A – Z Challenge Day 22

It’s Day 22 of this April’s Challenge, and my prompt comes once more from the lovely Esther Newton. Esther has suggested some brilliant prompts in the past which have helped me write guest posts for her, something which I hope to do again very soon. The suggested word is “VACUOUS”. This is a great word which had me stumped for ages! I was beginning to worry about whether or not I’d have something to write at all, but this afternoon something clicked and I hashed out my thoughts during my lunch break. Thank you, Esther, for such a creative and brain-busting prompt!

Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it. 7

P.S. Just in case you are interested, you can find stories aided by Esther’s prompts here, here and here. Shamless plug, sorry!


By Adam Dixon

“I can’t do this anymore, John,” the sleek, blond woman said, her voice quivering as she knelt beside the young man seated in a wheelchair. She took his hand with both of hers and began to sob. The man had his head lowered, looking defeated. He slowly raised his head to look at her, and his face was oddly blank.

“Sandra…” he began. “I don’t-“

“NO NO NO!” A shrill voice bellowed from the audience. Startled, the couple glanced in the direction of the outburst. A short, bald man wearing a pink shirt and enormous glasses was striding towards them, his expression the picture of exasperation. He stopped in front of them, his arms folded and clutching a sheaf of papers tightly. As he tapped his foot on the wooden floor of the stage, the sharp thuds echoed around the empty theatre space. He looked wired, and he stank of coffee.

“Mr Smith,” he started, running his hand along his cheek and sighing. “How many times must I tell you that this is perhaps the single most important moment in your character’s life? Sandra’s inability to take care of him after his illness sends him spiralling into loneliness and despair, which then leads to his malevolent actions later on.” He began leafing through the pages in his grip, pulling an expression of mock concentration. After a moment he shook his head and declared with frustration:

“Now, I don’t believe that it says in this script that John should be an expressionless, emotionless block of wood, although I could be mistaken! Why can’t you put a bit of feeling into this scene, for God’s sake!”

“I’m sorry, mate,” the man Smith replied, irritated. “I’ve already told you that I’m not a very good actor.”

“That much has been made abundantly clear!” The man in pink responded, almost hysterically. He turned to the woman, who was adjusting her blond wig and looking uncomfortable.

“Jackie, could you please try to bring something useful out of Keanu Reeves, here? Just for me?” The man pleaded. Jackie shrugged her shoulders.

“Dunno what you think I can do, Max,” she said sounding annoyed herself. “He’s pretty wooden. I don’t think he’s acted much in his life.”

“I haven’t, that’s what I’m saying!” Smith argued, rising from the wheelchair. “I don’t know what you thought I could bring to this production when my brother is the real actor!”

“Yes, Jerome would have performed exceptionally,” Max nodded, looking sad. “It’s a terrible shame that his accident occurred so close to opening night.”

“Look, I know I’ve only been asked to fill in because I look like him, but surely this is a bit much?” Smith said, waving his arms in exasperation. “I can’t act for shit! Surely you have another guy who can play this part well enough?”

“I have several “guys” who could do it, of course,” Max said, speaking slowly and carefully as if to a complete moron. “But I need Jerome Smith! If not him personally then I need his likeness. I’ve never come across anyone so suited for the part purely based on looks! I consider it a miracle that the boy can act as well!”

“Yeah, halle-fucking-lujah,” Smith grumbled. “But Jerome is in hospital, so you’re stuck with me. I dunno why you’re giving me such a hard time, I’m doing this as a favour to Jerome and by extension a favour to you, so don’t push it!”

“Alright, alright!” Max held up his hands in resignation. “I will endeavour to hold back a bit with my criticisms, but there are many! I suppose we’ll just have to see how you do with a bit of practice! Now, Jackie, from the top, if you please?” He stormed off-stage and slumped back into his folding chair. Jackie cleared her throat and knelt down beside the chair, motioning impatiently for Smith to sit. Smith muttered darkly to himself as he complied.

“Dunno why the grumpy sod is taking it all so seriously,” he mumbled. “It’s only an amateur production, for fuck’s sake!”

“I can’t do this anymore, John,” Jackie said, back in character. She gazed up at him with actual tears in her eyes. Fuck me, she’s good!  Smith thought, impressed. He raised his head slowly and looked into her eyes.

“Sandra…” he said, trying hard to convey emotion. “I don’t know how you can leave me like this…after all I’ve done for us…”

Max covered his face with his hands and groaned. The boy was utter shite; he’d never seen anyone with such a vacuous expression! He may as well have been carved from a tree!

“We’re doomed!” he whispered sadly, not bothering to watch the rest of the performance. He knew it was going to be a car-crash, anyway.

A – Z Challenge Day 12

Day twelve of this April’s Challenge and my suggestion for today comes from one of my Twitter followers. Sakina Hussain and I have only been following each other for a short while, but she has given me some great encouragement with my writing and was kind enough to provide me with a few suggestions for this Challenge.

The word she suggested for today is “LEGERDEMAIN”.

Yes, that’s right, LEGERDEMAIN. She went right ahead and slapped me with a word I had never heard of before! Kudos to you, Sakina!

After looking it up I decided that I would use it, and this is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.


By Adam Dixon

“Ahh, but good, sir, a magician never reveals his tricks!” The old man flashed a broad grin at the bemused businessman and winked at his wife. Sweeping off his garish feathered hat and bowing low, he looked up at the assembled crowd.
“Would anyone else care to test the finesse of my fingers?” He asked dramatically. “I may look old and indeed I feel it during these cold winter months, but my dextrous digits are just as nimble and and eager as when I was a lad! How about you, sir? Perhaps you and your friend there would care to challenge me? Or you, madame? May I say what a fine coat that is? It is such a privilege to be entertaining a person of high quality this morning! Alas, no offence intended to my other guests, of course!” The small crowd gathered around him chuckled at the joke and a few of them agreed to test his skill.
“He can’t possibly win every time,” one man in a suit whispered to his lady friend. “Just watch, my darling, I’ll show the old fellow up!” The woman giggled and nuzzled him in encouragement.
Unbeknownst to them, a little girl who could scarcely have been more than ten years old moved among the crowd like a wraith. The girl was constantly surprised at how easy it was to distract people in the city. Here she was with her blond hair shining like a beacon amidst a sea of greys and browns, yet no-one saw her as she delved into their coats and purses. All it took was one charismatic old geezer with a silly hat and a few sleight-of-hand tricks and she could pilfer their valuables as easily as breathing. Of course, she had to have quick hands herself in order to do so, so at least the old man’s teachings had been worth the time.

The crowd oohed and ahhed as the old man made cards and coins disappear and reappear under the hats of his spectators. They cheered loudly when he began juggling first three balls, then four, then six, then eight and so on until their jaws hung low and their eyes were trapped following the whirling spheres. That trick was also a signal to the young girl; it was his final performance, so she had better hurry up. She swiftly stole a few more handfuls of coins and pound notes before backing off and striking up the same awed expression of those around her. Not a moment too soon, either.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been an excellent crowd!” The old man panted as he bowed low and flung out his hat, neatly catching all the falling balls in it one after the other. The crowd gasped and applauded, and the man bowed lower still.

“Thank you, thank you! You are most kind!” The man exclaimed, beaming at his audience. “I shall be performing for your pleasure here again for the following two mornings, so be sure to inform your friends and relatives!” The people were murmuring amongst themselves good-naturedly as they began to disperse, and not one of them noticed how light their pockets were. The young girl walked away slowly and turned the street corner. A few minutes of walking led her to a small churchyard, and she stood reading the cracked gravestones as she waited for the old man. She closed her eyes and breathed in the moist air of the morning, tasting flavour the old earth which wafted up to her nostrils.

“Well, how did we do this time?” The girl opened her eyes to see the old man standing next to her. She never heard the wily old sod approach and she had given up trying.

“Quite well,” she responded flatly. She held out the bulging pillow case containing her hoard and frowned as he snatched it away. After leafing through its contents and nodding, the old man looked up at her sharply.

“Can I trust that you’ve not squirreled some coins away about your person?” he asked suspiciously. She shook her head, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be enough. The girl didn’t blame him, really. One thief could never fully trust another. The old man seized her with his bony fingers and subjected her to the humiliation of forcing her mouth open to peer under her tongue and down her throat, as well as lifting her ragged clothes to check her undergarments. Such a display was indecent to say the least, and not at all befitting an older gentleman in Victorian society, but they were alone there and the girl was powerless to resist. Satisfied, the man released her.

“Mmmhmm, good,” he said, stooping to pick up the dropped pillow case. “You’re doing wonderfully, my dear, and I shall pay you your share once I have counted this up properly. You stick with me and we shall both be rich!” He cackled and strode away, not bothering to wait for her to reply.

The girl sighed and rubbed her arms where his fingers had gripped her. He still had strong hands for one so old, strong as well as fast. A small smile crept along the girl’s lips as she opened her palm to reveal a beautiful golden pocket-watch. It belonged to the old man, and he had coveted it ever since he had stolen it from a passing politician. The girl would sell it that afternoon and the man would simply believe that he had lost it somewhere.

“Your fingers are still quick, old man, but not as quick as mine!” The girl grinned to herself as she walked back towards the market. One day she wouldn’t need the old man anymore, and that day was fast approaching.

High and Mighty, High and Dry

Picture found on https://pixabay.com/

High and Mighty, High and Dry

By Adam Dixon

Lady Sophia grasped the wooden railing as the Emerald Nypmh crashed into the rocks. The ship recoiled with an awful shattering of wood and the shock jolted dozens of passengers as they flocked to the deck. Lady Sophia screamed as she was lifted from her feet, her hip colliding painfully with the railing. As she righted herself and chanced a peek out into the ocean, a second, more violent impact wrenched her fingers from the railing and flung her overboard. She hit the water seconds later and the air was driven from her lungs. She cast about to and fro in a frenzy, salt water stinging her eyes and filling her nostrils. With an effort she broke the surface in time to gulp a mouthful of air before she was dragged back under. Her voluminous silken gown was trapping her limbs and pulling her down into the green depths. She struggled desperately, her heartbeat booming in her ears. She cried out in terror and the ocean rushed into her throat. She choked and thrashed, and everything went black.

The next thing Lady Sophia became aware of was a rhythmic pounding on her chest. She felt water being forced from her lungs into her throat and she began to cough and splutter. She heard gulls screeching and the sound of crashing waves as she ejected the salty water from her mouth and her nose. Strong hands turned her on to her side and she continued coughing and retching with her head hanging limply from her shoulders.

“Go on, miss, get it all out,” a voice said gently. A man’s voice. After what seemed like an age Lady Sophia was able to sit up. Squinting against the sunlight with her chest heaving, she looked at her rescuer. She saw a rough-looking man with a large nose and a square jaw crouched next to her, also soaking wet. He was at least twenty years younger than her, and his brown eyes were gazing at her with concern.

“You a’right, miss?” Lady Sophia noted with some distaste that he sounded like a commoner. She nodded slowly. He man smiled in relief, exposing uneven, brown teeth.

“Thank the Lawd!” He exclaimed. “I fort you was a goner for sure! The name’s Simpson, John Simpson. At yer service.” He thrust a large, calloused hand towards her. Lady Sophia regarded the hand with a mixture of astonishment and revulsion. She cleared her throat painfully.

“Yes, well, you have my thanks, Mister Simpson,” she croaked. Drawing herself up and attempting to find her learned poise, she glanced around. They were on a tiny island, essentially no more than a collection of rocks. Debris from the shipwreck floated nearby: a broken mast here, a plank from a deck there. The wreck itself was nowhere to be seen; it must have sunk beneath the surface.

“What in the name of the Almighty happened, Simpson?” Lady Sophia demanded. “How did the ship befall such a tragedy? More importantly, where are we?” Simpson’s smile faltered and he lowered his arm.

“Can’t say, miss,” he said. “I reckon we’s a few leagues away from the Indies. The Cap’n shouted somethin’ ‘bout rocks beneath the surface, an’ the next thing I know I was overboard on the port side. I spotted this ‘ere island an’ I made straight for it. I saw you thrashin’ about an’ I couldn’t just leave ya. I’d have ‘elped more if I could, honest to God, but most were trapped on board.” Lady Sophia paled.

“Trapped…” she whispered. “Have you noticed any other survivors?” Simpson shook his head sadly. “Dear God…” They sat in silence for some time, the gravity of the situation settling on their shoulders like a leaden weight. Finally, Simpson stood up.

“Well, we’re still ‘ere, praise the Lawd,” he announced, rubbing his hands together. “An’ we’d best not waste ‘Is mercy. We’ll need t’find some way t’catch fish, if there’s any t’be found. We oughta try an’ pinch summa that driftwood, an’ all. ‘Praps we can build a fire ‘an…”

“What, pray tell, do you mean by ‘we’?” Lady Sophia interrupted. Simpson stopped, frowning in confusion.

“Well, miss,” he said. “I mean you an’ me, o’ course.”

“First of all,” Lady Sophia said, her voice cutting. “It is ‘you and I’, and secondly, you must be out of your mind if you expect me to lower myself to manual labour,” she spat the words as if they had a foul taste. “And thirdly, I am not a “miss”, I am the Countess Sophia Hartford of Essex and I am to be addressed as ‘My Lady’. You would do well to know your place, Simpson, and perhaps then we shall deduce a reasonable way to escape from this dreadful island.”

Simpson’s jaw had fallen open. He stood for a moment in silence, stunned by the onslaught.

“Well?” Lady Sophia demanded, folding her arms. “What say you? Are you a simpleton, man?”

“No, I ain’t,” Simpson began slowly. “I ain’t a simpleton, milady, but you ‘ave knocked me back a fair bit, I’ll grant ya.”

Lady Sophia was incredulous. “How so? Surely even the simplest commoner knows how to conduct himself when in the company of a woman of noble birth!”

“’Praps, so, milady,” Simpson was struggling to find the correct words as he voiced his frustration. “But as you can see, we ain’t in England, and we ain’t even on board a ship no more. So as far as I see it, your title counts for nothin’.”

“How dare you..!” Lady Sophia began, but Simpson cut her off.

“How dare I?!” he shouted, causing Lady Sophia to take a step backwards. “I do dare, milady! I know I’m only a poor deckhand wi’ nothin’ to ‘is name, but on this pile o’ rocks, you ain’t  nothin’ either!”

“I…you cannot address me…in that tone,” Lady Sophia spluttered, her face a mask of indignation and fury.

“Shut up!” barked Simpson. “We’re in trouble, my lady, an’ you’d best see it sharpish! You need to ‘elp me if you wanna live long enough t’see England again. That’s yer choice, ‘elp me or die ‘ere!” With that, he stalked off to the other side of the island, picking his way carefully among the rocks.

“Insufferable man!” Lady Sophia raged. “When I return to England I shall see him punished for his insolence! I knew I should not have allowed myself to be talked into boarding that cursed ship! The Emerald Nymph, hmmph! A name as vulgar as that was certain to attract bad luck!” She stood for a few minutes watching Simpson searching among the rocks, the sun evaporating the salt water on her skin. She noted with displeasure the brittle, tangled mess it had reduced her greying hair to. Her fine dress was ruined also, and she thought sadly of the wasted work that had gone into creating it. She found a slightly less jagged rock and sat as straight and as primly as possible.

As the sun reached its zenith, Lady Sophia was sunburnt, thirsty and miserable. She had watched Simpson poking about in the rocks, and he had managed to catch a medium-sized crab. He had salvaged a small pile of driftwood after swimming a short distance from the island and he was drying them in the sun. Lady Sophia noted that the man was a strong swimmer, and felt ashamed for not expressing her appreciation properly. A short while later, her eyes bulged out of her head. She stood up and attempted to march across the rocks to Simpson, the effect negated by the treacherous footing.

“I say, Simpson!” she barked. “What in God’s name do you think you are doing?” Simpson was whittling a stout piece of driftwood with a jagged rock and ignored her. He had removed his scruffy woollen shirt and his simple breeches and had left them on a rock to dry.

“Are you listening, Simpson?!” Lady Sophia spluttered. “How dare you remove your clothes in my sight?! This is an indecent and disgusting display! Squatting in your undergarments like a savage! You will dress yourself at once!”

“I shan’t,” Simpson said, not looking up from his work. “It’ll only get cold again come the evenin’. I’ll not feel the benefit of ‘em if I’m wearin’ ‘em already, small comfort though they’ll be. You oughta do the same wi’ that ‘eavy thing yer swaddled in.”

“Remove my…” Lady Sophia was aghast. “Swaddled?! Why, you uncultured cretin!”

“’Praps I am, milady,” Simpson shrugged. “But I knows the weather in these waters, I been sailin’ ‘em since I was a lad. Take my advice or don’t. ‘Opefully I’ll ‘ave a fire goin’ before the evenin’, or else we’ll be ‘aving cold crab for tea.” He promptly went silent, and ignored all of Lady Sophia’s increasingly fervent attempts to force a reaction from him. Eventually she stalked back to her rock in a huff.

Simpson did not get a fire started and so they ate cold, uncooked crab in silence as the evening drew in. They were forced to slake their thirst on its blood, much to Lady Sophia’s disgust. Simpson turned out to be correct about the weather, and soon Lady Sophia was shivering violently. When Simpson suggested that they huddle together for warmth during the night, she threw a barrage of rocks at him and called him every vulgar name she could think of. He retreated to the other side of the island, and neither of them slept that night.

On the second day, a small miracle occurred. Simpson spotted something floating roughly a hundred yards away from the island and swam out to it. Lady Sophia then had the panicked realisation that should Simpson drown, she would certainly die on the island. She waited in agony, scanning the water for his bobbing head. He swam back to the island, pushing what looked like a large wooden barrel. It turned out to be full of water, likely from the stores of the Emerald Nymph, and it was untouched. They both drank mouthfuls of the clean, sweet liquid and praised God for their change in fortune. Simpson insisted that they ration the water in order to preserve it, and Lady Sophia reluctantly agreed.

On the third day Simpson managed to spear a fish with a sharpened stake. It tasted like another offering from God to the two of them.

During the fourth night, Lady Sophia walked over to Simpson and huddled close to him against the chill. Neither of them said a word.

By the eight day, disaster. Neither had eaten for two days, but Simpson appeared to be coming down with a sickness. He was cold despite the heat of the day, and sweating profusely during the night. Lady Sophia felt her panic rising once again. What would she do if he became too sick to catch food?

On the tenth day, Simpson’s sickness was much worse. He drifted in and out of consciousness, babbling deliriously. Lady Sophia knelt next to him in her undergarments, dabbing at his sun-scorched skin with her sodden dress, speaking soft nonsense into his ear.

On the eleventh day, Simpson died. Lady Sophia wailed into the air, cursing God and the vast expanse of ocean which surrounded and mocked her.

Fourteen days after the sinking of the Emerald Nymph, a cargo ship carrying spices bound for France passed by the small rocky island. The sailor in the crow’s nest spotted a shape waving to them and alerted the captain. The captain looked through his telescope and saw a dishevelled, grey-haired woman dressed in filthy rags jumping about desperately. He swiftly ordered a boat sent out to the island and accompanied the party personally. When they reached the island, a grisly sight met their eyes. The woman was half-mad, gibbering and weeping uncontrollably, and nestled between the rocks was an empty barrel and a partially eaten corpse.



Golden Hair

Golden Hair

By Adam Dixon


I’ve been sitting here for hours now. The wall has made my back ache and my backside has gone numb from sitting on the floorboards, but I don’t mind. Not while I can sit here with her head in my lap, stroking her beautiful hair. I would happily sit here all day doing this and I’d barely feel the passage of time. I live for these moments, when I can relax, hold her in my arms and run my hands gently through her gorgeous golden locks. It seems that these moments don’t come frequently enough, but when they do…bliss.

I love my Bev. Beverley Watson, to be precise. Beverley Anne Watson, to be even more so. A name which has fallen out of fashion somewhat, but I can’t think of one any more beautiful. She doesn’t think so, my Bev. She thinks it’s a name for an old crone, a spinster. I always laugh and shake my head. A beautiful name for a beautiful woman, I insist. I’ve told her so often, which she loved at first. She seemed to weary of it over time, but I still tell her. She needs reminding, the silly girl. We met two years ago. Two years, two months and seventeen days, to be precise. I like to keep count, but Bev tells me it’s silly. I tell her that that day was the start of our lives together and that nothing on earth would ever make me forget it. I’m a little hurt that she doesn’t see it in the same light, but that’s okay. I can keep count for us, so there is no need to worry.

We met at Kingston University in London during our final academic years there. I was working on my dissertation in the library when a woman’s voice with an American accent nervously asked me a question. I had been absorbed in my work and so had missed the inquiry, and upon glancing up I found myself gazing into a pair of hypnotic blue eyes. My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught in my throat. I stammered lamely, asking the woman to repeat herself. It turned out that the owner of those mesmerising eyes was also a student there and she wanted to borrow the book I was studying once I had finished with it. It was a history book concerning the use of propaganda during the Second World War, and she said it would be very helpful for her dissertation in Film Studies. I had the last copy, it appeared. I had swallowed nervously and told her that of course she could. She had smiled at me, a relieved, grateful smile that was every bit as captivating as her eyes. From that moment I was under her spell.

Bev told me that she was from Miami, and that her family had moved to England roughly five years previously. She was amiable and chatty, and I was hooked on every word. We spent the rest of that afternoon getting to know one another, and we parted on pleasant terms after I had practically begged her for her phone number. She had been embarrassed, but I saw her hidden delight. She had given it to me, and I had floated back to my student flat as if on air, her smiling face filling my thoughts entirely. We instantly struck up a friendship and began to talk every day, via text messages, phone calls and on Facebook. Bev was committed to her studies, and so we often had to cut our conversations short so that she could focus on her work. I found it extremely difficult as my own studies were the furthest things from my mind at that point. I asked her out twice during our final terms, but she politely rejected me both times. She reasoned that she could not afford any distractions, no matter how tempting they might be. She had said it with a smile and a laugh, robbing any sting from her words in my eyes. I decided to be patient; I would wait an eternity to be with Bev. It certainly seemed like I had waited that long when results day came around. I had become less and less focused on my studies once we had met, and so my marks had dropped sharply. I had, however, worked hard enough previously to gain a second-class honours degree, but barely. I could have failed for all I cared. Bev had done fantastically well, with her hard work earning her a first. She was deliriously happy, screeching in my ear with joy and dancing round and round in circles with her friends, all of them whooping with excitement. Later that night, whilst we and hundreds of our fellows were celebrating in the student bar, I asked Bev if she would like to go out with me again. It was exactly four months to the day that we had met. I held my breath as she regarded me, a sly smile on her face and her cheeks reddened with alcohol. Finally, she leaned forwards and whispered to me gently.

“You betcha, handsome.” Then she had slipped her arm around my neck and kissed me. If I had died at that exact moment I would have died the happiest man on the planet.

Ah, what a sweet memory that is. I’d like to voice it aloud, but I don’t want to disturb her. I’ll leave her be, and keep stroking her hair. She’s always liked that and I’ll never tire of it. I’ll simply memorise my thoughts and write them down at a later date, just like Dostoevsky during his imprisonment.

I had lived for Bev from the moment I saw her, and now that we were together I felt like my life belonged to her. Unfortunately, the mundane structure of society had pressured me into finding a new place to live and seeking some form of employment. I hated being away from my angel, but they were necessary distractions. We still saw each other several evenings per week, as well as on the weekends. I took any opportunity to spend time with her, which irked her friends a great deal. I ignored them, whereas Bev good-humouredly laughed their objections away.  So many wonderful things happened during those few months: day trips to history museums, the sharing of our favourite films snuggled under blankets, the first time we made love…Bev was as much caught up in the whirlwind that surrounds new relationships as I was, and it seemed to me that during that time she never stopped smiling.

But things started to go wrong exactly six months into our relationship. I was thrilled that we had made it so far, and the months had flown by in a dizzying dream for me. I was complete with Bev, and wanted to tell her so. I took her out into London for a meal at her favourite Italian restaurant, the one with the garlic bread sticks and the live bands. I even booked it for the night the Elvis impersonator was on, because she loves that silly man. Personally, I’ve always thought that having an Elvis Presley impersonator in an Italian was a bloody stupid idea, but I’ll happily endure it for Bev. We ate well, with creamy carbonara for me and seafood risotto for Bev, her favourite. She even had two helpings of dough balls that night, winking and warning me not to tell a soul because of her diet. I told her that I wouldn’t dream of telling on her, and that she could eat dough balls morning, noon and night for all I cared. She laughed, her beautiful mouth raising up into a dazzling smile and her hair swishing to and fro. I ordered a couple of bottles of the best wine they had; no expenses were spared that night. We were sitting quietly at the end of the evening, comfortably full of good food and more than a little bit tipsy. Bev was sitting slightly forwards with a demure smile, nodding her head to a passable rendition of “Blue Suede Shoes” with her eyes half-closed. Drinking in her beauty, I sat there in silence just watching her. After the song had finished, Bev had noticed me staring and asked me shyly what I was thinking about. It was then that I asked her to move in with me.

Her reaction was not pleasing to me.
“Oh, sweetie…I don’t know what to say…” She looked shocked and perplexed, not in control of herself as she almost always was. “I mean it’s a great idea but…isn’t it a little bit soon for that? It’s quite a big step to take…”
I was confused and hurt. I told her that it didn’t seem like a big step at all to me, but the logical progression of our devotion to one another. Again, she seemed bewildered and extremely uncomfortable.
“Yes, I suppose, but still…have we reached that point yet?”
It was as if she had slapped me across the face with her words. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Of course we had reached that point, we had reached it months before! We were made for each other, and this was the correct step, a way to properly begin the forging of our life together. Romeo and Juliet had only needed one evening to come to the realisation that they were destined for one another, and she adored that story. Therefore I was at a loss as to why she would balk at my suggestion. I mean, six months was positively aeons in comparison!
Needless to say, the pleasant mood was utterly ruined. I made some bumbling comment about rushing into things in a half-arsed attempt to appease her before asking for the bill. We sat in a painful silence as we waited, with me struggling to come to terms with my injury.

Whoops, I’m gripping her hair a bit tightly now! That memory does that to me, unfortunately. The pain still feels fresh when I recall that night. I haven’t hurt her, thankfully. There, I’ve smoothed her hair back and resumed stroking it gently. She still seems quite content to just let me be. Bless her, I love her so.

Then what? Ah yes, things had become quite awkward for us after that. I was wracked with doubt and deeply hurt, but I couldn’t stay away from her. She meant so much to me. After a couple of agonising days we met up once again and laughed the whole thing off. Well, Bev laughed anyway. I smiled and held her hand, determined more than ever to never let her go. I had come to the conclusion that she had not progressed to the same emotional level as I had, which whilst unfortunate, was not a major cause for concern. I was certain that she would catch up before too long, and meanwhile I would patiently dote upon her and let our love cleanse away any doubts.

Only, that didn’t quite happen. I blame her friends, personally. Those shit-stirring, envious parasites she calls friends, anyway. They were constantly whispering amongst themselves about me, I know it. They disliked how much time Bev spent with me, which was somewhat understandable. Friends of new couples often tend to react to their changing time commitments with jealousy, it’s almost a rite of passage. However, these “friends” took it beyond mere jealousy. They despised me, and I know that they were trying to turn Bev against me in order to get her back. I’d often come back from using the toilet or buying drinks at the bar to see Bev laughing uproariously with two or three of them surrounding her, whispering. When I’d ask what they had been talking about, one of them would interrupt Bev and palm me off with some half-thought drivel. They were like vultures, bloated with lies and guarding their next meal.

They were no good for her, and I tried to tell her that various times. Bev brushed it off at first, then she grew defensive and finally angry with me for suggesting it. So I stopped saying anything to her about it, and instead began to check up on her whilst she was out with them. I’d arrive unannounced and uninvited to coffee dates, lunches and even cinema screenings, much to the chagrin of the friends in question. At first Bev was pleasantly surprised to see me, and was happy to have me tag along. However, she began to become visibly disheartened by my sudden appearances and grew frustrated with me. It led to heated rows, during which I insisted that her jealous friends were getting to her, and that by causing arguments between us they were getting what they wanted.

Damn it! I’m gripping her hair again and my fingers are tangled in it. It’s those bloody friends of hers, it still infuriates me to think about what they did to us. OK, I’m untangled now. Slow, gentle strokes…

I continued checking up on Bev, especially when she started becoming evasive. I was angry when she got like that, and knew her friends were behind it. A couple of times I called in sick or swapped shifts at work in order to sneak out and follow her. It was often simply a matter of touring her usual haunts, as I could usually locate her that way within a couple of hours. If she had gone out of town, I found out where she would be by contacting her cousins or her siblings and convincing them that I had something urgent to tell her. That worked like a charm, but eventually they became maddeningly unhelpful. Her brother even threatened me once, and told me to stay away from Bev. I had never heard such a ludicrous suggestion, and angrily told him so. She didn’t need her family anymore anyway, she had me. All they would do is get in the way. Presently, whenever I appeared to rescue Bev from her parasites I was pleased to see that they were becoming visibly shaken by it, even frightened. I would have revelled in my victory if Bev had not started exhibiting the same reactions towards me. As I watched from afar and out of sight, I could see her casting her head to and fro, restless and fearful. She started stammering when we were together, and she was reluctant to let me touch her at times. The smiles I craved became fewer and further between, and the laughter was strained if it was even there at all. I couldn’t understand it; I was trying to protect her from her “friends”, for her sake. For our sake.

Nine months and fourteen days into our relationship, something terrible happened. Bev told me that we needed to talk, and sounded very much on edge. When I met with her, she blurted out that it was all over and that she didn’t want to see me again. She said I frightened her, and that I needed professional help. As I think back on it, I must say that I was surprisingly calm about the situation. It’s because I knew that she wasn’t serious; this was merely another setback which we would get past and be stronger for. It would hurt me being away from her, but if she needed space then I could forgive her for it. I could also forgive her for her harsh choice of words, as they were uttered in a moment of passion. I love how passionate Bev is, and I could never fault her for it. No, I would just be patient and everything would be fine. Bev would come back to me and I would welcome her with open arms and a full heart.

After about a month, I had seen on Facebook that she had been writing statuses about losing weight for the summer time. She had blocked me by this point, and I had seen this by hacking into her mother’s account. Although Bev is rightly considered by all to be beautiful, charming woman, she has always been troubled by her size.  She has come from a society where beach-ready models with glorious sun-kissed skin and toned bodies were abundant and held up as the American standard, and she never really has been able to ignore that particular form of indoctrination. Her wonderfully curved hips, ample thighs and plump rear are anathema to her, and she has convinced herself that she is fat. No amount of argument on my side has budged that opinion, but I have been pleased to note that our relationship has inspired a certain confidence within her. Anyway, upon reading her status, I had bought her some fairly expensive summer dresses which would complement her figure delightfully and sent them to her address. I reasoned that even though she hadn’t come to her senses just yet it was still part of my duties as her boyfriend to make sure that she felt and looked good regardless of the season. It was a sweet, loving gesture. However, I received several furious messages on my own Facebook account, all from her friends and all insisting that Bev was uncomfortable with my gifts. Not a single message from Bev was sent to confirm their ramblings, though, so I knew that this was untrue.

All of a sudden, our first anniversary as a couple loomed overhead. After days of trying, I finally managed to contact Bev directly and arrange to meet for a meal. I told her that I needed to see her and that I loved her dearly, and that if she felt any compassion for me she would agree to see me that evening. She relented, and I eagerly booked a table at her favourite Italian in London once again. This time it would be a happy occasion from start to finish, with no awkwardness or disappointment. I was even looking forward to hearing that mediocre Elvis-wannabe again! I was a bundle of nerves as I waited for her. We had not seen each other properly for nearly three months, an excruciatingly painful length of time for me. But I was certain that once we started talking again Bev would come to her senses and stop playing her silly game. We would laugh and forget that anything ever happened. Imagine, then, my shock when Bev finally arrived, looking resplendent in a blue dress, flanked by her brother and her cousin. I was speechless with indignation; how dare they intrude on our celebration! I’d met her brother, Harvey, a few times but her cousin was nearly a stranger to me. Bev smiled at me weakly and mumbled something about us needing to talk, when her lout of a brother sharply interrupted her.

“Bev’s only here to give you some closure, creep, so don’t get any ideas.” He barked, folding his arms. “We’re watching you.” Her cousin stood next to him in much the same manner. To me, that had more than a passing resemblance to a pair of burly guards escorting a dejected prisoner to her cell.

For a few seconds I couldn’t respond, I merely sat at the table trembling with suppressed rage. I then managed to quietly ask Bev if she had planned for those two idiots to join us for the evening.

“No, sweetie, I had planned to come alone,” She began nervously. “But Harvey and Bob insisted that they-“. That was as far as she got. I don’t remember much about what followed. The red mist had descended and I had launched myself out of my seat and attacked Harvey. I vaguely remember knocking him off of his feet, and I think a woman nearby had screamed. Cousin Bob must have hit me because I ended up with a black eye. I was roughly seized by a hulking chef at some point and tossed unceremoniously out of the restaurant whilst someone called the police. I remember seeing Bev crying as I was taken away. Harvey was mopping at a gash on his eyebrow, trying to stop the blood trickling into his eyes and Bob had a broken wrist. As it turned out, neither of them decided to press charges, which I suppose was lucky for me. Lucky for them, too. I should have killed them.

I didn’t see Bev for a while after that incident. Her family and friends were on high alert which made it difficult for me to follow her, much less try to talk to her. I was forced to back off by those cretins. None of them seemed to realise that their actions would be hurting Bev just as much as they were hurting me. I had tried to warn her but she hadn’t listened! Just like Romeo and Juliet we were hindered in our love by the unreasonable zealotry of family. But also like Romeo and Juliet I knew that we would find a way around their oppression, a way to be together forever.

Blimey, look at me getting all romantic about it! That was almost thespian of me! Bev does that, her presence unlocks deep wells of emotion within, wells I didn’t even realise I had. She is my muse given exquisite physical form.

A little over four months later, I discovered through my various sources that Bev was planning on travelling down to Brighton to visit her aunt. My head was filled with fantasies of a tearful reunion on Brighton Pier and romantic walks along the beach as we inevitably reconciled. My heart ached for it, and I knew that it would be possible whilst she was away from her loathsome self-appointed guardians. I hacked into her email account and saw that she was getting a coach from London Victoria. I eagerly bought a ticket on the same coach and waited for the day with an impatience born of deep longing. The day finally came, and I excitedly boarded the coach a few stops out of Victoria. The overweight, bored-looking driver waved me on with little more than a grunt, hardly glancing at me. I was wearing my sunglasses and had my hood up so that Bev wouldn’t recognise me as I walked past her down the aisle, my heart leaping as I saw her reclining peacefully in her seat and gazing out of the window. I sat on an empty seat just behind her but on the opposite side of the coach, so that I could see her easily and day-dream about running my fingers through her beautiful golden hair once again.

Disaster struck on the way to Brighton. Firstly, the heavens had opened and deluge of rain had poured down on us as we cruised along the motorway. Secondly, we all overheard the driver panting heavily and attempting to discreetly contact his management back in London. He seemed to be in some distress, and some of the passengers started to become uneasy. I barely noticed any of this, I was too focused on my Bev. Suddenly, the driver lurched to the side, clutching his chest and dragging the steering wheel with him. The coach lumbered crazily across the road and into the fast lane. The screeching of brakes and the urgent blasting of horns filled our ears. Several passengers screamed in terror. The driver attempted to wrestle the wheel back, his ashen face and wide eyes visible in the rear-view mirror. Bev sat bolt upright, gripping her seat in panic. The coach swerved. A van collided with it at speed. The coach was spun around slightly on the wet asphalt, tyres squealing in alarm. Another vehicle hit the coach on the other side. Windows shattered. More people screamed. Another collision. I saw a section of the cabin burst inwards in front of me, and everything went black.

I came to in a hospital bed. My first thoughts were of Bev. My head was full of fog and I couldn’t think straight. I had vague memories of being pinned down under a cage of jagged metal and broken glass, soaked to the skin with rainwater and blood. I remember managing to look up and seeing another decimated coach seat in front of me, and a mangled body with golden hair streaked with red…I had been in a coma for almost a month with severe head injuries. When I asked about Bev, they tried to tell me that she was dead, and that her funeral had come and gone whilst I was unconscious. I refused to accept this information. She couldn’t have died. She simply couldn’t have. It was another heartless scheme conceived in jealousy by Bev’s family and friends. They were all in on it, every last muck-scraping one of them. They must have bribed the hospital staff to spin me that story, too. I was filled with disgust and contempt for them. They had taken advantage of a horrific accident and had faked Bev’s death, and all because they didn’t like me! All because Bev didn’t need them anymore! It was, and still is, unbelievable. The strength of some people’s vindictiveness is quite literally breath-taking.

I have since been searching for Bev. She was no doubt forced away from me whilst I was laid up in hospital, coerced or threatened to do so by her monstrous relatives. She is an exiled princess, and I am her lonely prince, tenaciously seeking her trail. She had previously discussed a desire to travel around the country in order to “get the full English experience”. The thought still makes me smile. So, I have been travelling from place to place, trying my utmost to catch sight of my beloved.

Which brings me, unfortunately, back to my present situation. I was so sure that I had found her this time. Those bright blue eyes, the welcoming smile, the gorgeous blond hair…But no, she is not Bev, and no amount of pretending will change that. I thought that perhaps she’d gotten amnesia from the crash and therefore needed some coaxing to awaken her memories, but I was wrong. I had realised my mistake eventually, but by then she was dead. My anger and frustration had gotten the better of me and I’d lost control. Still, she looked so much like my Bev that I was quite content to sit here on the floor, stroking her hair as the day grew darker and her body grew colder. It is nearly dark now, which is good; I can get rid of her more effectively in the dark, and then I can get back to finding Bev.

This young girl is the third almost-Bev I have stumbled across in the last six months, but I know that the real Bev, my Bev, is out there.

I will find her. We will have been together for two years very soon, and I must tell her once again how much I love her. Bev loves me too, I know it.

We’ll be so happy once we’re together again.