Write His Story

April 25, 2024

It’s been too long since I sat down and attempted to write. It hasn’t been from lack of trying, but every time I put the pen to the page, I can’t will my hand to move, despite the copious amount I have to say. Inhaling the smells of the local pub I’ve stumbled into, I flip my notebook open onto the sticky bar. Dampness and must cling to my nostrils, but the fire is roaring, and I have a good stout to sip at. I think inspiration may strike. I hope so, anyway.

“What are you writing?” a husky voice purrs. I turn as a young man clambers onto the stool next to me. His hair is black and tousled atop his head, a single silver earring dangles from his ear, and he is dressed in a simple white tank top and pair of khaki green shorts, along with some hiking boots. He’s handsome, no doubt. But aside from the earring and overgrown locks, his face is nothing special. His eyes are what keep my attention. Azure. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

My words are lost, dying on my tongue before they have the chance to leave my mouth. For someone with such an ordinary face, he knows how to capture someone’s attention. He leans in. “I’m a writer too.” He eyes up my wooden wedding band before holding his hand out to me. “Willhem, a pleasure.”

“Albert. But my friends call me Albie.” I cough. “What do you write?”

“I’m trying to write about mine and my husband’s travels. An autobiography of sorts.” His head tilts slightly. “I’ll trade you a story for your opinion? My husband doesn’t think anyone will care enough about the things we’ve done to buy a whole book about them.”

I take a long gulp of my drink. “Sure.”

He clears his throat, puffing out his chest as if he’s preparing to share the world’s greatest tale. 

“We were deep in an American national park—Washington? Georgia? I can’t remember, are they the kind of details people will care about?” 

I shrug, but I don’t think he was looking for an answer. He continues without acknowledging me.

“I can’t quite recall. We were challenging ourselves to walk across the whole of America, you see, and it had been going well. Every night we would set up our little tent, light a campfire, and gaze up at the stars. I even managed to sketch a map of the sky, which became a prized possession of ours. During the daytime, if we weren’t on our way to the next campsite, we would swim in the lakes we came across, those untouched by mankind. For months we didn’t see another soul. We existed, together, and could love in the open air, not fearing for our lives. For the first time, we could truly live. Not hide away like we had to in London, pretending we were just work colleagues and housemates.” 

His eyes blaze as he talks of his love. 

“It must have been hard,” I murmur.

Willhem nods, a stray hair flicking into his face, and I refrain from reaching out to fix it. “Sure. It was hard at first, but we learned how to live out there in that environment. In nature, no one was afraid of us or hated us.” 

“No, I mean, it must have been hard keeping your love hidden.”

Sadness clouds his features. “We learned how to live in that environment too.” He lets out a dry laugh before taking a sip of my drink. I don’t stop him, as he obviously needs it more than me. “It is funny, I call him my husband, we weren’t actually married, of course. We decided while living off the grid that no one could tell us we couldn’t be husbands, so one day we crafted rings out of wood. It took us all evening, but we didn’t care. And with the moon as our only witness, we devoted ourselves to each other. It was perfect.” 

The hustle and bustle of the pub is drowned out as he speaks, each word holding importance, and I cling to every one that drops from the tip of his tongue. 

“Sorry, I am straying off track. Do you even care about this?” 

The leather of the stool squeaks as I lean forward and give his arm a light squeeze, “Who wouldn’t care?” 

He nods but I’m not sure he believes me. “My husband, oh what a stubborn man. I told him I had a bad feeling about where we decided to set up camp one evening. I told him we needed to walk just a little longer as there was something off about this part of the wood. It was a feeling. The air was warm and the trees too still, and it was quiet, way too quiet. But he was tired and couldn’t bear the thought of walking any further. It was the one and only row we ever had. I can still see his flaming red cheeks. Made me fall in love with him even more.

“Anyway, we had a ration of whisky we were saving, but I was annoyed, and I was worried, so I drank the entire thing and quickly fell into a deep sleep. I awoke to sunlight filtering through the open tent and then it hit me. The tent was open, and my husband was gone. I called out to him, thinking maybe he was lighting the fire for breakfast, but I received nothing in response. Timidly, I stepped out and what do I see? Blood, blood everywhere. I ran, screaming out for my husband in only my underwear and boots. And there he was, down by the lake, bathed in the glow of the morning sunlight, his black work coat, which I told him not to bring, slung around his shoulders as he was hunched over a small deer.”

“He killed a deer?” 

“Killed the deer?” He clutches his hand over his heart in offence. “No. He could never. As I got closer, I could hear his sobbing as he stroked the face of the deceased animal. It was young and the hunters hadn’t even given it a chance. He was covered in blood, and when he could finally get his words out, he said, How could a human possibly be so cruel as to not let another soul simply exist? I had nothing to say to that. He was right. And as cold-hearted as he could sometimes be, he was also proof of the good in the world, and so I cradled him as he cradled the deer.” 

Emotions I don’t know how to express stuff my throat in a thick, cloying fog. 

“As the sun set that night, we piled rocks and stones around the animal, and I prayed the universe to be kind to those who only wish to exist in this brutal world. And to be kind to my sweet Albie.”

Fingers snap in front of my face, and I flinch. “You okay, Albie? You’ve gone far away.”  Concern twists the barmaid, Luna’s, brow. My drink is long gone, and my fingers cramp around my pen. I focus my eyes on the page in front of me, covered in my chicken scratch of overlapping words and pools of ink.

Luna eyes up the pages too. “Ah, you’ll need another drink if you’re finishing Willhem’s book. Be right back.” She turns swiftly, blonde hair flicking around her shoulders.

I smile as I turn to the empty stool beside me. The engraving on the back glints in the low light, and I trace it with the inky pad of my finger: Willhem, true love, adventurer, and greatest storyteller. 1948-1981.

 

Eliza Wilson has always had a wild imagination and a need to share it with the world. Now in the final year of her Creative Writing degree, she is honing her skills on the page and working on her fantasy trilogy, Secrets of Pinewood. You can usually find Eliza sitting in a cozy corner of a cafe, oat milk, iced vanilla latte in hand, hunched over a notebook, and escaping into the world at the tip of her pen.

 

 

Featured image by Branimir Petakov.

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