Moving On

One by one the last of the visitors trooped out of the room. Rob sat down cleared away the last of the dishes and sat down to wait for his wife to return. The events of the evening played themselves out in an endless loop in his mind. Even now he couldn't believe it. Of course, he'd suspected something. After all, you only turn 50 once in a lifetime and that has to be celebrated. He knew what it must have cost his wife to organise this party. She would have by far preferred a nice quiet dinner together at the restaurant with one or two friends. But to throw a party for over 600 people... Yet, she'd done it for him. And they came; they all came. Some even organised the music so they could dance. Just the way he'd always dreamed and never dared hope. So many people, and all of them there for him.

His mind went back to their conversation of the evening before. They'd been living here now for over five years. That was the longest period in one place since their marriage almost 25 years ago. Wasn't it time to move on? But he didn't want to move. He had trouble admitting it; even greater trouble trying to work out why. It must be something to do with my age, he'd said to avoid thinking about it any more. His wife didn't mind. She'd moved around with him and done so with grace, but if he now wanted to stay put, she wasn't going to contradict him. At last, they were going to be able to put roots down. Well, now he did know why. These people, they really meant something to him. He had given and he had received. They belonged together. That was why he didn't want to leave.

His wife returned and they walked home together, taking an unusual detour along the canal where they sat well into the early hours of the morning. Together they relived many moments from the past; and together they decided that the time really had come to stay where they were. Uprooting is for younger people.

Speaking Out

The mood in the boardroom was sombre as was the room itself. Nobody had bothered pulling back the curtains, nobody wanted to be reminded of the world outside these four walls. The board members gathered one by one, exchanged the briefest of greetings with those around them before taking refuge in the papers set out before them. After ten minutes someone started tapping his fingers on the table. One member looked up, another looked at his watch. Several others followed suit; it was unusual for the chairman to be this late. Indeed, he didn't arrive until almost twenty minutes later, silently taking his seat and beginning the meeting without a word of explanation.

Robert had been ready for every eventuality but not for this. No argument could sway these people now. Everbright was destined to become the latest victim of a crisis which had already swallowed up millions of victims on every single continent. Yet, he had to do something. To just sit there without a word would be immoral. Everbright was after all, Vaysol's first customer. Its chairman had come knocking on Vaysol's door before well before any other company even inquired about Vaysol's cutting-edge technology. Their chairman had given a considerable amount of time and energy in helping get the company off the ground. And now it was all over, and it was Vaysol's destiny to pull the plug on Everbright.

The chairman outlines the issues in his usual dispassionate way. For the third month in a row Everbright had failed to meet its commitments, and it was unlikely that it would be able to do so in the foreseeable future. He presented slide after slide of irrefutable figures and finished by calling upon the board not to neglect its responsibilities. He didn't recommend any particular course of action. He had no need to. Everyone knew what needed to be done but nobody wanted to do it. The silence was as black as the storm filled atmosphere pervading the valley. Finally, a young man Robert hadn't seen before stood up and addressed the meeting... a man a third of the age of Everbright, who didn't know a single one of their workers, a man who only cared about balances and bottom lines. His arguments were nothing more than a rehash of the chairman's seasoned with that particular blend of egotism so peculiar to shareholder gatherings. During a brief pause he met the eye of every single member before continuing.

'Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the shareholders I insist you take action today. The figures speak for themselves. You must make a decision. One of you has got to have the courage to put a stop to the haemorrhaging being caused by Everbright and to do so before it's too late.

This was too much for Robert. With no encouragement from the chair he sprang to his feet.

'The figures speak for themselves, yes. And I'm not going to contest them. There would be no point in that. But has anyone thought about the... I mean, can we really... Are you not willing to take a...'

But it was no use. Robert looked into a dozen pair of empty eyes and knew it was futile. He took a final look around the room, gathered up his papers and left the room to the sound of the chairman's words:

'We wish to thank Mr. Stanton for his contribution and deeply regret his decision to resign his position on the board. We wish him every success for the future.'

Double Blow

After weeks of campaigning it was becoming clear that the election was going to be a very close call. My main support base came from the old village who resented the way Demille had ridden roughshod over their concerns to attract a groups of nouveau riche city dwellers to Gensdouce. To accommodate them he forced through several compulsory purchase order against the farmers, taking away land which had been in their family for years in order to build large new estates of one family houses. But what was surprising was the fact that my popularity seemed to be on the increase among this new population; so much so, that it was felt I now had a real chance of winning. This made tonight's debate vital.

The debate itself had been proposed by Demille. His purpose, he claimed, was to give each candidate a chance to explain their respective vision for the village and how they were to put that vision into practice. Each candidate would have ten minutes to put across their vision and then questions would be put by the public to each candidate's team. The closing speach would be made by another member of the respective team.

For days every spare moment had gone into preparing the debate. We often met long into the night or rose early in the morning to spend time together before the working day began. Everyone looked bleary-eyed but we all knew what was at stake. But it would soon be over; then the job would begin in earnest.

But if the debate was in all our minds, someone else had stolen the limelight in the village. Violet's case against her husband had at last come to court, and her antics were on everybody's lips. Mme. Boucher's little shop began doing a roaring trade as everyone dropped in to get the latest news on her celebrity daughter, and to put in their two pence worth, not always very tactfully. In addition, there was renewed speculation as to the real father of her child; journalists coming from all over the country to feret out whoever he was. As for Violet, she was still very fragile and her doctors had warned against leaving her alone. Morgana was spending a few days in the city with her and wouldn't return until shortly before the debate and the next day Thérèse would go and replace her.

I entered the hall shortly before 5 p.m. Apart from a technician setting up the sound system everything was calm. Guillaume and Thérèse arrived shortly after, followed by a steady stream of people from both sides. Guillaume was just trying out the sound when there was a commotion outside and Mayor Demille stormed in, a newspaper in his hand and shouting at the top of his voice. Shedding his outward layer of clothing, he marched straight up to Thérèse and thrust the newspaper in her face.

"You promised, you'd say nothing, you lying little bitch."

The colour drained out of her face as she took the newspaper in her hand.

"The debate is cancelled. The election too. I'm dropping out. I'm dropping out and all thanks to this little bitch."

"Pierre, I swear to you, I know nothing about this. Four years ago I swore I'd say nothing about this. I'd didn't do it for you. I'd never have done it for you. Violet insisted I keep quiet. Yes, I used you. I made you pay a price for my silence. And it was worth it. But I've kept my part of the bargain. Whoever released this to the press, it wasn't me."

But Demille wasn't there to hear Thérèse' denial. Reactive as he was, he'd not waited to hear what she had to say. Her words bounced off his back as he left the hall. No, he was no longer there, but dozens of others were. And before long the news would would spread through the whole village.

That evening we held a crisis meeting to decide how to proceed. Mayor Demille had officially informed the authorities he was withdrawing from the race. There would be no election. But neither would I be mayor. My candidacy only made sense to oppose Mayor Demille. Now circumstances had changed. What was needed now, was someone to unify the village and I took great pleasure in proposing Guillaume to be that man. His reputation was impeccable and his knowledge of the workings of the French administration would stand him in good stead. The opposition also adopted him as their candidate, assuring he would be returned unopposed. Now was the time to bring the village together once more.

I returned home wondering where Morgana had got to. She had been due to arrive just before the debate, but the house was empty. Even if she had not heard what had happened and gone straight to the debate, she should be back by now. I put the TV on to listen to the late news and poured myself a glass of wine. Just as I did so, the doorbell rang. Morgana must have forgotten her keys. I opened up only to see a policeman standing on my doorstep. At that moment the phone rang.


Paul stared at the screen in disbelief. Explain in a few brief words where you come from. A few brief words to sum up a life and its origin. How could anyone do justice to such a question. Of course, he could find those few words. Italian; Wales, the land of his birth; rugby his passion; music, writing, books, books and even more books - but he would only write it once. People, he loved them; they were the driving force behind his teaching - permitting others to reach their full potential. The names of all those places he'd lived in, each one leaving an indelible impression upon him. The romances that had touch his life, even those that had never worked out. God, the creator of all things, even of his life.

Slowly, he started typing. Just one word per line. Each of these things that impressed themselves upon his mind. It took him just ten minutes. There they were, all of them. None forgotten. But... and as he put those words down on the scales, this 'but', this one little word outweighed them all. Each square word could be multiplied by itself over and over again, it would never be enough.


Dear Readers,

I know it's unusual for an author to address his readers in his own voice and from the pages of the story he's been, hopefully, entertaining you with for the past few months but the burden of conventionality has never lain well on my shoulders, and so a word of warning before you read on. Just a few episodes back, I began with the words: 'That victory was the beginning of the end.' And from the replies I got I could easily see that none of you saw the deeper meaning of these words. Quite natural, I'm sure. But designed to lead you up the garden path. You love the hero, you adore his wife, you hate the villain. So at last, you're getting what you've wanted from the very beginning. Be warned!

So why am I writing this. Well, firstly, it gives me a chance to stretch out this story by introducing a slight break in the tension. Secondly, I'm keeping you guessing. Just when you felt, you had the measure of the story and where it's going, a warning and you realise you've got it all wrong. But have you? Maybe, this little warning here is nothing more than a red herring. You don't know, I do. Or maybe, I don't. Maybe this is nothing more than to give me another week before I have to think up the next episode. And finally, I'm going to enjoy reading you all your comments and watching you squirming in your favourite reading chair, trying to work out what this is all about. But rest assured, the end is nigh. One day, sooner or later.

Sincerely, your ubiquitous weekly guest,

The Author.

Seeing Clearly

Dear Past Me,

How strange it is to address you like this. As if there's some some organ hidden inside, that I can separate from the rest and label as past. If that were the case, then I wonder what I would do with you. Sometimes, I feel sure, I'd do my best to destroy you, so ashamed I am of you. But that would be just treating you as a scapegoat; you, carrying my weakness and providing a more than useful excuse. At other times, I'd like to carry you about with me and show you off too others. Those are the moments I'm proud of. What an interesting tautology it is to be proud of myself in my strength but to blame you, my past, for my weaknesses. I'd rather not count the number of times, I've done that. And then there are those times, when I'd just like to sit and revel in your company, remember those precious moments that still make me feel warm inside when I think of them.

In reality, of course, your much more like a cancer than an organ. You're there filling my whole me without me even realising. How much of what I did today, can find its roots in yesterday. Impossible to say. All I can say is, what I was has become me, and what I am flows back to you.

And now I'd like to introduce you to the third me. His name is future me. I don't really know him that well. You see, he'll just turn up one day, introduce himself and take me with him. I wonder how well you know him. Maybe he's floating along through time along with you, just waiting for opportunities to knock at my door. Maybe he's really just a part of you, or a part of me. Now isn't that a sobering thought.

Have I confused you? I'm sure I have my readers. Maybe, it's because you, both of you... Mr. Past and Mr. Future, have confused me. So I'm going to the optician's tomorrow to order a new pair of glasses; one with lenses at the front and the back. That way I can keep an eye on you both.


Life on the election trail wasn't exactly harduous; at least not in our little village of Gensdouce. My days were now filled the usual round of meetings, consultations, visiting dignitaries etc. and my favourite, doorstep canvassing. There was nothing better going round the houses, knocking on doors and listening to people explaining how they wanted their town to be run. For that was the kind of Mayor I wanted to be - one who listened to the people, not just some bureacrat hidden away in his office, and taking the pulse of the village at dinner gatherings with his friends from town.

My team consisted of Thérèse and Guillaume, Jean and three others I hadn't really known that well but who proved to be more than competent. I'd wanted Morgana in too, but Thérèse felt that might make things look too much like a family matter; and Thérèse wouldn't budge an inch despite all Morgana's cajoling. Besides, somebody would have to take over the directorship at the espace loisirs in my, at least, temporary absence. The board asked Morgana to do just that and she accepted with grace, although I knew full well she'd have much prefered to be in the thick of things with me. However, she was allowed to attend our end of the day run-down, and proved to be a tremendous encouragement to us all.

Our problem was that we were getting conflicting signals. On the doorsteps people were really happy to talk to us and many expressed openly their desire to see change in Gensdouce. Yet, the polls still gave Mayor Demille a strong lead, and at meetings doubts were often expressed as to my experience and my ability to lead a team who were going to have to face head-on a number of exacting problems; after all, unlike Mayor Demille I didn't even have a university education. If they only knew that I'd been kicked out of school at 15...

Mayor Demille's campaign had been quite subdued in comparison. Not once had his infamous reared its ugly head. Instead, je preferred to play the dual card of trust and experience. The people had given them his confidence now for three terms in a row. He had never let them down, not once. They could trust him. His experience was proven. Never once did he attack me personally, no doubt his advisers made him steer well clear of the nationality question... but he didn't even question my youth and evident lack of experience. Rumours soon began circulating that he was getting tired of the fight; some even went as far as to say he would be glad to lose and to get some peace and quiet. But I didn't trust him, nor did I trust the dark-haired recluse he had hired to help run his campaign. I always felt they were keeping something up their sleeve; just when things were going fine, out it would come at a most inopportune moment and catch me on the wrong foot.

But the only thing that did wrong foot me, was an announcement Morgana made one night. We'd just returned from one of the many meetings I'd had to address and were enjoying a quiet cup of herbal tea together before hitting the sack, when she suddenly produced 'to do' list, containing all the things that had to be done before the next nine months were over.

Other Plans

'Well James, father's placed a great responsibility on your shoulders. I hope you live up to his expectations.'

'As you know my dear Sis, nobody ever lived up to father's expectations. No, in fact, I'll be making quite a few changes now that I'm in charge of the company.'

'Does that include looking around for a new chief financial officer.'

'Well, the thought had crossed my mind. But on reflection I may well decide to keep you on. Heavens! What are you doing with that?'

'It was father's. He gave it to me just before he died. Said I'd be needing it in this cut-throat world. But don't look so worried my dear James, I don't intend using it, not on you at any rate. I've got other plans for you. However, if ever I did use it, I should be very careful. As you see, I only ever handle it, when wearing gloves. Kindly put it in Dad's desk for me will you. There's a compartment in the top drawer. And make sure you lock it properly.'

James and Elizabeth continued exchanging little banalities for another thirty minutes or so before James decided it was time to get back to his wife.

'You've never seemed in such a hurry to go to her before. No pretty little secretaries to satisfy this evening. Oh yes, of course, Gloria is on holiday this week, isn't it. I'm sure Lucy must be immensely pleased. She must think Christmas has come two months early.'

She smiled to herself as James stormed out of the room. She knew full well, Lucy was the last person he would go to now. But she would go and see her fragile little sister in law. Over the past few months they had become great friends. Lucy had taken her into her confidence as regards the suspicions she had. Elizabeth had said nothing to confirm or deny such suspicions. She had just tried to be comforting, awaiting such an opportunity as this. She crossed the room and with her still gloved hands opened the lock to the compartment in father's desk. Taking out the revolver she placed it carefully in her handbag. It would all be so easy. Lucy would open the door, welcome her in and promise her a nice cup of tea. One quick, clean shot to the heart, and no one to witness it. She'd registered the gun as having been stolen, some two days previous. And now they'd find it with David's print's on the gun and on the lock to the compartment.


Two headlines dominated the news over the next few days and once again our little village was thrust into the limelight; a limelight, I must admit, I would have prefered to avoid. Surely, it would only be a matter of time before... and sure enough before the week was out a journalist was at my doorstep wanting my opinion on that other headline.

'Mr. Brightwell, it has just come to our notice that you and Ms. Boucher used to be, shall we say, on quite familiar terms before her marriage to Étienne Gamehill? And we also believe that you are representing her in the affair of her divorce from the same Mr. Gamehill? Is it true that the announcement of her divorce has anything to do with a desire on her part to renew that intimacy which once existed between you!'

I fully realised that my terse, 'No, and I've nothing further to comment' would not be heeded and the next morning's newspapers produced an amalgation of the previous two headlines which doubtless showed what I could expect in days to come.

Film Magnate Blames Country's First Foreign Mayor For Divorce

We were ready for this onslaught and our tactics were to keep our silence. Fuelling the debate with comment or denial would only fuel interest in the question. If we kept quiet, the journalists would sooner or later lose interest in the matter and stop rambling on about it. But things hit rock bottom first. Saturday's news brought further accusations:

Wife's confession: Foreign Mayor Fathered My Child

This was a step too far. No way would Violet have made such a claim. Indeed, she was still in a sanatorium, recovering from the battering received at the hand's of her oh so saintly husband, the day she left him. Not a single journalist had the faintest idea where she was. But before we had time to react, the newspapers were silenced by a court injunction taken out by an unknown person, forcing them to retract what they had said and not to publish anything further on the matter without prior approval of the courts. Such approval would only be given if sufficient proof was presented as to the veracity of the claims. It wasn't until several weeks later that we learnt the injunction had been taken out by Mr. Gamehill himself.

But, one further cross-examination awaited me. Morgana had been aware that I had had a brief relationship with Violet, long before I knew her. But I had never told her how intimate we had been. Now was the time to lay all my cards on the table. I had indeed slept with Violet on one occasion and one occasion only. But this was well before her leaving Gensdouce and over two years before the birth of her child. There was no way I could be the father of her child, despite the fact that probably half Gensdouce had suspected me at the time.

That Mayor Demille would make capital out of these events was beyond all doubt. All we could do was smile and get on with our own campaigning. But strangely enough, he never once refered to the incidents. Indeed, questioned by the newspapers he went into a raving tirade against the standard of professionalism to which the country's journalists had sunk. Not once did he try to avenge himself.

I tried to think of a reason for his silence. True, his son Gérard had often been seen around with Violet at the time, but he had assured me at the time that he was not the father. Did his father not believe him? Or did he genuinely just want to fight the election on matters of policy rather than personality. It's true, few people felt our chances of unseating him to be very high. Was he counting on that?

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