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by skyblue2 

Posted: 06 March 2003
Word Count: 1457

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Paul stared at his egg.
His Friday breakfast egg had split while cooking, oozing white albumen into the bubbling water.
It was a bad omen.
He took out his rune stones and cast them for enlightenment, then to be doubly sure, carried out a reading of the Tarot cards. The results confirmed his worst fears, he would have an ill-fated meeting that day. He decided to lie low for the rest of the day, avoiding contact with other members of the human race.
He called in sick to work. It wasn’t stretching the truth too much; he had worked himself into such a state that he did feel sick. He sat chewing his thumb in mystical contemplation. He decided he would not open the door to anyone that day.
His peace was shattered at eleven by a sharp knock at the door. Paul’s resolve wavered. What if the book he’d ordered ‘Soothsaying for Beginners’ had arrived? He would risk a look with the safety chain on.
It was a young lady. ‘Raffle tickets for the local hospital,’ she chirped. ‘For the scanner. There’s a top prize of a holiday in Mauritius’.
Normally the raffle ticket sellers friend, Paul agonised over these tickets. His natural inclination was to buy any tickets offered, reasoning that he could not take the chance of refusing any possible winning ticket. But today of all days was the wrong time to be buying.
The vendor, mystified and not a little perturbed by his facial contortions and lack of meaningful response, went on her way without waiting for an answer. The episode upset Paul’s fragile equilibrium and plagued his thoughts till lunchtime.
He decided that a ham sandwich would be the safest option open to him. He used ready sliced bread and ham, and took the bluntest butter knife from the drawer.
For a fleeting second his mind turned to work. He wondered how they were getting on without him. As a film editor at the local television studio, Paul had been training an apprentice for three years. The lad was the densest of a very dense batch of trainees taken on that year. Paul dreaded to think what might be happening in his absence.
The phone’s sharp tone made him jump. Somehow the knife contrived to tear through the flesh of his left hand. He screamed, then snatched up the receiver and yelled ‘what?’ into it.
There was a producer from work on the line whom he had never met. She was concerned to know how long he was likely to be off, as he was about to edit her documentary. Paul was not the sort to be too embarrassed to tell a stranger about a kitchen mishap, nor about the foreboding which had preceded it. Under the circumstances he let her have it with both barrels.
‘Oh you poor thing,’ she cooed. ‘I have an astrological self-analysis program on the computer, what’s your birth date?’
Somewhat taken aback Paul answered this and one or two similar questions in his usual forthright way.
She tutted meaningfully. ‘Your conjunctions are all awry. I’ll come straight over.’ The ‘phone went dead.
When he opened the door to her later Paul took in the willowy figure and unusual choice of attire at a glance. He was struck by how plain she was. In his experience all female TV producers came from a consistently pretty mould. Furthermore he had noted that, as a rule, the cuter the face the more nasty the possessor. By inverse logic he deducted that here was someone at the more pleasant of the bitchiness scale.
Because he was someone whose assessment of the world revolved around his own place in it he didn’t know that whereas pretty girls get by on their looks, plain girls have to be ruthless to get anywhere at all. This woman had got where she was because she knew what she wanted and was prepared to use any means to achieve it.
What she had her mind set on now was Paul.
She had divined that he was in need of focus and direction, but more importantly she had discovered he had no steady girlfriend. She had learned this from her modest questions, which while necessary for the astrological reading, had also told her whether he and she were compatible.
She had learnt that he was a Piscean, a water sign, which complimented her own air sign. Furthermore the conjunction of the planets for his birth day confirmed him as the Mr Right predicted by her own reading that day.
She swept by him into the flat.
Paul closed the door wondering whether a rabbit had let a weasel into the burrow. He had an uncertain feeling that the source of his bad omen had arrived.
The producer was having a good look around the flat, but she turned with outstretched hand. ‘ Paul, I’m Trish Goddard.’
The way she held her hand he wasn’t sure whether she expected him to shake it or kiss it. He shook it.
He guessed she was judging him by the state of the flat. She would see that he was fastidious to the point of obsessiveness, and that the room was stuffed with unusual and diverse artefacts, which represented his very personal and complex belief system. He did not suspect she had noted the absence of any mirrors, photographs or paintings from his walls for he was not even aware of this himself.
She said, ‘Well, are you going to get me a drink?’
To be fair to Trish she did have a personality. She had many interests outside work and to his surprise Paul found the afternoon slipping by in intense and pleasant conversation. They had a lot in common, not least their dependence on astrological and metaphysical prediction. Paul had never met anyone like her and he found himself inviting her to stay to dinner.
His culinary skills impressed Trish. She tended to eat on the fly herself, being an indifferent cook and having no one to dine out with. She had no inkling of the wonders of olive oil, garlic and black pepper. She asked, after a well-chosen compliment, whether he enjoyed cooking. His affirmative response confirmed her opinion. He was her man.
She allowed him the full use of her body that evening to cement the relationship. Once she had decided on a course of action she didn’t hold back and Paul experienced a bedroom event the like of which he had previously only fantasised about.
Any normal man would have been swept along in the subsequent heady and sweaty tornado of courtship, romance and engagement.
But Paul was not normal.
As the pair lay in that first post-coital afterglow, Trish had been enchanted when he had wiped the perspiration from her brow. She would not have been so charmed to know that he dribbled the liquid into a vial he kept beside the bed. He had later chemically analysed her bodily waste.
He found that it was charged with cations.
He had known then they were not compatible, for he too was a cation secretor. He believed two positives living together would ultimately clash, as the charge would not dissipate, but steadily build up creating tension. A future of squabbling and arguing was the prospect.
But his doubts were swept aside by Trish’s organisational and contortional skills.

Two weeks after they became engaged Trish had the great idea of putting on a dinner party. ‘I hardly know any of your friends,’ she said, ‘Invite some over for dinner. Tomorrow would be good. I’ve got a window.’
The sort of friends Paul had were most comfortable propping up a bar, having crisp eating and belching competitions, which was why Trish had never met any of them. He invited a chap from work who on the face of it was easy-going and respectable.
David and wife Norma proved to be the dinner guests from hell. They bickered throughout the meal and proceedings were brought to a premature end when Norma stormed out of the house and drove off in the Audi, leaving David to shamefacedly go home in a taxi.
‘It makes you realise how lucky we are,’ said Paul later.
‘Mmmm?’ mumbled Trish as she blue-pencilled a script by the light of the bedside lamp.
‘I mean, it’s so great that you love me just as much as I love you.’
Trish’s pencil stopped mid-stroke. ‘Love,’ she said, with a mildly puzzled expression, then smiled. ‘Of course.’
‘And it’s amazing how fate works out. Things could have been so much different if I hadn’t found you first.’
‘What do you mean?’ she asked.
‘David and I have exactly the same birthday.’ He leant over and kissed her on the cheek. She was chewing the blue pencil.

Before the week was out Trish had moved out of Paul’s life and into David’s. For the first time in months Paul’s sense of foreboding lifted.

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Comments by other Members

Anna Reynolds at 12:31 on 13 March 2003  Report this post
I like the way this opens- it's a great first couple of lines. And despite the genre not being one which I'd usually read, it's witty and light enough to be very entertaining.

I'm actually quite intrigued to know where this goes now. Any plans?

skyblue2 at 13:13 on 24 March 2003  Report this post
Having written a lot of short stories I decided to put them into an anthology, which I sold for charity.
Only established writers can get deals for short stories.

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