American Woman

Here is an excerpt from a short story I’ve been working on:

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Born to be Wild

“Yeah, darling go and make it happen,

Take the world in a love embrace.

Fire all of your guns at once,

And explode into space.”

“You sure this is the right neighborhood, love?” asked the taxi driver, as he drove past a row of large expensive looking houses in Belgravia.

“Definitely. I have a job interview appointment here.” Madeleine responded, trying her hardest to sound as cool and confident as possible. In reality, her heart was racing and she was beginning to feel intimidated. She had chosen to wear a midnight blue tailored suit with a white silk blouse and matching midnight blue heels, and now she was feeling slightly over-dressed for a nanny job interview.

“You’re American, aren’t you?” inquired the taxi driver.

Madeleine nodded and must have looked scared because he said, “I wouldn’t worry about it, love. These houses must be pretty small compared to what you’re used to.”

That made her laugh and he winked at her. As the taxi stopped outside the correct address, she thanked the driver and gave him a generous tip. “Good luck, darling!” he said cheerfully, and drove off, leaving her on the sidewalk in front of a very beautiful old house.

Well, here goes. Madeleine took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. In a few seconds it was opened by a tall man wearing a suit who could have stepped right out of a Woodhouse novel.  He studied her briefly and asked, “May I help you, miss?”

She answered, as confidently as possible, “Curtis. Madeleine Curtis. I’m here to interview for the nanny position.”

He raised an eyebrow at her American accent.

“Please wait in the drawing room,” and indicated to a door down the hall.  “Mr. Wilder is just finishing up with the previous appointment.”

Then he disappeared and she whispered under her breath, “Thank you, Jeeves. That will be all.”

Madeleine sat and rehearsed answers to hypothetical interview questions. She was so focused that at first she didn’t hear Jeeves come in and tell her that Mr. Wilder was ready to see her now. Her knees were shaking as she rose and followed him through the house to a large and richly appointed study. The walls were decorated with gold records, posters and LP record covers. Then it hit her.  Mr. Wilder. A musician. And then she found herself looking straight into the hazel-green eyes of none other than Mr. David Wilder, lead singer and co-founding member of London Wild, one of the most successful synthpop bands of the eighties and nineties.

Her knees then turned to jelly and she quickly sat down in the proffered leather chair. Don’t faint, for God’s sake, and smile. He’s just a man like any other. An incredibly famous man who’s interviewing you for a job. He sat there on the other side of the mahogany desk and scrutinized her. She then remembered to breathe and inhaled audibly. He smiled at her and shook his head, “I take it you know who I am?”

She felt herself beginning to melt like butter, but quickly composed herself.  She nodded. “How on earth could you tell?” she asked casually.

“Lucky guess.” he said, and offered Madeleine his hand.

She shook it and tried not to think about having just touched David Wilder’s hand.

“I’m sure you have this effect on most women,” she said.

“Sadly, not as often as I used to.”

Somehow I have a hard time believing that, thought Madeleine.

¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨

Fire Girl

“Pockets full of rain

Bewildered by this change

Underneath the sky

I just want to fly

Fire girl, say you will “

He lit a cigarette and began looking over her CV. He didn’t look anything like a rock star at that moment. All his chest and arm tattoos were covered up by an open collar black button down shirt. He wore dark blue jeans, black Italian leather shoes, and an expensive looking silver watch on his left wrist. Probably platinum, she decided. She tried not to stare at his face or at his curly black hair, which made the green of his eyes even more intense. The room soon filled with the smell of aromatic smoke, some sweet blend of clove and tobacco.

“That’s quite nice,” she remarked awkwardly, attempting to fill the silence with some idle chit chat.

“Yes, it’s my own custom blend. Would you like one?” He pushed a small burl wood box toward her. “It might help you relax a little,” he said with a hazel-green twinkle in his eye.

Madeleine’s face and neck became very hot, and it occurred to her that she probably had the appearance of blushing school girl. She took a cigarette out of the box, and he held out a small silver lighter and then lit it. As she inserted the tip into the flame, her fingers lightly touched the top of his hand to steady it. He looked at her curiously as she inhaled the fragrant smoke.

They sat and smoked for several quiet minutes, and Madeleine eventually felt herself calm down enough ask him the question that had been on her mind ever since she got the email requesting an interview.

“Mr. Wilder,” she began tentatively.

“Please, call me David,” he said with a smile.

“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll give it a try.”

“Or Dave,” he responded, “If that’s easier.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure I’m unable to call you Dave, sir.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, call me anything but bloody sir.”

Madeleine laughed out loud and said, “David it is, then. I was just wondering why you decided to call me to interview for this job. I mean, I do have an extensive teaching background, but I’m sure you’re aware that I have absolutely no experience as a nanny.”

“My daughter doesn’t need a nursemaid, Miss Curtis.” he said.

“Please, call me Madeleine,” she responded.

He smiled.

“Or Maddy, if that’s easier. No, really. I was a teacher for years I’m sick and tired of being called Ms Curtis.”

“Fair enough, Madeleine,” he responded. “Though, I would insist on my daughter, Lillian…Lily, addressing you as Miss Curtis. It is Miss, right?”

“Ms,” she corrected him, “but yes, I’ve always had the name Curtis, even when I was married.”

“You’re married?” he remarked.

“I was,” she responded, “No longer, though.”

¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨ : ¨

Rock and Roll

“It’s been a long time since the book of love,

I can’t count the tears of a life with no love.

Carry me back, carry me back,

Carry me back, baby, where I come from.”

“So, you’re divorced, then?” he inquired.

“I’m…actually a widow.” Even after two years it was still difficult to say it out loud. “That sounds terribly tragic, doesn’t it?”

He looked at her for a few seconds and said, “Yes, it does. A widow. Now I feel like a bloody idiot for asking.”

“Oh no, please don’t feel that way, Mr. W…er…David. It’s been two years since my husband passed away. I’m not over it – I don’t think I ever really will be – but I’m moving on. That’s one of the reasons why I moved here. ”

“No doubt you’ve heard this a few times in the last two years, Madeleine, but you seem too young to be a widow.” She could feel his eyes studying her face. “You must be, what, around thirty?”

“Try forty, “she said, “Thirty-eight to be exact.”

“Well, you look remarkably well for someone who has been through what you’ve been through.”

“Thank you. Though it’s probably just genetics. I don’t do anything to try and look younger,” she paused to put out her cigarette in a cut glass ashtray, “and I’ve certainly never been into self-improvement.”

“I can’t say that I have either, Madeleine. Though quitting heroin was probably good for my health. Anyway, to continue answering your question, my daughter is almost nine years old and doesn’t need a nursemaid or a minder. What she does need is help with maths and other subjects, and I’d like her to pursue art and music. She’s showing quite a lot of talent already.”

“Ah, so she’s definitely daddy’s girl,” Madeleine responded.

“Well, that remains to be seen. She definitely looks more like her mother.”

A thought then occurred to Madeleine that she considered might be a bit too forward to ask, but David Wilder seemed like such an unassuming, down-to-earth sort of man, so she decided to ask it anyway.

“Is there a mother in Lillian’s life?” Direct. And to the point.

David looked at his desk for a moment and let out a sigh. Then he responded, “It’s complicated. She does have a mother but we were never married, to each other I mean. Lillian’s mother was the wife one of my best mates. And my wife… er…ex-wife, was one of her best mates from school.”

“So is Lillian the reason why your ex became your ex?” she asked.

“Partially, yes. There was always an understanding in our marriage that I had a rock and roll lifestyle to maintain, and that I was incapable of changing. She understood that,  though I think she always hoped that I’d eventually give up all the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and move to a place in the country, where we could be a properly boring little family living a properly boring little life. By the time Lillian arrived, our marriage was finished. My ex-wife moved back to America, and Lillian’s mother left her behind and moved to France. She gets to see her mother once or twice a year at most. In short, my daughter doesn’t have a mother because I behaved like a selfish bastard. Though, I’m not bitter. I’ve got Lily. ”

“I’m sorry for asking,” Madeleine said, “Now I feel like the bloody idiot.”

“No, please don’t worry about it,” David responded, “It’s probably best if you know these details before you meet her, anyway. Though I would like to hear your story sometime, if it’s not too painful to talk about it.”

“Does that mean I’ve got the job?” said Madeleine, hardly believing it.

“Yes. I pretty much knew as soon as I saw you that you were perfect for the job. I’ve just been testing you to see how nervous you’d get.” He looked at her again with twinkling eyes.

“Oh my god, there were a few seconds where I thought I was going to pass out. And you knew that! You are a very bad man!” She was feeling exhausted but deliriously happy after being offered the job.

He leaned forward and looked directly into her eyes, “And that’s why I chose you. I’ve always liked American women. You know what you want, and you aren’t afraid to say what’s on your mind. I want my daughter to be like that.”

And Madeleine smiled. At that moment she knew that she was wildly in love with the real Mr. David Wilder.


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