Let me take you back to the beginning. Throughout my teens, I had enjoyed… yeah, that’s the word… enjoyed a kind-of-casual, on-off relationship with the prettiest girl in school. Ambra, she was called. A lot of the lads said it was best to keep away from her, she being, according to them, a touch on the weird side of strange. Sure, she was often distant, unapproachable almost, and her mind went on some unfathomable journeys, but God, she was so pretty. And gentle and kind. Mostly.
Weird stuff? Sure, you could call it that, but nothing bad. Not usually, anyway. Certainly not that I noticed. I always thought that with her good looks, what’s a bit of strangeness to worry about? Really.
What sort of thing did she do? Well, there was the traffic light thing for a start. Whenever she and I went out together, whichever one of us was driving, we never had a red traffic light. Never. Always green. And if my speed crept up a bit, no-one ever seemed to notice. Certainly not the cops, anyway. Haha. Makes me laugh thinking about it. You know when you go into a really crowded place, like a concert arena or a sports stadium, say, and you have to push and barge your way through to get a decent spot? Never did when I was with Ambra. She didn’t do anything or even say anything, but it was like Moses and the Red Sea wherever we were. People just parted to let us through then closed up again behind us. It was as though we were in some kind of impenetrable bubble or something.
I miss those days.
Thinking back, it probably started to go wrong when we became serious. Suddenly, what had been just our little games, inconsequential and harmless, became a fundamental part of who Ambra was. I had either to learn to live with the inconsistencies and contradictions or live without Ambra. What choice was there?
After a while, having every obstacle cleared from your path, every difficulty straightened out and every inconvenience removed becomes tiresome. I found myself beginning to yearn for challenges, for problems, for the possibility to make the odd mistake and have to face the consequences. I tried to explain, as gently as I could, that although I really appreciated everything that she did for me, making my life easier and more predictable, it’s in the nature of a man to face challenges, trials and difficulties.
“Oh, is it?” she asked angrily, “Then perhaps I’d better give you the means to prove your manhood.”
At first, it was small things: the odd red traffic light, even a speeding ticket. That was good. It led me to change my driving, to become more considerate of others. Then my car broke down in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t get a signal on my phone to call anyone. I had to walk home. It took me nearly three hours. When I arrived home, Ambra was waiting for me. No, she wasn’t wielding a rolling-pin, just the sharpest tongue I had ever met.
“Trouble?” she asked.
“Car broke down,” I said.
“Why didn’t you call?”
“What a pity you didn’t have a girlfriend with you, one who could help you with these things.”
I can’t remember what my reply was, though I do remember regretting whatever it was I said. Straight away, I found myself back at my car. Happily, there was a strong signal on my phone. I called Ambra.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “can you help me, please?”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“Car broke down,” I said.
“Call a tow-truck,” she replied and hung up.
Things went quickly downhill from there. Every day, something happened that I had been used to her dealing with in that special way of hers. Only she didn’t. No matter how out of practice I was, I had to deal with all these things.
We had always held separate bank accounts, and both had always been inexplicably topped up. The feed to mine stopped, and I had no access to hers. I had to get a job. The only work local to us was at the blacksmith’s shop run by an old school chum. He took me on as an apprentice. I was delighted to learn that I had something of a natural aptitude for the job and soon became reasonably proficient. So much so that he sometimes left me alone when he went out tending to horses’ hooves, which he often did as a profitable sideline.
One afternoon, whilst he was out on a job, Ambra came into the workshop in a mood that I couldn’t read.
“How’re you getting on without my help, Mr He-man?” she asked.
“I’m not doing too badly,” I replied.
“Wanna leave this and go have some fun together?”
“Love to, but I have this work to do.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“What’d you call me?” I asked.
“Chicken,” she said, “and you know where chickens belong, don’t you?”
“Yeah, cooped up,” I replied with an ill-advised sneer.
“No. In an enclosure made of chicken-wire,” she said, pointing at me and cackling.
Like I said, it was all good for a while. Beyond good, in fact. Why did I have to go and ruin it?
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 160, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.