The Wheels On the Bus Go…

Ferdy clambered into the rear cockpit of his autogyro and Ginsbergbear waited for the Grand Jersey Hotel’s maître d’ to come out with a wooden crate of U’Luvka Vodka.

“It’s going to be a bit tight in here,” he said as he tried to squeeze his bulk and the angular crate together into the front cockpit.

Phoebles clambered into the cab of the Routmaster while Beryl and Flo rushed up stairs to the top deck. Mad Jack hung back near the hotel entrance.

“What should I do?”

“Stay here and answer the phone. If Fluffy rings tell him everything’s fine and he’s winning the war.” Boz turned from the crestfallen hussar to the Kronstadt sailors.

“Come aboard, comrades, we’ll give you a lift back to the docks.”

Phoebles indicated; there was a grinding of gears and then a pause as their passage was blocked by a squad of Gilnockie Reivers driving a small herd of dun coloured, gracile Jersey cows down the road.

“Haw you, thas coos nae choried. Sam Ned geez em.”

“Never doubted it,” replied Boz.

With a gnat like whine from the Genet Major, Ferdy took to the air. Moments later the Routmaster jerked onto the highway and headed towards the docks.

“Where do I go after that?” asked Pheobles. “How will we find The Kittens?”

“Just head northish. I expect the resistance will find us.”

Once clear of the town Jersey’s winding lanes were a delight and the view from the open top deck a panorama of tomato vines in regimented rows, terraced potato paddies and acres of shimmering polytunnels. Hedgerows bloomed, nature twittered and scampered. Only the occasional broken fence or slime filled shell hole despoiled the idyll with memories of conflict.

They wound up gentle hillsides, descended into wooded vales where arching branches threatened the occupants of the upper deck. And then they rounded a bend to find a fallen tree trunk blocking the road. Phoebles braked hard and upstairs everyone tumbled towards the front of the bus. A far from friendly figure stepped out into the road, black beret with three pointed red star badge, scarlet neckerchief, leather jerkin, several day’s growth of stubble and an angry Kalashnikov.

“Do you represent the resistance? I am Boz, we came over with the counter-counter-revolutionary armada.” Boz had come down to the rear platform of the bus, it seemed only polite.

“That’s as maybe. I am Le Brocq of La Résistance Crapaud. What is your business here?”

“We are attempting to meet up with the Kittens of Chaos. Have you any idea where they might be? Probably in the thick of something reckless.”

“Ah, Generalissimo Starcluster and her Battailon Durruti, a right band of nutters. Last we heard, some of them had joined up with The Lesbian Brides of Our Lady of Perpetual Self-Doubt, they’re warrior nuns. I could guide you to their lair, but they’re loose cannons the lot of them. You might be better off staying with us.”

“We need to find them,” said Boz.

“Your funeral.” Le Brocq put two fingers to his mouth and blew a sharp whistle. A dozen guerrillas emerged from the undergrowth and dragged the heavy log to the side of the road. Laughing he swung up onto the bus and pressed the bell.

‘Ding Ding’

Le Brocq guided Phoebles along a tortuous route. They passed a burned out Hummer and several sites devastated by fierce fighting. Eventually they arrived at the mound of La Houghue Bie. They parked up and began the climb to the nuns’ fortress convent.

“I’d best lead the way, said Le Brocq, “This lot can be aggressively defensive.” But no one challenged them. When they reached the walls the thick oak door was swinging on its hinges and inside was deserted.

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The Way We Lied

The first time Caroline saw the woman standing on the verge she thought she must be searching for something. Perhaps she had dropped an earring while walking down the country lane, perhaps she was waiting for a lift home. But the second time Caroline noticed her she was sitting in her car. She was quite, quite still, staring straight ahead as if no one could see her and she did not have a care for passersby.
For a week Caroline forgot all about her, even though she drove along the same lane at various times of day. And then suddenly she saw her again. She knew it was her immediately, because each time she saw her the woman was wearing a short, pale blue coat and dark trousers. She was standing in the same spot, her head bent, her dark bobbed hair hiding her cheeks and Caroline could not help thinking that she must be crying.
Caroline drove home to a busy household; children home from school, husband phoning to say he would be at the station earlier than usual. She quickly cooked the pasta, then left Lisa in charge of tossing the rapidly cooked ravioli in basil and tomato sauce so she could meet the train on time. On the way back they passed the spot where she had seen the mysterious woman earlier on and Caroline suddenly thought to say to David, “Why do you think someone would be standing at the side of the lane always looking at the same place? I’ve seen the same woman there several times in the course of one week.”
“God knows,” he yawned. “Probably too lazy to walk their dog properly. What are we eating tonight?”
“I was planning to grill some chops with broccoli and new potatoes. That do you?”
“Fine, fine.” He yawned again. “Course she could be one of those people who leave flowers at the roadside.”
“Where there’s been an accident you mean?” Caroline frowned as she drove along the winding lane. “No, I’ve never noticed any bunches of flowers there. And I don’t ever remember hearing of a car crash along this road.”
They drove home without talking about it any more and Caroline forgot all about the strange woman as she prepared supper and listened to David moaning about his annoying new researcher in the office, then reminding her that they had to leave one hour before their usual time in the morning so he could catch an extra early train.
But Caroline never objected to the running around as it meant he came home to the family most nights, only staying at the London flat when he had late sessions or extra committee meetings. Many MP’s wives hardly saw their husbands during the week and she certainly was not keen for him to become one of the permanently in town crowd. They were mostly up all night or up to no good and Caroline was determined to ensure that he did neither. When she could be confident that the children were well looked after and could book Maureen, their regular babysitter, she joined him at the London flat for the night, taking a home-cooked meal with her and staying on the next morning to iron a few shirts to hang in the closet and straighten the place up. He had never wanted a regular cleaner, although she had suggested it a few times. He claimed confidential documents and security clearance would make it far too difficult.

Back in Time for Tea

Chapter 7

‘When I was small,’ Gran began, ’war broke out in Europe and Mr. Churchill – you learned about him in school?’ I nod, so Gran continues, ‘Mr. Churchill gave Germany an ultimatum, which they ignored and so we were went to war too. I mean the country, but also my father – your great-grandfather. My mother said he came home from work one day, not long after Churchill’s announcement on the wireless, and told her he’d signed up. He’d signed up to the army, to join the war effort. I was much too small to know about any of this, but my mother said she was not impressed. She told him he had me and her to care for and he couldn’t go running off like that anymore, playing the hero when we needed him at home. Do you know what he replied, my brave father? He said, ‘Ethel, if men like me don’t unite to fight this menace, then there may be no more home, as we know it, to support. If this Hitler chap has his way, we’ll lose our freedom and anything worth living for. I have to do it – for our future, for Lilian’s future. Don’t you see?’ ‘

‘Of course, I didn’t know any of it at the time, but when Mother told me a few years later, I was so proud of him.’

‘Gran, did he…did he come back?’ I ask. I’m not sure if it’s OK to ask this and it’s not strictly information I need for June, but this is my great-grandfather, for goodness sakes. I want to know!

‘He did! He fought in Europe. He lost friends and comrades, but he came back – back in one piece. Perhaps not the man he was when he left, but I couldn’t remember that man anyway, so I was just pleased he came home again. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, Ellie. Anyway, so it was just Mother and I for a while, but as the War drew on, things got difficult. Hitler and his U-boats cut off supplies from getting into the country, planes were shot down, things were looking grim. My mother decided she should help too, so she signed up to work at the Aircraft Factory that was nearby – we lived near enough for her to cycle there then – but there was one problem.’

‘You?’ I ask.

‘Yes, me. There was a little girl to look after. She felt strongly that she should ‘do her bit’. I think she worried about Father being so far away and that made her feel helpless, so she went to work for the War Effort, to make her feel like she was doing something to help him.’

‘And you went to live with your Aunty Doris at the farm?’ I ask.

‘Yes, I did. Aunty Doris took me in. She had her own children – a boy and twin girls –‘ (Freddy and the Mirror Twins, I think) ‘and me and then she took on an evacuee girl. The little girl was a distant relative, who lived in London with her mother, who’d also gone to work for the War Effort. Aunty Doris knew very little about her, but she needed a home and was part of a group of children who were evacuated to this area, plus her second cousin, or something, contacted her and said she’d feel better if her daughter was among family. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?’

I nod: June.

‘Oh Ellie, you should have seen her. I remember the day she arrived. Oh, she was the scruffiest, most cross-looking scrap of a girl you ever saw. I remember Aunty Doris’s face when the little girl arrived, all scowls and tangled hair. We all thought perhaps nobody in London took baths, but I daresay she’d had a hard life. My cousins, who had accepted me without question – perhaps because I was so little and didn’t pose a threat to them – took an instant dislike to this interloper, as they saw her.’

‘They were cruel!’ I say, crossly.

‘They were,’ Gran agrees, ‘but they were also put out about how much of their mother’s attention this new girl took up. Oh, if Aunty Doris wasn’t cleaning her and cutting her hair, she was having to keep an extra eye on making sure this one didn’t get into scrapes. Oh, the scrapes that one got into! You have to try and understand that they were jealous and also that this new girl in their midst was very hard to like. She was all corner and hard edges, Ellie. If any child spoke to her, from the farm or the school ,she’d as soon put up her fists as speak back, and when she did speak back – oh the language that one knew!’

‘But you liked her, didn’t you?’

‘I did,’ says Gran. ‘I was in awe of her at first. When I went to Aunty Doris’s, my mother gave me strict instructions on how to behave, what to do to make myself welcome, how to fit in and, small as I was, I obeyed those rules. Yet here was this new girl, flouting every rule and finding new ones to break in her spare time. If she wasn’t overturning pig bins, she was stealing food from the kitchen and getting into fights wherever she went. I was in awe of her at first. I followed her around, fascinated by this girl whose behaviour seemed so alien to me. After a while, I suppose I was so often by her side that she accepted me and started confiding in me. I found out that she was a lonely, anxious little girl, who’d never really had anyone teach her how to behave.’

‘Poor June,’ I say.

‘Yes, poor June.’ She stops talking, rests her chin in her hand and just sits like that for a bit, not really looking at anything. Perhaps she’s looking back and remembering it all clearly, I think. There’s a tear in her eye and I feel uncomfortable about it but I also know there’s an unknown disaster about to unfold and that June has given me a job to do. Reluctantly, I ask Gran,

‘That’s not all, though, is it?’

Gran turns her gaze to me, the spell of the past apparently broken. ‘No, that’s not all, Ellie.’

‘What happened, Gran? I need to know.’

Gran is looking directly at me. Her gaze is so intent I start to shift in my chair, as if I’m feeling guilty of something. Perhaps I am, though I’m not sure of what. ‘Ellie,’ she says, suddenly very serious, ‘I know you do, but before I tell you what happened, I need to know exactly why you need to know. I need to know what you know already and I need to know what you’ve been getting up to in that park.’

Now I know why I feel so guilty. I’ve had seventy years of sneaking around and calling it, ‘the park’,and Gran is onto me, although I really don’t think any of this is entirely my fault. I’m not sure where to begin, so I say, ‘Gran, my…’turns’, they’re not…they’re not just turns,’ and then I take a chance and add, ‘Are they?’

‘No-oh,’ says Gran, a little uncomfortably, I think.

‘I’ve been…I’ve been…’ I am so used to hiding my strange behaviour that even now, with the one adult who may actually understand and believe me, I feel reluctant to go on. I feel I need proof that she really will understand. I look at her, expectantly.

‘Ellie, I think I know and I think you know I know what’s been going on with you. Tell me the truth – the truth, mind – and I promise I will believe you: every word.’

So I do, and the relief is immense. It’s as if I’ve been carrying around a huge weight and now I can take it off and hand it to someone who can deal with it for me. Everything comes pouring out: about my time travelling episodes, about going back and forth between the War, the Farm and the park and now. I tell her about June, the barn, the hen house, the Others. I tell her about how it feels to travel through time, about the grinding noises and the sensation of falling off the earth. I tell her about Lilian possibly seeing the same moment over and over, perhaps from slightly different viewpoints and then I ask her the questions I’ve been holding inside, ‘Are you one, Gran? Are you a time traveller and are you Lilian?’

‘I am Lilian,’ says Gran. ‘As to whether I am a time traveller, I think perhaps I am – or was – but that I never got very good at it. I never travelled through years like you’ve been doing or like June did-‘

‘Does,’ I correct her. ‘She’s still doing it. June is still stuck between now and then, Gran.’

Gran looks at me, disbelievingly, I think. ‘Is she, Ellie? Is she really?’ She looks almost hopeful now.

‘Yes! Yes she is! That little girl you saw me with at the park?’

Gran makes that fluttering movement at her throat again and the grips the arms of her chair.

‘Is she, Ellie? Is she really? Is she still there?’

‘She is, Gran, she is! I’ve seen her with my own eyes. I’ve talked to her, I’ve sat and listened to her. I even had bread and dripping with her! Gran, it’s what this is all about!’

And then Gran does something quite unexpected: she bursts into tears. My gran sits there and sobs big, noisy tears and I have no idea what to do about it. ‘Gran? Gran?’ I ask her.

‘Oh, Ellie,’ she says through sobs that make my poor Gran shake. ‘Oh Ellie, all these years, I thought…I thought…I thought she’d died, Ellie! I thought she’d died and it was partly my fault. I thought she died in the – we all did! All these years of not knowing, all these years of a terrible fear that I could have, should have done something to stop it all. I just kept telling myself I was very young at the time, that none of us could have seen or known what she’d do, but, Ellie, I was the only one who could have understood it. At least, I was the only one who could have tried!’

‘Died in the what, Gran? How did you think she died?’

Gran is silent for a moment, but for the sobbing, which is now much quieter and more subdued. I feel like the most insensitive person on the planet, but I really do need to know, because if June is about to die, I really do need to do something to stop her, and I haven’t the faintest idea what. I don’t know what to do! Then I remember June’s words to me: Get your Gran, Ellie! I can’t get her to help us now, though, not when she’s a sad and possibly broken old lady. I need old Gran back: Gran who steps in and fixes your problems. That’s when I realise: I need to step in and fix Gran’s problems. I’m not yet eleven years old and I’ve been a mess my whole life, but now I need to step up, be strong and be the one who fixes things for others. I’m not sure how I feel about this, so I decide not to feel anything about it at all. I decide to just get on with it.

The Way We Lied

As she licked and sealed the gold envelope, Caroline shook her shiny blonde bob aside. That is all I shall allow myself to say, she thought, as she sat in the quiet kitchen. Now let there be an end to it. She has gone and I must let it go for all time.
Now, I must concentrate on the important things in my life. After all, I must focus on what really matters to me. I am a good wife and a good mother. That is where my priorities lie, not with obsessive fantasies. I have always believed that our primary purpose here on this earth is to procreate and that our children are our future.
We think at first, that love will last, but it just persuades us to make a choice. I think I made a good choice. I have the children anyway. They are beautiful. Blonde hair like mine and mostly kind. Although I can see some of my father’s arrogance and impatience coming out in Ben, even though he is only 13. Oh dear, I hope he will be tolerant and kind. I hope he finds a good wife and has a family. He should remember his mother, shouldn’t he? I haven’t given him a horror of efficient women as well, have I?
Caroline propped the envelope on the kitchen table against the beribboned flower pot filled with a Christmas candle decoration which Lisa had made in school. She hoped her letter would eventually be joined by other contributions. She refilled the kettle and started emptying the dishwasher as she waited for the water to boil. Although the New Year celebrations had not finally finished until 2am, she had woken early and had quietly left David still snoring in the darkened bedroom. Dressing in silence in the bathroom, she had contemplated her pale face, its pallor emphasised further by her fair eyebrows and the dark shadows beneath her blue eyes. She did not have Alex’s elegance or her cheekbones, but it was a decent face she thought as she applied a slick of pink lipstick and pursed her lips.
As she stacked the clean plates and glasses, Caroline felt a sense of pride and satisfaction. It had always been this way, she thought. Even when she had shared a flat in London, she had always been the one to get up early after a dinner party to clear the table and tackle the washing up. Sometimes she had even cleared up before bedtime, just as she had last night. Jolly good thing I did too, she thought, once I’d sent the others staggering off upstairs. With so many breakfasts to cook, I need to be organised. She checked the frozen croissants, which she had remembered to leave out to thaw and rise last night. They were plump and ready to bake, so she slid them into the hot oven.
Then she opened the freezer and rummaged through the boxes and plastic tubs of homemade sauces to find two large packs of sausages which she placed in the microwave to defrost. As it hummed and turned, she was reminded of the record deck in the London flat years ago. After one particularly riotous evening, at which she had not been present, she had returned to the empty flat the next afternoon to find a dish of peanuts sitting on the turntable, its surface stained with red wine. Even though she had not been the one entertaining, she had started cleaning up, taking plates to the kitchen and scraping saucepans into the bin. It had obviously been a good evening, but even if she had been there and had enjoyed herself, she would not have left the flat in such an awful mess.
Just as she was wiping the last of the plates dry, her flat mates Pippa and Kathy had returned with their boyfriends Ian and John. “Caroline, you didn’t have to do that! We were just coming back to clear up,” protested Pippa.
“I’ve nearly finished now. I didn’t know how long you’d be.”
“We thought you weren’t coming back till tonight,” said Kathy reaching round her for the teapot. “Weren’t you meant to be spending the whole weekend with your parents?”
“Yes, but they’ve gone to visit my grandmother today so I thought I’d get back early. That’s alright, isn’t it?”
“Not a problem, we’ll just carry on as if you weren’t here – won’t we, eh?” Pippa winked at her tall boyfriend. “John, go and put some music on while I make tea.”
“Oh I haven’t wiped it yet.” Caroline pushed past them with a damp cloth in her hand. “You can’t play anything till I’ve wiped the turntable. It’s all sticky.” She rubbed at the stain and then turned to see the four conspirators, standing like naughty but defiant children, watching her from the doorway. All of them stifling their laughter.
Caroline would always remember that look. She sometimes saw it now on her children’s faces, when she chided them for eating a biscuit without a plate or for not wiping their feet on the doormat. But back then, when she was only in her early twenties, it had been a look that marked her out as different, as someone whose concerns were old-fashioned and out of step. She had stared at them and then returned to the kitchen in silence while they made their tea and retreated to the sitting room to joke loudly and play their records. As they giggled, she had stacked the crockery and returned the cutlery to the correct sections in the drawer and while they scurried to their bedrooms where their cries were muffled but still audible, she had vigorously rubbed the stainless steel sink and taps with abrasive cream and rinsed them again and again till they shone like polished silver.
How fortunate that, when she had met David soon after this, he had appreciated her skill and dedication. She had realised the first time she had invited him back to the flat for coffee that he was different. He had not tried to grope her as they sat on the sofa; he had talked and talked and thanked her for a lovely evening.
Caroline had felt then that she was understood and valued. But over the years, that feeling had faded. It had not resurfaced until Mary. She could remember everything Mary had said and she could remember how it had begun.

Kronstadt Sailors

kronstadt-sailors-3sSoon the reunited parties had relocated to a Starbucks franchise on the ground floor of the hotel where Ferdy briefed Boz on his observations.

“The Gilnockie Reivers are mopping up the last pockets of resistance in town, but we’ve lost the mercenaries to the temptations of looting and pillage. I have no news from the hinterland.”

Phoebles was on his third blueberry muffin. “Whoof mufflup hurver mrm wuck borrumzy?” He swallowed and tried again. “The pirates, do we know what’s happened to them?”

“The survivors of the sea battle are scattered. We just don’t know.” Flo leaned over and flicked some crumbs from Phoebles’ furry chin.

“Oh. Heruugh. Is there any chance your ninja could get out of that suit?” The sight of Flo’s disembodied head bobbing about above her all but invisible costume was making Mad Jack queasy.

“Oh for… If you think I’m stripping just to keep you happy.” She whipped out her trusty Yoshindo Yoshihara katana. Mad Jack flinched and uttered a pathetic squeal. Flo ignored him, strode over to a window, deftly sliced a poncho out of the chintz curtain and threw it over her Mountbatten Pink shozoko.

“Better?”

Whilst our heroes were catching up with local events, the dinky Kronstadt armed trawler Parizhskaya Kommuna, formerly the Ross Tiger, slipped into St Hellier harbour and tied up at the quayside. Three sailors and a washerwoman disembarked. They commandeered two trishaws and requested to be conveyed to the Grand Jersey Hotel where they soon discovered Boz and Co.

“Lev Mikhailovich Zhiltsov, Acting-Comrade-Skipper-for-Today of the Parizhskaya Kommuna. I have with me three representatives of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Cruiser Aurora’s Steering Committee. Apologies for Comrade Tchaikovsky being out of uniform. Ever since we disguised ourselves for the raid on Petrograd we can’t get him out of a dress.”

“Steering committee?” Ginsbergbear enquired. “An advisory body usually made up of high level stakeholders and/or experts who provide guidance on key issues such as company policy and objectives, budgetary control, marketing strategy, resource allocation, and decisions involving large expenditures?”

“Not exactly; the Committee that decides which way to steer. We are here to give our report.”

“Get yourselves a coffee and come and sit down,” said Boz.

Once armed with Butterscotch Brulée Lattes, Piccinos, Espresso Macchiatos and Hickory Smoked Bacon sandwiches all round one of the Kronstadt sailors began:

“Feliks Nikolayevich of the cruiser Aurora, now anchored in St Aubin’s Bay. Wing-Comrade Karpova and the Kronstadt shore detail are meeting stiff opposition from crack Imperialist troops under a Sergeant Phantom at the aerodrome. The Imperialist battleships are no longer a threat, the puffer Inchcolm Lassie is towing the disabled Destroyer of Worlds into St Hellier and Kapten Nyai has taken her bisquine down to St Malo for repairs.”

“Comrade Karpova urgently requires a fresh supply of vodka, preferably Polish,” added Tchaikovsky, “and reports that her planes are running low on 0.762 ammunition.”

“I’ll have a word with the maître d’hôtel,” said Ginsbergbear. “Ferdy and I can deliver a few bottles to tide her over.”

“Great,” said Boz. “The rest of us should link up with the Resistance. We’ll need suitable transport.”

“I think I can help there,” said Comrade Ziltsov. He carried his iPhone over to the window for a better signal. “Сергей, вы можете получить omnibus над к отелю быстро?”

The group finished their drinks and Phoebles stuffed a last blueberry muffin into his pocket. They emerged onto the prom as an AEC Routmaster doubledecker pulled up opposite. It was painted a drab olive green with revolutionary slogans in red and two Soviet flags firmly tie-wrapped to the radiator grill.

“Bags I drive,” cried Phoebles.

The Way We Lied

Caroline’s Millennium Letter

This is the first day of the new Millennium and as an activity for the members of our house party I have suggested that everyone should write a letter to be buried in a time capsule for future generations. I am calling it a time capsule, but in reality it is simply a large plastic tool box I bought for just this purpose from the local hardware store. We shall seal it in a plastic sheet before we bury it in the garden. I have no idea what everyone is likely to write and I have told them that this will be an opportunity to say anything they like as the box probably will not be opened until long after they are dead.
They all seem to think that this is a great game and I have given everyone paper and envelopes to be sealed up before we finally bury the capsule. And so now I have to write my own contribution. I suppose I ought to record my name and so on. My name is Caroline Harper, I am 43 and my husband David is 46 and he is the Conservative MP for the west County. We have three children – Ben the eldest is 13, Lisa ( the sensible one) is 11 and Sam is my youngest and he is nine. I am happily married and live a very busy and interesting life supporting my husband in his constituency and attending many local and national events.
Shit, this isn’t what I really want to say. I want to tell the truth. No one will ever find this bloody box. It will stay buried for eternity and will probably rot for all I know. So what I really want to say is….this letter is the only way I will ever have of recording my true feelings about Mary, the amazingly wonderful, marvellous Mary Reid.
I haven’t told her and there isn’t anyone I can tell, but I think, I mean I know, I love her and desire her. It seems unbelievable, that someone like me, someone who is so ordinary and so conventional, with children, a husband and responsibilities should have such an overwhelming longing for anyone else, let alone another woman.
Sometimes I can’t understand how this has come about. But I can remember when I first knew. As soon as I met her I knew. I looked into her astonishing pale blue eyes and just knew I was lost. I don’t think anyone else in the whole of my life has ever made me feel that way. Not David, not previous boyfriends, not even the children. Oh I love David and I had been in love before, so I know what conjugal love means. And with David our love was based on liking the same things and recognising that we had similar objectives in life. Then later we supported each other however difficult things might be. With the children it’s an invisible glue that bonds me to them and them to me, so I instinctively respond to their needs and know I will always want to look after them and help to make their lives as happy and successful as I possibly can.
But with Mary it is different. I can’t even agree with some of her opinions sometimes but I admire her principles and her art; she is beautiful and I have longed for her touch and to be able to embrace her. When she talks and looks at me, I feel myself melting and I know if she were ever to approach me I would not be able to resist her touch, her lips. And when she talked to me about experiencing ecstasy I was waiting for her to show me how I could achieve those heights with her fingertips. And when she asked me to sit for those drawings my whole body quivered with every stroke of charcoal her strong hands made on the paper.
Yet I have no idea how she feels about me. I sometimes think she is amused to play with me, disturbing my assumptions, disrupting my habits. She likes to challenge and unsettle. Perhaps it is all a game for her. And now she has gone so I shall never know and shall always wonder. And I know I must resign myself to probably never seeing her again.
And so this is the only time I will say it. This is the only time I will be able to admit that I love her, adore her, worship her. She is beautiful, she is honest and she is cruel. Mary, I love you. I will never put my hope in any other but you.

The Way We Lied

Lisa

Crikey! I know you’ve always been an interfering old bag, Sarah, but this takes some beating! If I’ve understood this correctly, you, the do-gooding chairwoman of countless committees over the years, wrote a stack of poison pen letters! That’s extraordinary, even for you!
I know you’ve done some good things, but you always think you know what’s best for other people. You never listen, do you? You’re always so determined to offer your opinions and advice. When I was a child you told me how to behave, when I was a student you told me what you thought of my course and in recent years you’ve tried tell me how to bring up my children. Well I shall tell them to be kind and considerate and not to write evil letters!
I am astonished at you, really I am! Yes, I would love to take you aside and give you a good ticking off. That would be a reward after all these years of disapproving looks and remarks from you. So grand, so high and mighty! Well you’re not so wonderful now, are you? I don’t know anyone else who could be so underhand. And you sit on public bodies too! Weren’t you on the parish council at one time? It’s just unbelievable that you thought this was acceptable behavior.
And why did you feel you had to do it? What did she do to you? Did she put your nose out of joint or maybe she might have been admired more than you. Whatever she did or you thought she might do, I can’t see there was any excuse for writing anonymously. Surely it would have been better to have had an open debate about someone’s suitability. But you seem to have conducted quite a vendetta against this woman and I don’t yet understand why. And, what’s this….you wrote to her as well? What did you write? It’s pretty low of you to write about her to other people, but to write anonymously to an individual is really nasty. What did you say? I’m getting a horrible feeling it was something cruel and frightening. How malicious you were.
Reading your letter again, I think she made you feel uncomfortable. I think her methods were different to yours and you just couldn’t stand it, could you? I can see that you like to be the Queen Bee and you can’t share that role with anyone else. You sour old woman. I hope you feel satisfied. I can’t see it’s done you any good. Your husband is disabled and incontinent, your children dread your visits. You’ve only got your committees. Well I hope they come and see you when you’re dribbling in a home, you old bat. I hope they love and cherish you in your old age. That’s all you’ve got to look forward to.
I put the letter back in its envelope and place it on top of the other six I’ve read. There is only one left unopened now. It must be my mother’s. I’m scared. What will it say?