Sleeping Beauty

I always liked going on holiday to Wales, especially either end of the seasons, when the weather is wild and furious. The energy of nature pelting down on you, or freezing to solid stone around you.

It was during one such holiday and time of exploration that I met the King of the Goths, Alaric was his name and his namesake had sacked Rome in 410 AD. Dressed in his business suit he was every bit the Teutonic warrior with long, fine chocolate and gold spun hair, and a fine wire and muscle frame. His high check bones and strong noise had me captivated.

He had eyes of the spring dawn, shot through with cobalt-laths that stared at me from the pale moon of his face. I stood their dripping with the torrential rain I had just escaped; my waterproofs dark and glistering and my boots caked in bruised heather and mud. His eyes I felt follow me to the counter of the small mountainside café as I ordered a hot chocolate and the house special, beans and mash. I was chilled right through as the sills on my coat had given way allowing water to seep in.

The coal fire that I new would be there, guttered and spat at the other end of the room. I made my way over to its cheering glow, removing my sodden backpack as I went. I could still feel those beautifully cold and dark eyes on me as I settled onto the bench with my waterproofs drying and my finger thawing, gripped around the mug of thin brown liquid, which was pretending to be hot chocolate.

After a while I decided to retrieve my note books and sketch pads from my bag, to my relief they where still dry, I set them out upon the heavily scarred wood of the table and in the flickering fire light began to create the world of my moments whim and desire. Dark foreboding landscapes I’d sketched, not my norm, which where brightly coloured and abstract. Battles I drew with an accuracy I’d never before known and a thirst for knowledge that I thought had deserted me forever in those last few hellish months of uni with finales and the real world looming to swallow me whole.

I hoped feverishly that my scrap with the real world was at an end now, what with me selling the portraits and landscape that my imagination regularly spewed out and my hope of getting on a PhD course. I sketched faster and faster lost in the rhythm of the pencil and the grain of the paper but even then I could feel his eyes there, a fire in ice, gaining in strength and intensity though I could here the clacking of him at his laptop.

The picture finished I looked down to find that I had drawn him, a man I’d briefly glimpsed on my way in, wearing not his suit but animal skins and a crown, fire burned in this picture its light casting an eerie royalty to the figure. Embarrassed at the indiscression of my imagination and the heat of passion the portrait enlisted, I looked up only to lock eyes with the stranger. I never drew the real, it was somehow invasive and wrong, a simple curtosy broken.

Blushing I turned my face away, The waitress arrived with my food and saw the picture, to my dismay she whipped it away exclaiming its buity and worth and how I had captured his noble figure, assuming obviously that I knew the stranger at the other end of the room. She retreated back to the kitchen and I was left a scarlet flower fearing to look up for I could feel the pressure of those eyes upon me, would he be angry?

I felt the as pressure of his warmth as he came up beside me, ‘May I look?’ he asked in the gentlest of tones, startled I looked up and locked eyes again with those beautiful pools of blue now glittering with amber firelight. He was smiling gentle at me, lips that called to an inner heat; I was so entranced I failed to answer this polite inquiry. He lent down over me and I drank in his smell, not sweat or beer but something pleasant and arousing to me. I noticed the cut of his charcoal suit, hand tailored, this startled me as he was so young and did not have the air of a city type about him.

‘I wish I could draw,’ he said suddenly, turning his fiery eyes upon me, I blushed even more.

‘I didn’t mean to draw you,’ I blurted out, sounding young and childishly absurd. He laughed, a chocolate laugh rich and deeper than I had expected, ‘how do you know he’s me? Who would you say he is in his own right? This hero of your burning dark world,’ his eyes shone now with merriment and I wondered if he was making fun of me, if he was I decided he had a right, I had drawn him without permission, in some cultures I stolen part of his soul.

I gave a frightened smile knowing that I was about to sound both silly and over learned, ‘Ok, if you really want to know he is Alaric, king of the Goths, sacked Rome in 410 AD and the fire was so furious that metal coins fused into the pavement…’ I broke of abruptly his face had gone dark and he appeared angry, I shrank back in on myself, he was after all a stranger and therefore unpredictable in the extreme.

‘Yes and now your going to tell me how he is thought to buried under a river that they perhapsly diverted for him.’ He was very angry I was non-pulsed and impressed that he knew what I was talking about.

He stood up and backed away from me as if I had burnt him, ‘Which one of them put you up to this? Mike? Simon? Well.’ He demanded, there was a new authority and a faint trace of hurt in his voice.

‘Put me up to what?’ I asked confused.

He snorted and turned away from me, for some reason this blatant dismissal angered me, ‘Look I don’t know what you are talking about, this is why I never draw the real, except my field and specimen sketches, people act strange, its invasive, I know. I’m sorry it was an accident. But that’s no reason for you to be so rude.’ There was heat in my words and a buried venom, not being of a confrontational nature I didn’t really now how to handle the situation, besides he still held an overwhelming attraction for me.

I saw his shoulders slump suddenly and he turned back to me, ‘I’m sorry,’ he said with downcast eyes, the sight made my heart ache, I felt as though I’d just kicked a kitten. ‘Its not your fault, though why a wonderful artist like you should have to help with practical jokes I don’t know. Are you really that desperate, or did it just sound like a bit of fun for everybody?’

I really was perplexed by this point but most of all feared losing him though he was not mine for the losing. ‘I have no idea what your talking about, what joke? And well,’ here I blushed more, ‘I’m not actually an artist, I’m well… a physicist, or at least trying to be.’ His eyes flickered up and stared into me, boring into my mind and soul, seeking, searching, it made me shiver with a strange pleasure.

‘Are you seriously telling me, then that you do not have a clue who I am?’

‘No why would I? I’m on a walking and drawing holiday; I only came in here because it was the first building that I came to. Why are you someone special?’ I said the last part caustically because I had miss-preserved his reaction as arrogance; perhaps he was some actor or something and had thought me mocking a part he had played.

He smiled again and I felt my breathing rate increase, I was hit with a fine, giddying rush of adrenaline, I wanted him, I blushed again. ‘I suppose I’d best introduce myself, I’m not anyone one special, but I am an Alaric, named after the king of the Goths who sacked Rome in 410 AD,’ he was chuckling and it was my turn to feel angry and hurt.

‘ Now it is you mocking me, I feel!’ I think that if it had not just started hailing outside I would have left at that point.

‘No seriously, here, look I have ID.’ He fished out a swipcard of some type, it did indeed say Alaric. I started to understand his annoyance and jumped conclusion. He also extracted a business card, which he shyly offered me. I took it and carefully put it in my rail pass holder. ‘So how do you know of Alaric?’ he asked me gently, as if he feared I would bolt.

‘I was brought up by parents who thought Roman ruins etc… where the best things on Earth, and I wanted to be an archaeologist for a while too.’ I looked down at my feet and to my embarrassment blushed yet again, fearing he was soon going to think me a beetroot.

He put his hand on my shoulder and an electric jolt ran through me, I wanted him to kiss me; my body was desperately trying to move into him of its own accord. I looked into his eyes but then turned away shyly giggling much to my continued embarrassment. I heard him sigh, ‘would you forgive me and perhaps go for dinner? Urm, no strings attached..’ he finished lamely having realised that he had just asked a lone female he’d never met before, to dinner, my heart sank I desperately wanted the strings, though I was quiet inexperienced in these things.

My hesitation, made him think he was being too invasive and he quickly dropped his arm, I looked at him and smiled, ‘dinner would be nice, thanks.’ I knew this was dangerous, I knew nothing about him, nor his intensions or even if he was attached already, but the attraction was so strong that I just had to risk all.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon talking, and I became more and more drawn by him, he was a computer programmer but unlike others of his ilk I had met he was well, I wanted him and his nearness was driving me to new heights of desire, I had never felt this way before, and it scared me, I felt out of control, plummeting down and up again on a rollercoster. He had a keen interest in physics and maths and he could hold his own on Earth history and the like, he was techniqual minded and creative to an extreme, he like me had been writing science fiction and I began to love him more and more though I didn’t know a name for the strange ache in my heart. I could not be in love I was far to practical for that and certainly, not a complete stranger.

I missed my last bus back to the campsite, so in grossed was I, in our endless conversations. It was eleven thirty before, our lips finally met and my insides somersaulted, my heart pumped faster. It was only the need for air that stopped us, uncertainly he lead me up to his room, concuss of the fact that I was stranded, ‘I’ll sleep on the floor if you want,’ he asked both shyly and hopefully, I smiled at him, ‘what do you want to do?’ I asked squeezing his hand slightly.

‘I ,.. I want to make love to you,’ he looked away from me, obviously expecting rejection, and I felt my libido rise, I knew that I should not really risk this but I wanted him, I wanted to love him with my whole, even if I only had him for that night.

‘I think I would like that,’ I began, I hesitated and he stiffened, ‘but I well, I’ve only had sex twice with my last boyfriend over three yrs ago, so ‘ I became ashamed of my lack of experience, ‘I , I , might get scared and …’

‘That ok, you can back out at any point, I want to make love to you, if it ends in full sex it’s a bonus, if you don’t feel ready I’ll sleep on the floor, or in the same bed and not touch you,’ he shrugged shyly, I could see he was worried he’d pushed things too far too fast, I lent forward and we fell into another long passionate kiss, this time with wondering hands I was so moist by now I could smell my own muskiness. Then a dreadful thought struck me, my emergency condom was going to be out of date, would he have any?

He did. We rolled together, cloths flying everywhere and worrying about the people in the next room, as I tried to curtail my cries of passion, we lay together after, his continued pulsing causing the same in me, I was happy and content I never wanted the moment to end, looking at the floral decoration of his B&B room, the pinks and greens burning their way into my mind forever, I loved him, I wanted to keep him, but I knew that I had little chance, I was probably some one night stand to him and that was ok because I had these moments and I was catching as many of them for my memory as I could.

We lay together talking and hugging and kissing, each enjoying the warmth and companionship of the other, for most of the next day, but he had to go away he said for two weeks on a business trip. I wanted to believe him when he said that he wanted to keep me and that when he got back perhaps we could see each other properly but my courses side would not let me entirely full. We arranged to meet after his business trip and he made sure we had each others contact details, I thought he just might be being genuine, I hoped so. The last thing we did before we parted at the train station was go to a photo both, silly, but sweet and the photo I have even now.

Two weeks of agony passed but at last it was time for us to meet again, I had dreamt of nothing else, his arms, his eyes, his voice, all of him, I wanted to drink him in once again. I stood by the underground entrance at Paddington at the top of the escalator; he had made sure I knew exactly which entrance to wait by. I was early hoping to catch him as soon as possible, despite myself I had fallen, surely he would come.

The time approached and I became more and more egger and more and more shy, I scanned the crowds desperately but no sign I saw, the seconds dragged, I began to get pensive once he was fifteen minutes late, I could not believe he would let me down, there must be delays, I decided and carried on waiting, scanning the crowds harder than ever. I waited another twenty minutes before I tried to phone but I just got through to the answer phone, hearing his voice made me want to cry, had he stood me up?

He was now over an hour late, I felt small and abandoned, surely he would arrive soon? I kept telling myself I would only wait another ten minutes, I wanted to cry and once the two hour mark came tears escaped, burning like daggers at the back of my eyes. I tried phoning five more times but got only answer phone. I worried that if he was standing me up that my calling was making me look like a stalker, I still loved him and just wanted him to have a good impression of me. Still I stood there waiting, lost and miserable, hurt and in anguish.

I waited five hours in total, I felt foolish and small, convinced that the station staff had noticed me and thought it funny. I was angry with myself; of course he wasn’t interested in me how could he be? He was a successful businessman and I a student. I had obviously been just some holiday fun to him, what else did I expect. The tears rolled silently down my face most if the way home, I tried to hide them, but the drunks at that time of night never noticed or never cared.

I cried in my room, heart brokenly, accidentally I awoke my flatmates, they came with the chocolate and the tissues and the hugs but I was inconsolable, and scared of the powerful reaction this man had enlisted from me. My flatmates muttered about over reactions, but they didn’t understand, I knew deep down that he was my one true soul mate and I couldn’t understand why he had abandoned me, but at the same time knew this to be irrational and him a man of flesh and blood who probably had just needed the relief from his natural urges. I was obsessed and began to draw him, from every angle in varied landscapes, some fictional some historic, all beautiful and unrivalled by any of my other work. The rhythen or drawing, painting and creating was the only thing that bought me peace in this tme, I felt I had gone mad.

I was supposed to be hunting for PhD’s and or a better job, but then I became sick.

So tired, neusies all the time, flatmates yelled at me over not recognising depression and giving me the phone to call the doctors all the time, then the water infection hit, and still I continued to draw, though I couldn’t spend more than half an hour out of bed or out of the bathroom. Finally I went to the doctors, dragged by worried friends, it soon became apparent that the reason I was having these problems was not due to depression, though I was very down cast and moody, I was pregnant.

I should have panicked; I should have been terrified. I was on my own and pregnant, and I was these things but mostly I was, well, elated. My friends really thought that I had lost the plot and they were probably right. I had a little life inside me, that needed me and even if Alaric didn’t want me, I had something that was born out of that union. I tried to phone him, to tell him, but to my great sadness his number no longer worked, I wondered if I had phoned too much before and if he had changed it because of me. I composed email after email to him, only a few of which I ever sent. Just things like asking if it was a boy if I may name it Alaric, but no response I got. I felt really abandoned now, I had thought that perhaps he would at least want to see the child, but then I though that he may think me loose and not be confident in paternity, so I gave up my efforts on him and turned to organising my life.

I had lost my job, my crummy part-time job due to what I now knew was morning sickness, the PhD would have to wait, I could not ask my flat mates to put up with a squalling child, what was I to do. These thoughts kept me awake in the night, and cause more than few tears.

I was lucky, very lucky my friend Alicia had just started seeing a married man, who she brought to the flat, he turned out to be an art dealer and saw my sketches on the sideboard. He was only interested in the pictures of Alaric, in his gloomy landscapes and godly realms, they where my finest work, though I had to be talked into selling them to him and into doing more, I felt I had no right to sell them, I had not asked permission to place my King of the Goths in the pictures and I wasn’t sure how he would feel about strangers having him hanging on their walls, but I had to be practical and it was his child, I felt that it was him somehow contributing.

I could see now that I had been a fool and how I had let a stranger steal my heart. I thought that perhaps he would bost about me and laugh at my naivety to his friends at home, the other thought that I could not bear, was that he had forgotten me or thought I really was as, nothing. I felt that this was my ego trying to cope and it wasn’t very big and strong to begin with.

Baby cloths and equipment showered down on me from on high, my mother at first disapproving was ecstatic at me coming home to live with her, producing her first grand child, and fussed around me enough to drive me insane.

My pictures where selling like hot cakes, I was told, and the dealer wanted everything I had, sketch books the lot, but I felt that my sketch books were my working area, the tequnics and styles that I tried, new things that sometimes worked and sometimes turned into sublime mess. He had all my finished pictures though, all the weird abstracts that my mother had despaired over. I began to worry about what would happen when I ran out of pictures but I had lots of money behind me now. People, strangers began to phone for me, to go to gallery openings and the such, so when I got the phone call I thought it just another of those.

‘Hello, could I speak to Sue Richards please?’ came the gentle female voice that somehow was vaguely familiar to me.

‘Yes that’s me,’ was my tired response the baby had just started kicking and I was getting hardly any sleep because of it.

‘Hi you don’t know me but are you the girl who’s been drawing all the Romano-Goth pictures?’ the voice sounded excited and scared at the same time, this was when I started to think that perhaps she wasn’t from some art gallery.

‘Yes, that’s me,’ it was a weary response; there was something unusual about this phone call.

‘Oh thank heavens for that I’ve been trying to track you down for months, at least I hope its you.’ The excitement was brimming over; I was perplexed to say the least.

‘Could I ask why?’

‘Oh yes sorry, um, my names Cleo…’ the world fell from beneath me, how could this be, I knew now why the voice sounded strangely familiar.

‘As in Cleopatra? ‘ I whispered in response.

‘Yes, wow that’s right, listen I’m phoning because..’

‘Alaric’ the name escaped my lips before my brain went into gear, ‘your Alaric’s sister, aren’t you?’ I was shocked, hurt and confused, this was so strange.

‘Yes,’ the voice was sad now, ‘I was phoning to check that it was my brother in the pictures?’

‘Yes it is,’ a slight fear pickeled my skin, ‘Do you know where Alaric is?’ part of me expected her to say no that he was missing, that would explain things but was too horrific for me to face.

‘Yes.’ the voice was now quiet and hesitant, I miss understood it to be reserved and cold, I thought that I had perhaps scared him with phone calls and the such and that his sister had been sent to deal with me instead.

‘Oh ok, well, could you, could you tell him that ..’ my voice grew thick and choked me, ‘that I’m pregnant but that its ok, I have money but that if he wanted to see it, he could.’ I heard the intake of air form the other end of the phone, I thought that the girl had not been expecting this but then neither had I.

‘I don’t have to be there if he doesn’t want to see me,’ my voice broke and I felt retched.

‘Have you broken up with my brother then?’ she asked in a small distressed voice.

‘I assume so, he never turned up and hasn’t responded to any of the messages I sent, its ok, I’m sorry, why are you phoning anyway?’ I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

‘Erm.. well, erm, when where you supposed to meet up?’

I told her and to my alarm she broke into tears, ‘Are you ok?’ I ventured alarmed by her response.

‘I’m sorry it’s just the rest of the family thought that you must not have cared.’ I grew very alarmed at this statement.

‘What do you mean? Is Alaric ok?’ my heart had risen to my throat; I heard it thumping in my ears.

‘My brothers been in hospital, in a coma for the past seven months,’ I stood silent with my eyes closed, tears rolled once again down my cheeks, ‘we thought that he had broken up with you or something,’ her voice was cracking again.

‘Nonono,’ I whispered repeatedly.

‘He had a note and presents but when you never turned up at the hospital we thought…’ she broke off.

‘How bad is he? Where is he?’ I was urgently now scrabbling for a taxi card and bus timetables.

‘The doctors say there’s brain activity, he’s just not waking up, I thought that you might not had known about the accident and I couldn’t find anyway to contact you, then my friend bought a picture and when I looked Alaric was in it, will you come to the hospital? Please?’ I realised she had not heard my earlier questions; I finally got the hospital and ward out of her.

‘When did this happen exactly?’ I asked knowing the answer.

‘The day he didn’t turn up for you, he was hit by a car,’ the unhappy voice sounded eerie to me now, and I wondered if I should tell her that I had only been with him for a day, I kept quiet I felt it would cause more pain than was needed.

In tears I found my mother and father giving them the fright of their lives, I made them, drive the forty miles to the hospital, out side the white concert and metal extera Cleo stood, waiting for me, I recognised her at once, her similarity to Alaric was heart breaking to me. I dived out of the car as best I could, but being heavily pregnant I ended up having wait for assistance. Cleo’s face broke into a worried grin, ‘please may I?’ She asked, I knew that she wanted to touch my belly and allowed it, I didn’t care I just wanted to see him, I feared that he would be lost and I had thought him callous and shallow.

We walked through the hospital with its smell of soapy disinfectant and hoards of busseling orderlies and nurses, I grew pensive, Cleo explained that her family would all be there and that lots of them thought that I had broken it off with Alaric and that’s why he had crossed the road and been hit, even though the police said it was a speeder, that caught him.

I waddled out of breath towards the door, people bearing a resemblance to Alaric stood around the entrance to the ward and I noticed it said that no more than three where allowed in at any time to see a patient, I ignored the inquiring glances, and made straight for the bed with Cleo. I felt sick and light headed, there he lay like a crusaders statue upon the bed, skin waxy and pale, he looked like stone too me. ‘Who are you?’ demanded a middle-aged woman I assumed to be his mother, I ignored her and went straight to his side, I clasped one of his hands so cold compared to mine.

I began to cry, ‘Oh Alaric,’ I whispered over and over, ‘Forgive me I didn’t know, I thought, I thought you didn’t want me any more,’

‘Get out,’ hissed his mother, ‘you have no right to be here, he doesn’t want you,’ I looked up at her for the first time a was sickened by the hate I saw there, the middle aged man next to her looked at me, his eyes flickered to my stomach, distended as it was, belying my condition.

‘No dear,’ he said gently in a deeper version of Alaric’s tones, ‘I think she has some news for our son.’ His wife glared at him.

‘Alaric, I sent you emails and I tried to call, but you’ll never guess what? I’m pregnant.’ I whispered wishing the others where not they’re watching; I heard his mother gasp and Cleo was there at my side also, her hand resting gently on my shoulder as her brothers had done months before. I bent over him and kissed his lips, half expecting them to be hard and cold as stone, but they where soft and yielding, too yielding, but then to my surprise and hope, they kissed back. I straightened up to quickly and almost backed into a drip.

His eyes flickered open, blearily, still half dream-flickering, his mother thought him fitting and screamed for the nurses and doctors, his lips parted, ‘Sue?’ came a cracked voice, he could not yet focus.

‘Yes, its me,’ I said clasping his hand tighter.

‘I must tell you.. ‘ He began, I thought for a heart stopping moment he was going to dump me, but I was glade anyway, he was waking. ‘I looked at my other condoms they, they’re all out of date, you should get checked out, sorry.’ I realised he was not fully awake and obviously thought it just us there. Cleo I could here giggling slightly and I looked up seeking help and his fathers eyes where sparkling at me.

‘Erm, yes, well….’ I began, he tried to sit up as my response had alarmed him, ‘No don’t try to move, please, its ok. The condom was perished, its ok.’

‘His face looked confused and dropped into sadness, ‘No baby then?’ he asked, sounding slightly drunk, ‘I would have liked a baby, but only if you where ready,’ he added quickly, I smiled, he was being more honest than any of us had the right to hear.

‘That’s good because you’re getting a baby,’ he smiled dreamily up, and I worried he would not wake up form his long sleep properly. The doctors came and ushered us out at this point.

Within a couple of hours he was coherent again and the doctors said he was clear but had to stay in hospital for rehabilitation, I stayed with him, amazed at the events of our strange and coincidental love story, he did still want me, and all the babies I bore him. My Gothic King, and I his Lady consult.

Posted: Thursday, April 5th, 2012 @ 1:33 pm
Categories: Short Stories, Uncategorized.
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