Wednesday, 5 February 2014

An Afternoon With Karen (A Short Fantasy Piece)

The school hall looks like it has seen better days. The once polished wood of the stage is now caked in dust. My footsteps click loudly on the floor and break the eerie silence that hangs over the place. I walk to one of the windows and peer out of it.

Twilight has descended and the hall is in darkness. I turn around and see her sitting on the edge of the stage like she has always been there. Oddly, I am not afraid as I walk over and perch next to her.

We sit in silence for a while. It is a comfortable one. The kind you get when two old friends meet again. I think of all the hours I have spent singing Carpenters songs, and suddenly everything I've dreamed about asking Karen disappears from my head. I find myself asking simply, "Are you happy?"

She considers me for a second and then smiles. It is not the smile from the album covers or the interviews - this one is real.

"Happier now than I was in life. Things are easier, more peaceful. I feel more real now than I ever did then."

I instinctively reached for her hand. I don't know what made me do it, but humour flashes in her eyes when all I feel is a cold blast of air.

"Bad news I'm afraid. I'm still dead!" For a moment I am mortified but I catch her eye and like a couple of schoolgirls we dissolve into a fit of giggles.

"Oh," I said eventually. "I was going to ask you all sorts of technical questions about increasing volume when you sing, breathing problems and all those boring things but they don't seem to matter that much now".

Suddenly, for the first time that afternoon, I become really aware that I am sharing space with the woman I have idolised and shared unspoken ties with for most of my life. I become tongue-tied and very unnerved. I am sitting in what is now pitch darkness with a ghost.

"What's the matter? After all the hours we've spent singing together, don't tell me you're afraid of me."

"Not afraid exactly," I reply, my voice quieter than usual, as if all the air had been taken out of it. "It's just . . . are you really here, or have I finally lost the plot?"

"I think the jury's still out on that one," she replies, smiling again. "You're the one writing this, you tell me!"

"Well thanks, you're no help!"

As soon as I say it I curse myself. Actually, she doesn't know how much help she's been. From the hours of joy the Carpenters' music has brought to many people, not to mention that her death has saved so many lives.

I look at her again. "Sorry, I just freaked out for a minute there!".

"Understandable. I think I would too". She stands up and dusts down her flares. "Listen, I need to go."

"Oh, OK," I reply, feeling more than a little sad but I hide it well. "Don't tell me, you have a date with Elvis." She looks at me, her eyes sparkling with laughter.

"Oh, no. I turned him down. This one's much more fun... "she whispered conspiratorially, "James Dean!"

I giggle. I have always hoped that in death, she has found peace somewhere. The idea of the 'good girl' and the young rebel was wonderful.

And as she turns to walk away towards the back of the stage I call her back. "Karen..." She turns, "...Thanks".

"No problem," she answers quietly. "Thank you for singing with me."

With that, she walks to the back of the stage and disappeared into the shadows.

Image: Google

This piece was written as a writing exercise - 'Meeting Your Idol,' I think it was, (or something similar). Written in 2011 


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