A Dangerous Liaison

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  • Dedicated to The Staff at Great Dunmow Library

This story originally appeared on another platform, but I've been nagged into posting it here as well, so tough luck


I didn't see the blow coming. Not the actual physical blow any way, though I knew it probably had to happen at some point. But no, I didn't see it. There'd been a knock at the front door. I left Vero listening to the radio, went and looked through the spyhole in the door, and there was my old friend Greg. I took off the security chain, undid the lock, started to open the door...

My face seemed to explode, my nose felt as if it was being driven into my brain, I felt teeth cracking. I staggered backwards, crashed into the newel post at the foot of the stairs, and slumped to the ground. My nostrils were clogged, my lips were split. I spat blood and drool and bits of tooth onto the floor.

Greg didn't say a word. He stood over me as I lay curled on the floor, and kicked me very hard in the ribs. Then again. Then in my stomach. I couldn't stop myself retching and vomiting, again and again till I was empty, but still retching helplessly.

Greg didn't shout; it might have been better if he had. His icy quiet was much more frightening, or would have been if I'd been able to concentrate on anything but the pain and the dry heaving. I was lying in a pool of blood and vomit, unable to move, unable to think beyond the deep curtain of pain that nearly obscured everything, but not quite enough. I tried to focus on him.

'You bastard. You utter bastard. How long have we been friends? Forty odd years, that's how long. And you do this to me? You do this to Caitlin? You bastard. You shit.'

I had no defence. He was right. And I had no fight left in me.

I met Greg on our first day at infants school, and we became inseparable. Through infants, junior, secondary school. We even went to the same college, doing the same engineering course, and ended up working for the same company. When I married Vero, he was my best man. When he married Helen, I returned the favour.

And when Helen gave birth to Caitlin, Vero and I were asked to be godparents.

Caitlin was a beautiful baby, an engaging toddler, an inquisitive and chattery child. When she reached puberty, she grew in height before she grew anywhere else, and was slightly gawky, then bloomed into a very lovely, very self assured young woman with the natural grace some teenage women have.

I was a very dutiful godfather, though to say I regarded it as a duty would be very wide of the mark. It was a privilege to remember her birthday, choose Christmas presents for her, take her to the zoo or theme park, kiss her better when she fell and skinned her knees or bumped her head. I spent many happy hours pushing her on swings, or buying her an ice cream then wiping her face afterwards. I loved her as a godparent should love a godchild.

She always called me Uncle Jaze. When she was small she couldn't manage to say James, and it just stuck. I was Uncle Jaze, and Uncle Jaze, as he hit middle age and she became so beautiful a young adult, no longer loved her as a godchild. Uncle Jaze fell hopelessly in love with her. Middle age is hazardous territory without the added peril of being in love with your godchild. There was nothing at all that felt good about my feelings, but I couldn't help it. You never can hope to change being in love. All you can do is hope that the other person feels the same. Yet half of me didn't want Caitlin to feel the same way about me. It was all much too risky, and it felt just plain wrong.

I first realised what had happened to me when Caitlin went to college. According to Greg and Helen, she could be a stroppy little cow in her early teens, but she never had been with me. I was always welcome. She confided in me in a way she felt she couldn't confide in her parents. I just sat and listened. If she needed me, I was always there. Then she went away, and there was suddenly a huge hole in my life. A Caitlin shaped hole. I missed her so badly. I was like a lovesick teenager again; I regressed thirty odd years. Hopeless. Pathetic.

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