...with love all things are possible

Believe ...

Believe ...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

To my Grandfather

By spending time at Soly, I could monopolize Grampie and Mizzy and pretend they were only mine. Grampie made things come alive for me. He talked to me about important things, like a grown-up. I loved to listen to him, to hear his words.

I just sat there letting his words seep into my body – through whichever opening they chose to enter, because most of the time my ears just couldn’t understand them. Printing his voice in my heart and locking it in my soul. I could feel his voice squeezing past the hairs on my arms, running up my nostrils, hurriedly making their way down into my thundering empty head. “Noony-head-in-air” Mizzy always used to call me. So I was sure that I had nothing much under my tangled, sun-bleached hair.

I desperately wanted to make contact with Grampie – I wanted to feel him, breathe him, touch him and make everything of his a part of me. I wanted a special place in his heart, because so much of my heart was filled with him.

Books were his passion and so they became mine as well. Old books, new books, musty ones with tattered yellow pages; it didn’t matter. But Grampie didn’t just sit there and read – he ate up the books, devoured them, poured over them, intently sucking every word and phrase out of them. He paid homage to his books and pushed others to do the same.

I’d sit on the floor playing solitaire and he’d be puffing on his pipe in his chair by the window. I wish he would tell me a story. The flickering flames from the kerosene lamps had a soothing effect and I’d inch my way closer and closer to the foot of his chair.

I leaned my head gently on the side of his leg and he ruffled my hair.

“Will you tell me a story, please?” and he sat back with his pipe and told one about me riding the bike. I loved it.

Gruff though he seemed, he was not. His stories were passionate, sometimes lilting into a gentle cadence, like waves softly lapping on the shore; then suddenly he would pounce with a yell and in all the same breath move back to the lullaby rhythm. I was enthralled; his melodious voice was exhilarating.

Suppers at Soly were always a simple affair of boiled eggs provided by Mizzy’s plump brown and black chickens or soup.

“Look! Look how yellow the yolks are!” She would pronounce every time. We would all “Ooh” and “Ahh” on cue.

Slices of toast oozing butter, raw carrots and cheese on the side and tall glasses of thick creamy milk, it never got boring or repetitious.

The little house purred on autumn evenings, the fire gently crackling in the corner scenting the air with eucalyptus and pine, then at one minute to ten the silence was broken by irreverent screeching from the Wireless.

The Wireless was their only point of contact with the outside world – an old Pye radio which ran on six AA batteries. As it warmed up, it shrieked and hissed until the great bells of Big Ben could be heard through the cacophony.

“There! There it is” I squealed.

“Shh. Quiet now.” Grampie shushed me, but with a little smile pricking the edge of his lips. I loved this part, I watched him intently as he turned the dials, enraptured.

“Good evening. This is the B.B.C. and the “Ten O’Clock News …” the announcer’s hot chocolate voice poured over me. I was my favorite part; perhaps because it was the only piece I ever understood from beginning to end.

Yet it didn’t matter a bit. I was them and I took my cues from Grampie: nodding, listening, cocking my head. For a while I was part of their grownup world and I loved it.

As with all holidays, it was over all too quickly and it was back to school with me.

It was just another cold, grey school morning when I came face-to-face with death for the first time. I was seven.

Mummy came in and told us that Grampie had died. Just like that.

My throat squeezed shut. What? It’s just not fair! My eyes squeezed shut. I could see angry white spots inside – but I couldn’t see Soly. I was sitting on the edge of my bed in my underwear, gooseflesh prickling my arms and legs – and it wasn’t only the cold. I want to see Soly! I want to see Grampie.

Grampie? Why did you die? You said you would stay with me…I didn’t know if I was allowed to cry, but my eyes were stinging more and more. I think I’m going to cry … don’t cry silly baby. The words had throttled my soul; my soul where I had woven Grampie into – I could feel bony cold fingers trying to pry out the warmth.

Forcing my eyes open, I looked at my mother and asked again,

“H-how did he die?”

Her eyes filled with tears.

“His heart was tired. He was bringing in some logs for the fire and it just gave out. He fell right there. Right there in his living room next to his favorite chair.” She hunted in her sleeve for a handkerchief.

It’s just not fair! I want to scream and cry!

Daddy walked in and put his arm around Mummy,

“Come on, darling,” he said gently, “I think we’d better be getting along.”

Getting along? Where? What do they mean?

“Noony, you’ll be going to school – your sister will come with us.” What? Why?

“But Daddy, I want to come too, I want to come where you’re going…” I was confused. Don’t leave me out! Don’t leave me alone with this horrible pain!

“The bus is coming. Please just get dressed,” Daddy said.

“But, why can’t I come too…?” Please, please don’t leave me out.

“Because you’re too small and you’re going to school” he responded and I knew that was the end of that.

As my parents walked out of the room, my eyes began to cloud over with tears, tears which I angrily pushed away with the back of my hands.

I threw myself down on the bed and hugged my pillow. Grampie, Grampie, why did you leave me? Talk to me please … I could hear my heart pounding in my ears; pounding like great African drums. Loud angry African drums, beating, beating, beating.

A fuzzy image began to form behind my eyelids and a distant rumble was growing deep in my inner ear … so softly that I could barely hear it over my heartbeat. What’s that? I know you. What are you saying…?

I held my breath and struggled to listen. The picture started to come into focus …

It was an autumn evening a few days before and to the light of the kerosene lamp, Grampie was reading to me. It was “The Congo” by Vachel Lindsay – that poem I so loved which sounded like great African drums.

He pounded the table while he read alternately strumming his fingers like the patter of bare tribal feet:

….Beat an empty barrel

With the handle of a broom

Hard as they were able,

Boom, boom, boom!

I had been laughing with excitement when he banged on the table, his cheeks bright pink savoring every word and rolling them over his tongue. He was at once throwing up his arms and roaring like the apes of Africa, filled with passion, his bright blue eyes dancing and dancing behind his round glasses. Now softly like the waves again

…Then I had religion

Then I had a vision…

The image began to blur. No please! Don’t go! Don’t go! His great voice became a distant echo as I strained to hear him

…Mumbo-Jumo is dead in the jungle

Never again will he hoodoo you

Never again….

And in a puff, like the fireflies, he was gone. Please said the whisper in my ear, Please don’t leave me alone …

Please… And slowly from far away up the lawn behind my eyelids came a soft soothing voice,

“It’s OK, Noony. You can do it by yourself…” and just as gently it melted in a cloud of blue smoke taking with it my innocence.

Watching the drizzle of that grey chilly morning, I dragged on my grey school uniform, about as grey and as drab as I felt right then and began the first day of the rest of my life without Grampie

Saturday, 27 August 2011

No U-turn

"We could have talked ..."

In the tumbling dawn, the words drifted, poignant, unfinished. A cold silence settled as the rising sun painted a wild picture across the cloud strewn sky. He held her. She gripped him, shaking. Each one lost in their own thoughts, puzzled, angry, fearful teenage thoughts about what had just happened.

With infinite patience and determination the ball of fire in the east pulled itself free of the grip of the horizon, to reclaim its throne in the heavens. The wild artist today, shards of red and orange splintered the night sky, with no apology for breaking into the stealth of a moon free dark night.

“We should have talked …”

“Yeah, maybe we should’ve …”

The first yellow beams shot across the vapid countryside, outlining the inert form on the grass at their feet with its blood-covered slit wrists.

“We should have talked …”

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


(A conversation)

“Are you hungry?”

“Yeah. Ya think?”

“Would you like some dinner?”

“Sure – good idea.”

“What would you like?”

“Um, I dunno. Anything.”

“OK. How about a hamburger?”

“Hamburger? Um, nah. Not a hamburger.”

“Not a hamburger?”

“Nah. Gives me gas.”


“Yeah, really.”

“OK. What about liver and onions?”

“Gross! Are you nuts? That’s disgusting.”

“OK. Fine. Steak then?”

“Nah. I had steak fer lunch today.”

“OK. OK. You chose then.”

“I dunno. Anything, really.”

“Anything. So pick it.”

“I dunno. Gimme some ideas.”

“OK, let me see. Fish. What about fish?”

“Fish. Fish. What kinda fish?”

“How about salmon?”

“Nah, don’t like salmon.”


“Makes me think of salmonella.”


“Yeah. Sick.”

“Grouper then?”

“Nah. Makes me think of people.”


“Yeah, groups of people, y’know?”

“That’s weird.”

“Yeah that’s how it goes.”

“What kind of fish do you like then?”

“Oh, I dunno, any fish.”

“Any fish that’s not salmon or grouper?”

“Yeah. Or catfish.”

“Catfish. It figures.”

“Really. How’d you know?”

“Well I guess it makes you think of cats.”

“Nah. Now that’s stoopid.”


“Yeah. I got bit by a catfish when I was small.”

“Oh, that’s funny.”

“What’s funny about being bit by a fish?”

“Um, nothing, really. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, tell me what’s funny about being bit by a catfish?”

“Well, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone …”

“Being bit by a catfish?”

“Um, well no, I mean yes.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Um. Being bitten. But never mind.”

“But I mind. Look it took two fingers.”

“Oh, wow. They’re gone. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Fingers don’t grow back, y’know?”

“I know. I’m so sorry. I should never have brought it up.”

“Yer right ‘bout that.”

“So what can I get you to eat instead?”

“Instead of what?”

“Instead of fingers … er, I mean fish.”

“Are you messin’ with me?”

“No, no. It slipped, I’m sorry. Look, let me give you five dollars …”

“Five bucks? Whaddya think I can get fer five bucks?”

“Well, there’s lots of things.”

“D’ya think I could get a steak fer five bucks?”

“But you didn’t want a steak.”

“But what if I did?”

“Ok. Ok. I’m sorry, look here’s a twenty. Enjoy your dinner.”

I dropped a twenty dollar bill into the panhandler’s box and fled.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


He sits in the chair. For a moment I think he’s made of wax, but on closer inspection I realize he’s real. Wow. What an amazing thing to do. He’s not moving, not twitching, not blinking. How does he do that? I can’t even stay still for a couple of seconds, unless I’m asleep. But even then I don’t know what happens, I think I’m quite still but I’m sure something is moving.

He’s painted gold from head to toe, from his skin to his clothes and down to his shoes and laces. The chair is also gold. It’s almost as if King Midas had come along and touched his head at lunchtime and converted him into a perfect gold statue. Into gold in the middle of Lintot Square.

I wonder how long he’s been there? Does it hurt? What does he think about when he’s sitting there? Do people touch him? I guess not, but then you never know with people, right? What if he gets an itch or if something bites him? What about when he wants to go to the bathroom?

I stare at him and wait. He’s got to move sometime, I watch and watch but I honestly can’t see anything move. I’m beginning to think he’s fake, that I made a mistake and he’s really is just a gold statue. A very clever gold statue.

Until the little twins come along with their parents. They too are drawn to stare, just like me. Only the twins – aged about four – are far less cautious than I. They look American.

“Hey, don’t touch, guys,” says the father as the twins march up closer and closer. They are American.

By the foot of the chair is a gold bowl with money in it. Gold coins.

“Aw Dad, can we give him some money?” says the left twin.

“Yeah, we want to give him some coins, Dad, Mom?” says the right twin pulling on his mother’s skirt.

Dad looks at Mom who smiles and nods.

“Sure kids, here you are,” says Dad fishing out some loose change.

The twins inspect the coins, “No, Dad, it’s go to be gold coins … see?” the left twin points to the bowl, “they’re all gold, we’d spoil the picture.”

“Yeah,” says the right twin, “gold coins only, Dad. Look again.”

“Honey, I haven’t got any pound coins, do you?” Dad says emptying his pockets.

“Let me see,” says the mother. Oh my goodness, she’s got the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard, it’s like musical honey, like warm hands on my heart, I take a small step closer hoping she’ll speak again. “Ah ha! Look at what I have here,” she says with a smile. A smile to melt a thousand angry men, a smile to wake a city of sleeping soldiers.

She puts her hand out to the twins and in it is a little pile of one and two pounds gold coins, “how many would you like?”

“Honey, one each should be enough,” says Dad.

“Oh, but darling, I’d like them to decide. Maybe they have some wishes they want to make? Maybe there’s a magic number they like better than one. Eric? John?”

The twins look at their mother’s hand and then up at their father. They confer in silence, like only twins can, and then Eric steps up,

“I’d like to have two Mom, because I have two wishes to make.” He carefully picks out two chubby one pound coins.

John steps up, looks at the coins again and looks at his mother. He sighs the sigh of a very old man, “Mom, I have so many wishes, so many, many wishes, I think I need more than two.” Typical American, greedy, greedy.

“Oh no you don’t young man,” says Dad.

“Hush, Bill, let John make up his own mind,” says Mom in her nectar colored voice and fills his cheek with kisses. Bill flushes and shoves his hands in his pockets, entranced.

“Well, John darling, just how many wishes do you have?” she asks, now crouching to look at her son eye to eye.

John’s pupils dilate, as he looks into his mother’s, “a lots.”

“Very well then, take what you need.”

John plucks the coins from his mother’s hand one by one. His lips move every time he takes a coin as if murmuring what the next wish is. When there are only two coins left, he looks at his mother again,

“What about you and Dad? Do you have wishes?”

Mom thinks for a minute, shakes her head and then looks up at her husband, “Bill? Do you have a wish to make?”

“Um, no, I’m good.” He says staring at the man in the chair. Dad seems to be just a curious as me.

“Can I have them all then?” says John looking at his mother.

“Of course John darling, of course you can.”

John takes the last two coins in exactly the same way he took the others, only now his pudgy little hands can barely manage the load.

“C’mon J” says his twin getting impatient, “let’s make our wishes already.”

One step at a time, they creep up towards the gold man in the chair. The closer they get, the smaller their steps. The closer they get, the closer I watch. There! I see the eyes, with every little step the boys take, the eyes move. Just a tiny fraction, but they move, following the progress of these little boys. What’s he thinking now? Is he willing them to hurry up? Or is he enjoying the avid attention? There’s probably about twenty pounds coming his way.

“Eric,” whispers John. “You go first.”

“OK,” says Eric as John stops. Eric’s two paces away from the bowl. He looks back at his parents. Dad urges him on with a hand gesture, his mother, now arm in arm with Bill, just smiles. Her smile would encourage a man to step back from a ledge.

Emboldened, Eric takes the last step, stretches his hand out and drops the two coins in the bowl.

“I wish I get a new bike for Christmas!” he says in a loud voice.

It seemed like everything happened at once.

The coins clanged.

Eric yelped.

“Wheeeeeee!” screamed a strident whistle.

John dropped his coins.

The gold statue came to life in a sweeping bow.

“Wheeeeeee!” screamed the whistle again.

Then there was total silence.

Eric’s face was scarlet. John’s face puckered. My heart was in my mouth. Mom and Dad were gaping, Mom clutching Dad’s arm.

Other people were staring at the man in the chair. Eric was the first to do what I felt like doing, he rubbed his eyes with his fists and stared again at the gold man already back in the chair.

It was the soft little sob that broke the tension. John stood there empty handed, two fat tears running down his cheeks.

“I dropped all my coins …” he whispered. Mom ran up and hugged him.

“Wow,” said Eric, “That was cool. C’mon John, you do your coins. Here,” Eric started picking up his brother’s coins.

“It’s OK, son, I guess that’s his way of saying thank you,” said Bill putting the last coins into his son’s hands.

“Eric, you do it for me,” John said extending his trembling, coin-filled hands to his brother.

“No, you do it. It’s cool,” said Eric to his twin.

John looked back at his parents who both nodded. Mom smiled. Eric cheered. So John took a step towards the man in the chair.

“That’s good, John,” whispered Mom.

John took another step staring at the gold man.

The coins clinked. He stopped, cupping them with care.

“Go on!” hissed Eric.

Another step.

His eyes locked with Goldman’s.

We all held our breath.

Another step.

His little knees shivered.

The last step.

When he was level with the bowl, he crouched, inch by inch, never losing eye contact with Goldman as he placed the handful of coins into the bowl whispering:

“These coins are for my all wishes. All my wishes are that my Mom gets better from her Cancer.”

I hated myself instantly. Why was I so quick to judge?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Open and Closed.

Open and Closed. Open and Closed. The sign on the shop door flickered without pausing.

“What’s going on?” I asked Gerry.

“I have no idea,” she said, unbuckling her seatbelt, ready to step out of the car.

“No! Don’t get out,” I said putting a hand on her arm.

“Why not?”

“Look,” I pointed, “they’re all doing it…”

Gerry, hand still on the door, paused and looked around. “You’re right. What the heck is going on?”

“And look,” I said sweeping my arm left and right, “all the shop doors are doing it too.”

All the shop doors were open onto the street, swinging on their hinges, open and closed, open and closed.

“What’s going on?” Gerry asked again, “I mean, seriously? There’s no wind, there’s no breeze, there’s no … hang on a minute … Daisy there’s no people!”

And sure enough there was no one to be seen left or right, in front or behind.

“That’s weird … at 12 o’clock on a Friday afternoon? You’d think there’d be someone, something …” my voice cracked.

Trying to make our way back to Heathrow Airport just outside London, we’d pulled off the A24 in search of a snack, fed up with the usual motorway services bumpf and were delighted to have found the little village of Tipply On The Pond only a few miles beyond.

“What’s that? Over there Gerry?”

“Looks like a child’s toy, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, one of those with lids and doors … but …”

Neither of us could bring ourselves to say it out loud: the lids and doors of the plastic toy were intermittently opening and closing, opening and closing.

“Shoot, I suppose my black-out idea has just gone up in smoke,” said Gerry without the slightest quiver in her voice.

“Yeah, mine too – I think we should get out of here.” My voice was definitely shaking along with my hands and my gut.

“No, no Daisy, we must find out what’s going on.”

“Stop it Gerry. You’re on holiday! This is no time for your journalistic foolishness.” I begged.

“Oh don’t be such a winge, Daisy, I’m getting out.”

But that’s as far as she got, for the moment she pulled the door handle, her door joined in the strange silent dance: open and closed, open and closed.

Terrified, I turned the key in the ignition.

Nothing happened.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

c o l o r ... c o l o u r

Spilling from

Crystal, the wine

Seeps into clean sheets

Starting to stain,

Like blood bleeding



And splotches of

Crayon …

Crayons the color

Of trucks that

Fly through

Stop signs

Screaming and wailing

Racing for souls

Of unknowns

Oozing life

On a road …

A winding road

Like ribbon

Round a box of

Valentine chocolates

Strawberry filled

Tucked up in petals

Which fell

From 12 perfect

Roses delivered

At Noon …

At noon

Halfway before sunset

Half after dawn

Where the orb as

Pressed berries

Gone dry

Fizzes through

A water the color

Of fire …

Fireworks that

Splashing in a night sky

Make magical,

Whimsical flowers

Up high

Dribbling sparkles

Which glow

And explode into


Danger of angry bulls

Snorting and charging

At billowing capes

Like a bull’s-eye

As easily as

A Target store billboard

With spots on it

Spots that glow

On two florid


Cheeks that are


As bright as

A hooker’s

Scarlet lipstick and long

Finger nails

Or spiky stilettos

Which all match the


The Carpet of Oscar

The stars all swan down

There’s passion and


And diamonds and lust

Rubies on fingers

So dripping from necks

Match cardinal glow

Of the robes

Robes of the priest

Hats of

The ladies club

Shoes that took Dorothy

Back home from Oz

It spells hope

Also communism

Yet sometimes

A district, a sports car

A flag

Flag football!

Wear it to win sports

Boston Sox do it

The Patriots, the Pistons,

And the USC Trojans

Most Ferraris are it

A herring, a dwarf,

Hot chili peppers

Heat then anger

Anger and lust

It’s pain and it’s love

It’s sanguine, vermillion

Bloodshot or blooming

It’s blush - it is garnet

Carmine or damask



Ruby and ruddy

It’s so many things

Seen and unseen

But now

Just today

‘cause I saw

In my head

This complex


Is called simply


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Wide open

“Open up,” the dentist said, his steel blue eyes peering over the purple mask.

Why purple? Aren’t they usually light blue or white?

It set off his suntan and the whites of his eyes (and his teeth which I saw before he’d slipped it on). Too much, way too much.

“Miss Alabaster, open up please,” he repeated with a little sigh.

“Sorry, daydreaming.”

Without another word, he and his assistant fell onto and into my mouth.

I gripped the arms of the chair, sweaty-palmed. Eyes shut tight, mouth wide open.

A sucker, a mirror, a pick, a drill, and a hook to hold back my lip – surely it can't all fit in? I’m exhausted already.

“Open wider,” he said, his piercing eyes on mine for a split second.

More? I did. My lips hurt, my jawbone shrieked in my ear.

“Wider, please”

“Ah cahnk!” I said, shaking my head as I croaked from the back of my throat, which filled with water from the jet he was squirting and I gagged, coughed and suddenly vomited.

No warning I just spewed all over the drill, the pick, the mirror, the assistant’s hook and worst of all, onto the purple mask.

Terrified and embarrassed I couldn’t escape.

“I’m sorry – I’m so sorry,” I blurted, trying to mop it up with the bib around my neck. But it wouldn’t reach, because it was clipped on a very short chain.

That’s when he burst out laughing, the man who became my husband.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

What am I?

IT steams away – regardless of the temperature outside. As the days and weeks go by, it sees snow, leaves, rain, sunshine, heat, and cold.

Yet, no matter the weather, people come and people go. Laughter shared, drinks compared, sometimes tears. If only they knew.

Rick comes twice a week, fiddles and dabbles, adds and removes, leaves with a satisfied grunt. Maybe he knew.

On occasions, kids come along, hop around, piddle about, shrieking and yelling; they have a good time. If only they knew.

The other day, quite late, after everyone had gone for the day, a stray dog came by, looked around, sniffed, slurped and stepped in. If only they knew.

Late as its top lays still as glass steaming vaporous clouds into the graveyard shift hours, it’s still a party down in here. If only they knew.

There’s so much life in the hot tub.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Afternoon Dance

Emily stood there reading the billboard, from top to bottom again. Chewing a nail she twisted the crumpled handkerchief in her jacket pocket with her other hand, her eyes darting over the already familiar words.

She stared at the drawing of the woman and the man, dancing, announcing the event, which would take place that Friday, August 5th, 1938.

“Afternoon Dance,” she whispered.

Quickly she looked left and right to make sure no one had overheard her saying the words out loud. She blushed. She hadn’t been able to stop herself; she’d wanted to taste the words on her tongue. On her lips. She was right, they were delightful.

Looking left and right then left again, she inhaled and tried again, this time adopting an affected accent as she breathed out the words slowly, elongating each vowel, “Aaaaaf-ter-nooooon daaaaa-nce.” It made her smile.

Standing on tiptoe, Emily traced the contour of the woman in the long dress, imagining what it would be like to have a gown like that one. What would it smell like? Would it be tickly against her skin? She closed her eyes and inhaled, inventing the scent as she did. Lavender, she smiled, it would smell of lavender and baby's breath; it would feel smooth and silky. Yes, she thought with a sigh, that felt right. It would have wonderful floaty bits on the bottom, and have several layers of thin material and when she twirled it would float out, and out, and out like a ballerina’s long, romantic tutu; except it wouldn’t be see-through.

With a gasp, she clapped her hand over her mouth and her eyes flew open. Lost in her daydream, she had twirled right there in front of the shop window. Luckily no one was watching. She stuffed both hands in her pockets and darted away from the poster, heart in her mouth.

Soon Emily was walking again, hands still in her pockets, still thinking about the dance. Would anyone invite her? What would he be like? Tall, and dark and handsome, of course. Like the man in the picture. With green eyes, or blue eyes? No, green eyes to match his long green car. Yes, a long green car with the top down so they could drive slowly down the main street where everyone could see them. They would gasp with amazement and a little jealousy as they watched this beautiful couple.

Then the door of the dance hall would open, the music would stop and everyone in the packed room would stop, speechless, watching them come in. She blushed a little, held out her hand and did a little twirl ... The layers of her dress floating around her, billowing and sparkling, his green eyes on hers, the warmth of the room enveloping her after the chilly outdoors.

“Emily!” a sharp voice brought her back to reality where she found herself standing in the doorway of the grimy kitchenette at her mother’s tenement flat, “Where’s that bottle of gin you were supposed to get me from the shop?” yelled her red-eyed mother from her supine position on the sofa.

Emily gasped, her 12-year old eyes wide with horror as she remembered she had perched it on the windowsill outside the shop as she traced the couple in the poster ...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A short story

Unexpected love

By Cath Rathbone

Annie’s last pieces of stale bread were snatched away by the fierce current. It was drizzling and icy and she felt crushed. Not even the seagulls were interested in her.

Dragging her feet, she wandered off towards … towards where? It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered any more. Fired only a week ago, it felt like a year of pain hand compounded inside her after that horrific interview, followed by the mortifying walk of shame as she was escorted from the building.

Downsizing … you understand … international merger … new rules … no severance packages …” the words had pierced her like icicles, leaving no evidence except on her soul and her ego.

Although many had gone before her, she’d been promised her position was recession-proof. Ten years, an impeccable record, Annie trusted she was safe.

Her job. Her life. Had she seen it coming? It didn’t matter, her life was over. Annie now couldn’t pay her bills and the bulk of her savings, which she’d lent to her brother to tide him over the tough times, were also gone.

Depression. Inside and out.

Defeated, she dropped onto a wet bench, nausea filling her throat.

Time passed like an untreated root canal.

Mental lists of her financial obligations crowded in:

American Express


The car

The house

The vacation

What would her parents think? Her brother? She hadn’t had the guts to tell anyone yet.

Cell phone




Her job snatched away and farmed off to South America for a tenth of her salary. South America? What could they know about the intricate lead-gen program she’d created? Built from scratch? Honed to perfection?



The Golf Club

Friends? She’d be the laughing stock. Tears spilled down her cheeks falling into raindrops. Sweet and salty.

A cacophony raged in her head,





The IRS …

Something snapped.

Mechanical strides marched Annie up the parapet of Tower Bridge in London, where she’d been working for the last two years. Up and up she climbed, oblivious to the driving rain, strong limbs courtesy of Alpine rock climbing; endurance thanks to the elite London gym; the single-minded determination from years of working in a male dominated world. Annie laughed, a hollow laugh snatched by freezing night air.

No one’ll miss me. At the top she paused.

No husband.

No lover.

Parents? Inconvenienced at best.

Brother? Relieved probably



The wind whipped everything out of her head. She didn’t hear the shouts, or the horns honking, or the voices in her head. There was just perfect silence when she jumped.

“Morning lazy … are you planning to sleep all day?” a male voice like warm honey caressed her ear drums again.

Was this heaven?

“I’ll just get on with your exercises then, OK?”

Where was it coming from?

“First though, let’s open these windows. Feel the breeze? Listen to those birds. It’s a concert! But don’t get me started, I’ll be singing along with them.” He laughed.

An easy, comfortable laugh.

Something scraped across the floor.

Was there a floor in heaven?

“You don’t mind if I sit down, do you darling?” he asked, “Right then, now you just lie back and enjoy. You did very well yesterday.”

Enjoy what? What did she do yesterday?

The voice was soothing, rhythmic.

Was she dreaming?

There was nothing dreamlike about the feeling on her leg now. Strong hands were massaging the length of it, rubbing, kneading, pulling. It felt incredible.

What was going on?

“Well, love, how about I continue yesterday’s story? Let’s see, where did I leave off …” and his melodic voice chatted on.

Heard this before … nice, but so … sleepy …

Heart in her throat, Annie’s eyes flew open. She’d had another falling dream. Catching her breath and holding on, she realized she was in bed. But where?

Half-open curtains exposed treetops, blue sky and jet streams. Two chairs, on either side of … her bed? Nothing seemed familiar.


Glass of water.

A single yellow rose.

She jumped as the door opened and the voice spoke,

“Good morning sunshine. It’s me. How’re we today?” without looking her way, the doctor walked towards the window, tapping the footboard of her bed as he passed.

“I don’t know who closes these windows, but … there, sniff! I can’t get enough morning breeze.”

“Exc…” Excuse me who are you, was what she’d wanted to ask, but nothing else had come out.

Still holding the catch, he turned. “Did you say something?” he asked unmoving.

“Who … are … you?”

Fascination etched all over his face.

“Well, I’ll be … oh, Annie,” he said walking over, “I’m David Bates”

“Dr. Bates? Please can … I have… water?”

“Water! Of course.” David Bates leaned over and finding the glass brought it close for Annie to sip from. “I’m blind, you might have noticed,” he said with an easy smile, “so forgive me if I get a little water up your nose!” That laugh, again.

A little frisson chased down her spine. She had never felt quite like this before. In a strange bed, an unfamiliar place … yet … allowing him to feed her water was quite possibly the most calming thing she’d felt in her life.

“Blind? How? … Where … am I?”

He smiled again and pulled up the chair. She knew what he was going to say and he did,

“You don’t mind if I sit down, do you?”

She shook her head and added “No, of … course … not.”

“Welcome back! You’ve been asleep awhile,” he said getting comfortable, “Let me see … February 16 to May 20th … Do you remember any of that?”

Horrified, Annie shook her head, “No.”

“Don’t worry, love, it’s quite normal after your type of trauma.”


“But … am I? Where …?” Annie hyperventilated.

“OK, Annie, deep breath. That’s it, nice a slow, and out again. You had a bad accident but you’re recovering. I’m your physiotherapist,” he said lifting both hands, flexing his fingers, “I keep your muscles going while you sleep.”

“Accident …?” Suddenly it was all too much and the tears came hot and fast.

“Oh, Annie, there now,” David took her free hand in both of his, “you’re going to be OK,” and he sat there, holding it as she sobbed. Exhausted she hiccoughed and slipped into sleep again.

When she next opened her eyes, the day was night and the rose was pink.

Next time it was red.

This morning it was white.

“Hello, David” said Annie as he walked in.

“Well! You’re chipper today.” He said grinning.

“I am and the window’s open.”

“I can see.”

“You can? But, I thought …”

David laughed, “Silly turn of phrase, isn’t it? No I can’t see, but I feel it,” he said tapping his cheeks. “You sound good today.”

“I am. I’ve been reading and waiting for you.”

He smiled.

“You have now? And why would that be?”

“I … I wanted more.”

“More?” David said cocking his head, smirking.

“No! I mean, I want to know more, about how I got here …”

He sniggered. Annie giggled, then chuckled and before she knew it, they were laughing together.

“You’re so bad!”

“I’m bad?”


“It’s you who suggested …”

“I didn’t.”



They both stopped at the same time, their hands intertwined, nothing to do with physiotherapy.

“I …” started Annie.

“Please, don’t,” said David as she tried to wriggle free, “do you feel wrong about it? About this I mean?”

“I … I er… um, no.”

“Me neither,” said David with a soft sigh, “I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for you to wake up.”

“You have?”

David pulled both her hands to his lips and kissed them in turn. “Yes, I have. Shall I tell you about it?”

“Yes, please,” Annie said, feeling she may have heard it before.

“We met at St Thomas’s, February 17th, the day after your accident. You looked awful. Well, that’s what everyone told me anyway. High tide on the River Thames not good for legs and faces,” he laughed, squeezing her hands, which he’d not released.

“Thames?” she said racing for a memory.

“Yes, you jumped off Tower Bridge – have you any idea how fierce the currents can be? Besides the fact it’s icy and filthy.”

“Tower Bridge …” I did what?.

“It took a while to find your family. People who jump off bridges don’t usually leave notes or carry ID,” he grinned when Annie squirmed. “Shh, it’s OK. They came. They saw. They left. No love lost there, eh?”

“No, not really.”

“I didn’t think so. Anyway, I work two days a week at St. Thomas’s, which is where you were, and I volunteer here – so when the time came to move you somewhere, I suggested they move you here. Your father wrote a check and …”

“A check?”

David nodded, “They were off to Bali or Fiji.”

“Sounds like them.” Tears welled up, but determined not to cry all over him again, Annie sat up, “David, when can I get out of bed? I’m sick of being here!”

“Right now if you like,” he said standing, “but you’ll be as weak as old rotten bridge.”

“Hey! That’s not very nice!”

“Just teasing, silly, just teasing.”

“Will you hold me?”

“Of course I will. For the rest of your life if you let me. Now shall we sit up first?”

She almost passed out but he’d kissed her cheek, whispering, “You’re a champ.”

He walked her to the window and back.

Caressing yesterday’s yellow rose, Annie said to David as he walked in.

“It’s so unusual that my parents send me flowers. Well, a rose, I mean …” she trailed off, “Since the beginning? At the hospital I mean?”

“Since Valentine’s Day.”

“Hmmm. So strange.”

“Not them,” said David presenting Annie with a damask bloom.

“You?” she gasped.

“Me. I’ve been waiting such a long time for you to wake up.”

“Oh David, me too,” she said finally waking up as he kissed her for the first time of the rest of her life.