James Aherne has long believed he had a book inside him, it's almost finished.
Charlie was a golden boy, a free spirit.
Women adored him and he moved seamlessly from one warm bed to another with little thought for their unrequited love.
One September evening he sauntered into a wine bar. Behind the rows of bottles stood a woman.
Julia was tall and languid, calm and gentle. Charlie’s heart missed a beat. She looked up from the glass of Sauvignon Blanc before her and glimpsed the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Love at first glance.
When first they touched, each felt a tingle. As they left together their hands interlocked. They would never be apart again.
They laughed at the same jokes, had faith in the same God and finished each other’s sentences.
Charlie proposed on impulse, their vows exchanged on a Caribbean beach. The sun shone on their smiling faces and they felt the sand between their toes.
They settled in a Somerset village with chickens and homegrown peas. Their children were conceived in love and joy. Just like Lear, Charlie had three daughters, what more could he want?
By the time Julia noticed the signs it was too late. The oncologist was gentle but her message was deadly. Julia determined that every remaining day would be treasured and that Charlie should never know the truth. Julia understood that Charlie’s heart would break and could never be rebuilt.
Charlie was no fool. He saw his beautiful wife decay before him. He recognised the truth. The sparkle never left her blue eyes. She died in his arms and Charlie’s world stopped in that moment.
The solitude of his grief only heightened his allure to the women who desired him. He was oblivious to their overtures and he retreated into a world of isolation, relieved only by the love of his daughters.
Charlie committed himself to celibacy, he would never love again, could never touch another woman. His sacrifice made grief easier to bear.
As the months passed the supportive friends detached and moved on with their lives. Only his daughters kept a watchful eye.
He walked the dog, tended the chickens and endlessly spoke to God, but the void in his life drove him to despair.
One morning in June, his girls arrived at his door. The cottage had been their home, a haven of happiness. They packed his bag, found his passport abandoned in a dusty drawer, and sat him behind the wheel of his battered old car. They pleaded and cajoled, and in a sigh in time they found themselves in the shade of a bar in the sun soaked town of Beaune. They drank the pinot noir and the unconditional love of his children brought joy to Charlie’s fractured heart.
At breakfast they told him of the mustard factory, “come on Daddy, it’ll be fun!” Arm in arm the four meandered through the streets of mellow stone. Charlie allowed himself to think that life might have meaning once again.
As the group assembled in the scented midday warmth of the courtyard the guide appeared from an archway to their left. She was tall and slim with auburn hair and a tattoo on her right ankle. Her freckles reminded Charlie of the night sky. Her name was Emmanuelle. She was transfixed by the beautiful Englishman who spoke French with such élan . Her eyes never left his.
His daughters drifted away into the afternoon.
They went for late lunch, to laugh and to tease. Emmanuelle took his hand and they felt the tingle. She loved him at first glance. Charlie and Emmanuelle slipped away hand in hand, never to be parted.
Julia’s soul sighed with joy at her beloved’s redemption. She could rest in peace.
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