This short story contains language and material that some readers may find challenging and/or offensive. You have been warned.
Letters, Read Just One Last Time
Letter #1: That Girl
“Is she bothering you?”
I looked back across the room to where she sat, two seats away from you. She was watching me. She smiled and waved. Your face was like stone.
“Lately, she’s been down in the dumps. It’s the first time I’ve seen her really happy in weeks.”
I turned again to pick up the tray, but felt a tug on my right arm.
Your cold gaze was on me as she led me back across the room towards you. Others watched too, and some of the other patients grinned and giggled as she led me by the hand to my seat.
“You are fucking encouraging her. Stop it.”
I turned, and Clare handed me the Guitar. I took a sip of my pint and began to play. The room went quiet, and as I sung, Clare placed her arm across my shoulder and gently stroked the back of my neck.
The song wasn’t finished when you hissed. “That’s it. I’ve had enough.” You got up and walked stiffly towards the door. I saw Tim follow you and take your arm. Above my own singing I could hear the heated argument, then you left.
There was gentle applause from the regulars and an enthusiastic response from the patients when I finished. I put the Guitar down where you had been sitting and turned to her.
She held me tightly, her lips soft, but unmoving on mine. I opened my mouth slightly and took her top lip between mine, running the tip of my tongue softly across her captive lip. I felt her shudder, and she slightly relaxed her grip and moving her head back, she looked into my eyes.
She looked a little puzzled, but smiled happily and again took my hand. We had a very attentive audience. One of the patients, a young man, said quite loudly. “She wants to fuck you.”
With you gone, the tension had left the room, and had also left me, and I gave Clare my complete attention. She talked about her friends at the Hospital, the nurses, and the parents who only seemed to see her once a month. Most of the time she held my hand, sometimes she reached up and touched my face. We immersed ourselves in each other, the rest of the room forgotten. I showed her the three simple chords on the Guitar and she tried to play, but became frustrated. Then I asked what songs she knew and whether she would sing for me.
She started to sing. Her voice was pure and gentle, and I rapidly found the key and accompanied her on the Guitar. Once again the room became silent but for her voice and the Guitar. Then it was finished, to rapturous applause – this time from the whole room.
Her face flushed with pleasure, she asked urgently. “Another. Can I sing another?”
She sang beautifully and I could see that some of the regulars were deeply moved. I felt gloriously happy, and at peace for the first time in months, as song after song was sung, before time was eventually called, and the room started to empty.
“Where are they all going Joe?” she said, looking concerned.
There were now tears in her eyes. “But I want to see Joe again. I must!”
“Why don’t you write down your name and the Ward number for Joe, so he can visit you Clare?”
‘Clare McCallan, Ward 23, Burnthoe Hospital.’
She passed the book back to Tim.
I took out my wallet and placed the note inside, and turning to her I said. “It has been lovely being with you Clare. I will ring Tim, and tell him when I’m coming to see you.”
She grinned happily and got up to put on her offered coat. I took a card from my wallet and handed it to Tim. “Both my home and work telephone numbers are on that, together with my address. I will ring you during the week.”
He offered his hand. “You know what you may be taking on?”
It was around 11:45am the next morning when you rang. Cedric handed me the telephone. “It’s your girl. She sounds upset.”
I looked down into the street at sixty-six waving his arms at a burly drayman. I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks. Cedric joined me at the window. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve. “Sorry.” I said.
I nodded, and we walked down the stairs and into the warm sunshine, just in time to see the drayman punch sixty-six in the throat. The warden went down like a sack of potatoes, his yellow-banded hat rolling on the ground in an ever-decreasing circle.
We stopped and watched as the drayman tore the parking ticket off his wagon’s windscreen, remove it from the plastic bag, and tearing the ticket into pieces, drop them on the still-writhing sixty-six.
Cedric laughed. “That’s been coming for a long time. Who says there’s no justice in the world?”
We stood in the bar, and I told him what had happened last night. He sipped his pint as I spoke, and didn’t interrupt. Finally, I took out the piece of paper Clare had written on, and passed it to him.
He looked at it and nodded, then handing back the paper, asked. “What are you waiting for?”
I finished off my pint and made my way to the telephone.
Letter #1: That Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between characters in the story, and real persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.