Please welcome a very special guest writer to EdenDene Books, my talented 15 year old son Ryan Nash. Here is Chapter One of a spooky tale, just right for a cold winter’s night!
Chapter 1: Almost Certain Death
I remember it well, now there were two boys they came tearing around the corner in complete fear and terror. I didn’t really understand what exactly they were running from as it was in a dark, narrow, treelined passage. I heard heavy footsteps getting louder and louder from around the corner. I felt as if I was about to find out what the boys were running from.
Then a loud spine-chilling roar came from around the corner and everyone froze. The two boys slowly turned around. A tall dark silhouette stepped out of the shadows as a thick supernatural mist rose from the ground. The footsteps became increasingly louder and louder. I became frozen with fear as the shadow grew.
The two boys began to run and barged past me with brute force. But, I, I was still completely frozen. I wanted to run but it felt like there was a force that was holding me back. I physically and mentally couldn’t bring myself to do it. Suddenly silence descended, all I could hear was the beating of my heart like waves crashing on a rocky shore. Electricity crackled in the air as the suspense grew even more. I looked back up the shadow… was gone.
The mist began to clear up I couldn’t believe my eyes, in its place was a small kitten sitting there cleaning its paws. The small black cat looked up at me and it had deep blood red eyes. It winked at me and scurried away back around the corner.
I was so stunned by what had just happened and I knew there was much more to it all than just a small innocent creature because the shadow and the vicious roaring was so much more than a kitten could have caused. Just everything about the situation seemed off, why would two teenage boys run away in fear and terror from something so fragile and timid as a kitten? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I wanted to find out what that kitten really was I wanted to find out the truth about why those boys were so terrified. My curiosity had gotten the better of me once again as I decided to follow the kitten even knowing that it might be something so much more… supernatural… then a kitten. I began to walk forward going down the dark avenue for trees and around the corner. I couldn’t quite see what was further down the passage looked like an endless narrow path covered in overgrown vegetation and vines.
I had been walking for about twenty minutes when I saw a light at the end of the passage. It looked like an opening to another place, another universe. I felt a warm breeze coming for the opening at the end of the passage. As I got closer to the end of the passage, I could see the small kitten sitting, looking into the distance. I began to slowly edge myself toward the kitten, but I stepped on a stick which alerted the kitten that it had company. The kitten twitched its ear and slowly turned its head. When the kitten looked up at me, so my eyes met its and I felt like it was staring into my soul but instead of feeling immense fear like I did earlier I was flooded with a sense of calm and weightlessness.
The kitten tilted its head slightly and slowly looked away, but as I begun to walk towards it and close the distance between us the kitten got up and slowly walked away from me, yet again going around another corner breaking my line of sight with it. As I came to the very end of the passage what I saw was breath taking. It was indeed like an alternate universe before I was just speculating the thought, but it really was. The sky was red and the sun or what I think was the sun was deep ocean blue.
I looked in front of me and it looked like a forest of some sort the trees were black with red leaves. I looked over and the kitten was sitting by a tree looking up at the sky again. The kitten got up and walked behind the tree but, what came out of the other side of the tree was no kitten. A young man with black hair and deep blood red eyes stood in the place of where the kitten once was.
‘I knew it!’ I said to myself. I knew that the kitten was something more than a kitten I just didn’t expect the kitten to be a man. He stood tall looking back up at the sky, I walked over toward him intrigued as to who or what he was.
Phaedra was aware the sun was hanging low in the sky and would be setting shortly. She would need to make haste if she were to avoid the impending gloom once it disappeared into the horizon. Her mind had been full of thoughts of the talking Owl she had met in the Night Garden at dusk yesterday. She had been eager to share with Hepzibah, who smiling, had observed, ‘That garden is full of witch’s weeds, you need to realise that some of those herbs can be hallucinogenic, My Lovely.’
Once again, Phaedra was left confused by the paradoxes she was encountering in Wychwood. Either the veil between worlds really was very thin or else she was suffering serious delusions. As the overgrown dirt track meandered downhill, her eyes were firmly fixed upon her next step in an attempt to avoid stumbling on the loose pebbles. Nimbly side stepping one of the many offerings left by an equine traveller who had preceded her on the ramble, Phaedra looked up as a glint of light caught the corner of her eye. Stopping in her tracks, she became aware of a perfect circle of chestnut trees as she watched the sunlight dappling golden light on the rich green leaves. The branches slowly swayed to the music of a gentle breeze, leaves quivering and dancing to the soft low hum of the wind. Golden light twinkling and sparkling on the rich verdant leaves and the deep brown nuts that littered the floor, cracked open from their protective spiky casings.
Gently stepping over the fallen harvest, Phaedra answered their invitation and stepped within the circle of trees, noting by the girth of their trunks and the strength of the long outstretched branches, that these were indeed Grande Dames of the woodland. Their age and wisdom were apparent from their gnarled and knotted yet strong proud and beautiful trunks. Their outstretched limbs intertwining and interconnecting with each other, embracing each other in an intricate lattice work of wood which seemed to grow tighter and more close knit as Phaedra moved to the centre,
‘Ah, the circle is cast!’ she thought.
Within their protective conclave she became aware of a quiet communication, first between the whispers of the wind, and then between each sister tree. With a jolt, she realised that the trees were speaking not only to each other, but also to her, to Phaedra! They were imbuing her with a sense of themselves, of what it felt like to have roots that sank deep down into the verdant rich dark soil, their root systems mirroring the branches above, all interconnected and intertwined. Phaedra felt tingles in the soles of her feet and with a start realised that she had sunk ankle deep into the earth, but she did not feel any fear, just an awareness that her toes; the bones and nervous system and veins seemed to be growing and extending beyond the confines of her flesh.
She was growing roots!
Roots that meandered through the earth, touching, connecting, wrapping around those of the trees that surrounded her, and it felt good. Phaedra raised her arms up high in sheer joy, and once again the tingle, and her fingers seemed to elongate, the flesh, veins, bones, nervous systems stretching, stretching up to the tall branches, connecting, weaving, latticing into those of her sisters around her, for now Phaedra felt at one in the circle of the Horse Chestnut sisters.
Above her upturned face, the sun in a final swan song, burst through the density of the leaves, bathing Phaedra in a golden light. It felt so good to pull the light of the sun into her body. She felt it travel through her limbs and trunk, and then as the sun sank on the horizon she became aware that all was suddenly dark. From the blackness of this void a light appeared, whirling before her eyes, as its motion slowed to a standstill, there hanging in the nothingness was a perfect golden hexagon. And within the six points of the star, a silver tree was transposed, its branches perfectly fitting the three upper points of the star, and its root system stretched out in symmetry over the lower three points of the star. Then a blinding flash of light in the centre of her brain and the symbol seemed to be absorbed through her crown chakra with the words,
‘As Above, So Below.’
In that moment in time, Phaedra knew the cosmic synergy of heaven and Earth and the importance of the trees as fully sentient beings upon the Earth, working in Divine Service of Source.
Then nothingness, the void.
The loud chattering of the birds stirred her to her senses. Phaedra was surprised to see the Sun was rising, no doubt awoken from her slumber by the sweet call of the birdsong.
She was lying curled up on a carpet of springy moss and sweet smelling chamomile, under the protection of one of the huge Chestnut trees. Stirring to remember how she had come to be here, a whirl of thoughts flooded her mind and senses…feelings of being one with the trees, of having roots that stretched deep down into Gaia’s warmth and received sustenance and grounding; of having strong branches that stretched heavenwards. She felt the warmth of the sun bringing life giving energy down through her body, she recalled the feelings of pleasure of having beautiful leaves, and bearing flowers and fruit that in turn delighted and nourished. She was pleased by the shelter she gave to the birds of the air, the insects, and creatures of the forest. Of the pleasure of the wood nymphs coming to dance and play, and the heavenly delight of being of service to the Light of Source and beloved Mother Gaia by providing oxygen on the Planet.
As Phaedra stood and stretched, she noticed a young sapling delicately rising from the rich earth just by the strongest and oldest tree. From one of its tender young branches a glint caught Phaedra’s eye. Stretching out her hand, she felt a familiar tingle, and there in her palm was a perfect silver six-pointed star pendant, on which a tree was wrought in gold.
The young tree seemed to whisper on the wind…
‘My gift to you, Mother…’
Phaedra knew her child, laying still within her womb, would be born with the wisdom and strength of the trees.
It’s Friday afternoon and here I am curled up on my favourite couch, pushed up close to the red brick feature wall, it allows me a sweeping view of the rest of the dimly lit interior, it is the best seat in the house. Comfortable and discreet and perfect for me to enjoy my favourite past time, people watching. I’m enjoying the enticing aroma of freshly ground Arabica beans brewing, all the better to tempt the taste buds of of our patrons. I also see a fresh lemon drizzle cake has arrived on the counter, baked by the fair hand of Cassie. I’m sure there won’t be much of that left this evening!
I’m Henry and I run things around here at the “Black Cat Café ”. That’s Cassie over there, with the fluffy blonde hair and huge amber eyes, if she were a feline she’d be a playful Persian Kitten, but you do have to watch her, sometimes Kitty has claws! Cassie is a people person. Me? I’m far more reserved, cool, detached and maybe even a little introverted. As you have noticed I am an actual Cat, a rather lovely Burmese, with silky black fur and jade eyes that miss nothing. Maybe I am biased but just like our downtown coffee shop, I am rather unique and special.
Could be “The Black Cat Café” feels like home from home, a little haven nestled amongst all the bustling commerce, catering to that strange human need to hang out with other humans. It’s cosy and intimate with discreet seating, an eclectic mix of distressed brown leather sofas and sumptuous armchairs covered in velvet hues of deep purple and forest green. We have lots of plump Liberty print cushions scattered about for patrons to sink into and enjoy a leisurely break from the humdrum world outside. Low, mahogany tables with fresh Freesias in china vases and tiny tea lights in coloured glasses add to the sense of being in an intimate space. An ornate gilded mirror picks up all the twinkling fairy lights strewn around the walls. Cassie happily hosts local artists, displaying their vibrant work. The vibe is vintage, eclectic and super cosy. There are plenty of little nooks and crannies for those desiring a quite tete a tete, friends sharing intimacies, lovers sharing secrets. We cater for those wanting to see and be seen too. Sat outside at our cast iron Bistro sets, they are welcome to light up a cigarette, sip an espresso and watch the world go by European style. And all from our Waterfront pavement in our quaint little corner of Providence.
Interesting what you see in a coffee shop, all the little vignettes of peoples lives, how they interconnect and entwine. I like to people watch, maybe because I’m such an introvert, a window on the world without getting too close. Maybe I am just a discerning cat. It is just like front seat watching your favourite day time soap opera as life’s little dramas play out. I can tell a lot by just looking at a person, where they choose to sit, what they are drinking. Now, you for instance, are a cat person, I can tell you will enjoy just sitting here and soaking up the atmosphere, the scents and sounds. Cassie likes to play the blues on the stereo. I prefer the sultriness of Lana Del Rey and Beth Hart, she plays them too. Says they capture raw emotion, love stripped bare. Cassie gets things, that’s why she is my person. I don’t like to share her.
Come and join me, I’ll be glad of your company and happy to chat for a while. Plenty of space on this old couch. Grab yourself a steaming mug of your favourite brew and people watch with me. Don’t be shy, I find that introverts like to join me, they don’t feel so obviously on their own with a cool cat for company.
“Why thank you Henry, don’t mind if I do. I think I’ll go for a Macchiato and a slice of that lemon drizzle cake. Let me introduce myself, I’m Tyler, I’m a writer, people watcher too. Like to observe the depth psychology of interpersonal relationships. See him over there in sports clothes, with the well dressed woman, what can you tell me about them?”
Ohhh…Those two…They meet in here every Friday, same time, same seats, same drinks. An English Breakfast tea for her and a Skinny decaf Latte for him. I admit I like them. Good. Decent. Married. The last six months I’ve watched it all happen and watched it all unravel.Observed the other players in their little world, too. They haven’t noticed me, noticing them.I can tell you it all, what went wrong, ripped them apart. Shame really. I would have liked to have said something to them, let them know they could make it better, but it would not have worked. They wouldn’t have heard me.I’ve had eyes and ears on them. I think this is a ‘make or break’ coffee date…I know Cassie thinks so too. The whole thing has put her on edge. Oh, my steamed milk has cooled down, just a few sips and I shall share my observations, my dear Tyler!
“I’m intrigued, Henry, do tell!”
He’s called Chase, he’s from the Mid West. Tough guy. Made it out of the ghetto and sidestepped the gangs into law enforcement, rapidly rose to Captain in one of Chicago’s toughest precincts. Had the heart of a lion, fearless on the mean streets, got burnt out, saw way too much too soon. She’s a New Yorker, Manhattan, a real UpTown girl. I’ve intuited all this from the stories they tell each other and things Cassie has said. Life brought them here to Rhode Island. He may be in his late thirties now but still has a great deal of stamina and physical strength, keeps himself athletic, runs marathons. Cassie said it keeps his head clear, I disagree. Who or what is he running from?
“What about the woman, she is beautiful, but a lot older, ten years easily?”
Her name is Venetia, she’s all Fifth Avenue elegance. Look at those pearls, the Chanel suit and those Manolo heels. If you get close enough, you’ll get a waft of gorgeous heady Italian perfume, classy dame. He smells of fresh pine, a forest of green stuff. My Cassie smells of fresh baked muffins, I think I prefer the muffins myself.
“They look like a mismatched pair, Henry, don’t look like they would have any meaningful connection?”
Looks are deceiving my dear Tyler, do what cats do…Look at those eyes, so dark but shine so bright. I wonder if that was the draw for him? Those eyes are cats eyes, see things that others don’t. I can tell that she ‘sees’ him. Knows him well. He seems to like that. She has a fierce intellect. He likes that too. Admires her for her depth, not threatened by her mind like some men would be in the company of a Psychologist. Her Practice is a few blocks from here, she’s been in with a few of her clients. The Black Cat Café is discreet, comfortable, puts them at ease to open up to her. Cassie is okay with her doing some counselling sessions here. Now if she were a cat, she would be a sleek and elegant Russian Blue, him he’d be a Savannah. Chase still has a wild side. Cassie says she has yet to meet the woman could tame that one and if the ‘one’ ever arrives that will be the last we see of Chase around here.
“So Chase is a bit of a dark horse, a player then, Henry?”
Hard to tell. His eyes are fathomless. They may be blue. They may be grey. Depends on his mood. I have wondered if he, despite all his physical strength, is desperately trying to keep bad at bay. He isn’t easy to read. But I noticed that Venetia saw down into that deep dark well and into the hidden place where he keeps those old hungry and angry ghosts on lock down.
“Oh, that is rather deep, Henry. It takes a lot to bare one’s soul. Somethings we never admit to, even to ourselves. World stays safe that way.”
Yes, you are right. The unsaid ‘thing’ … He knew she knew... and he loved her for it but he just could not tell her. It was complicated. Humans, funny things. Felines are so much further along the evolutionary scale, cats say what we mean, mean what we say. Demand what is ours. Take it if necessary…
“What happened, Henry? Do you know?”
Of course I know, I’m a cat, I know everything and I was right there, under his feet! Saturday night he was sat on my couch knocking back Jack Daniels, Venetia was at a conference in New York and Chase was badly missing her, couldn’t sleep, he gets these nightmares. Cassie was upstairs visiting the land of dreams so I decided to keep an eye on things down here. He called her. Too much alcohol, both of them, and it all came tumbling out…unsaid words, finally said…And he got afraid. Of her. The truth. Possibilities. Life… And she was ashamed, she crossed a line, didn’t know how to go back… Pity really, They were so good for each other.
“But he is still with her, sat over there? They are both wearing wedding bands. Surely it didn’t end that night?”
No, it should have done. Been cleaner. Better for everyone, and no one would have got hurt. Instead he did the craziest thing and ‘let the Stranger in’, took up with Maggie. Caused a lot of complications around here. I don’t judge, but I didn’t like that. No, not one bit. Cassie was very upset by all the drama.
“Who is this other woman, Henry?”
She’s the innocent looking blue eyed blonde at the counter, watching them, whispering in Cassie’s ear yet again. …wish Cassie would unleash her claws on that one, but she’s standing there listening to her … And because Maggie is her sister, Cassie is believing all her lies…Hiss…I wish she would get the hell out of MY Café and back to her Five and Dime store!
“Oh Henry, what a surprising turn of events!”
I wasn’t surprised, saw it coming, he was meeting her in here, right at their table! She tries to emulate Venetia, her wit and her wisdom, but she just isn’t her. A perverse thing in him needed to regain control. Shut those ghosts up. Make his world safe again. So he chased and caught Maggie . Felt pleased with himself until he realised that the hunter became the hunted and Maggie was not for letting go or keeping things under wraps. But something deep inside whispered, then shouted. His soul cried for the woman he truly loved… But to be with her he would need to be true to himself, stripped bare. Accept what she could and could not give to him. Would he choose to do the inner work she was willing to help him do? Or would Chase cut loose?
“This Maggie must have have something. Some people cheat because they can, others cheat because there is something fundamentally missing in them and they are seeking integration through another person, trying to find a way to make themselves feel whole again. What do you think, Henry?”
Maggie is the first, Chase is the second. Venetia told Cassie in confidence that in her professional opinion Maggie has a Histrionic Personality Disorder. She needs a lot of attention, demanding more than Chase could, would or even should give her, didn’t see past herself and that he was hurting too… God, how was he hurting. As a psychologist Venetia knew both of them had issues and thought she could help them both through it… She just ended up getting burnt in the flames of her own desires.
“All very deep, Henry, do you think he will choose Maggie? Or Venetia ?”
Hmm…Neither…I am hoping he wakes up, smells the coffee and plumps for his long suffering, loyal and understanding wife!
“I thought you said they were already married, Henry?”
I did. They are…
…just not to each other…”it’s complicated”… I told you it was like a soap opera around here!
Chase is married …to Cassie…
“So Venetia is?…”
Venetia is Chase’s therapist and Maggie’s too and er, also her wife!
“So let me get this straight, Chase and Cassie, Chase and Venetia and Chase and Maggie?”
When a married man sets eyes on ‘the girl with the far away eyes’ he is beguiled by her beauty. Will his desire for the lovely Maude be reciprocated and turn into something more?
Is it Love or dark obsession…
Do you believe in love at first sight? If you had asked me that question six months ago I would have said categorically no. I am rational man with a rational job. That is until the day she crossed my path. I guess I was in the space to let her in. Life was getting mundane. You know yourself. You wake up, kiss the wife, go to work, come home, kiss the wife. Sleep.
Dreamless nights that pass too fast, then you wake up and do it all again. It’s what we do. Without question. The days of wine and roses, who needs them? Once the golden band is on her finger, then the deal is sealed. Job done. Then time, crafty, insidious time, starts eating away at you. The minutes turn into years and you don’t notice because you are so busy waking up, kissing the wife, going to work, coming home, kissing the wife and sleeping. Then somehow, without even knowing how it happens you don’t kiss anymore. When did romance die? Where did you loose yourself? Then all you have is this familiarity and distance and a strange feeling that something is missing. A longing. A longing for what? How can you even answer the question when you know something is wrong, but you are scared of the answer? Too close a look and the careful world you have constructed to keep the wolf from the door and the bear firmly outside your cave is suddenly not so safe anymore. So the indefinable something ‘wrong’ becomes the new normal. And everything goes on the same, evenings spent alone downstairs, my wife upstairs with some pulp fiction for company. Vague stirrings of guilt. Why did she need to read that stuff? Didn’t she have me? Vague stirrings of regret, we were all right weren’t we? What if the romantic fix she got from the pages of her books didn’t cut it and she wanted more, from me, or someone else? Would I have anything left to give, or even care? I thought about going up and joining her, taking the book out of her hand and telling I was here, I was real. Notice me. I wanted to tell her I had my own hopes, dreams and desires and if she would only listen then I would share them with her and she wouldn’t be white noise anymore. But how do you come back from too many years of comfortably numb? I didn’t want to look too closely at that and shoved the awkward feeling deep down inside and just let it go.
Time ticking away, your life ebbing, second by second. Every moment one-step closer to the grave and nothing in between. I had heard all about mid life crisis, even knew a few of the boys at work who had gone through it. Hit forty and hit a brick wall. The sudden desire for a tattoo, a Harley, a fast car, even a quick fling or two with whoever was willing. I’ve seen it end in tears, broken hearts and broken bones. Not me, I thought, won’t happen to me. No one told me about mid life madness. No one told me about Love, not love like this. Obsessive, crazy, can’t get her out of my mind love. I work, she’s there. I drive, she’s there. I’m sat across the table from my wife. We eat. We have nothing to say, apart from the usual catch up on the day stuff. It doesn’t matter, because she is there. Inside my mind. My wife is talking, but long ago I ceased listening. White noise. I smile. I nod. I agree. Whatever she wants, whatever it takes. Eventually my tactics pay off and there is blessed peace. I indicate I will be up in a while and she goes to bed, alone. Silence washes over me, a soothing mantle. And all I want is to go off, alone too. I want to picture her, be with her, the woman living in my mind. But it’s all a crazy dream. Or is it?
I first met her late one Friday night after a very long day in Manhattan’s Financial District. I wanted to relax and the old fashioned comfort of Harry’s Bar Midtown hit the right note. I should have asked the cab to take me home to Brooklyn Heights, instead I walked in off the busy street into a cavernous basement. The walls were lined with vintage photographs from Hollywood’s golden days. The décor was oak and leather, low lights, discreet booths and reminiscent of a gentleman’s club from a bygone age. Somewhere someone was playing smooth jazz on a saxophone. The bluesy notes washed over me, soothing, with the music literally hitting just the right note. Cigarette in one hand, single malt over ice in the other, I settled back into the comfort of a big leather chair. I took a deep drag of my nicotine hit. Through the haze of smoke she appeared. Long, long dark hair, falling in tumbling waves over her slender back. And her eyes. Oh those eyes. Luminous, lovely and inviting. She was a goddess and she was there, right in front of me. I sat up and paid more attention to a woman than I had in the last seven years. More attention than I had paid to my wife in the longest time. Did I feel guilty? No. There was something in me that needed her. And here she was, in all her radiant beauty and she was present, right here, right now, a timeless goddess of the silver screen invading the recesses of my hungry mind.
“The words you don’t say speak louder than those you do.” She was a mind reader as well. I covered my embarrassment with a slug of whiskey. I resisted the urge to ask her if she came here often. Despite her soft southern drawl it was obvious she was always here. I wondered just how many men had sat here and gazed on her loveliness. How many men had she looked at with those faraway eyes? How many men had thought of running their hands through her luxurious long locks, pulling her into a tight embrace and kissing those luscious lips. I was getting out of my depth. Stubbing out my cigarette and draining my drink I stood up to leave. At that moment I was lost and she knew it, catching my eye her gaze said, “You’ll be back.” And I was. I was finding reasons to go to Harry’s bar with the boys or alone. Never with my wife. I knew Maude would be there. Waiting. That seductive gaze, those eyes, I could drown in the depths of emotional intensity. My wife truly would not have understood. How would I find the words to explain just how or why another woman’s beauty had the power to speak to my very soul? Maude listened to me. I found myself pouring out how I felt about my wife, about myself. I told her I didn’t understand just how we had ended up in this big freeze. Where was the passion, the magic? When had the fire gone out? I told Maude everything I could not tell my wife. I got the feeling she would have liked to meet my elusive wife. But how could I introduce them? How could I explain Maude, who she was and what she meant to me? I loved her for her beauty, her glamour and mystery. She had the allure of an icon of the silver screen. She was there, she was present but she wasn’t. I could look but I could not touch. She had made that clear. But I could dream. You are innocent when you dream. Maude knew these things and she knew I adored her. She didn’t judge me. There was no blame, no weight of disappointment for things I had done, and things I had failed to do. With Maude I was free to be me. A man with hopes fears and desires and she understood and that was huge, and with all my heart I wished my wife would too. I was out of my depth and I was drowning. I guess it was only a matter of time before my wife found out.
The questions had started. ‘What time will you be home? Why are you late? Where have you been? Out with the boys again, really!’ I had no answers. No excuses. I closed down. Maude or my wife? It was becoming a very hard call. Maude was becoming my drug of choice. I needed her. I didn’t need the third degree. After all I was innocent, wasn’t I? Innocent when you dream…And dream I did. As I climbed into bed each night I envisaged she was there with me accompanying me into the realms of fantasy.
‘I am an actress,’ she said, ‘A weaver of dreams and a maker of magic!’
‘Maude, you are luminous! Do you have a gold star on Hollywood Boulevard? Take me there!’
‘My star is a long way from Hollywood. Search the night sky for the Morning star and you will find me. I am your Immortal Flame. I am your goddess of love. Always remember Love conquers all.’
Together we travelled the World and danced under starlight skies. We banqueted within Castle walls, she was my Princess and I her Knight and somewhere a Troubadour strummed a mandolin and sang of our love. We visited the Alhambra Palace, walked hand through the Court of the myrtles and beneath the Andalucía sun she whispered sweet words to me. In the shadow of the iconic monument to love, The Taj Mahal, I became her Rajah and whispered words of devotion to her, my beloved Rani.
The mornings came, I awoke next to my wife, with her back turned to me. The gulf between us was now an aching chasm and I felt a wrenching loss in the pit of my stomach.
The night they finally came face to face with each other is etched on my mind. A cold November and the big freeze between my wife and I was now arctic in its intensity. Something would have to give. Even a row would show there was some passion left, some depth of feeling. I felt so surplus to requirement, the weight of her disappointment in me was becoming a burden too heavy to handle.
‘Don’t wait up. I have to work very late. I may sleep at the office.’ And I was out the door before she could question me. I had plans for tonight and I would face the music in the morning. Right now there was a fire raging and if I didn’t quench it, then I risked being subsumed in the heat of my own desire and aching need to be with Maude.
I got to the bar early, before the evening rush. I wanted to be at our table where I had first set eyes on Maude. The bartender, now familiar with my order, started pouring my favourite single malt Scotch, Glenmorangie, over ice. I settled back into the comfort of the deep leather chair and lit a cigarette. This is where it had begun. Maude was waiting for me, beautiful as ever. Every time I gazed at her I saw perfection and paradoxes, beauty both beguiling and innocent. I wanted to reach out and protect her. I wanted to hold her in my arms and tell her I would keep the wolf from the door and bad at bay. I looked into her eyes looking at me from a distant place and time, and saw her sadness and saw her soul. She was a star from a bygone age that shone so bright she still lit up my lonely night. But she wasn’t real. She was a fantasy. No matter how much I longed to take her in my arms, to love her, Maude would never be mine for she belonged in the firmament above. From her gaze I saw she knew that I, as so many others before and after me, would always be hers. A captive of beauty. It was time to say goodbye. It was over.
‘Go home,’ Maude said, ‘what you see in me, you first saw in her. What you feel for me, you first felt for her and you will again.’
The weight of loss was too much to bear. The double life I had been leading, the freezing cold at home that had caused ice to form over my heart had been melted by the passion I had felt for a woman who was not my wife. I had been beguiled by beauty, Maude had touched my soul and I would never be the same again. A great wracking sob clawed its way out of my throat and I sat, head in my hands and I cried.
I felt her arms around me. Warm, loving and strong. She sat on the arm of the leather armchair and cradled me. Slowly she pulled my hands from my tear stained face and her soft mouth gently kissed my sorrow away. I looked into her eyes and saw the depth of love she felt for me and my heart began to beat fast. She was so beautiful, she was here beside me and she wanted me…I took her by the hand and asked her would she come home with me because I very much wanted to make love to her. She stood up and pulled me to her. I kissed her with a passion and intensity I had long forgotten and all the love and feeling inside me washed away the years. I was a man with hopes, feelings and desires and my wife understood, she always had and that was why she was here tonight.
‘How did you know?’
‘I know you,’ she replied. ‘I saw the way you looked at her photographs on the Internet, over and over. I watched you fall under her spell. How many men has she enchanted? You are not the first and you will not be the last. I wanted you to look at me that way, the way you did before we both forgot why we had been enchanted by each other.’
‘And you forgive me?’
‘Yes. Maude’s beauty is her gift to the world. Beauty that speaks to the soul. She spoke to you and her silent words told a story of love, romance, hope and desire. And I heard.’
As we walked hand and hand out into the New York night air we turned and took a final look at Maude Fealy, an Edwardian beauty and movie star from a bygone age, as she watched over us from her home encased in a silver frame on the ‘wall of fame’ at Harry’s Hollywood bar.
At that hour just before dawn wakes a sleepy world, as I lay entwined with my wife I happened to look out at the night sky. And there she was, true to her word. Venus, Goddess of Love.
It is said every soul who walks upon the Earth is assigned a Guardian Angel ~ there are times the Angel may walk beside a soul, there are times the Angel may carry a soul and then there are times the Angel can only stand and weep…
Midwinter. A fog began to descend over the grey London skyline. Dusk had stealthily crept in and stolen the remains of the day away. White stucco walls cloaked in numinous mist and the elegant terrace of Victorian villas took on a ghostly air, Window panes glowing warm orange, reassurance that all was well within. Fire light, fire bright, all is well tonight. Smoke snaking from tall chimney pots into the chill air warned preternatural creatures of the night to stay away. One house stood apart from the camaraderie of its neighbours, no warmth or light was to be found within its walls. As dusk gave way to night the fog began to lift. Lights were extinguished and weary folk made their way gratefully to bed, giving thanks to the Lord for the day that had just been done and the morrow yet to come. The interior of number four was just as bleak as the façade. Winter’s icy fingers reached into the very heart of the despondent house, into a cavernous bedroom dressed with heavy furniture of a bygone century when the house was proud and new. A huge mahogany bedstead, barely discernible in the gloom, rose as a dark island in a sea darkness. An oak armoire and a Chiffonier threw dark, dancing shadows. A huge black Victorian cast iron fireplace, inset with tiles glazed with an elegant William Morris floral design took centre stage. It was too dark to appreciate the contrast of the beautiful pure white flowers, against the blackness of the cold and empty hearth. Lilies for the departed soul now restored to innocence after death. The room was out of step with the modern world unfolding beyond its ornate walls patterned in rich shades of gold and teal. Heavy brocade curtains dressed window. Although slightly closed they admitted a pale sliver of moonlight to come creeping in and illuminate the scene within the room.
From the remote island of the big bed, a young child sat up, big hazel eyes wide open, scanning the room for an unknown yet threatening Presence. She drew an eiderdown tightly around her tiny body, tucking the edges under her tiny chin. The warmth was reassuring, providing a degree of safety and comfort. The big bulky frame of her Father lay beside the little girl. He was sleeping, heavy breathing reverberating around the room, chasing away the creeping silence. Shadows danced on the walls, intermittently thrown up by arbitrary moonlight. A gilded mirror hung above the fireplace and the child was mesmerised by the forms within its silvery depths. Were there phantasmagorical creatures living in the mirror, inhabitants of a world within worlds? A ray of capricious moonlight fell across the hardwood floor, illuminating a languid, white, and crumpled body. Comatose, the flaccid form lay curled in a foetal position, an empty brandy bottle clutched in a lifeless hand. A strangled sob escaped into the gloom alerting the man, and on seeing his tiny daughter was wide-awake, urged her to snuggle down and sleep. Having witnessed the scene for far too long and powerless to change things, he had ceased to care a long time ago. Defiantly, the child shook her head, soft auburn ringlets swaying around her little heart shaped face, big hazel eyes luminous and anxious. She enquired tentatively whether Mummy was cold, laying there on the floor? Why was Mummy on the floor yet again, and not snuggling up with them like she used to? Should Mummy get into bed too? Should they cover Mummy to keep her warm? Thinly veiling his feelings of revulsion and contempt, voice laden with disgust, the tired man reassured his tiny child that Mummy was fine. So many questions, so few answers. The floor was where Mummy wanted to be, so they should leave her there and go back to dreamland. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. The little girl burrowed under the covers, and lay down with her tiny nose snuggling into her Daddy’s warm back. Mummy was fine, Daddy knew best. Her worries alleviated, she slept the rest of the night comforted by the deep sleep of the innocent. In her dreams, the child called for an Angel, an Angel of Love and Light, and the Angel hearing her call, came.
Suddenly, a luminous golden glow bathed the room and the Angel stepped out of the Light with her arms outstretched. She held a gossamer blanket, woven from the light of the stars from the heavens above, and gently she wrapped the child’s Mother in love and light and tenderness. For the Angel knew, just as the child knew, that the woman although bound by addictions and barricaded into her own pain was still a beloved child of the Godhead, of Source and deserving of love and forgiveness and understanding. The Angel prayed a quiet benediction over the child and her Mother and the man who had long forgotten the truth, as he slept in his warm bed whilst his wife lay on the cold, hard floor. A fragrant blend of frankincense and lilies filled the room. The sour smell of stale alcohol pervading the air now dissipated. The man did not smell the fragrant perfume purifying the woman nor did he see the blanket of stars that wrapped her. He did not see the Angel of Light tending to his wife as the Celestial Being tried to remove the vicious demons of addiction from her. He did not see the tender white lily the Angel placed in the woman’s hand as she took away the empty bottle. He did not see these things, for he too was enslaved by his own addictions.
And the Angel stood and wept silent tears for the man and the woman who could not see, as their child could, the Presence of Angels.