Celia is my friendless friend. She has an innate mechanism that activates within 30 seconds of meeting someone new. It’s a kind of people repellent and shows up when pleasant formalities are being exchanged.
Now me – I’m rhino skinned with a passion for challenge, so getting to the bottom of this middle aged, prickly and paranoid person became my consummate obsession.
I met Celia on the Psyche Wing at the Royal General - I was a visitor by the way! For Celia re-admission for review of medication was a regular necessity. I glanced across at her and smiled sweetly.
“What’s your problem lady?” She scowled.
Somewhat taken aback I confessed that I didn’t have a problem but was just about to introduce myself.
“My name’s Sue.” I offered tentatively.
“Sue … GO TO HELL!” was the reply. “Do Gooders! - Can spot ‘em a mile away.”
She’d hit a raw, ‘people pleasing,’ nerve inside. Most folk think I’m, ‘nice’ but Celia saw through me! I perceived chemistry between us that needed to be nurtured.
By the time Celia was ready for discharge she’d mellowed somewhat. The drugs had worked a treat. I planned a short trip for us both; an effort to secure the mutual and possibly therapeutic friendship that had formed on such tenuous foundation.
We took a train ride to a quaint bustling town in the delightful, ‘English Lake District National Park,’ and booked into a very, ‘Olde-Worlde Inn,’ dating back to 1612.
The oak beamed ceilings and heavy latched doors were in keeping with the time period and through a narrow window that overlooked the cobbled yard, I visualised weary horses being tethered and watered whilst travellers quenched their thirst with tankards of real ale.
I looked forward immensely to exploring this hugely popular part of the country with my new, albeit odd friend and I think she did too.
Downstairs in the bar I ordered drinks while Celia popped into the ladies room. She was gone thirty minutes. I found her sitting by a crackling log fire in the snug.
“Just coming,” she explained. “I was chatting with Mr Dickens.”
“Yes. He knew so much history about this place – truly fascinating stuff. And he’d actually dressed in Victorian garb.” She read my thoughts. “I know. It’s not me is it?” I attributed this untimely and uncharacteristic bonding to the powerful, ‘Lindisfarne Mead’!
Two days later we re-packed our week-end bags and headed for the station.
“It‘s been a fantastic break,” said Celia as our train sped South. “It exceeded all my expectations. Let’s do it again soon.”
“I’d like that.” I said, hoping I wasn’t too transparent. “Tell me Celia, who were you waving to as we left this morning?”
“Didn’t you see Mr Dickens?”
“I saw no-one Celia.”
“He was standing in the doorway in full Victorian costume, waiting to greet the punters I expect.”
Celia caught up with some sleep two hours into the journey. As her facial muscles relaxed I studied the features. She had good bone structure and a mop of thick dark hair. She would have been a good looking woman in her younger days. But who was she? I actually knew very little about her!
Back home I uploaded pictures from my camera. I laughed out loud when I noticed a plaque above the low doorway of the Inn; something we’d both missed completely. It read – ‘The oldest Tavern in Cumbria and known to have been frequented by Charles Dickens.’
So that explained Celia’s mysterious Mr Dickens. What a clever tourist puller! Doubting over, I picked up the phone.
“Hello, is that the Inn where Mr Dickens drinks?” I joked.
“My friend was chatting with him last night.” I laughed. “I’d like to book a second visit please.”
“Certainly Madam - but run Mr Dickens by me again?”
“Do I have the, ‘New Hall Tavern?” I asked.
“My friend Celia was talking with him.”
“Talking with whom?”
“Have you been drinking Madam?”
“Erm … No.”
“Are you high on something?”
“You’ll be telling me you’ve seen Charlie next!” He laughed sarcastically. “Tell me you’re not insane.”
“What? … NO!” I spluttered. “I’ll get back to …” He’d hung up on me!
I heard my front door open - then close again. Hesitantly, I turned to face my unconventional, eccentric and periodically cuckoo, friendless friend.
Our eyes met, and a chill ran down my spine!
Celia just became friendless minus one!
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