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A Dying Love

The sun was setting. In an hour the deep illuminated orange would be consumed by darkness.

The porch was old and over the years the wooden floorboards had turned ashen in colour. The porch housed Seth’s trustee oak rocking chair which stood proud and equally as ashen as the floorboards. The rocking chair was Seth’s pride possession and fit his portly figure perfectly. He sat quietly, as he did most evenings, especially in the spring, which was Seth’s favourite season. In the distance the sea view Seth craved. Living beside the sea was a factor in the decision to move to Penzance, Cornwall in his late twenties with his wife which he now referred to as his home town. Over the past few years Seth's rheumatoid arthritis was deteriorating meaning he was unable to venture on those wonderful walks he cherished; he was confined to the chair. It was a small blessing.

Time to reminisce.

Seth pressed lightly on the ashen floorboards with the ball of his right foot setting the rocking chair into action. The creaking of the floorboards was reassuringly therapeutic.

His thoughts ventured back to Liverpool in the war years. Time was hard as a young boy of just eight years old. Bombings were a regular occurrence but opened up a wonderful opportunity for adventure. He and his friends would rummage amongst the debris for shrapnel. It was especially thrilling immediately after one of the small terraced houses had been demolished, usually the night before, as the shrapnel would still be warm. Sirens would warn of the German planes during World War two and Seth would be confined to the cellar. His mother, Betty, would stroke his head to comfort the young terrified boy. They would listen to the whistle of the bombs bombarding the port and pray that their house would be spared. Seth had collected his shrapnel with the same pride he now bestowed on his rocking chair and lined his treasure on the windowsill. He knew each and every piece and which house it related to.

Just then Seth was broken from his thoughts by Jack.

‘Seth old boy, you okay?’ shouted Jack. At twenty years younger and a mere sixty-two years old, Jack was but a lad.

‘Fine Jack, you off for a walk?’ Seth enquired.

‘Yeah just down the lane. Can’t walk as far these days as you know. I’ll catch you on the way back, have the kettle on!’ Jack had bad gout which severely diminished his ability to be upwardly mobile but he was still determined to venture out most evenings. Jack was probably Seth's closest friend and he often called in to check on Seth.

‘Will do’ replied Seth before his thoughts moved to his days in the army during national service. He was stationed in Catterick, North Yorkshire. That’s where he met Beth, the love of his life. He was out with the chaps and donned his meticulously pressed army attire. His shoes were a black mirror. due to a technique Seth had learned which involved using the back of a hot spoon to heat the leather on the toes, smoothing out the bobbling effect before buffing to a perfectly polished finish. He was proud of his work. Seth wasn’t blessed with the same looks as his brother Douglas, who also had the charm and easily attracted the opposite sex; Seth was the complete opposite and somewhat shy.

Using the ball of his foot Seth ensured that the momentum of his rocking movement was consistent.

On that particular night out with his fellow army recruits Seth had glanced at the door leading in to the dance hall and there she was in a yellow polka dot dress with matching yellow ochre neckerchief and white high heeled shoes. Her naturally curly hair was golden, shoulder length and she had the most gorgeous sea green eyes. He couldn’t breathe. Beth was with some of her friends and had headed to the dance hall as this was a usual haunt for army personnel.

His first attempt to ask her for a dance failed as he aborted and made his way to the toilet.Get a grip Seth told himself just ask her for a dance. He did, and the rest was history as they say. Beth was his life and bore him two wonderful children, Aimee and Simon. Aimee lives in Manchester with her jobbing actor boyfriend Damien whilst she occasionally is commissioned to design coloured glass household decorations. Her visits have diminished lately which saddens Seth. Damien on the other hand never visits. He married and moved to Australia well before Beth passed away. Damien would call his dad about once every three months to check on his welfare but the conversation deteriorated rapidly when either his wife Margot on the grandchildren would disturb Damien. Then the responce was always 'look dad it's a bit crazy here, I'll have to dash, catch up soon.' Seth got the message loud and clear, it was a chore ringing his dad, he was far too busy with his hectic life so Seth rarely bothered to challenge for his sons attention.

Beth was diagnosed with the dreaded cancer some ten years ago. She was first diagnosed after she suffered chest pains. Seemingly she had melanoma of which she was either unaware or had ignored so as not to worry Seth, she was like that and it spread to her lungs. If only she had bothered to get that pea sized spot on the back of her calf seen to, things might have been different. His life changed the day his beloved passed. Beth was everything in his life, she knew his every mood, his good and bad habits, when he needed cheering up, when he wanted some peace and quiet; she was his anchor.

Again, Seth was distracted from his thoughts by a high pitched loud scream which startled him. Some children were seemingly playing a game, probably hide and seek and Seth surmised that one of the younger girls in the party had been found. I remember when Aimee and Simon were that age thought Seth seems like yesterday.

The orange was turning decidedly red now as the sun slowly and majestically lowered.

Seth felt cold all of a sudden. His snowy white full head of hair now highlighted by the low sun. His eyes began to feel sleepy as his head moved slowly to one side. He could no longer hear the chants of the children playing but through a misty haze saw a figure which Seth vaguely recognised. The figure was of a yellow glow. As he focused the blurred figure materialised. A polka dot dress, yellow ochre neckerchief, gleaming white shoes. Seth was confused. He tried to talk but the words would not emerge. His breath became faint. He wanted so much to call out but could not. Finally, with an ill-defined shallow voice he uttered the name Beth.

The rocking chair no longer rocked, the ball of Seth’s foot now unable to keep the motion constant. No creaking of the old ashen floorboards which reassured Seth that he was alive and well. Head slumped to one side, but with vacant brown eyes still gazing without purpose.

Seth suddenly felt full of energy and revitalised. He looked down at his feet and caught his reflection in the finely polished black shoes which he instantly recognised. His army uniform was as pristine as his jet-black hair. He looked up, his beloved was walking across the road wearing that infectious smile which he fell in love with all those years ago. There was nobody else in sight, no children, no sign of Jack - just Beth. Seth walked forward arms open poised to be reunited once more.

Seth had gone.

The official cause of death was 'heart failure' but the town folk knew different. It had been ten arduous years since Beth's passing and Jack in particular knew that his good friend needed to be reunited with his soul mate. As far as Jack was concerned his good buddy died of a broken heart.


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