Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Loving Christmas Linda – The Final Embrace

It was Christmas Eve and the Hartley household in the village of Clerembeax St Giles was decorated for the season.
A large fresh cut tree stood in the corner, perfuming the room and was festooned by a myriad of assorted baubles, ornaments, tinsel and lights.
Christmas cards of all shapes and sizes adorned every surface and more hung on bright red and green ribbons suspended from the picture rails and bright colored Christmas garlands hung gaily, crisscrossing the ceiling.
Outside, through a break in the dark clouds, a shaft of week winter sunlight shone through the window reflecting off the garlands and painted random patterns on the walls and ceiling.
76-year-old Paul Hartley sat watching TV in his favorite armchair in the front room of the house he shared with his wife and soul mate Linda, the woman he loved more than life itself.
Both of them had been married before, but Linda was the love of his life and they had spent 30 years apart before they found each other again, when their own Christmas miracle happened 25 years before.
And as a result of that Christmas miracle they had had 25 years of incredible happiness.
Paul and Linda had made good use of the years they had together to make up for the lost time when they were apart and as a couple they had had the fullest of lives.
Christmas had always held particular significance for them, it was their favorite time of year and had always been so, because their most meaningful moments together happened at Christmas time, finding love together, losing each other, finding each other again, and marrying each other, that’s why Paul called her Christmas Linda.
And because Christmas was so significant to them they did Christmas big and they relished every moment, they would pack away all the ornaments and pictures, and replace them with the festive decorations they had collected over the years, then there would be a houseful on Christmas day and Boxing Day where they shared the celebration with family and friends, and when the festivities were over they would fly off to the sun for a few weeks, just the two of them.
Neither of them could abide the New Year’s holiday so they took themselves away to enjoy each other’s company.
But alas on their 26th Christmas together the season held no joy for Paul, even James Stewart in “It’s a wonderful life” could not lift his spirits and the reason for his gloomy disposition lay in the next room, where the dining table used to stand.
Where they had so many wonderful Christmas dinners, the room full of the happy chatter of good company, the table heaving under the weight of Christmas fare.
But in its place now stood a stark and clinical hospital bed and laying upon it the most precious thing in his life, Linda, surrounded by all the paraphernalia of terminal illness.
Her once vibrant body riddled with inoperable tumors, their evil spread consuming her from within and as the cancer was so far advanced, when it was discovered she refused what little treatment there was on offer and she also stubbornly refused to die in hospital or a hospice.
Linda said she wished to die in the home where she had known such great happiness, so how could he refuse her such a simple wish?
He employed a private nurse who sat with her at night and Paul tended her himself by day and he watched her dying by inches every single day, it seemed to him to be the cruelest of punishments for being so happy.
Paul’s first wife was taken by cancer and that was hard enough to bare.
It was always so hard when someone you love suffers before your eyes, but as much as he loved his first wife and as hard as it was to watch her die, it was nothing compared to the intolerable despair that he felt losing Linda.
She was not only his wife she was his love, his life, his soul mate, she was the one, the love of his life, his Christmas Linda.
He would sit with her and read to her, sometimes Dickens, Stephen King or Tom Sharpe, depending on her frame of mind.
On her brighter days she would have him tell her jokes, she always said he was the only one who could make her laugh.
Her brown hair with its soft curls had long since turned silver and the sparkle was only rarely present in her eyes and the laughter that used to play around them replaced by pain and it was on the morning of that Christmas Eve when Linda told him what she wanted for Christmas.

She was always at her best in the morning but on that morning, she was having a good day so after she had eaten breakfast she asked Paul to pass her the Mahogany filigree jewelry box.
It was a very precious object to her, not valuable in monetary terms, but precious nonetheless, it was the very first Christmas gift he gave her, and she treasured it, and she often told Paul it was her most prized possession, after him.
As he handed it to her she smiled and just for a second there was a glimpse of her loveliness shining through the pain and she patted the bed and bad him sit next to her and as he sat on the bed next to her she took his hand and said quietly.
“I have to say this to you today because I’m having a good day and I don’t know how many good days I’ve got left”
“Don’t be silly” he protested, and she squeezed his hand and then gave him a look which said that he knew very well that she wasn’t.
Linda carefully opened her jewelry box and from a draw within it she took out a neatly folded embroidered handkerchief which she placed on her lap and carefully unfolded it to reveal that inside were a dozen capsules containing her medication.
Linda looked at him with her soulful eyes pleading with him and as the realization of what she was asking sank in Paul violently shook his head.
On her good days she had salted away some of her medication until she now had enough to hasten the end and she squeezed his hand again and said
“Please do this for me”
She explained that she didn’t want him to do it right there and then she just wanted him to agree to do it when the time came, but that that time would be very soon.
“It’s the only gift you can give me this Christmas” Linda asked looking in to his eyes and then he added
“I love you more than anything in the world and I know with all my heart that you love me”
Paul could say nothing as the tears welled up in his eyes.
“Please do this thing for me” she pleaded, and his heart was breaking at the choice he had to make, let her suffer an agonizing conclusion to her life or end her suffering and kill her.
“I just can’t do it” he said through the tears and got up and left the room, she didn’t call after him because she knew he would be back, so with tears streaming down his face he grabbed his coat and went out the front door and went for a walk.
The day was cold, grey and damp and clouds scudded across the December sky and any hint of the promised sunny intervals in the forecast were not in evidence, it was the kind of day that chilled you to the bone, but he didn’t feel the cold at all, he just felt numb.
You had to be alive to feel the cold and he was dying inside, and he walked for miles under the grey skies along the woodland paths they used to walk together, his mind in turmoil his eyes red with tears.
If he did what she wanted he would lose her forever, the loss of her would be devastating, but not to let her go would just be selfish.
Paul’s head was spinning, and he didn’t know which way to turn, images of their happy moments together swam in and out of focus, then as he walked into a clearing in the woods where they once made love on a sultry afternoon, there was a sudden break in the clouds and the woods were bathed in winter sunshine and all at once he knew what he must do and hurried homeward.
When he returned to the house Paul went straight to her bedside where she was sleeping, so he sat in the chair at her bedside and rested his head on the bed beside her then he felt her hand gently stroking his hair.
Paul sat up and her hand moved to his cheek, so he took it in his own paw and kissed it softly and then said
“I’ll do whatever you want me to do”

A week later Christmas had past and he was glad of it, it was without doubt the worst Christmas of his life, full of tears and sadness instead of happiness and laughter
There was no wondrous Christmas feast, no table laden with Christmas delights, no hearty laughter or light-hearted banter, just an endless stream of visitors, friends and family, as cheery as was possible, putting on a brave face as they all came with forced smiles to bring the season’s greetings, but all leaving with tears, knowing that Linda would not see the spring.
Paul tried not to be ungrateful, but every visit ate into the precious time Linda and he had left but he knew how important it was to Linda to see everyone and say goodbye.
Even the doctor called in to make sure she was comfortable and in between visits Paul would sit watching the needles dropping from the tree as if each dropping needle symbolized Linda’s plight.
And as he sat alone in his favorite armchair on New Year’s Eve staring at the pine needles scattered beneath the tree he tried to come to terms with the fact that Linda would die with the old year.
Since Christmas Eve when she made her request of him, Linda had been in good spirits, she had seen everyone in the world that mattered to her and said all the things she needed to say so Linda had decided that morning, that enough was enough.
Paul tried to remain cheerful for her, but she could see through it
“I know you’re hurting too” she said, the pain etched in her face and with that they made their plans for their last day together.

Firstly, Paul phoned the nurse and told her she should have the night off to enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations with her family and she was very grateful and accepted his explanation without question.
After that he filled the room with lighted candles and in the flickering light Linda and he spent the evening together looking at photographs and reliving the great times of their life together and played the music that formed the soundtrack of their shared life then an hour before midnight she handed him the folded handkerchief.
He opened it and inside were now close to twenty capsules, and one by one he broke them open and emptied the contents into a wine glass and when he was finished he filled the glass with Port and gave it a stir and put the glass on the bedside table before sitting on the bed.
Paul took her hand and kissed it and leant forward and kissed her mouth and started to say good bye, but she put her hand to his mouth, so he reached over and picked up the glass and held it up to her lips and she took a drink, then a little more and a little more until the glass was empty and he wiped her mouth with the hanky and she burped and then she laughed that wonderful laugh that he loved so much.
The candles sputtered, and the flames flickered and then squeezing his hand she said
“I love you so very much”
“I love you too” Paul said as he sat holding her hand in his and then they just sat in silence looking at each other in the candle light until her eyes closed.
The Village clock began chiming the hour and her hand went limp and her breathing became shallow and then all the pain in her face was suddenly gone as the clock chimed twelve, marking the passing of the old year and unknowingly marked Linda’s passing.
He couldn’t have said how long he sat there holding her dead hand with the tears streaming down his face, but as he sat there he knew what had to be done.
Paul poured himself a large whisky and sat in his favorite armchair where he wrote a long letter explaining what he had done, and what he was about to do.
With the letter written he put it into an envelope and placed it on the mantelpiece where it would be easily found, then he drank his whisky and reached into his pocket and removed the contents, placing them on his lap.
He filled the syringe with the insulin he had stolen from the doctor’s bag the day before and injected himself with the full syringe and as his eyes grew heavy he could feel Linda’s hand on his shoulder and felt her fingers in his hair and as he drifted into a coma she whispered
“I love you” in his ear as his eyes closed.
When they opened again he couldn’t believe what he saw, it was a place that was familiar to him, it was Millmoor as it was more than 50 years earlier and it was snowing, and the street was full of happy smiling people and there among them was Linda, larger than life, vivacious and self-assured covered with snowflakes and laughing.
It was his snow angel, his Christmas Linda with snow covering her like sugar on a doughnut, a delicious confection he would have gladly consumed, wrapped up against the cold in a red woolen hat and coat and a long-knitted scarf draped about her neck.
Still laughing, she shook her head and the light brown hair that hung beneath her hat danced about her shoulders and the snowflakes fell away from her soft curls only to be replaced by fresh ones.
There was a rosy redness on her cheeks almost matching the hue of her coat and she was young again, they were both young again and they had gone back 55 years to the scene of their first embrace.
Linda threw herself at him and she hugged him so tightly and he smelled her hair as he held onto her and was intoxicated by her scent which over whelmed him.
They were stood at the taxi rank and snow fell onto Linda’s soft curls as they took their place in the queue and they kissed.
All too soon a taxi arrived, as it had done 55 years earlier, but this time they both got in and through the winter wonderland they departed, this time never to be parted again.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Loving Christmas Linda – The Special Embrace

51-year-old Paul Hartley found himself stranded in a strange town with less than a week to go before Christmas.
Although to be fair an unfamiliar town would have been a more accurate description, but nonetheless he was stranded almost a hundred miles from home in Abbeyvale, with a seriously sick car in the garage and a distinct lack of will to contemplate traveling home to the north by train.
In truth he was in no hurry to return home to the empty soulless house that he was once happy to call home, which now held no comfort for him.
Paul’s wife of twenty-five years, Elaine, had died earlier that year, finally losing her battle with cancer.
Their three children were all grown up now with homes and families of their own so there was only him in a house full of reminders.
The house would be full at Christmas, full of noise and hustle and bustle, and the usual mix of love, laughter and tears, but for now it was cold and empty.
So he booked himself into the Abbeyvale Court Hotel for the weekend and he would drive home on Monday once the car had been resurrected.
Finding himself in a strange (unfamiliar) town just a handful of days before Christmas and with more than a little time to kill he decided he could fill part of his day by doing some last-minute Christmas shopping.
So after breakfast on Saturday morning he left the Hotel and as Paul stepped outside he shivered, the day was cold, grey and damp and clouds scudded across the December sky, it was the kind of day that chilled you to the bone.
He made his way towards the high street, which was only a five-minute walk, the receptionist had assured him with a smile, as she jotted down some brief directions.
In an effort to warm himself up he walked briskly following her directions down the narrow almost Dickensian lanes and alleyways, passing picturesque Victorian and Tudor buildings, well mock Tudor at least, as he went.
It was indeed five minutes when he emerged onto the busy cobbled pedestrianized high street which was a curious mixture of the ancient and the modern.
At one end of the street a Norman Church was visible and at the other was what appeared to be a municipal building with rather pretentious Georgian columns.
There was still evidence of a row of Edwardian shop fronts but much of the street was modern with a little too much sixties influence to be easy on the eye in Paul’s opinion.
The street was crisscrossed along its full length with festive lights and decorations which did their best to brighten the scene.
Paul decided to familiarize himself with what the town had to offer in the way of shops, so he turned left and joined the throng of shoppers, with gloomy faces to match the weather, and headed towards the Georgian pillared building which turned out to be the public library.
As he dodged between the Christmas Lemmings Paul made a mental note of the shops that interested him, which he would return to.
His progress was hampered by erratic shoppers who appeared to move independently to any logic.
Some seemed to zigzag everywhere and very few possessed the ability to walk in a straight line for more than a few paces and others would take a few steps and then stop for no apparent reason, then after a few moments pause carry on, normally in the same direction.
The sound of cheery Christmas songs and carols could be heard from every shop he passed though the cheeriness of the music was clearly not reflected on the faces of the shoppers going in and out of them.
As he passed one shop Noddy Holder screamed “it’s Christmas” to the outside world, just in case any of the reluctant shoppers were in any doubt.
When Paul reached the other end of the high street where the Norman Church stood there was a little square, which he wasn’t able to see before, in the center of which was the war memorial, and to its left was a magnificent Christmas tree, festooned with a myriad of assorted baubles, ornaments, tinsel, lights and surmounted by a beautiful angel.
Assembled around the tree was the Salvation Army band and Paul took a few moments to admire the tree and listen to the band and while he listened he was taken back to a distant time and place where he and the love of his life had held hands as they sang along.
The clock chimed, and he was brought back to the present and he took a few more moments while he decided on his first port of call, not realizing at the time just how important a decision it would prove to be.
Paul decided on Woolworths, always a favorite of his at Christmas, but on this occasion, it also happened to be the closest, so he walked briskly towards the store and pushed open the door.
As he prepared to enter he paused to hold the door open for a woman coming the other way and he waited patiently as she put her purse away into a huge handbag and he wondered what response he would get for his trouble.
Paul had found that the older he got the less women appreciated courtesy, the simple act of holding open a door could provoke a wide range of responses, a smile, a thank you, a nod, a sneer, a tut, an accusation of male chauvinism or a colorful mouth full of abuse, and he couldn’t always tell who was going to do what.
When the woman had finished fiddling and securing her bag she moved to step through the open door and as she passed Paul she looked up and said
“Thank you” followed by a broad smile, and then she stopped in her tracks as Paul returned her smile and then he too just stood there.
Both of them stood motionless on the threshold as slowly the recognition set in and they were both dumbstruck, not believing their eyes.
Neither of them were sure how long they stood looking at one another for, but long enough for a queue to form behind each of them.
When they realized what they had done they both blushed and excused themselves and stepped out onto the street away from the door apologizing profusely.
When they were clear of the crowd neither of them knew what to say, and still couldn’t believe their eyes, but Paul knew in his heart without a doubt that he was looking at Linda Parsons, who he had last seen 30 years before being driven off in a taxi, disappearing off through the snow, with her palm pressed against the glass as she craned her neck to keep sight of him through the snow spattered window until the very last moment, until the cab had gone from his sight.
But here she stood before him as beautiful as ever she was in his eyes, the soft curls of her light brown hair, which hung beneath her hat, still danced about her shoulders, it just had fine strands of silver threaded through it.
Her smile was still able to melt his heart, even after all those years and her smiling eyes still had the same sparkle and he thought the years had been kind to her and less so to him.
As he studied her he was fumbling for the right words to express his joy at seeing her when she reached up and hugged his neck, kissing his cheek at the same time, and spoke softly in his ear.
“Paul, is it really you?”
He simply said “yes” and they stood in a long comfortable embrace, and he didn’t know how long they stood there, not wanting to let go before she relaxed her grip and he kissed her forehead
“It’s so good to see you” he said feebly, and she put her head on his chest, squeezed him and sighed.
Linda released her grip and pulled away slightly and put her hand up to his cheek and caressed his grey beard.
“Do you have time for coffee?” She asked almost pleadingly
“Of course,” Paul said, and she put her arm through his and led him across the high street, asking quick fire questions as they went.
Paul explained about his car breaking down and that he was staying at the Abbeyvale Court Hotel as he was in no rush to return home
She responded with “oh really” and “oh dear” internally delighting in his misfortune as they walked into the nearest coffee shop, Café Société, and sat on a large comfortable sofa and over coffee they told the tales of their lives spent apart.
And throughout Paul looked at her with adoring eyes, periodically pinching himself, expecting to awake from a dream, as he had done so very many times before.
He told her about his wife and children and she told him of her marriage to Daniel and the subsequent divorce.
The good man that Paul gave Linda up for turned out to have feet of clay and degenerated into a violent drunk, they had no children, which although unsaid was clearly a regret for her.
With the aid of several cups of coffee they managed to talk away the entire morning and Paul suggested they might spend the rest of the day together and have dinner together at the hotel.
Linda readily accepted the invitation to dinner with a delightful smile but then she looked at her watch and suddenly jumped up in alarm
“Look at the time, I have to go” she flustered then she said she had a prior commitment
“Lunch with mum” she added rather unconvincingly, saying it was something she couldn’t get out of as he helped her back into her coat, the smell of her hair evoking memories of their past embraces.
She fished out her mobile phone as they left the coffee shop, from her huge handbag and they exchanged phone numbers, and firmed up the details for the evening, then with a hug and a kiss she was off.
Paul stood and watched her walk away, her coat tails swishing behind her, she stopped briefly and turned to give him a smile and a wave, then with the phone to her ear she hurried off again talking animatedly and he stood watching until she disappeared from sight before he went back to his Christmas shopping and treated himself to a new shirt for the evening.
Paul bought all the gifts he was looking for, plus paper, tags, cards etc. and with all his shopping complete he returned to the hotel for a late lunch.
After that the rest of the day seemed intolerably long, and in an effort to kill some time he went for a swim, used the gym, and then went for a walk.
He got a haircut, even though he didn’t need one, he even wrapped the Christmas presents he had bought that morning, but the time passed so interminably slowly.

Paul walked into the hotel bar at 7 o’clock, an hour early, partly for some Dutch courage and in part because he had run out of things to do so he ordered a drink and then sat at the bar.
Even though he wasn’t expecting her until eight, every time the door opened he turned to look for her and when it wasn’t her his self-doubt crept in, and with every false alarm the doubts got worse, what if she doesn’t come? What if she changed her mind? What if she never intended to come? What if? What if? What if?
Then at a quarter to the hour the door opened and there she was, the love of his life, and every bit as beautiful to him as ever, in spite of the passing years.
Linda was wearing a simple black knee length dress, black tights or stockings and four-inch stiletto shoes, and he thought her legs were as shapely as he remembered them.
In fact he thought that everything about her was as wonderful as he remembered, even though she was thirty years older.
She held a black leather clutch bag in her hand and her face looked a little anxious until Paul stood up and then it lit up with the most radiant smile.
Relieved to find him there, she walked towards him almost tottering on her heels and that made her laugh.
“Hello” She said, and he responded “Hi” and took her hand as she climbed onto a stool.
Paul kissed her cheek and the fragrance of her perfume was quite intoxicating, going straight to his head like a strong spirit and the combination of her scent and his desire for her almost made him swoon.
He ordered her a drink and they nervously made small talk, like two strangers on a blind date, until the waitress led them through to the restaurant.
“How did your lunch with your mum go?” Paul asked once they were seated at their table and she blushed the deepest red in response
“The lunch date was a little white lie” she admitted
“Because I needed the afternoon to get ready” she said, “for this”
“And the animated phone call you were having when you left?”
“Was to my sister, to rally the troops and get me presentable” she confided and they both laughed and any awkwardness between them was gone.
“Well, all I can say is that it was time well spent” he said, and she blushed again at the compliment.
Over dinner they talked with such an easy familiarity as if her departing taxi had only been a week earlier rather than 30 years.
By the time they had finished their coffee the restaurant was empty except for Paul and Linda and a very weary waitress waiting to clear their table.
The evening seemed to have passed by in the blink of an eye and had all too soon come to an end.
They got up and made their apologies and Linda went through the door to the ladies while Paul signed the bill.
“Good night” he said, “and I must apologize again for keeping you so late”
After leaving a large tip on the table he went in search of Linda through the same door she had used, and he found her standing by the Christmas tree.
She had retrieved her coat and scarf from the cloakroom, which were draped over one arm, and her bag was in her hand.
Linda stood with her back to him gazing out of the window, but she could see his reflection in the glass and smiled at him and he gasped at the beauty of her and pinched himself again.
He wanted to kiss her so much, but he was afraid, afraid to break the magic of that special kiss, that perfect moment when they kissed in the snow all those years earlier when he let her slip from his grasp.
For 30 years he had revered that moment, reliving it whenever on a winter’s night he heard the Salvation Army play, or when the snow fell during Christmas time, or when he felt a snowflake on his skin, or stood in a taxi queue on a winter’s night.
For 30 years he had wanted to be back there in that moment holding her in the snow, and there she stood a few steps away from him, yet he was hesitant.
But as if sensing his turmoil, she turned away from the window and he took those few steps to face her.
They stood beside the Christmas tree for a few moments just looking at each other, then she smiled her most heart melting smile as she caressed his cheek before she pulled him to her and kissed him gently on the lips, a warm sensitive and tender kiss.
When their lips touched electricity ran down his spine and it was as if they were young again.
When their lips parted she smiled at him coyly and flushed a deep shade of pink and a second later they met again, and her kiss became more intense, more passionate.
Her coat, scarf and bag fell to the floor as their arms enveloped each other and they stood locked in passionate embrace as the tree lights twinkled beside them.
Linda pulled away for a moment before burying her face in his neck and then softly spoke in his ear.
“You see, that was as good as the first time”
“How could I have doubted it would be perfect?” he responded and cupping her flushed cheek in his palm before he slid his fingers beneath her soft brown curls and caressed the soft downy hair on her nape as he pulled her head toward him, so he could kiss her sweet lips again.
The next time they paused she put her head on his chest, still holding on to him so tightly as Paul kissed the top of her head and smelled her hair.
He held her and didn’t want to let her go, and then he said
“Please stay, I can’t watch you disappear from my life again in another taxi”
In response she lifted her head from his chest and looked at him and said
“I’m not letting you go again, not now, not ever”
Then she smiled at him coyly and blushed like a virgin before she buried her face in his chest again.
A moment later she scooped up her coat, scarf and bag from the floor and took his hand and they walked in silence to his room.
Outside in the corridor she looked deeply into his eyes and kissed his mouth before Paul opened the door and let her walk inside.
She immediately dropped her coat and bag onto a chair and turned to face him as he followed her and she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered in his ear
“I never stopped loving you”
Paul’s arms enveloped her and pulled her close to him and then they kissed, at first soft and tender but then more urgently and he began to un-wrap his most special Christmas gift, wrapped in lace and silk instead of paper and ribbon.
Caressing her body from neck to lacy stocking top and their love was at last made absolute.
When their act of love was complete, and their dreams realized they lay holding each other in the afterglow, silently content until they drifted off to sleep.

Paul awoke to find Linda stood silhouetted against the window, gazing out into the night, wearing his shirt to cover her nakedness and she turned her head to look at him and said
“It’s snowing”
Paul slipped out of bed and joined her at the window, and standing behind her encompassing her in his arms they watched as the snow settled on the courtyard and she hugged his arms and said
“How perfect is that?”
They stood for a few minutes taking in the snowy scene, both thinking back to the last time they enjoyed the snowfall together then she inclined her head, so he could kiss her and when his hands moved from her soft belly and cupped her breasts she led him back to the bed and they made love again.

He woke early the next morning and lay in the half light and held Linda’s sleeping form in his arms and as he lay there he thought how good the fates had been to them that weekend.
If his car hadn’t broken down, and had he not rejected the idea of taking the train, he would not have been shopping on that cold grey morning.
He thought about the moments he spent admiring that tree in the square and listening to the Salvation Army band, and what thought processes made him do what he did.
Was it destiny that he chose to start his shopping at Woolworths, and at the very that moment Linda was preparing to leave, or just blind luck?
They could have chosen any one of the five doors along Woolworths frontage but they both chose the same one, surely that had to be fate.
Although it didn’t really matter to him, all he knew for sure was that 24 hours before that day his life had been so sad and empty and now it was full to overflowing and he was finally with his soul mate.
Linda was in Paul’s life at last and he wanted her never to leave it again, but if fate decreed that the special embrace on one special night of that special weekend was all they could have then he would have been content, but he didn’t have to.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Loving Christmas Linda – The First Embrace

Outside in the winter night, snow spattered, unseen, against the other side of the steamy glass, glass which reflected back images like mirrors against the dark beyond.
It was a fairly crowded Friday evening train, but not full, there were still a number of empty seats, one of which was next to 21-year-old Paul Hartley.
The carriage was occupied by a mixture of weary shoppers, shopping bags bursting at the seams and commuting workers content that the weeks work was done, all journeying homeward at the dark days end.
A cheerful crowd though, Paul thought, pleased with themselves for a variety of reasons, bright faced and hearty and full of seasonal cheer and anticipating the Christmas holiday and seemingly oblivious to the drafty carriage, and the winter weather beyond it.
Paul sat alone as the train rattled out of Nettlefield Station and felt lifted by the quiet jolliness as he contemplated the collective countenance of his self-satisfied travelling companions and then she appeared, and Paul was all at once lifted higher.
Because there she was, larger than life, vivacious and self-assured, covered with snowflakes and laughing to herself.
It was his snow angel, Linda Parsons, with snow covering her like sugar on a doughnut, a delicious confection he would have gladly consumed.
Linda was wrapped up against the cold in a red woolen hat and coat and a long-knitted scarf draped about her neck.
Still laughing, she shook her head and the light brown hair that hung beneath her hat, danced about her shoulders and the snowflakes settled on them melted away from her soft curls.
There was a rosy redness on her cheeks, almost matching the hue of her coat, either from the cold winter evening or a liberal taste of Christmas spirit, a little of both Paul assumed.
Linda made her way unsteadily down the train between the seats leaving wet snowflakes in her wake with her full-length coat swishing from side to side.
She moved almost gracelessly, which Paul thought suited her well, as she tottered a little in her high heeled boots, perhaps due to the lurching motion of the train or the Christmas punch and eggnog at the office party.
As Paul studied her she was still laughing softly to herself, which he thought also suited so well, and then she saw him, and her eyes lit up like beacons, and he sighed as he looked into those wonderful, sparking, laughing eyes as she stopped and stood momentarily open mouthed, and then her smile illuminated the carriage and his heart soared at the sight of her and as Paul returned her smile she flushed a little deeper red.
It had been almost a year since he had last seen her, and she was his lovely lost love, Linda, and it had been a hard year for him, in which he had locked all his feelings for her away, but the instant he saw her they were back with a vengeance.
It was like a door had opened in his heart and they all rushed out, he had missed her so much in that time, but he didn’t know just how much until that moment.
They were never lovers, only ever friends, but very special friends, very close friends, though nothing more.
They liked each other’s company, they would have lunch together, journey to and from work on the same bus, shared a cab when the need arose and laughed a lot together, shared confidences, and talked incessantly, because they were best friends but that was as far as it ever went, though he wanted more, he wanted so much more but Paul didn’t want to lose what they had together, so he said nothing.
He loved her so much that it hurt, but she was not free for him to love and Linda was not free to love him even if she had wanted to, so Paul contented himself with their special friendship and his unrequited love remained just that.
If that was all he could have then better that than nothing, so he was happy to love her unconditionally.
They had plenty of opportunities to see each other as they both lived in the same road in Millmoor, he with his cousin and she with her parents, and they both worked at St Augusta’s Hospital in Nettlefield, where Linda was a clerical assistant and Paul was a porter.
And that unrequited love affair could have gone on indefinitely had circumstances not changed for him when his father died.
As a result, he had to move away to look after his mother and he didn’t see Linda again, not until that moment.
When she was standing in front of him, his angel, larger than life, smiling, blushing, laughing and oh so lovely.
Paul stood up and smiled at her again and she threw herself at him and Linda hugged him so tightly and as she did so, he smelled her hair as he held onto her and was intoxicated by her scent and all the old feelings flooded back, over whelming him.
Paul had often dreamt of being reunited with her, but never in his wildest dreams had he expected such a reaction from her.
“Could it be my love is not unrequited?” he wondered
They sat down heavily on the lumpy seats in the rattling carriage and to all intents and purposes were completely alone.
They sat looking at each other in silence not wanting to lose sight of one another just in case the spell was broken.
Linda removed a glove and put her hand on his as if testing it was not a dream and he was really there, in substance.
“It really is you” she said and then she slipped her hand into his, her delicate fingers lacing between his, her hand so small in his grasp.
For the remainder of the journey they reveled in each other’s company as they caught up with the lost months, filling in the gaps of their time apart, and as they did so they remained oblivious to their traveling companions, it was as if they had never been apart.
But apart they most certainly had been, she still worked at the hospital in Nettlefield and lived at home in Millmoor while he now lived in Nettlefield and worked for Stephenson’s Supermarket’s as a Warehouse manager.
Linda playfully chastised him for disappearing so completely from her life.
“I thought it was the only way” he said, intimating the disposition of his feelings to her for the first time.
“I’ve missed you so much” she said and squeezed his hand and then the train shook to a halt as all too soon they had arrived at Millmoor Station and their fellow travelers all rushed off into the winter air heading towards their Christmases.
Reluctantly Paul and Linda left their seats and disembarked from the carriage arm in arm, then hand in hand as they walked slowly along the platform, still talking and laughing, until they handed over their tickets and then stepped out of the Station and onto the street, where the shops were now closing and the town had settled down to a relative quiet, although from one pub Noddy Holder screamed “it’s Christmas” to the outside world and only the pubs and restaurants seemed to hold any attraction to the remaining Millmoorian’s.
Paul and Linda however were not interested in noisy hostelries, so they joined a small group gathered round the Salvation Army band and joined in with the carol singing in the town square before reluctantly strolling towards the taxi rank as the snow again fell onto Linda’s soft curls.
They were both bound for different parts of town, Linda, had to get home to babysit her sister and Paul was bound for The Downshire Grey where he was meeting up for a Christmas drink with friends.
They took their place in the queue of travelers eager to be home, Paul was eager to be nowhere else but with Linda and he shuffled along for the last few steps like a sulky schoolboy.
Linda was smiling as she turned to face him and kissed him gently on the lips, such a warm sensitive and tender kiss, their first ever kiss, and when their lips parted she smiled at him coyly and flushed a deep shade of pink.
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long” she said, and Paul kissed a snowflake off her nose and cupping her flushed cheek in his palm he slid his fingers beneath her soft brown curls and caressed the soft downy hair on her nape as he pulled her sweet lips to his and returned her kiss.
Linda’s arms enveloped him, holding him so close, and so tightly, not wanting to let go, not wanting to lose what they had found and not wanting to lose him again.
They stood locked in their first passionate embrace as the snow fell softly on the scene until Linda pulled away for a moment before burying her face in his neck and saying softly.
“I’ve missed you so much, I’ve missed your love for me”
Paul had waited so long for that moment, waited so long to hear those words, to hear his love returned and then they kissed again.
Taxi’s arrived and departed through the slush and the queue around them just kept moving as if unaware of the depth of their love.
After an indeterminate period, they moved from the queue and found a bench in the town square, in a quiet spot with a view of the Christmas Tree and talked.
The substance of that talk was of love, a shared love, an unquenchable love.
Not an unrequited one as Paul had supposed because Linda had the same profound feelings for him, she had always done so she said, but she had not been free to pursue her love for Paul a year earlier and she was still not free.
So, Linda was torn between the two loves in her life, torn between the comfortable familiarities for a good man, a loyal and dependable man, for safety if you like, and the passion she felt for a soul mate.
Paul was similarly conflicted, Linda was the love of his life and he would never, could never love another in the same way, but it wasn’t fair on Daniel, her other love, her childhood sweetheart, he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Paul had been on the receiving end of that kind of pain and he found himself unable to inflict it onto another, even if he were a rival, so the conclusion to their converse as they cuddled on the quiet bench was that their love was a forbidden one, and had to be set aside.
They could be best friends no more, not now the genie was out of the bottle, though they both wanted more, so much more.
Paul could not content himself with the special friendship that they had once treasured, not now that he knew his love was not unrequited.
There was no going back, now Pandora’s Box had been opened, but at least now he knew she loved him with the same depth of feeling as he loved her.
After they had reached the conclusion of their frank exchange they slowly walked hand in hand back to the taxi rank and kissed again in the falling snow.
They joined the queue and all too soon it was her turn and after a final kiss she got into a taxi and through the winter wonderland Linda departed taking Paul’s love with her.
As the Taxi drove away with Linda in the back, with her palm pressed against the glass, she craned her neck to keep sight of him through the snow spattered window until the very last moment, until the cab had gone from his sight.
Linda was gone from his arms, gone from his view, gone from his life but a Christmas happening had changed his life forever, after a brief encounter, fleeting, here and then gone.
Her scent was still in his nostrils, the taste of joy on his lips, and his soulmate was gone forever, yet she remained forever in his memory, forever in his heart.
He resolved that he would never see her again and moved away in the New Year to avoid another chance encounter and make a life elsewhere, but Paul never forgot Linda.
And when on a winter’s night he heard the Salvation Army play, or when the snow falls during Christmas time, or when he felt a snowflake on his skin, he feels her small hand in his and all at once she is in his arms once again, and he can smell her soft brown hair and the taste of her is on his lips and he hears her say “I love you” and Linda is his forever.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Love and Admiration # 15


Winters wrath near sweeps me off my feet
As snow and ice join the skin stinging sleet
Who would be outside during the bitter season
A sensible being would need a good reason
To be wrapped up in hat, scarf and glove
In the teeth of a storm and for me it was love


Church bells peel out
Loud and proud
A blissful summer call
To the celebratory crowd
As bride and groom emerge
Into a confetti cloud
After standing at the altar
And solemnly avowed


Looking deeply into
Your soulmates eyes
Is like gazing in a mirror
The love you see
Is the love you get
Because what you feel
Is reflected back to you
So what you give
Is what you will receive


Looking deeply into
Your betrayer’s eyes
Is like gazing at a wall
The love you feel
Is a wasted love
And is absorbed
Instead of being
Reflected back to you
So what you give
Is unrequited
And all that you receive
Is disappointment


An Angel might fall from the sky,
A Goddess may fall from a tree,
But you only lived next door
When you fell in love with me


The earth and sky are
Separate and opposite
Complimenting each other
And are nature in balance
They are two adequate halves
Making one perfect whole
But the most perfect part
Is where they touch on the horizon
But the zenith of their union
Is the perfection of the sunset
Which is where it began for us
I am the earth, you are the sky
We were separate and opposite
And complement each other
And are nature in balance
We are two adequate halves
Making one perfect whole
And we enjoy the sunset embrace
Where the earth touches the sky


A call of the innocence
That was what it was
When the fifteen year old me
Picked up the phone
To call Theresa Flaherty
My palms were so sweaty
I could barely hold the phone
Whereas my mouth was so dry
I doubted I could speak
But I dialled the number
And I eventually got it right
On the third attempt
And then it seemed
To ring for an eternity
But then it was answered
“Hello” the sweet voice said
“Theresa?” I croaked
“Yes” she replied sweetly
“It’s Paul” I said “from school”
I don’t know why I added the last bit
“Oh hi Paul” she said
And I tried to gauge if it was
A despairing “oh hi Paul”
Or a pleasantly surprised one
But as I had never asked
A girl out before
I had no benchmark for it
So a few minutes passed
Of nervous small talk
Interspersed with awkward silences
As the heart in my chest pounded
And beat like an eagles wing
While my head throbbed
And my stomach
Was a flutter of butterflies
As I approached the reason for my call
And the question I had for her
Which I had been rehearsing all week
But it vanished from my mind
So in the end I rather abruptly blurted out
“Will you go to the pictures with me?”
“Oh” she exclaimed with surprise
And added “Yes I’d love to”
My heart was doing cartwheels of delight
But I had to try to remain calm
“That’s great” I responded and hung up
And so ended a call of innocence,
And then I cursed myself for being an idiot
So I rang Theresa again five minutes later
To discuss the date, place and time
And so began our first passion

Friday, 10 November 2017

Love and Admiration # 14


They only went to hear a swing band play
Then feet started to tap and bodies began to sway
Then they smooch along to “moonlight bay”


Tying myself down to another soul
Always gave me a fright
So whenever someone got close
I would always take flight
And I lived solely by that plan
Even the slightest hint of admiration
Would be enough to spur me on
To some hitherto unknown destination
And I could have spent an eternity
Constantly running away from love
Then we met and at once I knew
That you fit me perfectly like a glove


How many of us can say
That our hearts overflow
And we are truly happy
It’s akin to winning the lotto
And I know all too well
Because I hit the jackpot
I had it all, until I balked
At thoughts of tying the knot
That’s why I now sit alone
Sad and broken hearted
And living with the regret
Because we parted


I spied her at the local festival
Dancing geekily with friends
But I detected no “special friend”
So I drifted slowly in her direction
She was a year or two older than I
I was still a teen, only just a teen
But a teenager still nonetheless
So our footsteps danced together
Toe to toe only seeing each other
Our bodies whispered wanton desire
So we took a walk to quench the fire
It was a geeky girl that I first saw
Dancing in the festival sunlight
But it was a women I walked home
That night in the moonlight


They met one day at the park
Just an everyday happenstance
She thought he had promise
From the very first glance
But giving herself was a gamble
So was it worth a chance?
She thought she would and was
Rewarded with a great romance


She had a gaunt haunted face, stark in its paleness
Her mouth was thin and the lips were colourless
The countenance was sad, her dark eyes hollow
And the frail being trembled in keenly felt sorrow
The reason for her broken world weary carriage
Was being locked in a cold loveless marriage
And the limits of her entrapment were narrow
Which she keenly felt deep in bone and marrow
She was a pitiful sight with eyes cast down
Skinny, bent and stooped and shoulders round
She was a poor creature, broken in mind and soul
But I was captivated and pledged to make her whole
So with a matter of weeks I broke the binding tether
And we made our escape, forever bound together


Loosening the moorings
Our souls took flight
As we drifted on the streams
In a dream of moonlight

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Love and Admiration # 13


Fatigue engulfs her in a prelude to sleep
She resists but finally must accept defeat
The moment she surrenders she finds
The familiar dreams invading her mind
Hands gently caress her every curve
Arousing sensation tingles every nerve
Every sinuous fibre of her sensuous being
Is aroused by the images she is seeing
As the erotic pleasure mounts she succumbs
And in the solitude of her bed she comes


In the sweetest moments
Of my dreams
You close your eyes
As your petal like lips
Touch softly against mine.
The kiss is all consuming
We breathe as one
As our hearts beat
In syncopated rhythm
As blood courses hotly
Through our veins
Until at passions peak
I awake alone


Falling in love for the first time
Is like a fledgling leaning to fly
But will new love crash and burn?
Or will it blaze across the sky?


I asked Caroline out on a date
At the start of the summer break
Neither of us had dated before
So there was quite a lot at stake
We met at the entrance to the park
And walked to the café on the lake
We sat at a table in the window
Where she had a strawberry milk-shake
Which she drank through a straw
But my choice proved to be a mistake
As I tried to be more grown up
And ordered coffee and cupcake
The coffee was bitter and something
In the cake caused a hives outbreak
Our second date was less eventful
But was far more memorable

As admiration dwells
In following eyes
Such attraction can lead
To unwelcome advances
But equally it could be
The perfect stranger
So she takes her chances
In search of “The one”


She brought glorious sunlight
To the darkness of my soul
And the coldness of my heart
For living alone had taken its toll
But just spending time with her,
Has shown me again how to live
And revealed just how much love
One special person can give


My life was a perfect harmony and
Love was the rhythm of the dance
I hear no music now or feel the rhythm
And that’s my lonely circumstance

Friday, 27 October 2017

Love and Admiration # 12

I DON’T WANT (from a woman’s perspective)

I don’t want silk lingerie
Or delicate hand made lace
I don’t want designer frocks
Or makeup for my face
I don’t want French perfume
Or expensive jewelry
I don’t want a penthouse flat
With luxurious foolery
I don’t want foreign holidays
Or bouquets of every hue
I don’t even want a sports car
I just want a man that’s true


We stood on a hill top high
With the golden sun up in the sky
We bathed in each others company
And the time passed idly by

Below us stood the village mill
Wheel turned by the silver water
While on the hill a young man stood
Kissing the Miller’s daughter

And as we stood upon that hill
Beneath that glorious summer sun
My heart was lost to her forever
But for the girl it was only fun

So there would be no love affair
No reciprocation of desire
She was just a pretty butterfly
Flitting from flower to flower


The love in me
Touches your heart and soul
And I feel a love divine
The love in you
Touches my heart and soul
And we share a love divine
The love in us
Binds us body and soul
And we bask in a love divine


Hair of Titian
Tumbles unchecked
Falling untamed
Over pale flesh
Like autumn leaves
Stark in contrast
Like blood drops
On a fall of snow


Do not grieve for me
Do not mourn my passing
Just remember me with a smile.
Don’t think of me as gone
Remember what we had
Think of our life as a favourite book
Do not close it and put it on the shelf
Never to be read again
Just because you hate the ending
Start to write the next chapter
Enjoy it like all the others
And don’t be sad
I will be with you always

I will be there when the wild flowers
Dance in the spring meadow
When the summer breeze moves through
A field of ripening wheat
When the morning mist of autumn
Softens the landscape
And when the winter sun
Sparkles and glints on the snow
And I will be by your side
Through your loneliest hours
I will be with you always

I will be there in the dawn
Rising with the sun
You will see me again
When the sun sets at the days end
And in the twilight hours
I will be that gentle breeze
That caress’s your cheek
On a warm summer evening
And I will be that tingle on your skin
As you lie in the quiet hours
I will be with you always

I will be there when you retrace our steps
And when you stand on the lake shore
My reflection will not be on the water
By I am still with you
When you walk in the autumn
Through the golden carpet
I will be in the dancing leaves
And when the snow lays,
Though I will leave no foot prints
I am there for these moments that were ours
I will be with you always

I will be there in the quietness of winter
Among the falling snowflakes
I will be in the dew drops
On the grassy meadow
I will be there in the warm sunlight
Of a summer’s day
I will be with you when the storm
Quickens your heartbeat
And you will feel me on your skin
In the April showers
I will be with you always


It’s a rainy Sunday
And I’m feeling blue
Remembering the past
And thinking of you

Do you happily look back?
Across the years
Or do you view them
Through bitter tears

Do you ever think of me?
Just once in a while
With a furrowed brow
Or rueful smile

You thought our love
Would last an eternity
But I was quite happy
Just to wait and see

I just wanted us
To enjoy the laughter
But what you wanted
Was happy ever after

I loved you so much more
Than I would ever say
When we broke up
On that rainy Sunday

When you asked me
I should have said
“I really do love you”
I just shrugged instead

I wish I could go back
To that rainy Sunday
I would get on my knees
And beg you to stay