The Way We Lied

He stepped inside and called out. “Mary, Mary are you here?” His voice was hollow in the bare room and he realised that much of the furniture was missing. The table where they had shared breakfast, the chairs where they had sat side by side, had all gone. A stained sofa, usually occupied by her cat, was the only seat left in the kitchen.
“Mary, where are you?” He called again and began running through the cottage, refusing to believe that she had gone without telling him.
“Are you alright? What has happened?” As he entered each room he half expected to see a battered figure lying on the floor, but there was no one, dead or alive. He wondered if the cottage had been ransacked, after all, there had been many valuable works of art here and they were all gone, apart from the painted panels and walls, their dancing figures the only animation in the house. But then finally, on the front door mat, he found a few circulars and a Royal Mail letter. He tore it open. It confirmed that the mail would be forwarded, so he knew she really had gone for good.
“Damn you Mary,” David cried, choking sobs erupting. “Where the hell are you?”
He began to search everywhere more thoroughly, hoping she might have left behind some tiny, forgotten clue. In the sitting room fireplace there were half burnt letters, bills and bank statements. He sifted through them and they disintegrated in his hands. Scorched paper, ash and soot drifted into the hearth.
He opened every cupboard in the kitchen, but they were completely empty apart from a half full bottle of tequila and some scattered grains of rice. He was tempted to take a swig from the bottle, but he left it there and ran upstairs again. In the bathroom there was only an old, stained bath mat and a cracked bar of soap, the tap dripping. The main bedroom was empty apart from a table lamp without a shade. He switched it on, but the bulb was dead. He opened the cupboard in the corner, but there was nothing but a few wire hangers swinging on the rail. David knocked them impatiently and they rattled and taunted him.

to be continued Monday, February 1

The Way We Lied

David strode through the woods, hoping that he might glimpse her at any moment. This was where he had first seen her, this was where she had danced before him. But the woods were empty. The only sounds were the crunch of his feet crushing that year’s fallen leaves, the soft call of pigeons and the occasional screech of a pheasant.
He had to see her. She had not answered his calls and he had not been able to see her for over a month. He had thought about her of course, and dreamt of her. But he needed to see her. Caroline was filling the house with people he didn’t care about for her marathon New Year dinner when the only person he wanted to see and talk to was Mary.
He wanted to stare into those cool, deep blue eyes and see that she approved of all he had done. It had been so hard at first, enduring the criticism of his colleagues and the aggression of the whips, but he was beginning to understand now how satisfying it was to live by the rule of conscience and not convention. Slowly, eventually, pure honest principles would surely win, even in politics.
As he neared the cottage, he expected to smell the sweet mossy wood smoke, but the air was clean and clear. He slowed down for the last few yards until he reached the final fringe of trees, then stopped, hoping to see her fetching wood from the shed, calling to her dog or feeding the hens. It was utterly silent and although it was a cold day there was not even the thinnest stream of smoke from the chimney. His heart stilled. He had been so sure she would be here. He walked at speed through the gate then saw that the hen run was quiet and empty. Perhaps they had finally been taken by the fox.

He knocked on the front door, then, when there was no answer, ran round to the door at the back of the house, the one she used the most. Rattling the knocker, the sound echoed inside and he knew she had gone. He stood back for a moment, then put his hand to the latch. It lifted and as the kitchen door opened, a few dried leaves blew across the quarry tiled floor. For a second he was unsure whether he should enter, he even wondered what he might find within. Perhaps she had suffered an accident or was seriously ill and unable to reach him.

to be continued January 28

The Way We Lied

For a moment he thought she would be angry, like all the other women of his acquaintance would be, but she was amused and then she laughed. “So what, I was stark naked. Just as naked as I had been in the woods.” She smiled at him, tilting her head on one side. “There should be no secrets between us.”
He hung his head, feeling his cheeks redden, but he continued. He had to tell the truth. “The fact is, as I was watching I wanted you. But I couldn’t have you. Then I wanted to…I wanted you and I wanted to touch myself while I looked through the window. But I didn’t do anything because I respect you and I want you to respect me. That’s why I’m telling you all this.”
She didn’t look at all shocked at his words, she just seemed amused. “Don’t be so coy, David. You can speak plainly you know. There is no shame in saying that you wanted to masturbate. It is not sinful to use honest common words. You wanted to wank, to jerk yourself off, or however you want to put it. I’m not surprised you wanted to do that. You’re a normal, full-blooded man.”
She squeezed his hand. “You have feelings. I have feelings too. But giving in to them would be like all the others out there, the dishonest couples fucking their neighbours and au pairs. We don’t have to be like them. We are stronger and better than them.”
He felt more relaxed now. He was relieved he had told her and glad he had not followed his baser instincts. They could talk to each other with total honesty now. He took a deep breath and said, “I want to change, but I’m not sure how to. Tell me Mary, tell me what to do.”
“I can’t tell you specifically,” she said, slipping from her armchair onto the hearth rug,
“but I can support and encourage you. This is like being reborn. Coming to everything afresh, with new eyes. You have been stripped naked and have bared yourself, your body and your soul to the elements and to me. Now you can start to be a new person. You can still be a good husband and father and a good MP. You can begin again.”
Then she kissed him on the lips and held him and he felt confident and strong.

to be continued January 25

Journey’s End

Geordie FortBy the time they arrived at their destination it was growing dark and drizzle had penetrated every item of clothing. On a bare patch of mud at the roadside an overgrown ditch and dilapidated palisade encompassed the sad castra. Marcus strode to the front of his men and past Hermann, who was just about to hail the guard.

“I’ll handle this.” The auxiliary trooper on guard duty looked down from a watchtower above the gate. “We are the construction detachment. Your commander is expecting us.”

“His eminence will be in the principia, probably. Make yourselves at home. Welcome to The Swamp.” The guard paused and then added, “…sir.”

As the gate was already propped open Marcus waved his men forward.

“Come on chaps. Form up and wait for me inside. I’ll present our orders to the commander.” Within the defences were tents, leather tents laid out in rows on the same bare mud as was everywhere under foot. There was a row of lavatory pits, open to the elements, being utilised by three sullen squadies. With little enthusiasm Marcus approached the only building on the site. It hardly deserved the title principia being a wooden structure, its roof ridge barely fifteen feet off the ground. The main, east, door was approached through a small courtyard inhabited by chickens. A tan coloured sow grubbed in the doorway of an outbuilding.

Inside Marcus stood in a hall that extended the full width of the building, Facing him was a pierced screen beyond which he could make out a shrine and the unit’s standard. To each side of this sacellum were doors to adjoining rooms. The one to his left appeared to be locked, but to his right the door stood ajar and someone beyond it had a nasty cough. Marcus called out.

“Could someone direct me to the unit commander?”

“Who’s that?” The reply was in Latin spoken with a thick Spanish accent and the figure that appeared in the doorway was short and a little overweight. He was wearing breeches under his tunic and a long sheepskin coat that had seen better days, or perhaps it had not. “You look bedraggled. What do you want?”

“The unit commander.”

“You’re talking to him. So…?”

“Sorry sir. Er… Sir…

“We… I have just arrived with the construction detachment. I believe we are expected. Our orders…” Marcus ferreted around in his satchel, produced a number of tablets and handed them over. The first of the thin wooden diptychs, hand written in cursive Latin script, introduced the bearer to the base commander. A Second tablet named the members of the detachment and detailed any particular skills. And yet another tablet laid out their mission. The men were to build a hostelry to a standard plan. This site was to become a staging post on the road to… To where? The road led from Nowhere to Nothinghere.

“Thank you. You are a medic I see. That could be useful. Most of my men are Belgians, hailing from some bog no better than this. But I have Syrian archers that have never taken to the climate. Always going down with something.

“I’ve already had tents erected for you and your men, over by the west wall. Get yourselves sorted out. And get over to the mess tent while there’s still something hot on the go. Report back in the morning.” The Spaniard turned back into his room without acknowledging Marcus’ salute. The forlorn orderly squelched out, leaving a pool of water on the flagstones where he had been standing.

 

The Way We Lied

When he reached the far side of the woods, the house glowed like a jewel in the dark; the little amber windows shone and called to him. He walked softly to the side of the house and looked in. She was still naked, warming herself by the fire, her white skin rosily reflecting the hot flames. She dressed slowly, holding each garment up to warm in front of the fire before covering herself. And as he watched, he desired her more than anyone he had ever wanted before and longed for her to throw down her clothes and just bathe in the red and gold firelight forever.
Eventually, he pulled himself away from the scene. It was too much to bear and he knew he would feel deeply ashamed and unhappy if he left, like a furtive peeping tom, without speaking to her. When she answered his knock, she was smiling and still glowing with warmth. She took his hand and pulled him inside.
“Well? How do you feel? Wasn’t that an experience to remember for the rest of your life?”
He was bursting with emotion and almost choked as he answered her. “I feel alive. I feel as if all my senses have suddenly been awakened for the first time in my life. I’ve woken to a new world. I can’t believe how different I feel.”
He followed her into the sitting room and she poured him a large glass of red wine from the bottle which stood on the hearth. He sat opposite her in a sagging armchair by the fire and gulped large mouthfuls, feeling it warm his chilled mouth and stomach and then he felt he could speak again.
“It’s made me feel so much more aware. I feel I understand my instincts and can know and trust them. It’s as if I’ve seen the world clearly for the first time.” He hesitated, feeling almost overwhelmed by the passion that was surging through him. “I feel I have just been truthful for the very first time and now I want to be a champion of the truth. I think I know what you mean now and I want to make a difference.”
“That’s really good,” she said, licking the wine from her lips and patting his knee. “I thought it might finally rouse you, my homage to the fabulous Andy Goldsworthy. So, where and when are you going to start?”
He hesitated for a moment, wondering how much to tell her. “I think it has to begin with the truth. From now on I have to be totally honest. And I’m going to start right now by telling you that I saw you. Just now, through the window. I was standing outside and I watched you as you dressed in front of the fire.”

to be continued January 21

Powerless – The Year The Lights Went Out

In response to the many readers who have trawled the archives to read Powerless and said they would like to read in in one sitting, I am delighted to be able to announce that Powerless is now available on Kindle. There will also be a paperback version shortly.
I am therefore going to cease posting Powerless on this site and on suzannegoldring.wordpress.com, but want to say a big thank you to everyone who has read it and enjoyed it so far. Powerless will of course continue to be available in the archives of this site, October 2013-July 2014.

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kindle edition available through Amazon

Powerless – The Year The Lights Went Out

Friday, November 1

Today we were greatly surprised by the arrival of Neil, our tenant, who keeps sheep on three of our fields. He has been used to coming and going without any involvement from us for a couple of years, but today he and his wife Linda turned up in their scratched old Landrover, towing a caravan and asked if we would mind if they parked it in the field nearest to the house.
When Martin asked why, Neil told him he is concerned about sheep rustling. He says he has heard on the shepherd grapevine that there have been a number of incidents now that the supermarkets are out of supplies and he would like to stay on site to protect his flock. Of course we agreed, especially as he is about to put the ram in with the ewes. He always does that about this time – tupp on Bonfire Night he says, for Easter lambs. And we also agreed because Neil pays his rent in kind and that will seem very welcome this year.
He soon got to work separating some of the older ewes from those born this spring, with the help of his dogs, Meg and Molly. He has to make another journey to fetch the two rams he is using this year and Martin offered to go with him, but Neil said unless he was prepared to see off intruders he would rather take his chances with the dogs. He has to drive almost to Alton, but most of the run is on isolated country roads so he thinks he will be safe. Martin gave him one of our precious cans of petrol in case he has to make a diversion and runs short of fuel.
The pasta I made yesterday was much tastier than the dried, which I still have stored in the larder. I made a savoury pumpkin sauce, scattered over toasted seeds and also wilted dandelion leaves as these are still plentiful. My recipe made plenty, so we are having it again today and Neil and Linda will join us to welcome them to our family for the foreseeable future.