Part 1: A Life In Pieces (click here) Part 2 Another Life In Pieces, part 3 A Life in Anguished Pieces, Part 4 A Life in Mobile Words, Part 5 A Life in Coffee Part 6 A Life in Loneliness, Part 7 A Life In Rags, Part 8, A Life in Confusion, Part 9, A Life In Families Part 10, A Life in Memories, Part 11 A Life in Contemplation, Part 12 A life in church, Part 13 A Life in Lasagne, Part 14 A Life in Chaos, Part 15 A Life in Gossip, Part 16, A Life In Custody, Part 17, A Life in Doubt, Part 18, A Life in Crisis, Part 19, A Life in “It Serves Him Right” and Part 20, A Life in Paradise
A LIFE IN HOLIDAYS
“So where does all this leave us, Rusty?” asked Saphie.
“What do you mean?” Rusty’s brow was creased more than usual as he raised one eyebrow at her.
“Well, it’s only a matter of days since you introduced yourself to me outside a café in town, and here we are with me confessing to having been bi-sexual when I was younger and you just returned from being a suspect in a murder enquiry with a bruise on your ego, and your sister going off for the day and returning with a woman who seems to me to be a little bit more than merely a friend…”
Rusty grinned. “And I got rid of a weight off my shoulders when Agatha went to live with the Vicar…” he continued for her.
“A vicar who’s on the brink of being defrocked, getting drunk during a church service at which he was officiating and with the congregation walking out because, it was said, he was living with a prostitute…” she added, frowning. “He’s got a few questions to answer some day. And to think, I always thought he fancied the Bishop!”
“Him and Agatha,” he murmured, “it doesn’t ring true to me! And I’m sure she’s not any sort of prostitute. She might be a lot of things – manipulative, lying, cheating, lying again, but I wouldn’t put her down as a prostitute!”
“It depends on your definition of prostitute,” murmured Saphie.
“A woman who makes her living by charging men for sexual favours … that’s my definition,” said Rusty, “I didn’t think there was any other.”
“What about the woman who wins a roof over her head by dint of same sexual favours?” asked Saphie with a small smile.
“You mean, she used me and she’s now using the good Reverend Pike as a means to a bit of domestic security and protection from bad weather?” asked Rusty. “You could say the same of quite a few married women I’ve bumped into!”
“Touché!” agreed Saphie. “But what I was getting at when I asked where all this leaves us, the last few days have been quite a strain and I need a break from it! A break from this town, a break from weirdness … a break from all this!” She waved her arms palm-outwards, meaning the entire neighbourhood.
“And me? You need a break from me?” ventured Rusty.
“Well, we haven’t really discussed anything to do with the two of us,” suggested Saphie. “I mean, just because we’ve got embroiled in the periphery of each other’s lives doesn’t mean we’re what the youngsters call an item … are we?”
“I don’t know what they mean by that,” admitted Rusty.
“A couple. Lovers. Sexual partners…”
Rusty shuddered. “I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to the sex thing,” he said slowly. “I was brought up to believe that it’s special, the kind of special thing that’s sacred to marriage, to the deepest of love, not a five-minute adventure with a stranger after a night at the pub…”
“And for the propagation of kids?” grinned Saphie. “That’s so old-fashioned I can’t believe you said it! And five minutes! That’s not good enough!”
“What’s wrong with old-fashioned?” demanded Rusty.
“Nothing, I suppose. But when I was young the first thing I did was go on the pill and the second through to the dozenth things I did was have as much sex as possible… and that was back then!” admitted Saphie. “And I didn’t see myself as a slut!” she added.
“I only ever did it … you know, had sex … with Connie,” sighed Rusty. “It’s all I ever wanted. And I’m pretty sure she felt – and was – the same… we were happy together, deliriously so if the truth be known, and that was all that mattered.”
“Then you had the kind of something special I never discovered,” sighed Saphie. “But look at me … I’ve not been a bad woman … I’ve not done one thing that adversely affected either myself or anyone else … I’ve been happy too! I’ve had some wonderful loves – even your sister, which I don’t regret for one moment. But where did Agatha fit into your sex-life?”
Rusty shook his head emphatically. “She didn’t!” he exclaimed. “Though I’m ashamed to say that we shared a bed. But that was because I only had the one bed, a double, so we didn’t have to touch…. though she did sometimes roll against me in the night, and make me squirm!”
“Why on Earth did you let her into your life and your home in the first place?” asked Saphie.
“I ask myself that question all the time. I guess it’s because, once the worst of my mourning had started to soften I felt hellishly lonely. And I met Agatha and thought this woman will do, this woman will iron my shirts… that sort of thing … and she was in my home in seconds, but never in my heart.”
“You could have ironed your own shirts!”
“I’m not much good at that sort of thing.”
“You’re a harsh woman, Saphie!”
She grinned mischievously, then became serious again. “So what are we going to do, Rusty?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe I have an idea,” he said.
“I hope it’s a good idea,” she said,
“It’s brilliant!” he grinned.
“Let’s hope!” she said, “Out with it!”
“Firstly, can you accept that we’ve got different views on life?” he asked. “Can you accept that I’m not the kind of man to offer my all on a plate right away? I mean, I’m older than I was anyway and I guess that everything takes a little longer to get fired up… I’ll accept, in return, that you’ve got an exceptional sexual appetite and try…”
“Hey! Less of that! It’s not that exceptional and I’ve been celibate for ages!” she protested. “I reckon I can see my time out without ever performing in bed again! So don’t you go around thinking that I’ve got my mind on what I haven’t got my mind on, if you see what I mean!”
He nodded. “Fair enough,” he said, “then let’s take a holiday together.”
“You said you want to get away for a while, from this whole area and the somewhat shaky things that have happened lately. So let’s go away. You and me and nobody else. At least, nobody else that we know!”
“Abroad, maybe. On a coach tour. We could see some of the world that neither of us have seen before, eat the kind of food that neither of us have eaten before, breathe air that neither of us have breathed before, meet strangers in strange lands…”
“A coach tour?”
He nodded. “It’s the easiest way,” he told her. “Before she died Connie and I went on several coach tours. She was getting to be too ill to fly and to be honest the travel insurance nearly broke the bank! Anyway, I got a taste for coach tours. Nothing’s hurried, everything’s easy and you can spend every moment of wakefulness looking at things you’ve never looked at before … though there are an awful lot of trees across Europe and they all look almost familiar!”
“I’ve got a passport,” she whispered. “It sounds interesting, I suppose, though I’ve never thought of coach holidays before. Aren’t they for older people?”
“They’re for anyone, silly! And anyway, I don’t know about you but I’m an older person. I am retired, after all!”
“Where would we go to?”
“Where would you like to go to?”
“I’ve never been … let me see, I’ve never been to Italy…”
He grinned broadly at her. “I was hoping you were going to suggest Italy!” he almost shouted, “because there’s an ad in today’s local Advertiser and Redson’s the bus company down the road, is going to Italy in a couple of weeks, and they’ve got spare seats! Let’s go and book a couple and worry about everything else later!”
“In two weeks?”
He nodded. “Come on!” he urged her, “throw caution to the winds, worry about nothing else, and let’s get away for ten days!”
His enthusiasm was contagious. She smiled like she hadn’t smiled in ages, and nodded.
“Let’s!” she said. Then: “what about sleeping arrangements? Are we going to be naughty and share a room?”
“I’d prefer that to paying for two single supplements,” he told her.
“If we have to. But I don’t mind a double,” he murmured. “I might be old fashioned, but I’m not that bad!”
“Come on, then!”
She was excited, and he found himself loving the way her eyes shone when she became swamped with enthusiasm for something. So with no more ado they set out to walk to the coach company’s office less than half a mile away.
And as they approached it they were so occupied by conversation and looking at each other that they didn’t notice that two familiar figures were walking in the opposite direction. The Reverend Josiah Pike and Agatha crossed the road and disappeared in the direction of the church while Rusty thought, as did Saphie, that things for them in life just might be looking up.
©Peter Rogerson 02.04.14