Alice always thought she had an ironclad will, a crush proof armor that provided no way in for anyone or anything. That had been true of her once but now it seemed feeble, what had she been thinking taking up with him again?
To be honest the idea was a little ugly. Alice is of a certain age, and as we all know time cannot defy gravity, at best it absorbs it then re-contours it in a south like manner. Time is a jaw-dropping experience and the passage of it shapes all things for better, or worse mostly. While time is of the essence, everybody knows you can seize it, but you can’t freeze it. What goes south stays in the south. It does so not because it knows that’s what’s on the itinerary but because DNA said so. It continues to unravel without an inkling as to what it’s doing or why. A bit like Alice.
They say age is an awful trade for experience, still, age is not a question it’s an answer, the answer, ageing is a given natural, that is until you reach your destination. So, isn’t it our good fortune that none of this is a problem in relationships. You see relationships all happen in a different place, not in the real world but in the ephemeral realm, (that’s in a higher transitory space to you and me). You don’t think we’ve got one? Sounds like gobbledygook to you and me, but believe me this is where it happens, in a place so beautifully, staggeringly and stubbornly short sighted that it defies belief.
Alice had been fine as she was until he came along reminding her she had aged and was alone. Somewhere, somehow her bright youthfulness had passed on in a fleeting whisper leaving her only memories to hang onto in the dim present. She was just as passionate as that adolescent who had delighted at the little things of life, she still possessed that funny unconventional attractiveness, but that feeling, she couldn’t help that feeling. Had there been some omission, is this all there is she questioned, and where had the years gone? How on earth had she ended up in this wilderness?
Alice like so many of us had watched life play and studied it from every angle, why hadn’t she even helped others get through it? Still for all this she looked for the slight of hand, the one that made her miss the trick every time, because she always ended up in tangles. Alice's perennial instinct was that she’d been fobbed off, she’d got the cameo role, the one where you play the fool and everybody knows it. Now he was back around, he longed to remind her of what could have been, what still could be.... age and experience, really, it was going to take more than her own reasoning could provide to avoid a head on crash.
That summer had been amazing, exciting, leaving the all too familiar route she’d met up with old friends. It had been a long time coming and so long since she had taken time to herself that she'd lost sight of it. Unfortunately that’s how life can be, with your nose pressed hard to the window of life carrying the weight of responsibilities becomes second nature, so much so that you just carry the bags; until one day you notice you’re not even window shopping, the store has closed down. Someone told you about the receivers sale, but you passed it by on your destination to nowhere.
She had ignored being starved of life, the slow listless fatigue that sticks to your ribs when you have nothing left to give, it hung on her like an unspoken apology. You could see it in how she responded to everything with the same bland disinterest, far too busy polishing a turd that would never shine. A holiday might have helped but not all holidays are good she remembered, after the last disaster in fact, she might avoid them for good.
Life had made her a pessimist, a broken hearted pessimist with a bank account to match, empty, empty as her soul, so if she hadn’t noticed how unsociable she had become it was no surprise. Life had been a hard deal, she hadn’t started as a pessimist and she wasn’t thick skinned either, quite the opposite, fairly forgiving, in the most part. It's just that calamity seemed to follow her. In many given things where you or I might retaliate she was mild, mild on the outside with an iron core that refused to bend, or be reshaped in the twisted way you often see. There it is, right there. Alice is a dreamer.
It had been decades, unnoticed decades of absorption in the business of marriage, work and children and the fickle twists and turns of fate that had seen her passion run to a trickle, then to a stop where it now hid under her skin. Doubtless when she tried a new life plan, a new start that had only gotten her deeper into trouble. It's simple sometimes, seize the moment or die. She seized it, ran with it straight into a legal mess where she'd stayed, her faith broken and hanging in limbo.
Twists and turns, we all get them, just one rule, be careful to watch where your’e running to. Well no matter, Alice did put a face on it and set about tracing old friends. She hated social media, had the lowest opinions of it, though no one could deny the power it had to remake what time had lost or undone. Nothing wrong with looking for friends that life had perhaps smiled on, it’s nice to see the smile and you never know it might rub off. That of course was the point of it, she needed to remake something out of the chaos she’d gotten into, and who has ever suffocated in the unknown?
She knew there was something better if she could only overcome herself, open up a bit, keep out of trouble. As an older woman, matured more experienced and apparently worldly wise she didn’t have to act anymore did she, its not as if she needed to hide it and pretend everything was great, especially not with old friends. She had learned things in life, how to survive, how to care, how to get by, how to love, how to loose and yet now she had lost all love for herself. Deep inside she’d engraved something on her heart, it was incised so severely that it had almost stopped it beating, who could she trust? Now it’s clear that no one could own that heart again.
“Hold your glass over” Christa said pouring in some red wine generously to the brim. They were all a bit tipsy by now giggling about how Brendan Twerp, AKA Brendan Sharpe had mangled his member in his fly zip in the boys room at school.
“OMG” Jules laughed as if to split her sides “it was a bleeding nightmare the first time I’d ever seen one and it was hanging off”. They laughed raucously at the exaggeration.
“So that’s why you decided to become a nurse is it Jules?” said Alice throwing her head back laughing.
Here they were back together the famous three, it had been five but Jennifer since she had become a preachers wife declined Christa’s invitation. Alice couldn’t quite get her head around Jules’ explanation but it seemed like without pointing fingers that Jules was the cause. “We did used to talk at one time” Jules explained “but seems she’s offended by my psychic abilities. You know my mum had them don’t you”. No question about it, they all remembered her, an Irish immigrant, short, round, friendly and unassuming but she could put the fear of God into you in a moment by talking to the departed who happened to be standing next to you, just over your shoulder. “Well, Jennifer thinks I’m in touch with the devil and wants nothing to do with it” she said looking offended.
Miriam was also missing on account that she had recently lost her husband and was in grief so it was just the three of them. “Remember Leslie Crowfield, well, he’s my postman now” Christa said “and Matt Denby, I saw him in Windsor the other day”. Alice gave a brief flicker.
“W’eve been in contact.” Alice said, self conscious with all eyes on her. Alice rolled her eyes “email, tells me his schedule”. Matt she considered to be a friend, a very old and boring friend, there had been a romance once, a long time ago in the 70′s, he’d wanted to put a ring on her finger then, but that was then, in the past, they had left it all behind.
Ever since she had hooked up with them again, they kept in touch, but this weekend was special, she knew by the fluffy white bath sheets Christa had folded on the beds, and by their hugs at the coach station. Matt on the other hand, that contact was infrequent, his business life shut the door on that. He was married and business regularly took him off all over Europe and beyond but never around her way. They were figuratively speaking like two butt prints in the sand of time, left behind on their last romp in fools paradise, a paradise she'd forgotten.
Nothing more was said as the evening moved on. It was what was unsaid as usual that was interesting.
“Have you seen her” Matt had asked Christa in Windsor.
“No, but we are planning to get together” she replied.
Christa had exchanged all the usual niceties in which she found he was separated, there was no reason for her to think further on it, wasn’t everyone? Christa had no reason to mention it to Alice.
“Seance anyone” Jules asked getting into her spiritual receptor pose".
Well perhaps Matt appeared to have everything he ever wanted but in spite of that something was missing and he was certain of what that was. He was sure Alice would still be attracted to him. He wanted Alice again. Matt is not the sort of person who’s used to getting less than he was aiming for. He had a fantasy and what's more he wanted it made real.
Fantasies, they look fine in the movies, they’re still okay as a hope, a dream, but put them to paper and they start to look a bit shabby. Alice opened yahoo. ‘Alice, I’d like to see more of you, what do you think?’ he asked unexpectedly. Alice frowned at the mail box, then she churned it for a few days, what for she asked herself? ‘Matt’, she replied ‘How does that work, binoculars or google earth? Like, I live in Wales? I’m not sure Matt, its a bit … strange, you want to be my weird friend?’ The ownership clause on her heart pulled uncomfortably, she couldn’t unmake it and she suspected he wanted something more. ‘It works, it can work Alice, I’m going to be around a lot more, I’m free, getting a divorce, no pressure just give it a chance?’. So that's how it started, the hook, where’s the harm?, but if you follow later on down the line, Alice wondered how she’d landed there.