom had tried to cross the road against the lights and been hit by a car. I can’t really remember much about that day. At first they wouldn’t let me see him, I wasn’t a relative but I explained to a young Doctor as she played, nervously with her hair and let me through, she said over quietly that I should wait for the Consultant.

The rest is just bits of memory and distorted images. I signed some paperwork and they explained that Tom was dead.

Six months and you still feel like you just left the room. I keep waiting for you. Sometimes I dream you are lying next to me and I wake up and have to remember it all, all over again. Ten years, my love. We had ten years and it wasn’t enough. It may seem selfish or weak but I don’t care. Do you remember when we went camping at Gracefield? We lay on the sun warmed grass looking at the stars and you told me you would love me forever? I must be dreaming because I can feel you next to me and from the corner of my eye I think I can see you.

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Sarah.

The coffee shop is quite quiet at this time of day so I choose a seat near the window. I was staring out of the window at a woman tying her scarf a little tighter around her neck, it is sunny but the wind is bitterly cold. After the waiter puts down my coffee and asks if there’s anything else I need, I just smile and say ‘No.’ I know it will be too hot to drink for a while so I carry on staring out of the window. There are busy looking Mothers with their children, young girls in big ugly coats, laughing and chatting. There are one or two artfully scruffy young men with wild hair and fetching beards. Most of them wouldn’t have looked out of place at my University in the early sixties, I imagine they think themselves very modern, I smile and reach for my bag.

The bag is old and worn but it suits me so I have kept it. Inside there is a sheaf of old letters, I take one at random and open the first page.

“Darling Sarah. Has it been three weeks? It seems longer. The old man has given the go ahead for me to have the car this weekend so I shall drive down and take you dancing. I still feel like we are in Gentle’s hollow, sat on that fallen tree and you kissed me on the cheek.”

I can’t help but smile. He always spoke like a poet. I pull another letter from the bundle and read on.

“… Sarah, London is so thrilling. I’m sharing rooms in a house with George (you may remember him from the Cricket match in the Summer?) Also a Chinaman called Lu Xien, He is utterly hilarious. You will adore him and I’m sure he could beat even you at Bridge. I took your advice and bought a Bicycle, I can see why you love it so! I have been tearing about the Public Parks, I think I may have even gained some muscle!…”

I remembered that Summer, he was so daring and took off his shirt as we lay Sunbathing in Richmond Park. He looked so handsome. Like a Greek statue of some God or other. That was the very first time we made love. In that draughty old house he shared. He was so passionate, thoughtful and kind. It was the first time I said “I love you.” Three weeks later we were engaged and Married in the October of 1968. Oh we were so happy. Our Son Christopher was born in 1969 but we always called him Kit and then two years later we had Verity. They were such happy times. We were lucky that we never faltered in our love for each other. Of course we rowed, yet we always managed to find a way to find some solution, or common ground. When Kit was 11 he became desperately  ill with Scarlet Fever. I thought I would loose my mind and would have without my Husband, My Ed, Edward, My Teddy-bear. Of course he was fine. We welcomed him home Ice Cream and TV and Doctor Who and all his favorite things.But children grow and rebel, as did we all. Kit grew out his hair and smoked drugs and tried to be a drummer and Verity, well Verity was just what I hoped for. Strong, opinionated and terribly clever.

The letter in my hand is one of the newer ones. It is written in a slightly more shaky scrawl.

“Hello dear. I must have missed you earlier, just so bloody tired all the time. The Nurse said you had stopped by. Thank you for the Pajamas and the tangerines, the food here isn’t bad but bloody awful compared to yours. I assume the Doctors and assorted medics have told you the treatments are making me a bit sick and sleepy. Honestly, Who gets Lung cancer if they have never smoked. I would laugh but the Matron has a face like a smacked bottom and I don’t think she like ill old men to look like they are enjoying themselves. Kit dropped by earlier, you must have just missed him. He really doesn’t suit a mustache does he?  Verity called, these mobile phones are just wonderful aren’t they? If you come tomorrow, do wake me. I rather miss seeing your face my love…”

I fold the letters back and pop them into my bag. The waiter takes my cup and asks if I need anything else. “Not today Alex, I just popped out, I have to get back to Ted. He always likes to sleep in on a Sunday but we are having a big family Dinner and the grand children will be descending. See you next Sunday?”

We say our goodbyes and I step out into the bitter wind. Despite the cold, I get a lovely warm feeling in my tummy knowing that I can slip into bed and roll into the warm hollow and wrap my arms around the man I have been in love with for my entire life. Roasting Chickens can wait for an hour. Remission they called it. I called it a bloody miracle.

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