THE GIRL FROM BADDERSLY

By Michael Skywood Clifford November ©2004

Paul was struggling to write his epic love poem. It had peaks of sex, giggles and sugar but, like his relationship with Joanna, it was going nowhere. He was relieved to put it aside when the doorbell went.

“I saw your car outside. I’d thought I’d call in,” said William in his soft tones, slightly raising his spectacles.

“I’m not teaching today,” said Paul.

I wish I could get away with working only three days a week,” said William. As he came in, a black cat writhed past his legs into the house.

“Harry!” said Paul with emotion. “Thank the Mother Mary you’re safe!” He lifted the cat to his face. He could feel the damp of the early morning dew on its fur. The cat purred.

Ah! Your cat flap,” remembered William. “I’ll get to round to putting that in this weekend,” said William.

When’s your next gig?” asked William minutes later, sitting down at the kitchen table and blowing on his mug of hot tea.

“On Friday. At the Bluebell. Joanna won’t be coming, we’ve split up. I think.”

Oh, I’m sorry,” said William.

* * *

On Friday, at the Bluebell, Paul had finished his first set, so with drink in hand, he joined William, whom he noticed earlier had come in with a very attractive woman.

“Your solos are really taking off these days,” congratulated William, beaming. Paul grinned and then looked at his escort.

“Oh, this is Elaine,” said William, putting down his glass of beer and fiddling with his spectacles, “she lives round the corner from me.”

Elaine was striking. How on earth did William managed to hook this one. William was no looker, in fact he was a bit of a fumbler in most departments.

“Hi,” said Paul, giving her a smile.

“I really enjoyed your playing, it was really good,” said Elaine, looking directly into his eyes. He couldn’t help noticing her flawless eggshell-blue eyes – not the slightest blemish. “William tells me that you’re a photographer too,” she added.

He referred to her first comment. “Thanks,” he said, sitting down. “Yeah the band’s good. I’m not too happy about that new clip – on mic I’ve got for the sax.”

“No, really Paul, your alto sounded great,” said William emphatically.

“So you live in Baddersly near William, do you?”  Paul asked Elaine.

“Oh we know some mutual friends.”

She had black hair – blacker than Harry’s fur. It was tied up in a prissy birthday girl kind of way. She had the beauty of an aristocratic senorita, but equally striking was her posture – as if she was a exponent of the Alexander technique. Every move was perfection. He discovered later she was big in amdram.

After the late night encores, as he was packing up, Elaine asked Paul if he would like to go over and see her on Sunday afternoon for a bite to eat and a drink.

“What about William?” he asked.

“I think William is busy,” she said, smiling.

He agreed more out of politeness, than anything else. Afterwards, he decided he wouldn’t bother.

* * *

William called on Saturday lunch time as promised. He spent just under two hours putting the cat flap in the kitchen door. Paul stayed at his computer trying to push his reluctant poem uphill.

He was pleased to put it aside when William finished and joined him. They inevitably got around to talking about Elaine. “She used to live with Wain, the guitarist in AZX, that rock band that used to play down at the Bull and Bear,” said William.

“I think she’s very beautiful, but I don’t know whether I can handle it at the moment. I’ve just split up with Joanna and I can’t get her out of my head,” said Paul. He moved over to look out of the bay window and said, “I’m going to Jeff’s garden party this afternoon, are you coming?”

I’ll try and get there.”

I bet Joanna will be there,” sighed Paul.

“You must go and see Elaine, it would lift your spirits,” said William emphatically. “And she’s not been with anyone for a while. Her last relationship ended a long time ago.”

“Why don’t you take a crack at her?”

“Out of my league, old man. She keeps me at a firm distance.”

Paul changed the subject again.

I’m thinking of getting rid of my old Austin and getting another cheap car. Can you ask around to see if anyone’s got anything for sale?”

Those old cars can be worth a lot of money if they’re done up.”

I just want one with brakes that work.”

* * *

Paul’s feeling that the garden party at Jeff’s was going to be a disaster wasn’t far from the truth.

Jeff’s lawn hosted bushes, lawns and washing lines, but no flowers could be seen anywhere. This afternoon it boasted a sea of faces, most of them having been familiar to Paul at one time or another, the in-crowd from the local town scene. He spotted Joanna immediately. She was sitting on the grass talking to her older sister. No doubt, thought Paul, she had been brought as guard bee and protector. Joanna’s two young daughters, Emma and Michelle, were also with her. Paul made the effort and sat them on the grass for a while, the ever present aroma of Jo’s ‘Obsession’ invading his nostrils. The conversation, however was – like the tinned lager he had picked up from the kitchen – strained. Joanna addressed most of her passing remarks to her sister. The only time she looked at him was when she was complaining about the amount of swearing she could hear around her in the garden. “I don’t like this sort of thing when there’s children around,” she said as if he had planned it.

Frozen out on this sunny afternoon, he went off to play at the bottom of the inexorable garden. A make-shift net had been strung around two trees for the purpose of entertaining guests with bats and a shuttlecock.

William arrived an hour later. He looked for Paul and was told he had gone inside. William went through a small lounge where two  women cackled on a settee, playing a game of dissing other guests. He found Paul in the front room, standing by the window, a glass of red wine his only company.

She’s been chatting up a toy boy in the garden for the past hour,” seethed Paul.

William had noticed when he arrived. “He’s the chap exposing his tan and biceps. Hardly her type, Paul.”

Get me another,” said Paul holding out his glass.

When William had gone out of the room to fetch him another drink, Paul became consumed by impulse. He strode off by a side door into the garden. He was going to have it out with Jo.

But not so. It was too late. She was gone. So had her sister, her daughters and the toy boy.

She’s got a lift with Andre,” said one of the settee harpies giggling. He wasn’t sure if the giggles were due to spritzer or shadendfreude.

He went back inside to find William. William proffered him the  drink in his left hand and his mobile telephone in the right.

It’s Elaine,” he said, “She’s just rang me. Have a word with her. She wants to know what time you are going over tomorrow.”

Paul grabbed the phone and began chatting.

   * * *

On the Saturday, he might have been eager to visit Elaine, but on the Sunday, he was not. They had swapped landline phone numbers on yesterday’s phone call, and when he woke his first thought was to call off.

Instead, he showered, washed his hair, put on fresh jeans and a tee shirt; he did these things in a resigned way, in the manner of a man going to the gallows. He planned to have a pint before he arrived at her house, to assuage his hangover and boost his flagging courage.

But only a few streets away, the rocking motion of the Austin exacerbated so much that it forced him to stop and get out. A flat tyre.

That’s done it.”

He drove the car onto the forecourt of a nearby factory and jacked up the car and began to replace the tyre. For the best part of an hour he cursed at misplaced spanners, sweated into his pristine clothes and blackened his palms with swarf. When it was done he drove back to his house and cleaned himself up again. So much for his trip.

He was putting another pair of trousers on when his phone went.

Hello.”

Where are you? When are you going to arrive?” It was Elaine.

I had a problem. I’m setting off now. See you in a bit.”

  * * *

Driving to North Warwickshire lifted his mood a little. The countryside around the Baddersly area was like entering an alien world, an ancient world. Even the Village streets rolled with the hills and the ever disappearing horizons, which gave them a haphazard quality. The place names seemed to take him to a dream place in the past.

Elaine’s terrace was set back with its garden off the arterial road that cut through the large village. He knocked on the door and waited mere micro seconds before she opened it. She was beaming and effusive, and eager to show how very pleased she was to see him. He apologised for being late.

  He was having to be ‘in the play’, not watching it as he usually did, and her enthusiasm and excitement overwhelmed him a little. His forehead furrowed at the amount of flesh she had on display. She was wearing very little – a skimpy bikini. Still, it was a hot sunny day.

  They chatted in the kitchen as she made him a drink, and then she led him out into her small back garden. She placed him in a garden chair and then lay before him on a camp bed like she was some feast he could gorge on. Most of the time he talked to her he averted his gaze and looked away into the garden finding her forwardness a bit gross, too eager.

 She was telling him about the things she’d done and been. “I have a fantastic mega horoscope, I can do anything!” she was saying. “I’ve been a nurse, a mayoress, a reflexologist; I used to walk a tightrope.  I could do anything I wanted,” she repeated.

After a while he began to tell her about his photography school background and about his published photographs. He went on to explain that after his divorce his interests had changed and now he was more interested in writing serious poetry than taking photographs.

It appeared she lived with her young son, Zak, and there was some problem there but Paul didn’t fish.

She was fiery, excitable. “Sometimes I go out, go nightclubbing and go the whole hog. I don’t drink alcohol very much, but I love to dance.”

He was trying to calm her rapid and zealous disclosures down a bit, allow a bit of space between them, emotion, mystery. He deliberately threw water over her fiery output by telling her that he was presently going through hell because the woman he loved had just split up with him. He knew the involvement of another woman would make her more pensive, and he was right. She stopped talking and listened more attentively.

“I have never been hurt,” she said, looking hurt. “I have never had any help from anyone. No one can look at me in the eyes and lie. I always tell the truth. I never get angry – ever.”

“Never?”

“Sometimes I feel fire but I never get angry. I give all the time. I love everybody.”

Paul had been right in calling her a senorita as she claimed she was of Spanish and Irish descent. She looks Spanish but she talks Irish, he thought.

As he drove away from Baddersly that evening, Elaine’s presence in his head faded and Joanna’s face came back like a virus, forcing itself into the vacuum.

            ***

However, he did go back to see Elaine the following Sunday.

Dressed like a hippy with torn jeans, she looked attractive, sexy. She would take him on a walk around Hartshill Hayes Country Park.

Her son was being looked after by her mother, and she would pick him up early evening.

She said. “My mother offended me but I forgave her.” She didn’t explain and he didn’t pursue it.

***

When did you split with Zak’s father?” he asked as they walked round the boundary path of the wood.

“When? You’re always concerned about time and place, you are. You and your logical mind,” she scoffed.

He was continually trying to find some emotion he shared with her so there could be some sort of bonding. So far he had failed miserably. He tried her past.

“What sort of things did you do when you were six?” he asked.

“When I was six I used to get fed up with things. I had this gingham blanket and I used to sit under the table and put it over my head and hide away.”

Elaine stopped suddenly and, walking behind her, he bumped into her. She pointed at the ground. “This is my special place,” she said. She pointed to five oak tress that made an untidy circle. She asked him to sit down in the middle of the circle on the green moss. She then sat down beside him.

“This is where the ground is spongy. It’s a good place to enter the underworld.”

He was going to say something but then stopped, then he said, “What happens if you get trapped in there?”

“We’re never trapped,” she began.

Suddenly she looked around and began squealing. “Hide! People!” She leapt to her feet.

Paul followed her quickly along the wood-edge path.

“I want to take you to the water,” she said conspiratorially. Paul thought this was very much like actually being six and playing in the woods, but he was enjoying it. Cowboys and Indians and Big Chief Eye Spy.

“I didn’t see any people,” he said.

“It’s not just people,” she said, “There are things in the countryside that you must learn to see. You must learn to feel, to be one with nature. Everything is full of electricity.”

She suddenly stopped and turned round to him. “I walked this way last week and smelled death. I found a dead chicken further on.” She mentioned death again on the way back. “This is an evil house and at the back is a barn which smells of death. I discovered it’s an old burial ground and nobody will buy it. Further on is my little church.”

“Really?” said Paul, and they walked back to her house.

            ***

On their next meeting he took her to a diver’s club. They drank lager at a gate-legged table in the sunshine, a reservoir beneath them, visible through the gaps in the wooden planks.

She talked about Zak. His father had left two years ago, and she was left her to take full responsibility of her son. Zak had adenoid problems. Paul felt sorry for her.

“I want to go with the water. It pulls me. I want to be at the bottom of the lake.” she was now saying. “In a previous life I drowned at the bottom of a lake. I remember. When I see the sea I want to go with it, I want it to take me away.”

Later, he talked a lot about the poems he had completed and the poems he was currently writing. She said she wanted to see his photography, and that he ought to do a portrait of her.

Then she said, “I’m not free to write. I have to fulfil my quest, and then I will be free and have the energy to write. I am a playwright.”

Then she suddenly turned and kissed him; it was aggressive, hungry. Afterwards, he resisted the inclination to wipe his mouth with his hand.

“I need a Paul, a man who had a revelation,” she said. “I’m a very sensual person. I’m not emotional. I’m not passionate. I’m fiery and very sensual. On the luxuriant world. You couldn’t take it. It would be too much for you. You need someone to look after you but you won’t let me. I can help you, Paul, but you won’t let me.”

  * * *

The following Sunday he brought her over to see his house in Barton. The Edwardian semi-detached was situated in the heart of upper class suburbia, and boasted many large rooms.

“What a lovely house. But it’s empty, there’s nothing in it.”

I’m a bit of a minimalist,” he said.

“No, you shouldn’t fill it but you should fill it,” she said paradoxically. He hadn’t a clue what she meant.

Harry came up to nose her, and she greeted him tenderly. “He is well loved,” she said.

“He’s great,” said Paul.

“I see with my hands,” she said.

He spent half an hour showing many of his exhibition photographs, both published and unpublished. At the end of her private viewing she demeaned, “Is that all your work? Where’s the rest of it? You’ve not done it. Tell me why?”

“But all that’s old stuff. I’ve spent the last ten years writing poetry. I’ve become more interested in language than images,” he said.

“You’ve wasted time. You make me feel very sad. When I met you I knew you were deprived of beauty. Real beauty. Now you need to do some work. I’m not interested in descriptive things. You’re not a poet, you’re a photographer,” she insisted.

“Well I’ve published some of my poems.”

“Being published is not important. You should get down to your real work. You’re stupid you are.”

Paul drove Elaine back over to Baddersly.

Back at her house he had intended to drop her off and go for a pint of beer, but she wanted him to come in to see something. In the kitchen she offered him hand-picked strawberries and fresh yoghurt but he declined.

She invited him upstairs into a small side bedroom. She pointed out the dried flowers on the window sill. “I would never have real flowers in the house,” she commented, “they remind me of death.”

It was a disorganised storage room, full or rubbish and  many boxes and folders. She opened one of them and showed him what amounted to eulogies to Elaine, testimonials of her: of the love, appreciation and gratitude she had received from people she knew, or had known, birthday cards, letters, and even press cuttings.

She then took him into her main bedroom. Standing in front of her dressing table, she enthused about some large semi-transparent crystals which were placed on it. She picked them up and held them out, allowing him to study them. She said nothing. They stood there looking at them, not speaking. A wave of apprehension flickered across his face.

He suddenly turned and headed for the stairs, saying he had to get back to see Jeff, a member of the band. She shouted to him, as he began to descend the stairs, to make himself a drink and she would be down shortly. He did as bid.

A few minutes later, he was sitting on the settee downstairs, drinking coffee, and leafing though one of her strange Egyptian books, occasionally checking his watch, when she appeared in the doorway. He was taken by complete surprise. She had changed into  a glittering costume, a ballet dancer in green and silver, the cut of the costume revealed her amazing body. She was very beautiful, this Irish Senorita. She came and sat on the left hump of the settee, and brought her metallic green shoes up on the cushions, facing him. “I’ve got something very important to tell you,” she said.

“Yes.” He wasn’t sure where this was going.

“It’s very important that you understand this,” she said.

“Um,” he said positively.

“I’m… the last of fairies,” she said.

“Oh.”

The Silence lasted for about twenty seconds.

“Is that difficult for you?” he said after a few moments.

“It’s sad in a way,” she said looking at her pointed shoes. “Power comes in many forms. You see, power is understanding. It is wisdom not knowledge. Having power is enablement to act and with some degree of control. My real name is Elijah. I am going to do something that will change the world, and also change the entire universe, from the underworld to the top.”

He made some appropriate noises, tried to look as interested as he could, and then made his gambit for escape. “I really do need to get back to see Jeff and I’m a bit late,” he said after a while. “Let’s meet up next week, I’ll phone you.”

In his old Austin A50, he trundled as fast his engine would take him back to Barton and went straight in his local pub. He drank two pints in great hurry. To the barman he explained his thirst. “I need another,” he said, “I’ve just met a fairy.”

    * * *

 Paul had two women on his mind. One had stolen his heart, the other was shredding his brain.

The world had been spinning around him of late, but the time had stood still. When he sat, transfixed in his chair, he got so involved in the cogitations of the mind that hours passed by unnoticed. Harry landed on his lap many times, which forced him, at last, to get up to feed the cat. Over the weekend he had received a phone call asking him to extend his temporary contract, teaching history, for a couple of extra days a week and he needed to do a lot of preparation, but every time he tried to focus on it his mind fled back to his intangible obsessions. At times he felt as if he was dancing with madness.

One day at school, during a rare free period, he tried to note down all the pearls of wisdom that Elaine had poured on him. He knew she was probably right; he wasn’t a serious poet, and his photography was of no value whatsoever. And where was his real work? Perhaps he should read the poetry on the wall and go out and earn some real money in a job that held no interest to him, like most folk.

His epic love tale went in the bin. He couldn’t find any motivating questions to inspire its recovery; he had neither the concentration nor the belief.

Joanna had made him feel a failure as a man and Elaine as an artist. And to corroborate this negative attack on his confidence, he had received letters that morning from literary publications, rejecting two poems. Perhaps everybody else could see what he couldn’t.

He spent the Monday night in a pub, drowning his sorrows, but by Tuesday morning he had resolved nothing, and he had a blinding hangover to boot. At some moment he remembered there had been an arrangement made to see Elaine at the weekend – he couldn’t remember when it had been organised – and he was bringing her over to Barton as his escort for Jimmy’s party. Oh well, let the show go on.

On Tuesday morning he got a load of bills through the mail, which he tried to pay by credit card over the phone but there was some technical problem. He got to school late (fortunately it wasn’t far away) and had a sequence of difficult classes, which, being low on energy and confidence, he was ill-equipped to deal with. At school, he wandered around in a confused state of Surrealism, wondering who he was, where he was and how he had got there.

After school he went into town to do some shopping and to visit the bank before it closed. He came back in to his house to be greeted by Harry, weaving between his legs. He sat by the kitchen table drinking a cup of tea, the cat banging his head into his chin. “Oh, alright, Harry.” He got up and as he opened a tin, the cat leaped across from the table and on to his shoulder.  Paul laughed – the first time for days. “You ought to be in a circus,” he said as the cat gorged on his bowl of tinned meat.

Why do I feel so bad? He asked himself as he watched the cat. Why am I so hopeless when I’m without a woman, and yet so half-baked when I’m with one? This has got to stop.

At that moment a pop tune came on the kitchen radio, ‘Baby Love’, by the Supremes. Despite knowing the lyrics well, he listened intently to them again. “It’s all about romance,” he said out aloud, as the cat scurried across the lino and banged out of the new cat flap.

  * * *

Two days later, Paul was upstairs in his loft searching for old teaching visual aids when suddenly his cat arrived beside him.

How on earth did you get up the step ladder?”

Paul was just about to pick up the cat to carry him down when Harry knocked over a pile of books beside him. Out of curiosity he picked up the nearest book and blew off the dust. It was a Catholic catechism. “Blimey, a relic from my childhood.”

Both safely downstairs he leafed through some of the pages.

What are the six sins against the Holy Spirit? Presumption. Despair. Resisting the known truth. Envy of another’s spiritual good. Obstinacy in sin.  Final impenitence.

What are the twelve truths of the Holy Spirit? Charity. Joy. Peace. Patience. Benignity. Goodness. Longanimity. Mildness. Faith. Modesty. Continency. Chastity.

He looked thoughtfully at his cat, “Serious stuff, this,” he said.

The cat opened his mouth as if to meow but nothing came out.

  * * *

  Elaine went upstairs to her bedroom. “Why won’t Paul love me?” she half sighed.  She sat in front of the mirror and applied the lightest touches of make-up. After she had finished applying more eye-liner she stared at herself expressionlessly and then slowly broke out into a big grin. “Ice and fire,” she purred to herself.

With grace of movement, she descended the stairs and curled up on the settee. She picked up her current book, written by her favourite authoress, Dion Fortune, and read avidly while she waited for Paul to arrive.

***

Paul collected Elaine from Baddersly on the Saturday and he took her along the A5 towards Market Bosworth where Jimmy Bird’s garden party was happening.

Jimmy is an art teacher,” explained Paul as they were driving over. “He has friends from all over the place.”

Elaine was silent most of the journey and then she said, “You’re wary of me.”

What are you on about?”

Paul likes to think he’s dominant.”

Dominant?”

I make you nervous. You’re in love with love.”

You seem to know me better than I know myself,” he commented but she didn’t read the sarcasm.

You are not unconventional enough.”

I think you mean I’m not conventional enough.”

You make me feel very sad.”

***

Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, was blasting out into road when Paul and Elaine arrived. The party had been in full swing since the pubs opened at lunch time, and many people were entering, leaving or just ‘being’ in Jimmy’s house.

Once in the back lounge, Paul introduced Elaine to Jimmy. He was with Tina, his girlfriend.

I like you hair like that, Tina,” remarked Paul, “It really looks great on you short.”

“Why won’t he say things like that to me?” interjected Elaine, her eyes squinting. Tina looked down at her feet, obviously not quite sure what to say; Elaine had long hair.

The newly arrived couple wandered into the garden, which was amass with bodies reclining on garden furniture, coming together in small gatherings and feasting on black offerings from the barbecue. Quite a few children were running about. The sky was as blue as ever, this summer just went on and on.

Over the next hour, Paul and Elaine moved about the party independently of each other. He occasionally noticed her joining small groups of guests as he was leaving others. He also began to notice that Elaine was behaving as a completely different personality.

He watched her in the front room, joking with a load of guys, and visibly flirting with a tall sporty guy called Andy. She was being the life-and-soul, and putting on vibrant laughter and an appreciation show. Paul once again thought she was tasteless – as he had when she dressed in a bikini on their first real meeting. He regarded what he saw here as a sort of factory girl routine.

Joanna was never like that: she would be friendly but reserved, observant and beautiful. He left Elaine to it and went into the garden and joined a group of the guests. Someone said they had a car for sale and Paul’s ears pricked up. He never saw Elaine again that afternoon.

In a somewhat inebriated state, Jimmy came outside about an hour later and said to Paul that he was sorry, but he thought that his girl had gone off in a car with a load of other guests.

“I bet Andy was one of them wasn’t he?” said Paul.

“Yeah, ‘fraid so.”

“Oh, I see,” he said.

  * * *

Elaine phoned him on Sunday late morning. She apologised for leaving the party early but Andy had offered to drop her home as he was heading out to Tamworth and she couldn’t find Paul when she came to leave. “Come over this evening, I’ll make it up to you,” she said. He asked her how she got on with Andy and his chums. “Ha! I know what Andy’s like, but he’s a laugh,” she said. Paul didn’t like the implication of what that said about him.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ve bought a new car, I’m going to sell the Austin. Vintage cars are cute but they don’t fill me with confidence.”

“Okay. I’ll see you at seven,” she said, in a cooing voice.

She came out to see him as he pulled up. He proudly showed her his shiny black Ford Escort. It had cost him peanuts because it was old, but it was in great condition because it had been maintained regularly by the military. She wanted to look inside. “Yes, I’ve felt the energy – you’ll be fine in this – no accidents at all.”

“Oh good,” said Paul, quite grateful for her comment. She had this authority of conviction which he always felt grateful for.

After a meal they sat on the sofa and she was in a very happy mood. “I’ll do your tarot,” she said.

But Paul declined. “No I’m not into that, let’s just drink the wine and chat,” he said.

“I’ve rejoined the Nuneaton Dramatic Society and we’re going to be doing a play at Christmas. I’m so excited.”

“That’s great,” he said, pleased for her. “My mother was a drama teacher.”

You don’t understand pantomime,” she responded.

He didn’t quite know how she’d come to that conclusion, but once again he let it go.

She began telling all about the part, and about the number of people in the play, and many other details. He was surprised to find that she had done a lot of Amateur dramatics in her time, although later he thought his perception about this rather naive. From her disorganised box room she retrieved a folder and showed him pages and pages of press clippings: she had been the belle of the ball, the leading the lady, the prima Donna.

Of course.

While they were talking he asked her to tickle his back, but she kept forgetting what she was doing.

Then after a few glasses of wine and another poor attempt at Paul getting his back scratched, they were canoodling, kissing, snogging, and then she hauled herself on top of him and began literally licking his face. For Paul it was like being attacked by a very large and hungry winner of Crufts. He felt powerless in the engagement – it was like being invaded by Napoleon. He couldn’t do this.

Not long after, he was speeding in his black car along the Roman Road. He couldn’t exactly remember how he had extricated himself. He put his foot down and heaved a big sigh.

  * * *

Two good things happened to Paul that Tuesday. For some reason, he had found some motivation and interest to revive his epic love poem, although he was far from completing it or still knowing entirely where it was going. He had thrown away the hard copy but fortunately he hadn’t deleted the original from the hard disc. And secondly, he received a letter from a small poetry magazine, based near Brighton, accepting three of his ‘nature’ poems. He was even paid for them – which was very rare. The money wasn’t much, but he was over the moon they had all been accepted..

William telephoned him and he asked for the latest news on Elaine. Paul explained what had been happening.

William sighed and confessed, “She’s had problems. They say that when she was raided in the 80s for drugs the sniffer dogs got high on LSD.”

“Well you could have told me she was a flake before you let me get involved.”

William laughed.

“Actually, I saw her today very briefly and she says she’s putting the house up for sale and moving down to Cornwall; somewhere near Tintagel because that’s where her real power lies.”

***

Later in bed Paul was trying to figure out why he had been so fascinated by this beautiful woman – which undoubtedly he had been – and to some extent still was.

Arty people in general, had supposed to be wild, reckless, passionate, impulsive, rebellious and selfish. Yet, despite being a saxophonist, a photographer and a poet, he realised he was boringly steady, cautious, prudent, and philosophical. He also had consideration for others in his plans, which was not in the wardrobe of the bohemian. These days he had lost his attitude, not that he ever had much of one; he wasn’t passionate, impulsive, or devil-may-care, and he didn’t live for the day. And he knew that was no loss, he had absolutely no desire to be childish anymore.

It had dawned on him that his fascination for Elaine was not born of love and romance at all. As a teacher he dealt with hundreds of individuals, and he had to assess very quickly their aptitudes, virtues and vices. His fascination for Elaine was not born of romance but of voyeurism; a fascination of psychopathology.

He kept returning because he had a sort of compulsion for her wildness, her imagination, her zaniness. She painted colour in his chiaroscuro world. She served up the hot sauce to his prosaic boiled rice. He liked her feistiness, her assuredness, her sense of absolute conviction of being right in this lip service world. He kept going back, like a soap opera fan, goes back to the next episode. It was an ideal combination. A form of displacement, a distraction taking him out of himself, yet also, a form of education.

He had not been Elaine’s leading man, but her audience. Despite her physical beauty, he had felt little inclination for physical contact with her, and had made minimal commitment to disclosure. Why? Because somehow he had known in the first few minutes of being in her house she would be impossible for him.

Romeo and Juliet? Romantic love is not greater than death, he scribbled onto a sheet of paper.

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