The secret

And he says to me
he says
how do you stand it and why
are you carrying on

I say it is because I
loved her
and we are
committed until
death do us part
and then I think to myself
outliving her


The man sat
rocking slowly in the chair
pushing the chair slowly
across the creaking

A mouse emerged from a gap
in the skirting
ran across the threadbare rug
to nibble the crumbs from
the tea plate and the
man sat,

“this must be a dream”
he said.

“this must be a dream.”

And he wondered if he could be wrong.

Amended 1 May 2005


The autumn light haloed Fay as she entered the bar until the door slammed closed behind her. Inside the season showed in new autumn wardrobe that gave a distraction from the shorter days. She loved this time of year, always had. Loved the carpeted ground from the fallen leaves. Loved the fresh smell of the air, cleaned by the change of season. The natural beauty. The sales.

She’d been at the sales that afternoon, chasing bargains as she marched determinedly between the shops. Dave had always told her that shopping was her mission and he’d been right, not that she would ever admit it. She understood that retail therapy was more than the power of the credit card. She love to look, to hold, to touch. To browse, to imagine herself wearing the clothes, to feel the power that could come of a change of image – to Fay, these were the real benefits of shopping. Shopping was her therapy. She’s used it after they’d split. He’d used drink.

Marks and Spencer had been fairly empty when she’d approached, tempted the combination of the clothes and the food hall. Fay didn’t care what others thought of the shop. M&S was a favourite, a staple food for her consumer hunger. The lunchtime rush had departed, and she would be able to browse the racks of clothes unhindered by the irritations of others.

Slowly, methodically, she made her way around the half-priced lingerie that bore the saintly blessing of St. Michael. Praise be for the power of the thong. A grey haired assistant looked over, and for a moment Fay was worried that unasked for help would be offered. Leave me thought Fay, her face as devoid of expression as her sensible black trouser suit. She did not need help, and would not have accepted it had the assistant carried on walking in her direction. Unhindered by the present, the brief exploration was made thorough as she picked through the rails, gently stroking the black lace.

He used to love that. Always had, always would, she was sure of it, and one day she’d be at her best for him again. And win him. She reached towards the polished steel of the rail to locate her size, but before she could move she had lost herself. Dave had walked into her, mobile in hand, mind in the air, on his way to greater things. As ever.

“..a what? Yes, I do know what you mean, and yes, I do know your size.”

The tiny clamshell of the mobile snapped shut and he marched purposefully off, leaving a trembling Fay in his wake. She looked after him but he had gone, faded into the distance under the now cold lighting of the store. He’d got away. He always did.

The therapy was broken and she’d followed his example, running to the bar with her need for a drink. Damn him, bloody Dave. Why had he left her like that? He couldn’t see her yet he insisted on being seen, being around her in all their old haunts.

A sea of bodies surrounded the bar and rather than wait, she decided to sit upstairs, looking down on life below and taking refuge in the wine menu. Once, this great church hall must have been used for weddings, prayer, and celebration. How would the congregations from long ago feel, now that the alter was a bar, worshipped for its power over the mind. Or those who mourned at funerals, or sought solace through the church? Could they look in on the congregation now, those drinking? Drinking, in this bar, like she used to with Dave. Did Dave ever see her? Time stood still. She looked at the door, waited for Dave to come in, but he never did. Nothing. One, two, three hours. Just the ever-swifter passing to the night.

Amended 1 May 2005


Her legs were caged by tight blue denim, giving a second skin that ended with dirty white trainers. Nike, I think. She bumped into me by the bus shelter; the wide blue eyes not looking where they were going and the mind predisposed to avoid any chance of contact with the world.

She hadn’t seen me – and never normally would, I don’t suppose – until her stride lost its purpose and we collided, flustered, and looked each other up and down. Just two neatly trained steps back before carrying on, an ambiguous snort giving me a possible apology or passing blame downwards, to me, one of the many insufferables in her otherwise perfect world.

She walked fast, not quite running, but clearly with some urgency and importance. Big strides. Her body rose up and down, like a horse on a fairground carousel. Her arms swung quickly, whips to her movement as she charged down the street.

And then the water.

The white trainers just missed the first jump, the puddle in front of the post office, and then she was out of sight, hidden by the other runners who were less clear about their course. I was surprised she could walk that fast in those jeans, especially in this rain, and wondered if her trousers were the reason for her face wearing that look of such grim determination.