Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A Happy Bachelorhood

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

“‘It is very pleasant dining with a bachelor,’ said Miss Matty softly, as we all settled ourselves in the counting-house. “I only hope it is not improper; so many things are!”’ Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford

Dining luxuriantly of an evening, be it at home, in Surrey Hills, Sydney, or in a quality restaurant, was the highlight of Sylvestre Beauregard’s day. Be it a simple meal of pasta and sauce, or some steamed duck with straw mushrooms, Sylvestre rapturously dedicated the meal to paying attention to Elizabeth, chatting intelligently, appreciating the fine food and wine with her, and in all manner making sure that his one true love, completely imagined at the other end of the small table, was thoroughly captivated and enjoying herself. Sylvestre of course completely knew that Elizabeth’s presence was completely imagined but this seemed to be the only way, for the past five years, that he can still be with her after their very vicious parting. Elizabeth Realle was his first love, and his first love he simply could not banish. It was also a love that would allow of no other, and Sylvestre was now resigned to a happy bachelorhood with her imagined presence. Her real presence, or any other love’s, simply was not possible.
     On this particular evening, a few nights before Christmas, 2015, Sylvestre was enjoying another festive meal with Elizabeth. Both were in fine form and had agreed to go out for a small drink or two at the local pub after dinner. As Sylvestre collected his plate and utensils to wash in the kitchen, his phone in his pocket alerted him to a new message. After the cleaning was done, and Elizabeth was waiting for him by the front door, he quickly checked his phone. It was a social media message from Elizabeth Realle.
     Sylvestre had naturally looked for Elizabeth in the real world, desperately hoping to get back with her, and had sent many, many very polite social media messages over the years to ladies enquiring if they were the Elizabeth Realle he was seeking. None of them replied. Except this one, who had all the right details, but no photo. But the avatar represented her quite well.
     Was Elizabeth now back? Please God, let her be back.
     Elizabeth was no longer waiting by the door.
     Elizabeth’s message said she hadn’t replied earlier because she was still hurt from their parting. She had only now realised, after years of letting his messages turn the spike in her heart, that she had to face him. To talk it out. To remove his dagger. Could they meet up at a café somewhere in the city soon? Elizabeth just wanted to have a talk with him, show him her demons, and ask his help to tame them. It was the least he could do.
     Meeting Elizabeth was his worst nightmare. She was not Elizabeth at all, but a complete stranger. She explained herself, after Sylvestre had agreed to recognise her by the white Fedora hat with a small, slim, purple feather, by saying that his messages showed a very deep man, a man who understood that true love is entirely loyal. Under all circumstances. And for those bad circumstances, true love willingly guides both through to the better life. Or both willingly die in the attempt.
     When Elizabeth finished her necessary explanation Sylvestre felt paralysed. He even stopped breathing for a few seconds.
     Fake.
     Or maybe not.
     Maybe this fake Elizabeth is somehow an agent for the real one, maybe the Fates, or Gods, God, Christ, or vague spirits, or whatever, are testing him? Testing his true love. The fake Elizabeth certainly had facial similarities to the real one, so such a wild suggestion may not be so wild after all. This fake Elizabeth could even well lead to her, Elizabeth, the only one.
     It was worth a shot.
     So Sylvestre sat down to a coffee with the impostor, vaguely convinced that here was an opportunity to gain his life goal, a chance that here was Elizabeth’s agent, her handmaiden if you will, somehow testing the waters before consuming his endless love.
     Throughout their first date at the café, Sylvestre became gradually more and more convinced that indeed here was his Elizabeth’s handmaiden. Certain attitudes, a saying or two, even a healthy nod to her alluring cheekbones, all confirmed that Sylvestre was being smiled upon by the spirit world: this lady beckoned his dreams, a handmaiden guiding him home.
     Their first date led to a second (prompted by Elizabeth), a second to a third, a third to more, and Sylvestre was soon ecstatic that he was once again with his life purpose. Elizabeth. Elizabeth Realle. Was there anything more to strive for? Was he now in Paradise?
     Naturally, now that Sylvestre was happy, it should be expected that his dreams of Elizabeth should be happier. Which they were, but fairly soon developed into ones where she asked him to both ‘come forth’ and ‘forever part.’ Those two phrases were wrapped up in each other in the dream, one phrase that only made sense in dream language. Sylvestre always woke up from those dreams suddenly, completely awake, but also completely lost. Did the Elizabeth by his side in the small, comfortable hours before dawn, vindicate his true love, or damn it? He didn’t know. He honestly didn’t know. He could only keep going forward, trusting to the little signs that reassured him.
     Those little signs continued to reassure him even when the dreams gradually became nastier, dreams where he was becoming locked tighter and tighter, more and more excruciatingly, within a gilded cage. He always woke up from those dreams on the verge of screaming. To stifle the scream, he looked at Elizabeth beside him, peacefully asleep, and fervently prayed that he was following his true love home. He then went to sleep, hoping God was listening.
     Sylvestre’s next to last such horrifying dream of his one true love, though, ended on an unexpected bright note: an address. Her address was given to him simply and without fanfare, Elizabeth merely writing it out on a small sheet of paper and giving it to him, instead of using the undefined instruments she usually brought out to flay him in his solitude. He awoke suddenly again, completely awake, but convinced that he was now in Paradise. He had her address! Thank God!
     After a soft kiss upon Elizabeth’s sleeping left cheek, he quietly got out of bed and dressed. He studied her in the cool, bright moonlight, dressing slower in order to study her longer, glorying in her the paths upon which she had brought him his only desire. Sure, once he was back with the real Elizabeth, her handmaiden may be pouty. But it would be all explained so easily. And, don’t forget, Elizabeth the handmaiden had played a very conscious role in this whole saga, playing upon his beseeching wail for his one true love. Indeed, she full well knew what she was getting herself into. Sylvestre thus left the flat feeling like he owned the Universe. And Reality.
     Once on the kerbside outside of his block of flats he called for a taxi. Dawn had just begun.
     ‘Good morning, Taxis Central. Pick up suburb and address?’
     ‘Surrey Hills. 59 Kippax Street.’
     ‘Going to?’
     ‘12 Milthorpe Avenue, Strathfield.’
     ‘Ready now?’
     ‘Yes.’
     ‘Next available taxi will be there.’
     ‘Thank you.’
     She hung up.
     The taxi arrived soon and he got in.
     ‘What address again? I can’t find it on my GPS. But it’s an old one.’ The driver was a young, well-groomed Arab gentleman. Sylvestre felt he was not dealing with an incompetent.
     ’12 Milthorpe Avenue. Strathfield.’
     ‘With one ‘l’ or two?’
     ‘Gz, I don’t know.’
     ‘We’ll try both ways.’
     The GPS computed.
     ‘Sorry, friend, that address is not in Strathfield. Maybe in another suburb? Let’s try Burwood.’
     The GPS computed.
     ‘Sorry, friend, not there either. Would you like to maybe check your address again?’
     Sylvestre couldn’t well say that he had received it in a dream, and let the driver go, giving him five dollars for his time.
     ‘Thank you, friend. You’re a real gentleman.’ Then the driver rolled away, carrying Sylvestre’s ashen hopes.
     Undressing again at home he was undecided whether or not to get in beside Elizabeth, the handmaiden, and sleep in for two or three hours more since it was a Saturday. But leaving her would burn all of his bridges, throwing away even this slim chance of union, reunion, with his life’s meaning. He then got in beside Elizabeth’s handmaiden, pulled the sheet up to his chin, rolled onto his right, and soon fell asleep hoping that the desired Elizabeth would come in dreams to explain her lie.
     She was soon with him, and spent his entire dream laughing at him. In between gouts of laughter she screamed at him to leave her alone, to erase her from his memory, that he was the only person that she hated. She hoped that every mention of the name Elizabeth drove deep spikes into his mind, barely recompense for the anguish, pain, and guilt that he had caused her. Only his horrible, tortured death could extinguish the unutterable pain he had sown within her.
     This time, he was screaming when he suddenly awoke.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD
    
    
    
   
    

     

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