Now and again a particular song will suddenly grab my attention and just will not let go again. One morning recently I heard Nell Bryden's "Not Like Loving You" on the radio. I had heard the song before, but that day it just got to me. I knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything until I'd tried to write a short story around it. I hope I've done it, although I had to take a few small liberties with the lyrics. However, anyone who knows the song well should be able to pick them out in the same order they appear in the song. I'll admit that it leads to some pretty tortuous and confusing reading at one particular point in the story. But it is supposed to be a woman speaking at that point, so the average male will probably be able to understand it just as much as he does any other female when she speaks.
I thank my friends Sue, Angel and PapaGus for their assistance in preparing this short tale for posting.
I was hanging around Dallas/Fort Worth International airport. Having flown in from the west coast on an earlier plane, I was waiting for a flight to New York to catch my London plane later in the day.
I'd been visiting my sister in Sydney and, to be honest, things had gone a little awry on me. Out of laziness and overconfidence (I'd never had a problem before) I'd left booking my return flights until the last very minute. Only to discover that all flights from Sydney to London were fully booked for several days.
For contractual reasons I really needed to be back in the UK pretty smartish, so I'd been forced to make the journey in numerous hops on several different airlines. In brief my journey had been a bloody nightmare so far, and it looked like the rest of it was going to be the same way, even though I wasn't travelling tourist.
I'd exhausted all my reading matter on the flight from Sydney the day before and neglected to think about buying some more in San Francisco. Yeah well, I overslept and after the rushing to the airport, barely wangling my way onto my flight. I'd been lucky that an apparently influential official, who was by chance a fan (poor deluded soul), had recognised me and pulled some strings somewhere.
It had cost me, but a few pleasant words. And the promise of an autographed photograph, with a personal dedication, would be in the post the instant I got back to the UK. Not the sort of tactics I like to resort to, but needs must where the devil drives.
For some time by then, I'd been attempting to distance myself from the music industry and its associated celebrity. Eventually the glitter wears off notoriety for most people, well for me anyway. Fame and fortune have their benefits, but for every good thing they bring to your life, they can take away as much if not more.
Anyway I'm telling you all this just to explain why I was wandering around Dallas airport looking for something interesting to read. Eventually I found a bookstore and was perusing the stands for something to while away the hours during the rest of my convoluted journey home
I prefer to bury myself in a book when flying; it stops fans, or rather ex-fans, (or the "guess who we met on the plane" types) from asking for my autograph, or even dragging me into conversation about how things used to be, when I was on my way up in the music business.
I'd kind of accepted long before that I was a has-been by then, and I just wanted a little privacy back in my life.
Hey, I had nothing, or almost nothing, to feel sorry for myself about. I'd had more than my fair share of fame, and fortune. And being the cautious kind of a bloke that I am, I'd invested my earnings wisely. I would be able to live out the rest of my life in a little more affluent comfort than most people.
Some of the rest of the guys in the band, who had lived the high life, couldn't afford not to keep on touring around ever smaller and smaller venues, just to be able to feed themselves, or maybe their habit. I'd quit the band a couple of years previous, when our record sales began to take a dive.
I must have glanced up from the shelves loaded with mundane paperbacks for a moment. Because suddenly and quite unexpectedly, in the far distance, I caught sight of a figure that I thought I recognised. Not for the first time by the way, my eyes had often mistaken innocent females for the woman my unconscious mind was always looking for.
I had actually run into her on a couple of occasions. But as luck would always have it, she had always been hanging on the arm of her current beau. I knew from the gossip columns, that she'd been officially shacked-up with the guy for a good year or so by then. But even then, she was invariably described as having been my one time partner. I should imagine that must have got right up the guys nose sometimes; I know that it would have mine.
Pretending to be studying some paperback, I watched the figure out of the corner of my eye as she herself strolled towards the same bookstore, eventually stopping, to thumb through a magazine rack out front.
"You're not mistaken this time; that definitely is Nellie!" a little voice insisted in the back of my head somewhere.
"It can't be," my conscious mind argued, "wrong part of the country!"
"So what, you're in Dallas and you should be in New York. What's to say that Nellie isn't on a bloody mystery tour as well?"
With my heart in my throat, I walked around the display stand that I been all but hiding behind, to get a clearer look at the young woman. I noted that unlike a couple of the others, she was not featured on the front cover of the particular magazine she was thumbing through.
Having convinced myself that it was indeed Nell, I cautiously approached closer, then asked, "Nellie?"
She looked up from the magazine she was holding and promptly took a step backwards, surprise clearly visible in her eyes.
"Mitch! My god, what are you doing here?"
"Trying to get from Sydney to London. There was a bit of a cock-up over the flight arrangements and I appear to be making a mystery tour of the US on the way. I'm only here for and hour or so, to change planes."
"Yeah well, same here. I'm trying to get down to Florida, but ... well our plane had a problem and had to put down here. Then it was withdrawn from service completely so that has put the cat amongst the pigeons. I'm supposed to be in Miami for a photo shoot first thing in the morning. They've managed to wangle me onto another flight, later today."
"God knows why it's so busy at the moment. I couldn't get a seat on a direct flight from San Francisco to New York until Sunday. And Frisco ain't my scene at the best of times. Besides the boys in the band have a royalty dispute going with our old manager. I really should be there when it goes in front of a judge."
For a few seconds we stood there, staring at each other in silence. I scratched around for something, anything, to say.
"Have you eaten?" I eventually found myself asking.
"Yes, I had a salad on the plane."
"Well, airline food isn't enough to get by on Nell."
"I'm on a diet Mitch, there was plenty enough for me."
"Oh yeah, I forgot, you don't eat much; hardly enough to keep a bloody rabbit alive. A drink then- maybe a coffee or something?"
Boy was I scraping the bottom of the barrel. There was so much I wanted to say and that I dare not. And that I didn't know how to put into words anyway. Really, I knew that the time for "talking" between Nellie and I, had slipped right between my fingers, several years before.
"Coffee would be nice. I doubt you'd get a proper cup of tea here."
"No, not something I'd ever risk. I wonder if the Yanks will ever understand tea?"
"I doubt it. Weren't it them, who came up with the tea bag idea in the first place?
"Probably," I replied.
Nellie and I were ... well, we were waffling, trying our hardest not to show hostility towards each other, and to find anything to talk about, but ourselves and our past together. I have no idea why we do that with old lovers or sweethearts, but I'd heard other people doing the same thing in the past.
"You know, it's a real pain getting a proper cup of tea even in London nowadays," Nellie was saying as we arrived at an empty table.
"You've been over recently? I thought you lived in California now?" I replied as we seated ourselves on opposite sides of said table.
"We do, but I popped over to see my mum and dad last month. They asked after you, you know. They always do."
"I liked your mum and dad, no side to them."
"Yeah well, they like you to. Maybe you should drop in and see them sometime. You still live in London, don't you?"
Maybe unintentionally on Nellie's part, but she was straying very close to a taboo area, but I let her lead the way.
"Nope, Nell. I dropped right out of the scene when I left the band. I've got myself a nice little cottage down in the New Forest nowadays. Suits me just fine. I can make as much noise as I want, and enjoy the piece and quiet the rest of the time."
"Sounds lovely, I'd love to see it."
I wanted to say, "Pop in sometime when you're passing yourself, I'd love for you to see it as well." But I knew that Nell would never do that. After all, she was shacked up with lover boy -- a hot, film star heartthrob -- and living the high life in Southern California. So I let the comment slide by; then I threw the ball back into Nellie's court.
"So how's life in the Californian sun? You and..." I purposefully didn't say the bugger's name, "gadding about at all the right Hollywood parties all the time, are we?"
"When he's in the country yes; you could say that." It struck me that Nell hadn't used his name either. "He's in Africa at the moment, making his next blockbuster movie."
An odd expression came on Nellie's face, one that I couldn't decipher.
"Good on him! Loads of dosh?" I enquired.
I didn't really want to know. Even my sarcastically expressed sentiment, was a lie, by the way.
"Don't all his films clean-up at the box office?"
Considering how close we'd once been, and for how long; it unnerved me more than a little, to discover that I was having difficulty interpreting Nell's facial expressions.
"Don't know, Nell, I've never seen one!" I replied, a little sharply, I suspect.
Nellie gave me another strange look that I really couldn't understand. I'm not sure; maybe a sort of curious expression had come over her face.
"Never, not even one of his films?"
"Ah, well now, I have seen films in which he's been in the supporting cast. But I appear to have a phobia about mere thought of him making love to a woman. I'm afraid seeing him slobbering all over some hot little starlet on the big screen. Well no ... That just ain't my scene!"
A half smile came on Nellie's face. Now that was one expression I could recognise, and I was pleased to see it, for a brief moment.
"Mitch! I do believe you're jealous?"
I should imagine that on hearing those words my own expression took a dive. I'm not the sort of guy who can keep a poker face, even when I try.
"Come on, Nellie, what have I got to be jealous about. You an' me, we have been over for years now! No, I've just never taken to the bugger. Okay, when the press always bring my name into it when they talk about you and him being an item, it does get up my nose some. But that's got nothing to do with me thinking he's a ... No, he's your life partner now. It wouldn't be right of me to go on about him to you."
"Well, the press always bring your name into it, because you so publicly punched him on the nose in that Paris nightclub."
"Yeah well, I was jealous back then. You hadn't long ditched me."