Nasty Surprise

I hesitate to say this - touch wood, cross my fingers and all the rest of it - but our honeymoon has just finished so we know nothing of the concepts of jealousy and neglect, other than what we see around us. But I'm afraid we do see a lot around us. When we got back to Gensdouce after our honeymoon, we were thrown straight into the deep-end. Having had no contact with the outside world, we had no idea how our little village's one and only celebrity had once again hit the news. Reports of Violette's breakup with her film-producing husband had made the front pages of all the major newspapers but the first we heard was when I phoned up Thérèse to announce our return to the living. She asked us both to come round straight away and to use the back entrance. The reason soon became obvious as the front door besieged by waiting journalists hoping for who knows what. Thérèse saw us coming and opened the gate. But neither iof us were prepared for what we saw inside.

Violette was propped up on a bedrest sleeping. Her two arms in a sling and bruises all over her face.

"That's just what you can see, the rest is worse," whispered Thérèse ushering us back outside.

"Who on earth did that to her."

Thérèse pointed to the newspaper where the whole story sat emblazoned across the front page.

"She caught him with his secretary and walked out. Unfortunately, he found out where she was , downed a bottle of whisky and came to finish her off."

"But what's she doing here? She should be in hospital."

"She refuses to go near one. She doesn't want to press charges. Says he never meant to do her any real harm. She phoned her mother and she came to us for help. Guillaume drove down up to Nice to fetch her. Who knows how the press managed to find out she was here. They turned up yesterday morning."

"But what are you going to do?"

"Once she's ready for it, we'll try and get her out into a private clinic; one where they don't ask questions. Until then she stays here."

"But we can't let him get away with this. She's got to press charges."

"She's far too exhausted to discuss anything like that. Right now all she needs is rest and loving care. As soon as possible we'll get her to the clinic, but until then there'll be no talk about pressing charges and no mention of her husband, okay."

It was on the seventh day of our honeymoon that the bliss came to an end. I guess it had to come to an end some time. If we argued before the wedding, I suppose it was ridiculous of me to think we'd never do so again. But think it I did. Not for long. My knight in shining armour not only failed me, he deeply injured me in the process.

We'd just been out for a nice long walk, profiting from an unscheduled break in the weather. I went up to our room to get ready for dinner with Simon following close behind. I opened the bathroom cabinet to take out my perfume only to be confronted with a great big hairy spider. It was enourmous and spread its legs out wide to greet me. I let out a scream and raced back into the room calling out to Simon to come and kill it. The next thing I knew there was laughter coming from the bathroom and Simon coming out with the spider between his fingers saying: 'You don't mean to tell me, you're afraid of this little beauty.' Lucky for him my frying pan wasn't close by or he'd have been the one to have a beauty!

Now who'd have thought of me as a knight in shining armour. It was at best a vague concept and never one I'd ever really aspired to. Little did I dream that Morgana might see me in that light. Still, kill a teeny, weeny spider; even I could manage that. My problem was why should I kill it? When the peace was shattered by Morgana's scream, I thought there was something seriously wrong. Then I saw the spider. True, I had heard that girls were supposed to be afraid of spiders, but a grown-up woman...? My shining armour soon revealed a giant crack as I let at a burst of laughter. It all seemed so ridiculous. Needless to say there was a heavy price to pay for that mistake. From knight in shining armour I had suddenly been transformed into public enemy number one. So all you knights in shining armour out there, be warned!

Padoum advanced slowly through the maze of alleys behind London's biggest shopping street. It would have been far easier for him to walk along Oxford Street but the Christmas shopping tradition was in full swing and the crowds were out in force. Padoum was still in shock followiug his experience on the underground. The train was already packed when it came in. Padoum decided to let it pass and wait for the next one. Bama John wouldn't mind if he was a little late for their get together. After all, that was part of the African tradition. But the moment the doors were opened he was carried along helplessly on a forward going wave against which there was no resistance. Packed inside the train he tried his best to keep his elbow out of his neighbour's ribs. The effort was vain but the smile on he young man's face every time he excused himself seemed to express that he didn't really mind. Padoum tried to do the same with the owners of any one of three ribs that dug themselves into his body at various stages of the journey. As the train pulled into Oxford Street he wondered if he was ever going to make it to the exit. But once again he was carried along on a wave of popular enthusiasm and soon found himself sitting on an empty platform drinking in the few minutes quiet he was able to get.

He made his way towards the exit and out into the street. The pandemonium was terrible. Bama John's house was between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. Bama John had advised him to get out there. But John had to see the lights. It was the one tradition that united this sprawling city with his village at home; every evening one small lantern after another would be lit sending a ray of light and hope out into the surrounding desert. He slowly climbed the stairs to the beckoning street above him just before another wave of enthusiastic shoppers were ruminated out from the rumbling depths below. Lost to the hustle and bustle around him he stood there in a trance gazing at the bright, coloured lights. Some were winking at him, sharing with him the secret thoughts going through his mind. Londoners were so fortunate to have this beautiful tradition. Yet, no one seemed to pay the least attention to it. He remembered the story he's written just days before. It was his first one for the newspaper. Due to the credit crunch London's new Mayor wanted to keep the lights out this year. There'd been a wave of popular sentiment when the news broke, forcing him to make an about turn. Yet, these Londoners didn't even notice the lights. It seemed they would only be appreciated once they were gone.

From acrooss the busy street the strains of a familiar carol reached Padoum's ears. Another Christmas tradition more neglected than valued. It woke Padoum out of his reverie. Getting his London A-Z out of his bag he aimed for the first street that would take him down towards Bama John's house. Even his fascination for the lights could not bring him to run the gauntlet of the traditional Oxford Street crowds on the last Saturday before Christmas. Padoum's mind was focused now. In a few minutes he would be indulging in some wonderful Christmas traditions of his own: not tinsled baubles, mulled wine and beckoning Santas but human warmth, music and the joy of reunion.

Hi everyone,

Simon's getting me to dictate this card because he says he never knows what to write. We're having a great time. Beauvue is a wonderful little place and we often wander along the cliff tops and spend hours arm in arm looking out over the vast ocean. Although we don't say much, we always seem to know what the other is thinking. But we do have to be careful. The other day I lost my balance on the rocks and if Simon hadn't been holding me, I could have had a nasty fall. The weather, of course, is terrible, but that doesn't really bother us. We have more than enough to keep us occupied.

Love to all,

Simon and Morgana

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