Here’s an extract from another short story in progress. Hope you enjoy…

After leaving his seat, Alfred was still in the habit of looking back to check if he’d left anything behind, like his umbrella, or his scarf, or his body. He’d told me that he’d rarely been present in his youth; always lost in a daydream or marinating in thought; always forgetting something-or-other. Now, as a mindful, meditative septuagenarian, he lived in every moment like a tableau figurine, entirely aware of his surroundings and inhaling the perfume of life.

The gilded chair that Alfred had just levered himself up from was upholstered in red velvet and framed by an ornamental, gold-leaf backrest. He was dressed in keeping with this opulent perch: a charcoal morning suit he’d acquired from Saville Row, tailored to make his hunch seem corrected, his pot-belly hidden, and his chest puffed like he was ready to swim the English Channel. Alfred’s suit was the most expensive purchase he’d made since Margret’s engagement ring (and that was over fifty years ago).

Why the big effort? Two reasons: Today, Alfred was meeting a woman he was in love with, but had only ever met in a dream. And  the second reason? Alfred was about to receive an OBE for services to education. You see, Alfred was in love with The Queen of England, and the gilded red velvet chair he was now slinking away from was in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace.

His name had been called, and he was now walking towards The Queen to receive his honour, using his large palm to flatten the long wisps of hair he persisted in lacquering and combing to his scalp. Perhaps, in his youth, he would have been trembling with nerves, his mind considering every potential mishap on the short walk from chair to monarch; a stumble, a wet sneeze, a foul word blurted in error. But I could see that Alfred was now completely calm; his focus was on his breath, on his steps, on his tingling flesh. He was profoundly present and aware.

Margret had been the one to introduce meditation to their marriage. After the loss of their daughter, she’d been recommended ‘mindfulness’ by her GP as a method for baring the pain; for somehow accepting it. Alfred had been sceptical at first – I know, what a cliché – but remember, he’d been born in the 1940s, when men were men and never spoke of feelings other than those mustered by their empty stomachs.

However, behind closed doors, I knew Alfred worshipped Margret and only wanted to see her happy again; so without complaint, he’d meditated alongside his wife twice-a-day for the next twenty years. That is, until, Margret herself passed away, some four years ago.

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