The Day My Mother Died...

by Matt Triewly

Preface

The day my mother died was the day my life changed forever. This is an account of that tragic day and the events that ensued from it...


On the morning, just after eleven o'clock, of Tuesday 22nd November 1988, I had driven an Iveco Minibus, a Service 4, slowly into Ryde Bus Station. As I had done so I had noticed the tall, dark and rather imposing form of Steve, the duty inspector, leaning on the information board of the bus stand.

My first thoughts were that an irate motorist or passenger had phoned in to complain about me and that the inspector had come out to grill me about some incident.

But he hadn't.

As the last passenger had alighted from my vehicle Steve had stepped up onto the platform and had said, "I'm very sorry to tell you this, Matt, but your mother has died. Your uncle is waiting for you at her house." Steve had then added, "Don't worry about paying in, I'll do that for you. Best you get off straight away."

I was instantly in state of shock and disbelief as I'd handed him my tatty leather cash bag, change dispenser and Setright ticket machine. I had then clambered out of the cab and stepped down onto the paved surface of the bus station.

It was also at this point that the thought occurred to me that it was probably Uncle Ronald that had died because he was ten years older than Mum and had suffered from health problems himself. I had then further rationalised that perhaps Uncle had died whilst visiting Mum and that she just needed me for support, my hope being that 'wires had been crossed'.

Another thing was that Mum had seemed in perfect health when I had seen her last on the Sunday, just two days previously, when she had dropped my fourteen month old son, James, back at the maisonette after having him for the afternoon whilst my wife, Leanne, and I had gone over to the Luccombe Hall Hotel sports club for a swim, sauna and jacuzzi.

Those had been my initial anxious thoughts and desperate speculations as I had walked hurriedly past the waiting passengers and along the departure stands.

As I had crossed the entrance to the pier I had shivered and become aware for the first time how chilly and cold it was. I had also observed my breath condensing into little puffs of vapour which momentarily took me back to being a little boy pretending to be a steam engine. Later I was to discover that it had been the coldest day of the year - and metaphorically the coldest day of my life.

I had also briefly cast my eyes out to the freezing grey-green waters of the channel and had speculated rather morbidly that anyway who fell into it wouldn't last long.

*

It only took me about five minutes to get to Mum's house, a four bedroom Georgian town house in Spencer Road and walk down the eight or nine stone steps to the front door.

As I had slipped my key in the lock and let myself into the hallway the first people I saw to my right in the kitchen were my uncle and auntie - in actual fact, they were my great-uncle and great-aunt since they were my mother's uncle and aunt and both were in their seventies. I realised, heartbreakingly, at this moment that Mum had indeed died.

As soon as they had become aware of me they had turned round and immediately I could see both of them had been weeping because their eyes were red rimmed. They had both wrapped their arms around me and we had all hugged each other for a moment. It was the closest I had ever felt to them over all the years they had been in my life. Uncle Ronald had then filled me in on the tragic events of that morning and what we believe had actually happened, though we can never be a hundred percent certain.

Apparently, Mum had got out of bed, she had arranged to meet a friend, Margaret in London that day, slipped on her dressing gown and then gone downstairs to let her dog, Dinah, into the garden. She had then returned to her bedroom and was presumably preparing to get ready having had a wash. At this point, half-dressed, she must have felt seriously unwell because it looked like she'd got back onto the bed just prior to suffering a massive and fatal heart attack - she was found face down with her arm reaching out for the glass of water on her bedside table (the doctor telling me sometime after that it was unlikely she would have suffered for long, if at all). About three quarters of an hour later the neighbour, Angela (also in her seventies), let herself in to exercise the dog as had been pre-arranged since Mum was going to be away all day. Surprised not to find the dog in the passageway she then went upstairs to see my mother sprawled across the mattress and obviously dead. Nevertheless she immediately phoned for an ambulance before attempting to get hold of me but because there were no radios on the buses the company was unable to contact me till I arrived back at the bus station just after eleven, and probably about four hours after Mum had breathed her last. In the meantime Angela got hold of Auntie and Uncle who had then driven over to Mum's house. By the time I had turned up Mum's body had been taken away so I never got to say a proper 'good-bye' to her which was something I bitterly regretted after.

So, those were the circumstances of my mother's last moments and as Uncle had recounted them to me I had wondered what had gone through my mother's mind in those last few seconds. Pain. Terror. Disorientation.

Afterwards I had gone upstairs to my mother's bedroom. As I had stood in her room I had experienced a curious mix of emotions. On the one hand it seemed so poignant with her clothes, black skirt and black cardigan, hung up for the trip to London and the dog-eared second-hand penguin paperback-book with bookmark poking out, never to be completed, lying on her bedside table. Yet it also felt so mundane, as though she had just popped out and would be back soon. And then again this was the place where a tragedy had unfolded.

I didn't stay there long before going back to the kitchen and having a cup of tea with Uncle and Auntie, the tea brewed in my mother's pot with her milk, her sugar and drunk in her cups. It was all so strange and surreal and it felt like it was happening to someone else, should have been happening to someone else. Also at this point I hadn't cried - odd.

A little while later the friend, Margaret, she was supposed to be meeting in London phoned to find out why she hadn't turned up. When I had answered she had initially seemed to be a little irritated perhaps believing Mum had forgotten or even not bothered to turn up. But when I had told her what had happened there had been silence followed by incredulity. I had visualised her calling from a red phone-box on a busy station concourse, her mouth dropping...

After that the events of the day become a blur. I phoned my wife, Leanne, a succession of friends, relatives and relevant authorities. My shocked uncle and auntie had then left.

That evening, about eight, I had returned to the house, an unlit and now chilly house, with the dog, before lighting the gas fire in the lounge and switching the telly on. I remember watching The Taking of Pelham One Two Three but all the time thinking of my mother's body cold on the slab.

Before I went home, a few hours later, I paid a visit to the top bedroom (my mother's room when I was little) to discover sitting on the mantelpiece a small Christmas gift already wrapped in silver paper for my baby son, James. It was at this point that I shed a few tears...

* * *

The night of the day Mum had died I had slept fitfully, unsurprisingly, and had dreamed of her. In one dream she had reassured me that Buddhism (which I had been interested in at the time) and Christianity were fundamentally the same and that I was not to worry about anything. In another dream she had reassured me that she wasn't actually dead and that it was all a big misunderstanding - clearly my subconscious was struggling, desperately struggling, to come to terms with the worst emotional trauma of my life so far.

Mum had been sixty-one when she had died - incidentally, I was thirty-one, Leanne, twenty-seven (nearly twenty-eight) and James, just fourteen months - and it had seemed so terribly unfair because Mum had only been retired for eighteen months. I'd thought she would go on for many years as her mother had. But, of course, life isn't fair and people aren't always nice.

In the morning, with my head still swimming, I had picked up where I'd left off to deal with the host of tasks and obligations Mum's death had thrust upon us. Or if truth be known, mainly me - Leanne wasn't interested.

Due to the fact that I was an only child I knew I had inherited everything of my mother's estate which comprised of her savings (a modest amount in the grand scheme of things), her car (a 1987 Mini Metro) and her home, a four bedroomed, Georgian, semi-detached town house located in Spencer Road and in significant need of renovation. There was also the added responsibility of her pets - three cats and a dog.

I have to say that despite being devastated, at least inwardly since I believed that to display one's emotions publicly was a weakness, I knew that because of my legacy, once the worst of the turmoil was over, our lives would be a lot easier - no more concerns over money, no need to put in excessive amounts of overtime and no need for babysitters as Leanne could give up work. That was provided we adopted a sensible course of action for the longer term and weren't impulsive. I figured that the best strategy would be to sell the maisonette, which was in good order, move into Mum's rather run-down old house, renovate it, sell it and then finally purchase an affordable three bedroom property which we could be comfortable in for the rest of our lives.

When I had put my suggestion to Leanne, who was impulsive, spoilt and had had a lifetime of getting her own way, she was having none of it. "I'm not moving into your mother's dilapidated old house. We'll buy a new property now on a bridging loan and then sell the other two as soon as we can," she had stated firmly.

"That's madness. What if we are unable to sell the maisonette and Mum's old house? The interest on a bridging loan is prohibitive and it'll swallow up all my wages. Be patient and it will work out okay," I had responded reassuringly.

But, it didn't look like Leanne was prepared to play ball for the time being - if ever.

Meanwhile, the funeral had loomed...

* * *

To my shame, I cannot remember the exact date (probably the beginning of December 1988 - I will have to look it up somewhere) of Mum's funeral but she was cremated in accordance with her wishes at the Crematorium.

I wish now that I had insisted on her being buried so that I could have visited her and had a place to go to pay my respects. I would have liked to have gone to her grave and looked down upon it knowing that a physical part of her, though out of sight, was close to me. I guess an urn with her ashes in on a mantelpiece would have been better than her incinerated remains being scattered over a garden of remembrance, and as I write this a tear rolls down my cheek.

The problem was, though, that I was bundled along by either individuals who didn't care or didn't know. Decisions I should have made, were often taken out of my hands by relative strangers and it makes me angry now, angry with myself more than anything, that I was too weak to stand my ground - and where the fuck are these people now? These individuals who seemed to have had the answer for everything, who told me what I was feeling, how I would be feeling, what I should be doing. Yeah, it still makes me angry, but there's nothing I can do.

Then there was Leanne, my wife, who up until a couple of days before the funeral had been adamant that she wouldn't be attending because "I find funerals just too upsetting."

I had been livid. "How do you think I feel? I need you there to support me." And I had nearly added caustically, For the first time in your selfish life think of someone else you fucking spoilt bitch!

But I hadn't because I was weak.

In the end she had relented, and strangely, it was her that had wept, got upset, and not me who was increasingly finding difficulty in releasing my pent up grief. I often wonder, now, what the mourners and attendees had thought about the way I had conducted myself (appearing unmoved) during the funeral and afterwards in a local hotel (which Leanne had arranged snobbily telling me that my mother's old house was too dilapidated and tatty for Mum's friends, relatives and former colleagues) because I had probably seemed to make light, at times, of what was, and should have been, a very solemn occasion.

Having said that, I recollect afterwards, when everybody had left and I was momentarily alone back home, in the lounge of the maisonette suddenly feeling overwhelmed, suffocated even, by the 'greenness' of the walls. It was a somewhat disconcerting and odd experience and I'm sure now brought on by the building pressure of the emotional magma boiling and bubbling away in the mental lava chambers just beneath the crust of my outer consciousness and biding ominously their time for the right moment to erupt...

* * *

Shortly after the funeral I had again tried to discuss with Leanne what we were going to have to do with the property I had inherited from Mum. I had concluded that the best thing to do (we couldn't afford to run two properties) was to sell the maisonette which was in good condition, move into Mum's house for the meantime, which required renovating, do it up, sell it and then move into a medium sized property which we could live in then for the rest of our lives.

When I had suggested this (again) to Leanne she had told me quite bluntly, "There's no way, no way that I am going to move into your mother's old house. It's damp and it's dirty and what's more I've spoken with Dad and he reckons he can get a us a bridging loan to buy another property as soon as possible and what we'll do is put both this place and your mother's old house up for sale."

"That's madness, Leanne. What if we can't sell the houses? We'll end up having to pay the exorbitant interest on a bridging loan and could end up... bankrupt."

"Don't talk rubbish Matt, it won't happen. Anyway I've made my mind up and that's what we're doing. By the way I've handed my notice in at the bookies as you can't expect me to work and look after your son now."

For fuck's sake, I had thought.

I had hoped she would see things differently, more rationally after the funeral. But that was a vain hope with hindsight because Leanne had been utterly spoilt by her parents all her life and what Leanne wanted Leanne got and if she didn't she would scream and stamp her feet. And why the fuck did I marry her? Don't answer that, I'll tell you: it was lust as she was pretty, very pretty, beautiful even, blonde, blue eyed and buxom and I loved her. No, not love, rather I was 'physically addicted' to her. I was weak too and also scared of being single.

Anyway, it all came to a head the first Sunday I had returned to work, about a week after the cremation.

Whilst waiting my time at East Cowes on my last trip I had rung Leanne from a phone box to see if she wanted me to pick up a Chinese takeaway (Hung Pin) for us on the way home, only for her to decline the offer rather ungraciously.

After I had taken my bus to the depot, parked up and paid in my takings I had immediately driven up, in Mum's car, to the Chinese takeaway. I had then taken my meal back to Mum's old house, where I had eaten it, before picking up Dinah, Mum's dog, and driving back to the maisonette.

Upon entering the door to the spacious front room I found Leanne's mother, Cynthia, with James on her knee, Leanne's father, Charles, Jen (Leanne's best friend at the time) and Leanne all occupying the sofa and chairs.

I had immediately sensed an atmosphere.

Leanne had then asked me where her food was.

"You didn't want any when I'd asked," I had retorted matter-of-factly and a bit bemused.

"That's typical of you - selfish," Leanne had sneered.

Ah, the first salvo...

Her father had then got straight to the point. "Are you going to buy another house or not, Matt?"

So that was what it was all about.

"I'm sorry I'm not going to do that."

"We think that you want to turn your mother's house into a shrine to her, a mausoleum. But it's old and in a right state and not suitable to bring a small child up in."

"It's about being practical, Charles, a bridging loan on sixty thousand pounds would cost about ten thousand a year, which is about what I earn."

"It would only be for a short while whilst you sell the other two properties. You've got to move on, Matt, your mother's dead and not coming back."

"What if we can't sell the properties? We'll end up bankrupt with nothing, absolutely nothing. My plan makes the most sense, sell the maisonette, which is in good condition, move into Mum's, do it up then sell it and move to a more manageable and affordable house in due course."

Underneath, Leanne's father knew I was right but he was caught between a rock (his wife) and a hard place (his spoilt daughter).

"I'm going to ask you again, Matt. Are you going to buy another house?"

"No. Sorry."

"As you wish, Matt, in that case Leanne will be leaving you and moving in with us. We have to do what is in the best interests of Leanne and James."

With the efficiency of a SAS team I had just stood by, gob smacked, and watched as the flat was stripped of everything that was associated with Leanne and James.

Within fifteen minutes they had all gone and in their place was a deafening silence.

I remember walking into what was James's room and looking at where his cot had stood just a few minutes before. Within the space of two weeks I had lost my mother, my wife and my baby. I was... numb.

I had then returned to the lounge, put the television on - at least they had left me that - and with the dog on my lap settled down to watch Ice Station Zebra...

* * *

After Leanne had left me in what I felt, and many others too, was such a callous way, and was 'surviving' I had begun to believe that deep down I possessed a, hitherto hidden, inner strength. It was of course, though I wasn't aware of it at the time, a delusion, and a while later things got worse, much worse, (I have already said that, I know). But that is, perhaps, to 'jump the gun' a little.

Now on my own I had to contend with looking after, and paying the bills for, two properties - I had, fortunately, been advanced a sum of money from the solicitors to tied me over till my inheritance came through so I didn't have to worry too much about finance for the immediate future. My main concerns were looking after my late mother's pets and in particular her dog, Dinah, whom I walked twice a day when I could. Also because I feared being the victim of burglars I used to alternately sleep one night at Mum's and one night at the maisonette, and now back at work, with long shifts, my life rapidly descended into a wearying routine of chores with little time to myself.

As I sit here composing this on my laptop, reliving the time, but not fully the emotions, there is one weird chilly evening that I still recall periodically even now, and in a way it was a harbinger...

Probably about the second week in December, having cooked dinner and washed up, I took the dog for a walk along the Esplanade. It was a clear night and when I had reached the end of the canoe lake I had looked up and been astounded to see the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) which I had always thought could only be viewed from the poles of the planet. For a few minutes I had stood transfixed just gazing up at the fluorescent shifting blue-green ribbons dancing silently and mysteriously in the night sky, and it had invoked in me a sense of wonder, significance, paradoxically, in insignificance. I had then, with Dinah tugging at her lead, ambled around to the southern side of the canoe lake, still occasionally casting my eyes to the firmament, and recalled that when I was about eight years old I had walked alone along this very path when my mother had been in hospital for a few days to have a cyst removed. I remembered missing her terribly, as you would expect a small boy to, and in that instant, now a man, I too missed her terribly. Only this time, she would never be coming back.

I also realised, frighteningly, that to be alive is to be alone.

A few days later though, Leanne and I were pretty much back together...

* * *

I cannot recall the exact details of how we got back together but it was at her parents' house that Leanne had apologised and admitted that she had acted precipitously and out of character by leaving me - she had claimed that the grief and shock of Mum's death had impaired her judgment.

I didn't believe her and I doubted that she, in her turn, had believed that I really believed her either. I also don't think that underneath she really cared whether I believed her or not because she knew that I was weak and needed her more than she needed me. You see, in a relationship the one who loves least, controls most. It's the way of the world.

That said, she now agreed with me that the best way to progress things was to put the maisonette up for sale and then take it from there.

I had breathed a sigh of relief at that because though the solicitor had advanced me some money from my mother's estate I couldn't afford to run two properties indefinitely - I was spending more than I was earning. In addition I was also giving Leanne money each week to assist with the cost of providing for James since she had, impulsively and irresponsibly, I had felt, given up her job at Ladbrokes.

So, I spent Christmas with her and my son, commenced fucking her again, and all was as well as could be expected, under the circumstances.

The term I call that period, looking back on it now, is... 'The Phoney Peace'.

* * *

Once I had resumed my relationship with Leanne - though she didn't move back - I had felt kind of relieved because I didn't need to go through anymore grief as losing my mother was enough. However I felt uneasy about it because I realized that she wasn't the right person for me - I needed someone I could rely on. In the meantime there were other painful decisions to make. I also feel the need to share them with you even though they happened over two decades ago and aren't that exciting.

The first thing I had to deal with during this sad period was Mum's cat, Bertie, a ginger tom (that's not quite accurate as he was neutered - perhaps I should have been too in retrospect!). Anyway, we had got him as a kitten when I was about fifteen and he was a lovely natured creature - very affectionate and gentle, except with mice.

Now, just prior to Mum's death I remembered her saying to me that she was quite worried about Bertie since he had got rather thin and was having problems walking and jumping at times. She also feared that he was developing problems with his kidneys and was concerned about him suffering, in short she was deliberating about having him put to sleep. I had advised her not to whilst he still seemed to have some quality of life left and she had agreed with me. The irony of course is that he outlasted my mother - funny how Fate likes to play those little tricks on us. I wonder what Fate has in store for me. That said, I kept him going as long as I could because, if I'm honest, he was a link to my mother - I needed to feel and prolong her 'presence' as much as possible. And I think we can all relate to this.

The reality was that Bertie was getting worse and not only was he becoming painfully thin he was also having great difficulty moving round. In addition he was having major problems with his bowels - I'd got out of bed one morning only to place my bare foot in one of his runny turds. So, I made the tough decision to have him 'put to sleep', a lovely euphemism for euthanasia don't you think?

On the day it was easy to lift him into the cat basket.

It was easy to carry him the few hundred yards to the vets.

It was easy to take him out of the basket and it was easy to hold him in my arms and take him in to the surgery.

It's not easy, however, to forget the smell of antiseptics and the harsh, cold fluorescent lights of the clinic. Not easy.

The vet was a kind man - no doubt of that - and he was nice to me.

But he knew what was right.

He had taken Bertie from me who was purring, purring to the very last, and had held him in his arms. He had then injected him behind the now loose skin and fur of his neck whilst I fought the urge to ask him to stop. For a moment nothing seemed to happen - I wondered if he had injected him with the wrong drug - and then he sagged and stopped purring. It was over. He was gone. He was dead.

The vet had laid him gently down upon the examination table and I had stroked my beloved Bertie, ruffled his fur, for the very last time.

<God, this is becoming so very hard to write>

With tears streaming down my cheeks the vet quietly said, "Don't worry about paying the bill now. We'll send it to you."

I had picked up the empty basket, walked through into the waiting room and then out of the door of the clinic - I've never been back since - and into the driveway before starting the 'long' short walk home.

A few yards away from the house I recalled the time when he was still a kitten - I was a teenager - and we had worried that we had lost him because we hadn't seen him for a day and a night. And at the end of that second day in the early evening I had called his name and he had come running and chirruping from across the road out of the bushes. We - my mother, my grandmother and me - had all been so relieved.

Just before I had descended the stone steps into what had been my mother's house I had turned and pathetically called out his name, "BERTIE!"

But this time he never came running...

* * *

After I'd had to put Bertie to sleep there was another difficult and emotional problem to deal with - Mum's dog, Dinah. You see, all the time that I had been off work she had been no trouble as I could take her with me but now back at work there were occasions, even returning home for lunch breaks, when I would have to leave her for long periods in the garden. I didn't like doing that as dogs are social creatures and also the neighbours, Anton and Fay, had complained about her howling and barking which was something I could understand. I decided therefore, with a heavy heart, that she would have to go and placed an advertisement in the local paper. This was in the January of 1989 I hasten to add. Anyway, I had several people round to take her out and see how they got on with her. Now, one of the things about Dinah was that though she was obedient and loyal - I had trained her myself - she could be snappy with small children and aggressive with other dogs. In short she would have been perfectly fine with an elderly couple who weren't afraid to control her - she needed a firm hand. Like I say, several people had come round to see her, but it was only one family that were very interested and I had had doubts about them because they had young children. I had of course mentioned to them that I didn't think she would have been suitable due to the fact that she couldn't be trusted not to give them a nip if they were a bit too familiar or rough with her. When I had said this to the father he had responded dismissively that he "Knew all about dogs as he been brought up with them all his life", the unspoken sentiment being that if I'd had a problem with her in the past then it was because I didn't have the expertise or rather strength of character which he possessed. At this point I immediately clocked the guy as one of those big headed and rather bullying twats of which we have far too many of in this world. They had then taken Dinah out for a couple of hours whilst I had waited back at the maisonette. When they had returned, a couple of hours later, it was to tell me that they thought she was a great dog and would settle into the family in no time - another subtle dig at me I had felt. I had handed her over to them but underneath I wasn't at all sure that it was the right thing - but Mister Big Head knew best and I could imagine him saying to his family once out of earshot, "Some people just shouldn't be allowed to own dogs!" For some reason I hadn't felt particularly upset when I had parted with Dinah because I suspected she'd be back.

A couple of days later I caught the train up to Manchester to stay with my Great Auntie Dodo (her actual name was Dorothy but she had always been known as Dodo in the family) in Cheadle Hulme who had invited me up to 'get away from things'. Auntie Dodo was actually my mother's aunt and sister to my grandmother who had died only six years previously. It was a strange trip and normally I enjoyed long train journeys watching the landscape whizz past and when bored with that immersing myself in a book. But not on this occasion. I guess I had always associated train journeys with my mother as she had often taken me on day trips to various cities when I was younger and the emotions accompanying these little excursions were a mixture of excitement and cosy security - happy memories. As we had sped north I had kind of attempted to resurrect or relive my pleasant childhood feelings. But I couldn't. I remember passing through The Potteries and having to put my book down, The Wilt Alternative by Tom Sharpe, because I felt so unsettled. No matter what I did, or where I went, or who I was with, I just couldn't escape the feelings of sadness, loss and loneliness that permeated to the core of my very being and threatened further to crush the life and warmth out of my heart with those terrible and slowly tightening icy fingers of grief and desolation.

When I had arrived, weary from travelling, at Auntie Dodo's she had served me a bowl of her homemade chicken soup which had reminded me of my grandmother's cooking. That evening we had chatted for a long time about the family and the tragedy of my mother's death before I had gone to bed.

In the morning, now rested, and after a cooked breakfast we visited Manchester and once back at Auntie Dodo's little house was introduced to her neighbours and friends. I'd felt very welcomed.

That evening, Aunt Dodo had suggested to me that if I wanted a new start I could move up here and get a job driving buses. I was tempted but I knew it would essentially be running away and though I was a coward in many ways I didn't want to look like one. I had to go back.

The next couple of days were again spent sightseeing and socializing. I'd felt a little rejuvenated and also a little less gloomy. I had retained those feelings as I'd headed back home.

But not for long.

When I had got back Leanne had informed me that the people who had taken the dog were bringing her back because she had bitten, not seriously I hasten to add, one of the kids. About an hour after I had arrived at the maisonette 'Mister Big Head' had rolled up outside, marched up the stairs with Dinah and had promptly placed the lead of her in my hand. He had then gone on about how she had bitten one of the kids after they had 'only been playing with her'. What I'd reckoned was that the kids were actually tugging her around and annoying her. So much for 'knowing all about dogs!'

Anyway, the crux of the matter was that Dinah was back and though she looked glad to be back with me I knew it would only be a short reprieve. A couple of days later I dropped her off at the R.S.P.C.A home - I'd had no choice. When I had got back to the car, with just Dinah's lead, Leanne was waiting for me and once behind the wheel, and just as I was about to drive away, I broke down in tears. Leanne immediately put her arms around me and cuddled and consoled me till I had recovered my composure. In that moment, because of that gesture, I had wondered perhaps if there was a future for us...

* * *

During the period of the 'Phoney Peace', early 1989, Leanne and myself put the maisonette up for sale and also started attempting to sort out Mum's old house. Underneath I had reservations about it all as I didn't really feel that I could trust her. But I went along with it anyway. That said, however, during that time there was one rather exciting and memorable experience I shared with her - the time she caned me.

Now, Leanne had known of my kinky spanking tendencies from the time we had got married but she wasn't really interested in it herself, though she would consent to spank or slipper me from time to time.

Anyway, on this one evening, with James staying with Leanne's parents, we had returned to my mother's old house with me feeling rather horny since it was Leanne's period. I was also fantasizing about corporal punishment and eventually twisted the conversation round to caning. At this point she had snorted derisively, "You wouldn't be able to take a real caning - you're all talk!"

I hasten to add that we were in the lounge of my late mother's house with the gas fire full on and the room rather warm - and getting warmer. But not as warm as my arse was eventually to be.

I had responded to her put-down by saying, "You think I'm a wimp don't you? Okay, if I can't take four hard strokes of the cane I'll give you forty quid: a tenner for each whack. But you'll get nothing if I do take them!"

"Deal!" she had responded instantly.

In all the years I had been with her I had never known Leanne to pass up the chance to make an easy buck.

I had then taken out my wallet, counted out four brown ones and placed the notes carefully on the arm rest of the sofa - I have to confess that I found the idea of money changing hands due to sex or spanking also exciting. I'll talk about that more another day.

"Right, you'd better strip off then, it'll be far more painful on bare skin!" she had smiled wickedly.

Whether that was an act or not I wasn't sure because she could be quite a cruel person at times. She had then added breezily, "I'll be back in a mo - don't go away." She had then slipped out of the lounge whilst I had commenced to remove all my clothes in compliance with her instructions. I had then waited with mounting tension, and excitement, for her to return.

A few moments later the door to the lounge had swung open bringing with it a gust of chill air which caused my unclad body to shiver for a second. Actually I was also shivering due to the fear.

In her hand she had been clutching a bamboo garden cane in her hand. "This will do the trick, I reckon!" she had announced evilly.

"Right, I'll take my top off, I don't want anything restricting the power of my swing!" she had added.

I don't know why it was that necessary to remove her jumper and bra, but it was like her to torment me further as she knew how I lusted after her. She was a sexy and beautiful lady and was well aware of it back then too. She definitely wasn't above using her charms to take advantage of weak men - like me. On the other hand she could also be a bitch, a complete and utter bitch. I would like to show you a photo of her but unfortunately I can't so I will describe her as best as I can.

Okay, she was golden blonde, and I'll be honest out of a bottle, with full hair tumbling down onto her small shoulders. She was slight in stature but quite strong, petite maybe, and very pretty with a straight nose, high cheek bones and a wide 'Hollywood' smile, which I may have mentioned previously. Her eyes, though a deep and delicious blue, had kind of hinted at an inner cruelty. Or maybe I'm imagining that. The thing was though that I loved her, loved her absolutely, how could I not have done?

So, I had watched her pull her black chunky knot jumper over her head before unhooking her black lace bra which released and revealed her golden tanned flesh and large pendulous tits.

"Are you ready to experience some real pain now, and pay for it to boot?" She had then picked up the cane and gently, but menacingly, tapped her cupped left hand with the cane in her right one.

At this point I was genuinely scared but knew I couldn't bottle out. I would also forfeit my forty quid!

"I'm ready," I had replied whilst I could feel my balls tingle and contract with the fear. "Four, four hard ones we agreed on, wasn't it?' She had been unable to resist the temptation to prolong my mental torture prior, of course, to the real torture.

"Okay, bend over the back of the arm chair so that you are on tiptoe - I want your buttocks really taut. If you straighten up or request me to stop then the money's mine. Keep quiet if you can manage it - there's nothing more pathetic than the sound of a crying man," she had demanded of me.

I had complied meekly with her instructions knowing that agony was just seconds away.

I had then sensed her pulling her bare right arm back as far as possible followed by a brief 'whoosh' and a 'crack'. The pain had burned into the middle of my naked buttocks and caused me to grit my teeth before the agony had waned a little.

"One - and only three more of those to go," she had sneered with venom.

I had tensed myself with the next 'whoosh'.

The pain was even worse and I had let out an 'ah'. At this point I had just wanted it to be over.

"Quiet!" she had shouted out before whispering in my ear, "You're trembling, trembling like a leaf. The money's mine!"

The third stroke of the cane had then landed on my quivering buttocks feeling as though a red hot poker has been laid across it. It had taken every ounce of my crumbling resolve not to straighten up, but I managed to remain in position despite the searing pain.

"Hmmm, looks like I've lost the money, and that pisses me off, so this is to remember me by!" She had sounded genuinely annoyed by that.

There was a pause which was due to her taking a couple of steps back and had I braced myself for the last cruel stroke.

<Whoosh.>

It was so agonising that I had cried out. I'd felt as though I had been cut with a sword. As a reaction and almost simultaneously my legs had straightened causing the armchair to push a couple of inches forward.

"You've cheated", she'd blurted out, "and I demand another stroke."

I don't think I could have taken anymore as my buttocks were aflame with pain.

"Okay, okay, I've made you suffer enough. Come on, give me a cuddle." Her tone had suddenly softened, rather like two boxers hugging after a tough fight. Well, not like two boxers actually.

I had immediately turned round and hugged her, telling her how much I loved and worshipped her.

"Let me take away some of the pain now, darling," she had then uttered soothingly, and now a completely different person.

She had then taken my hand in hers and led me gently across the room to the long leather settee. She had then sat down on the cushions whilst beckoning me to lie across her lap.

She had then gripped my achingly hard penis in her hands prior to briefly kissing it. Slowly at first she had begun to rub my cock up and down. As she did I had groaned with the pleasure. Leanne then increased the tempo such that within a few seconds I had climaxed strongly whilst calling out her name.

She had then said, "My, you were horny I've never seen you so stiff before and your spunk shoot so far. I shall have to cane you again and then get you to make love to me afterwards, but," espying the sorry state of my buttocks laced with red and purple stripes as I stood up to clean myself off, "we shall perhaps wait a bit."

In that moment I think I had never loved that woman so passionately and intensely.

I'd then taken the notes off the back of the armchair and slid them back into my wallet. I then promised to treat her to a curry which was kind of fitting since I liked my life hot and spicy at times...

* * *

After Leanne caned me our relationship was all downhill. It was the beginning of the end if truth be known, though it would stumble along for about another year and a half.

A few weeks after the caning we sold the maisonette which was a relief to me because financially it meant that I was now spending less than I was earning. That fact, to be honest, slightly changed my attitude to her because I now knew that I could survive, moneywise, without her. After paying back Leanne's parents the money they had lent us for a deposit to originally buy the maisonette we did end up with a small profit which I split with Leanne. We then concentrated on doing up Mum's old house in Spencer Road with the purpose of getting it ready for sale. However, we argued so much that Leanne told me that, "Us living together isn't going to work - ever." As a compromise we decided that we would live separately - me in Mum's old house and Leanne with her parents. In fact she had a conservatory added - bought with the profit from the sale of the maisonette - to Charles's and Cynthia's house so that she could have her own space. I also persuaded her that it might be best if we get divorced and the reason for that was that I was afraid that at a later date she might be able to claim a large proportion of my inheritance, especially if she allowed an avaricious solicitor to get his claws into her. It was a fairly shrewd move on my part because later when she'd met Len she'd turned against me with a vengeance and had I'd left the divorce till then I'm certain that she would have gone for half of everything. Anyway, I don't think she did that badly out of it because I gave her a lump sum and bought a car for her. I also gave her a good amount of money each week to help with James.

Relationship-wise we kind of settled into a routine with me staying weekends with her and going out as a family on Sundays when I wasn't working. It didn't seem a bad situation especially when Leanne had said that she wasn't ever interested in living with someone because I also quite liked independence. The thing was though I don't think underneath either of us was really like that - we both sought fulfilling relationships and the sad fact was that it wasn't going to be with each other.

Anyway, I then decided that I was going 'to take the bull by the horns' and not see her for as long as possible the thinking - flawed thinking in retrospect - being that the less I saw of her the less I would feel for her.

Wrong.

What happened was that after about three weeks of not phoning or seeing her I decided to pop over because I did need her. It was stupid of me to think that I could just stop loving her because I didn't want to love her. Yeah, stupid.

So, I drove round and she greeted me with the words, "I am going to be honest with you, Matt, I have slept with another guy. And before you say anything remember that you haven't bothered to come round or even phone me for ages."

I was shocked.

Still, I managed to maintain a façade of calmness and wished her luck with her new relationship. But it didn't last and much to my surprise I ended up in bed with her a couple of weeks later. What was more surprising was that I actually found the idea of fucking her after she had been fucked by someone else, a stranger, rather arousing. His name was Phil incidentally.

To further mind-fuck me she then had a brief fling with a black guy, Paul, she had met up-country while away for a short break. She had really liked him but her friend, Jen, had told me after that she had just been part of his 'harem'. After a few weeks he had dumped her and I was back fucking her myself. She had me wrapped round her little finger.

Funny enough around about that time we had been out in the car one day when she had suddenly burst into tears. I had immediately pulled over and put my arms round her to console her. I had foolishly thought at the time that it was because she regretted me and her splitting up. But it wasn't because Jen had told me that that was the day she had been dumped by Paul. How deluded was I?

As I have said, I started fucking her again. But in the summer of 1990 everything would come to a head...

* * *

It was the beginning of summer, May or early June, in 1990 that I first met Sharon - or rather became aware of her. I was driving a Service 4 from East Cowes to Ryde at about eight in the morning. It was already hot and getting hotter - blue cloudless sky with the sun relentlessly beating down.

I had just passed Kite Hill and was approaching the traffic lights at the junction with Fishbourne Lane when I had been startled by a voice saying, "Sorry, I've missed my stop. In a dream again."

I'd turned my head briefly to see a female probably in her early to middle thirties with long chestnut coloured hair.

I'd immediately replied, "That's okay I'll drop you at the next stop."

As I had guided the vehicle into the layby I had surreptitiously ogled her (I quite regularly eyed-up the women back then but tried to do it as discretely as possible since I didn't want to get into trouble with the management) and kind of liked what I saw.

As I have already said she had long and curly chestnut hair that fell nearly to her waist and framed a roundish face with large blue eyes, a cute little turned up nose, a wide thin lipped mouth and a strong chin. I wasn't sure even at that time whether she was good looking or not. In fact I still can't decide whether she was ugly or strangely beautiful.

That said, her body was very sexy indeed. She was slim with good tits and her limbs were slender yet toned - I'd wondered at the time whether she'd exercised regularly. She was also confident about her body too as she was certainly flashing a lot of flesh - she was wearing a sleeveless top that revealed shapely pale bare arms that were liberally speckled with small moles - perhaps intriguingly so - and a short skirt that stopped mid-thigh.

In that second I had concluded that she was my type of woman physically. She also gave me the impression that she was in a professional job and probably quite intelligent too which was something I also find alluring in a female.

After she had alighted from the vehicle I had fantasised about her being scantily clad, me being naked on a bed, and her caning my buttocks so hard that I was screaming with the pain. It was a depraved image but one that got me instantly hard as I had pulled away from the stop and had headed for my next stop at Quarr Abbey.

In bed that night I had ran the fantasy again in my mind and had masturbated to it before going to sleep.

Little was I to know that in less than ten months I would be in an intense relationship with her - a relationship of lust, love, kinky desires, betrayal, anger, remorse and agonising heartbreak.

In the meantime, I was still with Leanne. But not for much longer.

* * *

The final nail in the coffin, I think, for my relationship with Leanne was when I shagged Chrissie on a hot Saturday evening in July 1990.

I'd got chatting to Chrissie down at Patsy's Night Club in Ryde.

Chrissie's father was black and a bus driver (he's dead now) and also worked for the same company as me. Her mother was white and quite a large woman.

Physically Chrissie was quite tall for a female, though still a little shorter than me, and was full figured shall I say. She wasn't bad looking but I wouldn't have fancied her if I was sober. Unfortunately at that time on that particular evening I wasn't sober.

Anyway, we'd got talking and I'd asked her about Paul, her boyfriend.

"I dumped him. He used to drink too much, come home call me his black slut and then try to shag me. He was a twat," she'd replied with more than a little venom.

At this point I'd taken a slurp of my lager and realised that perhaps I'd been drinking too much myself recently.

"He called you a black slut? That's not very nice."

"I know," she replied.

As she'd said that I'd got the impression that she fancied me. I also wondered what she'd look like naked and whether she'd be a good fuck.

I'd then given her a peck on the lips and said, "I'll catch you later for a smooch."

"I'll hold you to that," she had responded cheerily.

I then wandered to the bar and got another beer - yet another beer.

Later that evening I'd hooked up with her and had then gone back to her flat. We didn't waste much time and promptly went to her bedroom. Once naked in bed I bit her nipples hard and mauled her massive tits. I fucked her three times - her cunt was wet and very accommodating - and then I fell asleep.

In the morning I woke up with a hangover. I also felt like shit because of what I'd done and I'd left her place as soon as I could.

Once home I'd had cooked myself a breakfast and had then decided to go swimming in the hope of burning off my hangover. The time had been about half nine.

As I had been in the pool knocking out lengths in the cool and clear water of the open air pool located on the esplanade of Ryde I'd suddenly noticed Leanne with James standing on the side.

I'd immediately swam over to the side and had said hello to both of them.

"I called in at the house but you weren't there so I reckoned you might have gone swimming. Anyway, I thought as it's a really nice day maybe we could go out and do the family thing," she had suggested.

And then her expression changed. "What the hell are those marks on your chests? They're bloody love bites - you've been with someone else. Who is it?"

I just said, "Keep your voice down, Leanne. I'll get dressed and see you outside."

*

After I'd got dressed we ended up going for a drive in Leanne 's car, a red Toyota Tercel. She was still fuming and James, picking up on the tension, had been crying. I remember wishing that I was anywhere else but there.

"So, who was it then?"

"It was Krizzie, okay," I'd admitted.

"Everybody knows she's the bicycle of Ryde. That's a fucking insult Matt. How could you with her, of all people?"

"Hang on a minute, you've had two affairs, and I never said a word, and when I do it you go off on one. Double standards or what!"

"That was different, you hadn't been to see me," Leanne had responded, before adding, rather unconvincingly, "and they were gentlemen..."

I'd tuned out of the conversation at that point and had realised sadly that my actions from the night before were very probably the last nail in the coffin of my relationship with Leanne ...

* * *

I had just washed up after cooking myself dinner. It had been a hot and busy day on the buses (the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday 1990) and I had been looking forward to an evening with my feet up watching television at home when the phone had rung in the hall. The time had been about six o'clock.

I'd picked up the receiver to discover it was Leanne.

"I'm very sorry Matt but I have met someone else, someone I have a future with. Sorry. Very sorry."

I had wondered if there had been someone else as the last time we had made love there had been a 'reluctance'.

"I wish you well, Leanne," I had responded. But I wasn't sure at all that I meant it.

I had then slammed the receiver down hard into its cradle before bursting into tears.

I had then cried on and off all night. Alone.

And that was that for me and Leanne.

* * *

I'll be honest, the split from Leanne hit me hard - very hard. I couldn't stop thinking about her. I missed her even though I knew she was bad for me. And when I masturbated, it was always about her. Seeing her with her new fellow, Len, made it just unbearable - I was extremely jealous and hurt. But I was surviving - just.

That first week in September 1990 I took a 'late line' at work which meant working from about three in the afternoon to just after midnight Monday to Friday, the idea being that I would have weekends off to take James out. I sometimes also took him out for a bit (he had yet to start school) before starting work in the week, though that wasn't that often as it turned out.

Working evenings also stopped me from drinking and meant I could go swimming during the day - I needed to keep on as level as keel as possible.

Despite that I was still shedding a lot of tears when at home over Leanne and Mum. The few friends I had believed I was coping well because I was putting on a good face and even joking about my situation. But I wasn't. It was all an act.

I remember on one occasion I had just booked on for work having been crying all morning and a colleague asking me if I was okay as my eyes were really red. I had told him that I'd been swimming, forgotten to take my goggles, and the chlorine from the pool had made my eyes sore. He had appeared to accept my explanation but underneath I don't think he believed me.

Of course the truth of the matter was that I needed help but was too proud to admit it - I believed that I could cry and cope and that eventually with time I would get over it. And I did. But not before a kind of brush with death...

* * *

I'd been out boozing (it would have been either the last weekend of September 1990 or the first one of October 1990) and I was very drunk when I had fumbled the key into the lock and had stumbled into the hallway. The time had been about half two with Saturday night having already given way to Sunday morning.

I'd then staggered into the kitchen, opened the fridge door, picked up a bottle of milk and then swigged from it believing I would be lining my stomach.

Next I had poured myself a glass of water with the intention of taking it to bed with me so as to quench my thirst during the night as the alcohol dehydrated my body.

As I had done so sad thoughts had filled my mind.

I had recalled my dear old grandmother, 'Nana', kind and grey, sitting at the large dining table puzzling at a crossword with her beloved poodle on her lap.

I'd also reflected back to Sunday roast dinners with us all sat around that very table - it would have been just under twenty three years (I would have been only ten years of age at the time and relatively happy) the last time we had all dined together and in that drunken haze I had recreated a warm and comforting tableau of my grandfather carving the Sunday joint whilst my mother and grandmother looked on chattering.

But then the vision had dissipated - they were all dead and nothing more than ghosts that had inhabited my memory.

Suddenly I had felt very bleak.

I'd then picked up the glass of water and had exited the kitchen before making my way unsteadily up the first flight of stairs to the bathroom where I had cleaned my teeth and taken a piss.

The necessities done I then tramped up another flight of stairs to my bedroom (my mother's bedroom when I was a child) on the top floor - the old run down Georgian house consisted of a ground floor with two upper ones. It was also in dire need of renovation and possible underpinning as the bathroom floor had begun to slope.

I'd drawn the curtains across the window, which afforded a beautiful view across the sea and the coastline just beyond which I probably didn't appreciate as much as I should have, before stripping naked and throwing myself into bed

With my head spinning from the effects of the alcohol I had quickly fallen asleep.

Suddenly I'd found myself awake and everything was crystal clear - I would kill myself. I knew that I would never be happy. I had lost my mother and my wife, and was also in the process of losing my little son - Leanne and Len were already obstructing access.

What's the point of it all? We are all going to die anyway, I had further depressingly rationalised.

I'd then slipped out from under the warm covers as naked as the day I was born and not missing the dark irony that I would be departing this miserable world in the same state as I had entered.

I then pulled out the cord from my dressing gown, which was hanging on the back of the door, before walking out onto the landing.

I then made a loop round one end, though not a noose knot, and secured the other end to one of the banisters - I'd wondered at the time if it was strong enough to take my weight, thirteen stone, but thought that I'd soon find out.

My next action was to make my way about three quarters of the way down the stairs which pass under the landing.

Standing at an angle I had reached for the looped end of the cord and had placed it around my neck prior to drawing it tight.

My last thought being, my life is over at just thirty-three, I allowed myself to swing forward.

Instantly I was hit by the double agony of being stretched and strangled followed a second later by a brief sensation of weightlessness.

Momentarily disorientated I soon discovered myself lying in a heap on the first floor landing.

Of course the cord had snapped.

I was coughing and my neck was quite sore. I also noticed that my penis was quite erect - odd.

That was an omen - I'm not meant to die now.

As I lay there on the floor I vowed to get through this painful time.

I saw myself getting fitter and going out more - drinking less.

I got up and then undid the remainder of the cord from the banister before checking my neck in the mirror on the dressing table and seeing that it was quite raw - I would wear high neck jumpers for a while and keep my collar tucked up as high as I could till it healed. I didn't need people to ask questions.

I then clambered back into bed and under the duvet thinking that if that cord had been just a little a bit stronger my naked and lifeless body would now be hanging and gently swinging in between the floors just waiting to shock the person to discover it.

I then fell asleep - and didn't wake till the bright light of morning.

*

A few days after my bungled suicide attempt I was pleasantly surprised to have the lady who I had fantasised about during the summer board my bus. In fact she become a regular passenger, most days catching the 1735 service from the far end of Spencer Road to East Cowes.

I didn't know her name at the time but I soon found out she was called Sharon.

I discovered that she was witty and quite intelligent - we would often indulge in mild banter - and I found myself attracted to her as a person as well as a sex object.

Of course I didn't know whether she had a fellow or was even heterosexual since she would sometimes speak of Sophie, who later turned out to be her daughter.

In addition I wasn't even certain that she fancied me (assuming she was single) and the last thing I wanted to do was to ask her out only to be rebuffed and then have to endure the awkwardness every time she subsequently got on my bus - it posed a bit of a conundrum for me.

In the meantime Christmas (the most desolate one I'd ever had) and the New Year passed, followed quickly by the start of the Gulf War.

I was still drinking at weekends but not so much. I was also lucky that my friends Jeremy and Lena would often invite me round on a Sunday evening for a meal and to watch a film which helped eased the loneliness and heartache.

Also James's grandparents seemed to be increasingly looking after him more which meant I could pick him up as Leanne and Len could be very obstructive.

As time went by and winter gave way to spring I was determined at some point to ask Sharon out.

But in March 1991 I ended up in bed with another female...

* * *

I'd been on a night out with some work colleagues and 'Deadwood Dick' had brought along his wife's cousin, 'Ginger' Jane. Unbeknown to me Deadwood Dick had fancied her himself and I reckon he had secretly wanted to bed her; though he couldn't of course with the family connection. He was also going through the whole 'family man' stage in his life which turned out to be a charade when he later left his long suffering wife and children for a bi-sexual woman who was described as having 'loose morals' by someone who knew her. And when years later watching the film Beau Travail, Galoup states darkly and cynically, "We all have a trashcan within," I would be reminded of Deadwood Dick. But that's by the way.

Anyway, we all went out and had a few drinks and though I spoke to 'Ginger' Jane I didn't get any impression she found me attractive. Half curious about her, the next time I saw Deadwood Dick at work I inquired about her.

"Sorry to say, Matt, but she's not interested in you."

"Oh, okay," I'd responded, a little deflated.

So that was that.

However, a few days later the phone rang and to my surprise it was Ginger Jane.

We'd exchanged pleasantries for a minute and then she got to the point and asked me if I fancied going out for a drink one evening. I was taken aback as it must have taken her some guts to do that - it's bad enough being a fellow and having to summon up the courage to ask someone out - and being a female doubly so. I said yes and we agreed to meet up on the Sunday evening.

We had a nice time and I found she was a decent lady who was quite funny. She was ten years younger than me at twenty-three and I also got the impression she wanted to be married with family and settled down - she would have made a good mother too. However that wasn't what I now wanted after all the heartbreak and hassle I'd experienced with Leanne ...

Physically Ginger Jane was six foot and a couple of inches taller than me with a slim athletic figure - she told me she'd been one of the fastest sprinters in school - with a long face and eyes the colour of honey. Her hair was yellow-orange and cut wispily to her shoulders. I wouldn't say she was pretty but then she wasn't ugly either.

That week she phoned me a couple of times during her lunch hour before I started work and it became even clearer to me that she wanted to be like her older cousin who was on the surface living a life of domestic bliss. As she spoke I imagined (and cringed at) us having dinner parties with Deadwood Dick and his wife and engaging in talk about mortgages, careers, parenthood and which car was best value for money. Yeah, not me really.

The next Saturday we went for a curry and then after for a few drinks. It was a pleasant evening if I'm honest and I also knew she was going to stay the night.

To cut a long story short I shagged her twice at night and once in the morning. The sex was good but I couldn't help thinking of fucking Leanne - I clearly hadn't got over her - and also wondering whether Sharon wasn't more far compatible for me. The truth of the matter was that though Ginger Jane was a lovely person she just wasn't... the 'one'.

There was also one other thing that kind of put me off. After I'd shagged her in the morning we were both lying naked on the bed when she'd folded her legs up to her lithe body and had wrapped her long and lightly freckled arms round them, and as she had done so it had put me in mind, surreally, of a giant ginger grasshopper - not the most attractive of images. I knew then I would never have sex with her again.

I cooked her breakfast and then took her home.

A couple of days later I phoned her up and told her as sympathetically as possible that I didn't think it would work between us which she was okay about.

Now this is the bad part, the bit I regret, because when I saw Deadwood Dick a few days later he wanted to know every salacious detail, obsessively so, about what happened between myself and Ginger Jane that Saturday night. And like a fool or a teenage bragger I told him, I spared him nothing, not even the image of the giant ginger grasshopper.

Yeah, I regret that. It was indiscrete. Callous.

Oh, and the best of it was, was that he told her later what I'd said despite me requesting him to keep it just between me and him.

That was bad.

Anyway, I now turned my attention to Sharon...

* * *

With regards to asking Sharon out, time was rapidly running out since I would soon be returning to the main rota which meant I wouldn't be driving the journey that she regularly used - I needed to pluck up courage. "Faint heart never won fair lady," Deadwood Dick had quoted to me when I had mentioned it to him.

In the event it was the last time that I drove that service that I had, inwardly nervously, handed Sharon a hand written note with my address and phone number on with a request for a drink or a coffee just as she was about to alight from my bus. She had looked a little bemused when I had done so but had just slipped it in her jacket pocket to read later. She had then stepped off the platform and had commenced walking in the same direction as I was travelling. As I had passed her I had admired her shapely calves.

I also wondered if I would see her again...

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