A Hastily Scribbled Note, a Key and a Haunting Piece of Music

This story by Dobra was first published on the Square Pegs (squarepegs.overspillers.net) public fiction section.

“Has someone left this key here on the bar?” Henri yelled across the room of Le Grand Cocquerel. Most of the men barely glanced up, and continued reading their papers or gambling a few sous away. Vast jugs of vin ordinaire sat on each plain pine table, many of them half empty. Fading pictures of de Gaulle, and Mitterand clad the grubby walls, and a well used dart board hung precariously from a rusty nail.

Most of the men in the bar were local farmers and foresters and many were habitués of the bar, living in and around the remote village in the Haute-Savoie. Visitors were few, apart from walkers and hikers; some were lost, of course. But the mystery of the key bugged Henri, obviously the customers had no interest or knowledge…… Anyway, he went out the back to tidy some paperwork and for a break from the moaners sitting in the bar.

Place de Gaulle was a typical square in a village in these parts, a small hotel with a decent restaurant, the Hotel de Ville with its French Tricolour and EU flags lazily fluttering in the warm breeze, and a few grand houses. Two dogs snoozing in the shade, and an old widow woman sitting under a tree completed the scene.

Down the hill, the village church of St Georges was host to a wedding. Jeanne and Jean Houge were emerging, and posing for Ernst the local photographer. Rice was being hurled by the small party, and then when the posing and giggling finished, the group slowly made their way up the hill to the Hotel de Ville for a reception in a private room. Speeches, toasts and good luck from all guests there, and from those absent. The best man then handed Jean a piece of paper with some scribble on it. Both grinned.

At the end of the reception, the bride and groom strolled across Place de Gaulle in the sun to the bar and walked in. Suddenly, all hell was let loose. Henri leapt across the bar, waving a key (so he did know something) and handed it to Jeanne, a symbol of a house to come. Then a CD was put on, with some pleasant but haunting music recently composed by Jeanne’s father which played in the background. Then Jean’s father and M le Maire walked into the bar and asked the assembled group to raise their glasses to the young couple, and it was then the father handed the pair a large envelope – and it contained details of a plot of land in the village on which they could build their house. Jeanne wept a little, and Jean couldn’t stop shaking hands with everyone in range.

So, from us, the readers – bon chance to Jean et Jeanette.

’Address book, a silk ribbon, broken glass’

This story by CarolL was first published in the Square Pegs (squarepegs.overspillers.net) public fiction section

He feared it was a mistake, but could not help himself. Quietly driven from within, he slowly slid his hand under the bed, pleating the grey felt of dust that then snowed tiny motes into the shard of sunlight reflecting from the oak floor. His fingers stumbled on the box he knew was there, that he steadfastly tried to ignore but to which he intermittently fell victim.

He exhaled, tripping gently the motes as they had prepared to settle again, then gripped the roughness of the wood and slowly started to withdraw it, wondering if he might, even yet, find the strength to push it back out of sight. This box held his heart. This box would give him untold pain but untold joy. This box was all he had left.

Briefly, he relaxed his arm; his last chance to avoid the soul-splitting dichotomy of the golden burst of exquisite joy and the suffocating blackness of utter joylessness. He sensed it through his fingertips, urgently straining to be released, these emotions laid momentarily to rest but ever-present in their desire to be savoured again and wreak their havoc on him. The painfulness of the anticipated joy was overwhelming; the pleasure of the inevitable pain a salve that exonerated him from all blame.

It slid from under the bed as if under its own propulsion and not through his desire. He had no control over it once it was in motion, inexorable in its inevitability. His heart was here, beating its echo to the heart within his chest, finding its expression in everlasting regularity. Did he push it back, momentarily, or was that his imagination wishing he had the strength? No, of course not; there was no going back now, and he let his hands press tightly on the sides and lift it into the light, settle amongst the softness of the goose down duvet and sit silently daring him to lift the dull grey clasp.

The burst of scent was all too familiar as he raised the lid, the broken glass of the dark green perfume bottle redolent still with the enigmatic smell of her. He bent forward, slowly and deliberately and inhaled the essence of his love. Painful joy shot through him, lungs filled with remembered passion and muscles tensed to hold her still. His eyes were closed but saw with clarity undiminished by loss. Frozen in time for ever his consuming desire, but his breath escaped once more, his eyes opened and his lungs emptied their delight back into the box. The pattern of the days, the weeks and the months were deeply ingrained and with no need of thought his fingers stroked the glass, deliberately running his fingertip along the sharp edge to leak crimson beads along the thinnest of lines on his skin, then gently laid it alongside the box on its crimson cloth dotted with the desiccated spots from previous bleedings.

The crackling cache of letters, tied with a crimson silk ribbon and speckled with undefined agonies, teardrops and fear, blood stains and ecstasy, called feather-light to him. Pages crumpled by time and repeated reading spilled their story, as if he needed telling, but read them he did, every word familiar but new in its effect on his emotions; her love for him and his for her pumping into the chambers of his already bursting heart. He wept, as he knew he would, as he needed to, the driving force that brought him to this place that was the only stimulus for his release.

Years later, years that might in fact have been but minutes, he kissed the memories and thus added to the traces of his own humanity on the surface of each missive. Retied, they found their familiar home back in the box, the perfume bottle nestling across them once more. As always, he paused, reluctant to close the box and return to the reality of his life without her. He knelt by the bed and bent his head briefly to touch the box in salutation, golden hair spread momentarily across the darkened grain, and then slowly pushed it back out of his sight.

Later that evening, still drained but strangely calm, he opened his address book at the page where she had lived since first they met and stayed inscribed forever. Next to her was the entry for her parents and he dialled the number that, in truth, he knew without the need of prompting, but he needed to feel his finger tracing the numbers she had written in her neat italic script.

“Hello, it’s me” was all he had to say before the love and warmth and comfort he craved enveloped him across the miles.

La Boule 1935

This story by Dobra was first published on Square Pegs (squarepegs.overspillers.net) in the  public fiction section .

La plage is packed with holiday makers making the most of the cloudless sky and 30 degrees. Queues for snacks, and packed restaurants boded well for the townsfolk. Trouble was, the changing huts were busy, and some people used to be changing for fifteen minutes or more, despite the frustrated hammering on the doors! Corsets take a long time to unhook n’est pas?

Suzette was a pretty blond girl of sixteen and her younger troublesome brother, Anton only eight years old. They lived in La Boule, and Suzette decided to take little brother to the beach for a swim as it was stifling indoors. She packed two beach towels, light sandals and sun oil. Anton wanted some sandwiches, so she made some. All neatly packed in their wicker suitcase.

It was only a five minute walk to the beach, and with the sunshine, Suzette looked a picture in her pink floral dress. Anton was not looking too good in his grey flannel shorts, school socks and aertex shirt. They climbed down the steps on to the hot sand, then looked for a vacant changing hut. After looking for ten minutes, Anton spotted one where an old lady was leaving, so dived in yelling to Suzette to come vitement.

In the hut, Anton took off all his clothes, and Suzette held up his wool bathing costume for him to step into. She adjusted the shoulder straps, and he look very smart in his royale bleu number. She then slipped off her dress, and proceeded to take off the rest, with her back to Anton. Unfortunately, she dropped the top on the floor, bent over towards him, and Anton was goggled-eyed at his sister’s assets. A toute alors! There is a first time for everything, and Anton was curious……

Unfortunately for Anton, when they went back to a hut after swimming, Suzette insisted on going in first on her own. Merde! They wandered back home, only to find Suzettes boyfriend Patrick waiting at the gate. She panicked in case her parents were in, so she sent him off to wait at the corner. Anton and Suzette went inside, and found their parents dressed in their Sunday best. Maman announced they were off to enrol papa in the French Army.

They departed, so Suzanne sent Anton into the garden with his books and a bottle of squash to play. She then dashed to the front door to wave to Patrick – all clear – he could come in. They went into the sitting room and immediately kissed passionately, as though they were nearly devouring each other. No time to spare, they went upstairs to Suzanne’s room, where the kissing and feeling got even more torrid. Patrick gently lowered the girl onto her bed, and the scrambling to undress reached fever pitch. Mon Dieu, the girl is willing thought Patrick.

They became almost blind with lust as their grappling took on more and more angles of passion. Not the first time for Suzette, but certainly not the last….. Outside, the heat was sapping Anton, and began to spit with rain, so he packed up his bits and pieces and wandered into the kitchen for another drink of water. He heard giggling upstairs, so crept quietly up the stairs. The door was just ajar to her room, and what he saw made his eyes bulge with shock. My sister is doing exercises with her boyfriend on the bed.

Unfortunately Anton touched the door, which made it creak. The pair on the bed, stopped dead, and clothing replaced at high speed. Anton pushed the door open and just stood there. Patrick, while pulling his trousers up, beckoned the boy to him. He pulled a FF5 note out of his back pocket. “Pour vous Anton, you have seen nothing – with no strings attached – merci beaucoup”. The boy ran into his room and thought about the lovely sight of his sister, naked in the bathing hut. So that was what it was all about.
Wait ‘til I grow up.