Advice to my younger writer self…
There she is standing in front of me, her two front teeth missing, her knees scuffed and a thick fringe dusting her eyes. Her Wellington boots are red, and her pink-and-white bunny still has his bow.
What do I tell her... knowing what I do now? Would I tell her anything at all?
At sixteen, my wish was to “write novels and live by the beach.” But at five? The me who lives next door to a field, who dons her Wellies and heads for the stinging-nettled lined path down to Ogmore beach? The one who already knows that life is like that beach sand - gritty, soaked through, and unforgiving.
What would she think about writing? Particularly since all she wanted to do was paint. And read.
So I'd tell her about her other things;
that, yes, sometimes it's safer to hide under the bed with the monsters, rather than be out there in the dark.
that, yes, watching Toby the tortoise, and Barnaby the St. Bernard are pastimes that will welcome you to the solitude of the observer.
that, yes, one day all of those afternoons spent exploring the beach, adventuring through the sheep-filled countryside, and gathering round someone's TV to watch Hulk and Wonder Woman, will be the things that keep your soul going in the times when you really don't want to put those red-booted feet one in front of the other...
But she wouldn't believe me.
What if the man of your dreams (so not who you were expecting, but hey, life) has an ex-wife, who you know, heck you like, and worse still, is still friends with her ex? The Joy of Taking Risks is Madge's story...
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What’s not to like? Wait till you get on and we have a spin back to yours. Morningside right?”
Not on your life buster. Talk about the ongoing saga of the date from hell. Jacques stood next to his beast of a bike, his brown eyes running their gaze over its metallic curves. “You have to admit she’s a beauty. C’mon let your hair down.”
Madge didn’t smile. “It might have escaped your attention, but I’m in a skirt.”
At that comment, Jacques’s gaze trailed up Madge’s bare legs, before wandering back up to her eyes. Damn. Something about that look just felt too…What Madge? C’mon what? Bad boy. Yeah that was it. And there was no way Madge Everson was making space for a walking hormone encounter. Not even one with hot eyes, broad shoulders, and an infectious grin that warmed those hot eyes even more.
“You can ride side-saddle”, said Jacques, that easy grin splitting wide. Ride. Talk about choice of word. His hand stroked over the seat unlocking just the kind of thoughts that led to trouble. Man, will you look at those hands. Workman’s hands. Unfair. Just because he makes furniture, doesn’t make him rough trade. But look at them. Beautiful, strong, rough hands that shape wood, that…Don’t look at those hands.
Making sure she tilted her head down at just the right angle, schoolmarmish, disapproving. Where were her glasses when she needed them? She reached for her cellphone. “I’ll have to make another plan then.”
“I won’t go fast. And I did promise your sister that I’d have you home safely.”
Him and home. Him inside her home. Him inside her bedroom.
No, nope. Not in this lifetime. And yes, thank you Charlie for setting up this flame-grilled disaster. This man had no class. A bike? A bike? Did Madge look like the type of girl who rode on a bike? And for a first date? When he said he’d give her a lift home, after her sister had dropped her off, she’d assumed he’d meant a car. That he’d agreed to meet her and not fetch her was bad enough. What kind of man didn’t fetch his date? The kind that doesn’t want a second date.
And now, this.
“It’s not that bad. Just wrap your arms round me, and I’ll look after you.”, said Jacques, waiting while Madge dialled. She’d let that little suggestion crash and burn.
“Damn it”, said Madge, as Charlie’s voicemail greeted her. The moon winked at her. Damn. Hell. Just her, the moon, and the man with the bike. Fab-u-lous.
He held out a helmet. What was the point of spending the afternoon at the hairdresser if helmet head was the result? She’d send him the bill. Not that he’d pay for it. Hadn’t he suggested going dutch? On a first date? She could have choked on her lobster, only it wasn’t lobster, it was hamburger. Sure, it was okay. But couldn’t he have chosen somewhere a bit more…expensive? No that wasn’t the word. Exclusive? Didn’t this guy know anything about the old wine and dine?
With reluctance, she rammed on the helmet. Now to get on.
"Just sit here, like this”, said Jacques, patting the seat, before reaching out to help her on.
“Watch the hands”
Madge gulped. So close. Practically wedged against her. All of her. And he had to be in a leather jacket. Ja, it now hid that hideous Iron Maiden shirt, whoever they were, but that worn leather smelt so manly. So clichéd. Yeah Madge, tell that to your hormones that feel as if they’ve been kickstarted with a flame thrower.
Her hands gripped onto the jacket. Just at the edges. No giving him ideas about her level of interest. Which was nil. The bike bowed as he revved the engine. Not too bad. Noisy. Ambling along, Jacques pulled up to the red light leading out of the parking lot. Thank god, there’d be no-one she knew at Cresta shopping mall. A shopping mall? Couldn’t he have sprung for drinks at The Office? Or maybe the Hyde Park hotel? But Cresta? Seriously? This was the last time she’d veer away from her tried and trusted investment banker dates. They ordered her champagne. They complimented her. They plied her with roses. Not so much as an after-dinner mint here.
The bike idled as they waited for the green light. This could be okay, right? Bit like a bicycle.
The light changed.
Flung forward, her hands dropped down round Jacques’s waist and wrapped round him for dear life. Hol-y. Shit. The wind brushed gooseflesh up her bare legs. This was going slow? Christ, she hadn’t been on rollercoasters that moved this fast. Ohmyachingnerves. The road. Right there. Nothing round her. No metal, no dashboard, nothing, just the flesh of first date Jacques.
A ringing sound screamed through her ears. This is what death feels like. The imminent creep of the grim reaper.
Not another corner, not another one. Hang on. Close your eyes, just close your eyes, and it will all be over soon.
She couldn’t get close enough to Jacques. Skirt be damned, what she wouldn’t do to have more of herself clinging onto this death trap. Who rode side saddle on a motorbike for crissake? The only heat was trapped between their bodies. A thought she didn’t want to linger on for too long.
He can forget about another date. Just forget it.
Can’t start a fire without a spark. The immortal words of Bruce Springsteen. Sure, he could have been speaking about camping and running out of flint. But this is the same dude who spoke about being on fire, so I’m going with the metaphor explanation.
Can’t start a fire without a spark.
So I've been watching Lucifer. Sadly, nothing like the graphic novel. Not a single vengeful tarot card come to life. Sigh. The two leads spends most of their time bickering which would be fine if they had…
…that thing, that fire, that sparkly-spark, that mumbowumboelectricwow thing that keeps you watching, keeps you wanting, more more more.
But no spark no sizzle no nothing. Dampwet.
That look from across the table. Hellfire.
Eyes gazing, eyes undressing, pupils dilating, those dark tunnels of the soul opening wider, taking you in, drawing you forward, enveloping you in a hust-filled, sluts-filled daze that shimmies up brazen, slitwet and heavy.
It’s there. Kindling. Swelling. Sweeping. That look: nakednakednaked. Ached. There.
Through you. Through me. Flames.
That look. Stripstripstrip. Rips. Trips you up. Right through to the beatdabeat of all that is me.
Can’t start a fire without a spark.
You can try. Doesn't work though. Nothing to do with looks or interests or ticking boxes or common values. It’s just there. Burning.
Or it’s not. And then you have the smoke filled, gasping disappointment that is Lucifer.