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April 23rd, 2019

Walking with James

a True Story, Sorry
The two boys were tramping through the fields north of the village, nothing but themselves, and a packet of rich-tea biscuits to share between them. They talked about all sorts and took their time, strolling down country roads and wooded paths as the hottest Easter sun for a hundred years warmed their bare-shorted legs and slightly pinked their necks. They sauntered up hill out of the village where one of them lived, down past the new hotel (still under finishing touches) on the corner, and out into the field-country, basking as they went with the company of sheep and red cows. The conversation moved lightly from pastimes to past loves and the news was just in from one of the boys, James, that long love had moved to ex love only two nights before at dinner. 'You remember we went on a break?' 'I thought you were well clear of that now?' 'Yes, a couple of weeks, but apparently that's the problem.' 'She still wasn't happy? 'Nothing had changed.' 'So what did you say?' 'That's a blow,' he sighed, smiling at his own strangely comedic timing. The other boy laughed too, 'Quite right. I'm sure it was.' Their ramblings took them past one of the great old houses in that thick, rolling countryside and into another village, a hamlet of a church, a pub and a few houses down two main streets. They didn't stop but went on, chatting all the while. 'I've got some more concepts for you.' 'Oh yes? I'm always up for a concept, you know that.' 'I always think about that time in Dublin. The Howth idea I call it.' 'My idea about the album with the missing track?' 'That was my idea.' 'Was it?' 'Yes, with the location and the headphones in a box.' 'Are you sure? I've always thought it was mine.' 'Definitely. You even told someone recently it was.' 'Did I not even come up with the bit about the coordinates?' 'Well, maybe, I don't really know.' 'No, you know what, I'm probably just remembering it wrong. Memory envy, and mine's got a lot worse recently, as I keep saying.' 'Your memory?' 'Yeah, names, dates, events, so much just goes. Anyway, what's the new concept?' As they came out of the second village their path took them single-file onto the road for a while, and they went one after the other still talking about this and that as the road climbed between two fields and crested with a large, sweeping bend where they took stock. A white car came humming up the hill from the other side and they watched it ease its way towards them and stood into the road-bank when it passed and went on. They turned as though to make their merry way when a call from behind made them both stop and turn to see the car, which had pulled up short, with the window rolled down on the driver's side. 'James?' Came the call again, more distinct and sad. 'Oh, of all the people...' muttered the boy who'd been recognised, in resigned disbelief. 'Hello, Sarah.' Now, if you've never been in a long-term relationship you might not understand the strange bond that forms between the parents of one and the other, in this case, James's dear friendship with Amelia's mother Sarah. As these things go on and love blooms, bonds form, etc., blah yuck blah, etc., there comes a point where, if you're well behaved at the very least, you'll start to be considered as sort of family by the actual family family of the other. Of course, in many relationships this sort of family actually does end up as family family when two become one, more blah, more bloom, more etc. etc. However, in many other relationships, roughly all the others that is (though not all), a deep chasm forms into which all those other things go tumbling down, goodbye. That might be a bleak way to think of it but the fact stands, whatever happens in the future, and James had high hopes, at this stage in the near six years of Amelia&James, there's come a conclusion. And there's come Amelia's mother in a car. What followed was a strange combination of two people who, until two days previous, cared for each other very much, and suddenly felt like they shouldn't at all, but still, of course, did. I stood by and watched from the bleachers, one rich-tea to get me through what ensued. The dance began with Sarah half-opening the door into the hedge despite James's best advice. 'Oh, I don't really think... Is this safe?' Later he defended this line with I consider it one of the most dangerous roads in the country. We didn't pass another car. 'James, I don't really know what to say.' 'Have a biscuit.' 'I haven't really spoken to her...' then, opening the door entirely, 'Let me give you a hug.' 'I really don't think this is safe.' A hug. 'Just make sure she's okay.' Quite sweet, really. 'I'm sorry?' A little louder, 'Just make sure she's okay.' 'Sorry?' 'Just make sure she's okay.' She reached out to take his hand, which was already taken by a biscuit so an awkward negation ensued in which Sarah maintained her caring, motherly disposition and James tried desperately to put a rich-tea into the outstretched palm. 'You're still family.' As we heard earlier. 'And you.' He blew a kiss, I think only because she did first but at this point she was back in the car and out of sight from the cheap seats. The car rolled away. One boy burst out in fits while the other sauntered on. 'That was nice, you're still family.' 'You can hate your family.' 'You're still second cousin, twice removed who drank all the wine that time.' They walked on and on through the afternoon sun, past poly-tunnels and fields and happy/sad laughed their way home.

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