Joan had been a legal secretary for most of her life in the firm of Johnson, Plover and Willis. A child of the sixties, she had been a disciple of Andy Warhol but had decided to sacrifice her allotted fifteen minutes of fame, having being stuck in a routine marriage to her childhood sweetheart Angus. However, she had ditched him soon after the second child had been born when she found him in bed with the babysitter.
An unusual choice she thought as he had always had a penchant for older, dark haired ladies but if he wanted a young blond guy of nineteen, then hey what the heck! She felt sorry for both their mothers, the widowed one who had to take a twenty eight year old back to live with her just when things were beginning to happen with the captain at the bowls club, and the other one who would have to get used to the fact that her eldest, whom she always thought was suspect, had leapt out of the closet almost wearing her clothes.
Having dispatched hubby, she entered into a string of one night stands which she called relationships and once even complimented herself that on a visit to her local church to hear Mozart’s Requiem, the musical director, four of the tenors, two baritones and blushingly the lead soprano were in her portfolio of conquests. She had mingled with the choir and other members of the audience at the end of the performance, trying to gain maximum embarrassment from the situation as her black book entries clung to their spouses, eyes averted, hoping she would not approach them. Only the Musical Director stood alone munching his sardine sandwiches. As she sidled up to him, he visibly blanched. “Good night Father!” she purred as she sailed past him towards the door without stopping. “Another excellent performance,” she appended sweetly.
Dalliances apart, she lived a full life. She was well read, a good conversationalist, more than a passable bridge player and knew her wine, which made her popular at dinner parties where she could speak at length about the advantages of a Fronsac over the more highly priced neighbouring St. Emilion. She liked to holiday alone, shunning packages for city breaks which she supplemented with the occasional self assembled montages – Machu Picchu being the most recent. Finally she had adopted a snow leopard and sponsored an orphan in Katmandu with equal generosity. All in all a complete woman and “deliciously complicated” as one of her suitors had oozed as a chat up line. He never made her portfolio!
Her social and by default, sexual life was kept well away from her working life. The senior partner had often tried his luck, having heard certain stories but Joan had always dismissed him which did his ego no good whatsoever, but as she was excellent at her job, he was only mildly miffed.
Her dealings with clients and other solicitors’ offices were perfection and she had pulled one or two of the younger staff out of holes on more than one occasion. She was popular with the other girls in the front office as they saw her as something of a mother figure and she came to work with a smile on her face each day executing even the most mundane tasks with gusto.
So it came as a complete surprise then that she knocked on Mr Johnson’s door one Friday afternoon, bounced in all bosom, blouse and beads and asked to be considered for early retirement. She pointed out that she had been in his employ for over twenty five years, that Jennifer could be trained up, and if he would agree to a decent package, she would be gone before Christmas.
Johnson twirled on an imaginary moustache, mentally undressed the lovely Jennifer and within a week she was gone.
Christmas came and went uneventfully. Her sons spent two days with her. Hubby, with whom she had recently established cordial relations, and who called on an infrequent basis, arrived for tea and biscuits with his new boyfriend, as stunningly handsome as he was plain. Apart from reworking an old rugby player on New Year’s Eve, she settled into the very common state of celibacy and evening classes.
Mondays was “Baking for Beginners”. Although she was an accomplished cook, her desserts never rose above the heights of an Eton Mess or a cheeseboard.
Tuesdays was “An Introduction to Behavioural Psychology”. She had always been a people watcher and this would give her some scientific basis on which to base her character assumptions which previously had turned out to be so radically wrong.
Wednesdays was “Ballroom Dancing”. She had tried it a few times at those ghastly tea dances and remembered once how she did a passable waltz with a guy who said he was a pilot. He was not the prettiest of pilots but that attracted her. However, while she had thought about adding him to her list of conquests, he appeared only to want to dance. He had a nickname which she could not remember. Something to do with a dog she thought!
Thursdays was “So You want to Write?” This was her favourite. It was a small class with only six in it. She thought on the first night that it resembled something from a Miss Marple Murder Mystery. Within minutes her Behavioural Psychology training had already identified the teacher’s pet; the one who was better than the rest and whose first novella was just waiting to be published; the aging hippie; the social introvert; and the comedian who had nothing of substance to offer either orally or on paper.
The tutor was someone who had decided he was an enigma. He wore the uniform of writers, tweed jacket with patches, collarless shirt and a man scarf. He probably smoked a pipe as well! But he had a knack of making the class gel and by the end of the second week they were going to the pub and actually reflecting what they had done in class. The Enigma, having already decided that Joan would be his personal project tagged along and was eagerly accepted.
Ten weeks passed quickly. By the end she could make her own meringues for her Eton Mess, had decided that Pavlov was grossly over rated and could foxtrot with the best of them. While her writing skills were better honed, she was never going to be an author but she had enjoyed the class immensely. The only thing which had annoyed her was The Enigma’s over use of the continuous present tense – “I am so loving your work!” She saw it as an additional affectation and it did not amuse her. She named him Man Scarf.
On the last night, Man Scarf decided to have a “bit of a do”. He would supply some wine, teacher’s pet some cheese, the one whose novella was still waiting to be published, some crackers, the ageing hippie some glasses, the social introvert some music and the comedian the soft drinks. Joan was to bring some little iced thingies from her baking class.
As “bits of do’s” go, it went alright and Man Scarf decided to hold a Tall Short Story competition to end the evening. This he thought was very apt for a Creative Writing Course. Noticing that it was nearing 9.30pm, after which he did not get paid, the story was to last no more than one minute – “good for focusing the brain” he lied.
They all composed, listened and clapped politely. Joan was last to go.
“Today, I murdered my ex husband”, she started. “ He called over for tea and I made some iced thingies which I laced with poison. He should be dead by now. The poison takes an hour to kick in”. She sat down, folded her hands on her lap and waited.
Her audience gasped, looked at the remainder of the iced thingies which they had just devoured, then broke into howls of laughter.
“ What a story”
“Best one yet”
“You had us worried for a while there Joan!”
They said their goodbyes, promising to FB and meet up during the summer.
Man Scarf was the last to leave. He packed his briefcase, turned out the light and walked to his car. He had about an hour’s drive to get home. He turned on the radio just as the News was ending.
“And finally, Angus Devlin, the Gay Rights Activist died tonight. His partner said he had just returned from a tea appointment somewhere, he did not know with whom, when he collapsed in agony, clutching his stomach and lost consciousness a few minutes later”
Man Scarf engaged first gear and winced as he felt the first pain in his stomach.
In the executive lounge at the airport, Joan Devlin, on her way to Spain, smiled and fondly remembered Andy Warhol.
Paul has written 7 full length fictional novels – crime fiction – plus a collection of poetry, a book of short stories, a non-fiction self help book regarding an authorship, and a children’s fantasy book which was co-written with Meg Johnston. These books are in both print and Kindle. Four books make up the Boyd detective series and three are in the Davies King series. They are all stand alone books. In the past he has been published by a Vanity House and a Traditional Publishing House. He is currently an independent self publishing author with a store front on the ‘Lulu’ website as well as amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.