A Distant Star


Ever since I have been old enough to want more than to go fishing, play football or become a musician of note, I have had a “Star from Afar:” some inexpressibly mysterious beauty whose progress across the silver screen captured my imagination and heart.

Ingrid Bergman was the first, viewed when I was twenty- four and unaware that she was older than me by several decades. On the screen she was only twenty-seven, and still within reach of my imagination, if not my wallet or reality, but then my recognition of practical difficulties has never been a strong point.

Over the years the list of stars I admired has grown to infinite length, each woman loved without any sense of my being unfaithful to the last or the physical lady of the hour, if one applied for that vacancy. My most obscure addition to the list was Samantha Wheatley, somewhere near my age, who enjoyed a career under the radar, filling in small roles in a number of well-received films although that “Breakthrough moment” never graced her career. She vanished from the world of films and even the internet neglected her life story so that what happened to her, or where she was, remained a taunting mystery.

Most fetching were her eyes, full of gentle modesty and a voice which soothed away my fears: with her alone, I dreamt I might discover myself and open up the door to life beyond the commonplace, but that was not to be. I was an attic man, living in unremarkable isolation and freed from social expectation by a lack of means; but in my dreams I still walked the planet, head held high, and talked with souls whose heightened awareness brought beauty to my world.

What did I care about hardship when her radiance shone in every part she played and I longed for that moment when I might open a door for her or share a glance across the street. I had a dream where she walked across a room, entered by accident, and said with discrete simplicity, “You are my chosen man,” before kissing me softly on the lips.

So it may have remained until one day, by request, I attended the launch of a painter’s career, not known to me but her father was a friend. I walked through the gallery, admiring one work and then the next until a lady asked me if I had the time. I turned to speak to her and saw those eyes again, so full of acceptance and still with a beauty most of us forget, and heard a voice I recognised, but in real life.

Before I could stop myself I said, “Samantha Wheatley” and captured the moment of surprise which moved across her face. “I did not mean to startle you” I said, “But I have been a fan of yours since long before I can remember” and she just smiled. Older than me, but still with that quality of nervous courage, and reaching out to awareness so many creative people have, if only fleetingly: she filled me with awe of her sympathy and bravery. “Beauty of many kinds can light up life at any time, and you are full of it,” I said. She must have been slightly over sixty by that time, and might have thought me strange, but all she did was smile, reach out and touch my arm and thank me for my courtesy.

Most of life is mystery, mine is anyway, wasted on anxieties, or drowned by prosaic demands leaving wonder to another time, but suddenly, when she appeared, wonder seemed to be everywhere and without knowing anything about her I knew I could not let her go. “Come and lunch with me, somewhere safe where you cannot worry about being with a stranger and we can talk.” All she said was “Yes.”

“Yes” is what she said, and I cannot tell you why, but later we talked about our lives and the price of experience. She, like me, was lost and no stranger to catastrophe: we had both sought the ‘Promised Land’ without any sense of geography.

I learnt through her that life is never without the promise of wonder or recognition and somehow, I do not know how, she brought me home: she said the same of me. We are a married now, these six years, and her health is not what it might be, but we share our moment, and, side by side, find peace. I do not want to be safe, life must be more than that surely, but in her arms and by her side I live adventure without anxiety: my star came home.

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Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

A PR Challenge And A Half


Bertram Mildew ran the laundry which bore his name, underlining the fact that he was the proud owner of this seldom-patronised venture. “Mildew Laundry Services” which didn’t seem to “Cut it” in a town bustling with shops selling everything from unnecessary trinkets to those nifty new slippers which, battery charged, add a comforting glow to your feet without placing an undue burden on the central heating system.

At last, as his capital reserves dwindled towards crisis point he took the bold step of contacting a powerful PR company in the next town. ‘Smoothie and Glib Ltd,’ masters of the flowing phrase sited just beyond the world of meaning, who sent one of their sharper wordsters to,” get a sense of the Mildew enterprise,” and see how much they could drain out of his monetary reserves before he cottoned on to the fact that a laundry with the word ‘Mildew’ in its title was unlikely to attract custom from a town noted for a high percentage of neurotics amongst its population.

Across the road the local café, ‘Bland Eating’ which employed the slogan “Every allergy catered for”, seemed to enjoy a thriving existence, if you can ignore the fact that most of those who entered therin were checking the newspaper for nut content, or holding a handkerchief to their noses lest nearby trees tried to pollinate their nostrils. Even its rival, “The Fat Café,” which boasted in black print above the entrance, “All weights welcome: our doors accept any figure” managed to cram a decent number of customers into its outsized chairs on a regular basis. The sound of the waiter leaning over the table and asking in the quiet cultured voice gained while failing a degree at Oxford “Four eggs or six sir” added a surprisingly sophisticated tone to an eatery which boasted slightly stained tablecloths.

Sydney Byline, “A tie to suit every mood,” was the sharpster sent by Smoothie and Glib to get the lie of the land. “The secret is in the name” he told Mr Mildew with a gloating display of perceptive power. “Have you ever thought of changing it to something which would be less distracting to prospective customers of a laundry”

“I cannot change the name without offending the memory of my father. He would spin in his crematorium.” “I see” said the nimble advisor. “Perhaps if we combined his name with that of your mother we might distract from the ‘subtext’ if you follow me” Mildew didn’t follow him, but gallantly offered up the surname of his mother as the route to business rescue, “Widebottom”

Our canny advisor, who had slipped into The Fat Café on his way to the appointment looked stunned for a second and then his face cleared and he said “Mildew and Widebottom, by-line, ‘No shirt too large, no dress too shapeless” and added, “That is the very thing to gain custom in this odd and ill-peopled town, and as an afterthought he continued, “Open at tactful hours” which might save the blushes of those still unfamiliar with the interior of a gym.

By these simple steps, Mildew found his fortunes restored and social profile raised. Even the future Mrs Mildew, current name Sandra Boil, was introduced to him while sneaking a stained party frock through his doors at 2:30 am, which, mysteriously, had become his busiest hour.

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Imprisoned By Reputation


You know that practised smile, the air-hostess smile so beloved in the world of the antiseptic greeting? Miss Laura had it and could look on you and then move away before you could ask if her manner was sincere or meant just for you or a mere reflection of your longing, but luck was not on her side the day I joined her dancing class.

I was lonely and desperate, and for some years I had lived as a recluse, through force of circumstance rather than desire. One evening, an advert in the local newspaper caught my eye and here I was holding Miss Laura in my arms, and seeing her eyes, warm and nurturing, then wary, then alarmed as she looked up at me. I could almost hear her refined and polished instincts whirring into action as she sought a way to extricate herself from the arms of this odd creature without creating a scene.

I hung on to her a bit too long and her eyes, with that gentle seriousness I had seen before in other girls, made the unspoken suggestion that I was threatening to embarrass myself and her until, like some piece of refuse caught briefly by an overhanging branch, I was released from my hypnosis and freed her from my grasp.

As I let her go, her eyes hardened as if to say, “I do not waste my warmth on men like you” and to be honest there was a guarded, careful quality about her which was at odds with her apparently social and generalised manner.

I had been a wealthy man in my time, and used to employ a modesty of character combined with an expensive wardrobe to attract those whose company I might enjoy. Up to my mid-forties I had been considered sensible, balanced and particular, until a certain Maria Gratzia, who boasted among other things, that she was a distant descendant of Lucretia Borgia, caught my eye: which outlandish claim was given some credence by her subsequent conduct.

What she had against men, or mankind in general, or just me, I cannot truly say, but once I lost myself in her, she married me, took half my wealth, my reputation and my peace of mind before leaving me to find consolation in uneasy solitude brought on by shame and balmed by any drink I could acquire.

We all have unsavoury, grubby aspects to our character do we not, and she managed to fillet out mine and make it general knowledge to excuse her own conduct, which it did; leaving me, now a pariah, to steal into the obscure seclusion from which I had failed to free myself for close on a decade. At last, the longing to be absolved, touched and recognised gradually possessed me until I had made this unbalanced attempt to renew my social life.

I was like a man dying of thirst who stumbles into some fine restaurant and gulps and slurps from a carafe of wine without ceremony, revolting the diners with his display of unpolished appetite, as was my brief and awkward dance with Miss Laura until she saw the hunger in my eyes. After a while recognition overlay the hauteur and she said, “Mr Longestine, please do not come back here again,” and I left as quickly as I could. Secrets laid bare, it seems, can sometimes haunt us all our lives.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Reputation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Annabelle


I’ve never heard anyone say “When I was young all I wanted to be was a liar” because that would be mad wouldn’t it? I mean, I ask you, what could be more stupid? Why would you wish to be such a thing, but possibly you know the answers don’t you: not sure I do!

My obsession was called Annabelle, and she had a warmth and smile about her which could chase the winter out of any room, and just to bath in her energy for a few minutes, an evening perhaps, or maybe just a lifetime seemed the doorway to “Paradise.”

I’m not one for public disclosures so the fact I was married was not fully known to those I worked with, including Annabelle, who caught my eye as I did hers.

I am an engineer by trade and travelling away from home is part of my routine, so there was no there need to tell anyone about my wife Krystal or my daughter Caroline. I love my wife and had never betrayed her but we all have that space, don’t we, which is unnourished: that suitcase of dreams which remains unpacked in our current circumstance, and suddenly, in her presence, I was granted that smile which allowed me to express a new and beautiful way of being me: that was my belief.

It was only after I slept with her for the second night we were together, lying in bed and drinking tea that I spoke about my marriage. “Get out of my room” she said, which left me no time to explain myself.

For the rest of the week I avoided her as much as possible, riven by waves of panic and a growing sense of what I had risked by this reckless conduct and glad to be escaping, hopefully never to return.

“All’s well that ends well” they say, which is not what happened in my case. Annabelle traced my wife through social media and took it upon herself to pass on all the details of my deceit. As I opened the door my dear wife said, “Do not unpack.”

Truth often becomes apparent only in retrospect and I had disregarded the simple fact that I loved my wife and everything else was mere distraction. As I seek to forgive myself I hope that my wife might do the same!

Posted in Affair, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

She Was His Obligation


Her face was like a map of the forgotten world or maybe just a nightmare, lined, creased and tired from experience, but there was a quality of defiance about it which drew you to a second look. Those smoker’s eyes, I knew, were full of memories and insights, good and bad, blessed or wrapped in regrets and moments of euphoria created from a fabric of the finest chaos: drink, I suspected, was her refuge and her jailor.

I met her at a literary conference where the great and good rose and spoke on marketing and I, somewhat at a loss, had gone to see if I could finally get a sense of creative direction. She, it appeared, had been the first secretary of the main speaker some twenty years before and had been invited to attend the conference by him out of a longstanding loyalty. The guru had his wife and eldest daughter with him and everything was clearly above board, but she was knowing in that chaotic way “the lost” can be when they look in your eyes.

“Buy me a drink” she said, standing slightly closer to me than was necessary. “I’m a bit rushed” I said, looking around me as if there were people I should meet, but of course, she knew I was just avoiding her. She’d been there a thousand times in many situations, but still she snarled, “Get lost pretty boy,” which clearly I was not. At a loss now, and not wishing to be rude I said, “Just the one then” and placed a protective hand on her back as if I was wise enough to guide her. She looked up then and her face came alight which was somehow more disturbing: too much happiness, too much warmth: you know the thing.

Drink in hand and pointing at the principle speaker she said, “He was gorgeous when he was young, lovely, and he still sends me Christmas cards if he’s got my address.” Clearly a decent man but then, in his youth, when she was working for him, she implied he had not yet learnt the distinction between wise actions and those which offer brief excitement.

As she started to unravel her past before me the great man in question came over and said, in his apologetic way, “Can I borrow this gentleman for a moment” and with that he whisked me over to the far side of the room. “Best not to get too involved there if you catch my drift” and I nodded my assent. “She needs someone to look after her though” I said and he nodded in his turn.

She was one of those people you invite into your life at your own peril and clearly she knew more about our guru than he would like to be known by others but, despite that, there was a loyalty between them. The connection was her most precious memory, a source of pride to her as was his constant, if discrete, compassion. Older than him, perhaps, but she “saw” him before others new him, and supplied him with comfort when he was in need:that he could never forget.

Posted in character, Compassion, creative writing, Fiction, old-age, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Her Parting Words


The time for pretending was now over: her gaunt face lying on the pillow, eking out her final breaths, Madelaine our only child, sleeping quietly in my arms, too young to watch her mother’s presence living out its final throw.

“Love again,” my dear wife told. “Do not become a hermit for me, I want for you the warmth and laughter I will soon cease to feel. Love for me and face life bravely, feel me standing by your side. I have loved and love you always, but from this truth we cannot hide. Life is cruel, inconsequential: takes no account of what we are. Be happy for me always darling, take me with you on your journey, and laugh the silence from my grave.”

“Take me with you to the sunrise, walk with me upon the heath, teach our child to ride a cycle and play with her upon the beach. In time you too will need some comfort, do not hide away from love. Mine is yours to hold forever, free from cost or limitation, give it to the girl you meet. Know that as you stoop to kiss her, I shall strive to smile and bless her: some sweet soul who brings you comfort, my one, my true ungainly Knight. Death, we know, brings little comfort, but in your thoughts and this sweet child, now living passing urgencies, might I come to life again, brought to mind by some hand gesture, recollected in a phrase?

Celebrate the moment darling; hold it to your breast till death. You and I, who found each other, wrapped our lives around each other, must now go our separate ways, but in this moment let us treasure, all that you have been to me.

Remember how I love you dearly, accept our fate with dignity. The flame which is your gentle spirit, lit the world in which I lived. Let my love remain within you, and guide your steps as best I may.”

Her words are all I have to treasure, living now as if by order, and so I tell my only daughter, “She was a wonder lent by angels, who smiled and gave me hope in life. You are all I have of her, but in your eyes I see her presence, and somehow as you run towards me, arms outstretched in urgent summons, I find again my own sweet darling, reaching out to life once more.”

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A Carefully Considered Courtship


Charles Junkett, a surname he hated by the way, and Samantha Prigg met on the first day of University at a ‘Freshers’ gathering where both were meant to throw caution to the wind and drink deeply from the froth-filled chalice of freedom and irresponsibility. Charles dressed in a suit and sipping carefully at his lime cordial and mineral water noticed that the girl beside him, dressed in a brown below the knee skirt and matching blouse was also supping from the same cocktail.

“Great Minds” he said to her raising his glass, and she replied, “Wished they were somewhere else”. He looked at her more seriously and replied “Don’t they just. I say, do you fancy wandering off and having a coffee somewhere else instead,” and she did not mind: so had begun a courtship which had lasted for fifteen years.

They both lived in the same suburb of the city and while he worked as a Financial Analyst she plunged into the wilder professional waters afforded by a career as a Loss Adjuster. “The recklessness of some people” she might say, and he would add, “Fools rush in” and so they might, but not into these lives. “No Sir, No way, Not on my watch,” characterised their responses to those who led a life free of planning.

They did not share a house or flat, but lived in the same street, and commuted with each other every day to offices which were also close to each other: “Ah the benefits of organisation.” At the end of the day, from Monday through to Thursday, as they reached her house, which they did first, he would say “Enjoy your evening” and she would add “That is the plan” and then, “I’ll ring you at 10pm” which was fifteen minutes before their agreed bed time.

Every week on Friday they would repair to the same Greek Restaurant, look at the same menu and order the same meal. Their unchanging toast was “To the good life” said just before their mineral water charged glasses chinked in a moment of controlled euphoria.

Even in the most ordered of lives, the subject of intimacy and its effect on order and routine might be discussed and so it was with them; a mere three years after they began spending significant amounts of time together. “There are grounds,” he said to her one Friday evening, for upgrading our kiss on the cheek to a ritual involving a meeting of lips. ”

She looked at him carefully, and considered any possible downsides involved. “I think that’s reasonable,” she said, and so their lips met for the first time at nine-thirty five at the conclusion of the evening, and just before they retired to their separate accommodations: two souls joined in the worship of order and planning.

Within two years this alteration had led to them spending Friday and Saturday nights together under one roof, and, dare we reveal it, one duvet. Rules of engagement were discussed and intimacies conducted with due notice taken of noise levels and disorder to the bed linen. Time went by and both enjoyed successful careers free of unsightly boasting or unplanned excitement.

So it might have continued until, one Friday evening, as they met in town prior to him saying, “Would you enjoy a Greek meal this evening” as if it was a new idea, he noticed that she seemed a trifle edgy. Emotional might be over stating it, but there was certainly something of the off-guard about her manner. All was revealed as they nibbled at the customary pita bread and the home-made humus, produced in a factory north of Birmingham. “I have to tell you I am expecting a child”. “How is that possible” he said and again, even with his best efforts, some emotion was evident in his demeanour.

“I suspect in the normal manner, although the indulging in a peppermint cream instead of my normal pill might have influenced things. “ “Is it mine?” he said, nervous, but sure of her answer. “Oh no” she said, “It’s a present from the heating engineer” who told me to “Get a Life”, and so I did, with him. “How do you explain this conduct?” he asked. “I think boredom might have had something to do with it”. “Ah boredom” said her long-time companion. “Difficult to deal with under all circumstances. Very nice to have met you” and with that he left and placed his house on the market before moving to the Philippines where he tried his hand at professional surfing.

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