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NIGHT BUS

12 Apr

NIGHT BUS

Carol Smith

Late last night I saw Reggie again or glimpsed him from the side of my eye.  After what had  gone on, I was far too nervous to stare.   I was thoroughly shocked because of what happened before.  I had been into town for the theatre and he was already on the bus when I changed to the number 9 at Hyde Park Corner at ten past eleven.   He was in the place where he always sat, in the window seat on the right hand side, two seats back from where the rear doors open.   He looked very much as he always had, florid, still handsome and formally dressed with a starched white shirt and a hat balanced rakishly at a dashing angle.    I glanced at him quickly then ran up the stairs, too shaken to know what on earth I could say.   It has been a good few years since that night I have tried so hard to block out.

Reggie and Margot lived close to me, one street away from my mansion block, and although we could not be described as friends, over the years we developed an easy acquaintance.   She was always a bit of a feminist, a journalist with a questing mind, who must have been, at the top of her game, quite a beauty.  Reggie was something to do with wine of which he’d become quite a connoisseur.   A family business, I understood.  He always gave the impression of having old money. There were two daughters, now both grown up, and Margot worked on a magazine.   It was there, I believe, that she met her second husband

Raoul was Spanish and younger than her, about ten years if I’ve got it right.   Snake-hipped and dashing with smouldering eyes like a Flamenco dancer.   He was something creative in design and painted a bit on the side as well.  Nobody thought it could possibly last but, to their surprise, it apparently did.

Reggie was fairly annihilated when Margot suddenly upped and left;  just packed her bags and away she sped without a second thought for the man with whom she had spent her formative years, the father of her children.    They had always appeared such a well-matched pair, both bon viveurs with considerable style who shared a passion for entertaining their friends. They partied a lot in their spacious duplex, all part and parcel of Reggie’s career.   Wine importers have numerous perks on the side.

Perhaps too many.   He put on weight and his rosy glow deepened into a flush.   The lovebirds decamped to a town near Seville where they opened a bijou hotel to which their arty friends soon started  to trek like ants.   Margot continued her magazine job, just added “at large” to her masthead role, while Raoul became a hotelier, knocking off bullfighting sketches on the side.  Both of them faded from my life.   She was never much more than a social friend and couples divide their Christmas card lists when marriages hit the rocks.

Reggie stayed on in the neighbourhood though I heard he moved to a smaller flat.   It was also rumoured his business was in trouble.     He drank too much;  that had long been a fact.   The bon viveur had become a lush without his vigilant wife to rein him in.    Together they’d made an impressive pair but without her restraining influence he rapidly slid downhill.

I have often wondered what the daughters thought on the rare occasions they visited him.    Perhaps they considered he was no longer their problem.   Both married, I’ve heard, and moved away leaving their father to manage alone, able to do as he wished without being nagged.    In theory he should have been gratified to regain the lost freedom of his youth.   He was still, in his middle fifties, a handsome man.  On the rare times we met he would smile and nod, searching his mind as to who I could be.  No-one of any significance he assumed.

And then I ran into Margot again, outside the dress shop beneath my flat.   She had put on weight, it had been several years, but time had treated her kindly.  She had that sheen that goes with fulfilment as well as an excellent sex-life.   We waved, air-kissed and stopped for a chat though, goodness knows, we have little enough in common.   She was back, she explained, on a flying trip to cover the London Fashion Week. On impulse, I asked her up for a drink and she checked her watch and said:  “Why not?”   She was staying in Knightsbridge at that snobby hotel.   I sensed she was lonely.

Two hours later she checked again and expressed surprise, it had grown so late.

Eleven thirty;  she had to be up at the crack for a breakfast meeting.

“I’ll come down and see you into a cab.”   They are usually frequent but you never know and I didn’t want her waiting outside alone at that time of night.

One came quickly.  I helped her in with promises that she would come back soon and that I, should I ever set foot in Spain, would certainly be in touch.

“What fun!” we cried,  air-kissing again. Then, from across the street, came a stupefied cry.

A number 9 bus had just pulled in and out of it stepped, on unsteady feet, a familiar figure dressed in a shabby tuxedo and wearing a hat.

“Margot, my darling.   I knew you’d come back.”   He stretched out his arms like a drowning man, lurched forward towards her and stumbled in front of the bus.

I have seen him several times since then, at precisely that time stepping off the bus.    Close to, his dress shirt collar is frayed and the cheap tuxedo threadbare. The hat, which he always wears, conceals thinning hair.

“Margot,” he calls but she’ll never return, has fled the city as she did before.   The shock was so great it shattered her second marriage.

Last night, when the bus arrived at my stop, I hurried downstairs in a frantic attempt to be out of there before he could recognise me.    As the doors slid back and he rose to his feet I saw the pale stare of his unseeing eyes gazing into eternity, searching for his lost love.

I managed the crossing in record time and had reached my door when I heard the cry.

“Margot, my darling…”

After which, again, that appalling blood-curdling scream.

© Carol Smith 2008

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NEW BEGINNINGS

9 Jan

New year, new prospects, new book almost done.    So time to update my website.    WATCH THIS SPACE.

BACK IN THE GAME

2 Jan

1st January, 2010

NEW BEGINNINGS…

New year, new decade, new novel, new genre.    New name! For me, at least, the times they are a-changin’.

The book I wrote for publication last July was postponed by my publishers until this coming April because I have slightly changed direction and – after twelve novels in just thirteen years – am trying my hand at something different, hence the need for a new name.

Which is not to say that there won’t be more Carol Smiths, just that my outlook has slightly   altered and I’m having a great time in a different genre with one book completed and ready to go and the next one well underway for delivery in March.

I feel lucky to have this tremendous new challenge as well as an ongoing contract with Sphere at a time when the book world is not at its most buoyant.    I shall divulge more details when my publishers say I can but please don’t forget me, dear readers.   I shall be back, I promise, very soon.

Meanwhile, in Kensington, all is happy and serene.   The flat looks lovely (I wish you could see it) and the cats have been having the time of their lives killing Christmas cards and chasing silver butterflies on the tree.   Not for very much longer, though.   The new year, for me, means a brand new chapter so that, now we are also into a new decade,  I am focusing on the Spring.

May the 2010’s bring us happiness and prosperity, with a brighter outlook as well as more fun.   I promise to keep you updated on my creative progress.

Happy New Year to all my readers and thank you for sticking around.