Find the Lady The End.


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  1. #1

    Find the Lady The End.

    Find the Lady The End.


    On Friday morning I turned to the prospect of playing the roll of Harvey’s sister over in my mind. The appeal of the charade was obviously suited to his warped sense of humour. If I arrived in a little check dress, my hair in plats and a toothy smile it would make his day. No chance, you want a sister Harvey? Right you’re going to get one.

    I flicked through the Yellow Pages and found a Macs in Foubert’s Place and booked in for a late Saturday cosmetic makeover. The hair do appointment was a bit of a pain but I eventually got lucky with a late cancellation.
    Next the dress, which meant shopping today, oh bliss, Regents and Oxford Street, sheer bloody heaven but I wasn’t kidding myself, what I had in mind would exhaust much of Aunt Doreen’s legacy, though in truth life in the big city was beginning to loose its appeal. London can be a pretty lonely place when you’re on your own and I was beginning to feel the pull of homesickness.
    So it’s back to the farm in the fold of the Sussex downs. Mid April and the larks would be stirring on the whale back hills.
    Stop that I told myself, there’s still one more throw of the dice and time enough for nostalgia on the train home.

    I took the tube to Oxford Circus and joined the hustle of humanity making their way towards the curve up to Piccadilly, passing a group of Chinese tourists, chattering and giggling like a gaggle of hyper excited gerbils. Americans of assorted shapes and ages were talking loudly to each other and one elderly guy in a Stetson hat was engaged in a conversation with a patient policeman who was trying to explain to him why Walmart’s had yet to invade our shores.
    I’ll spare you my shopping, it took four hours. Over a coffee I checked my purchases trying hard to ignore the price tickets. The dress was a two tone red, cut above the knee and the neckline just low enough to be of interest. There were tiny little pleats from the waist down that wiggled when you walked; Nice! A small envelope evening bag, shoes of course, pendant earrings and a Jaeger long line coat.

    I treated myself to a taxi home and rang Harvey.
    “Where and when are you picking me up tomorrow?”
    “Oh lets see; the performance ends around ten then say about a half an hour to change, no, make that three quarters. I’ll pick you up ten forty five”
    “Where?”
    “Nuvo’s coffee shop will still be open, it’s in Cannon Street, do you know it?”
    “No but I’ll get a taxi”
    “Ok, they’ve rented the whole upper floor in L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon so don’t come in your jeans”
    “Thank you Harvey, I’m sure I can find an old frock somewhere”
    “Right, ten forty five then. Bye”

    I spent the evening down at the Swan; there are times when your own company is bad company.
    Around eight thirty a guy lifted the lid on the piano and began to rattle the keys he was joined by a banjo player and a ‘knees up’ began.
    It certainly wasn’t my music but it so suited the setting that as the evening progressed I found my feet tapping along to the old London songs. I remember Ma at one point walking to the end of the bar and called out to the pianist.
    “Joe, ladies present, so we are not having the ‘Two old gals from Camden Town’ are we”?
    “No Ma”
    “No”
    I had left it far later leaving than I intended, I was walking to the door when Sue called me over.
    “Your not walking home by yourself are you?”
    “It’s only a few minutes walk”
    “No, I’ll call dad, we’ll see you home”
    It had never occurred to me that Ma had a husband, I certainly hadn’t seen him and I was in for a shock. What emerged from the door at the back of the bar was a man mountain.
    “Dad this is Chris, Chris my dad”
    My hand disappeared into the depths of his great paw.
    “Come on girl” it growled “We’ll get you home safe and sound”
    Of course, I mean anyone messing with this gorilla would have had to be been brain dead. They saw me right to the door of my flat before we said our goodnights.
    As I cuddled down that night under the duvet, I thought of Sue, her Ma and Pa and wondered how long it would be until their little world was smothered under the expanding blanket march of commerce that had covered so much of this old city.


    Saturday dawned on one of those rare days of the early English spring when our thoughts turn to the approaching summer.
    As I took a morning walk along the Thames embankment, strangers were almost exchanging smiles with each other, almost but not quite; this is England after all..

    I arrived at the coffee bar that evening a few minutes late but of course Harvey was later. When at last he made his entrance he walked past me and stood looking around.
    “Harvey” I called, he turned.
    “Tuppence, Wow! You look absolutely stunning”
    “Thank you kind sir”
    “No I mean it, I wasn’t prepared for this; I’ve only seen you in Jeans and those scruffy cardie things you wear”
    “Don’t spoil it, shall we go?”

    L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon looked impressive from outside and didn’t disappoint from the inside. We climbed the stairway to the upper rooms and mingled with the crowd. A waiter approached with a tray of champagne; I’m not into alcohol but it seemed impolite to refuse so I took a glass.
    A skinny guy in a tuxedo came over.
    “Hi Harvey, I say where have you been hiding this little darling?”
    “Far away from you Crosby”
    “Oh, playing the knight in shinning armour are we”?
    Harvey lent over, their noses almost touching.
    “Piss off”
    “I’m going, I’m going”
    We found a side table for two and sat down
    “Harvey that wasn’t necessary; I am perfectly capable of handling situations like that”
    “I know you are Tuppence but I can’t stand that creep; he’s oilier than a can of sardines”
    “Anyway thank you” I smiled.
    A noisy crowd of teenagers and older females and males arrived on mass.
    “Ah good, the Corps de Ballet are here which means the hierarchy won’t be far behind; thank God for that I’m starving”
    “They all seem to be on very good terms with each other” I said.
    Harvey grinned.
    “Don’t let the hugs and kisses fool you, each and every one of them is competing against the rest. Not quite like the law of the jungle but not that much different”
    “Interesting, tell me more”
    “Ok give me a minute to gather myself for the lecture”
    “Harvey, get on with it”
    “Right here goes”
    “She is the most talented student in the local dance school. Her legs are long, her feet arched; her neck looks suitable for a potential swan. Her teacher encourages her parents to enter her in the audition for the Royal Ballet School. There are hundreds of children at the audition, but she gets in.
    Famous ballerinas are her idols, and posters of them adorn her bedroom walls. At 15 invited to join the company. Suddenly she is one of those glamorous creatures onstage: a swan, a peasant, a snowflake, an abstract moving body.
    She is ecstatic, her life’s dreams are realized; but there not.
    For the few who survive the gruelling competition, relentless discipline and mental pressure to make it into one of the world’s first-rank companies, this tale of recognized talent and continuing achievement frequently ends soon thereafter. The new company member is now just one of a hundred or so other brilliant talents. When the level is that high, the exceptional becomes ordinary, and the dancer discovers that perhaps she will not be a poster on bedroom walls”. She is invited to join the company. Suddenly she is one of those glamorous creatures onstage: a swan, a peasant, a snowflake, an abstract moving body.
    For the few who survive the gruelling competition, relentless discipline and mental pressure to make it into one of the world’s first-rank companies, this tale of recognized talent and continuing achievement frequently ends soon thereafter. The new company member is now just one of a hundred or so other brilliant talents. When the level is that high, the exceptional becomes ordinary, and the dancer discovers that perhaps she will not be a poster on bedroom walls.”

    “Thanks, you did that rather well, in I’m fact I’m wondering if you yourself were ever a dancer?
    “I was, but I fell at the second hurdle” he grinned self consciously.
    I reached out and took his hand. “Never mind, I bet you can still dance a fantastic Tango”
    He squeezed my hand “You’ll find out later” he smiled.
    I took a deep breath. Careful Tuppence, you could find yourself in a hopeless situation.
    Luckily the top table was making their entrance; the lone female in the centre of the group caught my attention. She walked in a manner which I can only describe as elegance in motion. Her face nagged at my memory strings; I had seen it before, but where?
    “Is that girl the dancer you told me about”?
    “Šarlota,? Yes, quite a dish isn’t she”
    “She reminds me of someone but I can’t figure out whom”
    Harvey grinned
    “Try an old movie”
    “Oh come on Harvey, don’t mess around”
    “Breakfast at Tiffanies”?
    “Yes of course, Audrey Hepburn. Harvey, I think I’ve found my role model”
    “You could do worse; Šarlota is a very nice lady and far better than some I could mention. I’ve never been invited to these kinds of shindigs before and she is paying the bill herself, some lady”
    I watched her and took notes between the four courses of the dinner which, typical of these high class restaurants, were small in portions but utterly delicious. Thankfully the after dinner speeches were short, Šarlota smiled but didn’t reply.
    “Damn”
    “Pardon?” said Harvey.
    “I’ve got to hear her speak, its important”
    “Oh she speaks excellent English”
    “That’s not the point”
    “Well the evenings not over yet, there’s bound to be some music for the young ones though I doubt whether Šarlota will stay long, she flies to Italy later tonight”

    As the heavy gang moved in to re-arrange the tables for the dance, Šarlota rose and made her way to the powder room. I couldn’t waste the chance; I gave her a minute or two then followed her.
    She was standing in front of one of the large ornate mirrors making a few minor adjustments to her make up. I walked over.
    “Hi I’m Chris, I’d just like to say thank you for a wonderful evening”
    “Chris”?
    “I came with Harvey”
    “Oh yes you’re his sister”
    “Well, no actually, I’m just a friend of his. Look, I know this will seem very forward of me but if you could spare a few minutes for a chat. It’s really important to me”
    The door opened and a crowd of giggling teens arrived.
    “Ok, but not here, the cocktail bar downstairs”?
    “That will be fine, thanks”
    “Give me a few minutes and I’ll meet you in there.”
    I thought the bar would be crowded but there were only three customers sitting on the bar stools. I took a seat on a side table at the far end. After a few minutes Šarlota arrived and sat down.
    “Sorry” she said “I had to make my excuses. So what was it you wanted to speak to me about?”
    I told her of the novel and my quest for a roll model for the heroine.
    “Oh, how interesting and have you found her?”
    “Yes, it’s you, if you don’t object of course”
    “Me! Why me”
    I smiled. “Because you tick all the boxes”
    She hunched her shoulders almost hugging her ears. Her expression was that of a small child who had been given her very first doll.
    “Oh, that’s so cool, is the novel to do with the Ballet?”
    “No, sorry I know next to nothing about ballet, never even been to a performance”
    “Oh that’s a pity”
    “Yes Harvey told me there’s a lot that goes on backstage; the emotion, the stress. In fact plenty of meat for a good plot and on reflection it’s far better than the one I’m struggling with but it would involve me in lots of research to be authentic so it’s back to the farm”
    Šarlota’s eyes widened “A farm, you live on a farm?”
    “Yes, on the Sussex Downs”
    “I too, it’s my home in Croatia. Oh, this is wonderful, we are both farm girls”
    We chatted on for fifteen minutes, farm talk, animals, our pets, and time flew by.
    Then Šarlota paused.
    “I have a request to make, but first a drink, what would you like?”
    “Oh, I’ll have whatever you’re having”
    “An Island Breeze then, its low on the calories” she whispered.
    We sipped our drinks for a while then she said
    “I have to fly to Milan tonight for the spring festival at La Scala, would you like to join me as my guest?”
    “Phew, you certainly know how to shock a girl but I really can’t—
    She leant across and placed her hand on my arm.
    “When I say a guest I mean as a friend. You see it’s so difficult for me to make friends of my own age. There are the girls in the Corps de Ballet of course but they are resident to the Opera House and to make a special friend of one would be so disruptive, the rest would think I was favouring her but you wouldn’t be seen as any threat to them. Please, say that you’ll come”
    “Give me a minute”
    I turned over the shock of Šarlota’s invitation in my mind. I could easily sell the lease on the flat; accommodation in London is at a premium and if necessary break into my reserve if things didn’t work out. So, a working holiday in Italy, why not?
    “How can I refuse, of course I’ll come but not for three or four days; I have a few things to clear up in London before I can leave”
    “Oh that’s wonderful, we’ll have such fun. I’ll write you a cheque for the plane ticket and spending money”
    I shook my head.
    “No, I’m coming as your friend, not a paid guest”
    She started to protest.
    “No, and now we are friends you can call me Tuppence”
    “Tuppence?”
    I smilled.
    “Nickname given by my dad, my last name is Penny and I have a elder brother so two pennies in our old money were called Tuppence, silly name I know but its sort of stuck”
    Šarlota looked at her watch.
    “I must go; we have to exchange our phone numbers, ring me when your plane arrives and a car will be there to take you to the hotel”
    We exchanged phone numbers stood up and hugged each other.
    “I’m so happy, I have to do my Bar work in the morning but I will be free from eleven o’clock, you will come won’t you”
    I smiled and nodded.
    “We’ll have a great time” I said.

    I was on my second cocktail when Harvey found me.
    “Guess what”
    I told him of my date with Šarlota in Milan.
    “I can’t believe her” I said. “She has the world at her feet and in many ways she is like a young child and a lonely one too.”
    Harvey grinned. “She is surrounded by middle age people who are intent on keeping her tight in a comfort cage and you my sweet have the key to set her free. Wait to you see her dance. Really Tuppence, you’re like a cat”
    “A what?”
    “A cat, no matter how high you fall you will always land on your feet”

    I easily sold the lease on the flat in two days and spent my last night at the Swan with Harvey, laughter and tears.
    Harvey carried my bags to the station. As my train arrived he hugged me and kissed my cheek. I put my hands to his head, found his lips and lingered there.
    As the train pulled out I remember Harvey standing on the platform looking after me with a touch of bewilderment on his face.

  2. #2
    Strange title and after reading the story, the lack of emotion, conflict, struggle, resolution, are missing and so is a story. This is a narration of events that end with nothing. If this is part of a longer piece it should be perhaps labeled as Part I and ended at a point that leaves the reader wanting more. This piece just ends ... nothing ventured here and nothing gained or lost. The only grammatical problem I saw was the following: Next the dress, which meant shopping today, oh bliss, Regents and Oxford Street, sheer bloody heaven but I wasn’t kidding myself, what I had in mind would exhaust much of Aunt Doreen’s legacy, though in truth life in the big city was beginning to (loose-lose) its appeal. Along with creating a super-run-on sentence you have a spelling error, in this case an easy one to make. It would also help and gain you more readers if you edited this piece, created grammatically correct paragraphs and separated them with a space between each one. It makes for easier and more enjoyable reading. Enjoyable reading is one of the main reasons we writers write, don't you agree? JB

  3. #3
    Member Shemp's Avatar
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    I agree with captflash76, especially the last part. White space is your friend, use paragraphs.

    I would add, that misspelled words in the first sentence of a story is a repellent. ( roll should be role ) It can give some readers a clue that they're in for a rocky reading experience. They may choose to quit, before becoming invested in the story.

  4. #4
    Thanks for reading, the next time I’ll find someone to kill.

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