Monday, June 16, 2008

The Letter

If this were played upon a stage now,

I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.

Twelfth Night


William Shakespeare

Story contd.

The letter was from Maddie, my sister in America. She came to visit twice a year when she was in Europe on business. She would write telling me her dates and usually a list of things she would like me to do or get for her – which used to drive me nuts when the children were little, and my hands were full. It was the usual sort of letter until half way down the page … she said wasn’t it sad - Jamie’s wife had died.

It seemed so strange that she should mention it as an afterthought – but then she wasn’t to know that for thirty years I had quashed all thoughts of Jamie, and he only appeared in my dreams. He had married someone else; he had three children so he was off limits, off my radar. Now, he was in trouble and I thought of the young man I had loved all these years. No matter what the cost to my pride and self- protection I knew I had to reach out to him. But how?

I could phone Maddie and ask her to ask Liam for his address. Liam was Jamie’s brother and Maddie saw him and his wife frequently. But I didn’t want to involve anybody else. Too many people had interfered all those years back; this was between Jamie and me. I realised my hands were shaking and I had to sit down and try to calm myself before driving to the shop. I would decide later what to do. All day long I thought of nothing else, and the staff must have thought I was in another world. I was.

By the time I got home I had decided I would write to him. After all he was an old, old friend and it was the norm for me to write a letter of condolence in such circumstances. I knew his name of course, and that he lived in a Cheshire town and that was all. Quivering like an aspen, I got directory enquiries and asked the operator if she would give me the address.

‘We’re not an address service,’ she told me firmly ‘and anyway there are two people of that name. I can give you the phone numbers.’

I panicked – no way could I find the courage to ring up out of the blue.

‘Oh please tell me the address. His wife has died – I don’t want to speak to him I just want to write a letter of condolence.’

Something in my voice must have registered with her and she gave me both addresses. Whoever you are, wherever you are – bless you for that.

One of the houses had the same number as ours so I decided to take a chance and send it to that one and let fate decide. Once I had made the decision I felt much calmer. Now all I had to do was decide what to say. My handwriting was a worry; it had always been untidy and had worsened with the years – these days I have to type to be legible but this letter had to be handwritten.

I wrote a reasonably neat letter- eventually - and ended by saying that the letter didn’t require an answer but if ever I could do anything, to just let me know. Later Jamie said he had just got back from visiting his mother in Scotland and there was a pile of letters on the mat and he had recognised my hand writing immediately.

Once I had posted it I felt at peace. I had done what I had to do and now it was out of my hands.

For my nineteenth birthday Jamie had given me a lovely orangey- coral, mohair scarf with a note saying:

Isocyanides are red,

Cyanides are blue,

Here is a scarf,

Hope it suits you.

I had kept the note, so was familiar with his handwriting and instantly recognised his letter which arrived within a few days. I wondered if the blood pounding away like that did any harm – my whole frame seemed to shake. I needn’t have worried; his letter was warm and friendly and he said he had only just received my letter as he had been visiting his mother. He said it was good to hear from me.

He told me of his children – he had a married daughter, one son at university and one thirteen and 3/4 year old son still at home. He said his daughter had just moved house in London and that he visualised visiting her in the New Year but in any event he would try to contact me by phone when he was next in London and perhaps we could meet somewhere for lunch. He thanked me for remembering to give my married name as he didn’t know it and he sent his regards to Maddie when I next saw her

At last I had exorcised that ghastly memory of walking away from Jamie in Moseley Street Bus Station thirty years earlier. Whatever happened in the future I could let go of the unhappiness and guilt and be at peace with myself. It was the 31st of October 1978. I had plenty to keep me busy. The boys would be home for Christmas and mum and dad were coming down. The New Year would be here soon enough.


granny p said...

Ah - how the story goes x

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh, I absolutely LOVE this story Pat...Ir couldn't be more Romantic...And I find that wonderfully exciting and comforting. (Do you suppose it's Second Childhood?? lol) I look forward to the next chapter and all the chapters after that, too!

miss diarist said...

Pat, this is beautiful - you have me utterly entranced! I can't wait to read more.

Eryl Shields said...

Ooh, this is really hotting up. I have to go back and read about the bus station now.

R. Sherman said...

Always good stuff, dear. Thank God for decent telephone operators, eh?


zoe said...

Lovely, sweet, enthralling - your writing never continues to amaze me. You have led such an interesting life so far - I await the future already!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Whew. My heart was pounding, reading this.

Z said...

I've been on the edge of my seat for the last 2 1/2 years and I'm getting tingly.

(BTW, did you know LOAB has posted again?)

Sim said...

Oh Pat - I'm willing you on! I mean - I know that YTL and yourself are now happy together but I can feel the old butterflies of love back in the stomach through your writing....

rosneath said...

i keep having to go back to why you left him at Moseley Street bus station ... and the subsequent married woman ... did I get that in the right order?

oooh ... it's getting exciting!


Dr Maroon said...

Pat you may be wondering why I have been so piano since my tiumphant return. I'm trying to backfill. I'm getting my ducks in a row. I'm trying to catch up from where I left off but I swear your output is increasing. My efforts to catch up are therefore asymptotic. But by gum I shall not be beaten! No Maroon ever was.
I may do what I did with Gorilla Bananas and download the whole shooting match and read it all again.
I've done this twice before with your site but it was smaller then.
Did you hear Sheila Handcock on "Front Row" on radio 4? I couldn't help thinking about you and wondering whether you shouldn't bookify all this( asides as well).
I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the success.

ps Michelle sent me.

PI said...

GrannyP: on and on and on:)

Naomi: I'm certainly on my second childhood. so glad you are still enjoying it.

Miss D: it's kind of you to say so and very encouraging.

Eryl: I hope you find it. I get lost in the archives. I think it was about 1949.

Randall: yes I was lucky wasn't I?

Zoe: I had a little chuckle when I read your comment. I think I know what you mean and many thanks:)

PI said...

GG: now don't be getting too excited - it's not good for you.

Sim: those damned butterflies kept going for years and years.

Belleek: I was 19 at Moseley ST Bus Station and got married at 21.

Doccie: I knew you'd come back in the end. My step- son has just shown me how to put the 100,000 plus words on a USB. I still have editing to do but I hope to make a book eventually. it's a question of knowing where to stop.

I didn't catch Sheila Hancock but will probably get the book.

PI said...

Doc: silly me! It's a programme - not a book. I have downloaded it and will listen tomorrow- bedtime now.

rosneath said...

my bad English - I meant the married woman that Maddy pointed out to you with the dyed blonde hair - I never remember whether that was before or after you leaving YTL at the bus station ...........

I think it was March 2006 that you blogged it after I went through the archives with a fine toothcomb


PI said...

Belleek: when I left Jamie at MSBS I had no idea there was another woman, and thought everything was my fault. That was round about Christmas and Maddie telling me about the other woman was in the following summer.

moon said...

I truely enjoy these chapters...keep them coming!!

sablonneuse said...

Trust me to come in late for the next episode. Your life story is going to make a terrific book!

PI said...

Sandy: it would be wonderful if you were right:)

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Sandy IS right. Ooo ooo ooo I sense a happy ending not too far away...

problemchildbride said...

Catching up, Pat - and what an episode to have missed! What a kind telephone operator. A little bit of kindness can go a long way in this world.

Beautiful storytelling.

PI said...

Moon: they'll keep coming - slowly but surely.

Zinnia: I'm sayin' nuttin'

Sam: the whole thing was a bit mind blowing and I'm still thankful.