Friday, 18 December 2020

Date for Divorce by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Read the Story
Guess the Song


No, not a dating site. I was too embarrassed to go and join one of them. So I just left it up to fate.
    After the divorce I did get a little lonely from time to time but for the first couple of years it seemed lovely to be free. No one bossing me around. No demands for dinner at 6.00 on the dot and no dirty socks and underpants left all over the bedroom floor. A lot of other improvements too, I won’t bore you with the whole list. Besides, if you’re married yourselves, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
   Actually mine was probably worse than yours and I promise, that’s not a claim of victimhood. Maurice was a real control freak and he used to slap me if things weren’t done exactly the way he’d commanded. I got so accustomed to this, like a silly little fool, I accepted it.
   It was the discovery of his affair that caused the divorce. So, stuff it Maurice, you go and sort your own lifer out while I enjoy my freedom.
   But yes, I admit after three years alone, I wanted something more. So I just kept my eyes open, went to the pub with the girls and smiled at everyone over the rim of my glass, chatted to people on the bus, and even offered to make the plumber a cup of tea when he came to dislodge the soggy handkerchief which had fallen from my sleeve, and was then blocking the sink.
   The new boyfriend finally arrived in a most unexpected manner. A strong puff of wind seemed to whizz down and blew my shopping bag right out of my hands. I bent down to snatch it back from the puddles, and then realised there were two shiny black boots in exactly the same spot. I had rescued my shopping, complete with a new pair of knickers and some new cuddly slippers I’d bought, and looked straight up to see the owner of the boots.
   As my gaze wandered up from the boots to the tight black jeans, and on towards the loose black shirt, up to the muscled neck and shoulders, then the very square jaw, the thin lipped but smiling mouth, the strong straight nose, and a pair of black eyes so brilliant they looked as though they’d been lit up from inside. He had a lot of black hair too, and wore one single silver earing.
   I apologise if that seems like more description than you needed, but he made so much impression on me, I was stunned. Well – almost. I didn’t fall over or anything, but I couldn’t look away.
   “Have you lost something?” he asked, in a silky sort of voice. “May I help?” A very charismatic voice, all rich and low .
   I just stuttered like a silly child. “Um, no, thanks anyway, but it was my shopping bag, look, and I’ve grabbed it. Just the wind.”
   For some even more stupid reason, I held the bag in his direction to show I had it safe, and there was my new black lace knickers sitting on top. Almost as if I wanted him to see just that. 



   “A nasty shock,” said the man, “may I buy you a drink?”
   You honestly can’t claim that your shopping bag blowing into a puddle is a terrible shock. But I immediately accepted the idea of a drink. He was gorgeous, and a drink would be gorgeous, so I accepted the gorgeous suggestion without shame.
   He led me to a dark corner seat in the local pub, close to the fire but shadowed in an alcove. Very cosy. 
    “The usual vodka and lemonade?”
   I jerked up. Did he know me from somewhere? Yes, that was my favourite drink, depending on my company and my finances, but this seemed like a total stranger and I was sure I’d never met him before.
   “Yes, please,” I said, a bit puzzled. “But how do you know?”
   At first, with a wide smile, he said, eyes glinting, “You’d be surprised what I know about you, my new friend. My skills would surprise you too.” But then, just as I was feeling a bit weird, he added, “No, no.” And laughed. “I knew your husband a year ago. I saw him meeting up with you once, so I recognised you.”
   “And he talked about me? Even told you what I liked to drink?”
   “Only because I like the same drink.” He was laughing now. “So it was the obvious remark, to tell me how you like it too.”
   OK. I accepted all that. He knew my name as well – Pauline Plank, and he didn’t laugh over the Plank bit. I’d been Mrs. Davies but after the divorce I went back to my maiden name.
   He was a great talker and told some hilarious stories and I was so sorry when it was obvious we’d been sitting there for ages, and he finally apologised and said he’d stayed too long and would have to be going. He wished me good luck and happiness and within a couple of blinks, he had gone.
   Damnation – I just sat there feeling glum. No asking for my phone number – no asking for my address – and no attempt to make another date. He was up and gone like some sort of shadow in candle light.
   Then, even more crazy – I suddenly realised I didn’t even know his name, let alone have any idea where he lived or what he did for a living – or indeed, nothing about him at all.
    But I was hooked. That much was certain. I thought about him non-stop, and at night I drifted into quite lascivious dreams about him. Not knowing the man’s real name, in my mind I called him Nicholas, Nick for short, one of my favourite names over the years. Being a thoroughly pathetic idiot, I  sometimes spoke to him in my head, or talked to myself about him. “Nicky will be along soon, don’t worry,” or, “Nick dear, do you realise you’re late?” and even, “Oh dear Nick, do you know what you got up to in my dreams last night?”
   And then three days later at lunch time, there was a slight tap on the outside door, just like a postman delivering some books from Amazon, or something like that. I didn’t rush to the door, but once I got there and opened it, there he was. No, not the postman. My Nicky.
   “How did you know where I live?” I demanded. I just wanted to throw myself into his arms, but I’m not quite that pathetic.
   “Your husband told me,” he said. “Is that so surprising?”
   Well, actually yes, it was, but I just offered him a cup of tea. “Or wine?” I suggested, since I had some in the fridge.
   “I have a different plan,” Nick said, looking intently into my eyes. “The plan is to take you to lunch, talk all afternoon, have a light dinner, and bring you home to sleep off – alone of course – the two bottles of wine and one bottle of vodka you’ve been drinking.”
    Well, I wasn’t going to say no, was I!


  He had this amazing black car outside, which looked more like a chariot, but I think it was a very fancy Bentley. Just climbing in the passenger side made me feel special.
   “I was wondering,” he said, turning on the engine with a strange remote control, “if you were wearing that stunning black lace affair I saw in your shopping bag the other day.”
   Well, I wasn’t. Actually I hadn’t had time to change when he turned up and my knickers were full size pink polyester. I didn’t answer him, just blushed.
    We were ushered into a very posh restaurant in a central Kensington back street, where he was clearly well known, and we were immediately shown to a table and brought a welcoming aperitif. A good start! I certainly needed to boost my courage. 
    Nick’s own clothes were unusual. Being a typical English winter, his long black hooded cape didn’t surprise me, but when he flung it off, he was dressed entirely in bright red. Obviously a man who liked to be noticed.      Even a bit of a show-off, and certainly no shy back street boy. I actually wondered if he was a celebrity who I hadn’t recognised, or some sort of marquis or Italian count. But I didn’t ask. I didn’t really care. I just found him fascinating. 
    So tall, long, long, rather thin legs, wide shoulders, and beautiful hands with fingers like daggers. Maybe not an Italian count, but an Italian Mafia gang boss? 
    But I forgot all of that when we started eating, drinking, and talking. All that gorgeous charisma came spilling out again and I couldn’t take my eyes off him.
    The lunchtime food and booze continued through the fascinating hours and then we walked, breathing off all that wine and vodka and other stuff. I could see it was raining a little and it seemed as though I was gazing at the city through a silver mist, quite beautiful too, even though I somehow wasn’t getting wet. Not even damp. Not a single dribble discovered me, and I walked along with Nick as though the sun shone over us alone.
    Dinner was even more grand and finally I knew I was in love. Or lust? Did it matter?
    I did have the courage to say a few things, and the first one was to ask why on earth my horrible ex-husband had told him so much about me. It just seemed daft.
     “Maurice was a bit of a pig,” I explained. “And not only ran off to have an affair, but I found out afterwards, he’d had about six affairs during our marriage. So why were you such good friends?”
    Nick shook his head, and all that glistening thick black hair of his flew back from his face. “I wouldn’t count myself as his friend,” he said. Another surprise. “I had no liking for the man at all. I’m surprised you liked him enough to marry him.”
     “Just because I was young and stupid and dying to get away from home.”
    “A mistake. Your obnoxious Maurice was never my friend. He called me from my own home, and was most insistent. He had a job for me.”
    Even more puzzling. This didn’t seem like a man you could employ for odd jobs. “What did he want you to do? Paint the bedroom or fix the attic or something?”
     His smile was dazzling. “Not quite. But he was willing to pay well.”
    “Tell me, please”. I found it quite funny. “But beware the price, he’s not well off.”
   “I’ve no need of money,” said my new luscious friend. “I demand payments of another kind. Indeed, I’ve already started to receive the penance I demanded, although I haven’t yet finished the service he required.”
   That sounded like a fiddle, but I wasn’t going to rock the boat at this stage. “What was the job?” I asked again.
   “To kill you,” he said casually, still smiling. “I gather you are about to receive a very large sum of money from his mother, who died recently. She left it to you in her will, since she thought her son had treated you very badly. But the will stipulates that should you die before the money is handed over, then it will all go to Maurice after all.”
     I stared, open mouthed. “That’s – impossible.”
    “Not in the least. He explained everything I needed to know such as your likes and dislikes, your address, and your habits. I accepted the job. It is my kind of service, the work I enjoy, and the payment is exactly what I desire.”
    “You – you get paid for – murder?” I stuttered. “How – much?”
    “His soul,” my lunch date replied. “My usual price.”
    I honestly didn’t understand that. Did this man love fish? “What – sort of – sole?”
    “You fail to understand,” he told me, which was certainly true. “I have accepted the job, and will receive his soul in payment. You will spend this day with me, we shall be deeply intoxicated and thoroughly entertained. I admit that I find you delightful. Therefore when I kill you, later tonight as you sleep, I will ensure that the murder is both painless and quick. I shall then take you to live with me. In the meantime, your husband Maurice, rich but without a soul, will be arrested for your death, and will spend his life in misery.”
    I gulped. I should have screamed, but still none of it could possibly be true. “Live with you? When I’m dead? Is all this a joke? It doesn’t make sense.”
    “Just relax, my dear.” He refilled my glass with the vodka he’d bought. 
   “Gradually throughout the evening I shall explain to you. Living with me will be highly exciting, I assure you. Never a dull moment. My home is pure luxury, and I shall love you for many years.”
     “Where – where on earth do you live?” I asked in utter bewilderment.
    “Not on earth,” he said. “In the Underworld, my dear. You chose to call me Nick. More apt than you realised, my love, since I am often called Old Nick. But my real name is Lucifer, and I am the Devil.” He pushed back his thick hair from his face, and I saw the small spouting white horns on either side of his head. 
     “There’s no such thing as the devil,” I whispered.


    “Once in the Underworld and in my own great bed, my love, in my arms and in my embrace, you will discover that there is no creature more real than me. And the pleasure we shall enjoy together will teach you what real delight is all about...”

You're the Devil in Disguise
by Elvis Presley


ABOUT BARBARA

I was born approximately two hundred years ago (It sometimes feels that way) in Gloucestershire, England, right in the heart of the Cotswolds. After a few years I moved to London and fell in love with the history which oozes through the old stones, and the medieval atmosphere leaks from the beautiful old buildings. For many years, I walked the old cobbled lanes and researched the 15th century from original sources, and the books in the British Museum. I worked there in the Department of Ancient Documents, a place which I adored, full of scrolls illuminated by medieval monks, and hordes of informative parchments.
My father was an academic and playwright, my mother was a retired teacher, and my sister was an author of fantasy. I had no other passion except the arts, and books

Already a passionate reader half crazed by the avid consumption of literature, I had grown out of Enid Blyton when I was about six. Next came a passion for Georgette Heyer, although far too young to understand romance. Once again it was the historical details I loved and I moved quickly onto Shakespeare, Dorothy Dunnett, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and a host of others.

I started writing. Nonsense naturally! But I kept it up and eventually write articles and short stories for current magazines and newspapers. I was also a tutor for scriptwriting, and a reviewer for Books and Bookmen. That kept me busy until I married. A husband and three little girls (including identical twins) were a full-time job, and for most of the time I also worked at secretarial jobs, keeping the threat of starvation at bay and paying for the baked beans.

After leaving my husband, I started writing again but this time I was distracted by something different, as I had a wonderful 18 year romance with a man who lived on his yacht in the Mediterranean, sailing during spring, summer, and autumn, and exploring Europe by car in winter.

My partner died, and I was bereft, deciding to come to Australia for a change instead of sitting around in stagnant tears. Writing again, and seriously this time, I wrote full length books in all my favourite genres. I was accepted by one of the big top 5 publishers, and two of my historical crime/mysteries were published in the traditional manner. However, although I was reasonably well paid and sold reasonably well, I also found myself disliking the control system.  I had to write as commanded, insert bucket loads more romance, accept covers I hated, and generally do as I was told.

Now, happy and free, I self-publish, and enjoy every minute of my writing. I live in Australia, adore the weather, the birds and the wildlife, and live a placid life during the day and a wonderfully exciting one in my dreams at night.

I have written fantasy and historical fiction. Very different genres, but all are crime mysteries in one way or another. I have almost finished my children’s series (Bannister’s Muster series, for middle-grade children), no crime here, but a vibrant mixture of history and fantasy. After this is complete I am moving onto a series of modern crime mysteries, and I’m looking forward to that.

Writing is and always has been my passion, now that I am able to do this full time, I am in my element and life couldn’t be better (a little more sunshine might help though).


8 comments:

  1. Haha! Delicious! I got the character and had all the 'Devil' songs running through my head - except the true one. We!! Well done, Barbara - I've noticed before that you have a knack of making basically evil people attractive!!

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    1. Richard, how kind. Thank you. I really appreciate such nice words from someone who writes so well himself

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  2. What a fab story, really didn't see that ending! No idea about the song, but loved the story.

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    1. You're a lot younger than me if you don't know that old song - so I'm extra delighted with your remarks. Cheers

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  3. from Marina Osipova: "A devilishly great short story! I absolutely loved the voice, the tickling suspense, and the promise of the "real delight" in the end." (*smile*)

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    1. Very kind, thanks so much. I admit that I doenjoy writing this sort of story

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  4. No, no, no! For a while there, I was hoping it was Jasper - I miss him SO much!
    Barbara, you're one of the best writers I know and this short story just has me rushing over to my Kindle to consider just which one of your books to re-read. Fairweather, obviously, but then? Choices, choices...

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    1. Anna, I've only just discovered your comment - forgive me for being so slow. It's a gorgeous comment - thanks so very much.
      And by the way, Jasper says he misses you too!

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