9.11.01 Never Forgotten - v.II

Laburnum Anagyroides, Orchids and Desires

February 14, 2015
Was there ever a good time to travel west on the M4? It did appear to me that afternoon that you could attempt to get from London to Bristol in the early hours of a Sunday morning and still be held in an obscenely long and unnecessary traffic jam. The urge to spark up a cigarette was a temptation banging away in my head. I toyed with the idea, would the hire car company ever know if I had just one, out of the window whilst sat going nowhere fast on the UK’s biggest damn car park? As I held that thought we started to move off again, crawling towards Newbury at a snail’s pace. Leaving the city behind me I looked forward to a weekend away in a friends country home. I would be entertaining and escorting a lady acquaintance of mine who loves to ride horses. My friend having stables and a selection of fine racing horses offered for us both to stay, an offer that I simply couldn’t refuse. I didn’t ride myself, I had been three or four times when I was a teenager but the experience hadn’t proved to be endearing. That’s not to say that I had been put off riding, I hadn’t. Well I hoped I hadn’t put it that way. The weekend would turn out to be a long and rather uneventful if I was to spend it sampling all the bottles in the drinks cabinet instead of galloping across the country on a fine and noble creature. Obviously I wasn’t an experienced rider but the lady acquaintance was, I would hope that she would look out for me. Hope springs eternal. I couldn’t help wondering whether Alexander Pope had been in a similar situation to myself. In that brief period of time dwelling on my thoughts I had failed to notice that the traffic jam had cleared just as quickly as it had accumulated. I continued my journey into the heart of Berkshire. The arrival to their country residence was a spectacular affair. The gate was automatic, graceful and silent swinging open allowing me to continue up the gravel driveway that swooped around into a grand circle at the front porch. When I reached the porch my friends were already waiting and whisked me inside at once. My car was then driven around the back and my travel bag brought to my room. All sounds very English antiquated tradition but as you will come to realise I had just stepped back in time to middle England circa 1950. Afternoon teas, croquet on the pantry lawn, and Pimms served perfectly chilled in ornate jugs and glasses. A place where gentlemen still congregated after dinner in a smoking room, fine handmade cigars are passed around and enjoyed with an aged port or as in my case, French brandy. I acquiesce, it is a delightfully antiquated English life. The grounds of the home stretched beyond where the eye could see. The lawns kept immaculately with a small garrison of dedicated gardeners. A credit to their skills to maintain such large area no matter what the English weather decides to throw at it. A bowling green, grass tennis courts and a significant portion used frequently by the family for golfing. And it was to here I would be spending the rest of my time when not accompanying the lady acquaintance in all things equestrian. Obviously following several flagons of the locally brewed cider. Which will normally have me hacking mercilessly at the turf with a one iron in the vain hope of whacking the ball in the middle of the three a good distance to the pin. As you can probably conclude dear reader, my heart really isn’t in the golf but it most certainly is when it comes to country cider. I am lost in thought I do not notice the delightful Francesca walk into the room and slide her lithe arms around my waist from behind. Her soft hands then up to my face to cover my eyes. Soap scented fingers gently brushing against my skin. “Guess who?” she giggles. The beautiful Francesca, the family’s eldest daughter. An accomplished barrister in her own right at the age of thirty six. She has an athletic figure homed from hours on the tennis courts, riding and swimming. Dedication to her work means she remains ‘blissfully single’ as she puts it despite many suitors coming forward in a bid for her affection. All have failed to hold her interest much to the disappointment of her father. Although he is mightily proud of her and her achievements. One sometimes can only stare in amazement as she gracefully moves around a tennis court with the greatest of ease, watching her return thunderous strokes with an unfaltering aim. “Hmmmmm” I pretended. “Is it Jessica who holds me in her hands? I then ask. Jessica, Francesca’s sister. Equally a heavenly vision and being the middle sister of the three, somewhat of a prankster and a handful when she wants to be mischievous. There had been immense sibling rivalry between the two well into their teens. Long periods away from the family home and each other during University and a brief spell abroad working in New York had brought them back together, closer than ever before. I can feel her move into me, her presence close at my back and her breathing close to my ear. Her hands drop to loosely hang around my neck. “You know very well it was me, I can see I will have to keep my eye on you” she whispered gleefully. Walking around to face me, still held in her strong arms. A fixing gaze from crystal blue eyes. A beautiful smile. She kisses my cheeks and then quickly raises a hand to rub off a lipstick smudge. “Your lady friend has arrived, I wouldn’t want you greeting her with lipstick on your face now would I?” she quietly said. I agreed whole heartedly as she let go of me. “It so good to see you again Jack. These affairs can be frightfully boring when you are not around” she said in a put on clipped accent. “Thank you Fran, I have been looking forward to seeing you all once again. I hope we can catch up later and you can tell me how you have been getting on in the Royal Courts” I said. “Awfully dull Jack! I’m sure we can find something far better than dull, dull work of mine but yes, we simply must catch up” she replied. I left Francesca in the drawing room and went to meet my lady acquaintance. She was already being welcomed in by Jon and his wife. She was a sight to behold, her strawberry blonde hair catching the sun, her smile illuminating up her entire face. An infectious smile. We embraced and I kissed her cheek, her perfume filling my lungs as I held her close. For that brief moment time stood still as we held each other. I had become completely oblivious to the world around us, her warmth a siren to my desire. One last squeeze of her body and I tore myself away from her, my arms dropping to her waist then finally letting go. I had breathed her in and every fibre of me yearned for more, yet it could never be. The cruel hand of fate. She was escorted up the stair and shown to her room. She had stopped half way up and said down to me that she wanted to shower and change after the long journey and would come and find my in an hour. To show her the grounds, the stables and of course, the horses. Pouring myself a large whisky I began to wander around the lower floors of this stunning home. It was immaculate, from the folds in the curtains to the stone tiled floors of the pantry and kitchen. The bedrooms were lavish with fine soft furnishings, Egyptian cotton sheets and en-suite bathrooms. You could not help but feel welcomed in such a beautiful home. As I carried on further I could hear the faint sound of a piano being played. As I neared I could immediately recognise what I believed was a Rachmaninov concerto, and I could be most certain that the person at the piano was Laura, the youngest of the three daughters. Laura was a very talented musician, she could play the violin, the guitar but her heart and passion was for the piano. I can recall at gatherings we had in the village over the Christmas period, Laura would sit at the pub piano and when not fulfilling requests, she would captivate everyone with her playing. She has left university and was welcomed open armed into the Royal Philharmonic. She had also played extensively with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in addition to recording for various popular music artists as a session musician. “Jack!” she called out and came running over to me nearly knocking me to the floor as she hugged me. I flung my arms around her waist in a bid to stay upright. Her head beside mine she squeezed me tight. “You give the best hugs ever Jack!” she said releasing her grip momentarily on me then squeezing even harder. When she released me I checked to make sure I hadn’t poured whisky down her dress in the encounter. Evidently I hadn’t, gulping down what was left in the glass before she came back for a second hug. “We all thought Daddy was teasing us again when he said you would be coming with us riding…yet here you are looking the same as you ever did. What is your secret?” she asked raising a quizzical eyebrow. I held up my empty glass. “Whisky and of course the anticipation of spending days with my favourite pianist, maybe the promise of a slow dance one evening?” I replied “Well of course, I would be delighted to Jack” she said, smiling. With that, I kissed her cheek and left her to her piano. I headed to my room as I wanted to change out of my suit and shirt in anticipation of walking through muddy stable yards and fields. Laying out the clothes on the bed and closing the door to, I began to change. I then became aware of someone standing behind me. I didn’t turn around, I already knew who had secreted themself in while I had been distracted finding appropriate hangers in the wardrobe. They made no sound as I sensed them approaching me, creeping nearer. Slowly and with purpose. I waited for either someone to go boo! Or slap my back. Neither happened, when she eventually revealed herself it was her hands sliding around my waist. She pulled me in close to her and rested her head on my shoulder. I could feel he tousled hair falling against my neck, her chest pressing into my back as she pulled me closer into her. Lifting her head she left a hand on my shoulder and walked around to face me. It was Jessica, beautifully radiant and delightfully perfect in every way. Each time I saw her she had got more beautiful. From a tomboy she had truly blossomed into a fine looking woman. So much so that at gatherings the affection that she especially would show me made me embarrassed however this was Jessica, forever be the joker which is why I secretly adored her. She was so much like me to the point of being referred to at times as being the black sheep. Her brilliant intelligence and gentle manner has always held me captivated, yet when she held me that afternoon I could feel myself fall into peacefulness. A tranquillity that was alien to me. We exchanged greeting kisses and she leaves the room quietly closing the door behind me. I then realise that I had stopped breathing at some point and my lungs began to burn. Dropping to the bed and hauling in as much air deep into me as I could I began to question whether I was losing it. That a beautiful woman can literally steal your breath away without even saying one word. Thumbnail by SLR Jester