O' for the love of Shakespeare (7 page)

BOOK: O' for the love of Shakespeare
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“But she let you down at the last minute?  Wait
hang on, it’s your birthday tomorrow and you are here all on your own?”  He
turns his body so that he is facing me.

“Yes but that’s fine it’s not as bad as I
thought being away on my own.”  Especially being able to spend time with you,
you gorgeous gorgeous man.

“Well you must let me take you out tomorrow to
celebrate your Birthday, no one should spend their birthday alone.  I’m working
in the evening but do you think I could take you out for lunch?  I know a nice
restaurant that I think you would like?”  I cannot believe he actually wants to
see me again.  I sit staring at him for several seconds before I realise that I
have not given an answer.

“Yes.”  Oops I think I shouted a little.  I
clear my throat and start again at a more appropriate volume level.  “Yes that
would be lovely thank you so much.” 

With one easy movement he stands and holds out
his hand to me in a gallant pose.  I giggle and place my hand in his standing
with his help.  I expect him to drop my hand as soon as I am on my feet but he
keeps hold of it.   I follow him our hands still wrapped together towards the
back of the gardens and I then I realise why he has pulled me to this part. 
There is a man dressed in Tudor clothing, the colours of the material are beautiful
shades of gold and deep reds.  In a strong loud voice, he recites the Sonnets
of Shakespeare.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”  He continues.

It is one of my favourite Sonnets.  The
beloved’s beauty will last forever not like a fleeting summer’s day.  By
describing their beauty in written word it preserves it forever through the Sonnet. 
I wish someone could show just a small fraction of this passion towards me.  I
must seem lost in thought as Ryan turns to me and squeezes my hand ever so

“You OK?” he mouths at me, not wanting to
disturb the performance.

I nod slowly in return; I cannot imagine a more
perfect moment standing listening to the most beautiful of words with the most
perfect of men standing by my side.  We walk back through the gardens and gift
shop.   I spot an apron that I want to buy for Vic that says ‘Be not afraid of
greatness’.  Vic is an awful cook but she thinks she is culinary mastermind so
it fits her perfectly.  I will come back later to get it for her.  When we get
back out on to the street Ryan lifts his arm to check the time on his watch.

“So can I cash in that I owe you for a tea
before I have to head off to work?”

“Yes of course.”  I spot some tables outside a
tea shop opposite the birthplace.  “Is over there OK?”

“Looks good.”  He places his hand on the small
of my back and guides me across the road.

“Do you want to find a table and I’ll go in? 
What would you like?”

“Just a tea please thanks.”

When I return to the table with two pots of tea
Ryan is leaning back on his chair, arms pulled up behind his head.  There are a
group of teenage girls standing just outside the birthplace but it appears Ryan
is the only masterpiece they are interested in.  They stand gawking and
giggling, occasionally whispering to each other.  Part of me thinks I would fit
in better going to stand with them rather than actually sitting with the
gorgeous actor.  With his shades on he looks like he should be adorning the
covers of a magazine advertising something or other.  All I know is whatever he’s
advertising I want it.  No one should look that good.  And he is waiting for
me.  How did that happen?

Sliding the tray on to the table I’m pleased
that at least this time I have managed not to spill anything.

“Thanks.”  Ryan leans forward and starts to go
about making his tea.  “So your friend is getting married, what about you?”

“I’m her Maid of Honour?”

Ryan laughs.  “No are you married, engaged,
living in sin?”

Oh.  “No none of that, it’s just me.”

“Just you?  I can’t believe anything could be
just you?”  I blush at the compliment.  “So no man in your life.  I’m

“Why surprised?”

“You seem so in control, put together.  I would
think if there was something or someone you really wanted you would have it all
set out by now?”  How am I pulling off seeming like I am a together type of
person?  No one have ever accused me of that.  Maybe I am channelling some of
Vic’s personality through her dress.

“No not at all.”  I say honestly.  “But then
marriage is such a big decision.  To go to bed and wake up with the same person
every day.  For a person to see all your flaws but to have faith that despite
those flaws they will still want you.  I have never been remotely close to
that.  I have however been a close witness to how bad a marriage can be.”  I
think of my parents on Wednesday night for my supposed birthday celebration

“I don’t know I can see the positives of
marriage.  To have a love for someone that is timeless.  To know another
person’s body as well as your own.  I don’t think there could be anything so
sexy.”  His voice drops slightly at the end.  I don’t think I have ever heard
anything so romantic and I also think that he obviously had happy loving

“Are you with anyone?”  I say trying to keep
the sound of desperation from my voice.

“No not right now.  With having to travel quite
a bit for work it’s been hard trying to make a relationship last.  I thought I
found it a year ago but alas no.”  I’d follow you anywhere.  He checks his
watch.  “I better go, I have to work this afternoon and I still need to grab a
sandwich before I start, but shall we meet say ten o’clock tomorrow morning back
at the theatre where we met this morning?”

“That sounds perfect, thank you again for today.” 
I stand to say goodbye.  He takes hold of my hand and lifts it to his mouth and
kisses my palm ever so gently.  I take a step closer to him my breathing
becoming faster thinking he is going to kiss me but instead he drops my hand
and steps away from me.

“Enjoy the rest of your day Jane, I’ve had a
lovely morning,” he smiles and then adds “because of you.”  And with that he is
gone.  I drop back down in to my chair with a thud feeling flushed and amazed
at what had just happened.   I take a sip of my tea wishing it was something a
little stronger.  Taking out my sketch pad I etch R + J on to a page, biting my
lip I draw a heart around the initials.  Yes, I definitely should have joined
the young teenage girls earlier.  But I don’t care I have a date!  Maybe I have
finally found my Romeo?  Hopefully without the couples’ suicide ending. 

I have to tell Vic what just happened but just
as I am about to grab my phone I remember she is probably still out ring
shopping with Oliver so I leave my phone where it is.  Not knowing what to do now
that I am on my own I think while I am still at the birthplace I may as well
pop back in to the gift shop and purchase the apron I had spotted for Vic.  There
is a wide array of t-shirts, jumpers and children’s clothes all with different
little Shakespeare quotes on them.  Picking up the apron and looking at the
other bits on sale I start to wrack my brain as to what I could wear tomorrow
on my date with Ryan.  There is a t-shirt with the quote from
A Midsummer
Night’s Dream
‘Though she be but little she is fierce’ printed on it.  No I
can’t wear that; it doesn’t really scream date.  He said he was taking me to a
restaurant for lunch so should I find something smart-ish to wear?  Maybe I
should take Vic’s advice and get a new outfit.  It will be for my birthday
after all.  

I cannot remember the last time I bought new
clothes.  My main objective when buying outfits is comfort and I never choose
anything with colour as I have never been sure of what colours look best on
me.  Vic has always said my colour palate should be autumn colours as anything
too pale will make me look washed out as I am so fair. 

I head off in search of the high street with my
gift shop bag in hand.  I try on a few different dresses none of which I think suit
my body shape.  One is a bodycon dress which is so tight I am sure I can see my
scrambled egg on toast in my tummy from breakfast this morning.  That is a
definite no.  I eventually settle on a tight pair of black trousers which I
will be able to wear with a pair of ballet pumps that I have back at the Bed
and Breakfast.  To go with them I pick a deep midnight blue floaty vest.  Not
very adventurous and I am sure Vic would disapprove but I feel confident in it
and I feel that this is the most important thing for tomorrow.  Wondering what
the time is as I leave the shop I pick out my phone from my bag, it is three in
the afternoon and I also have a text message from Vic.

“What you up to sweetie?” She had sent it a
couple of hours ago, she’s probably worrying that I have gone back to my room
and have been sat hiding all day.  I’m so pleased she has sent me a message I
have wanted to speak to her since Ryan left.

“Sorry only just spotted your text, had a hot
date with an actor.  How did the shopping go?” That should get a reaction.  My
phone pings instantly with her reply.

“What????????!!!!!!”  Her response makes me
laugh.  It is not often that I can shock Vic.

“I met him this morning and we went out for a
bit, he’s gone to work now back at the theatre.”  Gloat much Jane.

“It all happens when I’m not there.  I need

“Blonde, gorgeous, late twenties maybe thirty,
very gentlemanly.”

Almost as soon I have pressed send my phone
starts to ring, I do not even need to look at the picture on my phone to know
it is Vic.

“All that sounds perfect Jane apart from the
gentlemanly bit, I take it that means boring?”

“No not at all he was sweet, really sweet actually.” 
I say defensively.

“Sounds boring to me.”

“We stood and listened to Sonnets being read in
a garden, not really your thing but he was perfect to me and he is an actor in
here at the moment.”

“Still sounds boring but he sounds like your
type of boring, except for being blonde.”

“I know weird but I am still very attracted to
him and he must be as nuts about Shakespeare as me, he’s currently performing
as Cassio after all.”

“I have no idea who that is Jane but it all
sounds good, are you seeing him tonight?”

“No he’s working tonight but we’ve arranged to
meet tomorrow morning for my birthday and he’s going to take me out for lunch.”

“I’m so glad you are not going to be on your
own all day for your birthday, I was so worried thinking about you skulking
around by yourself tomorrow.  I can’t think of anything more depressing.”

“Jeez thanks Vic, I would like to point out you
are the reason why I am here on my own.”

“I know sorry a million times sorry,” she’s
laughing and it makes me laugh too.

“You owe me a really amazing birthday present
to make up for it you know?”

“And being my Maid of Honour is not the best
present you have ever had?  OK OK a lovely present will be waiting for you on
your return.  I’m also going to book a restaurant for dinner on Monday night for
when you get back so we can have a dual celebration for your birthday and my
engagement.  Table for the three of us, you, me and Oliver?”  She seems nervous
suggesting this but I have to come to terms that I will now be the third wheel,
of course she is going to want her husband with her now when we go out.

“Sounds lovely Vic, thank you.”  I hear her
breathe out; she must have been worried at what my response would be suggesting
that we all go out together.  She really does care about me.  

“That’s great, I’ll find a really glam
restaurant for Monday night, somewhere we can dress up for and celebrate
properly.”  Somewhere I will feel completely out of place I am sure.  When
being a third wheel wasn’t awkward enough throw in a posh, romantic restaurant
and that will be my hell on Monday night.  Wow I really am becoming such a
party pooper.

“Speaking of you and Oliver how did the ring
shopping go today?”  I say trying to quieten my fears for Monday night.

“My hand is now weighted by a one and half
carat round brilliant cut solitaire engagement ring.  I’ll send you a picture
in a second.” 

“That must be some serious bling, are you happy
with the one you found?”

“Yes I’m happy, it is elegant and timeless. 
Although I did get a few complaints from Oliver.”  As I thought Vic chose
something he couldn’t afford.

“Ah Vic I’m so happy for you.  I can’t wait to
see the ring in person on Monday.”

“Me too.  Right now you know what you have to
do now don’t you?” She sounds so elated.

“No what do I need to do now?”

“You need to buff and smooth every inch of your
body, you have a date tomorrow and hopefully he will give you a big birthday

We both instantly erupt in giggles and it is
like she is right here with me.


Act II Scene II


‘All that glitters is
not gold.’  The Merchant of Venice


When I get back to the Bed and Breakfast Mrs Angela
McCree is lost in thought.  Busy hoovering, she does not notice me walk through
the front door.  She has changed her clothes from this morning back in to the
varying shades of brown outfit that she had on the previous day.  They must be
her cleaning clothes.  Remembering what she told me this morning she has
obviously wanted to own a Bed and Breakfast for a very long time but now that
she has it, well to be honest, she looks completely miserable.  Maybe sometimes
dreams to do not match up in reality. 

Before it happens I can see what will happen
next.  The cord is tight where Mrs McCree has pulled the hoover out so far from
the wall and she is just about to take a step back to twist around.  I drop my
bags on the floor and move quickly behind her so that as she trips I am able to
stop her from falling backwards.

“Oh my goodness thank you.”  I pop her back upright
so that she is standing and she switches the hoover off.  The whole place is

“You are more than welcome, are you OK?”

“Yes yes this place will be the death of me, if
not from random accident it will be from being worked to death.”  She seethes. 
Wow angry Mrs McCree is back in all her glory.

“Do you not have anyone to help you?”

“Who would help me exactly?”  She spits back.

Hang on a minute I have just saved this woman
from falling over, I am paying for two people to stay here and I feel like I am
a child being told off.  Head down I walk back over to collect my bags and
start to head toward the stairs back to my room.

“Jane wait, sorry, again.”  I turn to look at
her but I’m still feeling too annoyed to stay so I nod and carry on walking.  “Jane
please wait, please come to the kitchen and have a cup of tea with me?”  She
looks so sad I do not have the heart to say no, maybe she is just having a bad
time of it.

“Erm OK, let me go put these bags in my room
and I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

“Great.”  She makes a big sigh.  “I’ll put away
this death trap and go put the kettle on, see you in five.”

I run up the stairs and take my bags in to my
room, it looks as though Mrs McCree has been in to my room to clean.  The bed
has been made and there is a new vase on the bedside table with four pale
yellow roses in it.  When I walk in to the kitchen there is already a cup of
tea ready for me on the kitchen table and Mrs McCree is sat waiting for me.  On
hearing my steps in to the kitchen she turns and smiles.

“What a difference a sit down and a cup of tea
can make, come sit down.”

“Thanks.” I quickly walk around the table to
sit where my cup of tea has been left for me.

“Sorry again about earlier, so how has your day
been so far?”  She looks drained.

“Good thanks, really good actually.”  I feel
like my grin is about to break my face.

“Yes it looks like you’ve had a good day.”  She
says carefully appraising me.  “You had a fair few bags when you came in too,
did you go shopping in town?”

“I went to Shakespeare’s birthplace first but
then yes I did do a spot of retail therapy.”

“Good for you, I can’t remember the last time I
went out and got some new clothes.  I’m always in these shabby old things.” 
She tugs at the bottom of her top looking down miserably.

“You should take a day off, I’m sure me and the
couple staying here could fend for ourselves for a day.  Go out and treat
yourself for a bit.”

“That is tempting but I can’t, I’m already in
debt that feels like its drowning me from this place but thank you that is a
sweet suggestion.”

“If it is that bad here why do you carry on? 
Surely someone would love to buy this place, it is beautiful.”  Well it could
be beautiful with a little TLC.

“I have thought about it and I know that I
should but whenever I go to do anything about it I feel like I am letting Bill
down.  It’s the guilt that stops me.  I want to make it a success, for him.” 
Tears fill her eyes and I can physically see the weight that is on her

“I hope you don’t mind me saying this but I’m
sure your husband wouldn’t want you to be so unhappy and working yourself so

Mrs McCree is now full on crying, I had not
planned on dealing with this when I came back from the shops.  Feeling sorry
for her I get up and find a piece of kitchen roll.  Squeezing her arm I give
her the piece of tissue.

“Thank you, sorry you’re on holiday you don’t
want a silly old woman crying about her troubles.”

“No it’s fine honestly, I’m really sorry you
are having such a hard time.  The building is lovely and I can see what an
appealing dream it must be to set up a Bed and Breakfast here.  It is just a
shame that you do not have some help to give you a break now and then.”

“I do have one son but he works and he has his
own home so I can’t expect him to help out really.  I mean he does now and then
but not the amount that I need.  If I had the money I would obviously pay someone
to work alongside me but I don’t earn enough income from this place to afford
that.  So I have to do it all by myself.”  She looks completely defeated.

“Maybe it’s time to find a new dream?” I offer
smiling at her.

“Yes, maybe, so cheer me up tell me more about
your day dear.  You look like you’ve won the lottery.”

“I actually met someone today.”  I’m desperate
to talk to someone about Ryan and not having Vic here it looks as though my
confidante will be an unlikely Mrs McCree.

“Oh really?”  She is grinning at me in a
knowing way.

“Yes he’s an actor.” I frown. “Although he
doesn’t know that I know that so pretend I didn’t just tell you that.  To be
honest I think he is the most perfect man I have ever met.”

“So you are having a bit of a holiday fling?” 
One of her eyebrows moves a little higher than the other.

“Oh I hope not; I think he might be well you

“A serial killer, a bore, a secret train
spotter, no I’m sure I don’t know.”  She grins.

“Oh you know, the one, I absolutely love
Shakespeare and to find someone who lives as much inside one of Shakespeare’s
plays as you can get, I don’t think you can find anything better.”

“Seriously you are basing your sudden
infatuation on this man because he is currently an actor in a Shakespeare
play.”  She doesn’t understand but I don’t quite know how to explain it to her.

“Well he is gorgeous too.”

“That sounds a little more promising, I can
work with that.”  She smiles.  “So are you seeing this gorgeous actor again

“Yes he’s taking me out for lunch tomorrow.”

“Ah now I understand the shopping bags.”  I
cannot help but giggle, I feel like I am seventeen again the night before going
to meet up with someone I have a huge crush on.

“Are you back off out later for dinner?” In my
excitement of buying a new outfit for my hot date tomorrow I completely forgot
about lunch and dinner.  My stomach gives an audible growl.  Mrs McCree seems
to sense this from my obvious look of confusion on my face and so quickly adds,
“I would love some company if you don’t have plans?”

“That would be great Mrs McCree if you really
don’t mind?”

“Please call me Angela, and no of course not I
made a lasagne earlier this morning and there is far too much for just me to
eat.  It will be nice for me to have someone to sit and eat with for a change.”

“Then yes thank you that is very kind of you
Angela.” And as if on cue my stomach makes an even louder rumble and we both
laugh together.

Surprisingly the evening with Angela sat at her
little kitchen table eating her yummy lasagne is really nice.  We even open and
share a bottle of red wine.  Forgetting her troubles for an evening we gossip
like two girlfriends that have known each other for years. 

“So how did you and your husband meet?”  I ask
taking a big mouthful of the warm creamy lasagne.

“We were both sixteen.  I left school when I
was fifteen and started to learn how to be a hairdresser.  He worked in his
father’s greengrocers next door.  Even at that age he had an old soul.  He was
gentle and caring, I never heard him say a single bad word against anyone.  We
got married when we were nineteen and our son came along shortly after.  I had
wanted a big family at least three children but unfortunately it wasn’t to be
and we were only blessed with the one child.  You’ll laugh but Bill loved to
dance and I know I am biased but he was really good.  Better than me anyway. 
We used to salsa together.  He was just a few months away from being able to
retire when we found out he had cancer.  Prostate.  He always hated doctors and
hospitals.  Never got anything checked.  By the time I forced him to go get it looked
at it was too late.  And I lost him.”

“He sounds like a lovely man.  I cannot even
imagine what it must be like to lose someone so important.” 

“Every day feels that little bit harder. 
Everyone said over time I would feel better but they lied.  The sadness, the
longing, it gets harder every day.  I sometimes dream that I can still feel him
next to me in bed.  That’s the most painful part those brief moments that I
think he is still here with me and then the realisation hits and I have to lose
him all over again.”

“Do you think one day you would like to meet

“Not right now, I’m not ready but maybe one
day.  I’ve only just past sixty I might still have a fair few years’ left in me
and I would like someone to hold my hand again.  Nothing more nothing less.  
To have a man hold my hand again, yes that would be lovely.”  Can it be that
simple I think, just to have a person hold your hand?  I think about how sweet
it was today having Ryan hold my hand in the gardens of Shakespeare’s
birthplace and yes I probably would be happy with that for the rest of my life.

She tells me more about her husband, their
holidays together and her life before the purchase of the Bed and Breakfast. 
Angela had loved being a hairdresser before retiring to run this place.  She
tells me stories of the gossip that had been told to over the years as she had
stood cutting hair.  It is amazing how some people can feel able to speak of
their darkest deepest secrets to the complete stranger doing their hair.  We
both laugh at a story involving a woman whose husband’s pubic hair had caught
on fire when he went in for a vasectomy.  Apparently they hadn’t shaved him
properly and the sutures had made him catch light ending in some serious
burns.  If he wasn’t sore before he definitely would be after that.  Angela
said the woman had no compassion towards her husband at all and she herself had
been practically crying with laughter when she told Angela.  I suppose for some
having that time with a stranger who is completely outside your world can be
the only therapy they have available to them.  In turn I tell her about how
disappointed I am with my life.

“I just wish I knew what I wanted.”  I say
sadly to Angela.

“What did you want to be when you were little,
job wise?”

“Honestly I have never known.  My peers growing
up all said they wanted to be actors, nurses, doctors, vets all the usual
things but whenever I was asked I always just replied with a shrug.  I had
always loved to read so choosing English at University was just me choosing
something I thought I would enjoy.  And I did.  I loved it.”  Ryan’s comment of
that I seem like a together type of person comes to mind.  How wrong could he be?

“So what about something in teaching?”  She
offers helpfully.

“I have never felt the vocation to teach.  I’d
like to be part of the theatre but I don’t have the confidence to act or the
skills to do anything else.”

“What about family, you haven’t mentioned
anyone at home?”

“My parents live fairly close to me and I pop
round to see them of a weekend.  I’d have loved a brother or a sister, someone
else to witness my parents’ insanity with me but like everything else in my
life it’s just me.”  I really do need to leave the self-pity party.  It’s
Angela’s turn to look awkward at my sudden outburst.

“And no man has made the grade?”  No not until
Ryan today but don’t get to ahead of yourself just yet Jane.

“Unfortunately not, I had liked someone, liked
them a huge amount for years actually.  My friend’s brother but the fantasy was
a whole lot better than reality.  You see he was just too much like my friend
in the end, they are twins but for some reason I hadn’t wanted to see that.  If
that makes sense?”

“Really is that all?  Just one infatuation in
your life.  You seem like such a lovely girl and so pretty.”

“Thank you.”  I blush.  “That’s it really I
have had a few very short relationships but no one really that floated my boat
so one way or another they all ended.  It’s not that I don’t want to find
someone I really do. I’d love to have someone take care of me and for me to do
the same in return.”

BOOK: O' for the love of Shakespeare
7.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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