The International Writers Magazine: True Lives - A Love Story from long ago
From the Archives:
Ex: as in expel, exfoliate, to be rid of, cut off, expunge, delete deny,
When she opens the door Ill rush in, kill them both ...
I was always a sucker for a good letter, the more it said I
need you, Im going through so much, please come... the
more convinced I was she still loved me.
Men are stupid. You hear women say it all the time and it's true.
She would always be living where I was not. If I went to study in
London, shed go to Paris. Although I still considered myself
the boyfriend, she did not. She may or may not have
mentioned this to me. I realise now that I was living in denial.
In addition to being stupid, men also live in denial.
More life stories
About every two
to three weeks shed get depressed and send me a letter, a tearstained
letter, or the soft alluring I need you phone call that
would always cut off because neither one of us could afford the incredible
phone charges back then. Stupidly I would catch the very next train
to Dover and be in Paris within 24 hours.
Of course, she would have forgotten the letter, or the phone call and
therefore Id be an irritation for the next three days - which
was about the limit of our endurance. Sometimes there would be sex,
but always as some second prize Im doing you a favour
reward for making the effort. Sometimes there would be horrid silences
and unspoken I hate you sessions. But usually by the time
I was ready to leave, shed be thinking about the next few weeks
of being on her own and usually, in the last hour of the last day, shed
be REALLY nice and affectionate and make me promise to come next week
and shed never behave like this again. The tears would seem genuine
and she knew to say the right things to hint that she still loved me
and... the stupid egotistical bloke that I was, would forgive her and
leave with that warm glow of someone who is loved from afar by a woman
This went on for at least a year. I was not yet 'the ex'. An ex can
say no, a man on a string will pretty much always say yes, even if he
doesnt feel like it.
So it was spring, I think. I came home from the film school and there
was the letter. The tearstained letter with kisses on it and squiggles
to make it look cute - did I mention she was an childrensbook
illustrator? I made the mistake of opening it.
Desperate, need you, bring money, urgent you come and see me...XXX
Oh a knight in shining armour never got such a cunning and pathetic
plea for help. What knight could resist? This knight should have burned
it, but that male ego just got up on its hind legs, packed a bag and
legged it to Victoria. (The trains used to go to France from Victoria).
Only when I was on the train going to Newhaven did I realise that she
was not in Paris, but some place I had never heard of in the South of
France. This was a new development. I realised that I should have flown.
Too late now. Id bought a special rail ticket, ten day return.
Now Id also have to find the money for a train ticket from Paris
to Avignon, then a bus to this other place.
It took about twenty-six
This was before the great new European TGVs were working you
understand and sleeping was tough as people used to steal your belongings
if you closed your eyes.
I arrived in Avignon, found my way to the bus and slept for the next
two hours. We stopped at a small town where I was woken by the driver
and turfed out blinking in bright sunlight.
This was where she lived?
I had a phone number, I called, there was no answer. As I drank a welcome
cafe grande creme , the locals pointed out that my actual destination
was ten kilometres away, up steep hills, in the remotest part of their
region. A farmer took me halfway. Now I had to walk the rest and it
was the steepest part of the journey. In London it had been cold. I
wore my very fashionable ( I jest) sheepskin jacket and carried a heavy
overnight case. By ten am it was close to ninety degrees. I discarded
most of what I owned and after about three miles of sweating and swearing
I was desperate for a coca-cola. I stashed the coat and the bag in a
hedge and walked the last two kilometres uphill, wearing only shorts
and a T-Shirt. I passed ruins of churches and farmhouses and reflected
that only she could possibly think this would be a romantic
place to live.
Finally, after several enquiries I found the cottage and the rather
starved looking chickens that surrounded it. I knocked on the door.
You cant come in.
What do you mean, I cant come in?
You cant come in.
Its me, Sam, your ever loving boyfriend. Tired and hungry
from his journey following bloody Hannibals footsteps. Let me
You cant come in.
Now, as angry as I was, as thirsty as I was, not to mention tired and
exhausted, a bell was going off in my head sounding the usual alarms.
I realised with clear insight that she had obviously written to someone
else, a bloke she absolutely didnt want me to meet, (which meant
that I knew him). Someone who had responded a bit faster than me, probably
looked at the address a bit more carefully and flown in a day earlier.
'Whos there? The least you could do is give me something to drink.
I was thinking, when she opens the door Ill rush in, kill them
both, hang them from the rafters and no one could blame me. Heatstroke,
a passion killing, the French understood these things.
She suddenly appeared from the side of the house. She looked as if she
had dressed in a hurry. Ill drive you back down, she
said. I noted no kiss, no hug, no smile, no thanks for coming to my
rescue once again. I noticed a love-bite on her neck, stubble marks
on her chin.
I need something to drink. Its long walk.
You shouldnt be so cheap, there are taxis.
Im a student.
She said nothing more. She led me to this battered Renault.
When I climbed in beside her she looked straight ahead as she started
the engine. You have to go back, you cant stay around here.
Ive got a fixed ticket.
You cant stay around here, it would be embarrassing.
For you, not for me. I was suddenly over her. A little bit
regretful that I hadnt stormed in and burned the cottage down,
Who is it? I asked, not really wanting to know.
She said nothing
We stopped to get my bag and coat. She still said nothing. Three years
of torment were coming to an end, some other poor bastard would get
The final moment of a relationship can either be civilised or violent.
This was merely unrealised, just tension and deep disappointment, probably
on both sides.
You know your problem? Shed once said to me in bed
when she was sulking about something. Youre too bloody polite.
I hate it that you are so damn polite. Anyone who is so bloody polite
couldnt possibly be in love with anyone.
I was thinking about that when she dumped me at the bus stop.
Theres a bus to Aix at two, she told me.Then as an
afterthought she added. 'At least he flew here, hes not cheap,
So I was now 'the ex'. Mr Cheap, waiting to take a bus to Aix-en-Provence.
She married him. A friend of course. When you become an ex, you lose
of lot of friends.
Five years later I got a surprise visit from her to my shared flat.
Do you forgive me? She asked in that special pleading voice
that I was always a sucker for.
As ever, I lied, and reluctantly said
yes. Her pleading turned to a smirk as she breezed out of the room.
She paused at the door and shook her head, victory in her eyes.
I always said you were too bloody polite.
© Sam North 2012
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