Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Ch 31: I Can't Make You Love Me

Ch 31 I can’t make you love me

“Mary!. Maggie! Whatever you’re really called….” Gene looked up at the vision before him, through cloudy eyes.

“I’m back Gene. Back for good.”.

Gene couldn’t quite take it all in. First the damn letter from Alex declaring undying love, and now this.

Mary walked towards him and bent down to remove the letter from his hands, her golden curls brushing against his face.

“So, you found it then?” She looked questioningly at Gene. He nodded.


“And what?” gene replied, a little too sharply, then apologised.

“Sorry, it’s not your fault.”.

“I’ll put the kettle on! Mary offered.

“I need something stronger” Gene replied

Spotting the half empty whisky bottle Mary continued to get some cups from the cupboard whilst she waited for the kettle to boil.

“I think you have had enough”.

Gene simply sat with his head in his hands, until Mary sat down beside him on the sofa and placed two steaming mugs of coffee on the table.

Gene took a sip, almost burning his tongue. He could smell Mary’s subtle perfume as she stirred her own drink. Gene could feel something else stirring too. Oh God what the hell was happening?

“Where have you been, all this time?” Gene looked at her.

Mary smiled that smile.

“I had to go, and see my brother. He wasn’t too well.”

“Where? Ireland?”

“No. Blackpool actually.” Gene froze. Blackpool.

“Yes he needed me.”

“I needed you Mary. You just vanished. Do you know what that did to me? Just vanishing without so much as a goodbye. After what we had between us…..”

“And what did we have Gene? What exactly did we have?”

Gene looked at her and put his cup on the table, and took her hand in his. It felt soft, so soft, and cold.

“You’re freezing” he said, rubbing it between his own hands, trying to warm her up. He looked up into her eyes, those cat-like eyes.

Her hand touched his face.


“I thought….oh I don’t know, Mary. I don’t know what to think any more. I know that night, we shared something. I felt real again you know. We had some kind of connection I thought, maybe a chance of happiness, if I was stopping here.”

“If you were stopping here…so, if you didn’t plan on stopping, what..you would go to HER?” Mary waved Alex’s letter in front of him before standing up, a little annoyed.

“Second best, is that what I am Gene? You can’t have Alex, so you may as well have me? Great. How do you think that makes me feel? I won’t be used Gene.”

“I didn’t mean that. I just meant…”

“What? What did you mean? You spend the night with me. I thought we had something starting to grow. I don’t know what you felt , were you just using me? I won’t be used Gene, or strung along”.

“I didn’t use you. I thought, well, we would be a kind of work in progress thing you know. I needed you. You were there. And then you weren’t. Remember you were the one that upped and left.”. Gene was shouting now.

Mary started to cry.

“I had to go Gene. My brother needed me. He was sick.”

Gene’s mood softened on seeing her tears.

“Hey, come here” he pulled her towards him, taking in that perfume, stroking her silky hair, and feeling her slender body against his.

“Is he better now, your brother?” His voice was full of concern.

She looked up, tears trickling down her face.

“It’s not…” he couldn’t bring himself to say the word….”terminal?”.

She shook her head.

“He’s..well it’s his mental state. He went to war. The Gulf. He saw some terrible things. He has Post Traumatic stress, well Gulf War Syndrome they call it. He has flashbacks, sees terrible things, reminders of his time in the Falklands. The nightmares….most of the time he is fine, but it only needs a trigger to set him off. You know, he is such a gentle chap, considering he was out there on the frontline, killing people. He just likes the quiet life, doesn’t like to upset applecarts. Yet it only needs one thing to spark it off and he is like a , welll , red rag to a bull. Somebody upset him and he flipped out. “

Gene listened. It sounded like himself.

“The Falklands eh? 1982.…”.

Mary’s voice was a little calmer.

“Yes the worse thing anybody can do is upset him. People just do not understand. They are cruel, and viscious. There is no need for nastiness. Life is too short.”

Gene wiped away her tears. He brushed her hair away from her face, and then, as she stared up at him, he brought his lips down to hers and kissed her tenderly. They stood there for a few moments, motionless until she said

“But you love her Gene. You love Alex. You are choosing her over me.”

“I …oh Christ, Mary, I don’t know anymore what I know, who I love. I thought I loved Alex, but, hell , what is she putting me through? I don’t know if I can go on? I am exhausted. It’s been such hard work you know, and maybe it still will be all for nothing. Will I ever ever see her again?”

“You didn’t think you would see me did you?” Mary asked.

Gene shook his head.

“What if you were to stay here Gene?. Stay here, with me. In this life?”

Gene just stared blankly. What if he did? What would have been the point in all these months, or years rather, all the hell he had been through, waiting for Alex as the end result. What if it really was never going to happen. What if Alex had been stringing him along, winding him up….but she wouldn’t , would she…surely….?

“She could have another guy Gene, you do realise that. She could have moved on, and then where would that leave you, if you do persue her to the end…”

Gene still didn’t know what to say. He knew the thought of Alex with another man, in another’s arms made him seeth with anger.

“You can stay here with me. I can’t make you love me Gene, but, well we could try, make it a work in progress and all…..”

“I….I don’t…”

“Sssh.” Mary placed a finger across Gene’s lips. She began to kiss his face, ran her fingers tenderly through his hair, whilst he did the same. Within minutes they kissed more passionately, and suddenly clothes were coming off, being flung across the floor, and they both collapsed on the sofa, and their coming together was hot, and urgent as they clung together as though for dear life.

After it was over, Gene twirled a strand of Mary’s hair round his finger.

“What if I were to stay……”

“Hush” Again Mary pressed a finger to his lips. “ Don’t give me your answer just yet. Think about it. But if you are even contemplating staying, well there are things you need to know, about me”.

Oh here we go, thought Gene. The bombshell. Sleep with them, then comes the skeleton out of the closet.

“I see you also found the Womble.” Mary pulled the tatty toy from the cardboard box. Gene watched her nakedness in the glow of the moonlight from the window. Her body was perfect.

He thought of the little girl. Maggie. Or was it Mary. Jesus he really couldn’t remember. Somehow suddenly something felt a little odd, especially given what they had just done.

“Here, put this around you” Gene handed Mary his shirt. As she buttoned it up, looking annoyingly even sexier, he pulled on his own trousers making himself decent. Father Daniel, and Sister Maggie could return at any time.

“I know if you stay Gene, I need to tell you the truth. It’s the least I can do. I owe it to you.”

“Don’t. Don’t spoil it. Let it be.”

“Gene. I can’t . There’s stuff, something you really need to know.”

He watched the way she played with the Womble.

“Is it about little Maggie?” Gene was guessing.

She nodded.

He should have guessed. The resemblance was uncanny.

“Come here” He held her against him, her head on his shoulder while she sobbed once more.

He cooed, and murmured soft words, surprising himself. Once her paroxysms stopped she cleared her voice.

“it’s not what you think.”.

“What happened? If you want to talk about it, babes, I am right here. Was, was she taken? I think that’s what happened isn’t it? She was your daughter, your little girl? I could tell. She looked so like you. It freaked me out. Was this hers?”

Mary remained silent.

Christ. What a thing to happen. Your kid to go missing. A pang of guilt soar through him. Jesus, could he have stopped it from happening? Is that what all this was about now? He really didn’t know. Maybe it was some random connection with Alex, Molly, Mary and Maggie….but what…?

“Oh Gene…..”

“I know you said you can’t make me love you, but I think I do already Mary. I feel something, deep, here, in my heart….. Whatever happened, I will make it right for you, make you feel better. Just say the word. I will lay down my heart for you”.

“Oh Gene, Gene!” Mary grabbed his shoulders.

“You are so wrong. You just don’t understand…. I am afraid if I tell you, you may go…. I don’t know what to do…..

“Hush…come on…I am here now, I am not going anywhere….”.

At that point Mary led him into the bedroom. Gene’s eyes lit up, thinking it was time for round two, only stopped when he watched her pull out a shoe box from under the bed.

She pulled put some photographs, some black and white, a few colour, Polaroid snapshops. They looked to be dated around the late 60s, early 70s. There was one of little Maggie, clutching her favourite toy Womble.

He watched carefully as Mary’s eyes filled with tears.

“She was so innocent there, Gene., Just a kid.”
“And cute too, that button nose, just like yours….” He playfully touched the tip of Mary’s nose.

“Such a shame. A deep tragedy that she should become what she did….”

Now Gene looked confused.

“What…. What happened to her Mary. I think I need to know…. Tell me.”

“What became of her?” He repeated himself.

“Oh Gene. She was so so innocent in this one” she pointed to the Womble photo again, before picking up another. She handed him one of the coloured poloroids.

Gene noticed a young girl, a few years older with curly hair like Charlies Angels, and wearing a camel coloured jumpsuit over a blue and white stripey polo neck. More typical early 70s fashions.

“This is her?” Gene looked surprised. She looked to be around 14 possibly.

“And then this is when it all went wrong”. Mary handed him another photo. The girl in this one looking very familiar. In fact, she was sitting right on the bed next to him.

“Christ. Mary. What the fuck is this? I can’t make it out.”.

“It was just a party. That’s how it all started. You know. I was only fifteen. We were drunk, somebody had some speed or something. I can’t really remember. They were punks. You know, New Wave stuff playing downstairs, Sex Pistols”.

Knocked up at fifteen eh? Gene was thinking. It happened. It happened then, it still happened now, always would.

“There was one guy. He looked a bit like Gary Numan. I liked him. He was cool, wore black eyeliner. He took me afterwards to a club. I would have got into a lot of trouble if my parents had known. Anyway it was fun, dancing and he bought me more drinks. I looked a little older than I was . There were some other guys there too, from a band…can’t remember some new upcoming on the Punk scene, and a couple of Mods too. I remember laughing, drinking, dancing. Then I felt strange. Obviously I know now somebody had spiked my drink, blobs or something. I don’t know how I ended up in a dark room upstairs. I just remember this guy on top of me. I think it was Gary Numan lookalike, as I recognised his aftershave in the darkness. I felt his weight. I knew I should have asked him to stop, but somewhere I felt excited too, that was probably the effects of the drink. So I let him do what he wanted with me. And he did. He took my innocence, right there and then. They say it’s supposed to be special, your first time. But it didn’t end there. There was another guy. A punk. I could tell because his spike hair was so gelled it stuck in my face. And then his friend had a go….”

“Fucking Hell!” was all Gene could say, as he watched Mary continue her story.

“The drink, the drugs, well they blotted out the pain of it all. And that’s how it all began. How I ended up on the road to debauchery”.

“Whhat?” Gene was a little unsure what she was saying, where the story was actually going.

Suddenly the penny dropped not with a ping but a bloody loud BANG! He picked up the black and white faded photo of Little Maggie.

“Jesus. This……was.. was you?”

She nodded.

“I just got sucked into the world of drugs,and of course I needed to feed my habit, get some money for dope, and coke. So naturally I turned to prostitution.”

“So…let me get this straight….you had no kid, no daughter…”

“No. I was so lucky not to get caught given ….”

Gene ran his fingers through his hair in disbelief trying to take it all in.

“Then I took up the dancing in the clubs and well, Gene, as they say, the rest is history…..”,

“And Father Daniel took you in?”

Mary merely nodded.

Gene sat with his hands on his chin. What did he make of it all. He didn’t really know. Yet he felt he couldn’t leave her. She might have been a tough little nut then but she was deep down vulnerable, and he believed she needed him. How could he possibly go, and leave her now? He couldn’t For some reason….he just couldn’t. This had changed everything. She needed him. And if the truth were told, he needed her. Alex, well, she was a tough cookie. She had put him through hell, and she was still teasing him, as always, as she always did. Prick-tease, yes that’s what she was, whoever she was…….

At that point the made a decision. Gathering all the photos together he placed them back in the old Clarks shoe-box and returned it under the bed.

Taking Mary’s hand in his, he led her to the bed. She got in beside him and lay her head on his shoulder, holding him tightly. He pulled her closer to him until her breathing subsided and he knew she had fallen asleep.

Happy in his thoughts, he believed he had made the right decision. For once in his life, he as going to do the right thing. He would stay here, with her, look after her. This was his life now. He would let Alex go. Move on.

He thought he heard a door slam, and voices. It must be Danny boy and Maggie May.

He closed his eyes and drifted into a sleep of his own, and surprisingly a slumber not racked with his usual nightmares, he thought on waking some good seven hours later.

The room was quite and he felt the body next to him in the bed stir.

He reached across in the early morning light, and rubbed his eyes. It was quite fully light, but Mary’s face looked a bit odd. He rubbed his eyes again, moving her hair gently away from her face.

To his horror, he found a handful of auburn locks in his hand, come away from her head.

“Fuck….” he cried, throwing them across the pink candlewick bedspread.

He pulled some more, which revealed Mary’s face, all crinkled and shrivelled up, not from sleep, but like that of an old old woman.

He blinked his eyes shut tight thinking it was just a trick of the light.

Yet when he opened he let out a cry, jumping to his feet. He felt his heart beating and that his legs would buckle beneath him.

For all that remained on the bed was a bundle of bones, and the smiling skull of a skeleton staring back at him.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Ch 30: Someone Like You

The TV talent show was over. Finnito. Everybody was a happy bunny. It was probably time for Match of the Day but suddenly Gene had little interest. He stared at the envelope in his hands, turning it over and over, seeing the handwriting on the front. “Gene” written in a blue pen. A familiar handwriting, one had seen time after time. A girly handwriting, and not one that belong to that puff Skelton. He realised Sister Maggie had been gone some time. Bloody Hell, where was this outdoor off licence? He was gagging for a drink right now. He stood up and walked over to the kitchen. Thank Christ, some scotch was in the cupboard. Pouring himself a large glass, he walked back to the sofa, bringing the half empty bottle with him, and sitting back comfortably he took a large swig befor leaning back and ripping the envelope open under the lights of the twinkling tree. He knew who it was from before he even started reading, he had always known….

“My Dearest Gene,

The time is fast approaching, not long now to go. You have done so well, and come so far. Never forget that. No matter what happens. I am hoping, wishing, and praying that you make it. Do you remember when we first met? It all seems so long ago now….well really if you think about it….it IS. A lifetime ago. You thought I was a prostitute, and so you continued to treat me like one, well at least as an inferior being anyway. A woman. Yet that’s what I am, Gene. A woman. A strong, confident woman, who has balls, and guts. I take no crap, from nobody. I suppose you calling me Bollyknickers well, it’s your way of showing affection for me, because I know you care Gene. You always did. You still do. Yet you’re a man. And men, believe it or not are from Mars, just like Sam Tyler, whilst women are from Venus. I am your fire, your desire. Of course, we are both different, in the way we go about things, yet the ultimate goal is usually the same. Oh I know you’ve had your fair share of women Gene, you’re a woman’s man. A real man, yet I don’t think you had ever found Miss Right, not until you met me. Of course, you didn’t know it at the time, not straight away. And I couldn’t stand you, I thought you were obnoxious, arrogant, a bit of a bastard actually. You really got on my tits at times. Hark at me, Alex Drake using language from the gutter. But Gene, you know me better than that. You know I am classy. A one-off. Special. Like no other woman you have ever met. We came close didn’t we. More than once. If only we had made the effort then…..mind you, I always thought I did make the effort, you know, I was always the one going that extra mile, whilst you, you just sat back, watched it happen, some smouldering looks here, a grope there. Lusting after me, like some sex object, no better than that common prostitute…. I think towards the end though you knew. You knew the way I was feeling. If Keats hadn’t turned up that night….Oh if only…..but it wasn’t meant to be Gene, not then. Who knows why. Who knows anything anymore. I know that I was shot for a reason. And that was…to meet someone like you, Gene. Someone like you. I know I was happy, I had Mollie, yet something had always been missing from my life, and that something was you. And you know it. Yet you won’t admit it, Mr Hard Man, Gene Hunt, the Manc. Lion does not do sentimental crap, emotion, or love. No. Gene Hunt separates himself and just keeps on. Yet you told me once Gene, do you remember, that you wanted me, you wanted somebody who cared . Do you remember that Gene? Do you remember all those things you said once, in a drunken stupour somewhere, I can’t quite remember actually if it was on my sofa one night when you kipped down, or in the vault when we were getting a little hot and steamy. Do you remember my red underwear Gene? Well, I still have it. In fact, I am wearing it right now, under my clothes. You wanted me Gene. You still do. Yet you are stubborn at times. And childish. And you can be so selfish, and secretive. Oh I may as well have a go. I can hear you thinking now…what is this - have a stab at Gene Hunt day? Well actually, yes it is Gene. Because the day of reckoning is soon to be upon us and I need to get everything off my chest. You need to know. I am tired, darling Gene, soooo tired. It’s been a long journey. You once asked me how I felt, do you remember that? You were teasing, coaxing, goading me into saying something I really didn’t want to, not then. I wasn’t ready. Sometimes I wished I hadn’t . I tried so hard I really did. To be the person you wanted me to be. But I couldn’t win. Classy Bolly, Tarty Bolly, Gutsy Bolly, Reserved Bolly. Got on with my work, for my Guv. The best Guv I ever had. And what did you do? Oh well the usual man thing. Go into his cave when he didn’t want to speak. Go out and get bladdered. Switch of his phones so I would think they were broken. Or that you were alone. When you weren’t . Maybe shacked up with some bird you picked up, or the elusive Mrs. Hunt, the one I thought you had mentioned divorcing at some point…was that way back in 73? See Gene, if I were a boy, I would do exactly that. It’s what men do, along with lying, cheating, ecetera. Only I am not a man. I am a woman Gene. And I so want to believe in you. That you are honest, open, and genuine. Do you remember when you saw me with Ray, dear sweet man? You were jealous. Don’t deny it. You were. Because you wanted me for yourself. So Gene. How’s the campaign going. Do you think you are closer now to having me? Do you think you are getting nearer? I can see you are making some effort my darling, but frankly it’s not quite enough. Of course you saved my skin so many times…I can’t thank you enough, yet you stopped me from being with the person I loved most, my Mollie. I don’t know if I can ever forgive you for that. Unless you prove it to me. Unless you prove your undying love for me. That’s if you do care. And you are not just stringing me along, as you have done since 1981. I suppose given the fact that you are still hanging around is a good sign. After all, you have almost completed your mission. You have saved Ray, Chris and Shaz from their fates. You have reversed time, and are on the way to redeeming your soul. Yet have you asked yourself who is going to be the one that save you? Only you can decide your own fate Gene. I have been watching you, and been with you every step of the way, though I suppose you know that. I have, quite naughtily thrown in little testers along the way, some you have fallen for , some not. You are a wise man Gene. I was a little scared when you ended up in the Gay Village, but I knew you were not really batting for the other side. Not my Gene. All man. A pretty hunky one at that too. Am sure all those gay boys love you. But do you love me Gene, I mean really love me, as much as you are now saying you do? I suppose it’s actually quite difficult to tell, I mean after all, if one was to look back at our life together, well, let’s face it, it wasn’t really real was it. All a fantasy if you ask me. You’re the king of wishful thinking Gene. I watched you cry at Princess Diana’s funeral, your arms around Maggie, ah yes Maggie, she of the flame-haired. I noticed you with her, looking at her, holding her, and I wondered. Does this man really care about me? I noticed how you didn’t post a letter to me in that special post-box, the one left standing when the bomb hit town. Not one. Nothing. You may have tried to call me on the phone. But words are cheap Gene. Actions speak louder. And it’s actions I want now. I have seen you go soppy with that little girl. It’s as though she was the daughter you never had. What happened to her Gene? You were upset I know when she vanished. To me that proved that Gene Hunt wasn’t like a character from the Wizard of Oz. Gene Hunt had a heart. And it was at that point I knew.

Of course I am not saying that if we meet up at the end of all this, and you find me it will all be plain saling. We shall be like any other normal couple, we will have our rows, and disagreements, just like we did, back in the 80s. In fact, we will probably have to start all other again. Like good old fashioned dating. Can you woo me Gene? I know you can, remember at Luigis….? That night, it was magical. I imagine we would have ended up in bed together, I know that much is true. Yet it’s not going to happen straight away Gene. This isn’t about sex and you know it, well not just sex. Of course we will have the passion, and maybe some of those things from our fantasy world, but remember Gene we will be in the real world. You can take me to that nice Hotel, you know where Jim Keats took you the other day. Wow, that looks like a classy place for me, sophisticated and elegant. Yes I can see us both up there, you with your bit of posh totty, so high, like being in Heaven. We will drink champagne, Bollinger of course! There is a place for us, somewhere, Gene, there is a place for us. All those love songs, the clich├ęs, listen to them Gene. Listen to what they are telling you. Where they are guiding you. We are all victims at some time or other, of love. And when it goes wrong it hurts, like hell. People don’t talk for hours, weeks, months, sometimes years on end. Two people as though they never really knew one another, never shared happy times, dreams, secrets. Do you want to be a person like that Gene? Alone. Growing into a lonely, grumpy old man. Without the love of a good woman. A woman who wants you, needs you? You will never find someone like me Gene. Never. Never. Never.

I will have to end this soon as I am feeling a little tired. You have seen me in many ways Gene. As I said, confident, happy, sad, and also vulnerable, like a frightened little girl. Yet Gene, you are the one who is frightened. You fear what is going to happen to you now. What will happen if you stay, as you are in, in limbo, forever? Will you remain with Danny, and Maggie, whoever she is? Will you fall in love with somebody else? Or will you just use women for your pleasure and cast them out on one side when you have finished? Clingy women who bleed you dry? Is that what you want? Of do you want a woman who knows where she is going and what she wants out of life, with drive, ambition, passion. Prove Jim Keats wrong Gene. Show him you have balls. Show him you really care for me. Or does he win? Again.

As for me…well who knows. There’s always Raymondo….he’s quite cute I suppose. A little foursome with Shaz and Chris, yes that could work quite well. We often shared stuff Ray and I, and I loved it when he gave me a bite of his battered sausage. Ouch! Did that hurt Gene? You see Bolly is still there, the gutsy Bolly, with the balls, taking no crap. Nobody puts Bolly in a corner….oh which film was that from….Dirty Dancing, or was it Ghost? You still have to finish your mission Gene. Do the right thing. Perhaps you should pray. Maybe say the Lord’s Prayer, Gene. I think you are going to need it, to keep the faith. Though shall not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil…..oh Gene, you may have one more temptation to face…..I fear…

In the coming week’s Gene you have a decision to make. You are at a crossroads, and you have a choice of two roads. Choose wisely. If you choose the wrong road you will never find me ever again and I will remain a fantasy in your head, a fiction of your imagination, something what might have been, if only…… Choose the correct path, follow that yellow brick road, and surely that will take you, somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high to your Dorothy, who will be waiting there, wearing her red shoes (and if you are lucky, some red underwear too). Gene and Alex = Soulmates. And hence this little charm I have left you with this letter. It’s just a little token but it’s half of something, like a jigsaw puzzle. When you find the person who holds the other half you will find your soul-mate. If it’s me, then I’ll be here, right here waiting for you, Gene. And if it’s not, then fair enough. So be it. But ‘ll just have to say if that is the case, I would wish you well, and I will just have to go out and find myself another Gene Hunt, someone like you.

All my love, and a Happy Christmas, until the day we meet Gene, I will be thinking of you.

Love Alex xxx
PS: I love you Gene Hunt xx (too soon to say it but in case we never get the chance…..)

PPS: The tree looks lovely, so well hung! Fire up the Fairy Lights!

The air, that hung eerily silent was broken by the sound of somebody singing Christmas carols somewhere. At midnight.

Gene Hunt was still. Crying silently. Tears flowed down his face, like the snowflakes that had started to fall from the night sky outside. He looked at the little charm in his hands. One half of another, somewhere out there….he needed to find it…..

That eerie silence…Hush….oh sooooo quiet.

The calm before the storm.

A gust of wind suddenly blew from somewhere. Gene looked up.

There was the banging of a door.

The fairy lights suddenly flickered on and off, twice before a loud bang, and they suddenly went off altogether, blowing a fuse. BANG!

But not before Gene had seen who was stood before him, two plastic carrier bags in her hand.


Not Sister Mary Magdalene.

But Maggie, her with the flame-coloured hair.

Ch 29: When We Collide (Many of Horror)

“Gene?!” “Gene!” “Wake up, Gene!”

Gene tried to open his eyes but it was hard, as though his eyelids were stuck down with superglue. They felt heavy.


He tried again but all he could see was a blur of bright lights.

“He’s fading I think” a voice said.

“What already?” another voice asked, a female one.

“It’s too soon. We can’t let him go, not yet”.

“Has it started happening then? Is he going into the parallel world now?

Then there was a silence. Gene tried to take in the conversation…Go? Go where? Not where he thought he should be going…not yet….Jesus not before he found Alex. He was going nowhere. He heard a beeping sound…Beep Beep Beep. Shit!

“Hang in there, Gene, don’t leave us yet…..”.

Suddenly Gene bolted upright.

“I ain’t bleeding going nowhere yet. Oh God my head!” He rubbed his forehead, relieved to find he was not in hospital bed, surrounded by doctors and nurses, or a mortuary slab, but back in the safety of the Refuge with Father Daniel and Sister Maggie peering over him.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph” The Nun made the sign of the cross in front of him.

“Hey Maggie, don’t you be giving the Gene Genie the Last Rites just yet” he joked though he had to admit he felt like death. His stomache was churning.

“What happened? Last thing I remember I was at Maine Road…must have been some match!”

“More like the dodgy hotdog Gene. You collapsed, missed most of the game and spent it throwing up in the player’s dressing room before you passed out. You must have been out cold for some considerable time”.

Gene smirked. “Well that would have been a place to go wouldn’t it, eh Danny Boy…at Maine Road….hmmmm”.

Gene tried to move off the sofa but he found he was aching from head to toe.
“Lie still, Gene. You need to rest. Food poisoning can put you out for a while. You need to get stronger again” Sister Maggie put a hand on his arm. Gene looked at her fingers…they looked so….familiar. He looked up into her eyes, eyes full of love, and concern.

“Yes. Maggie’s right” Father Daniel chipped in “You need to stay put for a bit, get some rest”.

The priest made himself busy gathering together some papers and books
“Fraid I got business to attend to down at the Refuge. No rest for the wicked eh Gene?”

Gene was past caring about anything other than the fact that he was still here and not banging on St. Peter’s door just yet.

“Which is why I am going to stay with you for a wee while Gene, and tend to your needs. I will make you something light to eat, maybe some chicken soup, nothing too heavy” Sister Magdalene patted his arm and then got up and walked towards the kitchen.

“Make sure he goes nowhere!” Gene thought he heard Danny say to the nun. Like where? As if. He had nowhere to go. Ah………..but he did, didn’t he? He fished in his pocket for the invitation to that Royal Wedding in London Jimbo Keats had given him. Damn. There was no date on it. What had Keats said….it was to be in a couple of months? He needed to find out exactly when it would be so he could start to plan. A few months till he saw Alex? Surely it couldn’t be too far away now, especially in his Warlord world of time-travel. He supposed he could while away a few more months here in this dump, assuming nothing else happened.

“Here we are my love. Get this down you”. Sister Maggie returned with a bowl of steaming soup “Take care, it’s hot”. She handed him a plate with some crusty bread. For somebody who had just had the old salmonella, e-coli or God knows what, he certainly felt ravenous.

“Are you not having any?” he asked Maggie.

“No. I am not very hungery at the moment. In fact, if you’re OK I think I will go and have a lie down. “ She smiled sweetly at him and made her way to the bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her.

Satisfied after his light meal Gene decided to put the television on. There was nothing else to do. He looked at the clock ….God, it was fast approaching 8pm. Outside it was dark. He had, once again, lost all track of time. His body should be accustomed to it by now. He flicked the channels. BBC1...”Oh we can get this right off for a start!” Some prancy dancing programme with bloody Bruce Forsythe.and a blonde. Mind you the bird was tasty. He went to ITV. Some kind of talent show. Jesus. He continued flicking, hoping to find something decent to watch. Maybe an episode of The Sweeney. Later he could watch Match of the Day and catch up on the game he missed. Nothing but crap. Flicking back he let it rest in ITV once more. He picked up a book lying on the table. Maybe he would have a read, but changed his mind on noticing it was a copy of the Holy Bible. Oh well, there was nothing for it but to just watch this mindless rubbish.

He lay back on the couch, and closed his eyes for a second. Suddenly he heard a song, playing on the television, on the talent show. He opened his eyes and sat up. A couple of lads and a girl were singing it very very badly, like a load of cats, but there was no doubt it was that same song he had heard before somewhere…but where? He watched the show for a few moments and laughed out loud when some guy with an ultra brite smile commented the group sang like squealing cats on a wall on a Friday night. Ha. God that guy must clean his teeth with Daz washing powder Gene thought. They had to be false. His attention picked up when he saw the camera scan to two girls sitting alongside him. MMMMmmm now that’s worth watching he thought, that is until the girl opened her mouth “Why eye Man…” Oh no a bloody Geordie. Gene started whistling “When the Boat Comes in”.

The door opened and suddenly Maggie walked in.

“That was a quick nap”. Gene said, his eyes still fixed on the tv now watching some Aussie bird with big knockers.

“Just a quick ten minutes really. A power nap we call it”.

“Oh be Jesus…look, it’s Danny Boy to be sure” Gene suddenly pointed at the screen the Irishman sitting on the end of the panel. “So that’s what he is up to tonight, the lucky bleeder!”


“Sorry Mags, but you gotta admit he does look a bit like him….doesn’t he?”

“Not at all. It’s just the accent” Sister Magdalen replied. “Anyway I was going to ask, I am just nipping down to the off licence…”

“Sister Maggie off to the offy…whatever next!” Gene joked, suddenly for some strange reason his mood had picked up.

“For some wine for communion tomorrow. I was going to ask if you wanted anything?” She appeared unphased by Gene. Always was, Gene thought, so bloody cool and composed.

“Wouldn’t mind a few cans of Pale Ale to wet my whistle Mags”.

“I won’t be too long”.

“No probs. I’ll keep it hot for you!” Gene joked crudely but it fell on deaf ears as the nun closed the door behind her.

Gene continued to watch the talent show. Actually some of the acts were quite good. He settled down on the sofa. It appeared to be the final one or something. A pity he hadn’t watched the earlier ones. Some of the comments of that judge with the teeth and man-boobs made him howl with laughter. He could see himself being a judge on such a show. It really was quite lavish, lots of lights, glitz and glamour. It was just as it was going to a commercial break Gene noticed the Christmas tree in the background. Then the adverts came on. Most of the for toys, hampers and all those bloody festive jingles. Bloody Christmas?! Whooa! Wait a minute. He stood up. He couldn’t have skipped again surely. That song he heard before….he remembered. He heard it before he had blacked out…at the stadium……the day when he had saved Shaz Grainger!

His head spun for a few moments whilst he tried to think. He had saved Shaz. Having already saved Ray, and Chris. All three of them. That only left…….Alex. You could forget Tyler..he didn’t really come into it, not this bit. Christ. He really was so close. There’s no way he could go anywhere now, not whilst Alex was in his grasp. He couldn’t take this. He needed to know what year he was in, and when this bloody Royal Wedding was to be held. He went to the kitchen looking for a sign, anything, a calendar, letters. He opened the bin and found an old newspaper. The date read “Saturday. December 2010”.

Jesus Bloody Christ!

“What the fuck is going on?” he shouted out loud. 2010. But…Alex got shot in 2008. He had gone way past, into the future, into a place none of them knew. He didn’t understand. He looked again at the invitation in his pocket. It said 29 April 2011. That meant…..well…..it wasn’t so bad. In about four or five months time he would be meeting up with Alex, somehow…he wasn’t sure how but well he could just about cope with that. He could shack up here for the Winter, stay warm and cosy, all ready for a spring wedding, and a trip down the Smoke. Suddenly he was feeling a little elated, and festive. He would surprise Danny and Maggie. Surely they must have some Christmas decorations tucked away somewhere. He went off to the bedroom,turning up the tv so he could listen to the show whilst searching for something to brighten the place up a bit.

However, some time later, having checked under the bed, in the wardrobes, in the cupboards there wasn’t so much as a piece of tinsel in sight. Nothing. Not a sausage. That rather surprised him. He would have thought that Danny and Maggie being close to Him Upstairs would have had at least an Angel or crummy old Nativity scene stashed away. He looked up at the ceiling. Aha. The loft entrance. Now isn’t that where everyone kept their Christmas decs.

He got a chair from the living room. Ooh it was getting exciting, people were getting voted off now. There was only two contestants remaining, a nice looking half cast girl and a guy in a funny hat who looked as though he busked under the arches of the Mancunian Way. He went back to his task of trying to get into the loft. It was easy. The cover simply lifted away. He hoisted himself up into the darkness, and it was dark. He thought he could hear scratching coming from the back. Probably pidgeons, or rats. Or Bats. He didn’t really want to hang about. He spotted a battered crisp box with something shiny sticking out of the top. Tinsel! Bingo! He reached across and also was happy to find a tree too. Artificial, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers. Carefully manouvering himself, he dropped the box gently down, careful not to smash any baubles that might be in there, and the tree, before letting himself back down, and closing the latched door behind him.

Just in time! The television blasted out with cheers as the young guy was crowned the winner. Everybody was shouting, crying, laughing as he started to sing his new song. Gene sat and listened as he opened the box and started to pull out festive paraphernalia. There were shiny baubles, mostly in one piece although one or two broken he discovered as he pricked his finger on a shard of glass. And some fairy lights. He tested the bulbs. Christ he didn’t want to have gone through all what he had to electrocute himself. There were some paper chains, and shiny decorations to hang from the ceiling. A stuffed reindeer with a red nose…no guessing who that was, and a fairy for the top of the tree. He had hoped there had been an angel. Jesus, he was going soft in his old age. He pulled out the branches of the green artificial tree, planting in on its feet and started to adorn it.

This song was good. He was in a good mood. Yes…this song…it actually was quite…moving. He listened carefully to the words, all about colliding and coming together. Well, that was him, and Bolly. Ha, they’d had their fare share of punches and bruises and by God, when she hit him, she did hit him hard. He had the small tree decorated in no time at all and stood back to admire his workmanship. Now, wherehad he put that bleeding fairy for the top…? He peered into the box. All that remained was a padded brown envelope. He pulled it out, curious as to what it might be. Christmas cards maybe. Two coins fell out. He picked them up and looked at them in the palm of his hands to see the face of Queen Elizabeth staring up at him on one, the other a young man and woman smiling. He tried to read the inscription. That must be the happy couple. A thought occurred to him. How bizarre. What were they doing in this box, and more to the point, why and how?. His detective mind started to work overtime. Surely if this box had been put up in the attic last Christmas, the coin commemorating the Royal Wedding couldn’t have been in there then. It had to have been put in since, and why would anybody go to the trouble of going up in the loft to do just that. Unless they had OCD of course. Danny did strike him as a bit of a control freak at times. Or unless they had good reason to.

Gene shook the brown enevelope once more and got the shock of his life.
For out fell a cuddly toy. Not a Christmas themed animal. Not a reindeer, or cuddly polar bear, penguin or snowman. A bloody Womble. A rather tatty and very familiar looking one at that. For fuck’s sake. As if he hadn’t had enough of the horrors, this guy on telly was singing about. He realised he hadn’t seen it lying round for some time and with all the events going on had sort of forgotten about it. Yet now it as lying here, large as life, and as quick as you could say Uncle Bulgaria, he spotted something else. Another envelope. This one was white. He turned it over and saw to his own horror - it was addressed to him.