Monday, 22 September 2008
One of the blogs that I read is written by Marie, who has been writing a novel and her blog chronicles the ups and downs of the process. Like a lot of people, I have the feeling that I would like to write a book one day, but I doubt that I really will, especially after reading Marie's blog!
However, I then thought about trying my hand at a short story or two. I thought nothing of it for a while, but on Sunday morning I woke up with this little story bouncing around in my head. I am not giving up the day-job, but I was rather pleased with it.
It had been years since he had seen the old place. He had not been back since he left for university, so many years ago that it hurt to count them. He had always intended to return, but life had just been too busy, and it was not as though he had any real ties there anymore, not since his mum had died.
But even though life had taken him to all sorts of places, he had still wondered, from time to time, whether this little village had changed much, and what had happened to some of his old friends there – especially Sarah, his first lover. He smiled a smug half-smile at her memory.
So here he was. Twenty-odd years after leaving, he was back, driving his custom BMW along the narrow lanes that headed into the village where he had grown up. If business hadn’t called him to a meeting only a few miles away he might never have returned.
As he took the final bend into the village he felt that he was being transported back in time. Sure, the trees were bigger, some of the houses were even different colours and hey, the gardens of the Fuller’s house now held a row of three new houses. Predictably the Post Office was now just a normal house, though some of the writing on the side wall was still just about readable.
He thought of Sarah again and wondered if she was still here. She must have teenage children by now, just like he did.
“Maybe she is still waiting for me”, he mused to himself. After all, he had promised to return for her on his final night before leaving to go to uni.
Instinctively, he turned left, up the narrow lane that lead to Sarah’s old house. Brambles and small branches stretched out to reach him as he slowly navigated along the treacherously narrow and winding lane. He half expected to meet a tractor coming the other way at any moment, but he was lucky. Well, fairly lucky. He dreaded to think what had happened to the beautiful black sheen on his BMW.
Then the cottage came into site. It looked the same as it always had in his mind’s eye, with it’s thatched roof, rambling pink roses climbing up the walls and it’s neatly trimmed hedges. The road widened near the cottage, a natural passing point for vehicles, so he pulled over and parked his car. After a momentary pause to gather his thoughts, he left the car, casually locking it with his remote key, the sound seeming incongruous in this setting. Walking to the cast iron gate, he leaned on it and looked into the garden, just has he had done so many times, so many years ago. The sight that met his eyes made a cold hand grip his heart. There, in the garden, was a woman. She was kneeling down with her back to him, plucking small weeds from a flowerbed. He instantly knew it was Sarah. The guilt that he had suppressed for almost twenty-five years suddenly welled up and grabbed his throat, preventing him moving or talking. He just looked at her. She seemed to have kept her figure, such as it was, and her dark hair had a few strands of grey.
Suddenly, before he could do anything, she turned and looked over her shoulder at him.
“Well well, look who it is!”
She stood, turning to face him, smiling that warm, wonderful smile that had so beguiled him when he was younger. She looked older now, of course, and wore no make up, her skin having a wonderfully natural glow to it.
“Come on in, then, I won’t bite! Unless you want me to, of course!” She chuckled at her own joke, and this seemed to make him relax somewhat. Opening the gate, he entered the garden.
They sat together on wooden garden chairs, in the shade of a large oak tree.
He told her about university, his career, his wife who looked like Goldie Hawne, their one child, now at university himself. Life had been a mad helter-skelter ride of projects and deals that meant that, if his next project came to fruition as planned, he would be able to retire and live out the rest of his days playing in California.
There was a pause. The sun had moved on surprisingly since he had started talking and he felt a slight chill.
“What about you?” The guilt tried to return, but he pushed it back down.
“You didn’t come back. Not even when your mother died. I waited for you, you know? On that final night, I gave myself to you, heart and soul, you promised to return, but you didn’t. What happened?”
“Like I said, life just seemed to take over, my career has taken all of my time...”
“You couldn’t even find time for your mother’s funeral?”
“I had the deal of a lifetime going through at the time, and what difference would it make? She was dead, and when you are gone you are gone.”
“I used to think that too. And what of Goldie? Do you love her? Does she love you like I did?”
“Well, we have our moments, but after twenty years you can’t expect it to be like it was at first.”
He chuckled uncomfortably. Suddenly he realised that she was standing in front of him, looking down at him just has he remembered her looking at him on their last night together.
“It would have been if you had come back for me, you know.”
She bent down and kissed him, kissed him with a passion that he had never felt before. He was standing, clutching her, holding her, feeling her. They were on the grass, somehow half naked. He was on his back, still shocked by the force her passion, transported by a sheer physical ecstasy that he had never imagined. He had no idea how long it lasted, but he slowly became aware that she was no longer on him, so he lay for a few moments catching his breath, watching the sunlight shining through his closed eyelids.
“I should have come back for you, Sarah, I am so sorry.”
A gentle breeze rustled the leaves above him.
He sat up and looked around.
He found his trousers and struggled into them, still feeling dizzy from the lovemaking.
“Sarah? Where are you?”
A car was approaching along the lane, so he hurriedly finished dressing.
The car stopped out in the lane and he could hear the sounds of someone getting out and approaching the gate. The gate swung open and a man, once tall and strong but now old and bent, shuffled through. Recognition was immediate.
“Mr Coleman, how nice to see you again!” he said.
The old man looked at him, his face switching from confusion to surprise to anger.
“Bastard! How dare you come here like this?” Heading for the front door of the cottage with surprising speed, he shouted out.
“If you’re still here by the time I get back you’re a dead man.”
“Why?” He couldn’t have seen him and Sarah in the garden…
“As if you don’t know! You broke my Sarah’s heart! You never came back! Took us weeks to find her body out in the woods!”