Skyline

Jack lay in his bed looking out at the city. Or to be more correct over it. His bedroom looked out over the London Skyline.  He knew it wouldn’t be long now. He stroked his faithful collie, Jess, who was lying beside him. Her frail body was cool against his leg. He whispered to her as he stroked her downy fur, messages of undying love.

He looked from one window to another and remarked to himself how much the skyline had changed. Back in his day there were few high-rise buildings and London looked so different. He’d grown up on a street in the East End. The house had been his parent’s before and their parents before that. His mum had told him enough times that he was lucky to have indoor facilities as she preferred to call them. The house hadn’t always been that luxurious.

His mind started to slowly spool through those old memories: playing football on the streets, learning how to smoke behind the bus stop at the end of the street; and his first foray into the sexual arena with Molly, a much older girl who taught him so much.

He’d moved into the twentieth floor when he had married Vera, early in his twenties. They’d had an amazing life together. They made a conscious decision not to have children, neither of them truly caring for little people, which was seen as strange by many as Jack had worked as a teacher for much of his life. They had always preferred children they could hand back and retreat back into their lives.

He had loved Vera with his whole being. Their wedding had been the event of the year, carefully planned by Vera as a showstopper. When she had died suddenly just five years earlier from that dreaded killer he had given up. No one really noticed that much. He could still smile in the street and talk on the phone when friends called without rousing doubts about his instability.  To all intents and purposes he had carried on despite his reduced circumstances, but escaping to be with Vera was never that far from his mind.  His family remained comfortably unaware of his situation, and the previously regular visits tailed off to nothing. Jack understood.

For a moment his mind was lucidly back in the present, stopping the spooling of the film that was unfolding. He looked through the window again at the changed skyline and all the new-fangled buildings, as he thought of them, and their new-fangled and frankly stupid names. Back in his time buildings had been named after the worthy and famous. No one in his day would have called a building the Gherkin or the Cheese-grater. St Paul’s was still over there in the distance and somewhere over the other side were the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. They were buildings to be proud of.

His mind had had enough of the dire present and returned him to his memories. He was feeling a little fuzzy now. He pulled Jess closer, knocking some of the pill packets on the floor, where they joined the broken glass. In his mind he was at a casino in Las Vegas; bright lights, Vera laughing as she won on the slots. Then they were driving down a French avenue, trees flashing by in his peripheral vision. laughter on the wind.

All a sudden his mind drew him up short as he witnessed Vera’s passing once again, much as he had so many times over the past five years. This time, though, she sat up and held her hands out to him. He slipped onto the bed beside her and into her waiting embrace as his body back in his sad flat breathed its last. Another minute change to the skyline.

Jack wasn’t found until three days later when one of his friends raised the alarm after not getting any replies to her calls or texts. The Police had broken in and on finding his body and the note propped up on the bedside table had contacted his sister. They told her he had been dead three days when they had entered the flat, that he had taken his own life and was found in bed his hand deep in his dog’s long fur. The dog had died at least a day before him. According to the note that was the final straw.

Standing before the large plate window his sister read the note again.  As she looked out over the unfamiliar skyline she cried gently wondering how things had got to where they were.

skyline

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No Filter

Although Sam was still a rookie as far as the other detectives were concerned he still liked to think he was their equal and he had just had his chance to show just how good his detective skills were.

There had been three people in the frame and he was the one who identified the right perp for the job, as he had just finished telling his wife.

While his wife was processing what Sam had told her so far she helped him to more mash, nice and buttery, just how he liked it. He sure looked please with himself she thought and had every right to do so. When a case finished and the necessity for confidentiality was over Sam liked to talk them over with Martha over dinner. She in turn was interested and enjoyed the chance to solve cases vicariously.

Dipping her fork into the pie on her plate she considered what Sam had told her so far. There must be something he hadn’t told her.

“Come on, there’s something you haven’t told me,” she leaned over and jabbed at his arm.

“Nope, that’s the case as it was until I detected the hell out of it and got our man banged to rights,” Sam told her.

“Banged to rights? You didn’t seriously just say that.” Martha laughed.

Sam smiled and winked back at her. “Come on you usually catch on quicker than this.”

“More quickly,” Martha corrected him. Even at home putting the brakes on her love to teach correct English didn’t stop.

Sam rolled his eyes and reached for his cigarettes.

“Give me another small clue before you go out for one of those,” Martha asked.

“I just did,” Sam said as he slipped out into the back yard for a smoke. He threw the pack back on the table as he stood one cigarette in hand along with his lighter.

Five minutes later he was back inside rubbing his hands together against the chill of the night air outside. “Fresh out there, now,” he commented as he filled the kettle and switched it on at the wall. “You didn’t have to wash up you know. It was my turn.” he added even though he was glad he didn’t have to do the dishes after all.

“It’s okay…” Martha started. “…It helps me focus, and besides I could watch you out the window at the same time, I got your last clue, you  know.”

“So you were spying on me as you worked it out?” Sam asked.

“Spying no, but working it out yes.” Martha looked satisfied. She waited to share her conclusions as Sam placed a cup of cocoa in front of her. “They were all smokers, you said?” Martha checked the information.

“Yep.” Sam knew she’d cracked it too.

“So two of them smoked normal?” She asked.

“Another yep, detective,” Sam cradled his cup.

“So the other smoked tipless cigarettes, which matched the cigarette found at the scene with no filter. Easy.” Martha sat back confidently.

“Exactly… You’re wasted at that school, you know, Mrs Sherlock … and do you know how I knew before the others had worked it out…?” Sam began to tell Martha the rest of his story as they sat comfortably at the kitchen table.

detective

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Window

window

Every morning I see her as I pass the grandest house on the street. It must have once been a fine mansion for local landowners with the columns and fine steps up to its front door witnessing the footsteps and breaths of the gentry of years gone-by. Now it is a mix-match of flats and duplexes, but no less grand because of that. She is always in the window, top right. She sits there reading, drinking or staring out into space. The window frames her radiance perfectly.  I can’t imagine she has ever seen me gimping past.

**********************

He passes my window every morning, and most days I see him rushing by in that cute walk-hop he has made his own. Some might see his disability as a defect, to me it shows his strength. I can’t imagine it ever limiting him. My eye was first drawn to him weeks back, soon after I moved in. He may have a mobility issue but that is negligible to the energy that surrounds him as he bustles by. Where he is headed I can only imagine. Sometimes I fancy that he looks up and sees me, but it is all in my mind. someone of his power would never notice me up here in my garret.

*************************

Back at my post behind my window I spend the day giving information about platform and train times. I sell tickets and advise people on the best ways to make the journeys on which they are embarking. Until I first noticed her I was content to sit here and see others travel. Now I have a yearning to make my own journey, a journey that includes the woman in the window. I spend spare moments imagining myself with her on a journey of exploration of each other and the world.  Empty musings: she would never agree to go anywhere with me.

**************************

Daily I turn on my laptop to start my work. Many times as windows loads my mind wanders to him again and to the fantasies of our meeting and beginning a life together. My laptop is a window to a world of dreams. I settle in to write, or at least to attempt to write.  He often interrupts my thoughts and many times I have wanted to write him into my life as I write characters into my stories. If only he would one day stop and ring my doorbell, or at least notice me up here waiting.

*******************

Walking home I have the strongest urge to climb those few steps and ring her doorbell. It is a temptation almost too strong. My footsteps halt for just a second as I half-consider the proposal in my head, but I  carry on after a glance up at the now empty but lit window. My window of opportunity has passed. My nerve never broke the chains. I couldn’t stand the rejection. It really could be the end of the line for me.

*******************

I imagine myself engineering a meeting with my mystery man as I stare out the window to the rear garden. Supper is on the stove and the smell of baking is filling the kitchen. How much would I love to bake for him, or have him cook for me? I glance down at the envelope on the table that the courier brought round this afternoon. Tomorrow I have to catch the train to London. My editor booked the tickets online and had them sent to me. I made sure she booked an early train so that I can leave the house at the time he usually passes by. Who knows perhaps tomorrow our paths will cross.

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Meeting …

I think he just smiled at me. Can I look again? Yes. Yes he smiled at me. No, no… wait, is there someone behind me he’s smiling at? I casually pretend to look all around, and especially over my shoulder.  There’s no one behind me. He must have been smiling at me.

As I turn back he starts to get up and flashing me that smile again points at the seat beside me with a ‘can I?’ look on his face. I shrug and nod. He picks up his glass and moves towards me.

Arriving at my table he carefully places his glass in front of the empty seat and holding out his hand says, “Juan Carlos.”

I grab his hand and shake it telling him my name at the same time.  His brown eyes don’t leave mine as he repeats my name back. These are the eyes of a lover, of a gentle bear of a man.

“I can?” he says pointing at the vacant chair.

“Of course … yes, … please,” I tell him thinking ‘Oh my god yes, you bet you can.’ My mind is in turmoil as I watch his muscular frame drop into the chair beside me. All the time his eyes are on me. I’d noticed him when he came into the bar, along with most of the other old queens. Dressed casually in jeans and a plain shirt he drew some stares. Of course I casually glanced, no staring from me, oh no, not I.  We were both getting a few looks now, looks of lust for him, darts of envy for me.

“I see you here many times.” he tells me in his accented English.

“Really?” I ask adjusting myself as casually as possible. He’s having quite an effect on me.

“Yes, many. But I know you don’t see me.” He picks up his drink keeping his eyes locked with mine.

“I must be blind. I don’t know how I could ever have missed you. Are you here a lot?” I ask embarrassed that he’d noticed me and I hadn’t noticed him before.

He laughs as he sets his glass down and licks an errant drop of  beer from his moustache. Did I mention he had the most amazing moustache and beard. Sitting there I also notice some ink under his shirt and not just a little hair.  “I am always here. I working here.” he interrupts my thoughts of his beard, tattoos, tongue and ….

“You’re a waiter?” I ask even more embarrassed I hadn’t noticed him. I usually notice the cute ones, and at least pay attention to the others.

“No I work in kitchen. I see you through the window.”  He points at the hatch.

It was my turn to laugh now. “That’s why I haven’t seen you.”

He joins in my laughter and caresses my knee, leaving his hand there. “Always solo. I watch you every time. You’re not like those,” he nods his head in the direction of some of the faces that were turned our way. Realising he’s not of interest to them they immediately feign indifference.

I smile and gently touch his hand. He grabs my fingers as they touch his, electricity sparks to all points.  His eyes light up as I imagine mine must have just done. The connection is nothing short of incredible.

“You’re hot.” he says.

I’m not sure if it’s a question or a statement. “No I’m okay.” I say for the sake of modesty hoping my interpretation is wrong.

He laughs again, a deep throaty sound. “No, you’re hot.”

I clear my throat slightly embarrassed. “Thanks, but I am so not in your league.”

“League? I don’t understand you. You are liking football?” He still holds onto my hand.

“Sorry. No I meant that you are much hotter than me. I don’t think I am hot at all.”  more smiles, this time abashed.

“This is why you are hot. ” He squeezes my hand. “I buy you a drink.” He nods at my empty glass and waves to a waiter who rushes over to take his order.

02 beard

 

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Just Desserts

This last week at the writing group we were asked to think of someone we saw daily but really knew nothing about.  I chose a waiter who serves me regularly (only coffee though). They were to be our main protagonist in a fictional story from a choice of genres. I chose ‘crime’. We then had to chose five words from Annette’s mass of flash cards. My five words were: aluminium, judge, sodomite, quarry, chloroform……. just as well I had settled on crime…

this was my story…..

===============================
+++++++++++++++++++++

All summer I saw him every day without fail, the waiter at one of my favourite cafes in town. I guessed he must be the owner or simply never got a day off. He was always there with a ready smile and the cutest blue eyes that twinkled with a suggestion of a promise much spicier than any of the food he served.  He was forever dressed in black sweatpants that swayed temptingly as he served; and a black t shirt that hugged his body drawing more than the occasional glance, and not just from me.

Then one day he was gone and there was a waitress serving my coffee and croissant. She had neither the twinkle or the full sweat pants to compete.  I thought that perhaps he had finally got a day’s holiday and thought nothing more of it. The next day he was still absent from my morning’s break.

By day three there was still no sign of him so I decided to ask the waitress, who now seemed to be his permanent replacement, where he was.

“Haven’t you heard?” she asked in a conspiratorial whisper.

“Heard?” I repeated her final word.

“Yes. He’s gone.” She replied adding more mystery than I thought was strictly necessary.

I simply raised my eyebrows in silent reply. She needed no more encouragement to go on.

“He wasn’t all he appeared, you know,” she began. “He was living a double life: By day a  charming waiter, by night a disgusting sodomite.”

“Are you saying he was gay?” I asked her. It seems my gaydar must have faltered.

“Yep, queer to the bone. You’d never have guessed though, right? He looked so normal.” She was getting into her story now.

“As normal as you or I,” I replied, annoyed at her obvious bigotry.

She ignored the inference. “Right, but they never get away with it, you know?”

“Get away with it?” My hackles were rising.

“Hang on, I’m getting that look from the manager,” she told me nodding at the woman behind the bar; someone I’d never noticed before, though I can’t imagine why.  “I’ll be back in a minute.” She said and waltzed off to serve another table but returned within minutes dropping the local paper in front of me. “Page five,” she said winking and heading off again.

I turned to page five and there was a stark photo of the waiter, who I now could see was called Ruben accompanied by the headline: “Smalldole Quarry Murder – Judge Implicated.”

My mouth must have fallen open as my heart sank. I read the story. It seems Ruben had been picked up in a notorious local cruising spot and allegedly drugged with chloroform while he was performing a lewd act. Don’t you just love journo-speak for a blow job.  The recipient of said BJ was a prominent judge, allegedly of course, who also allegedly had dragged Ruben’s lifeless form back to his car and to his home to take all manner of advantages before finishing him off with an aluminium pole.

The judge had, allegedly, been caught red-handed dumping Ruben’s body in the quarry mentioned in the headline.

It was apparent from the final lines of the story that said judge had previously got away with similar crimes and had been under suspicion for some time. He had been under police surveillance, which purportedly had watched his every move but had not been quick enough to intervene to save poor Ruben.

As I dropped the paper back on the table the waitress reappeared. “Just desserts, right?” she said half smiling.

I could hold back no longer and told her just what a bigoted harpy I thought she was. I dropped enough coins on the table to pay exactly for the coffee and headed for the door.  The rest of the café had come to a standstill as the waitress stood there aghast at my outburst. Slowly one of the other customers started clapping, to be joined by the others one by one. I was getting around of applause.

“Marie, I think you’d better get your coat.” The manager leaned over the bar and called to the waitress.

I stood in the doorway watching as she grabbed her coat from the hook, had a short and meaningful exchange with the owner before heading my way and towards the door.

I stood aside to let her out. “Just desserts,” I commented to her as she pulled the door open.

 

 

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A Memory

A couple of days ago I had a lovely message from a very dear friend. She said she was thinking about Tony and me. She’d been remembering a time she was in El Taco for Easter and the madness in the bar next door. She was worried that by recounting this memory she might upset me.  Not at all. Those memories are always in my head anyway, tears are always a moment away and hearing someone else’s memories can’t really make things any more difficult. She ended by saying she missed him too.  Yes, she made me cry, but it was a holiday, it was a weekend… both are impossible to get through without tears these days.  This Easter has been no easier.

It was, in fact, refreshing to hear someone say they were thinking about us both, and especially warming to hear her saying they missed him too. I can’t remember anyone else sharing that with me before (and I’m sorry if you have and I’ve forgotten). So dear friend if you are reading this I thank you, you’ll know who you are.

Tony is still a massive part of my life, and always will be, yet most (almost all) are afraid(?) to say his name. I can only imagine their reasoning which doesn’t help with my overactive imagination. Some ‘friends’ have broken off contact completely while others rarely get in touch any more.  I know my state of mind isn’t easy to handle/witness at times but I really thought some of those people once closest to me would be here should I need them. It seems not. The desolation and isolation are all too often overwhelming, and not hearing from people who profess to care simply makes things worse.

The following day I found and reposted an article on Facebook about grief and the griever. I agreed with a lot of the comments, although some were still wide of the mark for me. Grief is different for us all, and different each time we suffer a loss.  For anyone finding my grief difficult to handle take a look at the article on FB; it might help. And please know that no matter how difficult it is for you it is nowhere near how life destroyingly difficult it is for me.

Sadly I know I am probably preaching to the choir again as those I would like to read and absorb this never will. And if it all sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself you bet I fucking am. I do not apologise for that for I am hurting immensely.

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Tested

Sitting in the car I was aware that my belt was a bit tight because I’d put my back support belt on under my jeans. The night’s events had jarred my back and I was in a bit of pain. Even I can’t put weight back on that quickly. I pulled at the buckle and shock horror it came apart in my hands. “For fuck’s sake,” I muttered. I pulled my belt through the loops and threw it into the footwell on the passenger’s side. Turning the key I felt sure the engine wouldn’t turn over. It felt like that kind of day. It started fine and having set Maud to vocal (That’s what I call the google maps app) I pulled away.

The journey was uneventful thank goodness, although as the sun rose I realised I’d left my  sunglasses on the desk at home. At least I hadn’t left my reading glasses there. That would have been the end.

Having already been to the same place for the oral two days before I knew where I was going and found a parking space really quickly too. I stopped for a coffee and croissant to revive me a bit before arriving at the examining centre.

Once again everything was very well organised. Answer papers on the desks ready along with the requisite HB pencil.  Looking around the room it was clear I was one of just 4 or 5 ‘Europeans’ taking the exams. The amount of Arabic being spoken was another clue as to where most people were originally from. There were people of all ages, and for a change I don’t think I was the eldest.

The first exam was reading. At exactly nine o’clock the question papers were handed out and we began.  I found the questions easy and finished well before the allotted time. That gave me time to have a further look around and take in the limited eye candy there was too. It was clear that some found the test harder. An older gentleman near me was sitting with his friend. His friend had his answer paper angled so the older guy could copy.  They did this throughout the exams, but I’m guessing the writing would have been the paper that sorted it out.

The listening exam followed immediately after the reading. Again I found it easy. If I didn’t get 100% in each of those parts I will be surprised. The third part, the writing, was after a fifteen-minute break during which I called June to find out my little man was very perky. What a relief that was. The writing paper was the worst for me. Gender and accents are my failing. But again I feel I will have passed it.

I now have to wait up to two months for the results. In the meantime I am continuing with collecting the documentation necessary for my citizenship bid. Watch this space for more as it happens…

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