Briefly, I've made The Bamboo Mirror - which incidentally is a bestseller, FREE and in case you are not familiar with my work here is a short story which is both poignant and tender. Please download your free copy of The Bamboo Mirror and Enjoy! Thanks
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REBECCA WITH TWO C’S
By Faith Mortimer
I first saw her standing at the enrolment desk, clutching her papers in the crook of an arm, cheque in her other hand. She was tall and slim, with long mid-brown hair that fell in soft waves around her face and shoulders. I guessed her age to be middle to late forties. Another contender for night school I thought, she’s probably here for the upholstery or cake decorating classes.
A draught from the double doors caught me as a small group entered, laughing and chattering, their noisy interruption causing the woman in front to look round, a small smile upon her face at their oblivious loud entrance. The enrolment clerk looked over and frowned in annoyance, and as he did, I met her eyes, large, wide and an unusual green. Her smile broadened and I caught my breath. Was she directing that gorgeous look at me?
‘Next please,’ said the clerk. The moment passed as she turned her attention to him.
I daydreamed as she completed her paperwork and handed him her payment. There was no chance she’d be in my Greek Language class!
Surprisingly, the room was packed and after our introductions to each other in simple Greek, the teacher soon got into her swing. She covered the board with the Greek alphabet, not just a foreign language to me but a totally alien one. Few of the characters looked familiar. I sighed, wishing perhaps I’d taken up upholstery myself.
Our lesson was interrupted by a knock at the door and there she stood, my lady with the gorgeous smile.
‘Sorry I’m a bit late, but I had an important phone call just now that I had to deal with.’ She cast an apologetic look around at everyone and the teacher nodded in a friendly fashion.
‘I’m Rebecca by the way, with two c’s,’ she said inching her way in and looking round for an empty desk and chair. For some inexplicable reason I just knew she was going to sit next to me and moved the chair out so she could slide in without any bother. Smiling her thanks she removed a pad and pen from her bag and joined the class. I was smitten.
‘I’m taking the dog out for his walk,’ I say, shrugging into my best leather jacket and scarf.
‘Uh-huh,’ she says, digging into the box of chocolates that rarely leaves her side, eyes glued to her favourite soap of the evening.
Has she actually heard what I’ve said? She never offers to accompany me, and I am glad. Why has it come to this? We rarely do anything meaningful together these days. It was great in the beginning, a new adventure. We met; we dated and I thought we fell in love. Nowadays, she hardly notices if I’m there. She rarely suggests we go out together, or notices what I’m doing. When she returns from work in the evening, leaving her green Mini parked on the driveway she makes a beeline for a snack from the fridge. She usually suggests a takeaway for later; she rarely puts herself out to cook – for me. We eat in silence, plates on our laps, in front of the television.
She knows I’m taking the dog out more regularly; she made a comment some months ago. ‘Good thing Bomber’s got you. I just haven’t got the energy and besides it’s far too cold.’
Yes, Bomber and I go out very regularly, the exact time every morning and evening. She never asks where we go or why I choose those times. She’s more content to snuggle down under the duvet, guzzling tea or red wine.
I fetch Bomber’s lead from the hook behind the kitchen door. He’s there, ready and willing. His feathery tail wags until you think he’s going to lose it and he makes little throaty noises of joy. He’s my one source of love in this place now and yet, I feel guilty in using him to get me out and away from the house.
I close the door behind me and notice there’s been a soft sprinkling of snow. Bomber is overjoyed with all this soft white stuff and snuffles around making little excited barks. Can he know?
Walking down the road toward the wreck I feel an uplifting of my heart. She has a dog like Bomber, an overgrown Golden Retriever, and she’s married too. She meets me every morning and evening, same time, same place for an hour. I live for those stolen hours.
We’ve never said anything, nothing significant. But when I look at her and she gives me that gorgeous smile in return we both know.
So I’ve brushed my hair, cleaned my teeth, and put on my smart jacket, that is really unsuitable for walking a dog, and gone to meet her.
She’s a beautiful girl and I don’t just mean that in looks. She’s quiet, but strong. I know she’s married, because of her ring, but neither of us really mention our partners. In the beginning we decided it was too unfair to talk about them, to air our grievances and disappointment with our sad, loveless marriages. Neither of us wants to slag our partners off.
We keep to safer things. We love our dogs, and her bitch, Megan behaves like she’s in love too with Bomber as she prances and preens around him. It reminds us of the film, Lady and the Tramp. We laugh at their obvious joy and we’re comfortable with each other. She tells me she is originally from Canada, and I think I detect a hint of a transatlantic twang. She likes horses and riding, swimming and walking, and she loves Greece. We discuss plays we’ve seen, and share music; I copy CD’s for her and occasionally we exchange a favourite book. When we agree on a newfound author, my heart beats wildly. I love her long brown curly hair and her smiley eyes and deep luscious mouth that curves into a smile just for me.
Except, this evening she’s not there. I stand in the darkened park near our bench, beneath the lamplight. I watch Bomber scamper around chasing snowflakes and catching them on his tongue. I wonder if she is ill. She was Okay this morning. Did her husband suspect? Only there’s nothing to suspect. We haven’t done wrong, not even a kiss. But we both know.
I wait over an hour, and then I think about returning towards home. Home?
My mind flits to my life. Why had it all gone sour? When had we drifted apart, floundered upon the rocks and I stopped living and began to endure? We had been in love, I was sure of it. Yes, we had been young and silly, and living together was all part of the thrill. We overthrew our parents’ misgivings and married blissfully unaware. We were happy for a time, until things were simply wrong.
We lost a child, just four years old to leukaemia. She could never bring herself to have another, and now there was just this empty space between us.
Bomber brings me a stick and I throw it for him. His joyous bark echoes around the parkland. I wonder how long I can carry on like this. It’s been bad for years if I’m truthful. I only come alive when I see her. My heart aches for her. Where is she?
Despondent, I turn to retrace my footsteps, giving one last look around, and there is Megan, bounding up to me. But where is she?
‘Where’s your mistress?’ I ask. Bending down I give her a stroke and notice the collar. There is a tag with a telephone number on it. Is she following? Or is she injured somewhere? I am alarmed, I can’t leave Megan and I need to find her mistress.
‘Where’s your mistress,’ I ask Megan again. ‘Go! Find her!’
Megan stands before me wagging her tail. I repeat my command and she rushes off with Bomber and me following. We walk round the park and I realise it is our usual route and we end up back where we started. I look at the telephone number again and I hesitate. Should I ring her? I am torn. I take out my mobile phone and am just about to dial when it rings.
‘Where are you? You’ve been gone over two hours now and it’s getting late. I wanted a takeaway.’ My heart sinks. Her voice is not the one I want to hear. Vaguely I am surprised she has even noticed I’m not yet home.
‘I lost Bomber for a while,’ I say. ‘He skipped off after a rabbit, but I’ve got him now. We’ll be home shortly.’ I don’t like to lie but I feel I have no choice.
‘Right,’ she says. ‘I’ll make myself a sandwich then, I suppose.’ She sounded cross.
I end the call and go to put the phone back in my pocket, mind made up. Then I pause, shall I make that call? I can hardly leave Megan out here by herself and she might follow me back home. I dither. Ringing her home number means venturing into her and her husband, Jim’s life. Something we both vowed never to do. What if he answers?
I decide I can’t abandon Megan and dial the number. There is a slight pause while I’m connected and then I hear a recorded message. ‘Sorry Rebecca and Jim can’t answer the phone right now. Please leave your name and number and we’ll get right back to you. Bye!’
‘It’s John,’ I say before I have time to change my mind. ‘I have Megan with me. Where are you? She followed me on our walk. What shall I do with her?’
I leave my phone number and prepare to walk home. When I look round for Megan she has vanished. ‘Megan, Megan.’ I call. Bomber looks at me as if I’m slightly mad. Sighing, I turn round and we finally walk home. With the snow falling all around me there is an eerie silence. I scrunch up our drive and I’m surprised to find that Susan has actually managed to put her car away in the garage for once. Judging by the tyre tracks in the snow she’s obviously made a meal of it. Susan’s not the best of drivers. Entering the kitchen I was surprised to see her still up. She gives me a look with what I can only describe as strained, and I am even more surprised to find that she was anxious over my delay.
‘Where have you been? I’ve been waiting ages and ages. It’s far too late for a takeaway now, besides I had that sandwich. I was starving.’ I eye her bulky shape in the unflattering black sweater and skirt. She didn’t look like she was starving.
‘What happened?’ She peers at me. ‘Why are you upset?’
I make my excuses, blaming poor Bomber and his zealous rabbit chasing. Lies again. I can’t tell her the truth.
Later, in bed I lie there staring at the ceiling, watching the car lights chase across the walls. Susan is sleeping soundly. She mutters in her sleep and turns towards me, but I push her away. Oh God! It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, we’d both have fallen on each other, passionately, ripping our clothes away and devouring lips, tongues, and bodies. Susan had been like a vixen in bed, now there was nothing.
What made people change? Was it the death of our child? I know Susan had been depressed for years after, but I thought she’d got over it, as we never spoke about him now. I realised she’d let herself go. The slovenliness and the weight gain. She seemed far older than her years; she was younger than Rebecca but acted ten years older. She wasn’t the woman I’d married and I’d tried. Oh God how I’d tried! But I wanted nothing of her now.
Rebecca had given me a new purpose in life. She’d put a ‘spring’ in my step. I knew she was the reason I had a certain look in my eyes. Had Susan noticed? I doubt it; she noticed nothing else about me these days. And thinking about it, there was nothing for her to notice anyway and maybe never will be. We had never discussed leaving our spouses, nothing even remotely like that.
I turn over, thinking about tomorrow. I feel a shaft of fear go through me. Will she be there?
Leaving the house the next morning, I hasten to the park. All is quiet and lonely. There is no sign of either Rebecca or Megan. I let Bomber sniff around his favourite haunts, my hands deep inside my pockets, my back hunched over.
Is this what it is like to lose someone? Will it always be like this from now on? My heart aches to hear her voice. My mobile rings.
Feverishly dragging it from my pocket, I punch in the receive button.
‘Hello.’ Hoping, praying that it is Rebecca.
‘Is that John?’ A masculine voice enquires.
I am snapped back to normality in a trice.
‘Detective Inspector Roberts here,’ he carries on. I am instantly alert.
‘I gather you knew Rebecca Chalmers?’
I freeze at his words. Knew?
‘I’m afraid there’s been a terrible accident. We need to speak to you. Can you come down to Guildford police station?’
I whisper a ‘yes’ down the phone. I am numb all over.
‘Hit-and-run,’ he says later. ‘Poor woman didn’t stand a chance. She was crossing the road with her dog.’ I look at him blankly. He returns the stare. ‘Did you know her very well?’
I swallow; it’s painful to speak with a lump the size of a pigeon’s egg in your throat. ‘No, not well. We both have dogs you see. We sometimes met and the dogs would play together.’ I stretch the truth a little, hating myself in doing so. For some reason guilt hangs over me.
‘I see. I guess that is why you rang when they didn’t turn up?’
My mind was in a whirl. They?
Finally I found my voice. ‘Megan, Rebecca’s dog was there. I saw her – I said so on the telephone.’ I blurted out.
He gives me a sad and thoughtful look. ‘They were both killed outright.’
‘No, no! That can’t be true! Megan was there. She was with me. That’s how I could ring Rebecca; her number was on the dog’s collar.’
Shaking his head, Inspector Roberts looks down at his report. ‘Couldn’t have been, the dog was hit first. Mrs Chalmers walked out to help her dog and was then driven over afterwards – a second hit. Our witness says he couldn’t see the number but he recognised it as a green Mini. There can’t be too many registered around here. I don’t suppose you saw anything?’
Shocked, I shake my head, a numbness creeping over my body.
‘Megan was there.’ I repeat in a whisper.
Walking home, my eyes are misted with tears. How had Megan come to be there? I’d stroked her glossy coat; I’d seen the light shining in her eyes. Had Rebecca sent her? As a vision to tell me, to warn me what had happened? Were our feelings so strong that even in death she could reach out to me? Reach out to me, yet when alive it had been forbidden? I’d never have known her phone number or spoken to the police if I hadn’t seen it on Megan’s collar last night.
I haven’t spoken to Susan yet. I know she’s visiting a neighbour this morning. Arriving home, I go straight to our garage and stare at Susan’s green Mini. Nausea washes over me as I see the huge dent in the bonnet. I catch a gleam of gold and I realise that dog hair is trapped in the dent.
Tears roll unchecked down my face as I stand there shaking. Susan has known all along. But what has she known? There was nothing to know, was there?
I pull out Inspector Roberts’ card and with trembling hands I dial his number.