An update of the story? Well, Robert has been contacted by an old flame and has met up for dinner…
The silence between Cher and I thickens; just the piped music insinuating.
“…sometimes I don’t know what I will find…”
This is moving things on. Clive could be in here. Consenting adults. Like with the Femme Fatale. Is that what I want? Is that what Cher wants? Or will it just complicate things? Make things awkward after.
And then something clicks.
‘Cos instead of Cher’s face and Foreigner’s crooning, and despite Clive’s remonstrations, suddenly, clear as a bell, all I can see, all I can hear, is Fizz in the kitchen. ‘Is she your girlfriend?’ How she’d looked at me. ‘Got a date?’
And now I see and feel what was in her eyes.
Was I responsible for that?
I release myself from Cher’s hand.
‘What’s wrong? she says. ‘Have I hit a raw nerve?’
Has she? ‘No. It’s just…’ And I just go with it. How I really feel. Being me. ‘I wasn’t being entirely truthful.’
“…I’ve been waiting for a girl like you…”
‘There is someone else.’
What have I done?
“…waiting for someone to make me feel alive…”
‘Here?’ Cher says. ‘I see. Well.’ She smiles and briefly touches my hand again. ‘I’m pleased for you. What’s her name?’ I make one up. ‘What does she do?’
I get myself into deeper water; hope I never have to remember all the lines I spin. Too late to stop now. When she goes to the Ladies I pay the bill. What am I doing? I’ve just turned down a cast iron night for Clive with Cher. And all for what? Someone else who’s got inside my head. And who probably doesn’t give a toss what I’m up to. I make my excuses, kiss Cher lightly, and wish her well. ‘Keep in touch.’
Walking home there’s a thundery feel, a flash or two in the far distance. I lie in bed in the dark. My bedside radio’s on low. Nilsson. I have to laugh.
“…How can I run away from darkness at the close of day, when all I think about is you…”
I could have been in bed with Cher. Giving Neanderthal Clive an outing. Nothing more. Instead, somewhere not too far away is Fizz.
“…not knowing where I’m going what am I to do…”
I’m glad I didn’t stay with Cher.
“…when all I think about is you…”
Clive doesn’t even come into it.
Next evening I host another BBQ in the garden at Orchard Cottage. It’s the last night of summer school and everyone’s in party mood. Chatter. Laughter. The clink of glasses. It’s been one of those sultry days; a bronze sun shimmering through gathering cloud.
Fizz’s eyes are alight. Perhaps flushed after several glasses. ‘Shall I get some more white wine?’ She’s wearing one of those peasant skirts and a tye dye shirt; quite hippy looking. Hair under a bandana. I have to drag my eyes away.
There’s a flash and a rumble of thunder, another storm brewing, and Fizz visibly flinches. ‘Oh I hate lightning. Ever since Alicante when a bolt came down the chimney. Scorched the carpet. And the cat.’
The prospect of rain soon drives everyone in and eventually they start to take their leave. ‘Get back before this lot drenches us. Thanks for everything, Robby. See you.’
I put on the radio, low. Ha! Van Morrison.
‘I’ll stay and help wash-up,’ says Fizz, and immediately starts to fill the kitchen sink with hot water, busying herself.
Eventually she and I are alone with Van the Man in the background. “Hope” in the air.
“…have I told you lately that I love you…”
In the kitchen she pours herself a glass of wine. ‘Did you have a nice time last night?’ Returns to the suds in the sink.
‘Yes, thank you. Just catching up.’
‘Is she pretty?’
‘I suppose so, but she’s not my type.’
‘Why not? Because she’s married?’
‘You could be in there then?’ Raising her eyes to me, her hands are dripping into the sink.
‘Maybe. But I choose, as you so beautifully put it, not to be “in there.”’
The rain’s drumming on the windowpanes. More flashes of light and claps of thunder.
“…fill my life with laughter, you can make it better, ease my troubles that’s what you do…”
She returns to the soapy glasses.
‘Let me help dry up at least.’ I grab the nearest cloth. She holds up a wine glass and our hands briefly touch as I take it, dripping, from her.
We continue in silence, the only sounds the wind outside, the splash of rain on window panes. The slosh of washing up. Van the Man.
“…there’s a love that’s divine and it’s yours and mine…”
‘You’re going to get wet going back at this rate,’ I eventually say.
‘Yes.’ She flashes me that smile. Those magical eyes. Bewitching; before returning to the suds. ‘Last year at Fitzie’s. All good things come to an end don’t they?’
She pulls the plug from the sink and starts to wipe round its perimeter. ‘It’s my eighteenth birthday soon. Officially an adult.’ She turns her full eyes on me. ‘Frightening I know.’ Then, more seriously. ‘Will you miss me when I’ve gone?’ Direct.
“…fill my life with gladness take away my sadness…”
I sink into those pools of blue. ‘I can say in all seriousness that I will.’
‘You’re never serious.’ Her eyes are locked on me. “Hope” insinuating. We’re standing no more than a pace apart. I can even feel her breath on my face.
I’d only have to move a fraction towards her... What then? And what would happen if she moved towards me?
And then the doorbell sounds. Loud and long. Frantic, breaking the spell.
I wrench myself away from Fizz’s eyes and stride down the hall. ‘All right, all right. Keep your hair on!’ I pull open the door. Standing outside, sheltering, are BJ and Fifi. BJ’s carrying two bottles of champagne.
‘About fuckin’ time too. It’s pissing. Here.’ And he thrusts one of the bottles into my hands.
They shake coats, take them off. Both look tanned, rosy with sun.
‘We’re in the kitchen,’ I say. ‘Come in.’
Fifi’s laughing. ‘Ooh! I’m soaked. This rain, so much. Who’s here?
Neither seem surprised to see Fizz.
‘She was just helping me do the washing up,’ I explain. ‘Had a party here.’
‘Oh aye,’ says BJ, hunting through glasses by the sink. ‘Change that music, someone.’
‘And ‘ow are you?’ asks Fifi to Fizz. ‘’Ow was summer school?’
There’s some small talk while BJ pops the cork and fills four glasses. I’m just explaining some minutiae about the drama when he speaks. ‘Right. Shut the fuck up. I’ve an announcement to make.’
I glance at Fizz and wink. She smiles. She knows and likes BJ but this is him unadulterated.
‘Me and Fifi, we’re engaged. Gonna get hitched next year, here at school in the chapel. Place’ll be full of Frogs, but hey.’ He turns to me. ‘And I want you to be my best man. Can’t think why, but what the fuck. Cheers.’ And he takes a swig of his glass.
‘You’re so romantic,’ says Fifi. ‘Salut.’
What is there to say? ‘Cheers!’ And Fizz and I clink our glasses with the happy couple.
It’s gone one o’ clock by the time the three of them leave. It’s been like a private party.
Lying in bed, I picture Fizz, happy and glowing, bright eyed, laughing and lovely. I need to get a grip. Term will start soon and things need to return to an even keel. Don’t they?
Foreigner - Waiting For A Girl Like You
“Foreigner 4” is a one of those albums that crop-up as a band’s seminal zenith; maybe Toto had the same with “Toto 4”? Whatever, “Urgent” is a cool opener song that really gets pumping, and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” is a proper soft rock classic. It really reminds me of the 80’s when I was incarcerated in a school working all the hours. How did I do it? Youthful vitality I guess! Certainly the plaintive nature of the lyrics reminds me of how cut-off I was from the real world.
Nilsson - When All I Think About Is You
I heard this also at the first school where I taught. My best buddy ran a musical group, and they performed at concerts playing acapella or with a band, and this is one of the songs that he chose for them to perform. I love it! It’s simple, soulful and beautifully arranged with strings. A perfect love song.
Van Morrison - Have I Told You?
And speaking of perfect love songs…well this is surely right up there? I actually prefer the “live” version to the studio one, which you can find on “Live in San Francisco” but this will do for now! Classic…seminal…right up there with “Moondance” as Van the Man’s best.
About the Author: Richard Parsons
I’ve been fascinated with writing since I was a youngster; creative writing in English lessons was my favourite part of school life along with swapping music with mates or playing sport.
When I decided to quit teaching after many happy years, I applied for and won a scholarship to do a Masters at Plymouth Uni in Creative Writing. Drama was really the main string to my bow, but I soon became hooked on the idea of crafting short stories, and, eventually, the longer form of narrative. After graduating with a distinction, I cut my teeth writing for women’s magazines, but this was never in my own “voice” and was always formulaic. “Given Circumstances” is the real me.
Hope you enjoy it!