Beauty of Love and Guilt by S G

This story is an apology letter to the wife of a man whom the writer is having an affair. The tangle of love and guilt and feeling obligated to do the right thing is outshined briefly by a whirlwind of fun and infatuation and intimate relations with a man old enough to be her father. In the end, once a cheat, always a cheat, and no amount of love can make up for betrayal and abuse.

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She was a reasonably good looking girl who looked like she was in her late teens. I say reasonably good looking because there was nothing particularly ugly about her. She had long black hair and green eyes. Everything was in proportion and she seemed to have a fairly nice face, but she wore far too much make-up and had the hardened expression of someone who had grown up fast. I thought at first that she might be interested in me because she kept looking in my direction. Granted she wasn’t really my type, but there was something attractive about her which I couldn’t put my finger on. When I caught her gaze, she smiled awkwardly and looked away. After that nothing happened for the whole time we were at the station. She did not approach me and I did not go over to her. When the train came, it seemed like that would be the end of our encounter, but no sooner had I got on, when she took a seat directly opposite me. For the first few minutes of the journey nothing was said, but then just as I had picked up the newspaper from the seat next to me, she spoke.

“Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but how old are you?”

“I’m 19.”

“Good. Look this is going to sound really weird since I’ve only just met you, but if you’re not doing anything today, I was wondering if you could help me out with something?”

“Depends what it is.”

“I want to visit my boyfriend in prison, but they won’t let me in because I’m only 16. Apparently I can only go if someone over 18 goes with me, and since my parents don’t approve of me going there and I don’t know anyone else who can take me…”

“You thought you’d ask the first random person you met on the train there,” I said.

To this she laughed.

“When you put it like that it does sound a bit crazy,” she said.

“A little bit. Look I’d love to help you out but I’m meeting someone in Basingstoke so...”

“Please. If you took me I’d be ever so grateful. All you have to do is sign me in and then when I’m done I’ll take you out and get you shit faced. Or I could just give you the money. Your choice.”

“How much money would it be?”

“Fifty quid.”

“Give me a chance to think about it.”

It was the money that would make most people think twice about doing something like this. I mean fifty quid for doing practically nothing is very appealing to anyone. I however had other reasons.

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Red. Crimson. Burgundy. Mahogany. Scarlet.

Just a few of the colours that exploded in his mind. The bright colours danced and convulsed like fire sprites, gayly twisting in the moonlit night.

“Sir!” The boy whipped his head round so suddenly that he felt the consequent pains trickling down his neck. The bright colours receded from his sight as the dark colours of his room and that of the pain coerced to kick them away. He looked a little frightened and sad as he scurried down from the table.

‘It would not bode well for the son of a lord to take part in barbarian festivities.’

The boy rushed past the servant, not giving him a second glance as he ran down the stairs towards the second dining room. As he approached the room, he instinctively slowed down to a stately walk, as was taught him at too young an age to not have become second nature. Unfortunately, the latter qualifier is often misunderstood and only truly reveals itself in such occasions, as the boy teetering awkwardly towards the dining room table. One of the manservants standing at the door followed the boy to his chair and pulled it out for him.

The table already sat two other people. One-- a man with broad shoulders, dark features and a deep look in his eyes that made one spill even the beans they did not know they had every time you looked into them, whether you were hiding anything from him or not. The other-- a woman that looked nothing like the boy, sat in an invisible cloud of perfume and make-up. Her bright red-lipped mouth pursed up as she observed the boy struggling to eat his hot soup.

Silence was all they heard, in between the civilised quiet clink and clank of cutlery and plates before the little boy cleared his throat and spoke up. “Father? May I go and observe the Chinese New Year Festival?” Those lights had taunted him every year, and while they had not reached him as deeply before, they seemed to have ignited him anew with the hope that he could get approval from his father to see them in person.

There was a loud clank of metal against the china and the boy looked up to see his father’s eyes boring into his skull as he was glaring at him. “How many times do we have to tell you?”

The boy looked down at his food feeling foolish as he droned, “It would not bode well for the son of a lord to take part in barbarian festivities…”


“It would not bode well for the son of a lord to allow commoners to think themselves of his level...”

“So the answer is?”

“N-No…” he hesitated. He struggled to keep his tears behind as he stared at his soup, a yellowish pasty substance swimming around the white china bowl.

“May I be excused, sir?” The Lord grunted his approval for the sake of his peace and the little boy left his tasteless soup on the dining table with his hunger and his dreams unsated.

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The dust settles as I sit on top of the cabinet, my new found place. I stare down at the bed that we used to lie, where we shared laughs and tears. An empty glass on the bedside table, and my little girl, my beautiful little girl, she’s still, as if she was asleep. I stare at her and the silence that hauntingly echos the room, Her door plastered in happy childhood photos lies shut. I beg for it to open and for the hall way light to come pouring onto the carpet floor. It doesn’t. It never does.

I stare at her, the long curls that delicately cover the pillow on the bed that has grown as she has. I remember back to when we first met. When we were introduced. Her gurgles and babbles that made little sense but always made me smile. I was always her favourite, she would refuse to go anywhere without me. We were a team, I’d support her though colds and flus and nightmares and restless nights. We were like two peas in a pod, inseparable, as we were often told.

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Suddenly, I felt trapped. I was surrounded my heat, circles of pessimism and strong gushes of it coming at me. This weapon trying to attack me used to be the most beautiful weapon of all but in this moment, I could not feel at all attracted to it. Its ferocity came sneaking its way through the trees dominating me. The lambent embers leaped and entangled me in a fiery dance, in a hot air before cascading to everything around me, anything I touched it would destroy. I felt cold shivers rapidly run up my spine and my blood trembled as it swirled across my body yelping for someone to save me. What was this feeling? It was fear wasn't it? How could I suddenly be anxious to even look at something that used to seem so powerful to me, was I beginning to fear fire out of all elements on this earth?

I screamed for help and woke up sweating, it was just a dream.

However, fire is everywhere. The lighter we use to light up a candle, our fireplace decorated with hot coal, our gas… everywhere around us there’s fire. Then what is the real reason we fear this the most if we use it in our everyday life? Is it because it may even take away a life and maybe we aren’t ready to say goodbye to what we haven’t even considered ours? The real question for me always was why I seemed to always be afraid of fire in my dreams but in real life not feel any uneasiness around it?

I was in this liminal state of being two people at once. In my dreams I was a child again with all these fears around me, tormenting me and trying to capture me but as soon as I'd wake up I’d be fearless again, the odd one out but still the unnoticed one. What more could I have done to be like everyone else? Should I have put on a disposition to be full of fears, full of anxiety and lie. Each lie leading to another to just be hated again in the end, what disposition would have seemed accurate? I wish I could have painted a face of normality and carved it slowly into the now so marred skin of mine. With each carve I would have engraved the idea of acceptance on all of my veins and stapled down the loose ends of my flaws but I couldn’t make it sound so easy.

I began to wonder that perhaps my dreams were not feeling transcendental any more, I felt as if I was really there, they felt real. But my real everyday life started to make me wonder if it felt more unreal than before.

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The stinging scent of candyfloss invaded my nostrils that day. And despite the surge of people swarming around me, there was only one thing in my line of vision. My mother. A small woman, with a slight frame that was unable to give a true portrayal of her irascibility. A vice that followed her around, snapping and snarling at the slightest of things.

On that day, a crown of brown tendrils surrounded her face. And she had bags lurking from the depths of her eyes, paired with unsmiling lips. I should’ve realised something was off; I should’ve paid attention to the way her voice splintered and cracked, sounding hollow and detached as she spoke her last words to me. And more importantly, I should have noticed his absence.

“Bailey,” Her lips were forming into shapes, making syllables, long chains that were supposed to form into words and then eventually a sentence. Yet I couldn’t keep up. Her words weren’t making sense. I was looking at her but at the same time, I wasn’t. For there was a hole forming, an abyss appearing right through the centre of her chest. It gave way to the other side, almost like a window that allowed me to see right through her. Then she was suddenly shaking me, her fingernails digging into my shoulder blades. “Bailey! Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes Mum, “I had muttered out, but it wasn’t true. My attention had been diverted- preoccupied with what was before me. I was finally surrounded by my idea of heaven, and all I wanted to do was explore- and the only thing blocking me from doing so, was her body and her words. So I did what any other seven-year-old would do. I pretended to listen to her, nodding in all the right places, in the hopes she’d release me and allow me to explore. My wish came sooner than expected.

She suddenly stooped over, scooping me up into a tight hug, that caught me so off guard, I almost head-butted her. “Take care Bails,” I didn’t understand her words. They sounded so final, so resolute, almost as if I was to never see her again. But I was. In an hour or two, Mum and Dad would be done with the performance, and they would troop back to the fairground to collect me. That was what had always happened. So why did it begin to feel like today would be different?

She began to stride off, quickening her pace before I could say a word. Instead of pursuing her, I swallowed my doubts, for I finally had the fairground to myself. The window of obstruction had finally rolled down, and I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity

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