giorge thomas

KOOL-AID: right. so the plan

Another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-Aid…

No. Have not abandoned plan to rid self of church retribution, even with discovery of Landlord’s Parkinson’s and his feelings about that.

(side note: is he depressed? Should I be speaking to someone about it? Requesting he gets help? Sneak B group vitamins into his meals which, yes, does work. Am not going to deny the benefits just because is a practise of the church. Landlord’s anger towards my accidental attempt of vanquishing my life now understandable. He has death on the horizon. Saw me as a fool to give it up so easily. Anyway. Is perhaps a thought for another day.)

Much texting and emailing to Gruff who has agreed to help me. Likes the idea of telling church to go fuck themselves seen if is on my behalf.

A lot of research required. Bank statements and the like. Fuck was boring. Cannot abide numbers. To be truthful, can’t abide money. At least, can’t abide having to worry about it. When all kicked off with me asked Gruff if would mean worrying about money. He told me yes, as long as don’t go crazy buying Lamborghini’s and Hampstead Heath mansions, would be fine. Said to him — what if was to buy a Birkin? Would I have to worry about money then? Gruff didn’t know what a Birkin was so had to explain was the Lamborghini of handbags. He said would be fine provided Birkin’s did not cost as much as Lamborghini. When told him cost of Birkin he threatened to have me sectioned so could take control of money so would never waste it buying a Birkin. Yet after I started getting photographed Gruff realised was probably good for the image if was seen to be successful enough to afford a Birkin. So got me a Birkin. Was taken away from me a few years later, mind. Couldn’t include that as part of the message to the church. No proof.

But there was proof of all the “donations” given to the church in the five years prior to “admittance” to the “clergy.” Yes, notice the quotation marks. Hardly donations, as they were a requirement to stay in the church. Hardly admittance, because they left me with no other option after was bled dry to such a degree I found self in foreign country. And clergy? Give me a break. Slaves is what we were.

So. Documenting proof time consuming. Helped by Gruff and his dominatrix assistant who for some reason I trust. She is also far more thorough than Gruff or I.

Once all of that was put together Gruff made appointment with church officials. Granted an audience because he mentioned my name.

Now. This all very important. Could not be done in writing. Can’t blackmail in writing.

So Gruff met with them and was all very clock and dagger; told him it had to be. He didn’t believe is as bad as all that. But is. Definitely is.

Told Gruff before meeting to throw phone into Thames. Yes, Thames, and to communicate with me on burner phone only. Will not mention where that is kept.

Ahead of meeting he was to tell church officials to leave mobiles behind. Met them at St James’s park. Near duck pond where lots of kids, joggers and such like milling about. Was no way discussion would happen in their office. With hidden microphones and cameras about.

When Gruff met with ‘suited fuckers’ he frisked them. Shocked, they were! And, would you believe it, one of them had a dictaphone in his sock! Told Gruff, told him! (dictaphone got thrown in pond. Gruff assures me no ducks were harmed. Though he said nothing about the pelicans. As a fellow Aussie Gruff probably fears pelicans as much as I do. We all have that one horror story when it comes to those fecking large-beaked birds.)

Gruff hands over documentation of all the monies I have wasted on the church over the years. Told the suited folk it far exceeded what they said I owed but because I was nice person (am sure he choked on these words) I was prepared to call it even.

Smug bastards actually had the audacity to laugh.

Gruff then told them there would be no recourse.

More laughter.

Because, Gruff informed them, I had spent the last few months of my incarceration in the church (outbursts from both men. She wasn’t incarcerated!) gathering evidence.

Silence. Finally one asked, ‘what evidence?’

Gruff told them. He then repeated what he thought was the most ridiculous of all my pronouncements. But he doesn’t know.

Gruff told them should anything happen to me, it gets released. Should a derogatory website be made about me, it gets released.

Gruff said the suits looked scared.

As I predicted, they requested a meeting with me. Gruff informed them it was impossible — he didn’t know where I was.

But then how did he know where to forward the invoice? They wondered.

Gruff told them I had approached him. Because was expecting invoice.

They, of course, pleaded with Gruff to notify them immediately should I make contact. Gruff said he expected me to never make contact again.

Now. Can we all guess what happened after this meeting? The next day, while at work, Gruff’s flat was broken into. Turned upside down. Which, of course, would have been mortifying for Gruff. He likes his order.

Nothing was taken.

Was still busy cleaning the next morning when dominatrix assistant rang. Office had been turned over, too.

Police actually asked — who the fuck did you piss off, mate?

Feel terrible, terrible that all of this happened because of me. Feel terrible that Gruff had to learn the extent of church’s evilness first hand.

After Gruff relayed all of this to me on burner phone, I texted him my apology. I then texted that we should no longer have contact. Is too risky.

And so, like before, Gruff has to go on pretending I don’t exist.

Am already on edge. Know now no expense will be spared to find me. High alert is an understatement. Have poked the bear. Should probably stop writing this. But they stopped me writing for all of those years. They’re not going to do it now. This is my testimony. If I stop posting — you know why. It means they’ve found me.

Let the games begin.

KOOL-AID: landlord’s secret

 Another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-Aid…

When I moved into the gatehouse (yes, after seeing size of main house realised that is what my “cottage” is) Landlord supplied me with two sets of linen for my bed. Because could not be arsed washing linens in bathtub have extended use of linen beyond reasonable measures. Time to wash.

Texted Landlord, asking for use of washer/dryer.

He replied yes, of course, I didn’t have to ask, could come any time, just head around the back to the kitchen; key opens all doors.

A pain carrying linen up the long drive. Who knew sheets could be so heavy? Had put everything in canvas bag plus mine and Landlord’s clothes.

Landlord seemingly very happy to see me. ‘Ah, _____, yes, hello, right through here to the utility room.’

Showed me the very fancy german washer and matching dryer. Has a digital display which noted how long the wash would take. Over an hour!

Was certainly not going to wait around. Landlord suspected this. Gave me two options. First was for him to tend to clothes; putting them in the dryer so I could go home and come back later to collect. Was not about to let Landlord do my washing. Not again. He’d already done too much.

Second option was far more agreeable.

Landlord has a library.

Of course he has a library! Every house this size does. Eyes must have showed excitement — Landlord smiled and led way out of kitchen.

Walked through entrance to double doors. Behind there was a large sitting room. Decorated in old stylings. Drapes, chase lounges, portraits of men and women in wigs. Is where, I suspect, many moons ago, ladies in their finery would sit by candle light, holding fans and listening to each other play the piano forte which sat in the corner. Except there was no piano in this room.

It was in the library; in the corner by the window.

The library was in equal size to the sitting room. Every available wall space was covered in shelves, and every shelf covered in books.

I was in heaven.

I didn’t care that the room was cold. Didn’t notice it until Landlord mentioned it. He didn’t heat the rooms he didn’t use. He told me heating the room would take hours, but if I liked, I could read in his study; through the other door.

Landlord left me to make my selection. A very difficult choice. Overwhelmed by all the old volumes. First editions, most probably. Instead, I headed to the contemporary section. I spotted a book I knew very well. Too well. Didn’t need to read that one. I then saw a volume of books by an author I know. Crime books. Not usually my thing. Yet they peaked my interest, and so I selected the first and took it to Landlord’s study.

Inside, a fire was ranging. From the sight of the room, I could tell Landlord spends a lot of time there. Papers on the desk, a discarded blanket on the leather Chesterfield, books on the coffee table.

Stayed in the study and read for one hour. Returned to the utility room, loading the dryer. Fancy thing. Weighs the clothes and then calculates how long will dry. Longer than washing. Didn’t mind. Was enjoying book, and Landlord left me alone; walking his property. When he came back, darkness was falling. From the hall I heard tinkering in the kitchen. A few minutes later, the footstools of Landlord walking towards the study. He paused at the door. Frowned when he saw the book I was holding.

‘I’m making some dinner if you would like to stay,’ he said.

Imagined sitting through a meal with this man. A one way conversation on his part. Awkward and tense. No. Definitely no.

I smiled, shaking my head.

Regretted my decision when I returned to the kitchen; Landlord’s meal smelt delightful. Steak by the look of his plate. On the stove was the left overs of the potato and vegetable side dish. It smelt of cardamon.

Had I been on my own I would have just thrown the sheets and clothes into my bag. But the utility room is in view of the kitchen. Had to at least pretend I was a half decent human. Adult.

Folded all of the clothes. Struggled with the sheets. Is the swearing I miss the most. Swearing in your head not nearly as satisfying as swearing out loud.

Realised Landlord was swearing, also. Poked head around utility door to see why.

He was there at the table, on the end. He was having difficulty, it seemed, with his knife and fork. His knife primarily. He was trying to cut his steak, but his hand, it was shaking so badly he couldn’t get any purchase. Was no way he was cold — even I was breaking out in a sweat, folding the sheets, and Landlord was closer to the fire than me.

The struggle was frustrating him. He had no strength to cut the meat. The more his right shook, the more his left matched. Tears of anger burned in his eyes until finally Landlord let out an anguished howl and with one wipe of his trembling hand the contents of his dinner shattered around the kitchen.

Crying, properly crying, Landlord rose so quickly from his chair it toppled backwards on the flagstone flooring. He made to walk out of the kitchen but caught sight of me. Think he’d forgotten I was there. Could read the humiliation on his face. I, meanwhile, was frozen to the spot. Couldn’t even find it in me to give him a comforting look.

He stormed out of the kitchen. Heard the door to the entrance — he was heading upstairs.

What had caused it? Not the anger. Could understand that. His hand shook then. Took it for the cold. Assumed he was always cold. But not cold. No. Something more. And me, too caught up in my own problems, didn’t see it.

Wondered what to do. Leave? Clean up the mess? Wasn’t sure. Decisions are hard for me now. Years of being told what to do and when to do it.

The decision I made scared me. Because I feared rejection. Have always feared rejection. And have been rejected a lot.

In the fridge I found another steak; the second from a twin packet.

Has been years since I’ve done any proper cooking. My meals of late have consisted of frozen pizzas, microwave meals and packets of chips. Should probably be getting deliveries from Iceland rather than Waitrose.

Cooked the steak. Was more luck than judgement that it turned out okay. Took it off the heat and sliced it. Added more potatoes and veg to the plate, found a fork, and grabbed a tea towel which I threw over my shoulder.

With a breath, I left the kitchen.

Was cold on the stairs, and dark. At the top, was greeted by a long, wide hallway. To my right; three closed doors. To my left; many more. Apart from the door at the end of the hall. That door stood ajar ever so slightly. Enough for a ghostly light to fan across the hall.

Landlord’s room is huge. Sparsely decorated. Two landscape paintings on the walls, but that’s pretty much all.

The walls of the room were white, though they looked grey in low light. A lot of the room was grey. Grey carpeting, grey curtains, grey duvet cover. There was not much furniture — a chest of drawers, two bedside tables, and armchair… and the bed.

Landlord was lying there, his back to the door.

I approached, silently due to the carpet. Landlord did not notice me until I stood before him, plate in hand. He looked up at me. Wearily. I tried to smile. Moved the towel to under the plate. Ready to sit down on the bed. To do what, I don’t know. Feed him? How ridiculous of me.

Landlord spoke. ‘I don’t need your pity.’ His voice full of anger. Full of disgust. Had no desire to protest, even silently. Slapped plate onto bedside table and threw the tea towel on the floor. I tried. I failed. Was not about to try again.

Left room, shoved clothes and sheets into bag. Left Landlord’s own clothes on the countertop. In a last minute decision, stole one of his knives. I was, after all, knife-less.

For good measure, I left the coat Landlord gifted me on one of the kitchen chairs. If he didn’t need my charity, I didn’t need his.

Regretted it the moment I left the house. Fuck it was cold. Thought walking faster would keep me warmer. Was wrong. Just made the icy wind sharper as it whipped around me.

It’s ah — I don’t know — a ten minute walk back to my cottage? Fifteen minutes? Twenty? Five? Fuck knows. Haven’t timed it. And don’t ask me what length it is. Am shit with distances. Have I mentioned that? Any way, however long it was, it was too long. Was frozen when I got home. Luckily there were still coals in the fire so didn’t have to bother with the whole fire-building scenario. Just threw some logos on it and went to bedroom to make bed.

Heard the buzzing of the gate opening. Was no headlights in my view so could only mean someone exiting the drive. Have never seen Landlord driving a car. But there he was. Looking out to the dark I could not make out the type of vehicle. Four wheel drive, I think, because of the height of the lights.

Moments later; knock on the door. Thought of not answering. Landlord deserved silent treatment. Well. Avoidance. Have already been silent.

Landlord was carrying coat. Face harrowed.

‘I need to apologise to you,’ he told me.

Did not let him in. Waited.

‘I was humiliated. And angry. Would have given anything for you to not see me like that.’

Took a breath. Nodded. Was understandable.

Landlord looked down at his hands, both shaking, the right worse than the left. ‘I’ve been dreading this day,’ he said, ‘the day when these tremors get so bad I can’t even cut my own food. Knew it was coming, knew to expect it. Doesn’t make it any easier, though.’

Landlord gave me a small sad smile. Handed over jacket. ‘Please,’ he said, imploring me to take it, ‘was a gift. And you look far better wearing it then me.’

He left. Got in car, executing a three point turn before leaving through the gates.

So now Landlord’s secret is exposed. Know is not a sign of age — Parkinson’s affect all ages. And yet, knowing what I now do, Landlord suddenly seems like an old man.

The handsome man I kissed on the banks of the Thames is gone. Back in my history, buried beneath the mess of a life I created for self.

KOOL-AID: you’ve got mail

Another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-Aid…

Postman Pat happy today. No packages. One single envelope. Watched him pass the window from position on the couch. The swinging of the metal mail slot a sinister sound.

Probably because mail was sinister.

A5 envelope with Gruff’s untidy scrawl on front. Name was not on envelope. Seems Gruff is as paranoid as me. Instead said, ‘Occupant of ______… with address.

Opened envelope to find another inside. And a message from Gruff.

Dear _____

As you would have noticed, this letter is from those ______ fuckers. Have felt envelope. Does not appear to contain tracking device. Still. Fuckers.

Don’t open it if you are not up to it. Can’t imagine why they are writing to you. Or why they assume we are in contact. Am suspicious. Whatever it contains, we need to form a strategy. Obviously, can’t let them know we are in contact. Although, maybe we can? Could say, yeah, fuckers, I know where she is. What are they gonna do, water-board me? Like to see them try. They’re all short little fuckers, your lot. Would fucking have them beat in seconds. Yeah, let them try.

Text me you’ve opened the envelope. Dying to know what the fuck it’s about.

love, _______.

Honestly, is the most Gruff has ever said to me. Even in writing. And given know Gruff in a professional capacity, is saying something.

Think he is actually hoping to be captured by church.

Could not open envelope without intake of nicotine. So sat self on back step to read.

Should have expected it. Was an invoice. Pages and pages long. Detailing every single little expense have caused church. The food I ate (quite exorbitant for the slop on offer), study fees, toiletry fees, bedding fees (!!), board, medical fees (though never received any medical attention and was not allowed to see dentist even though suspected a filling — still hurts to chew) church membership fees (which no one should have to pay anyhow and you would think in those in the clergy would not need to pay it) stationery costs, computer costs (laughable; we were never allowed online) repayment of all wages paid (smallest sum on the invoice) and licensing fees (whatever the fuck that is).

Should be outraged. But not. Was expected.

Is the threat used against “clergy” members to keep them in tow. Every now and then when they fear you might be ready to run they’ll slip your “current costs” under your door so you are aware of how much money you will need to pay back.

Would love to tell them to fuck off. Trouble is, know how sneaky they are. A lot of people make fun of the contract you sign when you join, but is actual legal document. In America, at least. When you sign that contract you are signing to say you will be responsible for any costs of keeping you if you leave without executing the proper leave procedures.

The “proper leave procedures” include countless sessions (at your cost) which could take years. Years. If you can be arsed going through with it all, you then have to sign a confidentiality agreement stating you will never speak ill of the church (again; legally binding).

All bases are covered.

I didn’t leave on a whim, though. I made my plans. Cleverly. Obviously, am breaking rules by writing this blog.

But I do have a plan. Guess is time to put it into action.

KOOL-AID: i didn’t know you were seventeen

Another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-aid…

It’s been three days since the whole pond-falling incident. Yes, that’s how I’m referring to my suicide attempt.

Today was visited by Landlord. Did wonder if he was “checking in.” To see if was still alive. No, that can’t be true. Because he would have come sooner, no?

Cripes — am I pissed he didn’t come sooner? How needy is that? Suppose is reasonable. He’s closest person, geographically to me. Is my only connection to humanity. Gruff doesn’t count. He’s barely human.

Any hoo. Landlord knocks, I answer. Had bag of clothes. Washed and folded. Slight embarrassment. Landlord has touched my delicates. Bra and undies, sitting there on the top. Humiliation!

Welcomed him with a wave of the hand. Looked like one of those Price is Right girls. And here’s your new car…

No sitting. Hovering near doorway. For escape.

Could not repay the favour to Landlord. Have not washed clothes. But wanted to communicate to Landlord that have not washed his clothes.

Got out phone to type in Notes: Sorry. Do not have your clothes yet.

‘Ah, well, yes, ____, was thinking if, ah, I have a key, you see, if you needed to pop to the house, ah, see. To do your washing and such like. Ah, yes, see. So I’ll, ah, leave you with the key, yes, and, ah, yes, I’ve left my number on a card here, yes, see, if you, ah, need anything, but, ah, you know, you can text me rather than call, obviously.’

Are you bored yet? Cripes alive I was by the end of it. Spit it out, I wanted to scream at him. Skip to the end!! But he was nervous. Actually felt body vibrate when he handed key card over.

(Side now: was was actually just thick piece of paper with number typed on it. Not business card type scenario.)

Thought Landlord was leaving. He actually walked to door and opened it. But then he turned. Face (what could see of it) ashen.

‘About when we met one another, _____…’

Held breath. What was he going to say?

‘I never would have, you know, if I knew you were seventeen. I need you to know that.’

His face reddened. He swallowed. He left.

Wondered if he thought I thought he was a nonce all these years. Otherwise why bring it up? Hadn’t, mind. Not at all. Was not like had looked like a child at seventeen. Was quite womanly.

And what’s wrong with kissing a seventeen year old, any way?

Has Landlord worried about his actions the moment he discovered was seventeen? Is he a highly principled, moral type?

But wait — how does he know I was seventeen? Who could have told him? Gruff only person we have in common, and he doesn’t know of our history. Something to investigate.

Something else to find out: does this mean Landlord regrets kissing me back then? Would be very said if he regretted a kiss I found so incredibly intense that have used it as the benchmark for all other kisses.

Is like re-writing history, and you’re supposed to all of a sudden accept the new scenario. But no. Not accepting it.

KOOL-AID: only if you’re famous

Another instalment of Kool-aid…

Not everyone is treated poorly in the church. No one in the beginning. In the beginning there’s such enthusiasm. An excitement at all the church will do to save the world. In the beginning you are itching to get stuck in. Itching to spread the word of this glorious organisation.

It’s so dizzying, you don’t see the signs. But if you’re famous, it’s likely you never will.

The church kisses the arses of the famous. Seeks out celebrities, too. All about good PR. And celebrities are the best PR. As a celebrity, you get anything you want. Need staff? Servants of the church will look after you for free. Need your new film to be number one at the box office? The church will head out in droves, attending cinema after cinema all day long. Tickets will be bought on masse. No cost spared. Because if the celebrity is a success, the church will be a success. It will show the world that success is due to the church. And as a success, the actor will have money to donate to the church.

I guess you’re wondering if I was famous? Not entirely. But he was. They loved him. When we moved to LA, they took care of everything. Found us a house. An interior designer decorated it. Servants of the church kept the house clean, cooked for us, tended to our garden, cleaned our pool. We were treated like a king and queen.

And yes, it does go to your head. No matter how true to yourself you are, no matter how humble, it is easy to be turned by the admiration.

I didn’t work. Didn’t have to. And it gave me time, loads of time to devote self to the church. Got further in my studies than him.

You tend to your studies in private rooms where food and drinks and brought to you. But only if you’re famous.

If you’re famous, most likely you’re rich. And if you’re rich, you can afford all of the “donations” which are expected of you. Can afford all courses, all the clearing sessions.

If you’re not famous, if you’re not rich, then you will try whatever you can to find the money.

And if you can’t — you’ll end up like me.

KOOL-AID: a crying shame

Another instalment of Almost Drank The Kool-Aid…

Have always been clumsy. Mum used to apologise. I got that trait from her, apparently.

“Dad” used to make fun of my clumsiness, too. Yet he could never understand how I could be so clumsy in normal life, yet the moment I stepped out onto the field, I turned into something of a swan.

Was the only thing my dad liked about me, I think. The fact that I had a gift when it came to the game he loved.

Is no wonder he soon despised me when I gave it up.

My clumsiness has left me with a number of scars over the years. But some of the scars I bear are not from clumsiness. Is probably why Gruff took all the knives out of the cottage the day I moved in.

But clumsy, yes. Have ended up in hospital not once but twice due to concussions. The first time was falling on the pavement at Camden. The second, falling over a tree stump during one of our weekend country getaways.

Back in the days when I had money to adorn self in jewellery, I’d have to take my rings to the jewellers twice yearly to have the stones replaced, due to frequently knocking hands against door frames. So should not have been surprised to fall into pond yesterday.

Not one of my best moments.

To be honest, if was not for Landlord, I probably would be dead. (Definitely no histrionics in that statement).

I should explain — the bridge spanning the stream in the woods has no railing. And so I slipped.

That water, is ice cold. Like being stung by a thousand bees.

But not deep. If stood, the water would come up to my knees.

Something happened, though. Was under water, fully conscious of what was happening to me. Time was all a bit slow, though. Seemed to have a lot of time to think.

I was there, under water, and I had the thought — why should I bother getting up?

And I tell you, it was the most peaceful of feelings.

A lot of you will be absolutely disgusted by that thought. Life is the most important thing, blah, blah, blah, but you don’t know.

Because it has been so, so hard; living. Have been fighting for a very long time. Even when was not fighting, I was fighting.

In that moment was just very, very tired. Extremely so.

In my mind, there was no point to it any way. No one to care for me. No one to care about. No purpose. No desire. Thought to self — when I think about it, is it not a waste for me to live?

So decided not to raise head above water. Even when chest started to burn from lack of oxygen, and head started to ache. Could not escape it any more. My body fought, and I opened my mouth. As water filled my lungs was both terrified and happy. This was it. This was the end.

Next thing I know there was a splashing near by and arms reaching out to drag me from the pond.

It was the landlord. Was limp as he dragged me to the banks. Was dumped unceremoniously on the ground. Coughed ad spluttered the water I had swallowed. Felt very sad about it all. Began to cry a little.

Landlord very, very angry. Started to yell at me.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing? You could have died!’

Yes, was point.

Couldn’t argue with him. Was not left to dwell on the events. Landlord was pulling me up. He must have been cold; his hands were shaking.

‘Get up,’ he urged, even though was in standing position. ‘Need to get you dry before you die of hyperthermia.’

Dramatic, yes, but had to let Landlord have his moment. He was so angry!

Dragged me along, but not towards cottage. Trees cleared as we walked up the incline. We were met with a gravel drive and beyond that a very large, very grand house.

Is the type of thing you see in Jane Austen Movies. The types of homes you expect people with titles to own.

Realised, as Landlord dragged me along, that was not being forced, really. Actually, not even being dragged. More like guided.

Was taken through front door by silent Landlord into grand entrance — staircase, black and white marble flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows, chandelier — that kind of thing.

To the back of the staircase was a door. Landlord opened it. Was not led to kitchen, dead ahead, but along the corridor to the left.

The longest corridor ever. Longer than a cricket pitch, certainly. Right at the end I could see a wood-panelled room, probably a study. But was not taken there either. Instead was taken into a bedroom which had an ensuite bathroom.

‘There’s towels in there. Will get you a change of clothes. Get in the shower before you catch a cold and I’ll do the same.’

So obliged. Was the loveliest of showers, I must say. An entire bathroom of marble if you can believe it. So was probably there a long while. And the toiletries — no luxe and Palmolive — but some expensive, fancy brand which would probably cost at least fifty quid.

Was certainly luxurious enough to get me out of my momentary slump. Then the shame started.

What was I thinking? May not have anything to live for but does not mean I have anything to die for.

But life is made up of moments. Moments of weakness. Moments of despair. Sometimes, if you are lucky; moments of joy. But those are so very fleeting. Rare. Is in no wonder I gave in to that moment? Just a moment. A moment which could have been death.

Resolved to how close I had come and hoping to never get close again, I left the shower, wrapping myself in the large sheet-like towel.

Entered the bedroom just as Landlord did, holding a pile of clothes. He paused when he saw me; stationary in the doorway. I paused, too.

‘I have dry clothes for you. I’ll take yours now to wash. When you’re dressed you can come into the kitchen and dry your hair by the fire.’

Everything said in such monotone. Could hardly look at me when he spoke. Felt retched. Most of all because he didn’t understand.

He had already showered and changed, departing the room with a fresh linen-y scent.

Changed quickly, feeling slightly uncomfortable. Not because was putting on another man’s clothing, but because I wasn’t wearing underwear. I rarely spend any time without them. If it wasn’t for fear of being unclean, and having nether regions being in a permanently moist (oh, that word!) state, I would wear undies all the time, even when showering.

Track pants were long in the legs but tight around the rear. The t-shirt and jumper were tight, too; flattening my breasts like a pancake. Is probably a good thing I no longer care about my appearance.

Took towel and padded to the kitchen. A large, welcoming space. A proper country kitchen. To the left of the room, the utility area of the kitchen. A large Aga took pride of place under a large copper vent. In the middle island, a modern cooker placed above a modern oven. There was a large butlers sink cut into the cabinetry. The kind of kitchen I always dreamed of having. A beautiful space to call my own. Did have something close to it, in LA. But was all very American — white gleaming cabinets with black granite tops. I never felt at home there.

In the middle of the kitchen there was a scrubbed pine table and to the other side of that a couch and two armchairs set in front of an Inglenook fire, roaring with heat.

Landlord was at the kettle, making drinks. He looked at me, nodding towards the fire. Settled self in front of it and began towering hair; was was still wet through.

Landlord approached with two cups which he set on the coffee table. His hair and beard were still wet, and it was making him cold; his hands still shook.

He sat down in one of the armchairs, and gave me a look which was both sad and pitying, angry and compassionate. Such a strong, terrifying glare. I felt his disappointment. Didn’t need his disappointment. Was already disappointed enough in myself. And confused. And a myriad of other things.

Suppose it all got to me. Have been holding a lot of things in of late. Have been holding a lot of things in for years. Yet could never cry in front of them. Such a cliche, yes, but could never let them see me cry.

Suddenly needed it. The few tears which had escaped after being dragged out of pond were not enough.

And yet, I still could not cry in front of Landlord. Perhaps it is engrained in me to not cry in front of others. I guess I worry it makes me weak.

I got up, hurrying across the room, but not before a hiccup of tears escaped.

Had nowhere else to go but the bedroom. Or maybe I was being polite — had not been welcomed to any other part of Landlord’s home.

Collapsed on bed, crying harrowing tears. Fuck me, it felt good.

Why is crying such an issue, anyway? Why are we told is a sign of weakness? Why is emotion a sign of weakness?

Wonder if this is why women have not made strides in corporate world. One sign of emotion and they are laughed at, judged at for being “a woman.” For acting like “a woman.”

And if men cry? Then they’re given labels like “sissy.”

Is disgrace, really. Because crying is a natural part of life. crying is cathartic, really.

Certainly for me. Cried desperately. Cried for what had happened. Cried for the years I’d lost. For the love I’d lost. Cried for Landlord’s opinion of me.

At some point, after some time, the Landlord came into the room. Was facing away form the door, looking out the French window to the terrace, and the length of lawn beyond it.

Felt him sit on the bed. Close to me, closer than anyone’s been to me in a long while. At least on purpose anyway.

And then he laid a hand on me. Shuddered at the touch as always shudder at the touch of another. But he didn’t shy away. Left his hand there, on my arm. Waited while I cried.

‘Please don’t do that again,’ he said to me quietly. Not in a demanding manner.

Would have explained if had had my voice. Might have been a good time to find it. But you can’t pick and choose. Not that it mattered. Landlord then said — ‘I saw you fall. I saw that it was an accident. Yet you chose to stay in the water. You chose death.’

He paused then. Perhaps for effect. Perhaps to gather his thoughts. Whichever, it was difficult for him; his fingers dug ever so slightly into my arm. ‘Life is too important. You’ve only just started your life again — why give it up before you’ve had a chance to live?’

Did not need the lecture, no matter how greatly it was given. Landlord waited for another moment. And then he left.

Not sure how long I stayed in that room. Long enough that my tears dried and that dreaded crying headache formed behind my eyes. Quietly, I got up. I left the house through the fancy entrance hall and the fancy front doors.

A confusing, emotional day. Here I was thinking freedom would come the moment I left the church. Was foolish of me to not realise I’d still be imprisoned in my mind.

Have learnt one thing, though. Landlord is a very rich man.

KOOL-AID: night-time caller

Another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-Aid…

Is a recluse still a recluse if he receives guests?

Enjoying a packet of popcorn for dinner when heard a vehicle approach Landlord’s gates.

I guess you could call it nosy, but by living in what I assume must be the gatehouse, I feel it’s my right to view those coming and going on the drive.

Is usually the Waitrose truck. Perhaps should speak to Landlord about this. Might be better if we coordinate our orders so the poor bastards are not doing two trips.

Yet at seven pm, knew would not be Waitrose truck. Was not. Dark blue sedan, waiting at the gates. Pretty woman. She’d turned on the internal light for some last minute adjustments to her makeup.

Can hear the intercom as clear as day in my bedroom.

‘Yes?’

‘______, darling, it’s Tasha.’

‘Ah, yes, come on through.’

Feel am not putting her or myself at risk by revealing her name. Maybe I am.

Is she a friend? Something more? Suppose cannot expect Landlord to be without female company just because is recluse.

UPDATE: 8.25pm. Tasha has left. A short visit.

KOOL-AID: visit from the cleaners

Another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-Aid…

 

They come every Tuesday. A whole team of them in a van. Sometimes they are there most of day, others for a few short hours.

Today, when leaving Landlords gates they pulled up outside of cottage. A young girl got out, knocking on my door.

‘Mr _____ wanted to know if you need us to do your cottage.’

Including bathroom, there are four rooms in total. Hardly beyond me.

Shook head, and gave smile.

‘He’s paying,’ she pressed.

Why? Is not like measly sum of rent could cover cleaner, too.

Come to think of it, shouldn’t I have had an electricity bill by now? Internet bill? Gruff said they were all on the same account and that Landlord would let me know my share. Must speak to him about this. Or at least write to him.

Shook head again. Girl shrugged in response before hopping back in van and taking off with the rest of them.

KOOL-AID: failure’s new clothes

the next instalment of Almost drank the Kool-Aid…

 

Not a moment longer could I deny the need for clothes. Might have been the Landlord, if truth be told. Yes, was a little humiliated by my wardrobe. And my smell.

For these last few years have been scent free. Did not enjoy being scent free. Felt like scent was my signature. Felt like wasn’t me without it. Plus, have fear of smell. Seriously. And worry, constantly, that I stink. Am a constant washer, previously would never leave the house without deodorant and wet wipes, and always used perfume. I guess it just goes to show my who-gives-a-fuck attitude of late with the whole not-washing and unclean clothes — would never usually let myself get to that state.

Went online, knowing clothes and scent were a must. Guessed size. Bought comfortable clothes; easy to wear. Leggings for comfort, sweaters, long t-shirts. Items I can layer, scarves, a beanie, gloves and a pair of Hunter Wellies, like that worn by the Landlord. And perfume. Thank cripes; perfume.

My parcels arrived today. I watched from my window as Postman Pat delivered a parcel to the landlord — opening the large post box by the gates next to my cottage with a key. Am guessing this is not a usual service. Postman Pat would prefer, I’m sure, if there was a box for me, too. He glowers when he sees me. Yet could not risk the packages being undelivered if I didn’t sign for them — today was on my last clean pair of underwear.

Everything, thankfully, fits. Maybe not thankfully because it means I’ve grown quite a lot in size. Now, at least, I have enough underwear to last me a fortnight straight. And bras which are not mesh-like with wear.

So I guess you could say today was a good day.

To catch up on previous chapters of Kool-Aid, click the link in the menu above.

 

If truth be told, I thought it’d be a lot harder to get clean.

I’d seen Trainspotting, after all. Not that I was addicted to heroine. Hell, no. It wasn’t Pete Doherty’s circle we were in. But bad enough.

Imagined self being sick for days on end. Imagined self screaming out in pain, being driven half mad by what I was going through. Am not saying it wasn’t difficult. It was and all. Passed out, I did. And wasn’t the only one. Plus there was the whole toilet scenario. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time in the bathroom.

It started with eliminating toxins. They’d get you on an exercise bike, cycling like mad. First exercise I’d ever had. Then you’d be in a sauna for hours and hours, the heat sucking the toxins out of you.

Was all about eliminating toxins. Or ridding self of pollution. They talked of that often — pollution. Didn’t think it had any special meaning.

Next it was the Vitamin B shots. It’s all you need, they told us. Vitamins and “healthy living.” Not drugs.

Didn’t know they meant no drugs. As in, no medicinal either.

Wondered how I’d be able to live my life without them. But then, didn’t I feel amazing? For a long time, I thought they were right.

Well done, dickhead.

I mean, it’s proven, isn’t it? Vitamin B helps the body deal with stress and anxiety. It does work.

Yet no amount of Vitamin B can cure an imbalance of the mind.

So whilst was free of the poison I had been using to dull the pain of my mind, I was also free of what was helping keeping me sane.

And so I wasn’t. They said it was the pollution. Again and again they tried to rid me of it. Again and again they failed.

I failed. It was never their fault.

So what I thought was the cure turned out to be my biggest mistake.

Happy Easter everyone! I am currently eating my way through various types of chocolate eggs, which Easter Bunny kindly left for me.

Yes, Easter Bunny still visits me. Just because am in my late thirties does not mean I can’t have Easter Bunny come and see me.

Soon Mr Thomas and I will be off to Mama and Papa Thomas’s, where we will be fed a full-blown Italian Easter lunch. I am very excited by it.

For me, Easter is much like Christmas: it’s all about food and family. So I hope you all have a lovely weekend eating good food and spending time with family. Love you all, and look out for another instalment of Almost Drank the Kool-Aid later today.

 

To catch up on previous chapters of Kool-Aid, click the link in the menu above.

 

Was seventeen, I think. Had just been to see Mr Gruff for what was becoming our usual twice-weekly meeting of coffee drinking and smoking. Didn’t have a lot else to do. Was not in school, had no family, and no real job. Gruff was the only person I knew and he tolerated me. Our catchups were mostly expletive-ridden, and I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I would always use stairs in Gruff’s building. Hate lifts because hate the idea of being stuck in a slowly moving box with complete strangers. Even un-complete strangers. Is my idea of hell, really. At least on a staircase, can move past people as quickly as possible.

So on this particular day, was taking stairs down from Gruff’s office when spotted person slumped on stairs. Lamented. He was positioned in such a manner that would have to actually climb over him. Was not in the mood for it. Not exactly the best time for me at that point. Tried to work out how would handle the situation. Would I be pleasant and say, excuse me, can I get past? Would I tell him to fucking move? As neared, though, realised there would be room for me to get past. Spacial awareness not one of my strong points, see. If you ever ask me to tell you the length and distance of something, could never do it.

Was relieved when realised there was room for me to get past, but then, when I was two steps away, the figure turned to look at me.

Absolute horror on what was a very handsome face. Eyes wide with fear, face pale, clammy, and mouth open; desperate for air.

Immediate recognition. Had been in the very position of this poor soul before. Feeling like you would die. Dizzy from lack of oxygen. Humiliated at your own weak state.

I couldn’t leave this man. Couldn’t walk past him without saying a thing. Couldn’t leave, knowing there was someone in trouble.

Sat myself down next to this man, dumping bag on the step below us. Could be wrong, of course. Was a definite chance of that. This man could very well be having a heart attack.

So asked him — ‘panic attack?’ He nodded briefly through gasps of air.

Knew he would be feeling retched at this moment. His chest would be heavy and painful, his head like it contained a bowling ball.

I went straight into action.

Brushed the hair from his forehead not only because it was damp with sweat but because human contact can help in such moment. He might have been like me, of course. Might have hated human touch of any kind unless sexual when, if was possible, I would bury myself under the skin of another just to feel something.

I took the man’s face in my hands, gently, tilting it towards mind so could look in his eyes. Another thing I avoid at all costs and by the flicker that appeared in his, I knew it was something he usually avoided, too. Yet I kept my hands steady and said to him, ‘I’m going to help you. What’s happening to you right now is a lie. It’s just your fucked-up mind playing tricks on you.’

His eyes were wide with fear but I got the sense he acquiesced with what I was saying.

‘We’re just got to break that communication with your brain. Your body has to rethink how to breathe.’

He tried to take a breath. One of those big breaths when you are fooled into thinking your lungs will find the air from some miraculous place. Almost wanted to laugh at him. But didn’t.

‘That’s not going to work, I said, ‘there’s nothing there.’

I took my hand and placed it on his chest. He had undone the buttons on his shirt at some point, probably due to the rise of temperature in his body. Have been there myself before — at home I would end up naked from the heat.

And he was warm. Beneath my hand I felt the clammy heat of his chest. And… hair. A dusting of hair which initially transported me out of that moment. There’s nothing I loved more than chest hair.

I urged myself back to the present, willed myself back there. ‘Small breaths now. We need to let some air in.’

Like a midwife coaxing her patient, I let out a series of breaths for him to mimic. After a moment or two I felt him relax just a little beneath me. I figured he had enough air at this moment.

So I took one of his hands, trying my best to lay it flat on my chest. A difficult task due to the size of my breasts and my penchant in those days to defy gravity and wear them high in supporting bras which broke often from the strain.

‘Breathe with me,’ I directed him. I took big, long breaths, allowing him to feel the rise of my chest. I held the breath and then exhaled slowly, pressing his hand down as if it was he himself expelling the air.

I replaced my hand on his chest as we breathed, held and excelled together, pushing slightly down when it was time to exhale. After a few moments I felt his temperature return to normal.

I let go of his chest.

Reluctantly, after a few moments more, he let go of mine.

He hung his head as I ferreted around in my handbag to find the bottle of water I always carried with me.

‘I am terribly embarrassed,’ he said in what was a decidedly plum accent.

‘Don’t be embarrassed,’ I told him, offering him the water. He drank deeply while I ferreted some more, finding my pack of hand wipes. The shit I used to carry in my bag back then! Always had the largest bags to carry around a multitude of crap. Amazes me that am now sans handbag. The me ten years ago would have hyperventilated at the thought of leaving the house without a bag full of supplies. Now have learnt to live without them.

With shaking hands the man placed the top onto the water bottle while I — perhaps naively not understanding what a personal action this was — wiped his forehead, face, back of neck and chest with the wipe.

When finished he looked at me for a very long time. His expression was unreadable. Searching maybe? Am unsure.

After a moment or two where we were doing nothing but staring into one another’s eyes — creepy in any other context — he said, ‘thank you.’ Soft, small voice.

I shrugged in reply. I think I may have been embarrassed by his fervour.

‘I’m late for an appointment, but I think I should like to get some air first.’

I nodded and we stood up, me helping him a little to steady himself, and walked the last remaining staircase to the outside world.

The air was thick with mist but he took a graceful breath all the same. Without speaking agreement to it, we walked the short distance between the buildings to the Thames, sitting down on one of the raised park benches. I was outside and had just been through an awkward event so my instinct was to light a cigarette.

‘Do you have a spare one?’ He asked. I handed one over, holding the lighter to him.

We smoked in silence while watching a garbage boat punt slowly down the Thames.

‘Does that happen to you often?’ He asked. I knew he was talking about the panic attacks.

‘Every now and then,’ I told him.

‘How do you know to handle it so well?’

‘My mother was a psychiatric nurse, so she picked up a thing or two.’

‘You’ll have to thank her for me.’

‘I can’t. She’s dead.’

He muttered his apologies for my mother’s death. We were silent again. It lasted until the end of our cigarettes which we put out with our feet.

‘Well, thank you for your help today,’ he said.

We both bent forward, ready to get up, which brought our bodies closer together. Suddenly, the air shifted. There was a change. A tangible electricity. Have not had a moment like that before or since.

Suddenly aware of this handsome, although much older, man before me, whose skin I had only just felt under mine, who had smelt of fresh soap and spice, whose eyes were a welcoming crystal blue and whose lips. Fuck. Whose lips were full and ripe and, well, if I didn’t kiss them right then I’d be an absolute fool!

Suddenly, that’s what we were doing. A tangle of limbs as we launched together, lip on lip hands investigating all that we could reach.

I can’t remember now what part of his body I had found but I remember where his hands had reached. One on my lower back, soft and smooth, the other to my breast, searching beneath the fabric of my shirt, finding fullness and then, with the lucky stroke of a little finger, the hardness of a nipple.

All the while his mouth was in the exact rhythm with mine, with perfect pressure and just enough tantalising tongue to keep me interested.

Right there on the banks of the Thames with the whole of London watching. Hands down, the most erotic thing to have ever happen to me. Had we not been in public; goodness knows what would have happened.

But then; I was cheating. Proper girlfriends do no go around kissing strangers. Shame washed over me. I broke away from the man who I had felt such a sexual pull towards, it was dangerous. There was confusion written on his face. Confused as to why he had kissed me or confused as to why I had pulled away? I didn’t know, which haunted me somewhat. And there is no way I am going to ask — even in writing — Landlord about it now.

I remember telling him hurriedly that I had to go. Apologising that I had to go, and racing from the scene as quickly as possible. Was halfway across the bridge when I took the chance to look back. He was there, sitting where I had left him, staring back at me.

I cried for the rest of the day. Mostly from the guilt, but for something else as well. The unknown maybe? Or maybe it was foresight.

Of course, my indiscretion was revealed many years later under duress and then used as one of the reasons to leave me. If I look at it logically, I know it was just an excuse, but at the time I found myself being so angry at the nameless stranger for undoing me when I was weak.

He’ll never know it, but I hated Landlord for many, many years. Until the time I realised I was living a lie. Then I looked at him differently. The memory of him became a what-if.

What if I had learned his name? What if I had seen him again, left my boyfriend for him. Would it have been a life of happiness, or despair?

Not that anything could have been as despairing as what I had been through, though there is a chance it could be worse.

And now he’s here, an old, broken soul. I mean, he’d have to be over fifty now, surely? Unless of course he’s one of those types who looks older than he is. Cripes. Maybe he’s one of those types who looks younger than he is! Maybe he’s near sixty than fifty!

Not that any of this matters. Was just a day almost thirteen years ago. Another time. Whatever thoughts I had on it since either fuelled my anger or my hope. Nothing more. It’s funny, you know, how life turns out.

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