Paperback 100 pages
127mm x 205mm x 10mm
How he skimmed, my son, gliding along the sand upon his board across a thin film of sea water.
He was a god incarnate.
‘Look at me Dad.’
I was already looking.
‘How’d you think I’m doing?’
I was already impressed.
All around us the waves continued to pursue their long rolling courses inwards. The sea cast an array of colours from the sunlight shining downwards. The sand, smoothed by the gentle sweep of the waves, reflected, in smudged form, the cliff face and the pink, red and jade brush strokes in the sky. The sun’s light bounced off his blonde hair.
‘Your balance and agility are real gifts,’ I called out and then remembered.
‘Hey, it’s my turn,’ I shouted, ‘Learn from the master.’
He looked up and smiled that smile of his. Once seen, never forgotten.
As I fell with flinging arms and legs, my face landing flat into the sand, its surface feeling like a firm chocolate torte, my son ran towards me.
I could hear his feet slapping the water before he jumped screaming upon me, the lovely monkey on my back.
A painting of sadness still brushed a veil over her face.
She carried a tray full of cakes and drinks for one over the large slabs of stone; the promise of comfort, false.
She took up a seat. Alone again.
The pain au chocolat magnified great blocks of grief. Flakes stuck along the shallow gullies of her face which fell away from the corners of her mouth.
He sat opposite her. Late and as unwelcome, as ever.
She looked up, dark skies were overhead.
‘It was Jane, last summer, the village fete,’ he said. ‘I wanted to forget her. I just couldn’t believe she was there.’
‘It’s all too much Jamie. I’ve been waiting for it all to end. It’ll spread in the village like gossamer on the wind. We could have kept it quiet couldn’t we?’
She probed him with her spittle. ‘How do I face them all now?’
‘I tried to flee before she saw me,’ he said, as if this vain attempt at integrity would wash, ‘but she caught my eyes.’
‘God, you’re so pathetic. But you can leave twenty-five years, me, our three children.’
‘It’s raining hard Kate.’
As if she hadn’t noticed, the bloody fool.
‘I’ll pay for the house, maintenance for the kids.’
‘Yes, like you promised to be with me ‘til death.’
Five years later, it was raining hard again, she mused.
‘That was a lovely service vicar,’ said Murray.
‘You’re too kind,’ Kate said.
He would be the last to leave his shoes’ imprint on the glistening flagstones.
‘Mind you don’t slip,’ she called out.
Kate smiled as a memory jostled itself into being. Poor Jamie, she should have warned him.
‘So, you’re looking to change too. So difficult, I know.’
The one-sided conversation drifted once again into silence. I waited. She would speak soon.
I lifted the large cup to my lips, inhaled the nutty aroma, took my first sip of the coffee and savoured the liquid as it slipped down my throat.
In my world, all was good, so it was easy for me to listen. They called me the psychologist, even though I wasn’t one. I just had a healthy interest in the welfare of people, simple humanity. That’s what is always required. And that’s what I always gave.
The form it takes, of course, can, be, probably needs to be, different for individuals and naturally, according to the nature of the circumstance. Well, I do my best. Like most us.
My focus returned when she moved to adjust her hips on the chair. She had long blonde hair, tied back in a high pony tail. A fringe softened her forehead and a few strands flicked upwards, each time she blinked.
Her lips parted. She took an intake of breath. Ready to speak now I thought. But her exhalation escaped rapidly, hesitation blocking her decision.
I reached out across the table and took hold of her hands in mine. I rubbed the surface of her skin with my thumbs.
Touch. She was hungry for it. The key had turned the lock.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I feel trapped in the wrong place.’
‘I see,’ I said, imagining her employer.
‘Time to move on then,’ I added, ‘but how?’
‘I’ve given it some thought,’ she replied, ‘Lots, actually.’
‘That’s good. Weigh up your options. See which ones feel right.’
‘Exactly and why stay in something when the body you’re with, no longer suits you, or meets your needs? There is no point, is there?’
‘That’s my philosophy,’ I said. ‘If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, change. Happiness doesn’t come by standing still.’
‘Steve doesn’t know. I’ve carried on as normal. I haven’t told him yet. Don’t know how. How’d you think he’ll react?’
‘Well…’ I said, wary of stepping on a live relationship land mine, ‘he’s always struck me as a level headed guy. My guess, he can handle most things, as long as you’re straight with him that is.’
‘Do you think so? Really think so?
‘You’re the best judge Julie. Trust your intuition.’
‘I’ll tell him then. Tonight. Strike before my heart wavers.’
Two weeks later we met again.
Everything had changed for me.
She spoke. Couldn’t stop speaking, actually.
I love this book. Each story is a tiny glimpse into the lives of others: a taste of the dramas that are played out all around us day by day. The stories tap into that curiosity we have about the people we see in the bus queue or the man who walks his dog in the park. What lies behind the public face? What do people go home to?
Packed full of surprises, twists and turns, betrayal and romance, assassinations and murders, sci-fi and horror and more, this little book of twenty-five stories will ignite a dawning hunger to read more. You will love these stories if you enjoy different genres, moral dilemmas and little insights into the lives of characters and too, love dipping in and out of easy to read books when you have little time to spare, but want a quick and satisfying read.
I was silent. I would speak soon. I was sure of it, just when, I couldn’t say.
‘So, I’m on this transformation pathway,’ she said. ‘That’s what they call it. I have to give it a year, show that I’m committed to the change and then, they’ll give me the hormone treatment. Steve’s been so supportive. He says he loves me whatever changes happen to me. That’s all I needed to know.’
Simple humanity, I thought. That’s all we ever need. But no hands reached out to hold mine.
The beauty of the stories is that they are so easy to fit around busy lives. A five minute read was enough to feed my imagination, to dwell on what happened next, or what came before. The stories are rich and varied. Some poignant, some humourous and others thought-provoking and quirky.
Copyright 2017 Philip A Oldfield - Author of cross genre psychological thrillers and romantic comedies, all with strong female protagonists
Exeter, Devon, England. All rights reserved.