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Letters, Read Just One Last Time – 1: That Girl

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
© 2010 J.W.Brown

Letter #1: That Girl

“Is she bothering you?”
I turned from looking at myself in the bar mirror. A youngish man with sandy hair stood smiling. A hospital badge with his name on it pinned to his lapel.
“Not at all.” I said, smiling back.
His smile faded. “But she’s annoyed your girlfriend.”
It wasn’t a question, and I nodded my head. “It doesn’t seem to take much these days. I’ve tried to explain to her.”
“I can move her.”
“No. Don’t do that.”
He seemed relieved. “She’s enjoying your company, and your singing.”
I nodded. “Yes, I can see that.”

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.
I heard the chink of glasses and turned around to pay the barmaid.

“Lately, she’s been down in the dumps. It’s the first time I’ve seen her really happy in weeks.”
I was about to pick up the tray of full glasses, but turned back to him. “What a shame. It must be very difficult for you.”
“Can I be impertinent?” he said quietly.
“Sure, go ahead.”
“You don’t consider her behaviour inappropriate?”
I smiled. “Not in the least. She feels what she feels. I find it refreshingly honest.”
“Most men in here, would have been totally embarrassed at her attention and explicit overtures.”
I looked steadily at him. “I’m not most men. She delightful to be with.”
He smiled. “You like her don’t you?”
“It would be difficult not to, she’s charming and very beautiful.”
“But essentially, still a child?”
“Essentially, yes, as far as I can tell, apart from her sexual maturity. How old is she?”
He nodded and held out his hand. ” She’s 24. By the way, I’m Tim, nice to meet you.”
I took his hand “Joe. It’s my pleasure. And don’t worry, I won’t hurt her.”
He smiled and nodded again. “I know, and thanks.”

I turned again to pick up the tray, but felt a tug on my right arm.
I faced her and smiled. “Hello Clare, I was just getting some drinks.”
She took my hand and tugged it. “Come back and sing to me again.”
I looked into her lovely pale blue eyes, framed by the deep red curls of her hair, and smiled. “Yes, OK.”
She smiled again, showing small, perfect white teeth, and tugged my hand. I looked at Tim, and the tray on the bar. He laughed. “Go, I’ll bring that.”

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.
I sat down next to you, and she sat on my left. Tim put the tray down on the table and passed the drinks around. Your elbow dug into my side fiercely, and your voice was the hiss of a snake in my ear.

“You are fucking encouraging her. Stop it.”
I turned to you and said gently and quietly. “That is not true. Please do not make a scene.”

“Here Joe.”

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.
“Did you like that?”
Her face was radiant. “It was so lovely. Is that place in Ireland?”
I nodded and smiled. “Yes.”
“I’m from Ireland.” She grinned happily, and took hold of my hand.
“I know Clare, that is why I sung it – just for you.”
“Thank you.” she said, and putting her arms round my neck, put her lips on mine.

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.
“Oooh!” she said softly, “That was lovely. Again please.” and placed her lips once again upon mine. This time she opened her mouth and delicately swept her sweet tongue across my upper lip. Again she shuddered, and gripped me ever tighter.
I took her head gently in my hands, kissed her again, then pulled away and smiled at her.
“Thank you. That was a lovely kiss Clare.”

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.”
This met with giggles and guffaws from the patients, but stony stares and one or two tut-tuts from the bemused regulars. I looked around and smiled, then picked up my drink.

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?”
I grinned. “Of course. You sing and I’ll join in.”

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.
I smiled. “They are going home.”
She paused. “Are you going home?”
“Yes,” I said gently, “in a little while. I have to go to work in the morning.”
“Oh.” she said softly.
Tim’s voice said gently from behind me. “It’s time to go now Clare. Come and find your coat.”
She looked up at him.
“I want to go with Joe.”
He walked around and sat opposite us. He looked at her and said softly. “But you don’t live with Joe, Clare, you live with us, at the Hospital.”

There were now tears in her eyes. “But I want to see Joe again. I must!”
Tim looked at me and I nodded.
“What about if Joe comes to see you at the Hospital, during the week?”
She looked at me, the tears streaming, but hope in her eyes. “Will you Joe? Will you come and see me?”
I took her hand. “Yes. Of course I will.”
She leaned forward and embraced me. This time it was a cuddle, her sweet head tucked into my shoulder.
She sat back, took out a hankie and wiped her face.
Tim passed a small notebook and pencil to her.

“Why don’t you write down your name and the Ward number for Joe, so he can visit you Clare?”
She smiled at him and taking the notebook, carefully wrote her name:

‘Clare McCallan, Ward 23, Burnthoe Hospital.’

She passed the book back to Tim.
He wrote a telephone number below her neat childish script and added his full name, then tore out the page and handed it to me.

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?”
I shook his hand. “Yes. And it makes me glad.”
He smiled. “It’s been a pleasure Joe.”
We stood up. She put her arms around my neck and kissed me full on the lips, thrusting herself into me. I wrapped her in my arms and after we kissed I said. “Goodnight Clare. I’ll come and see you. I promise.”

It was around 11:45am the next morning when you rang. Cedric handed me the telephone. “It’s your girl. She sounds upset.”
I took the phone and said ‘Hello’ to you, and that was the last word I spoke. You screamed and yelled abuse down the line. I felt like my heart was being crushed. I hung up on you, and walked over to the window.

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.
“Hey look. It’s OK Joe.” He looked at his watch.
“C’mon. You need a pint.”

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.

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