The Snow Trilogy

The Snow Trilogy comprises "The Gentle Art Of Forgetting", "The General Theory Of Haunting" and "The Littel Tale Of Delivering (The Sleigh)". Although the stories can be read independently, in any order, they are all connected. Minor characters in one book become major protagonists in another.

Ideas set up in one story are given further explanations elsewhere. Themes recur in all three, but in different contexts. The 21st of December is a crucial date across the trilogy… they all feature a mysterious box that is the key to secrets… events from hundreds of years ago impact on every work… and love, loss, memory and, of course, snow weave around all three. In "The Gentle Art Of Forgetting", snow is an agent of memory. In "The Sleigh", it is an agent of change and in "The General Theory Of Haunting" it has a more sinister purpose.

The Gentle Art of Forgetting

What you don’t remember can’t hurt you.

A thirty something woman called Jane awakes in a tiny wooden hut, in a snow-deep clearing surrounded by trees. She has forgotten who she is, doesn’t know where she is or how she got there. She has flashes of who she once was as terrible things strobe and shimmer from inside her fractured memory. Jane begins to suspect she may have killed many people, back there, in her past, wherever that was and who-ever she was. Jane is not alone in this new, strange home, this ‘facility’ which has the sole purpose of making its ‘patients’ forget.

The story will unpick Jane’s life, piece by piece. What seems inconsequential will be pivotal. Seemingly minor characters have major roles. Events outside of Jane’s knowledge will collide with her in ways she cannot imagine on one dreadful day in December 2003.

By the very last line of the book, you will know the truth of Jane’s life and every character in her story. She will remember it all, you will see it all. It may turn out there is, after all, a gentle art of forgetting.

If the Snow Trilogy can be said to have a centre from which the other stories flow, this story is it.

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This is not the beginning, but it is a start.

Jane stands in the hallway of her tiny terraced house, staring into the mirror. She sighs and pulls a face at herself. She is leaving for work and that is never a good thing because, on a daily basis, Jane must become other people.

At work she takes on different names, different faces, new clothes, old styles.

It is not the "career" she dreamt of when she was a teenager.

Jane doesn’t know who she’ll see in the mirror later. She might be staring at a platinum blonde, a sulky brunette or find her reflection black bobbed, cold and European. Will she be wearing a man’s suit and tie, or trussed up like a disco refugee, all leg warmers, leotard and bubble perm? Jane sighs again, thinking, who knows who I’ll become? Ah, my brilliant, schizo career. Haven’t I done well?

The hallway clock is gently ticking.

Yeah, you and me both, Jane thinks, me and you, clock, we’ve been clicking out the same moves for years now, going no-where. Same as it ever was. She raises an eyebrow at her reflection, which responds in kind, real-Jane and mirror-Jane berating each other, thinking, oh, please, you drama queen, would you just listen to yourself?

Jane shrugs, resigned to the fact that if she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid and so fastens the buttons on her big black coat and opens the front door. The cold rushes in, turning her breath to fog.

This is Jane’s kind of day. Frost-kissed and chilled. She stands on her doorstep for a moment, breathing in the freezing air, letting her cheeks bloom red.

But wait, she realises, frowning, today feels different, somehow, it feels..what? Important? Why is that? What just happened?

She waits for an answer to focus, but can’t finish the thought, so steps from her home, thinking OK, today. I’m ready for you. Let’s see what happens.

So yes, Jane’s hallway is a start, but beginnings, like endings, are illusory anyway. We bolt them onto stories to give us the hollow comfort of order, but life rarely arranges itself so conveniently.

Jane has the right idea, though. Life is chaotic, so there really is nothing else to think, except, let’s see what happens.

INTRODUCTION; I AM CONTEXT

This story concerns a lost woman called Jane. To understand who she is and why she is lost, we must jump and slide about her life.

Since my purpose is to guide you through it, I really should introduce myself. So for now, why don’t you call me…yes, Context. That will do. It suits me. As your Context, let me first give you a gentle warning; in the beginning, this may feel like a bumpy ride, but that’s just turbulence. I promise I’ll get you through it and I promise this, too; by the time you read the very last sentence you will know the truth of every character. That’s everyone, including me.

I’m sorry to say I must now push you straight in at the deep end. Other stories might let you dip your toes into the narrative, paddle about in the shallows for a while, but not this one, I’m afraid.

Like this lost woman called Jane, at first you may find yourself struggling to stay afloat.

Like Jane, you need to deal with that fact.

We all struggle to stay afloat sometimes.

Oh and one last thing - as you drop into the depths of Jane’s tale, consider this;

Throughout life, you’ll continually ask yourself one question that will always present you with a different answer.

This question, now where am I?

THE GENTLE ART OF FORGETTING

/ BOOK ONE / HERE AND THERE

/ JANE IS LOST - MINUTE 1

So, into the deep end we plunge together, but as we do, listen. Do you hear that? It is a thin, high-pitched, far off sound. Remember it.

Then it is gone and a 36 year old woman called Jane awakes. She wakes, blinks and her eyes slowly focus.

It takes an effort for Jane to see, because everything seems blurred and white. Then, as her vision adjusts, she realises that’s because everything is blurred and white. Jane realises she is now looking at fluttering, falling snow. Her mind is blurred too. Thinking is an effort.

This is not right.

Distantly, Jane knows that she is no longer where she once was. She is now sat somewhere else, facing a window.

Now where am I? Jane managed to think, but it was difficult. Wherever she is, it is completely silent. No background rumble of traffic, no aircraft droning overhead. No ticking of clocks, no conversation in another room. Just Jane, this window and a heavy silence. Even her shallow breathing seems a cacophony against it. She looks through this wood-framed window and in the distance Jane sees a dense line of trees, all uniform height, branches drooping from a thick layer of snow that covers them.

There is a clearing between wherever she now sits and that tree-line. The clearing is snow-deep, white and empty. No green shoots emerge from that frozen landscape, no saplings, no rocks. And she sees, no, is drawn to, the Snow that falls outside this window. She cannot pull her eyes from it.

In the sky above this frozen clearing, a green Aurora performs aerial origami, folding itself into shapes; a wave, a sand dune, a sheet drying in a brisk wind. Then it disperses, like ink in water, becoming diluted, fading, gone.

Jane didn’t see it.

But now, with every flake that falls past her eyes, she feels strangely comforted, as if the snow was somehow not just erasing the ground, but erasing her too, like chalk from a blackboard, ready for the next lesson.

Jane is inexplicably calm.

She doesn’t know why she should feel so placid, because she doesn’t remember anything of where she had been before, who she was before, but feels, rather than knows, that she definitely hadn’t been here.

Wherever here is.

Her memory, like the ground outside, is becoming smooth, white and featureless. So she watches, the snow drifting, her mind drifting.

Jane had no desire to look away from this window. There was something she should be thinking, she knew, but it was just out of reach, a lifebelt floating one way while the drowner chooses to swim the other.

What should I. Be thinking? I don’t know. I am… ,and then words came, fetched from part of Jane’s mind she no longer knew, I am numb. Dumb. I am strung out, inert. Yes.

Jane reached up to touch the window. She placed her hand flat on it. It was solid.

Aha, oh, It was solid.

That was important. The window was solid.

The window was real.

And a lone memory surfaced, like a buoy in the distance. You may find yourself, she remembered, living in a shot gun shack.

What was that? A poem? It meant nothing to her, but it was there, nonetheless.

Outside, the Snow began to fall thicker, chasing its shadows to ground. One flake even appeared to hang in the air outside the window and spin slowly, as if it wanted to be admired.

Jane finally spoke out loud, "you may find yourself," she said, her voice as dry as parchment, "in another part of the world".

The edge of that forest bordering this clearing was now blurred. It became more difficult to see the spaces between the flakes than the Snow itself.

"And you may ask yourself," she quietly sang, or rather, croaked, "how did I get here?" Same as it ever was...same as it ever was," she whispered, and her pupils dilated.

Part of her, inside - only a small part, a tiny Jane, a sensible, aware Jane, many hundreds of miles away, was shouting, running in circles, panicking, trying to attract her attention. What’s happening? this tiny Jane, deep in her mind was screaming, what is happening to you? what is happening Jane what is happening Jane what is happening you were not here you were somewhere else not here before Jane ask yourself what is happening? Ask ask ask.

Oh be quiet, Jane thought, still oddly tranquil, thinking in slow motion, I’m just Watching The Snow. And even as she thought that phrase, she realised she’d given the words capitals, like a heading in an instruction manual. I am Watching The Snow, she thought again, and there they were, the capitals, W.T.S. Watching The Snow, in bold, in her mind. Curious.

You don’t give a capital to a word… Jane tried to remember, oh no, you do NOT give capitals …to…words…unless…the beginning…sentence……of a noun… proper noun… she stopped, confused, stared back at the falling flakes.

"I think that’s enough, Jane." Someone spoke from behind her, and she felt a rough, dry hand gently touch her face and pull it softly away from the window.

Music inspired by The Gentle Art of Forgetting

The Littel Tale of Delivering

(The Sleigh)

(A grown up book for kids, a kids book for grown ups)

Nothing ever happens in the tiny village of Littel Wade in Essex, until one Christmas when a boy and his best friend discover something impossible in a scrapyard.

Peter Piper (yes, that’s his name and there’s a very good reason why) lives in a village full of the sad, the lonely, the angry and the brokenhearted. Peter’s heart is broken, too. But one day, the 21st of December, he finds a rusted, broken sleigh in a scrapyard.

Along with his best friend Sally, the only Goth in the village, Peter begins to suspect that this particular, peculiar sleigh once belonged to someone rather important. Then there are the strange old books he discovers hidden inside the sleigh’s seat. Books full of villagers names and lists of what could be gifts.

Are Peter and Sally getting carried away and going slightly mad? Or is it possible they may just save Littel Wade from itself?

"The Sleigh" may be aimed at children / young adults, but as part of the Snow Trilogy it also works as a book to be enjoyed by anyone of any age who spends the year waiting for Christmas and hoping for snow.

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THE SLEIGH CHAPTER ONE; HERE WE ARE NOW…

Ready for this? OK, hold on tight, because this is a definitely a bumpy way to start a story;

There is no Father Christmas.

Santa Claus does not exist.

Whoa, pull up, there, Rudolph! What kind of opening lines are they for a Christmas story?

Don't panic, because those were not my words. If they were, I'd be completely the wrong person to write this particular book, wouldn't I? It would be like hiring a pilot with a fear of heights, or asking Dracula to look after the blood bank for the afternoon.

So who would say such things? Well, unfortunately, you're about to meet some of them in this tale.

It's even possible you don't believe in Santa Claus.

Well, that's OK.

I'm sure you also don't believe in ghosts, or vampires, aliens or boy wizards either and I bet you've read and heard plenty of stories about those. So even if you don't believe, that's fine. Why don't you just treat this as another crazy story and let's just see what happens.

So why don't some people believe in Father Christmas?

Well, some people need proof for everything. But sometimes, when the world goes weird, you just have to think like this;

You can't prove it, but it's there.

And if that isn't a perfect description of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Chris Cringle, Pere Noel, Joulopukki, Ded Moroz or Santa Claus, then really, I don't know what is.

I'm not going to give you proof of Father Christmas, but I don't think you want that. I think, like all of us, you want a story.

So - let's do this properly. I'm very excited about the next 4 words.

Once upon a time…

DECEMBER 21st

IN A LONELY PLACE

Once upon a time…I've always wanted to write that, and you know, it's just as good as I thought it would be.

Today is December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. But maybe that date is something else, too. A day when many stories begin.

So come on, let's take to the skies, you and I and let's fly, high over an English county called Essex. Let's look down and see what we can see.

There.

A tiny village, boxed in by fields, called Littel Wade. Yes, it's 'Littel' not 'Little'. You see, back in days gone by, whoever drew up the very first sign for the village clearly hadn't paid attention during their Olde Englishe Speling Lesons. The word "little” sounds like it should be spelled "littel," so our Medieval sign-writer christened the village with the wrong spelling, and so it stayed. But it is little. In fact, this village is miniscule.

Things do look smaller from a distance, but even so, there's not much to LitteI Wade.

From way above, where we are right now, it's pretty much just one road, optimistically called 'The High Street' with a few avenues and streets branching off it.At one end stands St Nicholas Church - I know, I know, 'St Nicholas' as in Santa Claus, but that's what it's really called I don't make this stuff up. St Nicholas Church has been there for hundreds of years - as have some of the residents who lie beneath the many stones in the graveyard that surrounds it.

Mary Gortoney, Sleeping now, 1748 - 1779

Francis P Fischer, beloved husband of Sarah Fischer 1801-1847

Patience Marryman, nee Dawn, beloved by Francis, with the stars now, iterum, 1774- 1809

Sadly, these sleeping souls have missed the impossible thing that's going to happen in Littel Wade this Christmas by several hundred years. Or have they? Well, we'll both have to find out, won't we?

Now look past the Church, down the lane, round the bend and into one of the fields. There.

Flash! Flicker!

Did you see that? There! A little flash of light, reflecting off….something.

And that something should NOT be sitting in that field. That something is impossible.

And that something is why you and I are here. We'll go and investigate soon enough, but for now, let's head up the High Street.

Quick, the story won't hang around for you.

Here are the shops. There's 'The Sweet Shop', 'The Laundrette', the Co-Op, the 'Fish and Chip Shop', 'The Fruit And Veg Shop', 'The Newsagents', 'The Pharmacy', 'Marsh The Butchers', 'The Post Office' and that's all.

Littel Wade is quite a literal place. No-one has the time or imagination to think of clever names. If it's a Fish & Chip Shop, it's called "The Fish & Chip Shop”. Done.

But why is this village called "Littel Wade”? Well, there's a story.

It is said that one year, back when this place was too small to even deserve a name, King Richard The Third himself came to visit. There had been rainfall before the King's arrival, and the main path into the village had flooded- just a bit. So England's reigning Monarch was forced to do a Little Wade to get in! Ba-boom! No? Whoah, tough crowd. It's a nice tale, isn't it, backed up by literally no evidence whatsoever. But it's a good story, and sometimes, a good story is enough.

In summer, the fields that surround Littel Wade are bright with corn, in winter, they stand frozen and foreboding. Essex is generally quite a flat county, and from one of those frozen fields, you can see almost to the nearest town, Southend On Sea.

In winter days gone by, those fields could be waist deep in snow, but there hasn't been that much snow in recent years. So Decembers and Christmas days in Littel Wade have remained gloomy grey and dull instead of brilliant white and glistening. Christmas without snow is like chips without vinegar. Southend On Sea without its Pier. An old typewriter without a ribbon. It just doesn't seem right, somehow.

So today is December the 21st, and once again, the fields around Littel Wade are brown, drab and slushy. The trees are skeletons of themselves, the pavements are cracked and grey and the roofs are just boring slate grey tops of houses. If only it snowed, those trees, pavements and roofs would be beautiful. But once again, it hasn't.

However, that doesn't stop some people hoping. Let's go and meet one of them, shall we? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. Come on.

The General Theory of Haunting

Every haunting has a design.

In 1810, Lord Francis Marryman created a hall and hid it from sight in a lonely Dorset forest.

On New Year’s Eve, 2017, a party of guests arrive there for a celebration, but heavy snowfall blocks the roads, silences the phones and cuts the internet.

They are not alone.

Other ‘guests' are here and have been waiting longer than time.

Marryman Hall has a secret that may have sent its creator insane.

The guests won’t realise they are inside a ghost story until it is too late, but they shouldn’t be scared of the dead - they need to be afraid of the living.

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DECEMBER 29th, 2018 / A ROAD IN DORSET

"Slow down." she said.

"I’m still only doing 20." he said.

"Too fast.”

"Not fast enough."

"Slow down." she said again, in a higher, whinier register.

The car crept slowly through the snow fall. Paula Hatton leaned forward and wiped the windscreen, removing the condensation from the inside surface, but making no difference to the snow that splintered against the outside. She smiled at her husband.

Paula had a good smile. It served her well. It was what first attracted Ian Hatton to her. "What are you grinning at?." he asked. "Oh, perhaps this is a warning." she moaned, waving her hands for spooky emphasis, "perhaps the snow is telling us to just turn round and go home, Ian, away from what is almost certainly going to be a rubbish new year."

"Oh, not this again," Ian sighed. "Change the record."

She laughed then, "who spends New Year with their bosses? And their workmates? Oh, I remember now, it’s us, we do."

"Yes, yes, yes" he muttered. "I know, you’ve said. In fact, you’ve been saying it for months. I get it."

The truth was, Ian Hatton wanted to be there even less than his wife, but he couldn’t say that. Paula would ask too many questions and he wasn’t sure he could avoid all the answers.

The Sat Nav piped up, as if it had chosen just this moment to add its opinion, "In 200 yards take the next right." it offered.

"Bit late to turn round now, wouldn’t you say?" Ian said, leaning into the windscreen, as if getting closer might help him see better.

The snow whirled round the car, even heavier now, it seemed. The closer they got to their party destination, the thicker it became. That’s how it appeared, but that couldn’t be right, could it?

"The snow’s vindictive, isn’t it?" Paula said. "It’s got quite an attitude on it today, don’t you think?"

"Vindictive snow?." Ian repeated, disbelieving. "Only you could think snow has an agenda." She looked out of the side window, smeared with flakes attempting to get inside. Ian changed the subject, as he had done several times during the 4 long hours the journey had taken so far.

"You like Pat, Darren," he said, "and Rob and Diane, oh and you get on great with Mark. You like Tony."

"In small doses," she agreed, "but what about Dan and Anne? I hope this is OK for them. Is this really where they should be?"

"If they want to come, they want to come." Ian said.

Paula shrugged and changed the subject.

"Oh, and Patrick and Lisa. How long will it be, do you think, before Patrick mentions his bloody holiday villa? I give it 4 minutes." Ian smiled, but pushed on. "OK, but as I’ve said several times on this journey and in the long long months before, there’s going to be 14 of us there. You can avoid that lot." "How can I avoid them?" Paula asked, "have you noticed it’s snowing rather a lot? We’re going to be trapped in there. Like a bloody Agatha Christie mystery, except I can tell you who the murderer’s going to be. Me. In the study with the candlestick, Patrick on the floor. Holiday Villa brochure stuck in his head." "You’re mixing up Agatha Christie and Cluedo." Ian said.”Deliberately.” she said, "deliberately because I knew you’d pounce on it. It’s cute. You are …impeccably predictable, you know. It’s one of the reasons I love you." "I know." Ian laughed and his wife gave a shy little smile back.

He loved her.

He did love her, didn’t he?

Yes. Whatever will happen, whatever had happened, he loved her.

He turned right, as instructed, and the snow seemed to turn with the car.

They were on an even thinner road now, if that were possible. Trees hung above, making a snow draped tunnel.

"Oh good," said Paula, looking up at the branches, shimmering and strobing in the headlights,"that’s nicely creepy."

The trees above were blocking the snowfall, so for the first time in ages, they were able to see the road.

"Aha," she said, pointing, as the lights picked out a sign at the roadside, reading, simply, ‘Marryman Hall’.

"We’ve made it. Bingo," she said, monotone.

"Please try and be play nicely," Ian said, again, "Greg and Lucy are our bosses. Whatever you might think of them, they paid for all this. It’s a nice gesture."

"In 100 yards, you have reached your destination." informed the relieved Sat Nav, wisely staying out of it.

"Still got 100 yards to turn round," Paula said. "It’s not too late"

"It is too late," Ian retorted. "It’s way, way too late."

"It’s only 10 past 8. Not late at all," she said.

"You know exactly what I mean"

The tunnel of trees ended and the blizzard rushed to greet them again like a long-lost friend as they pulled into a large driveway. In front of them, hiding behind the snowfall, making its appearance through the flakes, stood Marryman Hall.

"Good lord." whispered Paula, eyes wide, taking in the building, which stood, silently, cloaked in white.

Marryman Hall waited.

DECEMBER 21st 1809 / 15;52PM / SOUTHAMPTON ROW, LONDON

Francis, third Lord Marryman, waited.

He held his wife’s hand.

His dying wife’s hand.

How did this happen?

So fast.

Where did the last 11 years go? he thought, again, they were never here. They were an illusion.

Outside the Marryman family’s London home in Southampton Row, the city went about its business, oblivious to the events unfolding behind that 2nd floor window.

The snow wheeled outside, as if trying to catch a glimpse into the bedroom.

Francis, third Lord Marryman, looked down at his wife, Patience.

She was drifting, shifting, like the snow outside.

Things move, they change in ways one cannot predict. The snow drifts, and my wife drifts, he thought. but Patience will be gone long before the thaw.

The clock ticked on. If it ran down, it could be brought back to life with a few turns of a key.

If only we could be so easily restarted, he thought.

A clock’s mechanism could be replaced over and over, in theory, to tick and tock forever, but Patience’s workings could not. Each second passed could be the last.

It is 3;52, on December 21st, 1809, the winter solstice.

It would be Patience’s shortest day, too.

Where are you now, Patience? he wondered. Are you in this room, still, or do you now have one foot in another place? What do you see? Are you somehow in two worlds simultaneously, holding on with your body as your soul struggles to fly? To fly where?

Patience moaned, gently. Outside, traders shouted and carriages bumped across the uneven, frozen street. In the distance, the sound of carollers.

Christmas draws closer as my love drifts yet further, Francis thought.

Patience was dying, but she was beautiful in this last part of her journey. Translucent in the candlelight, her lips retained colour that had drained from the rest of her skin, her eyelashes so black against the white of her eyes. The snow had come only a week ago, and Patience had rushed outside, as she always did, into its welcome, raising her face to the sky and spinning as the flakes spun above her. Patience was a child of winter. She became flustered in the heat, calm in the chill. She was never happier than when she could see her breath in the air, never more child-like than when the humid days turned - often overnight - into the crisp slap of frozen air on her cheeks. Patience could wait for the winter though. She was, it was no surprise, patient. Let the summer come for those who wish to bathe in heat. I will wait for winter’s kiss.

Yes, the snow had come, and it had brought Patience joy, at first.

But something had happened that first day. Perhaps she stayed too long in the flakes, perhaps there was something underlying, waiting in her system for this moment. Many maybes, many opinions from the Doctors, but now only one fact; Patience is dying. The snow has turned on her, traitorously. It has taken up residence inside her, chilling Patience from inside, making her lungs fight for breath. Patience has slid, she has drifted. Sometimes she woke and was lucid, sometimes, she came to and spoke nonsense - perhaps it is the snow inside her, trying to communicate?
Francis, third Lord Marryman, does not know. He strokes her hand. It’s possible her body will rally and reject the terrible humour the snow has gifted her. Yes, it’s possible, but Marryman is a realist. Patience has drifted a long way from him now, and the further she wanders, the more difficult it will be to find her way home again. She is almost lost in those drifts now. She is a guttering light in the distance.

Already it is darkening outside. The shouts and the thumps and the clip clop of the horses continues. Why can’t they be quiet? Those in close proximity to this room tiptoe through the hallways, and whisper, as if trying to avoid being noticed by Death. He is here in this home and one avoids getting his attention, if one can. So all whisper and walk silently when death is close. We show respect for the dying and also reverence for the agent of their passing. We stay quiet, lest Death should notice us, too.

Patience opens her eyes. They flutter, her eyelids shiver. Francis Marryman’s breath catches in his throat. Patience looks round, then slowly focuses on his face. She tries to smile, but her lips falter.

And now, for this moment, time reverses, memories crowd his mind and Lord Marryman is back, 11 years ago, to when he first saw Patience. An eternity ago. No time at all. 1798. In 1798, Francis Marryman is 35, and his father is dead, so he has inherited the title and the wealth not even a month ago. He is Lord Marryman now. The title still feels odd in his mouth and on the lips of others. He needs more time to get used to it, but there is none. He has responsibilities.

And now, in 1798, the 35 year old Francis Marryman looks across this dull society gathering and sees the 24 year old Patience Dawn.

She is talking with a soldier. The pretty ones were always talking with soldiers. The braided and medal-dripping uniform was obviously some kind of gilded trap.

But then, just for a moment, as if expecting him, she glances over in Marryman’s direction. She says something to the soldier, who gives a small, disappointed bow, and she walks in Francis’ direction.

Francis wants to raise an eyebrow. This was not the accepted way of 'doing business'. Here in 1798, the man presents himself to the Lady, or is introduced by mutual friends or family. The Lady does not glide, wry smile on their face, guests parting in front of her, over to the male of the species. But yet, here she is, doing just that. She is easily a foot shorter than tall Francis, and has her red hair high, ringlets pouring either side of her face. She is quite beautiful, the Lord has time to register. Beautiful and unconventional and that immediately makes her quite, no, very interesting to him.

"Good evening, Sir," she says softly, looking up at him, looking round at the gathering. "Now where am I? Somewhere more interesting than Colonel Yawn over there, I hope. Hm. I haven’t had the pleasure…well, not this time, yet." And she offers him her hand. This is all the wrong way round and Lord Francis Marryman is uncomfortably comfortable. She pushes on, curtseying. "Sir. Patience Dawn, of the Essex Dawns." She says ‘Essex Dawns’ in a languid, almost mocking tone, as if she knows to be proud of a county and a name is a worthless pride.

Francis has heard of them, of course. Large estate, formidable father in politics, made their money through trade with somewhere exotic. Was it China? The Indies? Francis can’t remember. He just manages to get one word out.

"Marryman."

"Marryman." she repeats, turning the word over, even though she knew exactly who this handsome man was. "Yes. Marryman. Marry. Man. Is that a proposition, sir? Are you the marryingtype of man, would you say?"

Francis just stares at her for a moment before laughing. Laughing like he’s never had cause to laugh with a woman before, "Patience!" he says, shocked, "patience please, Miss Dawn!" and she has the good grace to laugh, too, despite having heard that pun several hundred times by now.

"So. Here we are. Let’s just see what happens, shall we?" said Patience Dawn, smiling.

It turned out they were both the marrying kind. And that one glance, that unconventional glide through the crowd, that inverse proposal, lead to two boys and 11 years of happiness Francis had never imagined. The other wives of friends he knew were merely mannequins, furniture. They brightened up a room and performed the post of ‘wife’ impeccably, but nothing more.

Patience was more. A shrewd businesswoman, canny negotiator and possessor of devastating wit. Their lives had become Patience and Francis, forever, until one week ago, when the snow came for her.

Francis’ wife looked up at him with her wide green eyes and managed a smile.

"Patience," he said, both name and request. Be patient. Do not rush into this.

"Now where am I?" she whispered.

"Here," he said, squeezing her hand, "you’re here. With me."

"No," she said, shaking her head, slowly. "You weren’t…. Here. You were somewhere else."

"Darling, I’ve always been here. I’ve never left."

"I left. I did leave ….Here. I remember," she said, then for emphasis, "Oh, I remember!"

So, Patience wasn’t lucid this time, her mind was firing in all directions, "It was snowing, but it stopped." she said, weakly. "Has it stopped snowing?"

"No." said Francis, "it still snows, my darling."

She turned her head to the window and a confused expression formed on her face."No," she said, voice dry. "It had stopped snowing. I remember. It stopped. The light came through because the snow had stopped. I saw it. I came back."

There was no point arguing. Francis just took her other hand. "Do you want anything? Water?"

"I think I may be going somewhere else soon," she said. "But it is a good place. Better than ….Here. So glad I… see you one last time. It’s what I," she struggled. " I wanted. Now, this moment. It is a… this is my… Gift."

She closed her eyes.

"Stay," he said. It was all he could say. "Please stay, Patience. Please don’t leave. We have so much to do, so much to see. Stay. I love you, please stay."

"Not this time," she sighed, fighting to smile, voice fragile as a snowflake. "It doesn’t work that way."

Francis held her hands yet tighter, as if trying to keep her here, to stop her leaving while her body remained, on this bed, in this room, at this moment. She whispered again and Francis leaned down to hear, his tears dripping onto her lips, wetting them for the last time.

"Fnd mmm," she said.

"Patience?" he asked, chest heaving.

"Find me."

And then, between one breath and the next, Patience Marryman left this world.

The clock ticked on.

About the author

In 1987, Richard Easter earned his first magazine front cover after dressing as a girl and hiding in a Women's toilet in a club in Essex. Somehow managing not to be arrested, that article, "What Girls Talk About When They Don't Think Boys Are Around" caught the attention of Radio One’s Janice Long.

An interview on that show lead to a job as Runner on the network, which lead to Richard becoming the first ever Radio One daily sketch writer on the phenomenally popular "Steve Wright In The Afternoon".

Since then, he has had a Top 5 single, written for and worked on some of the world's highest rated TV entertainment shows, got lost in Broadcasting House with George Michael, watched the KLF burn a Whicker Man on the Isle Of Jura, played drums for the Bee Gees, failed to stop Spike Milligan walking off a show (whilst dressed as a girl, again) and tracked down Joy Division's actual synthesiser. Then broke it.

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Article Published: 14th December 2017, 19:08