Tales of the unexpected… an unexpectedly dark story from Martha Perriam!
I shall go to sleep now, with the radio alarm set for 5.20, and wake up to that glorious lilting tune. When I listen to it I hear little waves swelling and lapping on a light shingle beach somewhere warm, and I see sails filling and flapping above our heads. The boat dips and soars, like my heart. It is the sweetest, most evocative piece of music, every morning bringing me closer to him. I get up and make a cup of tea during the shipping forecast, and then, if it’s a gold star day, I hear him talking to me as though we’re in the same room. I know he won’t be on air tomorrow, though, he’ll be “on leave” and we shall sail away together, as free as the seagulls above.
I am all prepared; clothes over the back of the chair and tote bag packed. I’ve cleared his pictures off the walls of my room, and although it hurt I’ve shredded all the cuttings too. When that policewoman came it was a bit of a shock, I didn’t realise the bitch was on to me. Made me careful ever since. Mustn’t leave any clues behind tomorrow. My neighbour Mary thinks I’m going to London to find a new job and stay with a friend – no forwarding address.
Perhaps I’ve always secretly loved him. I think about him all the time. The way he tilts his head, his warm brown eyes, his soaring intellect. He’s not afraid of anyone, Prime Ministers or pop stars; really they’re afraid of him, getting to the heart of things, sorting out their humbug. He’s head and shoulders above the other presenters; the women are so feeble – I’m sure he dislikes them however pleasant he sounds, he’s just being professional. How wonderful it will be to have him talking just to me, but gently.
He won’t be trying to catch me out, because he’ll trust me. I want to run my hands through that fine greying hair, massage the tension out of his shoulders. I know he needs me as much as I need him. He is such a busy man, in demand all the time; I hear about conferences he’s chaired at weekends as well as those lovely telly programmes. But he looks strained, his forehead is lined, sweating under the lights. It’s too much for any one man to do, even a genius like him, but I guess she makes him go on and on. She’ll want the money to keep up her fancy lifestyle, those designer clothes, those manicured lawns, and the staff I’ve seen going in and out. I shan’t cost him much. I’ll sooth him, listen to his every word, help him with his work. I’ll be really good at taking press cuttings for him. But just to begin with it will be him and me, me and him, sailing by.
The first time I saw him in the flesh was two years ago; he was jogging along a pavement half a mile from where I live. I had no idea! It’s not easy to find out where celebrities live, but that was a real stroke of luck. I followed him at a distance; I didn’t want him to see me because I hadn’t put my make up on. He led me to an avenue where all the houses had big gardens and wrought iron security gates. He pressed a buzzer and they opened. After that I hung around his road at different times of day just to catch sight of him occasionally.
It’s been very difficult to work out his routines, his duty rosters. They don’t tell you who to expect on the radio before the programme starts – Oh no! I’ve kept a log for him over quite a long time but I still get taken by surprise. It’s awful when I’m all ready waiting to hear his lovely, ever-so-slightly Welsh voice and one of those others comes on. Still, when he’s not on the radio the chances are he’ll be at home, and I might see him. I get to see the bitch often enough. She sweeps out of those gates in her long low car – Lady Muck in person.
She always goes down to the marina first, on her own, to check that “Yachting Services” have done a good job. You bet we have! She’s blonde-ish, pretty-ish, but old-ish; the only other thing I’m pleased to see about her is that she’s small-ish too, much smaller than me. Many times I’ve seen her down at the marina but I bet she can’t handle the ropes or the tiller. Useless sort of woman, from the look of her. Wrists too small to be any good on a boat. And what a boat it is! Perfect oak beams and fittings throughout, a real old fashioned elegant yacht. I’m sure he chose it and everything in it. Some of the other boats there are just flashy, white leather and chrome; I’m glad we share the same tastes. And I’m sure he’ll like food I’ll prepare specially for the two of us – instead of those ready meals she orders.
That was my other stroke of luck. After I’d followed him down to the marina I went back the next morning and saw a van with “Yachting Services” on the side and a phone number. So I got myself a cleaning job. I have to be there twice a week and clean out seven yachts, including his! It’s heavenly. I whip through the others to get them spruced up quickly – you’d never believe how some of them are left – and then I can spend the rest of the morning in his, undisturbed. I put my face into his cupboard and just breathe in the faint odour of his sweat. I take one of his jumpers home with me to bury my head in when I long for him most. Hope he blames the bitch for losing it! Anyhow, I’ve packed it in my tote bag to give back to him tomorrow.
I know about the rubbish food she feeds him on because my boss gets in the orders and that’s how I find out when he plans to use the boat. Tomorrow there will be supplies for only two aboard and I’ve been asked to make up the master cabin – how thrilling to be smoothing over the covers of the bed we’ll be sharing so soon. I’ve made everything perfect for us.
Of course I go through all his garbage, piece by piece, and that’s how I found his telephone number. It’s been tricky, though. Mostly the bitch answers and I put the phone down. I suppose that was how the police got on to me that time, but I laughed it off.
“I’m just a great fan of his, officer. I don’t want to be a nuisance to anyone, I only wanted a word, you know ……” I think she was satisfied. Anyhow, since then I’ve used phone boxes, and I’ve managed to actually speak to him three times! We had a lovely conversation the first time, I remember every word of it, but she must have been in the room after that because he rang off immediately. I knew he wanted to meet me.
Anyone can apply to be in a BBC quiz show. I tried every week for six months but I suppose they have thousands of applicants. Perhaps I never found a sufficiently intriguing special subject, I don’t know. So I sent for a ticket to be in the audience instead, and I got one last April. He must have a little flat in London, somewhere near Broadcasting House probably; it was a pity I couldn’t discover where it was before I went up to Town. I imagine him setting his alarm like I’m doing tonight, being picked up in a limousine at about 5 o’clock. We could have woken up together; he would have unwound his arms reluctantly for me to make coffee. We’d have talked about who he was going to tear to shreds that morning and he would have asked my opinion as he kissed me here …and here …and here. I would have had to push him out of bed to get to the studio in time, and we’d have rolled over and over in a tangle of limbs and sheets.
But I did manage to meet him that day when they recorded the quiz show. I hung around the studio and squeezed through the technicians to get close enough for our eyes to lock together. There was so little time before I was pushed aside, but he recognised me, he knew that I was his great love.
I said “Whenever you say “And now for the weather forecast” I’ll know you are telling me you love me, and thinking of the day when we’ll be together …..”
“Pardon me?” he replied, but of course he heard, he had to pretend. And ever since that day in April he’s been sending me these messages, letting me know that he can’t wait either, and putting his faith in me to make it happen.
I shan’t let him down. The last piece of luck came just a week ago. Mary asked me to help her clear out her aunt’s attic before the house was knocked down. I wasn’t keen to waste time like that, but she was a sort of friend so I went along. And there in one of the boxes amongst some Meccano pieces, wrapped up in an oily cloth, was just the thing I needed. You can’t buy them nowadays, so it was like fate for me to find it, and it still works perfectly. You just press the button on the handle and the long slim blade springs out with amazing force. It’s small enough to go inconspicuously in my overall pocket, and that’s where I’ve put it ready for tomorrow. It will set him free to be with me, no-one to hold him back, and we’ll sail away down the river and out into the open sea, alone together, lovers at last.
© Martha Perriam 2017