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?”
They call me H, it’s not my name, it’s the product I sell. Work nights, late nights, all night. Suits me fine. I can’t sleep, keep going…the uppers, the downers, the highs and the lows. Night, that strange nocturnal world. For most people the darkness is a blanket to soothe tired minds, not me, I am unable to find a shroud to wrap my unquiet soul in peace and blessed sleep. You see, there are these wasps buzzing in my head. Angry, insistent. I don’t want to give life to them, those electrified thoughts. But they are incessant and won’t stop. Try to block them out, but the drugs don’t work, not now, not anymore. I did a deal with the devil, long time ago. Thought I wanted what he had to offer, fast cars, fast women, fast living. Respect. Power. Got it all then found I didn’t want it anymore. But there was no way out, no going back. You see, that old devil had sealed the deal in blood. I’d seen too much and done too much and he was there to witness it all. Told me the Man Upstairs wouldn’t want my sorry arse. No room in heaven when you belong in hell. And believe me, there is no hell worse than that of your own making.
It’s getting late, the night sultry,still greedily holding onto the heat of a scorching summer’s day. Somewhere sirens are wailing. I’m restless, edgy. I’m up, I need to come down. Take a few shots of Grey Goose and light a Dunhill. Pick up the phone and text my girl “Meet at the Heath in ten.” Didn’t wait for confirmation, knew she’d be there. Grabbing my keys I leave. It is a long way down from the seventh floor when the lifts are broken. I live a high life in a low life place. It’s a concrete jungle, and from the ground the sky is just a distant memory. The walls start closing in on me, feel like I’m at the bottom of a deep dark well. No way out. No light.Those wasps buzzing in my head again. Damn those thoughts, getting louder, shouting for attention. I need release and I need it soon. Firing up my Porsche, I kick down all 700 horse power and in just 2.7 seconds the turbocharger on the 911 powers 0 to 60 and I roar off into the night. A hungry beast looking to feed on fresh meat. In nine minutes the sprawling urban estate with all its edgy energy is far behind me, I’m in the lush lanes of Hampstead Heath and the pumping stereo is discordant and jarring here. But I don’t care, I want the noise distraction to shut those fucking wasps up until I get relief.
As I swing into West Heath Road, Kimber is waiting under the soft orange glow of a streetlamp. She thinks she looks good, all long blonde hair, killer heels and short black leather dress, with a tease of a lace stocking top on display. The bitch looks like a Hoe, just how I like her. Then like a miracle cure, the mind chatter stops. All I think of is her, wanting her , needing her, now. I grab her hand and lead her deep into the undergrowth. It’s easy to find a quiet place on the heath, there is enough space for all those other creatures of the night out doing their thing too. She wants to take it slow, I have other places to go. Goods to deliver, money to make. I wind my fingers tightly into her hair, pull her to me and kiss her hard. Its fast and furious and I am lost for a moment in time, caught in her sensuous scent and hoping she will bring me blessed release. She doesn’t and I push her away. I’ve seen that look in her eye too often, the ghosts of the women I’ve reeled in, beat them, cheated on them and then cut loose leaving them with kids, heartbreak, addictions, just walked away and all without a backward glance. No mercy, no remorse. Kimber could have been different, she was edgy, damaged and fun and took no crap from no man. I liked her, a lot, but she wasn’t the ‘one.’ Did I even know what I wanted?Someone to watch over me, love me for who I truly was and saw what I could be, not what I had become. Someone who would raise me up after my fall from Grace, and shut those fucking wasps up? An Angel, untainted by the filth that was my life? Did I even deserve a ‘one’?
“Go home to your husband, Kimber.”
“Yeah…” Knowing I won’t. We’re done here.
I walk her to her car, she leans in for a kiss and I light a Dunhill instead. That look in her eyes again, but I don’t care. Reaching into my pocket I pull out a couple of wraps.
“Something for after, Babe, for you and the old man.”
She pushes my hand away, “I don’t want drugs, the drugs don’t work, I want you, I thought you knew that? Wanted it too?”
Shrugging I slip the Black Leb back in my pocket, I have plenty others want what I got. I don’t need “it’s complicated.” Suddenly her heady perfume is overpowering, her voice annoying me. I open her car door, I see tears in her eyes, she’s got the message. But her tears don’t matter, she doesn’t matter. I need release, I need peace and she isn’t it.
Looking at my Rolex, it’s ten before midnight. I get in the 911 and my slate grey beast roars into life and I am gone, leaving her with her memories. It’s a short drive to Primrose Hill. When the noise in my head gets too much I come here, park up and walk to the top. Only me and the demons who like to keep me company, sitting in darkness watching the lights over London town. I pull out another Dunhill, take a long drag of nicotine. I don’t do my own merchandise anymore, Kimber was right, the drugs don’t work. The devil, he showed me these lights once, from a different vantage point. I liked what I saw and grabbed the life with both hands. Now here I am sat alone in darkness, searching for something but not knowing what. I’ve had the cars, the money, the drugs, the violence, the women, the life. A big player in my urban prison. The devil sold me a deal. I sold him my soul. Now, I’m feeling like I want it back. The wasps start up again, buzzing in my head, driving me crazy. I’ll stay here from midnight until dawn breaks, watching my own personal open air screening of the double feature horror show of my own mind movies.
I want to sleep but there is no sleep for the wicked…
“If you could, would you?” He looked at her quizzically.
“Just askin’…” Her smile held the promise of a secret she may or may not share.
Intrigued, he decided to indulge her cryptic question. “Fly around the world in a day? No, too far! Climb a volcano, that’s another no, too hot! Sit on an iceberg with a Polar Bear in the North Pole, Brrr much too cold!”
“None of those things Cooper, they are too um…mundane… That isn’t the nature of the question!”
“Join a camel train and cross the Arabian desert to sip rosewater at an oasis?” Is that fanciful enough?” He saw a flicker of light in her dark eyes, decided to close her down, this was getting too deep and the game was about to start. “No, not for me!”
“Why? It’s not too far, not too dangerous, not too cold, hmm unless maybe at night. You could keep warm sipping potent Arak, and with the heady scent of incense burning wrap your arms around your true love and make love to me by moonlight and starlight! “
Cooper looked taken aback and out of his depth. He didn’t want fancy Arabian Liquor when there was a case of Coors on ice. Forget heady incense, the only smoke he wanted was twenty Marlboro Lights. And as for the desert, well his true love the New York Giants were playing in Las Vegas and the clock was on countdown to kick off.
“Is it because it is too hot? Don’t you like it hot?” Was there just a hint of sarcasm in her voice? “Afraid you may get burnt?”
“The Arabian desert is a big place just to grab a drink, and what if the Oasis was no more than a mirage, I’d be left very thirsty, can you grab me a Coors the game is starting in like two minutes.”
Purposely not taking the pointed hint Stella pressed on, “What if it isn’t more than a mirage? Unless you make the journey, you will never know.”
Walking into the kitchen, she filled herself a large glass of chilled Californian Chardonnay, took a slow sip and then another…The wine cooling her rising ire. It was all about him, it was always all about him. Saturday night, and all dressed up with no where to go, except another one way ticket to boredom city. She downed the wine, filled another glass, grabbed Cooper a beer and determined not to loose his attention stood in front of the T.V set.
“…In answer to my question ‘ If you could, would you?’ instead of sitting there watching life, what if you tried actually living life then what exciting, wonderful and amazing thing would you do?” Her voice had a sharp edge, the wine kicking in, unable to bite back the bitterness she felt.
He looked at her at a loss how to reply. Should he tell her if he could, he would shut her up, make her go away and let him watch the Giants in peace? Something in him knew he couldn’t give her what she wanted, never could, never would. She was different from all the women who had loved him and left him, a free spirit he had managed to trap and he was not about to let go, so he indulged her little flights of fancy, even though they bored him, then made sure the bars of the prison he constructed around her grew stronger and stronger, and her world grew smaller and smaller.
Seeing and mis-reading the panic in his eyes, she clasped his hands, trying to pull him up toward her. He remained seated, resolutely focussed on the TV screen behind her.
“Cooper! If you could, would you please put me first? If you could, would you please notice me?” And if you can’t would you please set me free to be with someone who would actually appreciate me?!”
“Stella, you mean everything to me, all I do, baby, you know I do it for you. Been a long week at work. The stock exchange is brutal, give a guy a break…Make it up to you. Can we set the world on fire tomorrow, You go to Nieman Marcus and get a fancy new gown and I’ll take you out to that new Fifth Avenue restaurant all the celebrities go to. The first game of the NFL season is about to start, so for tonight how ’bout you fix us a bowl of chips and join me on the couch.”
The weight of too many broken promises hung heavy in the air between them. Stella knew whatever Cooper did was all for him, none of it was for her. She also knew he was the one truly trapped, for in her mind she could always fly free…
With a sad smile she said, “I’m tired too Cooper, do you mind if I leave you to watch T.V you know ball games are not my thing?”
He nodded, relieved, “Sure thing baby, can you just grab those chips before you go?”
Stella walked back into the kitchen. Looking out over the glistening lights of the New York skyline she felt trapped in her Manhattan penthouse. Some where over the East River the stars were shining, but with all the light pollution she couldn’t see them. Stella downed the rest of her wine, wiped away the threat of hot tears and did as Cooper bid, as she always did. The Emperor called and the nightingale sang…
“Don’t get up to any mischief in your dreams, Stella!” A dismissive peck on the lips made sure she didn’t linger.
He knew where she was, safely tucked up in his bed. Once she was asleep he’d trawl through her emails and cell phone, just to make sure no hidden threat was lurking. He’d never managed to find anything incriminating, but that didn’t stop him looking. Couldn’t be doing with any one coming in and filling her head with nonsense. There was a way to handle sensitive types like his Stella, just pretend to go along with it all and then let her know she had hit a brick wall. He knew she’d tire soon enough and go off to sleep leaving him in peace. Dismissing her from his mind, comfortable in his T shirt and shorts he chugged his beer, lit a Marlboro and settled back to watch the Giants kick ass.
♥ ♥ ♥
Her pillows were plush filled with Canadian goose down, the sheets cool Egyptian cotton. Stella slipped off her blue velvet dress and eased into the king sized bed. She could have cried but her tears had dried up a long time ago.
As she drifted of to sleep, the reflection of Manhattan’s myriad of lights reflecting on the East River became a starlit sea. And in a tiny sailing boat Stella’s nocturnal journey took her away from her Penthouse cage to freedom. She travelled by moonlight and starlight to a distant shore where he was waiting, in a place where love lived forevermore. The man of her dreams. Together they lived, they laughed, they loved.
And when she asked him “If you could, would you…?” He answered “If I could, I would love you for eternity Stella!
“Would you?” She whispered.
“Stella, I would stop time for you and hold you in my arms forever!”
And sweeping her up, her lover carried Stella further into the land of dreams.
She smiled in her sleep, knowing she wasn’t doing anything wrong…
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.
A cautionary tale of Dapper Don and my timely escape from becoming his reluctant muse…A true story.
….I was taking a little trip down memory lane and thinking about the many times I have accidentally got myself in trouble through misplaced kindness.
‘How could kindness cause trouble?’ I hear you ask, dear Reader.
‘Intentions being at odds with expectations,’ is the answer, I guess. One person intends one thing, the other expects something else…as was the case with my accidental ‘clandestine coffee date’ with dapper Don…
It is hard to resist a cute dog out walkies with their human. Teddy the little Yorkshire Terrier was a handsome boy and very engaging with it, he knew just how to get attention. I would stop and fuss over him and pass a few words with the man attached to his lead. Eventually the delightful little doggy succumbed to old age and passed over the Rainbow Bridge and I didn’t see Don anymore.
Then one day I bump into him and have a little catch up chat. I should have remembered that dogs and their owners are often similar in temperament, the late lamented Teddy could wrap any female in a five mile radius around his cute little paws. Don tells me he is lonely. He tells me his long term live in girlfriend left him. He says he misses company.
I reassure him that he is a fine looking gentleman, well dressed and well kept and has such a charming manner that he will certainly meet a lovely new lady.
He says he likes to go to town in the mornings to sit and have his coffee and just watch the world go by and it would be nice, just once, to sit with someone. He has spun such a tale of woe that by now I am feeling so sorry for him and offer to buy him a coffee and watch the world go by with him for a while. I arrange to meet him at Costa coffee at 11am. He brightens considerably and we go our separate ways.
I go home to my lovely husband. When he asks me what I am up to the next day I tell him about my latest act of kindness, my coffee morning with a lonely gentleman. He looks a bit dubious, says nothing BUT he will meet me afterwards at around 12ish and to keep my phone on. So all is good and next day off I trot on my impossibly high heels to do my good deed 🙂
I rock up at Costa and Don is sat, dapper as ever, just as he said watching the world go by with his drink in his hand. I buy me one and him another. We are chatting away and it’s just like having coffee like with the girls…or so I think…
I tell him I am writing and have finished a book. He seems interested. I tell him I like witchy things, his eyes glaze and he rapidly looses interest. He starts talking about himself. He doesn’t stop. He tells me art is his hobby and he belongs to the local art club and that he has had work in their exhibitions.
‘Oh how wonderful! How impressive!’ I enthuse, from what he has said he doesn’t get much encouragement and I am on my mission to brighten his lonely day whilst enjoying a yummy Flat White.
His gaze travelled over my rather fetching and well stuffed co-ordinated outfit of lime green T-Shirt and skinny jeans. In the interests of honesty I have to ‘fess up that channelling a plump caterpillar was not a good look, all the same he took in a rather too long and appreciative glance of what my friend Angelica calls my ‘assets’ I am thinking he didn’t need any encouragement after all…O’er…and well, Ewww…
‘Yes, indeed, the nude life models are my thing! Why don’t you call around to my place, I am more than happy to show you all my work, day or night, in fact, anytime at all. I am always on the lookout for my next muse, Eily My Dear.’
It is fair to say by this stage that one was not amused to be his considered his unlikely muse! I almost broke out in a cold sweat envisaging the lecherous Lothario immortalising me in oil.
My mind went into overdrive…O’er what if I ended up imitating a lush lovely from Luis Ricardo Falero’s ‘The Witches Sabbath’ or ‘Moon Nymph’? Dunno how I would have explained a bit of nymphing to Mr Nash 😦
Oblivious to my obvious discomfort Don tells me just how much he is missing female company. He tells me just how much he admires the female form. He tells me his Lady left him ‘cos of his cheating. But he is now over her as he has a new interest…Hmmm…
The penny is slowly dropping. Time for evasive action methinks.
Saved by the ringtone! Hubby calls.
‘Yakety yak yak…’
‘Yes Darling, I’m just finishing coffee with Don, see you at the fountain in 5 minutes.’
An incredulous stare from across the table.
‘That’s my husband,’ says I, ‘sorry I shall have to fly!’
‘Your husband??? You TOLD him you are out with me???’
‘Errr…yes. And? He likes to know where I am! Sorry he can’t join us BUT I have an urgent need to join him, like right NOW!’ I prepare to take flight, and not on my broomstick.
So now Don is looking at me like I have just invited him to a swinger party. At the speed of light the reason for our coffee dawns on me. Open mouth I gasp ‘Surely, you didn’t think we were on a date???’ This was not my expectation!
The look I got back said it all. His dishonourable intentions were clear!
Shocked, I made my excuses and left. I never went for coffee with him or any other ‘gentleman‘ again…
My very wise husband cried laughing. ‘Is art the new ‘come up and see my etchings line?’-that will teach you young lady about going on coffee dates with other men!’ says he gleefully.
Was my man jealous of my accidental clandestine meeting with dapper Don? No…not at all…Dapper Don was an octogenarian! Mind you he didn’t look too bad for an old boy of 80…