I thank my proofreaders for all of their time and assistance. But please don't expect a great work of English literature here. Cantankerous old sod that I am, I insist in writing Wanderer English, as it is generally spoken in the UK; not as some experts would prefer it to be spoken, and written.
There is no overt sex in this story and it probably should not be read by folks who take life, or themselves, too seriously.
You must understand that most of this happened a long time ago now; well, the true beginning of it did anyway. The world was a completely different place back then; well as I just said, it was at the beginning. As teenagers back then, we were kind of naive and innocent. Yet at the same time, pretty keen to explore the new boundaries that certain medical advances had left open to us. I'm talking the birth control pill here and the magical properties of antibiotics that meant most of the better known STD's could be cured with a couple of injections; well, reputedly so.
Yet at the same time, we were angry about what the old fuddy-duddies had heaped upon us younger generation's shoulders. I'm talking about what is sometimes described now as that "Crazy Asian War". The American teenagers had their innocence stolen by it, but we were with them in our hearts and minds.
It's highly possible that no one who isn't old enough to have been in the sixteen to, lets say about twenty-five, age group during the sixties, will ever be able to understand what it was like back then. But then, you younger folks have grown up with HIV and antibiotic-tolerant super bugs.
I suppose the best place to start the story is some considerable time after the sixties. That's when I'd kind-of returned to living in the somewhat more staid and conservative society we all share today.
To be perfectly honest with you, I can't really explain how I came to join that Life Class in the first place. Well, not in any way that doesn't make me sound either a pretty sad case, or a pervert, or something. It's all a bit embarrassing to attempt to explain actually; but I'll try.
I was thirty-six and had just come out of a pretty disastrous five-year relationship with Claire. For the life of me, I can't figure out how it lasted that long; we really had very little in common. That's if you don't take into account a mutual appreciation of sex. Hey man, sex might be fun; but you can take it from me that sex alone does not make a sound foundation for a long-term relationship. There has to be a spark, a little inexplicable something that draws you to the one person who's destined to be your life partner.
Sex quite definitely helps, but there has to be something else as well.
In comparison to many people at the time, we had everything. Good jobs, a nice home and car, and we were young, beautiful and athletic. Yeah well, we had an energetic horizontal workout, seven nights a week.
I think we both came to realise that we were spending more time arguing with each other during the day than we were making up in bed at night. Eventually we called it a day by mutual agreement.
Claire moved out and left me living alone in our flat. I do believe she later shacked up with one of my old friends. Our constant bickering had sort-a lead to an estrangement from nearly all of our close friends. Folks really don't want to spend their free time in the middle of a war zone. That's how bad it had gotten between Claire and me.
That kinda left me with a mighty big problem. After Clair had moved on, I no longer had a circle of close friends. Shit, I hardly had anyone who I could call a friend anymore, except for a couple of the guys I worked with in the office.
Yeah all right, probably I was being a little stubborn. But after folks have purposely pushed you away and left you off the old invitation list, for a few years, you're not inclined to go hunt the buggers out again, are you? Well I wasn't.
Anyway, that's how I started hanging with one of the more staid guys from the office, Arthur. A couple of years older than me, he kinda kept to himself most of the time, around the office anyway. You know, he didn't hang around with the rest of the unattached guys very much. The disadvantage where Arthur was concerned was that he was considered a bit of a weirdo. Well, on the quiet, most everyone else in the office considered him to be.
In truth, Arthur was what some people described as an arty-farty type. He was into opera, ballet, art and all that crap. I do believe I teamed up with Arthur because, unlike most of the other unattached guys in the office, he didn't appear to spend his every nonworking moment drinking. Although I was quickly to discover he spent a hell of a lot of it fornicating.
I have to admit I soon found that I didn't enjoy opera very much. Jesus, I'd never been to the opera before in my entire life, until Arthur dragged me along that evening. I can't say I was in too much of a hurry to go again, either. Although I did enjoy the company of the two very cultured and uncommonly -- for the time -- loose morale'd young ladies who Arthur arranged for us to escort that evening.
For all of their airs and graces, and insisting on speaking as if they had plumes in their mouths all evening. A couple of bottles of reasonably cheep champers and they raring to go!
Ditto, goes for the few evenings we spent at the ballet as well. Jesus, if we kept that game up for very long, I'd have had to cut my hours back at the office. Luckily, our employer had been one of the first around to introduce flexitime working. It meant I could take time to recover and go into the office late the morning after we went to the ballet. Oh well, you see, the seats were cheaper on weeknights and Arthur and I weren't exactly made of cash.
The art exhibitions Arthur dragged me along to see were a little different. There we had to do some work, and actually hunt down our prey. I can't honestly say we, or rather I, was very successful at those soirees.
Geeky old Arthur seemed to be able to pick up a bit a spare at the drop of a hat almost anywhere. God, the other guys back at the office, especially the office wolves, would never have believed how much of a babe magnet Arthur was on the quiet. Maybe that was Arthur's secret; perhaps the ladies sensed the utter discretion of the man. Arthur never did brag about his conquests, even to me. I'd seen him heading for the bedroom with some unbelievably tasty females on his arm. Too often, I might add, married ones at that. But then again, they might have been divorcees; I have no idea how to tell the difference for sure.
Whatever, wandering around those private showings. raised my appreciation of one specific incarnation of art: nude studies. In particular, tactfully drawn depictions of the female form.
Yeah, all right, most red-blooded men appreciate the female form anyway. However, I seemed to develop an infatuation of pencil or charcoal sketches of slender nubile young ladies.
Nothing too detailed, or what some might possibly describe as crude. Just a few skilfully drawn lines on a plain background that implied in the viewers mind the beauty of the subject.
My trouble was I could rarely afford to buy any of those pictures to take home with me and admire at my leisure. I'd soon be very broke if I got into that game. I liked far too many of them to chose just one or two to buy.
At an exhibition one evening, I found myself lost in admiration of one particular sketch. Arthur had disappeared with a very affluent looking female, who I do suspect was in the process of spending her ex-husbands retirement plan. Anyway that sketch was no more than a few curved lines on the page, but it had captured my imagination.
The price tag was well over five hundred pounds, so there was no way in the world I could justify spending that kind of money on a piece of paper.
I was still staring at the masterpiece when a guy approached and placed a sold ticket on the bloody thing.
I have no idea why I said, "Shit!" aloud, although it was what I was thinking.
That label meant that I would not be able to return to the gallery later to study the sketch again.
"Beautiful isn't it? I'm very proud of that one!"
I turned to see that Elvira, the artist in question, had been standing beside me; Arthur had introduced us earlier. Elvira was at least sixty, maybe even older. And, unless I was very much mistaken, she was as bent as a nine bob note. She certainly appreciated the female form.
To be honest, Elvira must have been a real looker in her younger days. I remembered thinking, what a wasted life, when I first met her.
"Yes, you really have captured the essence of the sitter in that one, Elvira. I envy you for your skill in being able to do so."
I tried my damnedest to use the same kind of arty-farty language Arthur appeared to be so adept at. The cultured way Arthur used words must have been what attracted those females to him. It certainly wasn't his looks. But then again, maybe Arthur carried something around in his trousers that most of us other mere mortals don't have. You can never tell with geeks, you know. Well most guys can't anyway; god alone knows what kind of x-ray vision or radar women have that lets them tell the difference between a rolled up sock and human flesh.
"Do you paint yourself?" Elvira asked.
"No, I have to admit that I've never really tried. Well, I buggered about in the art class at school, but I can't say that I was any good with a paintbrush. Don't do a bad job with the old roller on the house walls though."
I grinned back at her, then immediately wished I hadn't tried to be funny.
"Art classes at school rarely inspire anyone... ?"
"Yes, Jerry, I'm sorry; you're Arthur's friend, aren't you. Perhaps if you tried to draw the right subject, one that you found a little inspiring; perhaps then you might fair a little better," she suggested, glancing back at the nude on the wall.
Following her eye-line, I found myself embarrassed and lost for words. I think I quite possibly stammered a little; I really can't recall now.
Elvira laughed aloud and I probably blushed even more.
"Oh, don't be so self-conscious, Jerry. I can assure you, there is nothing that compares with sketching a beautiful female body from life. Look, I tell you what, I run a little life class at the college on Tuesday evenings. Why don't you come along and give it a try?"
I can't quite recall how the conversation went after that. Although, by its conclusion I'd signed up for a hundred pounds worth of life drawing classes. Well, verbally anyway.
Jesus, no wonder Elvira was such a successful artist. The damned woman could sell coals to Newcastle.
Anyway, as a result of that conversation, seven thirty the following Tuesday evening, I was to be found standing beside an easel in one of the studios at the local college. Draped on a chaise longue before the class was a somewhat overweight and very naked female. Who, to put it bluntly, wasn't in the least having the desired effect on my little grey cells.
"I'm sorry, Jerry. The sitter I had booked for this evening is unfortunately indisposed; apparently, she's had an accident of some kind. I'm quite concerned really; I believe her partner has a bit of a reputation for becoming a little violent. One has to wonder whether they've had another confrontation."
"Oh, one of that sort, is he?"
"I think he might have overdone things a while back. For some people, there's a price to pay for taking too many trips. Abigail has never said, but I get the feeling he ended up on the hard stuff or something. It could be that sometimes he looks Abigail out, when he needs money to pay for his fix. You know what they are like, Jerry; you can't reason with them when they've got that far down the road."
I had seen the scenario of course. A little grass leads on to other mind-bending substances; usually LSD back in my day. Eventually, the idiots end up on heroin or some other hard drug they can't break the habit of. Then their whole life dissolves into where the next fix is coming from, and they don't give a fart for any bugger they have to hurt to get it.
I've smoked my share of grass in my younger days, and I've even taken more than a few trips to never-never land on LSD, in my time. However, I'd kept my eyes open, and I seen what hard drugs had done to some of my peers. At a fairly young age I'd made a conscious decision that that was never going to be a path I'd follow.
The odd thing was that Elvira instinctively appeared to know that I'd lived on the edge of society at one time. I'd been a card-carrying hippie for a few years; Elvira still was a bit of a bohemian. Perhaps she saw something in my demeanour that most other people didn't.
"With any luck, she'll be back next week," Elvira said. "Abigail was the model for that sketch of mine you appreciated so much; I'm sure she will manage to inspire your hand."
I'll be honest, I left the studio that evening wondering what the hell I had let myself in for, and whether I'd bother to return the next week. But as Elvira had my cheque for a hundred quid by then, I figured I'd most likely be back.
The following week a young man had strutted into the studio just after we'd arrived. He promptly divested himself of the dressing gown he had been wearing before Elvira even asked him to.
I must admit that he had been blessed with a fine body and some reasonably impressive tackle, which promptly brought embarrassed giggles from some of the younger, female students. A couple of decidedly effeminate looking guys who were also in the class sent admiring glances his way as well.
Taking up a pose, the sitter stared at one particular, very pretty, young woman. She appeared so embarrassed by his attention that she turned a bright shade of pink, and couldn't bring herself to look his way at all. Shortly after the session began, Elvira stepped in and, with a wink in my direction, got the young lady to exchange easels with one of the two gay guys I mentioned just now. The sitter was then lumbered, he'd already picked his spot in the room to stare at, and every time his eyes wandered elsewhere, one of the students would ask him to return to his pose.
I do enjoy watching an arrogant little shit coming unstuck. So, in a way it was a fun evening from my point of view. Although, one again, not a very artistically inspiring one.
I was really wondering, how the hell I'd been talked into going to those bleeding classes by the time I got home that evening. But Elvira had apologised to me that Abigail hadn't been able to show up again. By that time, Elvira's raving on about Abigail had begun to get to me. Consequently, there was little chance that I'd cut my losses and throw the course up until she had shown at least once.
The third week I was enjoying a joke about the male model from the week before with one of the gay guys, when his attention suddenly strayed. I looked around and discovered that ghostly figure in a long off-white dressing gown, topped by somewhat tussled tresses very dark hair had entered the studio.
"Oh, goody Abigail is back. Jerry, you're going to love her; you've never seen such a gorgeous body in your whole life!"
I'm not sure what kind of a look I gave the guy. Come on, he was an out of the closet and totally in your face homosexual. But he was enthusing about this Abigail's figure.
"Oh, come on, Jerry. You have to admit that boy last week had a beautiful body; all rippling muscles, in just the right places."
"Yeah well, he was well built; but he didn't do anything for me personally." Was the best I could bring myself to reply, more to placate the guy than anything else. He and his boyfriend might have thought the male model ... inspiring, but naked men don't do anything for me.
"Well, Norman and I are allowed to appreciate a beautiful female body when we see one." The guy grinned back at me. "Unlike you though, we wouldn't necessarily want to take it to bed with us. But, we know how to appreciate beauty in all its forms when we see it."
Whilst I had been talking to whatever his name was, Elvira had introduced Abigail to the other new members of the class. I noticed that Abigail kept her eyes down; as far as I could make out, she didn't look directly at anyone. When she eventually did turn my way for a second, I was somewhat disappointed that her long black hair almost completely obscured Abigail's face. I also had to admit, there was something about the woman that immediately got to me; even if she was almost completely shrouded by her hair and that dressing gown.
Maybe I should point out here that I'd been a little self-conscious on my first evening. Much to Elvira's amusement, I had chosen myself an easel tucked away in a corner.
The chaise longue was back on the dais in the middle of the studio. The previous week, the young stud had made do with a chair that he put one foot on. Abigail actually sat on the chaise longue with her dressing gown still on, only divesting herself of the garment when Elvira asked her to.
The thought struck me that Abigail wasn't exactly comfortable in her chosen profession. There was an air of vulnerability about her, which for some reason told me she was there by force of circumstance, not by choice.
In her first pose, Abigail had her back to me, so I still didn't get a good look at her face.
Odd that, even at that time, I was aware that I hadn't seen her face properly, but it was bugging me for some reason. It's funny, but the quick glance I had of it, when she was being introduced ... well, it had stirred me somehow.
Hey look, we're talking artistically here. I'm doing my best to explain what I felt at the time.
Using charcoal, I did my best to sketch Abigail's wonderful figure, even if it was from the back. Well three-quarters from the rear, but kind-of head on at the same time. My perspective was somewhat odd, it was of Abigail's rear, and slightly from above if she had been standing.
"Oh my, I knew that with the right sitter for inspiration, you'd show me you had talent." Elvira spoke over my shoulder after I'd been sketching away for about five or ten minutes.
I think I actually jumped at the sound of her voice. To tell you the truth, I'd completely lost track of time, and just about everything else, as I worked on my sketch. My whole world had become the model Abigail, and the piece of art paper on my easel. I stepped back and sure enough, I'd created a wonderful work of art with my own hand.
Hey, this might be a subjective opinion, but that picture still hangs on my wall at home. I'm proud to show it off to anyone and everyone, and I've been offered a good few bob for it on more than one occasion. Mind you, often my wife would cringe when that picture came up as a subject of discussion.
Before I'd had time to reply, Elvira had moved on to the next student. It took me just a second or two to get back into my creative mind.
But it seemed to me that no sooner than I had, than Elvira called a temporary halt to proceedings. She announced that we'd take a short break before Abigail took up her second pose. Abigail had promptly covered her nakedness with the dressing gown the instant Elvira spoke.
I must admit, I was still adding little finishing touches to my sketch from memory during the short break, taking no notice of what was happening in the room.
Elvira brought me back to the present with a jolt when she asked, "Are you ready, Jerry?"
"Yes, sorry," I blustered, as I hurriedly changed the paper on my easel.
Looking at the model Abigail again, I was somewhat surprised to see the chaise longue turned around on the small dais in the middle of the room. Actually, it's quite possible that the whole damned dais had been rotated whilst I wasn't watching.
Whatever, I was now viewing Abigail from the front. What's more, she'd divested herself of that dressing gown again. But that long dark, no, jet—black hair hung down and still covered more than half of what looked to me like an exquisite face. However, maybe because I was so inexplicably aware of Abigail's embarrassment, I didn't ask her to brush the hair aside.
Someone else did however. Well ... then, time kinda stopped for me. Abigail moved the hair from her face with a gentle sweep of her hand and my jaw dropped almost to the floor. The piece of charcoal I was holding actually did, where it shattered into a thousand pieces.
I really could not believe what I was seeing. "It can't be!" A little voice shouted in my mind. Then, very slowly, I lowered my sight line until it fell upon Abigail's left breast. Sure enough, there it was, by then no longer hidden by her hair. A tattoo in the shape of a star, it had the five delicate lines emanating from the spaces between the points.
"Holy mother of god, Starshine, what in heaven's name are you doing here?" That same voice demanded in my mind somewhere.
In that instant, I found that I was having trouble breathing. Well to be honest, possibly I'd had such a shock that I'd forgotten to breathe.
I think I almost keeled over before I got myself, and my emotions, under some semblance of control again. Placing one hand on the easel to steady myself, I struggled to get a grip on my thoughts and those emotions.
There was no doubt in my mind that Abigail wasn't Abigail at all. She was in fact Ursula -- er, shit, well I had never known her surname. To be honest, I'd only discovered that her real name was Ursula by chance. Back in those days, Abigail went by the name of Starshine.
Hold on, not even that is true. She had been just plain Star until I paid to have a birthmark she was so conscious of, covered with that tattoo of a shining star.
From that day onwards, she'd become Starshine to me. You know, like the line in the song from 'Hair'. Every morning when we woke up in the same bed together, I would greet her with the words "Good Morning Starshine!" And then we'd ... Now, I'll leave that to your imagination.
You have to understand what it was like back then. Starshine and I were ... Well bugger-it, we were hippies. Hey no, not your usual British weekend type hippies, but the real thing. Or as close as you could get to being a flower child or hippie back then and still live in the UK.
Along with a crowd of hippie friends, we lived in a commune down in Dorsett. Actually, the place belonged to some titled bloke who'd inherited it from his old man. Still, he claimed he was a believer and hippie at heart. He dressed the part anyway. Lord, or whatever he was, or not, he kinda fitted in with the rest of us just fine.
We were inclined to be a bit open-minded where he was concerned, because the bugger never asked for any rent and I assume, paid all the bills.
Possibly, the fact that he was getting laid regularly was why he never asked for any rent from anyone. I guess he must have laid nearly all the females there at one time or another, even Starshine.
It was a bit of an odd set-up even for a hippie community. The Lord guy tried make out that the place was some kind of a religious establishment. Thinking back, he was probably trying to find his way around taxes or something. Religious organisations in the UK can register as charities, and then get themselves some tasty tax breaks.
I know you might have trouble understanding this, but we all believed in, and practised, free love back then. If you fancied a female and she fancied you, well you just got on with it; anywhere, anytime you wanted to.
Yeah well, that was all right until Starshine, or Star as she was back then, and I got together. Sparks flew that first evening we shared a bed and we knew we were destined to be together. After that night we withdrew from the free love bit most of the time. But if there was a party going on, then sometimes with each other's nod of approval that is, we'd let loose.
Actually, with hindsight, that was probably most weekends, when visitors or part-time hippies turned up with some decent weed, or maybe something a little stronger. Even in those days, it was all down to how much cash you had.
Don't go turning your nose up, I told you earlier that it was a different world back then. Starshine and I were living in a hippie society that believed in free love. I fear that the world will never be able to see the likes of those times again.
I feel I need to point out here that convention has drawn an unnatural correlation between sex and love, or being in love with another person. That isn't actually the case in nature. The sex act releases certain endorphins into the participants' systems that give them pleasure. Unfortunately, all too often, this happening can be mistaken for love; but it's just the natural result of two people having sex.
When you are "in love" with someone, just their very presence, and/or touching them, will give you the same feeling of pleasure those endorphins produce. In consequence, when the two of you do have sex, you get double (or even more) the pleasure for your money, so to speak.
Close observation of people will nearly always tell you whether they are truly in love. Often, they will defy convention by touching each other at regular intervals. Not in a sexual way, they just have a need to touch when they are close. They very often hold hands when out walking. By choice, they will sit very close and make eye contact with each other. Actually, they are having private little conversations with their eyes.
I can explain no further. If you've never been there, then I doubt you will understand. Take it from me; "Sex" and "Love" are not the same thing. For those of us who took part, the hippie era was an experiment in discarding that convention and many others.
Let's see, I've wandered off the subject a little. Oh yeah, the commune. Well, it will probably sound like a strange place to most people. Everyone there was equal. You entered with no history; your past was of no interest to anyone. How you related to the rest of the commune family was what counted. Everyone had their one name; no surnames and most didn't even use the one they'd been brought up with. I've got to admit that once you entered our particular community full time, most folks kinda became estranged from their birth families.
I think that was possibly a result of the sect mentality the guy who owned the place tried to promote.
Starshine and I had been together for about a year when disaster struck the commune.
Some visitor guy, who I vaguely knew, had given me a lift into town early that morning. For many years I'd thought possibly to collect my dole money, I just couldn't remember. For the life of me, I couldn't remember why Starshine hadn't come along that day either.
Anyway, we were nearing the commune on the return journey, when a figure ran out into the road to flag us down. Moonbeam, gave us the unwelcome news that the police had turned up in force to raid the commune.
I suppose I'd better explain that some members of the commune weren't averse to doing a little gardening. If it had mind-bending properties, and could be grown in the UK, (or one of the greenhouses in the walled garden), then some bugger with green fingers was sure to be growing it.
Moonbeam informed us, that she'd been in the woods hunting for mushrooms, when she'd spotted the police arriving. She had hidden amongst the trees and watched as the police arrested and carted away everyone at the house. Moonbeam also warned us that other police officers were hanging around the place ready to nab anyone who returned to the house.
"Starshine?" I'd asked.
"I think she got away; I'm sure I saw her going over the back wall, before the police spotted her. I don't believe they got her anyway. They certainly never got Apollo. I saw him riding off on that motorbike he keeps hidden in the woods. I'm pretty sure it was Star on it with him."
Like everyone else in the commune, I'd known about Apollo's motorcycle. Not everyone in the place embraced the ideal that, what belonged to one belonged to all. I, for instance, was very protective of my old, and very much battered, guitar. No one, except Starshine, who I was teaching to play, ever dared lay finger upon the hallowed instrument.
Of course, Moonbeam had no idea where Star and Apollo had gone. You know we had never discussed, or even contemplated that the police would raid the commune. Starshine and I had never made any plans about what we would do in that eventuality.
Well, the "upper crusts" mansions weren't raided often. Having a handle to your name kinda raised most of them above the law. Well, that was the way most people saw it back then.
We hadn't taken into account that the establishment was more than a little frightened of the hippie movement, and had decided to do its best to crush it, and the lifestyle.
It was obvious to us that Moonbeam and myself could not return to the commune, or we'd both be arrested as well. So we abandoned our gear in the house, including my beloved guitar. The guy drove us to another commune we knew of, about thirty miles away. I thought that there might be a chance Starshine and Apollo could have gone there.
Nobody at that commune had seen either Star or Apollo, but they were able to suggest several other groups that they might have headed for. The next morning our driver, buggered if I can even remember his commune name now, drove on to the next nearest one. Then he had return to life in ... well, in the real world I suppose.
I suppose I'd better explain the use of commune names to you, as best I can. Well, by that time the powers that be were been giving all of us nonconformists a little strife. Using aliases around the commune made it a little harder for the police to keep track of us. If you didn't know someone's real name, then you can't let it slip under police questioning.
Well that was the general theory. It made a lot of sense where the guys who grew and manufactured all the mind-bending substances that were a major part of the lifestyle were concerned. Everybody else used aliases, because they liked using them; unconventional names added to the confusion and made us different. The weirdo guy who owned that particular house was particularly keen on them.
Moonbeam and I spent the next six months to a year, touring every commune in the south of the country; but no one reported having seen neither hide nor hair of Starshine or Apollo. It was as if they had dropped off the face of the earth. Well, hippie earth anyway.
Of course, there was the chance that Starshine and Apollo had changed their names, but I somehow doubted they'd do that. As far as I was aware neither had done anything illegal; except maybe participating in the odd hallucinogenic happening.
All that either could possibly be arrested for was possession of illegal substances, and only then, if they were actually carrying some when they were picked up.
I don't know exactly when the fun went out of living the hippie lifestyle for me. Maybe it was because I'd lost Starshine and I got fed-up with being broke all the time. Travelling around the country trying to find her cost Moonbeam and I nearly every penny we could lay our hands on. Maybe the fun went out of it for Moonbeam first because she was the one who got the job at the caravan site.
Moonbeam's job was to clean the caravans and prepare them for the next crowd of holidaymakers. The job came with a caravan for Moonbeam to live and, I kinda came along with Moonbeam. Mind you, it wasn't long before I was roped in and on the payroll. I was very quickly conned into watching the amusement hall. Basically, to Lord-it over a lot of little shit school kids, and make sure they behaved themselves in the arcade.
To be honest, the laid-back hippie persona served me very well; most of the kids were frightened stiff of me. God alone knows what kind of stories their parents had been feeding them about hippies.
At the end of that summer, Moonbeam and I moved into a cheap flat together. You'll gather that Moonbeam and I had become a sort-of couple by then.
Only the relationship was nothing that you might describe as heavy, more a kind of very small two-person commune. We were very close friends who happened to live together and share the same bed. The situation didn't strike either Moonbeam or myself as out of the ordinary at the time. Especially after the way we had been living for the previous few years.
During that winter, shortage of cash became a real bind for us. So eventually I took up the offer of a permanent proper job that had been offered to me some years before, when I left college. The drawback with taking the position, was that it required me to move back to the city. It also require a marked change my appearance to conform with office culture.
Look, my one purpose in life at that time was to track down Starshine. That called for me to have some cash in my pocket. Sometimes circumstance forces one to forgo their principles.
Moonbeam didn't have much difficulty in finding a good position that suited her talents as either. She toned down her appearance and reverted to her legal name, Susan Wilson. Moonbeam would have raised too many eyebrows around the office in those days.
Later still, Susan reconciled with her family, something I didn't get around to doing for many years. My folks had always been extremely conservative; consequently I'd been branded the black sheep of the family, when I taken up the hippie lifestyle.
Susan and I lived together in that flat for nearly three years, and for almost all of that time, her parents were pushing us to get hitched. That was something we both knew would never happen, because Susan and I didn't feel that way about each other. We were what are nowadays sometimes termed, "friends with benefits".
Eventually though the day came. The wheel of life always keeps turning.
"Jerry, are you awake?" Susan asked quietly after a particularly energetic session in bed one night.
"Knackered, but certainty awake. I think I need a little more rest before we go again, girl."
"No, it's not that. I was thinking!"
Susan had said the most dangerous words that can every come from a females mouth, "I was thinking". She's certainly grabbed my attention.
"You remember John, the new guy in the office I told you about?"
Now sometimes I'm not as dumb as I look. Taking into consideration exactly where Susan and I were at that precise moment, and what we had just been doing. There could only be one reason that Susan would bring up the subject of the new guy at her office.
I asked the question that I feared I already ready knew the answer to.
"Has he asked you out yet?"
"No, but he's showing all the right signs. You know, he gets all flustered whenever he has to talk to me. I think he's building up the courage to."
"We'd better move all your gear into the other bedroom a bit sharpish then."
"I love you, Jerry. You're so sweet to me."
"And I love you Sue. You're my best friend in the world."
"It's such a damn shame that we just love each other, and are not in love with each other, isn't it? You know I would marry you tomorrow if it weren't for Star. You've been in love with her ever since I've known you."
"Yeah, I guess I am. I wonder if I'll ever find her again. Anyway, I hope it works out for you with this John geezer, Susan."
"Well if it doesn't, I know who I can rely on to lend me a shoulder to cry on."
"I'll always be here for you, Moonbeam. You were there for me. We'll move your gear first thing."
"No, leave it until the weekend; I don't think John's ready to ask me out just yet."
Susan captured her pray without having to make a song and dance about it. I think the poor guy had been in love with Susan from the moment he'd laid eyes on her. I can't say that I blamed him; Susan was very easy on the eye. Whatever, Once John had got up the gumption to ask Susan out, thing went at a hell of a pace.
Theirs could be described as whirlwind romance that ran so fast, that I could hardly keep up with it. I was still a bit laid-back about life and not in a hurry anything about back then.
I never did discovered whether Susan's husband, John Phelps, worked out how close a relationship Susan and I had enjoyed. Or what our living arrangements had been before he came on the scene. An unrelated mixed gender couple sharing a flat was unusual in those days. But John appeared happy with the fact that we had separate bedrooms, with locks on the doors.
What the poor bugger made of it later when his loving and apparently extremely conservative wife insisted on christening their daughter Cynthia, Moonbeam, Starshine, Phelps, I have no idea. He seemed to accept the idea that Susan chose me as godfather without comment. Mind you, I had a good job in the city by then and I suspect that a lot of people thought I was pretty conservative type.
I really would love to have been a fly on the wall when Susan told John that their son's name was going to be Griffith Pogo Phelps; I know he objected to Pogo. Whatever, Susan obviously won that argument.
I suppose I was at a bit of a loose end once Susan had got married to John. I'd been out of the dating game for so long ... Hey come on, I hadn't dated a woman since my teenage years. Once I turned hippie — well, we didn't date actually. We just had "Happenings" where you got high and kind of circulated when you got the inclination.
For all the time that Starshine were together, we never went on anything that could vaguely described as a date. We kinda gravitated towards each other until we were one.
Anyway, in the next few years I made a few mistakes. Probably the biggest one was Claire. I think I told you earlier she was a real looker and we were fantastic in bed together. Outside the sack, we were like chalk and cheese. Susan saw our differences from the beginning and tried to warn me. But I'm afraid my little brain was probably doing most of the thinking back then. Remember, I was missing Moonbeam's company.
Odd when you think about it, at that time in my life the longest relationship I'd had was with a woman I had nothing in common with. I certainly couldn't have been in love with her, well not by the end anyway. It was ordained that the relationship was going to fall apart eventually.
I wonder how many other people find themselves in that situation?
Anyway, back to the art studio where I had suddenly found myself staring at that tattoo on the side of Starshine's left breast. Sorry, Abigail, she was Abigail in that studio.
When I looked at Abigail's eyes again, I saw that she'd fixed her gaze on some point high on the wall. Having recognised her, I suppose my first thought was, "Why hasn't she recognised me?"