Brian Anderson has been writing seriously for over twenty-five years and his work has appeared in many poetry magazines and anthologies. Brian’s pamphlet collection “Life Lines” was published by Mudfog Press in 2013. He was born, and still resides, in Sunderland in the North East of England.
You can follow Brian on twitter: @ba785
Ted and Sylvia were never going to make it.
Dennis was certain.
Ted was a great guy and everything, in fact Dennis could probably go so far as to say that Ted was probably his best friend in the world as well as his neighbour, but the fact remained that Sylvia was just too good for him.
Of course not everyone would agree with that. Some apparently saw Sylvia as a little trashy and frowned upon the way she dressed for her age, but Dennis recognised that she was a wonderful woman. Still sexy at forty eight or whatever she was. Still sensual, feminine. He wished that Irene had still managed to retain that sexuality. He was sure she had it when they married and even a while after but it just seemed to fade away the longer they were together. He was well aware that his own looks had gone a little, but he was still a man after all and even at fifty he tried to keep himself looking good and still had the same needs that he'd had as a younger man. Irene had never understood that. He had tried to tell her but, she wouldn't listen.
Mowing the lawn in the summer heat one day, Dennis realised that Sylvia was sunbathing in the garden next door. He wiped his forearm across his brow and tried to compose himself before peering over the fence.
"Hi Sylvia." he said. She was reclining on a sun lounger, leafing through one of those magazines that women like to read. Dennis’ eyes followed the lines of her tanned legs from the bottom of her denim shorts down to the red toenails.
"Hi Dennis." she said, looking at him over the top of her sunglasses.
"Lovely day." he said trying to take in the shape of her breasts behind the blue bikini top she was wearing.
"It's beautiful isn't it. How's Irene? I haven't seen her for a while."
"Oh she's away. Visiting her mother."
"Oh. I thought her mother was dead?"
"Well it's her step mother technically speaking. They are very close." The way her hair brushed her shoulders as she moved made his head feel a little numb.
"Oh I see. You look hot and bothered. Why don't you come over and have a cold drink? I'm a little bit bored. Ted's away working for a couple of days and I don't really have anyone to talk too around here. The neighbours look at me like I'm a piece of shit."
This was the first time that Dennis had heard Sylvia swear. He was a little taken aback but soon realised that he found it quite a turn on.
"I'll be right round," he said "Give me a couple of minutes."
He ran inside and quickly changed out of his old t-shirt and shorts and pulled on a new pair of jeans and one of his best short sleeved shirts. The one with the Manhattan skyline on it. Well he presumed that it was Manhattan, you don't really get any other skylines on shirts he thought. He headed back to the garden, stopped suddenly as he remembered something then scuttled off down to his workshop in the cellar, reappearing moments later with his old portable cassette player.
"I've brought some music" Dennis said proudly, holding up the cassette player as he reached Sylvia's side.
"Oh great. Have a seat, I got out another sun lounger and there's a gin and tonic for you there. Do you like gin?"
"Probably." he said picking up the glass and stretching out on the lounger.
"Aren't you going to put it on then?" she said.
"What?" he turned to look at her. God she was beautiful. He concentrated on the swishes and curls of her crimson lips as he couldn't see her eyes for the sunglasses. Then remembering his own, plucked the aviator style shades from his shirt pocket and put them on.
"The music." she said
"Who've we got then?"
"Oh yes, my favourites. Rolling Stones."
"I like them." she smiled at him.
"I knew it." his heart jumped a little. He knew fine well Ted didn't like them. Sylvia laughed.
"Does Irene like them?"
"No," Dennis frowned and pressed the play button on the cassette player. "She never did."
He closed his eyes and took a sip of the gin. It was awful. The song "You can't always get what you want" floated into the air. Dennis smiled to himself. The mid afternoon sun heated up his entire body. It made him feel like he was buzzing
"I love this song." Dennis said, as much to himself as to Sylvia, "It's so true."
"Yeah?" she chuckled.
"Yeah." he said, drained his glass and closed his eyes again, "Yeah."
"You're going to have to put some cream on or something Den."
Dennis winced as he lightly touched his forehead, which was now nearly as red as Sylvia's toe nails. The skin across his whole face felt tight and was tingling. He had two white circles around his eyes where the sunglasses had been.
"I think the gin must've knocked me out." he said looking at her in the mirror then inspecting his face again.
"It certainly did. I couldn't wake you."
He turned to face her.
"I've been a little tired," he said and looked around the hallway of Ted's place, "since Irene went."
"You must miss her." Sylvia smiled at him sympathetically. Although Dennis didn't appreciate this, he noted the kindness in her act. She seemed so gentle and womanly. Everything a man could want. She was far too good for a prick like Ted.
"To be honest Sylvia, we've had our problems. Irene doesn't really want what I want from life. I don't think she's coming back."
"Oh Dennis." she said and stepped toward him.
"I think there may be someone else Sylvia."
"Oh God, you poor man." she touched him lightly on the arm. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
He looked at her, feeling a little conscious of his sunburnt face.
"I.. er.. " he began.
Sylvia's phone rang. She struggled to pull it from the pocket of her tight shorts, looked at the screen, said
"Oh it's Ted." then put the phone to her ear, turned her back to Dennis and he watched her hips wave goodbye as she strolled down the hall into the kitchen, chatting to Ted as she went. Dennis left by the front door.
Dennis didn't really see Sylvia the next day, though it wasn't for want of trying, he'd been hanging around outside for hours. He didn't want to actually go and knock on the door though as he didn't want to appear to be a pest, but he knew Ted was due back and he wanted to tell her how he felt about her. He was sure she would feel the same. She was sensitive and kind. She was caring and gentle. A real woman. Irene had never been like that. That was why she had to go. Sylvia would understand him as he understood her. They could make it work. Ted was no good for her.
Dennis lay on his sofa with a cold, wet cloth across his face. He hadn't seen Sylvia for three days now and he was feeling a little anxious for one reason or another. He had become so consumed by thoughts of her that he'd actually taken some sick leave from work in the hope they would end up together. His face had also started to peel and he didn't feel like listening to the jibes of his colleagues.
There was a frantic knocking at the door. Dennis groaned as he got up. It was her. She'd been crying.
"What's wrong?" he tried to appear as concerned as he could.
"It's Ted. The bastard isn't coming back. He said he's found someone else."
"He said that?"
"In a note stuck through the door. Couldn't even speak to me the fucking coward. He must've got someone to deliver it for him."
"I can't believe it, are you sure?"
"Yes. It's definitely from him, I'd recognise that shitty handwriting anywhere. Aarrgh. How could I have been so stupid as to trust him. Every man I get is nothing more than a cheat and a liar."
"We aren't all like that." Dennis said gently.
"Yeah?" she looked him straight in the eyes. Her eyes were filled with anger and hurt. Yet Dennis could still see the warmth in them. They were comforting. They reminded him of the chocolate buttons his mother would give him as a child.
"Yeah." he said.
"Yeah." she sighed "I hope you're right." then she turned and left as Dennis tilted his head to one side and watched every part of her leave.
He waited a while before he felt it was time to go to her. He showered, dressed smartly, put on aftershave (which he regretted) and picked as much loose skin from his face as possible. As he reached his front door he found a letter on the mat. He opened it.
It was from Sylvia.
She had left, took Ted's car and everything she wanted from the house, hoped Dennis would find a new wife and if he saw Ted, tell him he was a piece of shit.
Dennis dropped the letter on the floor as his heart sank.
"Fucking shit." he said out loud.
He took off his jacket and threw it on the sofa. Took off his tie and dropped it on the floor.
"Fucking shit." he said again.
At times like this it was best to keep busy he thought.
Dennis turned and headed down to his workshop in the cellar.
"She's gone." he said to himself.
"So what am I going to do with you?" he said to Ted, who was slumped, unconscious in the chair Dennis had bound him to.
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