I tried storyboarding once. I laid my story out like a patient on an operating table and fiddled with it until it died. Now I keep everything between my ears and listen carefully while I clean the cooker and pack the fridge. While I ferry food and cheer at football matches.
When the beautiful but fragile first draft is done I let it rest. I leave it to get stronger while I try for a family picnic, or a trip to the beach with cold beer and sun.
When it calls me back I ignore it. Until (I tell myself) I have forgotten it. Then I gently shake it to see what life is left. To see what surgery is needed. And, before you can say 'it's nearly Christmas' a year has passed and the story sits up and smiles.
I loved this story. So well written. So engaging. The only reason I've given it a four-star rating is because, for me, the magic stalled just a little when Simone and Alain were talking about Alain's writing career in the cabin. The rest of the time, I was held in Peter Davey's spell. He really can evoke those feelings we all have of missed opportunities and sinking regret. That's not to say that this is a sentimental story. Not at all. The plot is clever. And the ending has a very satisfying twist.
I read 'Loved and Lost in Lewisham' some time ago and enjoyed it very much. 'Simone Simone', in my opinion, is even better. Highly recommended.
made breakfast together in Blair’s kitchen.
She knew her way around now.
There were lots of gadgets. Blair
loved that kind of thing. He had a huge
coffee machine that made noisy cappuccinos; a juicer that took the whole fruit,
skin and all; and a toasted sandwich maker that looked as though it had come
from the next century. She watched him
making ham and cheese toasties with English mustard. His hands were elegant, like the hands of a piano player. There were tiny crinkles around his eyes
that made him look as though he were always about to smile. Now, with his head bent forward, he looked
vulnerable – the soft down of hair on the back of his neck gently curled, his
long intimate eyelashes fluttered against his cheek. Sarah thought him beautiful this morning. But she kept him back a little, knowing that
she was not in love.
we go out somewhere after breakfast?”
He handed her a toastie.
if you want to.” She sat on the small
sofa, with one leg tucked under her.
She hadn’t planned on staying all day.
about a spot of shopping in the King’s Road?”
skint at the moment. The agency’s
always late with my cheque. Do you know
how much they make out of it?”
disgusting amount, inevitably.” He watched her talking about things that didn’t
matter and thought her all the more enchanting.
wouldn’t believe it! But it’s not forever.
They only get commission until the end of the year. Leeches!” She had the impression he was not listening
to what she was saying. “This is a
noticed. Want another?”
had shoved the rest of the sandwich into her mouth and started laughing because
she couldn’t speak. She covered her
mouth with her hand while Blair shook his head and grinned.
They had more breakfast and drank strong coffee,
sitting close together on the couch, looking out at the leaves of the trees
scintillating against the blue of the early spring sky. Sarah’s mouth was greasy and she wiped it
with the back of her hand. It was
something she would not normally have done, but she knew that Blair would be
shocked, and so she was brazen. It made him giggle like a schoolboy.
took the plates and cups and tidied everything up. Sarah watched him and thought him obsessive. He wiped the sideboard with a new cloth,
lifting the jars and cleaning underneath them.
He unplugged the toastie machine and cleaned it carefully so as not to
get water on the electric cable. He
even swept the floor, twice. Sarah
wondered how long she could stand all this if they lived in the same house together. Did he have equally fastidious habits in the
rest of the house that she hadn’t noticed yet?
Certainly, the bathroom was spotless and the towels were always clean
and folded. Blair folded the dishcloth
and clapped his hands together.
“Finished?” she asked.
to be old?” she laughed.
stared at her, not knowing what she meant.
ever folds the dishcloth?” She
stood up and dangled the cloth in front of his face.
“Oh. Ha! Ha!
Very funny.” He didn’t want her
to make a fool of him.
she dropped the cloth into his hand, bored by his lukewarm reaction.
imagined what Andy would have done in the same situation. Not that he would have tidied up in the
first place. But if she had held a
dishcloth to his face he would have snatched it and chased her, finally rubbing
it in her own face and holding her down until she begged to be let go. She couldn’t imagine Blair doing anything
it’s sunny, lets go out, see what happens.”
optimism was unkillable. But the day
was bright and it would do her good to be in the fresh air for a while. There was no rush to get home, after all.
was springtime in Hyde Park, and there were people out together enjoying the
sun. Sarah wore a red floral dress and
sandals, feeling a little cold in the shade.
The trees in the park were huge and she wondered what kind they
were. They should be something
magnificent, like oak. Blair would know.
He knew a lot of things that she didn’t. She didn’t want him to tell her, though. The trees did not need names.
walked along the path next to the Serpentine. There were boats, ice-cream
salesmen, even a restaurant by the lake.
It had everything.
it had nothing.
was on the outside of this world, where colours were bright and gaudy and
sounds rang out audaciously across the park.
She watched a child throwing a stick for her dog, a group of boys
playing football, a woman reading on a bench. It was like looking into a
fairytale, or a painting, it wasn’t real.
She thought about Andy. Where he
was, there was a different sun that hardened the earth and cracked the skin on
her brother’s face. His heavy boots
blistered his soft flesh and his weapon pressed hard into his shoulder where it
dug in as he moved. The weapon that he
used to fire at the soldiers of the Taliban.
Men of flesh and blood who were themselves sons, brothers, husbands,
fathers. This world was real. It mattered more to her.
on your mind, beautiful girl?” Blair
had stopped walking.
she lied. “I wish I hadn’t worn these
sandals, that’s all. They’re pinching.”
As she said it, she noticed the pettiness of such a complaint.
them off, then,” he said, laughing.
they’re not that bad. I’ll get used to
them.” She looked at him and was
suddenly moved. “Kiss me!”
“Here? With all these people watching?” He was laughing still.
why not?” It was already too late.
looked around and took her hand to lead her away from the path. They sat under the branches of a huge tree
and Blair kissed her. She could not lose herself, but for a moment the sunlight
glinted through the green canopy and made a part of her brain spark. She felt warm and wanted. She felt Blair’s love, even if she was not
able to return it.
kind of tree is this?” she asked, her
an oak,” he said looking up through its branches.
thought it was.” She leaned her head
against his shoulder and felt a shudder run through her.
you okay, Sarah?” He drew back from
“Yes. Yes, just cold in the shade. Can we go back to the path? We could get a coffee if you like?” She was babbling.
stood and held out his hand to help her.
He was a handsome, kind boy. She
could see the damage she would do to him when she left him.
I should go home. I’m spoiling your
day,” she said.
be absurd. Come on, let’s get a
his chest constricted. He knew that she
did not love him as he did her. But it
was a passive knowledge and he chose to keep it unspoken, even to himself. There was still more he could do to win her;
he would not give up easily. He thought
of his own parents. Of how they had
married, not for love, but because their families had brought them together. They were suited to each other. He saw that their love for each other now
was enduring, based on respect and compatibility. It was not what he wanted for himself though, and when he looked
at Sarah he knew that he had found the girl he wanted to marry, only for
you think you’ll stay at Firth’s forever?” she asked him, to break the silence.
don’t know,” he replied.
won’t,” she said.
was glad she had turned her face away from him when she had said it.
was almost dark by the time Sarah got back to the flat. Wendy had gone away for
the weekend and the place was quiet.
She sat in a chair and got out Andy’s letters. He would be coming home at the end of June, in just over three
months. He was almost half-way through
his tour of duty, but this gave Sarah little comfort. She was not at all sure that he would not decide to go back. She would do everything she could to stop