Thursday, 24 December 2015

Little Lights

How happy he, who free from care
The rage of courts, and noise of towns;
Contented breathes his native air,
In his own grounds.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Ode On Solitude by Alexander Pope

Stock 206 by UmbraDeNoapte-Stock.

A Refuge For The Broken 

Katschberg, Austria

Peter Aitken stepped out purposefully into the bright winter sunshine and took a deep breath.

He was holding his goggles and skis firmly in his gloved hands. 

The air was fresh and clean and at last it felt good to be away from London.

Outstretched before him the majestic Austrian mountains rose out of the snowy planes like mountains

They towered above him like giant monoliths.

Peter Aitken squinted up at the winter sun.

It seemed to be smiling down upon him.

Christmas was three weeks away and Aitken faced the prospect of spending it alone in his Pimlico flat.

Watching repeats on TV and staring down at his half empty glass of Prosecco.

But for now he was on a fourteen day skiing vacation and he felt better today then he had done in a long while.

Peter Aitken felt alive.

He had arrived in Austria a couple of days before but only now was he allowing himself to relax.

Aitken had even left his phone on the night stand back at the log cabin he was staying in.

He was taking no calls.

It was a new experience for workaholic Peter Aitken.

He politely nodded to the friendly Japanese couple he had met the night before at dinner.

They nodded enthusiastically back.

Aitken had shared his memories of Tokyo with Hachiro Fujino and his wife Nao over baked Cannelloni.

Now he watched as they disappeared into a swarm of tourists all eager to try out the slopes or enjoy the bracing winter air.

Peter Aitken owned the successful.Syntax Inc. IT company.

Based in London but with sister companies in the States, Germany and Dubai, Aitken was riding the professional crest of a wave.

He was boyishly good looking with wavy brown hair and crisp blue eyes and was as dedicated to out door sports as he was to a profit margin.

Whitewater canoeing, mountain climbing and trekking through the Sierra Nevada were just a few of his obsessions.

Peter Aitken had been separated from his wife for just over a year now.

His American wife had returned to her native Texas not long after and Aitken had attempted to lose himself in feverish activity. 

And deep down, he was glad his father hadn't lived to see his only son's world fall apart.

His perfect world.

Martin Aitkin had been proud of his boy's achievement and he and his wife Gillian had been fond of his choice of wife

The vivacious American girl as sweet as cherry pie..

And the new bride became instant friends with his sister Rosie.

But that was then.

Since his father's passing Peter's mother was forever checking up on him to make sure he was eating properly and getting enough sleep.

The attention was comforting but it did not assuage the ache inside.

The guilt and the pain.

No matter how well his companies performed or how much he achieved, Peter Aitken still went home to an empty flat in Pimlico.

Sometimes it was as if he were in a silent movie.

People spoke but no sound came out.

Other times it felt as if he were submerged underwater.

Like when he was a little boy and held his head underwater in the bath tub ....

A stab of pain shot through his heart.

The old familiar ache was there again.

The memories still so raw.

For a brief moment he remembered burying his golden retriever in the back garden of his mother's house before he left for Austria.

Arthur had been his constant companion for as long as he could remember but he had been poorly of late.

His eyes were clouded with tears as he placed the dead animal into the shallow grave.

The sky was grey that day.

Everything was grey.

Then he thought he saw a blonde woman in the crowd.

She looked back at him and smiled.

Then he remembered.

It was all coming back to him.

A cool night in early December.

Soho, London.

"My hero!"  She cried.

Peter Aitken looked up from the ground where he had successfully rugby tackled the mugger and was restraining him in a head lock.

The pretty blonde woman was looking down at him and smiling appreciatively.

She and her girlfriend were leaving the cinema when the surly mugger pounced from shadows of the alleyway and grabbed her handbag.

Peter Aiken was just leaving a bar and saw what happened and was quick on his feet.

"Help! Somebody please!" The blonde girl screamed as the mugger tore away.

But Aitken quickly caught up with the crook and within moments he was on the ground.

"My hero!" She cried.

"Way to go!" The other girl cried.

They were both American.

Pert, blonde and very pretty.

Her friend was giggling beside her.

Peter blushed brightly.

"Fuck you!" The mugger snarled.

Peter let him go with a well aimed boot up the behind.

He scarpered off into the night.

The two girls giggled.

"I don't think you'll be getting any more trouble from him tonight" Aitken informed the two girls as he handed the handbag back.

"I think you've found yourself an admirer!" The brunette said as she nudged her friend.

She smiled.

"My name is Jennifer" the blonde girl said as she held out her hand "Jennifer Voorhees"

It felt soft and warm in his hand.

"This is my best friend Kendra" she added indicating the brunette.

The other girl shook his hand too.

"You must be Superman!" Kendra smiled.

"My name is Peter" he replied "Peter Aitken".

"Pleased to meet you, Peter Aitken" Jennifer smiled.

And that was how it began.

A whirlwind romance.

The modest city boy and the delightful Texan girl.

They were married within the year in a lavish ceremony in Dallas and relocated.

New York.

The Big Apple.

Peter Aitken could still taste the excitement of starting a new life with his new wife in the city of his dreams..

He could still remember standing in his empty new apartment and looking out over New York from his windows.

It was a brave new world.

Aitken was shaken out of his reverie by two little boy's knocking into him as they ran past.

He had been very reclusive of late and even his best friend and business partner Arnold Peat had been unable to coax him out of his flat for a session at the gym and a sauna afterwards.

Peter Aitken was lost without his wife.

In the early days of their separation, Peter Aitken had taken to sleeping on the couch in his swish London office.

Everyone knew he was doing it but nobody knew how to approach him until Arnold Peat broke the sound barrier and expressed his concern.

Even his trusty secretary Lucinda had begun to mother him.

She like everyone else knew full well there was more to his melt down than just his split with his wife.

But they didn't know how to reach out to him.

He was a good boss but a man who kept his feelings to himself.

Most people who knew him were baffled by the demise of his marriage.

"We just grew apart" Peter Aitken explained unconvincingly as he stared down at his empty glass.

He was enjoying a drink with Arnold Peat in The Jack Horner public house in Tottenham Court Road..

"It just happened" he added.

And shaky words hung in the air.

"But so soon after ..." Arnold Peat began but stopped.

Both men fell silent.

Peat reached out and put a hand on his friend's shoulder as 'Unbreak My Heart' by Toni Braxton played from the jukebox. .

On the day of his birthday everybody gathered in his office with a 'His Birthday Hamper' from Fortnum and Mason and fourteen-day vacation ticket to Katschberg in Austria.

"All expenses paid" Arnold Peat informed him with a a big smile.

He hadn't been on a vacation in over a year.

Everyone was looking expectantly at him.

They wanted the old Peter Aitken back.

Aitken sighed.

Just then the Japanese couple rushed past him and gave him the thumb up.

He returned the gesture.

The ski resort was bustling with tourists from all round the world.

And suddenly he yearned to be alone on the slopes.

For a moment he was transfixed by the snowy landscape.

Everything was pure white and the sun was brilliant.

The landscape was desolate but somehow comforting at the same time.

Peter Aitken decided to grab a coffee before taking a ski lift.

It was a good day to be alive.

Jennifer Aitken rose early that morning so she could go for a little walk before breakfast.

It was a beautiful day and she practiced a walking meditation as sunlight streamed through the tall trees.

Perfect inspiration for a new painting.

Jennifer was a successful painter and her latest creations were showing at the Agora Gallery in New York.

Her most famous piece, 'Sunrise in Paris' which depicted the French capital against a fiery red and purple sky had won several awards and she was courted by multi-millionaires and rock stars.

Painting was also cathartic.

Jennifer's best friend Kendra Walden had been calling nonstop since she arrived in Austria the day before to make sure she was okay.

She smiled as she checked her phone on her arrival.

Two missed calls.


She showered and grabbed some fruit and a muesli bar in the dining hall and made a mental note of what she hoped to achieve by the end of the day.

On her return to her room, Jennifer decided to go for a spot of skiing.

An hour later, she stepped off the bus amid a swarm of tourists.

The scenery was breathtaking.

Jennifer had dressed herself against the cold and had tucked her blonde tresses beneath a black woolen Eugenia Kim hat

She was wearing a pair of black Dior sunglasses and holding her skis in her hand.

Jennifer looked up at the towering mountains..

Soon she would be gliding through the snow.

She yearned to be free.

Her eyes caught the ski lifts rising up like a fairground ride.

Jennifer made her way through the crowd.

There was only one Funifor ropeway lift left.

Jennifer paid the ski lift operator and climbed in.

She hardly noticed the bearded man behind her.

He was wearing a Canada Goose Shearling Pilot Hat and large black Bolle ski goggles.

The man quickly paid his fee and clambered in beside her.

Jennifer looked at the man beside her.

But it was only when he took his goggles off that she froze.

Alpine Winter (by 2753Productions

It was as if the bells of Notre Dame were chiming in her head.

"Look's like its me and you" said Peter Aitken.

Jennifer Aitken was feeling a mixture of emotions as it dawned on her that she was sitting beside her estranged husband.

He had grown a beard and that was what must have thrown her.

She pretended to be looking over her shoulder at the scenery as the ski lift continued to rise steadily.

Behind them like a conveyor belt of Funifor's were numerous excited tourists talking animatedly in a myriad languages.

Jennifer noticed that Peter was wearing the cologne she had bought him a couple of birthday's ago.

She could barely conceal a smile.

"Of all the places" Jennifer remarked.

The bitterness in her voice stung him but he was genuinely happy to see her.

For a few moments he silently observed her.

He had always loved her silky blonde hair.

And suddenly he fought the urge to reach out and take off her cashmere hat to let tresses flow out like a golden waterfall.

She was pouting in that broody way she had.

He was aware that she was avoiding his gaze.

"How long are you here for?" Peter asked her.

"A couple of weeks"

"Me too"

The couple fell silent as the ski clattered upwards.

Jennifer observed her husband through the corner of her eye.

He was still handsome with his floppy brown hair and quizzical expression.

The couple looked down at their hands and then pretended to be looking in opposite directions at the snow capped mountains around them.

"What are you doing for Christmas?" Jennifer finally asked without looking at him.

"With Rosie on Christmas day. And then a bottle of Prosecco. You?"

"With Ma and Pa"

The couple were silent once more.

Only the sound of the clattering ski lift and enthusiastic tourists filled the air.

"How are ... Rosie's kids?" Jennifer finally asked.

Peter felt a stab of pain to the heart.

He pictured the two angelic children.

Ella and Jake.

Two little angels.

"They're doing  good" he replied "Ella has just started nursery"

Jennifer quickly glanced at her estranged husband.

There was a momentary ray of hope before she looked the other way again.

Peter's heart sank like a rock to the bottom of the sea.

Suddenly there was a loud screeching sound and the ski lifts ground to a halt with a violent shudder.

Animated chatter turned into exclamations of irritation and frustration.

There were a few more chugs and mechanical grunts but the ski lifts remained where; perched perilously above the mountains.

Below them they could make out the Ski Lift Operator arguing on the telephone.

"Must happen all the time" Peter announced chirpily attempting to lighten the atmosphere.

Jennifer let out a long sigh.

She was pouting again.

This was not how she planned to spend her vacation.

"Guess all we can do is wait" Peter added.

Jennifer felt a hot rush of anger.

She shot her estranged husband a dagger look.

Always stating the obvious.

But like a true Brit, he was emotionally challenged and unable to express what he was really feeling.

She folded her arms defensively across her chest.

If she was going to freeze to death at least it would be on top of a mountain.

She was avoiding his gaze again.

Peter was always the one slow to anger and cool, calm and collected.

But this drama could well end in two wooden boxes.

He glanced at his watch.

They had been stranded for thirty minutes already and beneath them the Ski Lift Operator was arguing with the Ski Lift Technician now.

His face was red and his arms were flailing about like windmills.

People were screaming for help in their respective languages from their ski lifts.

"Do you have your phone?" Jennifer asked.

Peter checked his pockets and then remembered he had left his phone back at the log cabin.

"No. Sorry"


She fairly spat the words out.

They were all doomed.

A screeching siren announced the arrival of a fire engine as a large crowd began to grow beneath them.

"I can't feel my feet" Jennifer suddenly announced.

"That's normal up here. It will pass when we get down"

She still refused to look at him.

"Are you angry with me?" Peter Aitken asked her.

That was it.

The rage and frustration she had felt for more time than she could remember erupted inside her like a tidal wave breaking against the shore.

"Am I angry with you? Yes, I'm angry with you and I'm angry with God and I'm pissed at life and every goddamn fucking thing!"

Jennifer quickly fell silent again.

She was shaking with rage

Peter took off his gloves and flexed his fingers.

Jennifer noticed his hands.

He had beautiful hands with long tapering fingers.

Peter Aitken was the clean-cut Englishman who never seemed fazed by anything.

Even when they were stuck high over the Austrian mountains.

Jennifer could not know how Peter had buried his pain and despair in his work.

Nor could she know how much he had yearned to see her again.

Peter Aitken played everything cool.

Two hours had passed since the ski lifts had ground to a halt.

Now there were a team of Ski Technicians working away beneath them.

It was starting  to get colder now and the tourists were frantically calling home.

"I've told myself that this isn't about me ... to stop being so selfish ... but I feel mad sometimes and I just want to scream ... the world moves on but I stay where I am ..."

Jennifer's plaintive cry filled the air as Peter fought to control his emotions at last.

"You never told me" he said.

"You never asked"

Tears began to roll down Peter's cheeks.

"I was a lousy husband. You needed me but I just wasn't there for you"

Jennifer reached out and took her husband's hand.

"It's my fault. I should never have left him ... I blame myself"

Peter and Jennifer had decided to enjoy a picnic beside the riverbank with their little boy on crisp spring day.

Joey Aitken was a robust six-years-old.

He was blond and cherubic with his father's blue eyes.

Good natured and full of life.

It was busy by the riverbank that day, and the Aitken's were delighted when two of their best friends spotted them and came over.

Jack and Vicky Green.

They couldn't help but share their good news.

"Peter has secured a merger with a Saudi company in Dubai and he's going over to check it out next week" Jennifer explained with a smile.

"Congrats!" Jack exclaimed shaking Peter's hand vigorously

Vicky scooped up little Joey in her arms.

"Guys, that's brilliant news!" She cried.

The little boy wriggled and after a few moments she handed him over to his mother.

"It's a good time" Peter Aitken declared "Fancy some champagne? There's enough to go round"

"An offer we can't refuse" Jack smiled.

Peter snatched two glasses out of the hamper and poured the champagne.

"Cheers!" Jack cried.

Jennifer let go of her son and he retreated to play with his set of toy cars. .

"Actually I'm glad you're here because we are thinking of having a little party to celebrate and we want you to come"

"Of course we will" Vicky smiled.

They were old college roommates.

Vicky couldn't have children so she was delighted when after a struggle Jennifer conceived her boy.

Her golden boy.

"So happy for you"  Vicky added.

Nobody had noticed Joey slip away.

"Thanks Vicky. Perhaps you can help me with the party planning"

Drum Bridge, Winter Sunset (by Gerard1972.
"Of course honey".

That was when somebody screamed.

All four of them leaped up and Jennifer dropped her glass.

She knew.

She just knew.

A crowd had already gathered by the edge of the riverbank.

That was when Jennifer began screaming.

By the time they fished the little boy out of the water, he had already been dead for thirty minutes.

He looked like a little rag doll.

Jennifer had spent the duration of the search rocking herself on the river bank as Vicky attempted to comfort her with soothing words.

Peter had been pacing up and down.

For once he had lost his cool.

Jack tried to assist the police and frog divers but it was all futile.

Everything had happened so fast.

A mother had seen Joey slip and tumble into the river and then he was gone.

His little lungs were full of water by the time they pulled him out.

Now Jennifer was weeping and shaking her head as she struggled to push the dark memories out of her mind.

"It's all my fault. I should have been paying attention ... I am a terrible mother ..."

Peter squeezed her hand tightly in his.

"No you're not. You were a great mother and Joey knew it"

"I can't believe he's gone"

"We had six wonderful years with our boy. And I am thankful for that"

There was a violent shudder as the ski lifts began to move again.

"Santa Maria!" An Italian tourist cried.

By the time they were on the ground again, Peter and Jennifer Aitken had found some semblance of equilibrium.

It was already getting dark.

They both looked up at the starless.

"Full moon" Peter cried.

"Make a wish" Jennifer replied.

He could still see the girl he had fallen in love with.

She was still in there.

And beneath the woolen hat was a cascade of golden hair.

He loved the way she tossed her head in that way she had.

Those sky-blue eyes that could see right into his soul.

The beautiful and maddening Jennifer.

And she was glad that he was there.

He was still her hero.

Unwaveringly polite with floppy Hugh Grant hair.

"We've been given a second chance" Jennifer said softly.

Peter nodded in agreement.

Typical Brit.

Not great with the emotional stuff.

There was nowhere the couple would rather be.

Even amid the noise of the vast crowd around them and the sound of the departing fire engine.

"Fancy coming back to my log cabin for a drink and a bite to eat?" Peter Aitken asked his wife.

"Yes. I would like that every much" Jennifer answered him with a smile.

And they made their way through the crowd hand-in-hand.

Mrs Gupta 

Leicester, East Midlands.

Kristiana Bayliss took another glance at the Christmas cake recipe in her Delia Smith cookery book.

Then she surveyed her array of little bowls filled with currents, sultanas, glacé cherries and other necessary ingredients on her kitchen table.

She had flour, soft brown sugar and black treacle.

She had the chopped almonds and the grated zest of one orange and one lemon and a little bowl of mixed candied peel.

She counted four eggs and checked she had a bottle of Brandy.

She had her cake tin greased and lined with silicone paper just as Delia Smith advised.

Then Kristiana Bayliss realised that she had neither mixed spice nor grated nutmeg.

She checked her watch.

It was 9 pm.

Kristiana Bayliss had been living in a modest terrace house in Leicester for four months.

And with Christmas fast approaching she wanted to do something nice for the community she come to see as her own.

What better gesture than to bake a cake for the Christmas fete at the local church.

Kristiana was attractive and vivacious with brown shoulder length hair and hazel eyes.

She was born Kristiana Liepa in Latvia but had come to England at the age of four with her parents.

The family settled in Leicester.

Her father ran a car hire service and her mother worked in a clothing factory.

Kristiana had worked at Trudy's Hair Salon in Peterborough since her late teens but since moving to Leicester had begun making her own jewelry and selling it online.

Kristiana's husband Mark had passed three years before after a brief battle with lymphoma.

A year later she decided to move from Peterborough where she lived with her daughter to Leicester where she had been bought up..

Mark and Kristiana had been childhood sweethearts and she felt his loss deeply.

But she yearned to make a fresh start and she always dreamed of moving back to Leicester.

Her daughter walked into the kitchen.

Jenny Bayliss was seventeen and studious.

She was a pretty brunette with a dimply smile and the hazel eyes of her mother.

But Jenny was her father's daughter in everything else.

Sometimes Kristiana had to do a double take when her daughter walked into a room.

This was one of those moments.

Kristiana paused.

She felt an undeniable ache and then it was gone.

And Mark slipped quietly away with his hand in hers.

It was like yesterday.

He passed from life into death as the snow fell outside the window.

The suffering was over.

And Kristiana tenderly kissed her husband on the forehead as her Latvian mother held her weeping daughter.

Mark's death had come at a crucial moment in Jenny's psychological and emotional development.

But she was a resilient little girl and she had already vowed to eradicate lymphoma one day.

Nobody doubted her.

"We don't have any spices for the cake" Kristiana sighed.

"Can't you improvise?" Jenny replied as she pulled up a chair beside the kitchen table.

"Not for this cake"

Mother and daughter looked at the Delia Smith cookery book together.

After a long pause they both looked up at each other.

"Mrs Gupta!" They cried in unison.

Mrs Prya Gupta.

lonely this christmas (by RickHaigh
She lived next door.

Mrs Gupta was a sweet faced Asian woman of indeterminate years from Bangalore in India.

She was tiny, birdlike and animated.

Mrs Gupta was a widow with one grown-up son named Ravi who was a heart surgeon.

He in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mrs Gupta was evidently very proud of her son and displayed an array of framed photos of him on the mantle piece.

Of her late husband Prabhu, Mrs Gupta said little but it was clear he was never far from her thoughts.

It had been an arranged wedding and for the first couple of years they had lived with Prabhu's parents.

But eventually Prabhu set  up his own shop selling Indian sweets which Prya made in the kitchen, and they lived above it.

Prya's coconut laddu and kashi halwa proved so successful that they began catering for rich families.

But Prahbu had always felt drawn to the United Kingdom and after ten years Priya and Prabhu arrived in Leicester with five-year-old Ravi in 1972 along with many other Asian's fleeing Uganda.

More than 10,000 Indians and east Africans of Asian descent had already settled in Leicester but it was still a culture shock.

Prahbu went into partnership with a friend and they set up an Indian sweet shop where Prya was able to resume her enterprise as a mistress of exotic deserts.

Mrs Gupta would always be grateful to Leicester. .

And she had been one of the first people to welcome Kristiana and her daughter when they arrived.

She invited them over for tea and captivated them with stories about the Raj and her own homespun wisdom.

Mrs Gupta was an enthralling storyteller and utterly captivating when in full flow.

Kristiana and her daughter were utterly transfixed.

She regaled them with stories about her celebrated sweets and how she wooed British royalty and famous Bollywood movie stairs with her exotic delights.

Surely Mrs Gupta would have mixed spice and nutmeg in her well stocked cupboard.

She knew that Mrs Gupta was also making a cake for the Christmas fete.

They had met at Leicester Market the day before.

Mrs Gupta was wearing a purple sari and her long greying hair was tied in a pony tail.

She was particularly animated as she pulled her little trolley filled with groceries.

Kristiana insisted that she come back to her house for a cup of tea.

But Mrs Gupta insisted she was far too busy.

"I have a cake to make my dear" she explained.

"How lovely ..."

"For the Christmas fete!"

It had completely slipped Kristiana's mind.

Her mother had been a devout Roman Catholic and Kristiana liked to attend Mass when she could.

Not only did it connect her to fragments of her faith but to her mother and she country she had left while still a child.

The fete was on Saturday and it was already Wednesday.

"I completely forgot" Kristiana declared.

"I always like to make a special cake and the Reverend loves it and always comes back for more"

Mrs Gupta patted her on the hand.

"It's for the baby Jesus" she smiled.

Kristiana could still remember the first time she had seen Mrs Gupta's kitchen.

It was like an Aladdin's cave of jars and bottle filled with exotic concoctions and spices.

There were vegetables of every kind and large bags of Basmati rice and flour.

The house always smelled of patchouli from the incense sticks that Mrs Gupta burned and there was a large statue of the elephant god Ganesh in the sitting room.

"The remover of obstacles" Mrs Gupta informed the curious Kristiana.

"I always wondered"

There was a little shrine in the corner of her bedroom with an icon of Mary holding the baby Jesus, a little statue of Buddha, a picture of Guru Nanak and a little Muslim prayer card. .

A little candle flickered on the table.

"For the spirits" Mrs Gupta told Kristiana mysteriously.

There was something very motherly about the kindly Asian woman.

And something very unusual.

Kristiana sent out her daughter and she returned twenty minutes later with the spices and a bag full of cooking apples from the tree in her garden.

"What we do without Mrs Gupta?" She smiled.

Now she had all her ingredients, she set about her task and by the time she had finished she had nodded off at the kitchen table.

The following morning Kristiana looked with pride on her handiwork.

It even resembled the picture of the Christmas cake in the Delia Smith cookery book.

She drove her daughter to her work experience job at John Lewis and while she was there she bought a box of Charbonnel et Walker Plain Chocolate Truffles for Mrs Gupta to say thank you.

As she parked her car in front of her house Kristiana remembered Mrs Gupta's words and the intense look in her black eyes.

"It's for baby Jesus"

She smiled as she mused on the magnificent cake that she would surely have made.

It must have been special if even the Reverend had second helpings.

Mrs Gupta welcomed Kristiana with open arms and ushered her in.

She always felt at home in her house with it's creature comforts and unmistakable aroma of  burning patchouli incense sticks.

Mrs Gupta put the kettle on.

Kristiana surveyed the well stocked kitchen; it was neat and well ordered.

Then she noticed the large glass domed cake plate on the kitchen table by the window.

Kristiana gazed in wonderment at it and mused on the culinary masterpiece that Mrs Gupta had created.

"Ah, my special Christmas cake!" The spry Asian woman declared with pride as if she could read her guests mind.

Then she walked over and removed the glass dome. with a flourish.

Kristiana's eyes widened with astonishment.

It appeared to be some sort of seed cake and it had a curious but not unpleasant smell.

She had never seen anything like it before.

"It looks delicious!" Kristiana cried.

Mrs Gupta surreptitiously prepared the tea and carried it on a little gold tray with a plate of biscuits to the kitchen table.

"It's my special cake" Mrs Gupta informed her.

She offered Kristiana a biscuit.

"For the baby Jesus" she added with a smile.

Kristiana's fascination had been spiked.

"You must give me the recipe!"

"I'll do better than that dear, I'll show my secret ingredient"

Kristiana nodded enthusiastically.

"Yes please"

"Come, come"

And she followed the Asian woman out of the kitchen and up a flight of stairs to what appeared to be a little guest room or study.

With a broad grin on her face Mrs Gupta slowly opened the door.

For a few moments Kristiana was blinded by the bright floodlights.

But as her eyes adjusted and she squinted into the room she was suddenly struck dumb and immobile.

The small room appeared to have been transformed into an indoor greenhouse.

A hothouse to nurture an ocean of specific illegal flowering plant with an unmistakable pungent aroma.

Mrs Gupta was smiling all the time.

She must have been cultivating it for quite a while.

"I bought the first one from a man outside Leicester Market some years ago. It was so pretty and had such a nice smell and I've been putting it in my Christmas cake ever since" Mrs Gupta declared proudly.

Kristiana's mouth dropped open.

"I'll put a few leaves in your tea if you like"

That was when Kristiana Bayliss fainted.

Slipping in and out of consciousness she dreamed that she was about to be swallowed up by a giant marijuana plant.

Lost And Found 

Nazareth, Gallilee

It was another blisteringly hot day.

Rebecca had been walking beside her mother Judith through the bustling market.

She was seven-years-old and already carried herself like an adult.

Her father Nathaniel walked a little way ahead of them stopping periodically to talk to men he knew.

As custom dictated, Judith did not address men directly outside the house but kept her gaze modestly averted.

Rebecca followed suit.

Her mother had instructed her well.

Rebecca was an appealing child with black curls and large brown eyes.

She was fascinated by the colourful stall holders and their wares.

Rebecca looked with awe upon the many fabrics in a myriad colours and textures and the finest Jerusalem wool.

She marveled at the baskets of pomegranates and mountains of dates and figs and grains.

This day she was distracted by a man playing a flute in an alleyway.

He was seated on a rug.

A little monkey was perched on his shoulder.

His face was weather beaten and his clothes were worn and dusty and the few coins scattered before him denoted that he was poor.

Admiring passersby tossed him the coins and he gave them a blessing.

Rebecca was captivated by the monkey.

It was such a jolly creature and made her smile.

She stood for some time observing the monkey as it frolicked on the man's shoulder.

By the time Rebecca remembered her mother and father, they had already disappeared into the crowd.

She felt a new emotion.


The market was no longer a friendly place.

It was populated by giants.

She was surrounded by strangers.

There were surly Roman soldiers striding about and laughing among among themselves.

Rebecca yearned to get away from them.

She already knew how cruel they could be.

She had seen what they did to people.

Rebecca pushed her way through the crowd as she began to search frantically for her mother and father.

Tears filled her eyes.

Then she seemed to walk into a man.

He put his hand tenderly on her head.

She looked up.

The man was wearing white robes and there was a blue shawl over his shoulders.

He had a dark, wizened face and piercing black eyes.

His black hair was shoulder length and his dark beard neat

The little girl suddenly felt secure.

"Rebecca" he said.

He knew her name.

Then the man looked deeply into her eyes.


He smiled.

And it was the most beautiful thing Rebecca had ever seen.

She was not afraid anymore.


Her father was calling to her.

She turned to see her parents approaching her through the crowd.

Judith held her daughter.

"We were so worried. We thought we had lost you" Nathaniel cried.

The man in the white robes disappeared into the crowd.

"Who was that man?" Judith asked her daughter.

Rebecca only smiled.

Jaffo Ancient City (by


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

'Till Death Us Do Part (Part Two)

0897 (by nikodem nijaki


Mayfair, London

"I've left him!" Claudia Creed declared in tremulous voice.

It was Harley Street, and she was standing before Miles Balfour.

For a moment the words hadn't quite registered with the accomplished gynecologist.

"I've walked out on Nicholas!" Claudia added with bravado. "It's over!"

She looked fragile as she stood before him with one suitcase.

Claudia Creed was beautiful and elegant but the marks of sorrow were etched on her face and her sad brown eyes.

Miles Balfour wasn't dreaming it

He acted decisively.

"Jenny, please cancel all my appointments for the rest of the day " Balfour informed his secretary briskly via the intercom.

Balfour had treated some of the richest and most powerful couples in the world including members of the royal family and he was much sought after.

But the woman he had secretly loved for over a decade was standing in his office professing the one thing he had been waiting for the duration of her unhappy marriage.

Work could wait.

It took a lot to tear him away from Harley Street but today he was only too eager.

"Let's get out of here" Miles Balfour informed Claudia Creed decisively as he grabbed his coat.

It felt treacherous to be taking out the wife of his best friend.

But the truth was, the marriage of Nicholas and Claudia Creed had been in trouble from the start and Balfour knew it.

They were the two most mismatched people he had ever known.

Back in the day, Claudia was a shy and self effacing actress just on the cusp of making it in Hollywood.

She was Claudia Saab then and the darling of European art house.

She was a breath of fresh air and she wouldn't even touch alcohol.

Miles Balfour could feel something happening the moment he met and he knew her marriage to Nicholas Creed was doomed from the very start.

Claudia was a pretty and charming Swiss woman who was totally unlike any of the women who had been with Nicholas Creed.

Creed was confidant and rumbustious and devastatingly attractive to both women and men.

And Saab was instantly infatuated with him and the whirlwind romance ensued.

It was a marriage of convenience for Creed and nothing more.

Nicholas Creed had never truly loved his wife.

She bored him and there wasn't enough time in the day for that.

Miles longed to take Claudia in his arms.

He gently took her arm.

"Everything is going to be okay" Miles Balfour soothed her.

She was shaking like a leaf but seemed to visibly relax a little.

"I can't go back" Claudia replied.

Tears filled her eyes.

"You don't have to" Balfour assured her firmly.

He didn't need to know the details.

He knew what Nicholas Creed could be like.

Creed was the kindest and most generous man Balfour had ever known.

But he could be selfish, arrogant and ruthless.

Now the object of Miles Balfour's affection was standing in his office and his world had just been wrought asunder with just a few words.

Perhaps he should have hesitated but Balfour had already formulated a plan which was guaranteed to elicit the enmity of Nicholas Creed.

But he was willing to take the risk for Claudia.

Miles Balfour knew how vindictive Nicholas Creed could be and there had always been rumours of much darker activities.

He was a shark who could decimate his opponent with a smile upon his face.

It all added an element of danger to the swaggering playboy that was Nicholas Cosimo Creed.

Stories of his sexual prowess were legendary.

Nicholas Creed knew how to fuck a woman.

And at over six-foot tall with the good looks of a matinee idol and the physique of an Olympic athlete, his face on the cover of a magazine and in the gossip column of a newspaper were always going to be assured.

On the face of it, Claudia was never going to measure up to the more experienced women of his choice.

He had been one of the most eligible bachelors in the world but his parents had been pushing him to settle down and start a family to keep the auspicious Creed line going.

So he chose the safest woman he could find.

Claudia Saab was famous but not too famous that she eclipsed her new husband and presumably pliable enough to provide a few heirs and stay in the background.

The Creed family approved and found her to be a "sweet girl".

Saab was totally inoffensive and would give the Creed heir children and stay unobtrusively in the background.

Or so they thought.

Claudia had been dazzled by the handsome man who was wooing her and she was willing to give up her burgeoning acting career to be with him.

He was the most exciting man she had ever known.

Creed seduced her easily and she believed it was love.

But she was wrong.

The new Mrs Creed soon felt trapped in the golden, gilded cage that became her world.

A fly caught in a spider's web.

And much to the disgust of  Cosimo and Perdita Creed, their daughter-in-law had only been able to provide their golden boy with a girl.

Claudia Creed was also showing disturbing signs of rebellion.

As far as the Creed's were concerned, the former Swiss actress was selfish and ungrateful but they did not want to have their son humiliated with a divorce.

The Creed family closed its ranks.

They blamed Claudia for the unhappiness of the marriage and the poor girl soon found herself more alone than ever.

Now she had made a bid for freedom and it was suddenly too much for her.

The last thing she remembered was the kindly Miles Balfour smiling at her as he opened the door of his chic London office.

Then everything began to swirl around her.

She could hear Jenny asking : "Mrs Creed, are you alright? Are you alright?"

Then everything went black.

Twenty minutes later and she had been revived by a concerned Miles Balfour and his erstwhile secretary.

Jenny handed Creed a glass of water.

She was sitting on the couch outside Balfour's office.

"I'm sorry" she whispered

"It's okay. You don't need to say a word" Miles told her gently.

Claudia nodded and managed a smile.

All the back to Balfour's Mayfair apartment, Claudia Creed grappled with the enormity of what she had done.

She had turned her back on a world famous millionaire and the kind of lifestyle that countless could only dream of.

But as the bustling city of London flashed past her, Claudia Creed felt like a butterfly leaving a cocoon.

Creed was still badly frightened and her daughter was never far from her thoughts but she was with a good man and she would find her feet.

The world seemed like an imposing place.

Suddenly they were there.

"Make yourself at home" Miles Balfour informed Claudia Creed with a smile.

She was stunned by how plush and luxurious the spacious apartment was.

There was a marble floor and deep pile rugs, huge leather sofas and and open fire in the living space.

It appeared to be fitted out with all the latest mod cons and there was huge television mounted on the wall and remote controlled shutters and lighting.

Claudia Creed took some moments to collect herself as she surveyed the surroundings.

It was not some bachelor pad equipped with boy toys but the tasteful abode of an affluent man with superb taste.

For several moments she marveled at the huge book case which spanned the length of an entire wall and for a moment she mused on her husband's classic library with its endless shelves filled with books.

The books in Balfour's flat looked well well thumbed and had clearly been read and reread.

She smiled at the stacks of neatly piled music CD's and vinyl and mountains of movies all neatly filed away.

Claudia felt at home.

She sank into the sofa.

"I'll make some tea"  Miles Balfour informed her as he took her suitcase into the guestroom.

"That'll be nice" Claudia replied.

Her eyes had noticed the drinks cabinet but it was obvious from the unopened and a couple of half finished bottles that Miles was not a drinker.

Claudia had no taste for the hard stuff.

And as she considered the next few steps in her new life, exhaustion overtook her and she slept where she lay.

By the time Claudia awoke, it was already dark outside.

"How long have I been sleeping?" Claudia cried.

Miles had been watching her slumber for almost three hours.

She looked like a little kitten curled up by the fire and at one point he had tenderly brushed her hair away from her eyes.

"You were very emotional and tired, It's okay"

"I'm so sorry Miles ..."

"Don't be. Let's eat"

Miles Balfour had ordered a Chinese takeaway and had kept it heated.

He knew the novelty of eating it would not be lost on Claudia who had been waited on hand and foot for a decade.

She laughed lightly and together they ate and drank champagne and talked.

The white elephant in the room was still Nicholas Creed but they omitted his name, even when Claudia began to open up about her unhappy marriage.

Miles Balfour listened intently.

Suddenly she was the shy ingenue again who was completely without pretension.

She talked about the early days of her relationship with Nicholas Creed when they would begin the day in one country and end it in a country on a different continent.

Back then, Creed was attentive and considerate but it was clear that he was having misgivings.

Claudia spoke bitterly about her snobbish mother-in-law and her indifferent father-in-law who turned against her as soon as they realised that she was not the girl they expected.

She recalled the endless drip, drip of traversing the huge Creed residence or of spending time with rich bitches who were only concerned with their next vacation or pair of shoes.

The shallow world of the privileged did not appeal to her and she even felt distant to her little daughter who was the image of her father.

She spoke candidly of her drink problem and how she had turned her back on her career and now she wondered if the old Claudia would ever return.

Claudia drank to numb the pain and the psychological torment of being with a man who did not love her.

Miles Balfour fought the urge to embrace her.

He spoke of his disillusionment with the racy world that he had once shared with Nicholas Creed.

It had never been his world and he had never lived the playboy lifestyle.

Miles had been engaged briefly to an American heiress but it hadn't worked and he had remained resolutely single.

He still missed his father who had died when he was still a child and his mother who had only recently passed after a long illness and he had thrown himself into his work.

Miles Balfour was a sensitive man whose work in the gynecological field gave him huge satisfaction.

"You're a good man" Claudia told him.

Then she traced the line of his face with her hand.

The couple looked into each other's eyes for several long moments.

They could feel something was happening.

Mile Balfour longed to kiss the beautiful former actress but it was too soon.

That night Claudia retired to the plush guestroom but was unable to sleep.

Miles also lay awake in his big designer bed as he grappled with the days occurrences and the fact that the woman he loved was just a few feet away.

But the shadow of Nicholas Creed still hung over them.

The following morning Claudia emerged from her room in Balfour's white cotton Prada dressing gown.

For several moments he marveled at how beautiful she was with her long brown hair tumbling over her shoulders.

She was glowing.

"You look absolutely beautiful"

"I do feel better"

"Come on, get dressed and we'll go out for breakfast and a spot of retail therapy"

In her haste to escape, Claudia had left most of clothes and things back at the house.

But she had won her freedom.

For a moment she looked lost.

"Are you okay?" Miles Balfour asked her with concern.

She looked at him with big tragic eyes.

"You will see Alicia again. I promise"

Balfour could read her mind.

As they left the flat, Miles knew that Nicholas Creed would be out looking for his wife and it would not be long before he discovered where she was.

The media would soon be following.

It might the last few days they enjoyed together before the storm.

When Miles Balfour called his secretary that morning, she had already suspected what was happening.

Jenny could be trusted upon to be discreet.

Claudia Creed no longer knew who she was but with the help of Miles Balfour, she was sure to find out.

The couple drove to Knightsbridge and Balfour showered Claudia with presents even when she protested.

They ate lunch at Zuma before embarking on another leg of  their shopping expedition at Harrods.

It was 6 pm when the couple returned to Balfour's flat laden with bags of designer outfits, shoes and groceries.

Miles prepared his "legendary" spaghetti bolognese and they shared a bottle of Pinot noir as they talked into the early hours.

That night they were unable to sleep in their rooms as their minds inevitably reverted to each other.

The following morning Miles Balfour left for work early.

He was loathe to leave Claudia alone but she assured him she would be okay.

"Go, people need you. Work your magic" she said, and she kissed him on the cheek.

It was going to be a good day.

That morning Claudia watched It's A Wonderful Life as she pondered the day ahead.

At lunch time she put on a pair of black Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses and a Gucci hat and ventured outside.

It was a good day to be alive.

As she walked the streets of London, Claudia Creed mused upon her the turn in her fate.

She was still afraid and convinced she was being followed.

It was a bright autumn day and red and gold leaves swirled before her as she sat on a bench in Mayfair Park.

Autumn in London (by Little Dreamer
Claudia observed a young couple pause beneath a tree to kiss.

She smiled.

Claudia Miles thought of Miles Balfour.

He was her knight in shining in armor.

He was the only man she could turn to and he had saved her life.

And now she was seeing him in a different light.

They had always exchanged glances and there had always been some affection between them but suddenly his kindness and consideration had taken a new significance.

A mother and her daughter passed and Claudia felt a stab of pain to her heart as she remembered her daughter.


The pretty little girl who she was all her father.

She had abandoned her.

Claudia wept.

When she had composed herself she strode out of the park with a new determination.

She would see her daughter again and one day she would explain everything.

As Claudia approached the flat she was convinced that a camera had flashed.

She looked around her but could see nobody.

They must have been lurking in the bushes or perhaps she was finally going mad.

Whatever it was, the world would soon know that her marriage to Nicholas Creed was over.

And then they would all be fair game.

That evening Claudia prepared Älplermagronen for dinner as she listened to Miles Balfour recounting the day.

He informed her that Jenny the secretary had assured him that nobody suspected that anything was going on between them or that anyone knew that she had left Nicholas Creed.

But it wouldn't be long before it emerged.

"I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for me. I would have been lost without you" Claudia told him.

"Don't mention it"

"You've saved my life"

"I'd do it all again"

The couple were looking into each other's eyes.

Claudia was looking particularly lovely in a scarlet Chloe backless dress.

She reached out and touched Balfour's hand.

It was the moment that he had been waiting for.

"You sure?"

She nodded.

Miles Balfour took Claudia's hand and led her to his bedroom.

The following morning he awoke to find the woman he loved sleeping beside him in the big silken bed.

They had made love all night.

It was the first day of the rest of their lives.

Miles arose to get himself a glass of water but was startled by the sound of loud banging at the door.

The magic spell had been broken.

The unmistakable voice of Nicholas Creed resonated through the gold letter box.

"Claudia! I know you're in there! Come out!"

Claudia emerged from the bedroom.

Her happiness had been short lived.

Nicholas Creed had come back to reclaim her.

"Come on, Claudia! You know I love you!"

Miles Balfour motioned to Claudia not to answer him.

She clung to him as tears welled in her eyes.

The banging continued.

"Don't do this to me! You know you mean the world to me!"

There was genuine anguish in  Nicholas Creed's voice.

Guilt united the couple as they huddled by the door.

"I fucking know you're in there! You and Miles, you bastard! Show yourselves!"

There was a loud crash as Creed kicked the door and then there was silence.

The secret was out.


Monmarte, Paris

Veronique Bibeau checked the elegant Gaston Jolly clock.

It was 3.30 am

The beautiful French journalist watched her lover as he slept beside her in the big antique bed.

Nicholas Creed look so innocent and vulnerable.

Like a little boy.

They had made love in a frenzy.

Now the plush bedroom was silent.

It had been the scene of many trysts but now the air of danger had finally been extinguished from their clandestine love.

The world knew all about them now.

And the tide had turned dramatically.

The sassy journalist was desperately in love with a millionaire playboy and sometimes she no longer recognised the woman who looked back at her in the mirror.

But she couldn't help herself.

She arose from the big bed and slipped on her silk Kenzo kimono and quietly left the bedroom.

The living space had been illuminated by a full moon and Veronique noticed that her phone had lit up.

Somebody was calling her.

And it could only be one person.

Veronique sighed as she answered it.

"Is he there?" The familiar voice demanded on the other end of the line.

"If by that question you mean Nicholas ... then yes, he is"

"Batard!" The caller spat.

Mimi Durand.

The uncompromising French supermodel was Veronique's soul mate.

She was a seventeen year old teenage delinquent born on the wrong side of Paris when she was discovered by legendary fashion designer Yves Legrand stealing sweets in À la Mère de Famille.

Back then she was just little Marianne Durand.

Legrand was impressed by her kittenish features and gutsy spirit and her career took off shortly after that.

She was one of the world's most sought after supermodels but in her head she was still the little street urchin who had been molested by her father and had watched as he beat up her mother and little brother.

It was a rainy day in Paris when she first met Veronique.

Her career was just about to rocket.

She was the upcoming "it" girl and Veronique was promising young journalist just making her mark.

Two worlds collided.

Veronique had saved her life and since then they were like metaphysical Siamese twins; telepathically tuned into each other.

Mimi Durand detested Nicholas Creed and she hated the way Veronique had changed since she'd been with him.

She had always taken an interest in her friend's love life.

None of the men had quite measured up, so why should Nicholas Creed be any different?

Sure, he probably had bigger balls, but outside the bedroom he was just like all the others.

Nicholas Creed was just another overgrown baby.

Except that Veronique was genuinely in love with him.

And it was killing her.

Once upon a time she had been a self possessed  woman brimming with confidence and joie de vie.

But now her self esteem had been eroded and she clung to Nicholas Creed like a drowning woman clinging to a life raft.

And her pristine reputation had been damaged.

Nicholas Creed was better able to deal with it - he was a man.

But Veronique was a woman and women never came out well from these predicaments.

"Are they still out there?" Mimi Durand asked.

Veronique walked over to the window and peeped tentatively out.

Paris (by sunbeamy
Several yawning photographers were huddled together in the moonlight.

"Oui" The French journalist replied wearily.

"Fuckers!" Mimi Durand retorted.

Ever since the world had learned about the French journalists affair with the charismatic hotelier, lurid details of their relationship had begun to appear in the press.

The media were permanently camped outside her exclusive Parisian apartment and she was followed everywhere.

Claudia Creed's legal team had mounted an offensive which painted Nicholas Creed as a negligent and unfaithful husband and Veronique as a shameless French coquette.

Nicholas Creed retaliated in characteristic robust fashion by getting the best lawyers in town and depicting Claudia Creed as a hopeless drunk who was neurotic and unfit to be a mother.

It was war and it was getting ugly.

This was the price Veronique had paid to be with her man.

"It won't last forever ..." Veronique declared optimistically but there was a tremor in her voice.

Mimi Durand could barely stifle a snort of derision.

"Look, I just hope he's got a really big cock because nothing is worth all this shit!"

She knew that Veronique was seriously in love with Nicholas Creed and she despised him for it.

There was a long pause.

"How long is he there for?" Mimi Durand finally asked but the note of irritation was evident in her voice.

"He is flying out to Los Angeles late tomorrow morning to oversee a new hotel"


"Well, if you're going to be rude about it ...."

"Okay, okay. Don't go all Virgin Mary on me ... I'll be round there at 1pm"

"Right then"

"You better be. We've got a lot to talk about and the paparazzi are going to be all over us like bitches in heat"

"Oui bien sûr"

"Don't forget to tell that son of a bitch to drop dead from me"

The phone clicked off.

Veronique smiled to herself.

"Que ferais-je sans toi Mimi" she sighed.

Later that morning she watched through a crack in the curtains as her lover waded through the baying media crowd.

They had had a passionate farewell and Veronique had reluctantly let Nicholas Creed go.

Now she watched as he climbed into the waiting limousine, pausing briefly to look up.

Then he was gone in a blaze of flashing cameras.

And suddenly Veronique felt completely empty.

News of Nicholas Creed's breakup was front page headlines and on the cover of several down market magazines.

Neither Creed nor Veronique could escape the scrutiny so they decided to give in to it.

They had nothing to hide anymore.

They were in love.

But nobody knew just how much guilt still plagued Veronique.

They could not know that she had been prescribed anti-depressants and was taking uppers and downers.

Her career had stalled because it was just too tricky for her to get to the office and she was forced to work completely from home.

The French still adored her but they questioned her judgement and she was no longer the golden girl who could do no wrong.

Veronique was now a fallen angel.

She  would have to find the strength to pull herself together and face the day.

Veronique ran herself a bath and pinned up her raven hair.

She swallowed a couple of pills with a glass of water.

"The show must go on"

At exactly 1pm, a shout that was more like a battle cry filled the airwaves.

Mimi Durand had arrived.

"Blow us a kiss!" An Australian photographer called out to her.

"Kiss my ass!" Mimi Durand yelled back at him.

A cheer rose among the throng as she pushed her way through.

Veronique laughed lightly as she observed the scene from the balcony.

Life with Mimi was never dull.

Durand buzzed up.

"Bitch, it's me!"

Veronique was dressed in a grey woolen Marc Jacobs dress and black Yves Saint Laurent coat.

Her black hair was tucked into a black cap and she was wearing large black Dior sunglasses.

Mimi Durand appeared dramatically at the door.

She was wearing a tight black Azzedine Alaia beneath a long black cashmere Prada coat and her trademark wild dark brown hair was tumbling all over her shoulders.

Mimi took off her big Chloe sunglasses.

"Vous regardez bien!" she exclaimed.


"Now, let;s get the fuck out of here. I'm starving!"

The media converged upon the two women as they stepped out into the autumn sunlight.

Veronique clung to Mimi as cameras were thrust in their faces and reporters jostled for their attention.

"Tell us about you and Nicholas Creed. Did he spend the night?" called out an Italian reporter.

"Is he good in bed?" An English reporter exclaimed.

"Better than you!" Mimi Durand shouted back "Now fuck off you little shit!"

There was a scattered outbreak of laughter.

"Oh, come on don't be like that. Speak to us Veronique!" A German reported protested.

"Why don't you all just fuck off and go play with yourselves!" she exploded "Now let us through!"

There was an outbreak of laughter as the media throng parted to let the women through

By the time the two women turned the corner they were both giggling.

"Mimi, You're too much!" Veronique cried.

"If only I was, then you wouldn't need that bastard"

"Please, don't ...."

"He's no good! Look at the price you're paying for him"

"Mimi ..."

"I only hope his cock is big"

Tears welled in Veronique's eyes.

Mimi looked quickly around her before pulling her into an alleyway.

The last thing they needed was an industrious photographer flashing their camera in their faces.

It would be splashed across the newspapers and magazines before the day was out.

"Look, I know you're taking pills" Mimi informed Veronique "I've taken enough to see the signs. What are you taking?"

The French journalist took the bottle out of her Lulu Guinness handbag.

"Fuck me, if you needed pills I would have helped you!"

Veronique managed a smile.

But Mimi could tell the signs of addiction and the devastated journalist was addicted to Nicholas Creed.

"I hate what that fucker has done to you. If ever I get my hands on him ..." Mimi Durand snarled

"Please ... just be my friend today ..."

Mimi Durand nudged her friend playfully.

"You never know. We might even light a candle" she said mischievously

Durand was a lapsed Catholic who believed in God.

At one point she had considered becoming a nun but only if she could wear black stilettos.

They couple laughed lightly as they walked hand-in-hand  towards Les Petites Gouttes.

But the troubled French journalist's mood changed as they sat in the restaurant and she realised that other diners were staring at her.

She had always been aware of quizzical gazes and it had always felt great.

Veronique and Mimi were French icons after all.

But suddenly the scrutiny did not feel good anymore.

"What the fuck are you losers staring at?" Mimi shouted at them.

She was in fighting mode.

Veronique rose shakily from her seat and sauntered towards the ladies restroom.

She closed the door behind her and ran into a cubicle, retching into the toilet bowl.

When she looked into the mirror she was mortified by the haunted and hollow-eyed face that stared back at her.

Veronique pulled out the bottle of pills from her handbag and swallowed a couple quickly.

Soon everything would be okay and she would be floating on a cloud.

She could hear Mimi Durand shouting and it made her smile.

What would she do without her?

By the time Veronique returned to the table, Mimi had finished off most of the wine.

Her hands were still shaking.

"Watch the pills" Mimi Durand informed her knowingly.

It was obvious that Veronique had become dependent upon them.

"Just a little longer ... just a little longer ..."

Mimi Durand reached over and took her hand gently.

"That son-of-a-bitch isn't worth it."

And for the first time in over a year, Veronique was beginning to agree with her.


Ascot, Berkshire

Nicholas Creed took a long drag of his cigarette as he sat in his sleek black limousine.

The divorce was getting nasty and the fight for custody of his daughter was getting ugly.

He had retaliated in typical uncompromising fashion by going public about his wife's alcoholism and mental instability.

River Thames 1 (by Neo Joe Art 1997
She was leading the kind of lifestyle that millions could only dream of and still it wasn't enough.

She had been fast tracked to the millionairess big time but still she was not content.

Claudia Creed was nothing more than a neurotic, failed actress with air between her ears.

Nicholas Creed regretted ever meeting her.

He should have left her where he found her.

Creed had chosen her because she was safe.

She had been pretty and unassuming when he first met her in France.

She was successful but not ostentatiously so and was a safe bet.

The kind of woman he could bring home to meet the parents.

But now he realised just how big a mistake it had been.

Anyone of his numerous lovers could have taken her place.

"Ungrateful fucking bitch" Creed sneered.

He had dispensed with a moral code a long time ago and reverted to his old ways almost as soon as the ring was on her finger.

Two days after his honeymoon he was in bed with a pretty blonde waitress.

Claudia Creed was determined to divorce her husband, get a generous settlement and take take the daughter she barely knew with her.

She cited her husband's unreasonable behaviour and serial infidelity as grounds for the divorce and for custody.

But her citation was dealt a death blow when it became clear that Alicia Creed was happy to stay with her father.

Nicholas Creed mused on all this as he sat smoking in his big black limousine.

His beautiful French mistress was everything his wife was not.

Classy and sophisticated.

And dynamite in bed.

When they first got together they spent three days in bed in one of his luxury hotels in Paris.

Veronique knew what to do and knew what to say.

Unlike his wife.

Drunk by midday and moping around the sprawling Creed residence.

And now he contemplated his treacherous best friend.

Nicholas Creed and Miles Balfour were so alike that they were often mistaken for brothers and since their twenties they had been inseparable.

Creed had always suspected Balfour of being something of a dark horse.

But he never expected him to run off with his wife.

"Bastard!" Nicholas Creed sneered.

The betrayal stung him the most.

Claudia was a useless bitch.

But Miles Balfour had been his partner and the only man who truly understood him.

Now he was sleeping with his wife and laughing behind his back.

For a few moments Nicholas Creed considered "dealing" with Miles Balfour.

It could be arranged.

But it was far too risky and could also easily backfire.

Nicholas Creed would watch and wait.

Claudia Creed and Miles Balfour were just a couple of dirty rats who deserved to drown on a sinking ship.

Now as Creed contemplated his future he was jolted out of his reverie by a ringing phone.

It was his mother.

"I always knew she was a little tart" Perdita Creed spat "but I didn't know she was stupid as well"

"Mother, please"

"Running off with your best friend. I expected nothing less from her but I am shocked at your friend"

"It's a double blow ... but I'll survive"

"You're father and I will be speaking to Lester James of The Independent later today. We'll get our side of the story across"

Nicholas Creed groaned.

The media were already baying like hungry wolves out for fresh blood.

Perdita Creed hated Claudia.

She was a bad mother and a raging drunk who had humiliated her only son.

And now she was trying to destroy his reputation.

A failed actress and a gold digger.

No better than she should be.

"Hang her out to dry" Nicholas Creed informed his mother.

The phone clicked off.

Creed took another drag of his cigarette.

"Where to, Sir?" Jefferson the chauffeur requested.

Trusty Jefferson.

He had been with the Creed family for over twenty years.

An urbane, grey-haired man who was unerringly professional.

"Take me to the beach" Nicholas Creed replied.

"Yes, Sir"

The beach was where Creed went to when he needed to reflect and work things out.

It would be deserted and he could walk up and down the shoreline.

He needed time to think.

The limousine sped out of the iron gates of the Creed residence as cameras flashed and reporters scrabbled about.

That evening Nicholas Creed was so sullen at dinner that even his daughter picked it up.

"What's the matter Daddy?" she asked with wide eyes as she sat on the other end of the enormous table.

"It's nothing, doll"

"Is it Mommy?"

Creed suddenly felt overcome with emotion and was unable to speak.

The little girl put down her napkin arose from the table and walked over to her father.

"It'll be alright Daddy" Alicia Creed assured him as she put her hand on his children.

His little lady.

Dressed in a pretty pink Chloe dress with her blonde hair in a ponytail and walking strait backed like a grown up.

Not yet ten but already everything her mother wasn't.

Nicholas Creed squeezed her hand affectionately.

"I know princess, I know"

He attempted to shield his daughter from all the media attention.

He had wanted to explain everything to her but she was a bright child and she already suspected much of it.

She noticed in the way people behaved towards her in the private school she attended and the strange people who were camped outside the school shouting questions and taking her photograph.

And above all the absence of her mother spoke volumes.

Alicia bare knew her mother because she had been bought up by others in the huge house almost as soon as she could walk.

It was her father who made a great show of her, buying her pretty things and spinning her round as they frolicked in the endless grounds of the Creed residence.

Claudia Creed was a shadowy figure who hadn't shown much interest n her daughter and occasionally looked in on her.

"Bitch!" Nicholas snarled as he hugged his pretty daughter.

That night he spoke to his lover on the phone.

He needed to hear her voice.

Nicholas Creed hadn't seen Veronique Bibeau in seven days but it felt like forever.

At last they were free to live out in the open together

And it was time Veronique met his daughter.

The couple spoke of the life they were going to build together and of the house in Tuscany that they were going to share together.

"It's only been seven days and I'm going crazy here without you" Nicholas Creed informed his lover in a voice that broke with emotion.

"Another two days and you will be here with me again" Veronique Bibeau replied in her unmistakable accented voice.

"I can't live without you" Creed declared.

And Veronique Bibeau believed it was true.

"I'm sending you a kiss"

Nicholas Creed smiled.

"You can have all of me"

As he left his study, Nicholas Creed suddenly noticed one of the new maids.

She was an attractive brunette with dark skin and black eyes.

Gabriela, that was her name.


"Everything okay, Sir" the maid said politely.

Nicholas Creed noticed she had large breasts.

"Yes, nothing that a little company can't cure" he replied with a big grin.

The following morning Nicholas Creed awoke to his mother giving a grave interview on the NBC News channel.

Perdita Creed attacked her "ungrateful and opportunistic" daughter-in-law and accused her of mounting a hate campaign to destroy her son.

She declared that the assault had only "revealed her lack of breeding" and when she was pressed about her son's relationship with Veronique Bibeau she countered that the French journalist had made her son happy.

The interview was followed by an excerpt from one of his wife's art house movies and there was a brief clip of Claudia Creed leaving Miles Balfour's flat with her head bowed.

The news report also included a brief interview in which Claudia declared that she had felt "suffocated" in her marriage to Creed and that he was "incapable of monogamy" and was a "negligent husband" who had fractured her self-esteem and driven her to drink and to "find solace in the arms of another man".

Nicholas Creed listened with incredulity at his estranged wife and he was on the phone to his lawyer Avi Sayer within minutes.

"I don't care what you have to do. I want that bitch buried alive"

Christmas was looming and Nicholas Creed sent his daughter to stay with his parents.

They would make a fuss of her and make the festive season something to remember in spite of the media intrusion.

Twenty-four hours later Nicholas Creed was on a private jet to France.

Soon he would be in his sweethearts arms and everything would be worth it.

Creed could go through anything so long as Veronique Bibeau was waiting for him on the other side.

Within an hour the jet touched down.

"Baby, I'm home" Nicholas Creed informed his lover by phone.

St James Park (by joda001


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

'Till Death Us Do Part (Part One)

Where shall the traitor rest, 
He, the deceiver, 
Who could win maiden's breast, 
Ruin, and leave her? 
In the lost battle, 
Borne down by the flying, 
Where mingles war's rattle 
With groans of the dying; 
Eleu loro 
There shall he be lying.

Where Shall The Lover Rest by Sir Walter Scott

A Drink a Cigar (by WyldSide mx3


Ascot, Berkshire

Today was a good day. 

The tall, muscular man took another drag of his Cuban cigar as he surveyed his golden palace.

It rose before him like a mountain amid its twenty-four acres of land. 

Nicholas Cosimo Creed. 

The charismatic multi-millionaire hotelier was a force of nature.

His sprawling residence was quintessentially British.

It had an elegant facade with two turrets and ground-level bay window and seventy-four rooms, including a games room, gym and personal cinema. 

Nicholas Creed was forty-six and heir to the Arlington luxury hotel empire.

He had been born into the privileged British social class.

The only son of Sir Cosimo and Lady Perdita Creed.

Nicholas had been raised in a magnificent Surrey mansion and educated at Charterhouse and Eton and was the original blue-eyed boy. 

He was tall and handsome and fast cars, yachts, glamorous parties and extravagant holidays with beautiful women kept him in the gossip columns. 

Creed was nothing if not ambitious and at twenty-three he established the first luxury five-star Arlington Hotel in Bond Street.

His good-looks and charm hid a steely determination and hunger to succeed. 

The prestigious Arlington Hotel was the apogee of  luxury and opulence in Regents Street was the beginning of a hotel empire that would span two continents. 

There was an Arlington Hotel in almost every European capital and in many US states and it now it was expanding into the Middle East and the Far East. 

Nicholas Creed had inherited his father's drive but there was also a reckless streak to his personality.

He had matinee idol looks and was six-foot-four and muscled with startling blue eyes and sleek black hair.

Nicholas Creed was effortlessly charming and had a disarming smile.

He had a devil-may-care attitude which women and men found irresistible. 

Yet beneath the bonhomie and crisp blue eyes lay an ambitious and calculated man who was loyal to his friends and ruthless to his enemies.

Nicholas Creed was a shark who decimated his opposition with a smile.

The gossip columns loved him for his movie star looks and his insatiable sexual appetite. 

Nicholas Creed had long been the most eligible bachelor on the party scene and his exploits were legendary as was his rapacious appetite and his performance in bed.

Creed was a famously good lover who knew how to satisfy a woman. 

Women and men loved him because he was always a gentleman.

But for the last ten years Nicholas Creed had enjoyed some semblance of stability as he attempted married life with a former Swiss actress and model. 

Claudia Saab. 

A pretty brunette with a child like face. 

The couple had enjoyed a whirlwind romance before marrying in a blaze of publicity in Monte Carlo. 

Claudia Saab had given up her acting career to be with Nicholas Creed.  

Petite and striking with an endearing wide eyed innocence, Saab was beloved in her native Switzerland.

She had been mooted to be heading for Hollywood until she met Creed at the Cannes Film Festival.  

Saab had been promoting her new film until she met Nicholas Creed there, and the attraction was instant.

She had never met anyone like him before.

Like so many women and men before, Claudia Saab found Nicholas Creed devastatingly attractive. 

He exuded animal sexuality.

Creed made her feel like no other man had ever made her feel and within days she was spending time with him on his yacht in St Tropez. 

Claudia and Nicholas Creed were the new golden couple and it seemed that the handsome playboy had at last been tamed.

Now ten years had evaporated and the couple were virtually living separate lives.  

Alicia Sophia Creed followed shortly after, resembling her father in almost everything. 

In a couple of days time she would be eight-years-old and Creed was determined to make it a celebration to remember.

Several large yellow marquees had been erected and there was a sea of white tables and chairs.

Within the enormous designer kitchen there was  a hive of activity as a world famous cook and his assistants prepared the choice food.

This was going to be the birthday party to outdo all birthday parties.

The world's media were expected to descend upon the event while the invitation only illustrious guests enjoyed Beluga caviar, Foie Gras and Prosecco jelly.

It was a menu fit for a king and his little princess. 

Alicia and her childish friends would be tucking into party food from the hands of a gourmet maestro and the enormous chocolate cake with fresh orange and cream was the pièce de résistance.

Yes, today was a good day to be alive. 

Nicholas Creed stood before his glittering swimming pool in a pair of black Speedos as his ripped bronzed body gleamed in the hot noonday sun.

He took off his black Prada sunglasses and stubbed out his cigar.and then dived into the pool like a champion swimmer.

Creed glided through the water and surfaced again.

A shadow was cast across his golden world and his mood instantly darkened. 

Claudia Creed was standing before him with a stricken look on her face.

She had been looking thinner of late.

Claudia picked at her food and was often moody and standoffish.

Then Nicholas spotted the one accessory that his wife could not be without.

For some women it was a new Versace dress, Fendi clutch bag or Cartier diamond necklace.

But for Claudia Creed it was a glass of neat vodka at 12.35 pm.

The halcyon days of her early romance with Nicholas Creed had quickly evaporated.

He had lost interest in his eager wife as he often did when he secured his quarry.

Sex without strings had always been his forte.

And Nicholas Creed was notoriously well endowed.

Claudia had been a lot less physical than he and she wasn't adventurous in bed.

And she was still grieving the loss of her career.

On marriage, Nicholas informed his new bride that she no longer needed to work and she had slipped uneasily into a lifestyle that was alien to her.

They no longer asked for her and after ten years of marriage she walked in the shadow of her exciting husband.

Alcohol had become her new best friend.

Claudia teetered where she stood.

"What now?" Nicholas Creed sighed with exasperation.

"You've been ignoring me!" Claudia replied with as much bravado as she could muster.

Nicholas rose stealthily from the pool and took the Gucci dressing gown from the silent manservant.

"I've been overseeing preparations for our daughters birthday party" he finally answered his wife as he slipped on the dressing gown.

Creed could tell she was struggling to control her emotions.

She was so neurotic these days that he feared for her sanity.

"Not that you'd notice" he added sharply.

His only child came first before everything. 

Sometimes when Claudia looked at Alicia, she couldn't believe she was actually her daughter.

The child had virtually been bought up by nannies and maids from the moment she could walk.

"You don't come to me anymore" Claudia cried.

Nicholas Creed found his wife difficult and demanding.

She had everything that a woman could ever want and it still wasn't enough.

And now the couple were virtually living separate lives.

He knew what his wife was insinuating.

And as far as he was concerned she had virtually pushed him into the arms of another woman.

And that woman was everything Claudia Creed wasn't.

Nicholas walked up to his wife and when their faces were only inches away he looked sternly into her eyes.

"Who do you think pays for all that alcohol you keep consuming? Who keeps you in the kind of lifestyle that millions only dream about?"

Claudia was fighting back the tears.

He had given her the dream life but it was an empty one.

"You drunk bitch" Nicholas Creed added nastily as he swiped the glass from her hand.

His wife was an embarrassment.

She had no self control.

He had given her everything and it still wasn't enough. 

In the early days he would whisk her away to a secluded beach where they would plan their life together and dream about the future.

Now those memories were dead and buried in the sand. 

Nicholas Creed strode past his wife as she dissolved into tears.

Beach Stock Scene N. 2 (by by dying-soul-stock
"You've made me like this!" Claudia Creed screamed.

But her husband ignored her.

She was such an ungrateful bitch.

Later that afternoon Nicholas Creed was due to fly over to Dubai to oversee the opening of a new hotel.

He no longer took his wife because he couldn't trust her to control herself.

As far as she was concerned he barely noticed she existed.

Claudia Creed was living in a gilded cage and refused to take a lover like some many rich bitches seemed to do

She hated them.

Claudia had had to suffer their presence on numerous occasions at dinners and events and she couldn't relate to them.

They were shallow and grasping.

As far as Nicholas Creed was concerned, Claudia was not in the same league as some of the glamorous wives he knew.

She was a one-time actress who made good and she should be thankful for what she had.

But she was never satisfied.

As Nicholas considered the day ahead he realised that he hated his wife.

She was an unnecessary complication.

The vibrant young woman he had fallen in love with had been replaced by a neurotic woman who was so self absorbed she could not see past her pretty nose. 

Their marriage was dead. 

And as Nicholas Creed began to dress in his plush en suite designer bedroom his thoughts turned to the one person he longed to see.

But she was across the sea in an elegant apartment in Paris. 

The most beautiful woman he had ever met. 

She would know what to say.

What to do.


Claudia Creed applied a slick of fuchsia Dior lipstick and glanced at herself in the long mirror.

She was dressed in a scarlet short-Sleeve tri-tone coluorblock dress and purple Manolo Blahnik 'Orlana' ankle strap sandals.

Her brown tresses were piled high on her pretty head.

"Very pretty, Miss Creed" Consuela  maid commented enthusiastically as she observed Claudia.

Consuela Fernandez came from a poor Mexican family and had been with the Creed's for much of their married life.

She couldn't understand why such a nice couple fought so much.

They had everything and yet they were unhappy together.

Consuela had become indispensable to the one-time Swiss actress and frequently cleared away her empty whiskey bottles and articles of her alcohol addiction.

She had become almost a mother figure to Claudia Creed but even she could not curb her mistress's dogged self destruction.

Claudia looked at herself sideways in the long mirror.

She was looking thinner of late but the stylish gown complemented her still shapely figure.

"Thank you" Claudia replied.

It was the morning of her only daughters birthday party and soon the world's media would be descending upon the magnificent Creed residence.

Nicholas Creed had made sure that it was an invitation only party and burly security guards had been posted everywhere to make sure only the illustrious chosen ones were let in.

This was going to be the event of season.

It would be a rare opportunity for Claudia Creed to shine among her peers.

A late summer soiree with Hollywood actors mingling with billionaire hoteliers and minor royalty from Europe.

No expense had been spared to make this a day to remember.

"It's going to be a great day" Consuela declared.

Claudia Creed smiled grimly.

"Nick never does anything by halves" Claudia replied but there was a note of bitterness in her voice.

Her husband had been locked away in his study for over an hour earlier in that morning.

Over the last six months he had been stealing away to talk in hushed tones

Claudia always knew what that meant.

Even on the day of her daughter's birthday party the shadow of his mistress loomed large.

Claudia had never met the woman but it was hard to avoid her strikingly beautiful face across the continent.

The French journalist and writer.

"That will be all for now" Claudia nodded and Consuela obediently left the room.

The Mexican maid closed the door quietly behind her, and silently shook her head.

She could sense trouble was brewing.

Nicholas and Claudia Creed should never have come together.

"Dios los ayude" Consuela sighed.

Claudia Creed no longer recognised the woman in the mirror.

She sat on the edge of the huge silken bed.

Claudia could still captivate when the occasion called for it but these days she felt cast adrift in a turbulent sea.

She had never become acclimatised to the jet-set lifestyle of the Ascot rich set.

Nor could she relate to the rich bitches who only hankered after the new designer handbag or extended vacation to far flung places.

Many of them regarded her as a has-been and looked down on her.

Claudia Creed hated them all.

The lifestyle at Ascot was a million miles away from the lifestyle she had once known as one of Switzerland's most exciting emerging actresses.

She had been hailed as a Swiss Liv Ulmann and her director and mentor Sven Lindholm was regarded as the new Igmar Bergman.

Twelve years had evaporated and those days seemed like a lifetime ago.

Today Claudia Creed walked in the shadow of her husband and they no longer called for her.

She opened the Farrah dresser and pulled out a small bottle of Scotch-Whiskey.

Claudia mourned the demise of her career with the help of her friends.

Jim Bean, Jägermeister, Absolut, Krug.

She wandered her opulent quarters in the sprawling Creed residence like a ghost.

Claudia was a lost soul clinging to her past like a life raft. 

She was trapped in a loveless marriage and now her father James was dead and her mother Lena was too ill to travel from Switzerland to see her, Claudia felt more alone than ever.

Cosimo and Perdita Creed had turned against her. 

They believed that she was making their son unhappy and that was completely unacceptable to them and they made their displeasure known. 

Alcohol had become her refuge from the gilded superfluous life she led surrounded by sycophants who clung to every word her husband said and grasping social climbers who yearned for the big time. 

Not even the birth of er daughter could salvage her self worth.

The child had been taken out of her hands almost as soon as she could walk and now when Claudia looked at her she could hardly recognise her as her own. 

Nicholas Creed insisted that his daughter be pampered and treated like a little princess. 

He had transferred his affections from his wife to his daughter and now he only went through the motions with Claudia.

They lived apart and slept in their own beds but put on a show of solidarity when the occasion called for it.

And there had been other women. 

Only this time it was real thing.

Nicholas Creed was in love, possibly for the first time in his life. 

And Claudia was a woman and she knew she knew.

At the start of their relationship, Nicholas had been exciting and adventurous.

They would begin the day in one country and end it in another.

Creed thought nothing of flying across two continents to please his new wife. 

And he had been an energetic and attentive lover.

Claudia Saab had been the perfect choice for a bride.

Famous in her own right but in many ways naive and unsophisticated.

A safe choice for a wife.  

But the novelty soon wore thin as the reality of married life kicked in.

Nicholas Creed soon reverted to the life he had lived before he was married, and he left his wife behind. 

Claudia had become increasingly dissatisfied with her new world.

She was no longer her own woman and often felt like the spectre at the feast at the glittering parties and events she attended with her husband. 

Nobody addressed her as they once did. 

Claudia Creed was no longer Claudia Saab but the wife of a dashing multi-millionaire. 

She was the wife of Nicholas Cosimo Creed. 

Claudia downed the Whiskey.

Today she was being called upon to put on a performance and she wasn't about to disappoint. 

A rare opportunity to act. 

For a few glittering moments she would be Claudia Saab again; the leading light of Swiss cinema. 

The sun was shining bright when Claudia eventually stepped out into the sun amid a sea of faces,paparazzo and flashing cameras.

There was a sea of tables and chairs and several yellow marquees rose imposingly to the sky. 

It was a media circus with little Alicia at the centre of it all in a pink Valentino dress, surrounded by huge presents and privileged childish friends of the rich set. 

She was already unsteady on her feet but she was a consummate professional. 

Claudia Creed posed and pouted as reporters vied for her attention.

"Claudia! Claudia! Claudia!"

The Swiss beauty bestowed them with her most benevolent smile.

"How does it feel to be the mother of Alicia Creed today?"

"It feels great!" Claudia purred "Nobody could be prouder than me!"

A roar of appreciation rose from the jostling throng.

Claudia Creed was a star again.

"Isn't she amazing?" Miles Balfour exclaimed "Bravo!"

He was standing beside his best friend Nicholas Creed.

But Creed did not reply. 

He was glaring at his wife as she postured and played up to the cameras.

Claudia was milling about the illustrious guests now and ingratiating herself with them.

She caught her husband's reproachful stare but held her head high and swiped a glass of champagne from a passing waiter, downing it in one.

"Who the hell does she think she is?" Nicholas Creed snarled under his breath. 

His wife was in fine form today. 

But as Nicholas Creed followed her with his eyes he wondered if she could make it through the day without embarrassing him.

Over the last four years he had made strident attempts to keep his wife's alcoholism a secret. 

But he was losing the battle.

Only a year before, a national newspaper had published a contentious article much to the chagrin of Nicholas Creed. 

What's wrong With Claudia? ran the caption. 

From then the speculation had become rife and Nicholas Creed suspected that many eyes would be avidly watching his wife today. 

"She looks stunning" Miles Balfour remarked admiringly. 

But Nicholas Creed was fighting to control the anger that was raging through him like a blazing fire. 

Balfour was a leading Harley Street gynecologist and had known Nicholas Creed since their Eton days and both men had been regarded as two of the most eligible bachelors in Britain. 

But where Nicholas Creed had succumbed to the pleasures of the playboy lifestyle, his best friend was much more discreet.

Miles Balfour was tall and athletic with black hair and penetrating blue eyes.

He so resembled that Nicholas Creed that the two were often mistaken for brothers but that was where the similarity ended. 

Balfour was of a much less mercurial temperament than his best friend and had remained resolutely single despite numerous partners and offers of marriage.  

He was intelligent, articulate and extremely wealthy.

Miles Balfour was also very guarded and few people knew much about his movements.

Nicholas Creed regarded his best friend as something of a dark horse.

Creed's attentions had turned to his pretty eight-year-old daughter. 

His mood instantly lifted.

Alicia Creed was enthusiastically opening one of her numerous presents surrounded by excited children and exuberant photographers and reporters. 

"Alicia! Come on girl, give us a smile!"

The pretty little blonde girl posed like a professional as they snapped away and called out terms of endearment.. 

Whiskey (by Delahkel
Countless golden tables groaned beneath the weight of exotic delicacies while a lively clown frolicked about and a magician performed party tricks as children squealed with delight in a semi-circle around him. 

Miles Balfour had never known choice canapes, finest foie gras or the best caviar in the world at an eight-year-old's birthday party. 

But then again, Balfour didn't expect to see much of England's rich set or half of Hollywood attending it either. 

It was the Mad Hatter Tea Party. 

The pride shone in Nicholas Creed's eyes as the world's media swarmed around his daughter like bees to a honeypot. 

And all the while Claudia Creed was lost in a sea of party guests. 

She was in her element and had momentarily forgotten her empty life.

Claudia Creed was a consummate professional who could pin a smile on he face and fake it like the best of them.

When she noticed Sven Lindholm sitting alone in his trademark black trench coat and grey fedora, the facade dropped.

Claudia's face fell and tears pricked her eyes.

It was the ten years since she had last seen her mentor and he had begged her to reconsider marrying Nicholas Creed.

But she insisted because her head had been turned and she was giddy in love.

Sven Lindholm was still the same sharp minded Swede with a wizened face, long grey hair and warm brown eyes.

A grizzled old soul who had been here before.

The place was swarming with security guards but Sven Lindholm had managed to evade them and was enjoying a glass of Krug.

He had been married four times was presently living in Stockholm with a twenty-five-year-old Danish model.

"My muse" Sven Lindholm addressed Claudia Creed "so, this is where you escaped to"

Creed felt exposed before as if she were naked.

"You found me at last" Claudia finally replied but was unable to smile.

Sven Lindholm looked deeply in her eyes.

"He doesn't deserve you"

The devastating words shot through her like a bolt of lightening.

She was struggling to compose herself and unable to respond.

Claudia had given up her career to be with a man who barely acknowledged her now.

"You don't belong here" Lindholm informed her earnestly as he rose from his chair.

One upon a time Claudia Creed had been a talented actress with a promising career ahead of her.

But now she was just the wife of a millionaire hotelier who already eclipsed her.

Sven Lindholm had always worried about Claudia because she was so fragile and insecure but she had made her choice.

He paused for a few moments to look with disdain around him at the glitzy soiree and then he walked away.

Claudia  Creed watched silently as her one-time mentor departed.

"Sven! Sven, please!" She cried after him.

But he  carried on walking and never looked back.

Tears rolled down Claudia's cheeks.

She had given it all up for a marriage that had already died.

For a moment Claudia Creed remembered the Hollywood actress Grace Kelly.

She had given up her acting career to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco in a fairy tale wedding. But she always regretted losing her career and pined for it for the rest of her brief life.

The unhappy parallel to her own life was not lost on her.

Several droplets of rain splashed onto her shoulder.

Claudia looked up at the darkening sky and it glared down at her like a petulant child.

It was late Summer and Fall beckoned.

Claudia wiped away her tears and grabbed herself another glass of Krug from a passing waiter.

"Cheers!" She cried as she saluted her husband.

Nicholas Creed had watched the little scene between his wife and Sven Lindholm play out and thankfully none of the paparazzi had noticed it.

He could never understand why Claudia was always so miserable considering she had the kind of lifestyle that millions could only dream about.

As far as he was concerned, his wife was needy and neurotic and he bitterly regretted marrying her in the first place.

Creed watched as Claudia helped herself to the complementary Krug.

She was fluttering around the table of a Hollywood movie star.

Charlie Lloyd.

He was tall and ruggedly handsome with blond hair and blue eyes and had made his name in big action movies.

Claudia Creed was gulping down the Krug and stroking Lloyd's hand as several camera's flashed.

Nicholas Creed was watching his wife with dangerously slit eyes.

She was out of control again.

Claudia caught her husband's reproachful stare and deliberately moved in close and whispered something in Charlie Lloyd's ear.

The actor smiled.

Nicholas Creed could barely contain his rage but with as much self control as he could muster he excused himself from the company of Miles Balfour to stride over to his wife.

He had a fixed grin on his face as he put his hand under Claudia's arm and pulled her firmly back.

"Glad you could make it" Nicholas Creed declared through clenched teeth as he pulled his reluctant wife away.

"Why, thanks!" The Hollywood movie star called after them, displaying impossibly white teeth.

"Because I screwed your wife" Nicholas Creed added under his breath.

"Let me go!" Claudia cried.

"If you behave like a child I will treat you like a child"

A loud clap of thunder announced the arrival of a torrential downpour which sent the party guests and media en masse to the marquees for cover.

Only Miles Balfour and a photographer watched Nicholas Creed from the mouth of a marquee as he frogmarched his errant wife towards the house.

"The happy couple" Jeff Ford, a photographer with The Times declared.

But Balfour did not reply.

He could tell something was badly wrong between his best friend and his wife and he tell by the obvious tension between them.

Balfour had been well aware of the deterioration of the Creed's marriage for some time now but had kept his own council.

Nicholas and Claudia Creed were just two very different people.

Creed was confidant and powerful while Claudia was sweet and charmingly self-effacing.

Miles Balfour had known Claudia from the first moment she had met his best friend and he couldn't understand what had attracted her to him apart from the obvious.

Creed was one of the most eligible men around and he could have his pick of any woman he wanted and he chose a Swiss actress of cerebral alternative cinema.

Perhaps they were just doomed from the start.

And there was more ... but now wasn't the time to share it.

Claudia turned momentarily and flashed Miles Balfour with a sad smile.

And then she was gone and Balfour was left with the same old familiar ache in his heart.

Back inside the house, Nicholas Creed strode purposefully past concerned looking maids and servants with his struggling wife in tow.

"Please do not interrupt us!" Creed bellowed at them, and they scattered.

They had experienced the explosive arguments between the couple on numerous occasions and knew when to make themselves scarce.

Many of those who worked for the Creed's were torn between both of them.

Nicholas Creed threw his wife roughly onto the bed.

They were in her plush en suite bedroom where everything was pink and gold.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?" Creed erupted.

"I'm having some fun! Is that allowed?"

"You're drunk again! And at your own daughter's birthday party!" Nicholas Creed retorted with disgust.

Claudia Creed was fighting back the tears and struggling to control her emotions.

"You've made me like this!" She exclaimed.

She reached out to her husband but he brushed away her hand.

"Don't give me that crap! You ungrateful bitch!"

"I know I can't be like her ,,,"

"Not this shit again!"

Claudia Creed knew that she could never compete with her husband's mistress.

This affair was much more serious than the others and she knew it and although she was no longer in love with her husband, it tore her heart out.

"You are obsessed with her .... "

"Fucks sake, have you heard yourself?"

"What does she have that I don't ....?"

Nicholas Creed leaned in close so that his face was only inches away from hers.

"She's everything that you aren't" he said smoothly.

Then he headed for the door and paused.

"Just tidy yourself up you drunk bitch and don't embarrass yourself anymore!"

The door slammed behind him and Claudia let out an animal cry as she grabbed a perfume bottle from the elegant dresser and threw it at the door.

Then she dissolved into harsh sobs.

Outside the rain had subsided.


Monmarte, Paris.

Veronique Bibeau was the very picture of elegance as she paused at the mirror.

She was beautiful with kittenish features, sparkling hazel eyes and glossy raven hair.

Today Veronique was dressed in a black halter neck Chanel dress and her raven hair was tucked beneath a vintage black Lily Dache hat.

Bibeau was often described as the French Jacqueline Onassis for her effortless style.

She meticulously applied a slick of scarlet Dior lipstick and pouted at her reflection.

"Je pense que cela va faire" Veronique Bibeau sighed.

For a few moments she did not recognise the face that gazed back at her.

Bibeau had always been so poised and self assured but over the last eighteen months she had become needy and fragile.

Nicholas Creed had entered her life and completely shaken it up.

They had met when Veronique interviewed him in Nice.

Creed was overseeing the opening of a new luxury five-star hotel and Bibeau was there among the press pack.

Veronique Bibeau was a already a French icon who radiated Gallic sophistication.

She was graceful and articulate and when she spoke, everybody listened.

Bibeau could feel something happening between her and Nicholas Creed the moment they locked eyes.

It was instant and incendiary.

Nicholas Creed was the famous British playboy hotel magnate who had been tamed by a Swiss actress.

She was the celebrated French journalist and writer as famous for her beauty as she was for her books and articles.

Today she was dressed in a Givenchy Peplum Dress in Black and her raven hair was teased into a chignon.

To all intents and purposes, Veronique Bibeau was one of France's leading journalists and authors.

But she could easily have been Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast At Tiffany's.

"Le célèbre Nicholas" Veronique Bibeau smiled.

The rumbling press pack silenced and Nicholas Creed was unable to suppress a grin.

"La belle Veronique" Creed replied smoothly.

The celebrated French beauty with the pixie looks was still smiling at him.

"Don't believe everything you read about me" Creed added mischievously.

Veronique Bibeau winked at him.

The press pack erupted into amused laughter and excited banter.

Something had begun between Nicholas Creed and Veronique Bibeau.

From then on, Creed ardently pursued the stunning French journalist but she wasn't going to make it easy for him because he was married and he had a reputation as a playboy.

In the early days of their romance, Veronique Bibeau often retreated to the comfort of her villa in Southern Spain.

Her conscience troubled her over the involvement with a married man.

Veronique had been born into the wealthy Bibeau family who had made their money in the antique business.

She had been bought up in the lap of luxury was doted upon by her parents Francois and Clémence.

But a shadow had been cast across her otherwise idyllic childhood.

It was an open secret that Francois Bibeau had taken a mistress and would continue and would remain with her until death parted them.

When Veronique looked at Nicholas Creed she saw her father.

He had the same sleek black hair and keen features and the same penetrating eyes and charisma.

It might have been the French way, but Veronique hated the deception and the placid way in which her mother accepted her predicament.

She had met the petite brunette who was her father's mistress on two occasions and on both those occasions she was nothing but friendly and engaging.

Manon Dupont had been one of her father's secretaries and was kept in a smart Parisian apartment and was happy to share Francois Bibeau.

Not once could Veronique Bibeau foresee that one day she would be in a similar predicament and sharing a married man.

When Clémence Bibeau eventually died of liver cancer, Francois Bibeau married his long-time mistress.

And she and Veronique fostered an understanding.

These early experiences had made Veronique Bbeau determined never to allow a man treat her the same way that her father had treated her mother.

In the early days of her romance with the swashbuckling Nicholas Creed, Veronique was duly reticent.

But he was charming and always behaved like a gentleman towards her and she soon melted.

Like so many other women before her, Veronique Bibeau found Nicholas Creed irresistible.

Veronique Bibeau checked her watch.

It was 3.05 pm.

The birthday party of lover's only daughter would be in full swing now.

It was the event of the season and many notable guests from stage and screen, including multi-millionaire businessmen and minor royalty were expected to attend.

The world's media were also expected to descend upon the occasion to capture every moment.

He would probably be milling about his notable guests at that moment and captivating them with his easy charm.

Veronique smiled when she thought of him.

Rainy Paris (by deadst4r
The big swaggering Nicholas Creed who could fill an entire room with his personality.

He had swept her off her feet and turned her world upside down.

But Bibeau felt a pang of guilt when her thoughts turned to his wife and daughter.

The pretty little blonde haired child that Nicholas Creed was so proud of.

Veronique had never met Claudia Creed, but she knew her work.

She believed her lover when he told his marriage was in trouble and that it had been for some time.

Bibeau and Creed had always been discreet and so far the media had been kept at bay but that couldn't last forever.

They were two high profile people.

Veronique had always regarded herself as a feminist who believed in female solidarity and the affair with a married man felt like a betrayal of everything that she held true.

She had always been monogamous and had never entered into a relationship with a married man.

Yet Veronique Bibeau was a romantic at heart and was unable to help herself.

She was addicted to the man.

Nicholas Creed wasn't her intellectual equal but he had an animal magnetism that she found irresistible.

He was handsome delectable and insatiable in bed.

Nicholas Creed made Veronique Bibeau feel like a woman.

Even though she knew he was her part-time lover and the predicament wasn't a healthy one.

She was desperately in love with him even though Nicholas Creed was her part-time lover and the predicament was not an enviable one.

Veronique Bibeau spent endless nights alone pining for her man and longing to be with him.

She sat by her phone and willed it to ring just so she could hear his voice.

The thought of him sent a jolt of desire through her body like a bolt of lightening.

In a couple of days they would be together again.

Veronique had been anxiously waiting for her lover to call her and had been counting away the minutes.

Time seemed to be crawling today.

She stolen a few moments with her lover earlier that morning.

He spoke in hushed tones and every word vibrated through.

"I love you. I want to be with you"

Nicholas Creed was only across the sea but he might as well have been a million miles away.

Veronique walked out onto the balcony of her opulent apartment in Mommarte.

It was a beautiful afternoon in Paris.

All she wanted to do was share it with the man she loved but once again he was out of reach.

"Il est mon destin" Veronique sighed.

She had always been so independent but for the first time in her life she was completely beholden to a man.

And it frightened her.

Veronique knew that she couldn't keep her love affair secret for ever but for now she enjoyed the precious moments she was able to snatch with her man,

Her phone began to ring and she fairly ran to answer it.

The unmistakable voice of her lover filled her ears.

"Darling, it's me" Nicholas Creed cried, but there was a note of desperation in his resonant voice.

"My love, how are you?"

"This is a goddamn nightmare. Claudia is out of control"

"What's wrong?"

"The bitch is drunk again and making a fool out of herself and of me"

Veronique paused.

Creed had told her about his wife's alcohol addiction and she felt guilty, as if she had somehow driven her to it.

But Claudia Creed had been unhappy for some time and had turned to the bottle to ease her misery.

Nicholas Creed neglected his wife and treated her with disdain.

She had failed.

It never occurred to Veronique Bibeau that her lover might treat her the same way.

"Oh mon Dieu! That's terrible ..." Bibeau finally replied.

"I wish you were here ... I can't do this without you"

"Soon we will be together"

The sense of expectancy had given away to urgency.

"I have to be with you" Nicholas Creed informed his lover.

And suddenly she yearned for him to be inside her.

"I know mon amour ...."

"Wait for me"

And with that the phone clicked off and Veronique Bibeau was alone once more.

"Vous avez à être forte" She told herself.

But only silence responded.

The old ache was there again.

Tears filled Veronique's eyes.

She was seeing a man who belonged somewhere else.

She was betraying a woman who given up her promising acting career to be with him.

And yet she couldn't help herself.

Veronique Bibeau was deeply in love with Nicholas Creed.

Yasmine the silky black cat emerged from the shadows and purred as she brushed against Bibeau's legs.

"Ah, mon petit" Veronique sighed as she stroked the cat affectionately.

At the door she paused by the little shrine with its image of the Madonna and child and two candles.

Her mother had been a devout Catholic and Veronique was a believer even if she found religion oppressive.

She said a little prayer for herself.

And with Claudia Creed and her daughter not far from her thoughts, she said a little prayer for them too.

Veronique crossed herself.

The sky had already darkened considerably by the time she stepped outside.

It was a good day to be alive.

Just then a familiar voice called out to her.

"Hey salope!"

Veronique could not help suppressing a smile as she took off her black Dior sunglasses and slowly turned around.

It was her best friend and soulmate, Mimi Durand.

"Did you miss me, bitch?" Durand demanded.

Suddenly all Veronique's troubles had evaporated in the presence of the leggy supermodel.

Mimi Durand was here.

She was tall and striking with flashing green eyes and an unruly mane of dark brown tresses.

Durand was the former street kid who had risen to become one of the most sought after supermodel's in the world.

Several passerby stopped or did a double take as two French icons greeted each other in their midst.

"Why don't you take a picture, it will last longer!" Mimi Durand informed them dryly.

Veronique shook her head.

"You're outrageous"

"I'm Mimi, baby"

The two women dissolved into a hug.

And as her closet living friend held her close, Veronique Bibeau suddenly burst into tears.

A curious couple had stopped to stare at them.

"Get lost!" Mimi Durand shouted at them.

"I'm okay" Veronique Bibeau said shakily.

"Il est pas la peine!"

"But I love him ... "

Mimi Durand let out a long sigh.

"Fucking men!"

They were all the same.

Durand could see how distraught Veronique was.

A loud clap of thunder rolled across the horizon.

"Come on, tell Mimi all about it" she added with a wry smile.

And with that she took her hand and led her in the direction of the nearest cafe'.

"All men are bastards!" Mimi Durand sighed. 

It was raining hard by the time the two beautiful women entered Café des Deux Moulins.

My Rainy Roads (by by Nile-Paparazz