This is my attempted follow up to The Fencer though I have not had time to check it over so I doubt I have carried the idea off as well as I felt I did before. It was also difficult not to get anyone murdered in this one (though it has potential to appear in any other chapter I do to this story).
The wind was biting, the shoes were uncomfortable and the beginnings of a large and unwelcome spot were quietly mocking him- staring up at him from the very edge of his nose and vision. But Richard didn’t care one iota for he, the most unlikely and ill-equipped person to do so, had a date. Not only that but it was with a seriously beautiful girl called ruby, whose name so reflected her personality. She was shining. She smiled, she giggled and she allowed herself to be radiant (around him at least). No longer did he presume that he would have to marry a disgusting and curiously salivating girl who lived on an estate and grew sea monkeys; for fun! Nor would he have to work at the local Tescos as a trolley boy who was paid less than everyone else because he couldn’t "speak proper" despite working much harder than all the invalid and uneducated fools about him. No, his life had taken a new path as he finally met someone who understood what he was saying- and it was a girl! What’s more today nothing could go wrong, as armed with his fancy no… Wait! Something’s missing… He felt his pockets frantically and to dismay found that he had forgotten the most important thing! His notebook. The one thing that would ensure that he would be understood by everyone was missing. His mind raced, to and fro and too frantically. He must have looked like he was watching a game of tennis in the road as his eyes moved frantically in dismay, and as his bus pulled up in front of him.
The driver looked at his solemn form suspiciously, wondering whether he’d have another epileptic freaking out on his bus, Richard looked up sadly at the driver having decided that not talking at all to her was much better than being late (when in reality the bus he was catching would place him in the city half an hour early) he thought:
A single ticket to the city centre, please?
"What’s a pound of flesh among friends?" Suddenly the malady and his gaucheness exploded within his mind, like a vial of ink with in clear water- suddenly shattered only to corrupt the sparkling water about it and suddenly he was lost within the embarrassment of his disability.
"Excuse me?" The driver responded moodily.
I’m sorry, I have this thing, I don’t know what came over me. Nevermind. Single ticket to the city centre, please?
"She’s got a ticket to ride…" He began to trail off as the driver’s already dour face screwed up in frustration.
"You, some sort of retard or summing?" He almost belched out with a globule of phlegm. He thoughtfully scratched his arse as Richard lost all hope. He craved, he yearned to turn violently on the man and declare proudly that retard was a verb and by using it in such a context he was not only being offensive but also destroying the English language like so many others in this forsaken country. But without his notepad he was at a loss to do so, and things he wrote down never came out as poetically as he thought them anyhow. "Look, I can’t be arsed to deal with some spaz like you. Just get on."
Richard, resigned to having to lose a battle of wits with a man who possessed none, slumped towards the back of the bus and contented himself at looking out the window and pretending everyone else was mute, so that he- even in speaking only in lyrics- was a God among them. He whispered quietly to himself:
"I’m going down to Rose Marie’s, she never does me wrong. She gives it to me plain as day and then gives it to me for a song." Allowing himself the luxury of a smile, he still fretted over how he was going to orchestrate the day. He had envisioned that he would sweep her off her feet with the romance of his silence, but now that he had nothing to write on or indeed with he was lost. How could he possibly talk to her like this? Talk to her without being able to string together a sentence. She understood him somewhat before, but could she do it for a whole day? He didn’t know, he just rested his head on the coarse material of the seat and let thoughts of her swim about gaily within his fragile mind.
He’s liked girls before obviously. But he’d never had the courage to say anything, he couldn’t say anything. No one ever understood his rambling lyrical nature. There was that pretty American girl from the Tescos down the road, she worked behind the till and always scratched the outer corner of her left eye; it annoyed him. There was also the blonde girl from a year or so before, she always smiled at him but he knew if she ever heard him speak the smile would quickly disappear. Then there was the girl he fell in love with under a desk. In an IT lesson that had quickly turned to chaos in the presence of a supply teacher. Richard had retreated beneath his desk for safety from the potatoes that flew across the classroom and was amazed to find that someone else was joining him. Her breasts were everywhere. To say she had developed early would be unfair on the definition of development, she had developed long before development had been able to stop her. She smiled a doleful smile at him. A smile of mutual awkwardness and social ineptitude: He couldn’t speak around people, she could be seen past her ridiculous bosom. She had kissed him in such a swift motion that what he was thinking remained that. What he was thinking. He was left speechless by how quickly she had moved (aided and abetted by the weight she was carrying, no doubt) no longer did he think riposte, thrust, repeat, riposte, thrust, repeat but instead blurted out:
"I’dliketobeundertheseainanoctupus’sgardenintheshade!" It fired out, nothing could stop it. It flushed out of his system and for a moment he was purged of all ridiculousness. But that had quickly returned and the room had quickly been sorted out and the breasts and the girl were quickly forgotten about. But the kiss lingered, remaining his first and only.
The bus tossed on it’s unstable axis and took Richard with it. He was still whispering nervously to himself:
"You have been waiting all your life, you use your patience to stay fine. Time moves on as you prepare to tell yourself be reasonable." This warranted a shushing noise behind him, which caused him to promptly stop the whispering and replace it with gentle breathing as her let himself sleep. His dreams were simple. He dreamt over and over of Ruby, dreaming of the gym and the match and the finale.
The bus grounded to an abrupt stop, and in an effort to get the ‘retard’ off the bus catapulted him into the aisle. He gave a careful nod to the driver as her leapt from the bus, a driver who only grunted meanly as he quickly shut the doors and sped off. He felt sorry for the driver, much like he did for his helper at school, it wasn’t his fault he was in a dead end job dealing with people like Richard. Richard was sure it wasn’t the driver’s fault that he used words like retard or substituted something for ‘summing’ in fact it was probably people like Richard who brought out such behaviour.
Richard would have liked to say the wait was pleasant, but of course it would have come out as inane lyrical nonsense and of course it wasn’t! The weather remained torrid and Ruby, despite her loveliness, was late- almost to the point that Richard considered leaving. She arrived with a beaming smile yet covered in a large hoodie and coat to ward off the weather. Richard had managed, somehow, to communicate in a series of nods and ‘mmmms’ as she talked sweetly to him about school and fencing and life in general. All this she managed in the time it took to queue for a film at the cinema. The only thing stopping Richard breaking down in frustration at his forced silence was the fact that she softly held his hand, occasionally squeezing it as she giggled. This sent shivers of excitement up his steadily waning spine and into his quickly slumping shoulders. She took her coats off and he couldn’t help but gasp, she had dressed in a turquoise/blue summer top that reflected her green eyes so beautifully and he had to resist the urge to try and recite every cliché he knew to her in an effort to make her swoon. As he reached the front of the queue he found he couldn’t take his eyes off her, so he let her talk and just handed over the appropriate coinage and after an overly soppy film (that she chose) and some overpriced cinema food he found himself in a small café with her. Still he resisted the urge to say anything to her.
"You can talk to me y’know?" She said faintly. "You don’t have to be embarrassed." He smiled at this but still couldn’t quite find the words. She was that sort of girl, at that moment he couldn’t quite think what to say all he could do is stare into her eyes. In fact, he was doing all he could not to leap across the table and kiss her there and then! "So what did you think of the film?" He thought:
It was utter rubbish, I have never seen such poppycock and piffle in my life!
"It’s all good!" She smiled brightly and as he was about to correct what he said to sound less enthusiastic he felt a brush against his leg. It took him a moment to realise that it was her foot carefully caressing his calf. His mind was suddenly driven wild and to explain the incident in his trousers would be crude and unnecessary. Suffice to say something would have to be done with and about it when her got home. "I cried, I always cry at endings."
"Oh my god, I cried too! It was so sad." She looked glum, and whilst he hadn’t in fact cried he continued the idea, and sympathetically he placed his hand across the table upon hers. He worried for a moment what the repercussions of this may be, but he was greeted with another beaming smile and a giggle. He loved it when she giggled. "You’re really nice y’know. You’re so easy to talk to, and so sweet." He foot ventured further up his leg, and he had to shift his position in his awkwardness.
So are you, I’ve never met anyone who has understood me or given my speech such cohesion!
"Give me absolute control over every living soul and lay beside me, baby, that’s an order." He lamented suddenly. But it prompted another giggle from her and he was glad he didn’t continue any further as she may not have appreciated the mention of anal sex as much as she had what he normally said. Then he thought: Even if I’m not getting things out right this time, maybe it’s worth it for that smile? and it was, no matter what he said she would giggle and smile and her foot would brush his leg some more.
I’d like you to know that you’re very beautiful, and so wonderful.
"Like an angel’s haloed brow you reek of purity."
"Well, thank you?" She looked bemused "I think…" Then giggled, relieving any feeling of nervousness about the comment. He was worried what she thought, whether the novelty and charm of his malady had now been lost. He was scared she would walk away and never want to see him again despite the toes, now slipped from shoes, that tickled his thigh under the table. Really, he should have been relieved that no one had yet died.
I really want to say it, I really think you’re beautiful
Finally, he said:
"Hey, Helen. Your eyes shine and you’re beautiful. So I just had to come and sing to you and Helen made me feel alive last night just to meet you so this is the best I can bring to you." He smiled at the fact he got a meaning through.
"Well, you do know how to make a girl blush." At this she leant over, and with her hands supporting her on the table, she kissed him lightly. Then as quickly as she had started she finished and lumped back down on the chair, her hair bouncing after her.
She checked her watch and he feared the worst, and sure enough that worse was realised.
"I have to go." She said bluntly, she picked up her jackets and he stood with her and they walked off (neither realising that they hadn’t paid for their drinks) there was silence for a while as she walked with her arms crossed in front of her and looking down and he said everything he could; which was nothing. He just looked at her sadly, presuming something had gone wrong. Was he to gauche? Was he to boring? Had she lost interest?
"This my bus stop…" She stopped and looked up at him as he realised where they were. The bus station. If ever someone deigned to make a stage production of Deliverance then this is where they could find a cast of shifty looking, slightly inbred, morons who wouldn’t look out of place in the army or raping a sheep. "I had a nice time…" She said weakly. He just looked down, unable to meet her gaze and suffer the disappointment of rejection. There are only so many social situations I can fuck up before it becomes protocol for me to kill myself he thought.
"I’m sorry I’ve been off, I haven’t felt well and I thought it would be awful of me to cancel because of it." She continued, smiling as he lifter his gaze to her. It was only in looking up that he saw her lunging, not in her fencing manner but instead at the end of the thrust her lips came upon his. Here he did riposte. Their lips intertwined and her arms wrapped around his neck and the urge to use words like retard and ’summing’ came over him such was her affect on him
"This could be our final dance, this could be our very last chance, Just the sound of your voice wherever I may be changes everything." He said quietly. She giggled. Kissed him again. Then left. Buses. He just stood bemused for a while.
Every now and then he would open his mouth, as if to say something, then close it again. Her kiss lingered on his lips. He began to whisper to himself again, this time it was a jumble within his mind. "She has kisses sweeter than wine…", "Did I tell you you’re wonderful? I miss you, yes I do!" Then it began, it was almost as if he could hear a slight drumming of a high-hat in his mind and then a flowing piano. "I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering whimpering child again. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I. I’ll sing to her, each spring to her and worship the trousers that cling to her. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I. Lost my heart, but what of it? My mistake I agree, she’s a laugh but I like it because the laugh’s on me. A pill she is, and still she is all mine and I’ll keep her until she is: Bewitched, bothered and bewildered like me."
Then the station went dark.
The wan sun shone down on him like a spotlight.
Again the world was a stage and again a theatrical fire had been set alight in the forest of his heart.
He sang: "I will leave behind all of my clothes, I wore when I was with you, all I need's my railroad boots and my leather jacket. As i say goodbye to Ruby's arms." A single tear appeared in his eye. "I'll never kiss your lips again or break your heart, as i say goodbye, i'll say goodbye, say goodbye to Ruby's arms." He took his deserved bow, he basked in the adoration and applause about him. Then with a heavy heart, he left the stage.