Coma.

Standard

children playing

(third blog bite of a short sci fi/fantasy story)

Alex woke with a jolt in his own personal penitentiary, aching to feel the response of his body. Hope glimmered. “Doc” said there’d be other times…

“Stupid, stupid idiot!” he admonished himself “Doc” was a fragment of dreams, a character created by his subconscious due to his administering the medication. It was all an illusion, a paradise conjured by the meeting of a desperate mind hallucinogenic drugs.

Would the real doctor return? He had no way of knowing. Fear seized him. Night came with its nightmares, but none as bad as his waking state.

Morning dawned, faces swam and retreated, the drip rattled as it was changed. Then there he was, Doc.

“Bet you thought I wasn’t coming!” he grinned as Alex felt the prick of the needle.

*

The hospital gown was gone; replaced by a shirt and loose, brown, cotton pants.

“Do you like your new look?” Doc chirped. “I thought you might want to blend in more.”

“Well it sure beats that gown! Simple and functional, suits me!”

“Yes, I think it does,” Doc said slowly, looking him over. “No multi-million fashion industry here!” he added, as if picturing with pleasure its demise, “or Anorexia.” A cloud of sadness passed his face, then he continued. “No gyms either, there’s plenty of “work out” to be got out in the fields. No uncomfortable business suits for anyone! The air is fresh and unpolluted, there’s plenty of good food for all, rest and exercise, the little ones thrive on it.” Alex remembered the healthy, laughing children at the pool.

“My kind of place!” he agreed. (If only it were real)…

“Let’s look at the school!” Doc grinned. Strolling over the hillside they sighted a crowd of children sitting under an oak, a vivacious young woman standing among them.”The location can change with each lesson.” Doc informed him. “Today it’s here.”

The children flocked to him. He gathered them in his arms as they laughed and squealed. They seemed to know him. The teacher was unconcerned at the interruption of her lesson, smiling flirtatiously at Alex. They began telling Doc some of the places they’d been and things they’d done. Alex listened enthralled. This school was no longer about books it seemed one joyous festival of learning, doing and experiencing!

“There are whole areas for them to come where they can learn constructively. ” Doc explained, “They come any time they want, it’s not required. Some parents also teach them at home, but they like to come, there’s no need of cajoling. Even reading and writing are not compulsory, though they all learn because there are so many beautiful books and stories. Some things must be learnt the hard way and reading is one of them, but it’s taught without pressure so some learn early others late. You’d enjoy teaching here.”

“Me a teacher?”

“Why not?”

“But what would I teach?”

“Oh, believe me you’d have plenty to teach! As you can see this school system is quite different!” He laughed and the sound was pure joy reflected in the laughter of the children. It all became one and blended together as darkness invaded.

Coma. (second “blog bite of a short fantasy/sci fi story)

Standard

pool

Time trickled past in agonizing slowness, blurred faces peering as the doctors did their rounds, as the nurse adjusted the drip… He longed for contact, to feel the touch of sensation on his skin, to look into the eyes of another. He remembered the eye contact; strange… there was something special about that young doctor, a certain empathy…

The ward emptied, he was alone again, alone with maddening thoughts. He tried to focus, picturing the birds, the peace… Then quite suddenly he was there, hypo in hand, a tiny squirt of liquid like a fountain of relief. Alex tried to speak but his mouth would not obey him, tried to read the name tag but his eyes wouldn’t focus. He felt the prick, relief coursed through him as the blanket of darkness swept over him.

The sound of water assailed his ears. He opened his eyes. Gushing waterfalls cascaded down an immense rock face converging in a small lake. The doctor sat beside him smiling broadly.

“You wanted to feel something?” He inclined his head towards the water. Alex needed no further enticement. Pulling off the hospital gown he dived into the pool. Overwhelmed by sensation as the tingling fresh water enveloped him he surfaced laughing. “Doc” as he’d begun to call him sat on the bank smiling. Sun was gleaming between the trees – early morning Alex surmised. Reclining on his back he looked up at the sky. Tropics? … he could feel the warmth of the sun on his skin, a hundred memories invaded his consciousness as he swam in cool relaxed strokes across the lake reveling in the sensation of rippling muscle once more, of power, of command.

*

The sun now showed its face above the trees as his ears alerted him to Doc’s calls. He was standing on the bank waving a shirt of some kind and pointing. Gliding back to shore Alex scrambled out of the water.

“You might feel more comfortable in these, there are others coming,” he said with a grin. Alex looked down. Of course he was naked. The hospital gown appeared to be gone, instead Doc held a pair of light cotton shorts and T shirt. Alex pulled them on. He was enjoying this “dream”.

He could hear merry voices on the wind. There were children coming, a whole crowd of children, boys and girls, mixed races, the older holding the hands of the younger, but none older than ten and some as young as five or six.

Excitedly they tumbled out of their things and went splashing uninhibitedly into the water at the shallow end of the lake.

“Seems they don’t need these either,” Alex said laughing, pulling at his T shirt.

“No, but I thought you might feel more comfortable with some on.”

“For sure! Don’t want them thinking I’m some sort of perv, especially as there’s no adult with them!”

“There’s no need much of the time. There are no perverts, nothing that would hurt them.” Doc looked at the splashing children a faint smile hovering around his lips.

“I always loved children,” he continued, “Here they have a place that’s good for them to live and no more school, at least not the kind they used to have.” The smile grew to a grin. “Would you like to see a school?” Alex nodded.

“You might have to wait till next time, your visit is almost up.” He glanced at his watch.

“There will be a next time then?”

“Oh yes, lots of next times.”

“But what is it…?” the question was drowned as a blanket of forgetfulness enshrouded him once more, muscles twitched and became unresponsive.

Coma. (First “blog bite” of a short story).

Standard

misty mountains

Total desperation seized him squeezing inert muscles. There was no response. It formed words on lips that couldn’t be uttered. He, “the great adventurer” was trapped, encased in a shell that wouldn’t respond, eyes that couldn’t focus on white coated doctors and their clip boards.

Panic finally receded leaving in its place a desolation of spirit so overwhelming he was drowning in it…

*

A fresh faced young doctor entered the room. He smiled, strangely making eye contact. In his hand he held a hypodermic needle.

“I’m just going to give you a little shot Alex, something to help,” the smile turned to a grin.

A deep wave of darkness swept over engulfing him in slumber…

He “awoke” alone on a mountain side. In awe he realized… He was standing! He raised his hand. It moved. A dream he reasoned…

He gazed astonished as colossal flocks of birds arose, curved and soared in the sky above. Like a rush of soft sound and colour they wheeled to and fro interweaving their songs. The sky, a brilliantly soft shade of deep blue faded into purple at the horizon as the flocks wove in and out in giant loops of song.

A finch stopped to perch on his hand, fearless as Alex’ finger stroked the resplendent, downy chest, so soft and fragile, but the heart seemed to burst forth from within in song. It was all so sublimely beautiful he could only stand and watch.

The young doctor appeared beside him.

“What is this?” Alex asked.

“The birds fly forth to celebrate the coming of peace. They soar across the skies lending their joy to the creation bursting forth below, new buds, new beginnings.”

Alex became aware of other watchers coming forth from the small village below, children yelling, jumping up and down, mothers, dish cloths in hand, all with eyes bent skywards taking in the sight.

“Most don’t know what it means” the doctor explained. “They know only it is the celebration of a new beginning. This evening and tomorrow morning will be the first day of peace.”

Light faded as the sun descended behind the hills. Alex’ eyelids grew unbearably heavy as the blanket of night swept over him. His hand no longer obeyed him.

*

He woke once more to the blank white walls of his prison…A dream, a drug induced dream… He wondered if it was part of their health care plan, he doubted it… perhaps the young doctor had acted in compassion? Whatever it was he desperately wanted more, addiction couldn’t be worse than this hell he was living in, nothing could, not even death!

The Package.

Standard

from August 2014

Song Bird Songs

parcel

(The beautiful true story of an “old flame”.)
It was an ordinary 1963 day when it arrived, a bulky parcel wrapped in mundane, brown paper and string. He turned it over examining the post mark, Germany? His girlfriend looked up from her hot, buttered toast.
“Aren’t you going to open it?”
Hesitantly he pulled off the stiff paper. Inside the mystery continued – bundles of letters? He sat down an odd prickling sensation at the nape of his neck. Though intensely curious she left him alone. Whatever it was he needed space…
They’d met at a jumble sale, impoverished students looking for bargains, an unpretentious place to start a love affair. The art and music departments of their college, with their counter affiliations of rebellion and conformity, didn’t mix, but he was different. He’d introduced her to the world of classical music, charming her with the haunting notes of his…

View original post 352 more words

My Secret Garden.

Standard

from July 2014

Song Bird Songs

cactus

It was a rickety old stair case that led to my secret place far above the towering apartment buildings of our compound in southern China. The rusting metal framework with it’s shrouding of bamboo cutting off access had been beckoning me since my arrival.
Finally curiosity overcame my fears (no one would know, everyone was out). Grabbing a chair and with my mobile in my pocket (just incase) I climbed precariously. My legs barely able to straddle the bamboo scaffolding I grasped the iron rail and pulled myself over. Anxiety gripped me; would it still take my weight? Then I clambered upward.
What a sight met my eyes. Alone, neglected, a “garden” had bloomed. Some long gone owner had once stored things there (for there was no order) then, closing off the stairs, it had been abandoned forever – that is till I came. Towering cactus had bloomed from soil…

View original post 217 more words

In the presence of God (short story inspired by a dream)

Standard

floating

In the presence of God I lingered unable to tear away, drawn like a magnet to the light. Yet questions remained, permeating our relationship.

It was enough that I was here I told myself, the suffering was over, I was free at last, no more pain, chemo, or disappointments, but what of Alex, the atheist, my friend? He’d been a good man, one of the best; he’d just been hurt too much. Life had not been kind to Alex. His bed across the ward had been empty for a week, now mine was empty.

Love enwrapped me.

“You want to know?” the presence asked. I inclined my head squirming within, who was I to question?

“You loved him.” The presence beamed, “I did too, I love them all. You wonder if I sent him to hell?” My stomach churned, but I nodded, there was no hiding.

“I do not judge as man judges, even in death there is choice.” My head jerked in shock.

“But how?”

“The state of their heart, the good or evil within draws them. Those that love me fly to My arms as you did, they revel in My love and presence.”

“But what about those that never even heard, that lived their lives in darkness?” The question escaped, Alex’s question, I couldn’t withhold it.

“I made a place for them.”

I saw a cavern deep in the earth, womb like, warm and comforting, pervaded with a soft red glow, where many slept curled in fetal position.

“I spent three days and nights in the bowels of the earth, and My presence remains for these.” The voice pervaded my vision. “It’s paradise. Not heaven, but a reflection of it. They walk in dreams, in healing. These never saw the light, not so much as a glimmer, – My presence would overwhelm them.”

“They lie here cuddled together father and mother, wife and child, families of ancient lands. I’d never cast them out, though they have worshiped strange idols. They are borne here to this soft, warm, womb where together they dream. This is not Hell or Hades, I wouldn’t send these ones there, but they’re not ready for heaven, not even the river, so they rest here awaiting My coming, bound in the depths of the earth, but not in a bad place. In their dreams the light intrudes, they remember forests of bamboo, hills, and mountains, flowers and trees. Through nature I gently lead them from the darkness.”

Music plays, soft, serene like the sounds of nature, lulling them in pleasant sleep.

“When they awake it will seem they slept a short time, but millennium shall have passed. The human mind is a fragile thing. They need to shed the cloaks of darkness, the fear, till one day I can lead them into the light and this time will feel but a dream for them.”

“Even the fires of hell are cleansing. It depends on the depth the sin has reached – fire cleanses all. My coming can be all these things, the touch of My spirit to those drenched in evil it is as a consuming fire, to those in darkness a comforting womb of earth that shelters and protects. To some a cleansing flow of water and to those fortunate enough to have come to Me the wind of freedom and desire. It’s all love, My love for My creation. Sometimes My presence can cause pain as with those drenched in evil, but I love them also and will not abandon them. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m not some callous God watching over an experiment.

They choose where they go. Some run to the light, others shade their eyes and some, yes some, are consumed by it, like one who, drenched in gasoline, comes in contact with a flame, the flame of truth, and it burns and consumes them. But even for these there is hope, redemption. I would that none perish.”

I stood in awe overwhelmed by the love of God. I saw it now. It is not God that separates Himself from us, but we from him. Alex was forgotten in my thirst to understand.

“You spoke of water, a river?” God smiled and Heaven glowed.

“You wish to see it? Your heart may tarry there a while…”

An angel came, summoned by His hand, raw power and love emanating from its countenance. The angelic being took my hand and we were transported to a rivers edge, pale, translucent water gleaming with light.

“Come.” The angel directed.

As our feet entered the waters things of earth began floating away. Longing to immerse myself I rushed into its embrace finding no need to hold my breath. A soothing melody flowing from the depths enraptured me, but as I opened my eyes in abandon I realized the river was full of floating forms.

Startled I stood up looking questioningly at the angel.

“They sleep,” he explained. “their hurts and pain are slowly washed away. Come.”

We entered in a little more and I saw a body sleeping near the surface, face barely submerged. It was Alex.

“Some plunge within, like lepers seeking cleansing,” the angel  said, “for these it is faster, but he resists, he has yet to enter deeply. You can lie beside him and dream a while with him if you want. It would help him. There are others too…” I understood.

I sank into the gentle waves beside Alex. “Hello old friend,” I said.

A rabbit prolongs my life. (a true story)

Standard

(from July 2014)

Song Bird Songs

pupand rab

The Burmese doctor looked hesitant. They all knew, despite medication, she was slowly slipping away.
“She sees the spirit world and wants to go.” He whispered. “You need to rekindle her interest in this world somehow.” He glanced at the mother for reassurance. This was not something he usually told his English patients, but she understood. They looked down at the pale five year old, her lungs ravaged by double pneumonia, breathing barely audible as she slipped peacefully back into sleep.
“We could hospitalize her…” the doctor ventured. They knew it wouldn’t help any more than the medicine had.
“No!” the father exclaimed fiercely, “she stays here with us…”
The voices sounded distant to childlike ears, like the whisper of a dream. Around her the light glowed as she drew closer to the music that called her, soothing and peaceful. She felt at home here in this place. She was…

View original post 495 more words

True Brotherhood.

Standard

(from July 2014

Song Bird Songs

kurds

This true story began many years ago. A friend while traveling with his family in Greece had come across a Kurdish refugee camp. There were 600 refugees and four water taps, garbage was everywhere and there was little or no organisation. Worst of all there was no doctor or clinic – some arrived with gunshot wounds and stories of atrocities abounded…

He was not a doctor, just a male nurse, but he couldn’t ignore their plight. Holiday adventure forgotten they stayed on to help making a tenuous living singing in restaurants over the weekends (he had a great voice). His pregnant wife had just had a baby and with two other small children they needed help urgently. That’s why we went.

The day I entered the city of squalid tents the Greek authorities decided to move the whole embarrassing populace out of the camp. It had been allocated in winter…

View original post 398 more words

The Price of Peace

Standard

from May 2014

Song Bird Songs

After_the_Battle

(Short story for the theme “Loss”)

 Dusk hung over the grim Northumbrian field, veiling, but not obliterating the sights that swam before Edwin’s eyes. Shield and banner, once glorious in their pomp, now lay in jumbled heaps amidst torn limbs and lifeless forms, contorted, muddy, and everywhere was the stain of blood. He leant on the shaft of his sword to steady himself, red streaking the fair hair and face in lurid patterns of death, his lean form panting hard. It was over. They had won! He was alive and relatively unscathed, but inside dwelt a sickening emptiness.

Senses reeling he staggered forward, blue eyes shot with scarlet, searching among the heaving bodies for what he could not find, the living body of his brother. He had seen him go down in the first charge, like a bird pinioned in flight, the bright eye shocked, unbelieving. Wulfric had thought…

View original post 2,239 more words

Other Worlds. (re blog from May 2014)

Standard

fireworks

(Based on a true story for a competition theme of “fireworks”)

It was Chinese New Year 1985. Elaine looked out over the harbour anticipating the spectacle. Every year the Consul hosted a gargantuan display to placate the Chinese population’s frustration at firework restrictions.  Random sprays of outlawed splendour  still sometimes lit the sky above the hills encompassing Hong Kong Island with a show of their defiance, but the stream of injured previously dampening the festivities was stemmed.

Though familiar with the history and complex relationships between native Chinese and her own British expatriate counterparts it wasn’t this engulfing her mind as she waited for the first triumphant bursts to issue forth from the ships in Kowloon Bay. ..

She was remembering the last time she watched the sky transform in its choreographed blaze of glory. It had begun with the unexpected phone call, from a Chinese friend…

“I need your help. Can you help me?” the voice smooth, cultured with that hint of accent and the odd slip of “Chinglish grammar”. It was “Susie” Chan, or so she was known by her foreign friends. Susie ran a very respectable escort agency supplying guides and dinner dates for the many foreign businessmen that swarmed the city hoping to make deals with the elusive mainland market via enterprising Hong Kong compatriots.

“What do you need Susie?” Elaine tried to sound breezy. What would Susie need at Chinese New Year? Most of her girls would be with their families, even the foreigners would be somewhere imbibing the cultural grandeur of the celebrations.

“One of my girls is sick and I need a favour. It’s a special client…”

With her light brown hair that passed for blond in China, petite features and classic blue eyes Elaine had with difficulty managed to elude Susie’s enticements to work for her. She knew even the most respectable escort girls were not adverse to “turning tricks” on the side and agencies turned a knowingly blind eye. Not that Elaine worried what people might think (she hated expat society and all it represented). She just dreaded the embarrassment of possibly getting propositioned.

“Look Susie I’ve told you before…” Elaine interrupted.

“But it’s Chinese New Year, everyone’s busy. I pay you double! Come on you know you need it. You could buy some things for the girls…” While a charming friend, Susie, like most Chinese women, had a hidden tiger when it came to business.

“He just needs a partner to go to dinner. He’s clinching a big deal. He’s crippled, can’t pick up a girl so easy, anyway he needs a foreigner. Just this once, no need to do anything, just go to dinner and smile…”

Images flashed before her eyes.  Gone was the picture of the slimy businessman, wallet in hand, instead the image of a human being in need… a cripple she said … someone who needed help to clinch a deal… Susie had accidentally found a way past her defenses. She sensed her indecision.

“He’s a nice man,” she said, “rich…” her tone heightened as she paused knowingly. Elaine didn’t share her perception that rich men were to be pursued and “landed”. Susie, who knew of her divorce and difficulty raising her two girls alone, doubtless felt she was throwing good fortune her way –It was every Chinese girl’s dream to marry a rich Englishman!

“That’s not important,” Elaine stammered still having a hard time swallowing just how upfront her Chinese friends could be. She could tell Susie didn’t believe her.

“He’s staying at the Peninsula,” she continued. “You’d have to dress up.”

“He’s crippled you said?” She wanted to get back to that point, the humanitarian gesture that would enable her integrity to disengage. Susie misunderstood.

“Oh it’s not so bad, he can walk with a cane, he’s not in a chair. I pay you double. ”Elaine could almost hear her smile over the phone.

“How much?”

“Two hundred dollars Hong Kong. Maybe he give you tip, big tip …” Elaine squirmed.

“No tip” she said firmly knowing exactly by what means girls got those “extras”!

“Maybe you like him…” Susie’s voice was full of innuendo.  Elaine wasn’t sure if she felt she needed money bad or that she must want a rich English husband even if he was a little damaged. Susie sensed she was losing her and changed tactics.

“Come on, you’re the only English girl I know, with your high class accent and college background you’ll be perfect. Just this time, I won’t ask again, I promise.”

She did need the money that was for sure, classes stopped over the extended New Year as half the populace, like lemmings in mass exodus, endeavored to fight their way home for their family gatherings. Pickings for an English teacher were slim and having only returned to HK a short while ago she’d not had time to create much of a cash buffer for her and the girls. “I’m doing this as a favour to Susie and to help a crippled man pull off his business deal,” she told her conscience. It was placated.

“OK, OK Susie, just this once…”

Having finally managed to procure a cab for an extortionate price Elaine stood nervously at the door of 709. The porter eyed her suspiciously. Would he challenge her? She thanked God for her English demeanour. The Peninsular claimed the elite place among Hong Kong hotels and looked frowningly upon any but the upper classes that frequented there. She could imagine what it must be like for those Chinese escort girls trying to gain entry. Avoiding eye contact and trying to look confident she knocked. The sound echoed along the plush carpeted corridor and bounced off formally papered walls. She heard a shuffling sound within. Involuntarily she held her breath as the door opened revealing a man leant awkwardly on a cane as he pivoted the door ajar. The impression lasted but a moment as her eyes were fixed by a glowing smile. He greeted her like an old friend quelling the reservations of the porter still attending his luggage trolley. Embarrassed she rushed to help close the door.

He turned to her.” Did he give you any trouble?”

“No.” Elaine felt the colour creep up her cheeks in a humiliating flush. He pretended not to notice, though she was sure he did.

“Russell,” he said extending a hand, “and you must be Elaine. Please, sit down and make yourself comfortable. We have a little time and I want to fill you in on what’s happening.” Elaine grasped frantically at her social graces as he eased himself into a chair, placing the cane alongside him.

“Susie said you had some kind of business you needed to conclude?”

She wanted to make sure he knew she wasn’t a usual escort girl, that she was Susie’s friend… She sensed a glimmer of amusement in his eyes as he motioned to a bottle of wine set on the table. She nodded and he poured her a glass before answering.

“Yes. I’m in shipping. I’m afraid you’re going to be having dinner with an Arab oil Sheik. Are you up for that?” The corner of his mouth twitched imperceptibly at her confusion. “Don’t worry, just be yourself.” He passed her the glass.

“A little out of my league,” she ventured.

“Don’t worry, all you have to do is look pretty and enjoy the meal. I’ll be the one doing all the talking!” He smiled again. It was not the kind of smile she’d expected. It was far too open, too comforting. She had felt herself on a private crusade to help one in need (and breach a financial pitfall) but instead she found herself quite taken with him.

The wine took a relaxing effect as they chatted informally, his humour setting her at ease. Her curiosity was aroused. Why was he the way he was? Had he been crippled from birth or had some sickness or accident maimed him? How did he handle it so well?  She took in the deep green eyes, the brown curly hair that seemed to match his immaculate informality as, anticipating her thoughts, he explained.

He’d made his fortune as a mercenary he explained, before the leg injury that brought his career to a close. Bringing to bare his experience of several Middle East cultures in the business world he’d slowly increased his wealth till now he dealt in liners. He said nothing further of his disability but seemed so at ease Elaine soon found herself forgetting the cane propped beside him.

Dinner was far less tranquil. Escorted to their table by a stream of overly attentive waiters Elaine took her seat. The Sheik seemed far from aloof, gesturing them to be seated with the practiced wave and perfect manners of a monarch he fulfilled his role with a finesse that set others at ease.

It was the woman that troubled her, excluding culture and charm. Russell had told her his colleague would be there with a companion but…

Elaine took in the perfectly matched co-ordinates, manicured nails, and beautifully coiffured hair as the icon entered into a discussion of the wine list with obvious familiarity. Elaine cringed, as, feeling distinctly inferior in her blue party dress, she hid her untended hands under the table.  Taking a few sips of wine to cover her confusion she was further intimidated as a waiter at her right elbow instantly replenished it. There were five placed about the table like implacable soldiers on guard ready to move imperceptibly forward should the slightest need arise. It was like eating in a goldfish bowl.

The conversation moved around shipping and finances between the men. She remembered Russell’s words.

“All you need to do is smile and look pretty.” Certainly that was all she could manage.

She watched in envy as her nemesis mingled effortlessly in the conversations. From time to time Russell would inquire as to her meal, her comfort etc. rescuing her when she didn’t know which spoon to use, but she was relieved not to have to engage in conversation for the most part.

Her eyes were drawn beyond the retinue of waiters to a magnificent view of Kowloon Bay. The men were making wagers about the speed of a vessel clearing harbour and eventually a call was made, courtesy of the hotel, to the ship’s captain to ascertain the facts. Elaine was strangely proud when Russell’s assumption proved to be correct.

Business finally concluded, the woman took her elegant British self to the ladies room.

“Are you enjoying your meal?” Russell asked leaning over.

In agony over her ineptitude Elaine whispered, “I’m sorry.  I’m not used to dining in such company. I wish I was as accomplished as your colleague’s companion.” A grin crossed his face.

“She’s a prostitute, a very costly one, but a prostitute none the less.” He whispered. “I thought you knew. We all know her (hinting at services rendered).  I told you, just be yourself.” Elaine was dumbfounded.

“I think the fireworks should start soon, we’ll have a splendid view.” He continued gesturing to the window.

The liner was steaming on towards the horizon and with it went Elaine’s misconceptions. When Paula returned she was no longer the English aristocrat but a fellow being of suddenly intense interest. What was her story Elaine wondered? One could not ask.

Glasses were raised as the first fireworks pumped their splendour into the night sky, their glowing colours reflecting in her opulent surroundings. Now she could enjoy the spectacle, enjoy the meal, even enjoy the company. Russell was admiring her along with the fireworks she noticed. She felt a warm glow remembering Susie’s words, “Maybe you like him…” She did like him. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter about the cane, the injury. It didn’t seem to matter to him, why should it matter to her? She watched as explosions of red and yellow silhouetted towering skyscrapers and felt her emotions blossom with their swell. She glanced round at Russell. Ever the gentleman he’d given her the seat with the better view. He looked back confident in himself. Elaine smiled and knew this date would entail more than dinner.

It did. As the cane lay unheeded beside the bedside table Elaine felt her body respond like a finely tuned instrument in the hands of an artiste.  He knew how to draw notes of passion from deep within her, how to stretch them upon the air and release them in tumbling crescendos. She knew it could come to nothing, he would be here only a few days, but like the fireworks it burst in a splendour that could not be denied.

Next day she brought the girls to meet him. They were too small to understand what was happening, only that this strange man with a cane was so much fun to be with. He played with them and told stories, bought toys and chatted to them like they were great friends. When they fell asleep tucked up on the plush sofa of Russell’s suite Elaine withdrew to the bedroom.

“That’s one thing I regret,” he said. “I never had children. Maybe one day. Maybe one day I’ll settle down and have a family.”  Having gotten to know him better Elaine doubted it. There was a restless energy about Russell that had to somehow run its course.

“I hope you do someday,” she replied. “They are the most precious things in life.”

“I can see that. In some ways I envy you!”

“But not enough to change,” she teased.

“No, not enough for that.” He turned towards her his fingers beginning already to touch keys of sensation…

He had not changed, she knew he wouldn’t. Like the fireworks the time they shared fizzled and dimmed and the sky was as it had ever been. They saw him off at the airport with promises to write but the letters never materialised, yet she was grateful to him. It was not only the envelope he’d sneaked into her bag containing enough to last them well beyond the New Year. It was the illumination of her life. Though short lived the bursts of enlightenment had allowed her to see far beyond her usual surroundings. He had welded his cane like a fashion accessory, something added that made him special and she must do the same. She came with her own “cane” did she not, two adorable young children. She could let that limit her or make her special. She understood, as he had said, she just needed to be herself, that was enough…

Her thoughts returned to the present as her fiancé’s arms enveloped her. She gazed out of the window of their Mid-Levels apartment leaning back into his embrace.

“Still waiting for the fireworks?” he asked.

“Not really.” She turned to look up at him curling her fingers past his collar into the enticing curls at the nape of his neck.  He bent to kiss her as outside the first explosions lit the sky. Elaine was not worried, she knew now fireworks were to be had at any season; you just had to be brave enough to light the match.