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.


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, Compassion, creative writing, Fiction, old-age, Peter Wells, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to She Was His Obligation

  1. I love how this piece works, Peter: the relationship between the speaker and the woman is well written because it exists only through implication and therefore the reader has to work a bit. It is clever to have your lead as a slight outsider. I love this line: ‘she implied he had not yet learnt the distinction between wise actions and those which offer brief excitement.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Peter. Were our people true, or were there imagined pasts that only they know? Such a quick peek behind the curtain.


  3. Al says:

    Just when I think I have become a little desensitized to your pervasive elegance of writing, you blindside me with a piece like this. “drink, I suspected, was her refuge and her jailor” …..absolute gold!


  4. Scarlet says:

    She’s gagged by loyalty, but he still doesn’t trust her…. I reckon he sends those cards to oil the loyalty.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wdfyfe says:

    I hope they have a second drink


  6. Perhaps not as bad as they all thought then…


  7. Shonnie says:

    You my friend have such a gift for storytelling. I admire this so!


  8. Interesting character piece, Peter. I like that somehow, the man still cared enough to pay attention to her. You offered a clever explanation, too!


  9. delphini510 says:

    What a strong piece of writing with all three main charachter in such sharp relief. I love the lady with the vulnerable look but yet strong underneath. The writer slightly awkward but wanting to be kind. The speaker’s ” better not to get too involved”.
    / Miriam


  10. As always, you pull us in, darling. xx
    Will he go back to talk w/ her?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. nelle says:

    We see what we see, and others see what they see, and frequently, none of them are in agreement. I think that’s a good thing.


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