The Phoenix Time #6

Previously……….

Frank, reaching to pass with both hands to Charlotte a salver of the cooked rice, knocked his wineglass over with his elbow. The glass itself remained intact, but its contents spread across the white tablecloth between them and splashed her blouse and trousers.

“Frank, you clumsy bloody oaf. Why don’t you look what you’re doing? Just look at my blouse and the cloth.”

Frank, by his time had risen from his chair, pushing it back to allow him to move and get a cloth from the kitchen.

“Oh, sit down Frank. You’ll only make things worse as usual. I’ll sort it. You really are becoming absolutely hopeless.”

Continued………

Gloria, Peter and David were also standing and moving to help but their mother waved them back down again, and told everyone to carry on eating. It wouldn’t take her a moment. She left the room carrying the empty wine glass, her plate and cutlery.

 Davina and Grace looked at each other with wide-open eyes – as did their parents. Frank sat with his head in his hands for a moment then sat up and held his hands open, palm upwards.

“I’m so sorry everyone,” he said, “Like your mum says. I don’t seem able to do anything right these days.”

Jake, who was sat next to Frank, touched his grandad’s hand.

“Don’t worry Gramps. It could happen to anyone. It was just an accident.”

Gloria asked Frank if he was all right because he looked as if he was ready to burst into tears.

Frank apologised again and stood to leave the room as his wife returned, carrying a damp cloth and some dry tea towels.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded.

He told her he was getting out of the way before he did any more damage. He headed for the summer house.

“It’ll be as well,” she called after him, “You’re a total waste of space.”

That comment effectively marked the end of the meal. No one felt hungry anymore – just embarrassed by what had passed.

She moved Frank’s plate and cutlery, folded back the stained area and wiped the wine that had soaked through from the surface of the table that was revealed. She used one towel to dry where she had wiped, then placed the other dry towels over that area and replaced the tablecloth. She repeated her wish that they continue with their meal while she got changed into clean clothes.  

They were to take no notice of Frank – she said that he was just sulking.  Gloria and David would have helped to tidy away the dishes, but their mum said that it would be as well if they left her to do it. She knew what to do with everything. She’d do it after they’d gone.

While Charlotte was upstairs, Gloria, David and the children, in hushed tones, talked about what had happened. Gloria explained to the children that she’d noticed that her mum and dad seemed to have had a row earlier in the afternoon from the way they spoke to each other and their body language. They were united by their horror at how Charlotte had spoken to Frank.

As soon as was decently possible, David, Gloria, Peter and the grandchildren thanked Charlotte for the meal, made their  apologies, went to say goodnight to Frank and left.

Once they’d gone, Frank went up to the bedroom and Charlotte cleared everything away. She worked in autopilot mode, methodically binning food waste, foil wrapping salvageable leftovers, loading the dishwasher and handwashing items that couldn’t be cleaned that way. Everything else, other than the extra chairs, was tidied into its dedicated storage area and position.

She then sat in the living room and wept in disappointment that Gloria’s birthday had been ruined and in frustration at the ineptness of her bloody feckless husband.

Featured Photo

Earlier this week. I showed an image looking towards Fidlers Ferry former power station from near the Dream statue in St Helens, Merseyside. Today’s image is taken from a different country park a few miles away.

I used my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera to take the photo using a 28-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 full-frame lens. The shutter speed was 1/100 secs @ f/8 and focal length 45 mm. The ISO was 800. I post-processed my shot in Lightroom Classic including a slight crop together with additional editing in Topaz Denoise AI.

The Phoenix Time #5

Previously……….

Once or twice lately he’d lost his temper and shouted at her, telling her to make her bloody mind up. He’d apologised and felt guilty after – but she’d sulked and found ways of making him pay. She never apologised for her vicious tongue, her sarcasm, her castrating insults. If this was retirement, he’d rather be back at work – even with the young thugs at school.

What was he to do? He couldn’t put up with another twenty, thirty years of the constant drip- drip of her nagging voice.

“Frank, you won’t forget to remove the cork from the red wine will you?” came her voice from the kitchen.

Continued………

Dinner for seven

Everyone made a fuss over Gloria, the birthday girl, of course. A major milestone for many people, she was just taking her fortieth in her stride. She loved the gifts that she opened when she arrived and, of course, had already been delighted by the ones from husband Peter, daughter Davina and from colleagues. She’d also been sent presents by her uncles and aunts. Having this family meal though, was what she’d looked forward to as much as anything, so it was disappointing that almost as soon as she arrived she could sense tension between her parents.

Her brother David and his children had given her their cards and gifts, but as soon as she had a chance to speak to him in private, she collared David to ask him what was going on between their mum and dad. He himself didn’t know what the problem was.  He suggested that they tackled the pair of them after the meal when, in all probability, the kids would have found somewhere upstairs for screentime.

Charlotte shooed them all out of the kitchen and Frank herded them into the front Lounge. He knew that Charlotte would soon be loading the dining table with the prepared food and that she would get flustered if they were in her way as she did it.

The windowless dining room had been a mistake. He and Charlotte often spoke of getting quotes from builders to sort out the room layouts. The way things were, the dining room was in the middle of the house, sandwiched between the front lounge and a rear sitting room. The entrance to it was from the hall. That meant that to get food from the kitchen to the dining room, it had to be carried through the breakfast room, into the hall and from there into the dining room.

They’d considered making the rear sitting room into the dining room and having a hatch from the kitchen into the altered dining area – but that would have meant relocating the cooker and losing wall space for cupboards. They’d drawn up their own floorplan to completely restructure the layout, but there had always been reasons for delay. In the meantime, Frank entertained the family in the lounge, keeping conversation flowing and plying everyone with drinks.

During the meal itself, all seemed normal at first. Conversation flowed freely, the salad was delicious and everyone – including Charlotte and Frank – appeared to be enjoying the occasion. There was general agreement that Gloria didn’t look a day over thirty and the grandchildren were on their best behaviour. That peace was shattered in an instant when Frank, reaching to pass with both hands to Charlotte a salver of the cooked rice, knocked his wineglass over with his elbow. The glass itself remained intact, but its contents spread across the white tablecloth between them and splashed her blouse and trousers.

“Frank, you clumsy bloody oaf. Why don’t you look what you’re doing? Just look at what you’ve done to my blouse and the cloth.”

Frank, by his time had risen from his chair, pushing it back to allow him to move and get a cloth from the kitchen.

“Oh, sit down Frank. You’ll only make things worse as usual. I’ll sort it. You really are becoming absolutely hopeless.”

Featured Photo

I took this photo last week while dog walking. I took this image while taking my daughter’s dog for a walk to the Dream statue featured earlier this week. I took the photo just after sunrise and was delighted to be able to catch the starburst effect from the rising sun filtering through the trees at the hilltop.

I used my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera to take the photo using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The shutter speed was 1/50secs @ f/20 and focal length 16 mm. The ISO was 400

The Phoenix Time #4

Previously……….

Biting back a sharp response, Frank dried his hands and went to do as he’d been commanded.

Charlotte heaved a sigh of relief once he’d gone and looked around to see how to restore order.

The couple had been married since 1975, almost forty-two years ago. Charlotte had packed in her job when she became pregnant with David later the same year. She’d remained a wife, mother and housewife all that time, providing a solid basis for Frank during his working years. He’d never needed to juggle work and family responsibilities – or hardly ever anyway. She was the one who’d done the childbearing, child-rearing, shopping, cooking and housework – managing the household budget from her allowance and even managing to put away some savings for their future. Now she had a State Pension – a pittance – and the savings, but the future she’d dreamed of was becoming a nightmare. Why couldn’t he just leave things alone?

Continued………

Frank

Frank Barstow wasn’t a stupid man. His first-class honours degree in physics testified to his intellect. At sixty-six years old he was still good-looking in a craggy way. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, in honour of the fine weather, cargo pants and slippers. His hair was thinner now and greying. His ruddy complexion, the result of years of  gardening and walking was now marked by a few age spots. Other than a small paunch, with his height and usually erect stance, he still looked fit for his age. He was also, by nature, a placid man. He’d had to be to keep his temper, as a teacher, dealing with troublemaking pupils who disrupted the progress of the majority. Lately though, his patience was being tested to the limit by the moods of his wife. Tonight was a case in point. Not the first occasion, but the instances were becoming more frequent and more hurtful.

Frank had started making a rice dish to accompany Charlie’s salad. The kids always said that they loved his version of rice. He’d weighed the basmati grains carefully, rinsed them in the sieve, found a large pan to put the washed rice into and was boiling a kettle of water to cover the rice, so as to reduce the time it would otherwise take to come to the boil on the hob. While he was doing that, he’d chopped some ingredients to stir fry with the rice later, when it had cooked. He’d just started washing some utensils to serve the rice and to use for the stir fry when Charlie had exploded behind him.

 ‘Hell’s teeth. She has a short fuse these days’.

He walked across to the dark wood dining room Welsh dresser that held an assortment of ‘best’ cutlery and crockery – stuff for special occasions like today. The stuff for their own day-to-day use was still kept in the kitchen. On his way out, he looked around what Charlie called the breakfast room. It led through to the kitchen by an archway where the former kitchen window had been. All the plumbing, wall tiles and flooring had been replaced at the time, but he felt sure that the magnolia embossed wallpaper pasted over replastered walls, would be her next decorating priority. This house was like the Forth Bridge. As soon as you finished you had to start again.

He was really looking forward to seeing the family together for this meal. He worried about David, the elder of their children. The consequences of his divorce from Marjorie had not been merely financially crippling. David had been left as if bereaved  and their children had been heartbroken too. It was two years now since the decree absolute but Frank still called to see him once a week to check that he was managing okay.

 David’s younger sister, Gloria, had always been the apple of Frank’s eye, as they say, though he got on well with her husband Peter too.  Like Charlotte, he was a bit worried about both sets of grandchildren – especially the two girls Grace and Davina, both the same age, eighteen and attending the local sixth form college.

Grace was David’s daughter, Jake, her brother was two years older and more settled now he was at university in the nearby city. Davina and Grace might as well have been sisters as cousins. They looked almost identical and, when they weren’t the best of friends, they were mortal enemies, mainly about boys. Even then though, they’d always unite against anyone who upset the other.

It wasn’t as if Frank was unused to dealing with teenagers. Until three years ago he’d been a physics teacher – and that had been bad enough.

When the grandkids had been younger, their high-pitched voices had been charming. They were family. School kids – other people’s kids – were a different matter. For the past few years, he’d come to dread passing through common areas of the school, where the pupils congregated at break times – the screaming, screeching din had been an assault on his hearing. But the kids at the Academy – the eleven to sixteen going-on-eighteen-year-olds – brought to their noise, foul language, smuttiness, overtly sexual behaviour and hormone-fuelled aggression. Every week knives and drugs had to be confiscated. Physical, verbal and cyber-bullying were rife and the staff had their hands tied by political correctness. The rules for the latter seemed to change each term. The paperwork to manage all of these things was something that could never be completed within the school day. Many parents, and the journalists on some middle-class tabloids, imagined and envied teachers to be working only during the pupils’ attendance hours and imagined that the long ‘holiday’ breaks were just that. If only they knew.

When the opportunity to retire came, he welcomed it joyously. No more tedious record-keeping, no more bullying by a bureaucratic head teacher whose only concerns were budget management and a quiet life for himself. What Frank hadn’t reckoned on was the endless list of a different class of tasks which Charlie expected that he would welcome doing now that he had time on his hands.

“Frank, the wallpaper in Gloria’s  old bedroom could do with stripping and replacing.”

“Frank, when you have a minute could you clear the grass that’s growing and blocking the gutter?”

“Frank, have you not got round to tidying the loft/garage/shed yet?”

“Frank, the units in the kitchen are looking dated now. It’s been ten years. Could you have a think about replacing the worktops at least?”

“Frank, we seem to have run out of …’complete the dots’.

His todolist seemed to grow longer each morning.

So many things she always wanted doing, but no sooner had he started doing one or other of them, than she’d be on his back like a ton of bricks – complaining about dust or mess – or telling him he wasn’t doing it the proper way.

He couldn’t win.

He’d been hoping to get out for a few days with his camera to photograph some of the region’s architecture and, perhaps, try his hand at some street-photography.

‘Fat chance!’

Once or twice lately he’d lost his temper and shouted at her, telling her to make her bloody mind up. He’d apologised and felt guilty after – but she’d sulked and found ways of making him pay. She never apologised for her vicious tongue, her sarcasm, her castrating insults. If this was retirement, he’d rather be back at work – even with the young thugs at school.

What was he to do? He couldn’t put up with another twenty, thirty years of the constant drip- drip of her nagging voice.

“Frank, you won’t forget to remove the cork from the red wine will you?” came her voice from the kitchen.

Featured Photo

I took this photo a week ago yesterday while dog walking. I took this image while taking my daughter’s dog for a walk to the Dream statue featured earlier this week. It show the Fidler’s Ferry former power station at Widnes, some miles away. The power station began to be decommissioned last year.

I used my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera to take the photo using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The shutter speed was 1/160 secs @ f/18 and focal length 85 mm. The ISO was 200

The Phoenix Time #3

Previously……….

The problems today were not only caused by the kitchen though. It was a hot, late April afternoon, the kitchen window was South facing and Charlotte, Charlie to close friends and relatives, was still experiencing post-menopausal flushes. Since their children had flown the nest, twenty years or so previously, she’d developed a routine, a way of life that Frank, since he’d retired, was disrupting most days of the week. She was the first to admit that she’d become set in her ways, but she’d spent years lovingly establishing those ways. She found it frustrating that, at sixty-eight years of age, she now had to tolerate her husband  bulldozing his presence into her domain.

She could not understand how a grown man could create so many dirty dishes making a simple rice dish, how he could never replace pots, pans, plates or cutlery where they should be put. She’d spent years perfecting efficient ways of cooking meals yet, here he was again, thinking that he could just interrupt her flow and imagine that he was helping.

Continued………

God! The rows they’d had over things like that.’

It was Gloria’s 40th  birthday today, so it would be a full house for the evening meal and the family guests were expected anytime now – Gloria, her husband Peter and Davina their daughter. Gloria was the younger of Charlotte and Frank’s children. The company would be completed by Gloria’s older brother David and his two children Grace and Jake. Five adults was one thing but three teenagers with their moods and dietary fads was a completely different matter. All it needed to be a complete disaster was Frank ‘helping’ in the kitchen.

“Frank, will you listen to me for a minute – please? I have enough to do in here without you under my feet. Go and get two of the spare set of chairs down from the loft for the grandkids and set the table. You’d better extend it to sit eight – and use the white damask tablecloth. Use the silver cutlery from the canteen in the dining room. I want it to look nice for Gloria when she comes. I assume you’ve written her birthday card – put the envelope on the mantlepiece in the living room would you please. Also, set a couple of candles on the table plus some glasses for drinks. You may need to get the white wine and beers from the fridge too. There’s an unopened bottle of red on the dresser. Just make yourself useful somewhere else.”

Biting back a sharp response, Frank dried his hands and went to do as he’d been commanded.

Charlotte heaved a sigh of relief once he’d gone and looked around to see how to restore order.

The couple had been married since 1975, almost forty-two years ago. Charlotte had packed in her job when she became pregnant with David later the same year. She’d remained a wife, mother and housewife all that time, providing a solid basis for Frank during his working years. He’d never needed to juggle work and family responsibilities – or hardly ever anyway. She was the one who’d done the childbearing, child-rearing, shopping, cooking and housework – managing the household budget from her allowance and even managing to put away some savings for their future. Now she had a State Pension – a pittance – and the savings, but the future she’d dreamed of was becoming a nightmare. Why couldn’t he just leave things alone?

Featured Photo

I took this photo a week ago today while dog walking. The 20 metres high statue is known as The Dream or simply Dream. It was constructed in 2009 and was designed by Jaume Plensa, a world famous sculptor. The design was one of four chosen nationally to be funded through UK Channel Four’s Big Art Project. It cost more than £2 million in today’s money. It’s sited, overlooking the M62 motorway, on the site of the former Sutton Manor coal mine.

The whiteness of the sculpture, which takes the form of the head of a young girl who’s eyes are closed, contrasts with the blackness of the coal that used to be mined below it.

I used my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera to take the photo using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The shutter speed was 1/125 secs @ f/8 and focal length 31 mm. The ISO was 200

The Phoenix Time #2

PART ONE

Kindling

Sticks or pieces of wood or similar, often placed upon scrunched-up paper beneath coals towards the lighting of a fire.

CHAPTER ONE

Charlotte

“For Christ’s sake Frank will you find somewhere else to do that,” Charlotte Barstow was reaching the end of her tether. Stood, fists balled against her hips, her elbows sticking sharply outward and her feet apart, she glared at her recently retired husband’s back. She was in the middle of preparing for a family dinner, the sleeves her floral pattern blouse rolled up waiting to use the kitchen sink to wash some dishes before reusing them for the next stage. He stood at the sink, facing the window, carrying on as if he hadn’t heard a word.

The polished butchers’ blockboard worktops on both sides were being used by the two of them for food preparation. To his left, there were dishes, and a slicing board bearing green and red peppers, celery, carrots, an apple, an onion, mushrooms – all chopped or about to be – some spice tubs and a tin of tinned, chopped tomatoes. He was using these ingredients to make a vegetarian rice dish to accompany the salad being prepared by his wife. On the cooker, a large pan stood ready to boil the rice, a pan to boil the vegetables and a wok to fry the rice, when it had been boiled, together with the cooked, chopped ingredients and spices.

To his right, his wife’s worktop area was being used to prepare sliced ham, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes and salad onions. Some eggs were being boiled in a small pan on the hotplate.

The smell of the other chopped ingredients, especially the celery, tomatoes and radishes,  competed with that of the tear-inducing chopped onions and salad onions.

All in all, during the next half-hour or so, there were going to be to too few knives between them, not enough room for all their various dishes and a lot taking place on the cooker.           

At five foot two inches tall,  Charlotte was a full eight inches shorter than her husband, but she wore the pants in that household. At sixty-eight, a year younger than him, she was still pretty, slim and always smart in her appearance. She had her hair seen to once every two weeks and kept her wardrobe up to date at a local fashion retailer. She was not someone to be trifled with, as one or two of her neighbours had found to their dismay.

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times, this kitchen is simply too small for two people to be using it at the same time,” she said. It hadn’t been a hundred times but it certainly wasn’t the first. The kitchen wasn’t large, it’s true, thirteen foot by seven – and it had been extended at that. They called their former kitchen the breakfast room – the current kitchen had been created by an extension at the rear of their sixties house fifteen years previously, together with a larger extension to their living room.

The problems today were not only caused by the kitchen though. It was a hot, late April afternoon, the kitchen window was South facing and Charlotte, Charlie to close friends and relatives, was still experiencing post-menopausal flushes. Since their children had flown the nest, twenty years or so previously, she’d developed a routine, a way of life that Frank, since he’d retired, was disrupting most days of the week. She was the first to admit that she’d become set in her ways, but she’d spent years lovingly establishing those ways. She found it frustrating that, at sixty-eight years of age, she now had to tolerate her husband  bulldozing his presence into her domain.

She could not understand how a grown man could create so many dirty dishes making a simple rice dish, how he could never replace pots, pans, plates or cutlery where they should be put. She’d spent years perfecting efficient ways of cooking meals yet, here he was again, thinking that he could just interrupt her flow and imagine that he was helping.

Featured Photo

Today’s photo features Ted, my daughter’s Japanese Spitz pet dog, white fur against white snow on the grass in our rear garden at home.

I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 60 mm and f/4.5. The shutter speed was 1/640 and the ISO was 800 Exposure compensation was +1.5 EV and I post processed the shot in Lightroom Classic and Topaz AI Denoise.

The Phoenix Time #1

The Phoenix

A bird in mythology said to have risen to new life from the ashes of a fire in which it had been consumed.

PROLOGUE

 “I’ll be sleeping in the guest bedroom tonight and finding somewhere else to live tomorrow.”

“Really? Where do you think you’ll find a place where you’ll get waited on like you do here?”

“I’ll ask Gloria first, but otherwise I’ll look for a bed and breakfast place until I get sorted with somewhere more permanent. I’ll come back for whatever I don’t take with me.”

“If you go tomorrow, your things will be in bin bags on the drive when you return.”

“I’ll hire a van then if you’re so desperate to get rid of me. There are secure storage places these days Charlotte, so don’t think that you can threaten me that way. I’ll probably see you before I leave tomorrow anyway about legal recognition of a final separation document. I won’t wish you a goodnight’s sleep. That would be hypocritical.”

He walked out past his wife who was still stood near the door, just inside the room.

Featured Photo

I shot today’s image in my rear garden at home as it snowed the other day. I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 16 mm and f/4. The shutter speed was 1/100 and the ISO was 200.

Moving on from Going Forward

‘Going Forward’, the story whose thirty-five chapters I’ve been posting for weeks now has reached its end. I’m thinking of publishing it as an eBook under the title ‘Nothing Ventured’.

So, what comes next? Well, I’ve written the first couple of chapters of my next story, provisionally entitled ‘The Phoenix Time’. As usual, I don’t know yet how long the story will be or how it will end. No doubt the story will tell me these things as it progresses. I’d guess, from what I’ve written so far that it will be more than 10,000 words – longer than a short story but shorter than even a novella. I envisage three possible endings – it all depends.

I’ll say no more for the moment but I’ll leave you with an excerpt of Chapter Three.

Excerpt from ‘The Phoenix Time’

“Really? Where do you think you’ll find anywhere, where you’ll get waited on like you do here?”

“I’ll ask David first, but otherwise I’ll look for a bed and breakfast place until I get sorted with somewhere more permanent. I’ll come back for whatever I don’t take with me.”

“If you go tomorrow, your things will be in bin bags on the drive when you return.”

“I’ll hire a van if you can’t wait to get rid of me so much. There are secure storage places these days Charlotte, so don’t think that you can threaten me that way. I’ll probably see you before I leave tomorrow about a legal final separation document. I won’t wish you a goodnight’s sleep. That would be hypocritical.”

He walked out past his wife who was still stood near the door, just inside the room.

Featured Photograph

I chose this photograph because it shows different paths for people to choose between. The image is of a signpost near Castell Dinas Bran above the town of Llangollen, North Wales.

Exif Data. I used my Pentax K3ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for an exposure bracketed shot. The normal exposure was 1/1000 secs at f/8, focal length 31 mm and ISO 200. The shot was handheld and post processing was in Lightroom Classic.

Going Forward – Chapter Thirty-Four

…..Previously

“Are you okay with us carrying on from what we were talking about last night” she asked.

I agreed and she recapped, in a well organised summary, what had been discussed.

“You and Helen parted company,” she said, “but it was her who left you. Maybe you weren’t blameless in some way – I’ll probably never know – but it wasn’t you who walked out. My heart went out to you when you told me,” she said, “I’ve been the victim of that form of dumping. I know how it feels. That’s why I felt I had to call you back last night.”

She asked me was I with her so far. I told her that I was now getting a clearer picture. I reached for a biscuit to eat with my coffee.

Continued…….

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

…that ends well

“For weeks now,” she said, “I’ve had the feeling that you were looking at me as if you wanted me as much as I wanted you, but you said nothing. I started to wonder if you were gay or something.”

I raised an eyebrow, “I don’t ride on that bus,” I insisted.

“Okay, Let’s move on to Jenny,” she said, “There’s something you need to know. Jenny knew that I liked you. She didn’t know how things were between us – but she knew how I felt. The problem is that she fancies you too. She even told me, and that, since I’d clearly frightened you off, she was out to get you. I had no idea what she was on about.”

I sat up, “What?” I said, “That’s crazy! I’ve never given Jenny a second’s thought.”

“Think about it,” she said, “She tried to pump you for information about us, and heard you deny any relationship between us. She couldn’t believe her luck, so she asked you again. Then she saw you watching me walking home with Jake and thought that she was safe to bate you by asking if you were jealous. She wanted to check your reaction. She asked you what you were buying me for my birthday and discovered that you didn’t even know the date of my birthday. Bingo! She believed that she was home and dry.”

Susie looked at me and asked if things were falling into place yet. I admitted that I was finding it hard to take it all in.

“I bet Jenny was looking out for you at the Park on Thursday to complete her claim on you,” she said. “When I was out with them on Monday night, I was walking past them in the bar to talk to someone further along and I heard just a snatch of their conversation. Jenny was saying something about you and me and what you’d said. I just saw red and went home, fuming.”

“I could understand that Debby and Jenny might gossip about me – as women friends do, but I was so disappointed in you. I’d hoped better of you. To be honest, after Sunday night, I really believed that there might be something between you and Jenny – both from what I saw and what I heard. That really hurt. I’d really hoped that we could have a future together. Do you understand now where my anger was coming from?”

I looked at her, unbelievingly. “You must be joking!” I said, “Oh my God! If only I’d known how you felt. But me and Jenny? No way, thank you!”

She shook her head, her hair moving slightly against the motion, then laughed again. “I’m sorry. You got the rough edge of my tongue when you phoned on Tuesday – and then again on Friday. Do you forgive me?”

“How could I not forgive you?” I asked.

She then reminded me that she’d wanted to come back to two other things I’d said on Friday afternoon. I remarked on her memory.

“I’m a woman,” she said, “We remember things that matter.”

She picked up on what I’d said about being only recently separated.

“Would it bother you,” she asked, “to start again with me so soon? Would you feel guilty?”

“No,” I replied, “It isn’t that. Listen, Helen’s left me for another man. Why should I feel guilty or wait? But I did expect that you wouldn’t want to risk starting something with someone who might just be on the bounce from a recent and hurtful separation.”

“Right!” she said, “That makes sense. I hadn’t thought of that. Should I have? Are you on the rebound?”

“How can someone on the rebound know?” I asked, “I’ve recovered from Helen leaving me. I have yet to recover from worry about the divorce settlement.  I only know what I feel about you, something I’ve been frightened to admit even to myself because it had seemed pointless. You seemed to be so much out of my class – so unattainably beautiful.”

“Let me be the judge of that,” she said. “It brings me nicely onto my last point though. You mentioned that you were broke and unemployed – but you’re trying to find your way out of that aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said, “In fact I had a reply from the NHS supplier the other day, offering me the job, so at least I won’t be jobless much longer, but you’ve seen the solicitor’s letter. I might still have to sell the house to pay Helen off. I don’t know where I’ll find the money for legal fees. Why would I have expected you to see me as a worthwhile prospect? Helen made me feel rotten because even manual workers earn more than I do.”

“Do you really think that I’m so shallow? You make me sound like a money-grabber,” she said, “Helen really turned the knife, didn’t she? Anyway, I’ve got a house. You can move in with me”

“Susie,” I said, “I never meant that, but it would have been unreasonable for me to put myself forward as solvent and a sound financial risk wouldn’t it?”

“Phooey!” she said, “Only one thing matters – and that’s what we’ve found out these past two days. We’re nuts about each other even if we’ve been crazy not to do something about it sooner.”

I looked at her in sheer disbelief at what I was hearing. All that time wasted.

“Up,” she said, lifting my hand in hers and pulling it to get me to stand. She put her arms around me and we hugged each other passionately. When she moved her head close to mine, her hair brushing my neck, that scent was more intoxicating than any wine and, when we kissed, the rest of the world, the worries of the past weeks, everything else dissolved and disappeared. We were all that existed – lost in love for each other.

“I think that I know what our problem has been,” she stared into my eyes, “ We haven’t been getting enough sex – either of us. There’s only one cure for that. You’ve not shown me what your bedroom’s like yet. Come on.

I followed, thinking, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’

THE END

Tomorrow there will be a new post on a different topic.

If you have been, thanks for reading.

Featured Photo

Today my featured photo is from near Oban in Scotland, overlooking Loch Etive from the garden of an apartment where we stayed.

The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-50 16 MP full frame camera and 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 26.25 mm and f/13. Shutter speed was 1/125 secs and the ISO 200. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.

Going Forward – Chapter Thirty-Three Part Two

…..Previously

“So, you two are together then,” Jenny said, “Well, it’s about time.”

I agreed. It was about time.

Susie, Paul and I donned our fleeces and made our way back to the car. He was holding Susie’s hand and chatting to her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. My eyes filled up with tears of pleasure. Susie noticed.

“You old softie,” she said.

Continued…….

Paul seemed made-up that Susie was coming back to Cheadle Hulme with us. He sat with Susie in the rear seat, telling her all about his PlayStation, his friends at school and about how he and I would start training together nearer home. The journey didn’t seem half as long as I listened to them.

I took Paul’s backpack out of the boot of the car as he ran to Helen’s front door. I waited until she let him in before I waved and got back in the car.

Susie told me that Paul had kissed her on the cheek before he’d got out of the car and that she’d seen Helen looking at the car to see who was with me.

We went to my house, showered and changed before I drove us to a local pub where they served good food for lunch. It was one of these large modern places where they do carveries. Once we’d found a table, we ordered at the bar. Susie said that she was ravenously hungry. She chose turkey roast with trimmings while I went for the beef. She asked for a glass of white wine with hers: I just had a half pint of bitter shandy because I’d be driving. She laughed at my caution.

I sipped at mine on the way back to the table to reduce the level of fluid in the full glass. The lemonade in the drink fizzed up into my nostrils making me splutter.

As we ate, Susie told me how happy she was that Paul had accepted her so easily. She said that it had been as though she had a child of her own at last. Then she told me what she’d been talking about with Jenny and Debby. She’d made it clear to them that we were now in a definite relationship. Jenny had been bitchy at first but had then accepted that she’d known all along that there was chemistry going on between Susie and me – even if a relationship, as such, had never been broached. She’d remarked on my low self-esteem – because I hadn’t thought that I’d stood a chance with Susie. Soon though, Susie had sorted out the friction between herself and her mates and they’d still be seeing each other on Monday nights.

When we got back to my house, I made some coffee for us both while she explored downstairs what had been my bachelor-pad for the past few months. She was impressed by how clean and tidy I’d kept it.

“Helen obviously had you well trained,” she said, “that’ll make my life easier.”

She put her arms round my neck and kissed me. We walked into my living room, taking our drinks with us, and sat down together on the sofa.

“Are you okay with us carrying on from what we were talking about last night” she asked.

I agreed and she recapped, in a well organised summary, what had been discussed.

“You and Helen parted company,” she said, “but it was her who left you. Maybe you weren’t blameless in some way – I’ll probably never know – but it wasn’t you who walked out. My heart went out to you when you told me,” she said, “I’ve been the victim of that form of dumping. I know how it feels. That’s why I felt I had to call you back last night.”

She asked me was I with her so far. I told her that I was now getting a clearer picture. I reached for a biscuit to eat with my coffee.

FINAL CHAPTER TOMORROW

Featured Photo

Today my featured photo is another from near Oban in Scotland, overlooking Loch Etive from the garden of an apartment where we stayed.

The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-50 16 MP full frame camera and 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 18 mm and f/13. Shutter speed was 1/125 secs and the ISO 200. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.

Going Forward – Chapter Thirty-Three Part One

…..Previously

“Listen Paddy,” she said, “speaking of Paul reminds me that you’ll need to be leaving to collect him soon if he’s fit enough to come to the Parkrun tomorrow.”

I agreed.

“We still have a lot to talk about,” she said, “and I wouldn’t want you to keep him waiting. Can I come to your house tomorrow afternoon?”

“Of course,” I said, “Would you like a lift straight after Parkrun?”

She said it would be a great idea.

Continued…….

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

All’s well…………….

I collected my laptop and she walked me to the door. As we stood in her hall, she removed my laptop from my hand, and put it on the hall table. She moved in front of me, put her arms around my neck, pulled me towards her and apologised again for misunderstanding what had happened. I hadn’t been prepared for this level of closeness, her face so near to mine. I could feel her breath on my face. Her delicate scent in my nostrils was intoxicating. Her face lifted to mine and my arms moved around her, one hand lightly on her slender waist just above her hip, the other touching her shoulder blade beneath her hair. I could feel her hair against my face and the softness of her cheek against mine. I could feel her skin through the softness of the fabric of her top. I moved my head back to look at her face for clues as to what was happening between us. Suddenly, as our faces moved closer together, my eyes moved, from hers, to her lips. The urge to touch my lips to hers was irresistible Our bodies moved closer still as our lips met. We had to move slightly away for a moment as we adjusted our faces to avoid bumping noses, then joined our lips again in a lingering kiss. Our bodies moved wildly against each other. Our hands explored each other feverishly through our clothes. My senses were spinning. This was all my wildest dreams come true. Our kiss just felt so right, her soft lips so loving, kissing my lips, my face, my neck. We kissed and kissed, again and again.

“I love you,” I told her as our heads moved apart. I noticed that, in my desire for her, some of the fabric of her blouse was now balled in one of my hands. The fingers of my other hand were entwined in her hair, her fingers in my own hair. I could feel her body against mine as we stood, my arms now holding her tightly to me and I felt urgent feelings stirring in my groin. I could see that her eyes were damp with tears as mine were. I didn’t want to leave go of her.

“It’s taken you long enough to get round to telling me,” she admonished me gently. “I love you too,” she said, pushing me gently away, “We must do that again, very soon, but somewhere more comfortable, eh? But go on, go now while you still can. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I don’t know how I managed to find my way home: I was totally besotted. Her words, “while you still can,” and memories of our kiss accompanied me the whole way.

When I called for Paul, he was ready to go – PlayStation, pyjamas and running kit all in a colourful backpack that I hadn’t seen before. He said that his gran had bought it for him for school. Helen said that he was fine now and she was sure that the fresh air would do him good. She also said that I should wipe the lipstick from my face – it looked strange at that time in the day. She was laughing. She said that she assumed that the lipstick was Susie’s.

She said that she was happy for us and that she hoped I’d learned a lesson, and that, for me as for her, love would be sweeter the second time.

The following morning, Paul was up before I was. He was really chatty over breakfast. He asked had I trained any more this week. I confessed that I hadn’t. He reprimanded me, saying that we’d never win if I didn’t train. I promised that I’d ask his mummy if we could train on Friday nights and perhaps on some Sunday mornings. He said that he’d ask his mummy too.

We made good time on the journey to Altrincham. After parking the car, we had time to do a couple of warm-up circuits as we waited for Susie. I’d been watching some of the other runners doing preparatory exercises as we’d gone round. I showed Paul what they were doing and we copied them. Susie spotted us as we stretched our muscles and came to join us. She asked Paul how he was and then put her arm around me and gave me a kiss. I put an arm around her and kissed her too. When I looked down, Paul’s mouth was open in disbelief and he was pointing at me.

“You kissed Susie,” he said, “Won’t mummy be annoyed?”

“I shouldn’t think so, little man,” I assured him, “mummy has Cliff to kiss her now, doesn’t she?”

He thought for a minute then said that he thought so because they did a lot of kissing.

Susie’s hand was over her mouth stifling a laugh as she looked down at him.

“Can I hug you too?” she asked him.

“Yes please,” he said, “but you don’t need to kiss me if you don’t want.”

She bent down to him and held him to her in a tight hug. When she released him, he told her that she smelled nice.

“Are you Daddy’s girlfriend now that mummy has Cliff?” he asked.

“I think so, Paul,” she answered, “Do you mind?”

“I don’t mind if it makes Daddy happy,” he said, looking very serious, “Daddy has been very sad for ages.”

I put my hand on his shoulder and assured him that being with Susie made me very happy, and that I was sorry if he’d been worrying about me. I said that everything was wonderful again now. I looked at Susie and could see over her shoulder that Debbie and Jenny had arrived and were watching us. Jenny smiled at me and came to join us. She commented on how happy we’d seemed – a proper little family. Susie gave her a pasted-on smile.

The announcement for us to move to the Start point came at just the right moment.

Paul and I made reasonable time and I wasn’t as out of breath as usual when we finished, Susie, of course, had completed her run much sooner than we did and she was talking to Debby and Jenny as we made our way to the bandstand after we’d had our barmarks recorded.

“So, you two are together then,” Jenny said, “Well, it’s about time.”

I agreed. It was about time.

Susie, Paul and I donned our fleeces and made our way back to the car. He was holding Susie’s hand and chatting to her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. My eyes filled up with tears of pleasure. Susie noticed.

“You old softie,” she said.

Featured Photo

Today my featured photo is one that I shot from Castell Dinas near Llangollen in Wales early in 2020

The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-3ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera and 16-85 mm f/3.6-5.6 lens @ 16 mm and f/8. Shutter speed was 1/500 secs and the ISO 200. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.