I'm fading fast, I know my end is near....Where is everyone? I may be old, but surely this is not the way to go? Somebody, hold me please! I am cold and frightened, it was not always like this? I remember................Years before.........There were a lot of people around when I came into this world. Although still not being able to see, I could hear the voices and sense my mother's pride at having delivered such a beautiful creation. I was being constantly touched, pampered and showered with gifts, and both Mother and I knew that with the correct upbringing I would go far. Mother was the world to me as I had never met my father who had run off after a brief fling with Mom when she was young and gullible, leaving her with child and nothing else. Apparently he is still around, very old, but still strutting and showing off around the city. I never had any inclination to find him. Hungry and cold, Mom took refuge under the overhang of a bar during a particularly heavy downpour, and it was there that she met Tom, the Farang pub owner. Mom was very beautiful then, large glistening eyes and long shinning hair, and it was easy to see why Tom fell for her straight away. She never left him, and together they built up his business and prospered. Many came to the pub on the pretext of chatting to Tom, but all knew it was Mom that they really came to see. When I was born, Tom threw a large party to celebrate and proudly showed me off to all and sundry as if I was his own. Inheriting Mom's good looks and luckily the best of departed Dad, who by all accounts was still a good looker in spite of his errant ways, the doors to a happy and successful life all opened with ease.In Mother I had an excellent teacher and I lapped up every trick of the trade, so that even while still rather young, Mom deemed me wise enough to go solo and work the bar. You couldn't really call it work, it was fun. Forget the old deadbeat balloon and BBQ chasers, Mom had advised me early on, they are only on the lookout for free food and cheap drinks. You won't get much out of them. Heeding her advice, I instead sought out the far more desirable "cherries" as Ma and Tom called them, fresh off the plane and ripe for the plucking. Sure enough, they were pushovers, and I soon had them eating out of my hands and plying me with gifts, each trying to outdo the other for my undivided attention. I divided my 'joy and welcome smile' equally among them. One regular customer though was different from the rest, and for once I followed my own instincts. Old Bill as he was known by all was virtually part of the furnishings at Tom's Bar. You could set your watch by him, come rain or shine, Bill would take his usual seat at exactly 10 each morning, order his breakfast ( which I always helped him to finish as he claimed I was too thin ) and then settle down to his daily crossword. He had soft, sad eyes that had plainly seen much suffering and often when things were quiet we would sit and chat. Actually he did most of the talking and I would sit and listen, his hand reaching out to touch me gently when making a point or to cheer me up if I looked sad. Occasionally Mom would let me go for a walk on the beach with him, first making sure that there was nobody around to see us and thereby damage my reputation. Over time I learned of his tragic loss and the pain and suffering his wife went through before death released her from the torment of cancer. I felt very close to old Bill, and if circumstances had been different, we could have been very happy together.The seasons came and went, highs and lows, business blossomed and ebbed, cherries arrived and left as old hands. The only regular thing amongst all the madness was Bill's arrival each day. He never seemed to mind that I could only show him passing attention during the busy times, he realised that there was work to be done and egos to be polished. He was there to help as well when Mom was buried.
I will never forget the light and life leaving those lovely eyes of hers after the hit and run and how a part of me died with her. Standing in the drizzle beside the grave, dressed in an old tweed suit, Bill cried unashamedly. I cried for Mom and him as well.Tom was devastated and morose for weeks, but as time went by things slowly went back to normal. A new female arrived (a real bitch ) and wormed her way into Tom's love and his favours and soon new arrivals at the bar threatened my position. Without Mom's help and protection I was constantly having to watch my back and pull out all the stops to remain number one. They were young and playful and full of energy, not to mention beautiful. I found myself losing the adoration I had come to expect and had to resort to sulking and aloofness to gain any semblance of attention. I knew I was getting on in years and could not fight indefinitely. Even Bill began calling me 'old girl', but I did not mind it coming from him as it was more a term of endearment. Trying my best to appear young and carefree, doing things I used to do, only made me appear silly and all I received were looks of pity and the occasional halfhearted 'for old times sake' love and attention.The good old days seem so far away now, darkness, pain and the cold my only companions......Wait...I know that sound... that smell of him... it must be 10 o'clock!Soft gentle hands picking me up, cradling me to his warm chest, stroking my head and murmuring soft soothing sounds. Old Bill, faithful and loving Old Bill. His calming touch is like a balm to my pain wracked body and I whimper and press myself into him, safe and loved, just like the old days.'Tom, can I take her with me, I don't think there is long to go?''Sure Bill, and aah...thanks Bill, I should have let her go with you years ago.'Come my Darling, Old Bill's taking you home. You really are a man's best friend, the best friend I ever had.
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