Love Letters #38

Have you ever sunk down into the belly of London?

There are vertical escalators, and sometimes they squeak and squeal, groaning under the weight of a thousand feet every second of every day. Never stopping. Hundreds of stories and minds. Millions of thoughts, whispered in thousands of accents, drowned by the voices of people getting things done.

There are pictures on the metal walls, pictures that move and shift and change shapes, kaleidoscopic in their constant swirling motion, and for a moment you want to go to the theatre and see Les Miserable, and the next moment the thought vanishes from your brain as you frantically feel your way through pale yellow tunnels, following the crowd and wondering if you are going the right way, can’t turn back or else people will shove you back the way you came, the rush of hot air pulling you further and further into the belly of London.

Old walls, crumbling civilisations giving way to new ones.

I was born in London.

Tooting.

Same hospital as my mother was born in. So strange, that thought. Twenty four years apart.

My father fell down the stairs and broke his coccyx bone the day I was born. He was rushing to the hospital to see his first child. For twenty three years he hasn’t been able to sit properly.

When I was six years old, my stomach curled and unfurled itself as I clutched a small pink straw bag, descending on those vertical escalators down, down down below the crowded surface of the busy city.

Do we have to go on the tube? Can’t we go on the overground train?

Don’t be so silly, Lenora. Look sharp now, quickly!

My mother, seasoned, marching through the tunnels with myself and my little brother in tow. Stepping onto the train, grabbing the back of her skirt, sick with fear.

Then the hurtle, the loud screaming of the train on those metal tracks, the blackness outside the windows. Why were there even windows, if there was nothing to look at? Terrified. Barely able to breathe. Is this the stop? Can we get out?

No!? Ohhhh. 

A soft groan, deep in my belly.

Any minute now the lights would turn off and the train would stop and we would be stuck down here in the dark and heat forever and ever and

forever.

Loud, screaming, hurtling, whistling, wailing. I would close my eyes, begging for this nightmare to be over.

When I was eleven I read a story about the people who cleaned the underground tunnels.

You wouldn’t believe what they found there. Giant rats, and fleas the size of cockroaches, flittering in the darkness. An old woman spoke of the horrors of those tunnels. Yet, they were a refuge to many during the war. Safe havens, in giant brick pools under the ancient city of London. Curving under the Thames and even crossing by the long forgotten rivers that people seldom remember, yet traverse past daily.

And still, I was terrified.

The tube?! Really?! We can get to Victoria on the overground. What about a bus?! A bus is so much better.

Oh, grow up, you silly girl.

Stuck to my seat, sometimes shoved under someone’s armpit, holding tight, my stomach swaying as the train hustled and swerved and screamed its way through those hot, windy tunnels. Fear seeped through my skin, soaking my clothes and beading on my upper lip.

The roaring becoming louder, and louder, and louder, rising in volume and ferocity,

 – why is it so angry -?!

I open my eyes.

I am twenty three years old. I am sitting on the tube for the first time in three years, and before that, for the first time nine.

London has not been my home for twelve years.

Yet, every time I step off the train and into Euston or King’s Cross, a rush of overwhelming familiarity hits me.

The smells and the noise pollution, rising high in the sky, thousands of lives picking their way through thousands of machines, breathing in exhaust fumes and coffee grounds, heels on newspapers, sweat pooling in the creases of skin, accents and countries and worlds colliding as people get on with their business.

And I love the tube. I love the tube with all my heart.

I love the feeling of standing on the furthest end, watching everybody and their engrossed detachment from the world around them. The ginger man sitting next to a nun, sneaking peeks at her reading material. The woman who is watching a Netflix show and the audience of standing commuters, eyes glued to her screen behind the grimy glass that separates her seat from the doors.

I love the hurtling, screaming ferocity. I love the traffic of humans, all hurrying, running, racing, sweating, on the same journey but so trained in avoiding any real contact with each other. Physically pressed up against each other but mentally floating high above the tunnels through which they are carried at top speeds.

I don’t love London at all. I might love the memories I have, which lurk around unexpected corners and in strange places. That place that I vomited outside the Natural History museum. That spot in the British library where I tried to hide those chewits. That fountain in Hyde Park where I sprained my ankle and subsequently cried all the way home on the 319. That tree where the dog barked at my brother and I, scaring our five and four year old selves half to death. That rookery where we rolled down the hills and I got grass stains on my blue Alice in Wonderland dress.

But I love the Tube.

I love the old terror that rises in my throat like bile, because my twenty three year old self recognises it for what it really is;

Adrenaline.

Excitement.

Adventure.

Thrill.

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Love Letters #36

Dear Tom,

It was Anne Shirley who told her darling husband-to-be Gilbert that she was ‘alone but not lonely’ one beautiful evening whilst walking through the graveyard of Summerside, that year she was away teaching there. A mighty dreadful time she had with those Pringles, I tell you. I was reading of her walks on the train; the countless descriptions of wind surging through the tree lined avenues of the most wondrous places on P.E. Island, and I felt the cool breeze on my face, I saw the violets in their numerous beauty, I smelt the flowers in bloom and the voice of Rebecca Dew echoed uncomfortably close to my ear, that I looked up abruptly, only to see the heads of my fellow modern train passengers, oblivious to my rapture, in raptures (or otherwise) of their own. I laughed loudly at some point, her characters do come up with the most curious things! A rather stern Aunt Mouser told her niece to not quote the bible flippantly, and then turned to Anne and said, ‘You must excuse her, Miss Shirley, she just ain’t used to getting married.‘ Tom, forgive me when I tell you that I found this so funny that tears streamed down my face!

When I turned the book over, there was a little ode to Montgomery, saying that her work ‘continues to draw countless visitors to Prince Edward Island each year.’

I will be very frankly honest with you, dearest, when I say that my heart sank when I read that. I imagined the Prince Edward Island will not be as I imagined it if I ever do go. I made up my mind then and there to never go. I don’t want to see roaring cars and buses and city roads with white paint. I don’t want to see areas of desolation and corrugated iron roofs. I don’t even want to see people wearing modern clothes. I don’t want to see tourists. Granted, they may be like-minded tourists, but tourists they will be nonetheless. I want it to be just how Anne and Emily and Pat describe it, and my heart aches to know it will never be so. I was born too late, I suppose.

I last read Anne of the Island at the age of fifteen. I was reading the first three books over and over again, and only recently did I stumble upon the fourth book, all these years later.

I was trying to fault Anne, I found, whilst reading the fourth book of the Green Gables series. I was trying to fault her for being ‘too perfect’ or ‘too beautiful’ or ‘too well liked’. She is well liked enough, and is able to deftly turn everybody and make them adore her, sure. However, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her adult self again, all these years later as an adult myself and not a child.

Anne is timelessly incredible. She is not too beautiful, because she doesn’t see herself so, and many others pointedly tell her of her carroty hair. She is not too perfect, because she tells Gilbert in an epistolary fashion that she has to accept that not everybody will like her, when certain people very vehemently do not. She is not too anything, and yet she is perfect. She is who I aspire to be.

She is hopeful, she is resourceful. Her words dance with life and laughter, and I imagine her grey eyes to be starry and full of light. She talks to everybody, is friendly with everybody, tries to help all sorts of people. She even cancelled her trip back home to sit with forty year old Pauline Gibson because she knew Pauline was lonely and henpecked by her grumpy old mother. How selfless is that? I don’t doubt that a lot of people were like that at the time, and didn’t think twice of being so generous with themselves and their time. Nowadays everybody is so ‘busy’, so ‘private’, so ‘personal’; never talking to strangers or even trying to find out who one’s neighbours are! Nobody just calls on a newcomer anymore, nobody sends each other cake, nobody calls each other over for supper unless they know them very well, and that is why, I suppose, a lot of us are so lonely!

A little sprinkle of Anne makes any day brighter. I found my day to bloom after reading a few chapters of her, and my heart ached a little, because I would never be able to meet her or become chums with her or wonder the nooks and crannies of the Island with her. She makes a small town like a little heaven here on earth.

I learnt from her to find joy in every aspect of my life. I learnt that even though I don’t live in Avonlea with her, I can find my own little Avonlea just where I am.

I love Anne Shirley, and I can see why others do too; and I am excited to finish following her journey through the eight precious books penned by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. Over and over again, delving into the land of magic, spirits and the most eccentric little characters one could ever dream up. She makes my heart yearn for something I can’t quite touch.

Yours most truly,

Amelia.

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James Hill

  

Love Letters #35

When they arrived there was a downpour. An opening of the heavens, cracking like the earth’s skull, and the rain gushed down like a broken tap. The footman would not hear of her stepping out unaided, he took his own coat off to shield her from the torrents as he guided her out of the carriage and up the steps, which became a waterfall, sloshing around her perfectly gleaming shoes and ruining them.

They entered the building and he bowed, folding his coat to himself before dashing out again. She watched as he clambered aboard the back of the coach, sodden, and said something to the driver before they clattered away down the cobbled street, the sound of the wheels vanishing amid the clamour of thunder and pattering rain.

If it were not for her dress she would have chased him down the street, letting her carefully pinned hair fall and soak up the rain. She clutched her skirts now in her hands, and let her dainty, sodden shoes take her across the perfectly polished floors and through the main doors of the cathedral. One last glance back, but the street was empty, vendors packed away and doorways tightly shuttered against the grim atmosphere. She couldn’t see to the end of the road, a cloudy haze formed of soot and torrential rain formed a wall, blocking her from the world she could not touch, and which could not touch her.

Dear Louie,

It’s better that you know now – the child is yours. There is no way you could claim him, he will have to be the next heir to the throne. 

Yours,

Dorothea

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Love Letters #33

 

She was standing in the middle of the road, when I first set eyes on her. A light, silken shirt was all that draped her small shoulders in the icy January air. The road was wet with perspiration, and the branches bare. Her face was pale, her eyes bright, and her hair a cloud of golden silky curls, bouncing as she danced this way and that, her feet turning in all directions and her arms moving side to side, up and down.

I noticed her first because she was dancing, but dancing is the usual sight in this vibrant city of ours. I did my double take because of her smile. When she smiled, her eyebrows rose, and she looked almost… surprised. And her chin grew pointy, and the tops of her cheeks pointed outwards too.

If you really stood back and thought about it, she did have quite a sharp little face. But it was so dear and sweet and her eyes sparkled with life and crinkled with joy.

Man, he thought, she really does love to dance. Somebody was standing in front of her, another friend I think, and the other friend was laughing away but in an awkward way, certainly not joining in.

Cars drove right past her, on both sides. Motorbikes weaved their way around her and people glanced at her then glanced away. Did she make them uncomfortable? He really didn’t see how they could do that. She made him so happy. He stood from his safe distance on the pavement, as the sky drizzled gently around him and slowly soaked him through. And he watched her dance away and laugh.

Presently she noticed him watching her. She kept glancing at him, and then she directed her smile at him, giving him his own little dance show. She was waving him over. Her mouth was miming,

Come join me!

He shook his head, smiling widely. She laughed, and he heard the tinkling giggle over the traffic.

Come on!

He didn’t want to. He knew his arms would be too thick and his body wouldn’t listen to him. He was content to just watch her rhythm, the way life seemed to happen around her, draw her in its flowing current. He was one of those who stood on the fringe of things, while life swept her up in its energetic arms and took her whichever way it chose to run.

Please!

A heart shape with her ever moving fingers, and then, as quickly as she had moulded her hands, she was twirling in another direction.

His feet moved against his will, then. Weaving through the traffic, until he was on the same island she stood on, the white painted thick divide in the traffic, separating one directional flow from the other. The no man’s land of the high street.

She laughed, waved at her friend, and took his arms, moving them this way and that, until he, too, felt part of the current of life. He felt it first in his fingertips, a tingling that spread through his body all the way down to his toes, a small spitfire of energy, moving his limbs without direction from his brain. He closed his eyes, feeling the cold, gentle spray on his face, and let the rhythm of the world take him.

***

And that, is how I met my wife.

Love Letters #32

When she looked over the edge of the mooring, she saw the sky. She saw an infinite galaxy of stars spinning away from her in the gentle ripples prodded along by the breeze. Her toes careened a little, so filled with wonder was she, and she felt herself falling ever so slowly forward. Or maybe the sky was surging ever so slowly towards her.

The heavens spread out before her, beneath her feet, and she was suddenly rendered so insignificant in the midst of this surreal vastness. And the universe was still, silent, except for that thrumming background noise one hears even in the depths of the womb. The thudding continuum that is time and space and the place we all come from, and recognise, but are not fully aware of. The sound we all know, and when we hear it we suddenly stand still, recognising the call, but not quite understanding it.

The world behind her fell away; growing more distant with each moment that passed by. Her ears were ringing, almost, and the sounds on the wharf behind her faded. The clank and the medley of voices, human, living, all became something of the … past?

And what would happen if she succumbed to this unearthly sound, coming from the stars, and let the ripples carry her away?

 

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Love Letters #25

 

A note slipped out of Emilia’s book while she was tidying out her dorm room.

My dear, 

Nothing is sweeter than your bright smile those cold mornings when I miss your arms around me. I can’t wait to see you again tonight.

M.L

Emilia’s fingers ran along the words. A romantic affair. She remembered it as though it were yesterday. Why is love so much more sweet when it is forbidden? Sweet. Painful.

Kisses under the underground arches when the rest of the students had moved on ahead. His hand on her knee under the table, while he played merry to the adults.

Sweet little notes slipped between the pages of borrowed books.

Glances above the heads of the laughing crowds, knowing smiles when introduced to each other by mutual friends. Her heart would surge with joy and excitement and a giddy pleasure. At the back of her mind she knew it was wrong, oh, so wrong.

But love was good, was it not? Love was sound. Love was beautiful. How could something so beautiful be wrong, then?

Her mind had been racing much too fast to focus on any words. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, where they rested on the other side of the wide window ledge she reclined on. Her eyes wandered the green outside the college windows. She couldn’t eat those days, she couldn’t sleep. That was, she told herself countless times, what it was like to be in love.

She saw him walking across the courtyard and her heart quickened. She felt her pulse pounding through her veins as she watched him stop and speak to some students. They laughed, and she smiled. Ever the charmer. Then he glanced up at the windows, and, not seeing her, hurried indoors.

She hadn’t stopped to think about why she was so special, when there were countless other young girls in her classes, some prettier than herself, smarter, funnier. She knew they were all after him, and it gave her a sense of huge satisfaction to know she had been singled out from amongst the masses. She was above them all, even though she couldn’t say anything about it.

Nobody knew, but they didn’t have to. Her confidence grew daily. And nightly. She would tiptoe back to her dorm room, wrapping herself tightly in her night gown. Slip under her covers and lie there looking at the ceiling, smiling to herself. She would be exhausted the next day, and when he handed her her assignments in class he would murmer,

‘Late night, Miss Clarkson?’

She would cast her eyes down and hide her smile, but joy would surge within her. And under her papers a small yellow note in his thick, straight handwriting.

Later that day she was going to Lord Warrington’s ball. Her whole family had been invited, it was to be a grand affair. She had prepared her red evening dress weeks earlier. Diane had gone with her and they had chosen matching shoes as well.

‘You will look positively ravishing, darling. Pity Tommy Sand couldn’t take you.’

‘Oh,’ Emilia said airily, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter. I am perfectly fine going with Mother and Father.’

Diane had glanced away, eyebrows raised. She couldn’t for the life of her imagine how anybody could go alone, or with their parents. The humiliation!

Out on the dance floor, Emilia was never short of partners. She spotted him across the room, speaking to a woman with thick black hair. Surprised, she started forward. Nobody from college was here. They could talk, maybe even dance!

She excused herself from her dance partner to squeeze past people to get to him, in her hurry slipping a little on the dance floor. His back was to her when she reached out and touched his shoulder with her gloved hand. He turned around, and she smiled wide, about to say how good it was to see him and how they could be free, here, and would he like to dance?

Before a single word fell from her lips she saw his eyes widen, and dart sideways. She wanted to laugh out loud. He had nothing to be afraid of now! Oh, she was so excited!

‘Ah, Miss Clarkson.’ he said, before she could say a word, and smiled politely at her.

‘Martin! I..’, she began breathlessly.

‘Meet Laura,’ he interrupted firmly, as the lady next to him looked questioningly at her,

‘Uh, yes, hello, I’m Emilia,’ Emilia said, bewildered, holding her hand out. Laura took it warmly, smiling wide.

‘Emilia, pleased to meet you.’

She was beautiful.

‘This is my wife. Laura, Miss Clarkson is a student of mine. I was not aware your family knew Lord Warrington.’

His voice faded into the background, as her stomach fell to her feet. She murmured something faintly before staggering away, aware Laura was staring her her with a frown.

‘Is she alright?’ she heard her ask him. Him. 

‘I’m sure she is. Come dance, darling.’

She staggered outside to the wide balcony where she fell painfully onto the banister overlooking the dark orchard down below. She was heaving, and her ears were ringing. And it hurt. Oh it hurt like a hundred knives slicing through her body. She was numb, and the tears refused to seep from her eyelids.

She would have to pull herself together, of course. She would have to get up and stand tall and smile and dance and charm people, then go home with her parents and make merry.

She would have to get on.

Emilia looked at the note again, and crumpled it in her fist, throwing it into the fireplace.

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Love Letters #22

Dear Pip,

Penelope.

Penny.

Pip, I have known you for approximately six years. And forty seven days. And three and a half hours (at the time of writing this).

We met the day I met with my fate. My fate was you, of course. Didn’t you know?

We were both looking at the same teapot. It was yellow and had blue spots on and I remember thinking you had to be a certain kind of person with a certain kind of taste to like such a teapot because let me tell you, it was hideous.

But there was only one of them left and you said, ‘Oh, you have it.’

And I said, ‘Please, no, you have it.’ Because I didn’t even want it in the first place.

And you said, ‘Oh, no, I was only looking. You have it.’

And I said, ‘I wouldn’t be a gentleman if I took it when a young lady has her eye on it. It would be daylight robbery.’

And you snorted and said, ‘Well how about we halfsies it and then share it.’

‘What, like, monthly swaps?’ I asked, ‘or shall we cut it in half?’

‘Sure.’ You were nonchalant. Casual. You even shrugged and that is when I noticed the apple green jacket you are wearing. It was hideous also. (Please don’t hate me. We have discussed the ways colours are worn. And apple green blazers were out of the question. I even made a graph. Please see attached piece of paper for reference.)

‘Well,’ I said very carefully, ‘that then means, of course, that we shall have to swap details.’

‘Let’s buy this thing.’ You picked it up gently and as I reached into my pocket to take out my wallet my elbow jerked yours and it slipped out of your hands and fell down, down down onto the brightly polished John Lewis floors.

We both stared at it.

‘Ah well,’ you said, ‘I was only looking at it because I was curious about something so ugly. Good riddance, I say! I’m Pip. What’s your name?’

I stared at you in pleasant surprise and I felt my lips stretching out my face of their own accord.

‘James.’ I said, and then, ‘let us look for more ugly teapots.’

Of course we had to pay for that ugly yellow polka dot tea pot. It was atrocious. And then for your birthday present a year later I got you a similar teapot which you use for your indoor geraniums. It was from John Lewis and you killed yourself laughing at it and told me I was a money waster because there was no way you would use that for anybody. It could never grace your table.

I remember asking you all wounded, like, ‘What, not even for the reason that it was graced by my hands?’ I was also slightly flirting even though we were firm friends by then, but I could not resist. I can never resist you, Pip.

‘Nope.’ You were very firm.

I am writing to tell you that I want to marry you. I can’t say it to your face because you have beautiful eyes and I know exactly how they will look at me and I will not be able to help myself because I will kiss you and then I will be done for. I know you will be impatient with that and tell me that is nonsense and of course I can help myself but I will not want to. Help myself. At all.

Also I asked my aunt if she read those French books I gave her and she said yes, they were lovely books. You were right. She didn’t read them. Else she would have called me to lecture me horrendously about them. Lovely books indeed. She asks about you a lot and tells me I should marry you quicktimes before you grow too old to have kids.

So back to my fate. You are my fate either way. If you say yes then it will have been a good fate and if you say no I will be broken hearted forever and when I do eventually heal and marry somebody for realsies I will still remember you as the first ever woman who broke my heart.

You know love is a strange thing. So strange. I used to think I loved a woman before. I was seventeen. She wasn’t particularly beautiful but I was infatuated by her and loved her to pieces but she always treated me badly. And one day she went too far and I discovered she was sleeping with a right old tramp of a fellow, but I forgave her. Well I told her I did but I don’t think I really did. Something inside of me snapped that day. She walked on me one too many times. And three miserable months of forced smiles and fake kisses later I met you and the day afterwards she wanted to see me and I called her and I said, ‘I can’t. I can’t do this anymore.’

And when I was with her I thought there could never be anyone else because she was my first love. But it was meagre and ridiculous and pathetic and also desperate. Compared to what I feel about you. I am crazy about you. I look at you and I see my future. And I want to spend all my time with you and walk home from work with you and call you every single day but I stop myself because I don’t want you to get sick of me. I also want to kiss your forehead. It is so gentle and smooth and beautiful.

But see, if we were married I could call you everyday and it wouldn’t be weird, right? I could also kiss your forehead and it would be comfortable.

So, what do you say, Pip?

Yours sincerely and faithfully and truly (scrumptious),

Jim

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Love Letters #16

Handle with care. Don’t bark or bite. Step on egg shells around her. Oops. Made her upset again. I don’t know why. Or how. It’s all crumbling past my ears. I don’t know what I did wrong. Why is she so distant and moody. I only want to make her happy. That is all I care about. Why can’t she see that.

Dear Len

What if we both got in your old micra and drove down to Bradgate one evening. We could stay there till the sun sets, and have a little picnic. Maybe listen to some tunes. Spread a rug on the floor. Watch the horizon light up in flames, and as darkness spills over from the other edge of the world, slowly encompassing everything, we could watch the city lights twinkle on one by one. Until there is a crescendo of lights, magically winking through the distance. 

D

P.S. On Saturday. It’s forecasted to be sunny.

***

Sour expression. Again. Mouth set firmly. Slightly downturned. The left corner crinkles, pressed tightly. That’s how I know he’s upset. It’s because I didn’t sleep in that long car journey when I had that UTI and felt like there were knives slicing me open, and nausea and dizziness were threatening to tip me over the edge. How can you sleep when you feel like that, in a car? You just can’t. He was being too controlling. I didn’t sleep and now he’s been ignoring me for two days.

***

Fingers clutching ends of sleeves, hands barely visible, arms pulls over her chest. Head down. Can’t see her eyes. Don’t know whether she is sad or angry. Maybe both. Who knows these days. She doesn’t listen to me. Doesn’t she know I only want the best for her?

***

‘What’s wrong?’

Dreading the answer. Because I know what its going to be. He is always like this.

A shrug.

‘Nothing.’

Well it can’t be nothing. Else you wouldn’t be so distant.

‘There is something wrong. Talk to me.’

Set mouth. Staring at laptop. Watching Last Week Tonight.

‘Nothing.’

My heart is heavy. I hate this tirade. It’s exhausting. Over and over again. It’s too much effort. Something small could have set him off, and then he is moody for days. Days. Until I confront him about it, and these days I really don’t want to. Unnecessary effort. And he says am high maintenance.

Shall I give in and say sorry? I am cold at night. I need him to hold me. But why should it be like that? Why should he hold a grudge against me over something so insignificant and unnecessary?! It drives me mad!

Why should I say sorry when I didn’t do anything wrong? Why is he such a grown ass child? I am so sick of it. I have to torment myself for days while he becomes colder and colder and….

‘Maybe I am sick of my job. Maybe I have way too much on and very little help. Maybe I am sick of telling people what to do; because they are too useless to figure it out for themselves. Maybe there are too many demands on me. Maybe I am sick of travelling three hours a day to a job that doesn’t let me do what they employed me to do; that is, engineer their cars. No. They give me the filing paperwork crap that is useless and unnecessary. They employed an engineer to do secretarial work. What a waste of money and energy and brain cells.’

It burst out of him. The frustration only barely contained in his calm voice.

And that was all he said, all night.

Maybe I overreacted. Or maybe he used that to cover up some real resentment towards me. Or maybe I was being selfish and thinking his mood was all about me. Still. I don’t think he should take out his frustration on his wife, the only person who isn’t putting demands on him. I try to help him as much as I can. I don’t deserve such harshness. But. Well. People deal with stress in different ways. And he is under a lot of stress. I will give him a break.

For now.

But oh. My heart is so heavy.

N.B. He doesn’t really write like that. But in with his limited spelling and vast vocabulary, I am sure he could if he tried. What he did say sounded so much better, in his own special words, because I know him so well. It doesn’t translate so clearly in writing, though. Writing is in a league of its own.

 

 

Love Letters #15

Damon Ludwig was the love of Alex’s life.

Of course, she did not tell him that. She barely looked at him, barely glanced in his direction when he greeted her. Covertly she admired him, though.

Damon Ludwig was the boy next door. Of course he had to be; Alex snorted at the ironic cliche of it all.

She couldn’t help herself, though. Damon was a very handsome lad, but it wasn’t that, really. She knew as well as the next person that just because somebody was handsome doesn’t mean they were very nice.

He was full of energy, is how she would describe it. He was constantly on the move. Lifting and carrying and bringing in mysterious logs through the front of his house. She would hear his mother berating him for getting mud and splinters all along her newly washed floors. She knew he made things out in the back garden shed, which had been converted to a personalised workshop. He made chairs and carved ornaments, most of which his mother lovingly displayed around her house.

He was funny. And laughed a lot. His laugh was swelling, coming from deep within him, so you knew it was genuine.

When he wasn’t carving, Damon was reading. He read everywhere. In trees, behind bushes, on the garden wall, lying precariously with his solid edges spilling over the sides, in his carpentry shed, on the gentle slope of the roof of his house.

And when he wasn’t reading, he was mowing old Lady Redmond’s lawn down the road or clipping the hedge for Mr Mason whose fingers were riddled with arthritis. He always had time for everybody, and with a cheerful smile he would help them. Sure, sturdy and confident.

She watched their faces when he left them; always smiling. It was like he was the sun and he left his glowing rays wherever he went.

She loved him. But of course, she would never tell him that.

She would carry on in her silent Alex way. Watching when he wasn’t looking, burying herself in her studies, taking care of things as best she could. Her little sister Lem was always in and out of the house next door. She envied her her childish confidence. She would come back with tales about Damon and even though Alex pretended to be nonchalant and dismissive she wanted to hear every detail.

 

Love Letters #12

Dear Cecil,

To be civil is to be wise.

Sincerely, 

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

To understand why one is angry, is to stop and listen to one speak, rather than speaking over one.

Annoyed,

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

I complain about your foot only because it moves so much when I am trying to concentrate. You know the boss likes to point fingers. It always seems to be us, doesn’t it?

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

As always, be quiet.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

I had afternoon tea with him. What’s it to you anyway.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Well, Andrew is kind to me. Unlike you.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Now, I have written two pages on experimental feminism. If this does not enter the paper, I shall blame it on you.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Nice cactus on your desk. 

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

I think boss has clocked on about our notes. Destroy destroy destroy.

Julia

P.S. No, I don’t like writing you notes. It’s just handy.

P.P.S. No, I do not.

P.P.P.S. That is hardly appropriate. I shan’t send you any more, then. Good day.

 

Cecil,

Leave me alone.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Mouse in my desk. Care to have a look?

Julia

 

Cecil,

Thank you for getting rid of my mouse. Boss called me out for screaming. Says I am a woman, and what else did he expect. I explained I was startled. He reckons I wasted valuable work time by what he calls my ‘female disability’.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Of course I am upset. Will I show it? Certainly not. Wouldn’t give him that satisfaction.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Thank you. That is very kind of you.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Have you seen Thomas? He is supposed to be editing my piece.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Fired? Whatever for?

Julia

 

Cecil,

I am shocked, frankly. Shocked. And horrified. I am going to give that man a piece of my mind.

Julia

 

Cecil,

Yes I am. Don’t you dare say anything, and put your own job at risk. I won’t have it. 

Julia

 

Cecil,

Wish me luck.

Julia

 

****

 

Dear Cecil,

Well, I suppose you are aware by now. I was told to leave. I didn’t go back to my desk to collect my things because it was a matter of pride, really. I walked out of those doors with my nose in the air like any self respecting lady who refuses to be trampled upon by the patriarchy. You might snigger at my word choice there but it is very true and something everybody who is sane and sensible should stand up for. Thomas should not have spoken up for me, and I feel inherently guilty that he lost his place here because of me. I wish to thank you for your input, Cecil, but please keep your head down. I don’t want you to lose your financial stability over this, you are already on probation. They are hiring at that newly opened shop and apparently they are looking for ladies, so I shall go and see how my chances fare there. Hopefully that will tide me over until I can find something better. Mama and Papa await me in the countryside. They say it is not right for a lady of my age to be living and working in the city. Settle down and marry, they say. They don’t understand my passion for what I do.

Thank you, Cecil. For everything.

Julia

****

Dear Cecil,

I understand you left me a note. This is me returning it. I went to call on Thomas. He appears to be avoiding me. I am absolutely racked with guilt.

Julia

 

Dear Cecil,

Apparently he wasn’t avoiding me. He was at the theatre with his wife! He is working now with another editor, who had heard of his ordeal, and his newspaper is very progressive. He has asked tp speak with me, funnily enough. Well, they are both happy enough. They both reckon I am a stubborn thing but commend me on it given the situation. I should very well think so. Thank you for the flowers, sorry to have missed you again. I was at dinner with Thomas and his wife, a most charming woman. They have the sweetest, chubby little child you ever set your eyes on. 

Julia

 

Dear Cecil, 

I would very much like to go for a walk with you this evening.

Julia

 

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