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The International Writers Magazine: True Lives - A Love Story from long ago

Ex: as in expel, exfoliate, to be rid of, cut off, expunge, delete ...
Sam North
When she opens the door I’ll rush in, kill them both ...
The Ex

I was always a sucker for a good letter, the more it said ‘I need you, I’m 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, she’d 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.

About every two to three weeks she’d 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 I’d 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 ‘I’m 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, she’d be thinking about the next few weeks of being on her own and usually, in the last hour of the last day, she’d be REALLY nice and affectionate and make me promise to come next week and she’d 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 who cares.

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 doesn’t 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 childrens’book 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. I’d bought a special rail ticket, ten day return. Now I’d 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 hours.

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 café 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 can’t come in’.
‘What do you mean, I can’t come in?’
‘You can’t come in.’
‘It’s me, Sam, your ever loving boyfriend. Tired and hungry from his journey following bloody Hannibal’s footsteps. Let me in.’
‘You can’t 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 didn’t 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.
'Who’s there? The least you could do is give me something to drink.’

I was thinking, when she opens the door I’ll 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. ‘I’ll 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. It’s long walk.’
‘You shouldn’t be so cheap, there are taxis.’
‘I’m 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 can’t stay around here’.
‘I’ve got a fixed ticket’.
‘You can’t stay around here, it would be embarrassing’.
‘For you, not for me.’ I was suddenly over her. A little bit regretful that I hadn’t stormed in and burned the cottage down, but over.
‘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 it now.

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?’ She’d once said to me in bed when she was sulking about something. ’You’re too bloody polite. I hate it that you are so damn polite. Anyone who is so bloody polite couldn’t possibly be in love with anyone.’

I was thinking about that when she dumped me at the bus stop.
‘There’s a bus to Aix at two,’ she told me.Then as an afterthought she added. 'At least he flew here, he’s not cheap, he flew’.

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 2003
The Sam North Novels -
By Sam Hawksmoor and Sam North

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