I started writing in January as I wanted to write a novel. Thought I had found the perfect antagonist that people would be interested in. Spent loads of time drafting the story and writing the first chapter to character build. Problem is, I have just trashed my fourth attempt at chapter two because nothing seems to fit.
If you have time to read it and could give feedback – or know anyone who could, please help. Do I dump it? Or slog on?
The Beautiful Face of Evil
As I sit here on the eve of my 90th Birthday I feel happy for all of the good I have done for this world but utter sadness for my body’s own limits. Once I would have moved like a dancer, fooling the unwary but now, where once it was sleight of hand, my body aches with the exertion.
My Birthday present to myself is a 4 wheeled trolley XTRM4. I had a three wheeler but it was becoming cumbersome. My new prize has a seat and larger space for my shopping. I say shopping but that depends on my mood – goods is probably a more appropriate word. Although admittedly, I am forced to shop more these days.
I truly saw this trolley out of the corner of my eye. I slowly turned my head and saw that this prize was attached to a rather plump elderly woman of large build and poor dress. Really, orange and green should never be seen. I followed my prize for several yards which felt like an eternity, so you will understand that I had to act first and think later. I asked the “old, fat, undeserving attachment, if she knew if the bus stop was in use as there was a rather convenient yellow bag placed over the top of the pole. The flump stopped my prize, applied the brake and looked up. I lean forward to steady myself and accidentally slipped my hand against the brake lever – it may have only been sleight of hand but my back nearly locked.
“Oh” – the flump screeched – is there no relief from the monotony of the stupid. “I don’t know.” I stepped back several paces as the flump looked back down and placed her weight against my prize. Simultaneously, she rolled my prize towards me as she gratefully crumpled in its wake. I took out my mobile phone and called out for help. Can someone help me call for help, my friend has fallen in the street. I swing my mobile phone around whilst steadying myself with my new trolley. A lovely looking and well-dressed young lady tells me not to worry as she calls 999. I thank her and walk away with my prize. I always get a sense of achievement when I leave chaos in my wake.
My parents were the most wonderful parents any child could have. I had no brothers or sisters so they knew how special I was. They made my childhood perfect.
My earliest memories are of outings with them. Papa drove an Austin Seven. He would wear driving gloves and mother wore a tight fitting cloche. Mother was the most beautiful creature in the world. Her hair was cut in a severe Eton crop and she smoked Loadstone cigarettes. Papa worked in the city and was held in very high esteem. Each night mother would cook dinner and we would wait from him to arrive before we sat down to eat. Sometimes he would be as late back as 7pm. One evening we sat down to dinner and Papa was absent. It confused me that we were allowed to eat without his presence so I asked mother “where is he?” My sweet, wonderful mother burst into tears and just sobbed. Papa had flown on a plane to Karachi. He was so important that he had been entrusted with organising trade in India. I remember that it was something to do with tea. It must have been awfully good tea.
One of the most exciting days when I was growing up, was the day the Prince of Wales became King Edward VIII. Papa, mother and I all journeyed in Papa’s car to the centre of London to watch the royal parade. I looked so beautiful. Mother had designed a beautiful dress for herself that she made out of navy silk. She then adapted the pattern and made a shorter version for me from the same silk. We looked like Greek goddesses. I was a combination of Eos and Maia. Mother was of course Aphrodite. Everyone stopped to admire us. Papa was very proud.
When I was about 12, papa drove all the way to Clacton-on-Sea and we spent the most wonderful week at Butlins. We were only there for seven days but I enthralled my classmates with renditions of my adventures for several months. I was still being asked about my holiday when I returned from the Christmas break. Everyone was so jealous.
I deplore chaos. If I can’t pre-empt what will happen, it frustrates me. Take my first husband. A real down to earth sort of man. He always said that I was his world and I had a certain fondness for him. We met after the War when he had left the army and started driving a London bus. I worked as a clerk in an office and he would drive past several times each day. Toot tooting his horn. I would pretend to the other girls that I was embarrassed but secretly I knew we were meant for each other. It was a few years after we had married, and may I add our marriage was very happy, that he unfortunately died. He was attacked by a maniac who hit him with a hammer. It was late at night, just as he was leaving the bus depot. He locked up on Thursday nights and always moaned about leaving alone and having no one to go to the pub with – not that he was a heavy drinker.
The police turned up shortly after I returned home. I was so shocked by the news, I think it is an emotion I display rather well. They were very kind. They didn’t want me to be alone that night. They drove me to my parent’s home. I sat with my mother and father in complete silence. Then I remember just going to bed. My mother had started quietly weeping and my father was saying such kind things about my lost love. Of course, it came as a double blow to me. I had only found out about his affair the previous week.
Double blow, how interesting, no pun intended.
I have lived my life in anonymity. I have never worn make up or dressed like a tart. If you saw me today you would just see a little old lady. Bowl cut hair. Starched grey skirt. High buttoned blouse with a thick knitted cardigan to keep me warm. This anonymity has been my bedfellow. When I was younger I would wear dreary dresses. My favourite was a dark green wool dress that I stole from the Army and Navy store in Bromley High Street. It was my little treat for the day. I also acquired a black scarf and a very pretty string of amber.
When I arrived home I was already wearing my new dress and had wrapped the scarf tightly around my head to protect me from the chill. I had saved the amber for my finale.
I stand in front of my bedroom mirror and shuddered as I drape the cold stone around my neck. I close my eyes and imagine the pressure pressing down on the resins. I feel as though a cold hand is caressing my neck. I open my eyes and the light catches an impurity in one of the beads. A small crack. I feel anger, as though I have been cheated. Why display this trinket and pretend it is worthy of me. I move towards the mirror to see the damage more clearly – I will return to the store tomorrow for a perfect replacement. After all, it would be greedy to take a second necklace without returning the first. I look deeper at the crack and my repulsion transforms. I start to smile. I tingle with pleasure. I see a little insect trapped in a glowing tomb. A million years in its journey and it has finally found me. It’s so heart-warming to know that I have given this little creature a reason for having lived.
My second husband always purchased fashionable dresses for me. He wanted me in bright colours. High heeled shoes. Stockings even. Why not just strip me naked and put flowers in my hair! He didn’t understand that I am a watcher and to watch you must be unseen.
Matilda worked in my office. She was also a clerk but not as good as me. She joined several months after I started and never quite came up to scratch. Sometimes I would allow her to have lunch with me and this followed into after work drinks. I had allowed her to accompany me on several evening visits to local pubs and it was on one of these occasions that I met my second husband. He came through the door, all out of breath, panting heavily. Our eyes met. And, I knew…
…he was the one.
Matilda started speaking and for a moment I was confused. She was introducing me to Ron. How annoying. This was no time to advert my gaze to some fool she knows.
“Hello, nice to meet you,” says the man. His voice is deep with mellow overtones. I can tell that he is undressing me with his eyes.
“Hello,” he says again. His smile lights up his whole face. He has the chiseled good looks of a film star. Not the over pruned wimps of today who pretend to be tough whilst staying in touch with their feminine side. No this man is man. Rugged, handsome, captivating.
“I’m Ron.” he says, outstretching his hand. I take his hand and slowly stroke his palm. “You work in Winton Street.” I say.
“Oh, how amazing,” Matilda says. Why is she still here? Why hasn’t she got the message and left? How troublesome of her.
“Yes, Winton Street” Ron says. We both know that we have nothing left to say. At least not on that particular evening.
It took several weeks for Matilda to realise that she was in the way. She thought me unworthy of the kind of love a man like Ron could bestow so I became her confident. It intrigued me to hear her theories. One morning she thought it was the pretty barmaid from The Swan, the next, the receptionist at his work. It amused me to play with her mind and in the end we decided that she must finish her relationship with this man. He was obviously being unfaithful – hadn’t she seen the bite marks I had left on his neck! We decided that he was not the right man for her. He was too unreliable, had started missing dates. In the end it was a relief for her when she left him.
The following evening Ron and I were making love as usual. As our bodies intertwined, energy flowed through us as though we were one entity. One seraphic
creature feeding on itself, gaining momentum as our carnal hunger drove our bodies harder and deeper towards release. After I was sated, I decided that Ron would be my second husband and I threw myself into creating the perfect setting for his proposal. Please don’t think that Ron was “the one” it was more about boredom with my lifestyle. My first husband had died over 9 months previously and I was fed up playing the grieving widow. It was the 1950’s, I should have been out having fun.
I decided that Ron would propose to me in the French restaurant on Hufton Street. It was conveniently located between the station and work so my colleagues would know how ostentatious and expensive it was and it would be just the thing to convey how worthy I was of being the wife of a man like Ron. That and the ring he would propose with. From Tiffany’s no less.
I remember being quite excited about our upcoming nuptials and Ron was so happy. It was puppy love. He was so malleable and begging to please. It took some time for him to realise that he wanted to marry me but once he had come up with the idea, there was no stopping him.
He wanted to propose in front of our friends at the pub we had met in. Seriously, I nearly gave up on the whole thing. I talked to him very gently, adagio – as though he was a slow child. Finally he realised that it would be our moment, a time we could both look back on and relish for the rest of our lives. The French restaurant on Hufton Street it would be.
The ring was slightly more problematic. On further examination it was twice Ron’s annual salary and although I was cross that he hadn’t saved this money in preparation for proposing to me, I could understand that he had only found me recently and so had not had time to prepare. I told him that I would find a cheaper ring and that it would be just as wonderful as it was his gift to me. I really am excelling myself, I sounded so sincere.
I just happened to be standing at the Tiffany counter when the phone rang. The assistant smiled at me apologetically and went through to a back room to answer it. All the jewels were behind locked doors so she had no need to worry about theft. It was so fortuitous that I had just popped behind the counter to see if there were any keys, when a fur clad lady entered.
“My rings needs enlarging young woman.” She said to me.
Yes, I replied. Do you know the ring size we should increase to?
She shoved her finger into a metal ring sizer and handed it back to me with her finger still attached.
Wonderful, I said, we will get them altered for you.
She handed me three stunning rings. I gasped but then remembered where I supposedly worked.
Would Friday be soon enough? I replied.
The young assistance came back from answering the phone as I was walking the lady to the door.
Friday, I said.
Yes, she said.
I turned and walked back towards the counter. I saw a rather nice pair of enameled cuff links. How much are they? I asked.
I paid several pounds for them. I would give them to Ron straight away. He would wear them when he proposed.
I left the store with my purchase and the three recently acquired rings. It is always good to have a choice and choosing an engagement ring shouldn’t be rushed.
Ron was very impressed when I showed him my final choice. I refused to tell him how much it had cost and so we agreed he would use his savings for a television set and we would each procure our own ring. We were married at the beginning of June 1953. The same week as the coronation. This way I knew I wouldn’t forget the date. My new mother-in-law seemed to think that we needed a pressure cooker. I think I kept up a marvelous facade when I thanked her graciously. Ron even got in on the act by saying how much he was looking forward to my cooking. I had to look at his face to make sure that he wasn’t serious. The pressure cooker wasn’t used. In fact, I don’t think it was even taken out of the box.
Ron and I entertained a lot. We were not the only people in our circle of acquaintances to have a television set but ours was the most expensive. I also had an expensive refrigerator and a very pricey washing machine. Often we would have pre-dinner cocktails in our kitchen so we could all marvel over the array of appliances displayed on our Formica work tops. We were the first to have an automatic tea maker. It really was the height of luxury. I even acquired one for Ron’s parents.
Can I believe that I will be 90? I don’t feel 90. I feel younger than I was 50 years ago. It’s my body that has aged. I despise my failing body. Arthritis haunts my joints but the pain is a constant reminder that I am alive. I am no Moaning Mary or some dying swan. I am a true warrior, unique, a gift to mankind.
I recall the day my father died. I was in my 30’s but I didn’t look a day over 21. He had been sick for several months and had had heart surgery. Mother was wasting away with worry and at the strain of looking after him. I knew Papa wanted to do the right thing and kill himself – I gave many ideas for how he could do this – but of course, it wasn’t until he told me that killing himself would make his life assurance policy null and void, that I understood the sacrifice he was making by continuing to live. I couldn’t let Papa suffer like that so I became his guardian angel.
He looked at me wide eyed with pure love as I walked toward him with that pillow. I had put a mild sedative in his tea and he was crying with gratitude, thankful that he would no longer be a burden on mother. No longer responsible for destroying her beauty. Allowing her the freedom to become whole again, too live life. As he had given us life, I gave him death. The ultimate gift any caring person can bestow.
Mother returned from her afternoon nap and was at first alarmed to learn that Papa had died but relieve to know it had happened so quickly and peacefully. I explained exactly what had occurred – omitting the pillow, of course – and described how he had looked happy as he bucked and convulsed during the final moments of his existence. I told her that his last words were that he loved us and I’m sure they were but the pillow muffled what he was saying.
Mother looked wonderful at his funeral. Very demure. Her tears were spectacular but I stole the show, all gazes were on me. I had my hair in a geometric cut and I wore false eyelashes. Need I say more?
I found it very strange that when Papa died, everything in his estate went to mother. Her unexpected death, a few months later, made everything right.
With my new found wealth I purchased a Ford Capri. I was sad when I found Ron sitting in it. Engine running. Hose pipe attached to the exhaust. I hadn’t realised the smell of fumes would permeate the upholstery so fully.
I was truly upset when the police came to remove the body.
His funeral was a simple affair with the wake held in the pub where we first met. Several of his friends gave eulogies. Matthew, he had been best man at our wedding, spoke of how brave I was and my wonderful pragmatism. Ron’s brother spoke of how wonderful Ron’s life had been since I had entered into it. At times I looked sorrowful and at others forlorn. I had spent ages practicing. When the gathering ended, Matthew drove me home. He was very courteous. I sat primly beside him in his car. I leaned forward and sobbed quietly, as I gathered my composure, I accidentally touched his knee. A jolt of electricity went through me and I knew…..