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No More Regrets
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No More Regrets
and other stories

Celia A. Leaman

 

 

 



The Man at the Side of the Road

Celia Ann Leaman

 

 

He was sitting at the side of the road, his feet actually on the road. It made me feel that if a careless driver swerved too close, they might run over them. I winced at the thought, sucking in my breath.

"What's up?" my husband said.

I glanced at him. Those were the first words he'd spoken in hours, ever since he'd told me, quite calmly as if he were changing his sheets, that he wanted a divorce. He wanted to be with someone else who suited him far better, he said. Couldn't I understand that after twenty years this could happen?

I could, actually, but I'd been hanging in the marriage out of loyalty, trying to keep the promise I'd made when he slipped that ring on my finger.

"Eh?" Bob said. "You all right?"

I guess he might be a bit worried, because I hadn't ranted or anything. What was the point, his mind was made up. He said he would be fair. He might be a cheat, but I didn't believe he was a liar, so I guessed he would be. He wasn't what one would call a bad man, just another human being who couldn't keep a promise.

"That man back there," I said. "I'm worried about him, someone might run him over."

He cursed. "What d'you want me to do about it?"

"Pull over. There look, there's a place."

"You serious?"

"Yes."

He pulled in. As soon as the truck came to a halt I got out and began running back along the road. He shouted after me, but he didn't follow. Cars, trucks, buses were passing me like bullets from hell. Some guys were making suggestive signs, poking their fingers out of windows.

The old guy looked up as I approached. Wordlessly, I took his hand and helped him down over the grass verge where we could hear each other speak.

We walked along and sat by a creek, the din was less there. Man was a noisy creature, I thought, as if without sound he wouldn't feel himself around. Where could you go these days and find complete silence?

"What were you doing up there? You could have got yourself killed," I said. "Do you live anywhere?" A modern question. Once it would have been, 'where do you live?'

He looked amused. "You ask a lot of questions."

I was surprised at his voice, it didn't match his appearance, although when I took a better look at him I saw he wasn't dirty, just very simply dressed.

"That's because I care," I said. "And aren't you the lucky one."

"Well, you've got that right," he said quietly. "I've been sitting on that road all morning."

I refrained from asking why he'd been there, and bit back a lecture about it too. I had enough problems of my own to worry about, and who was I anyway to say what he should or shouldn't do? The way I felt these days I might find myself on the highway soon, looking to get run over.

I looked around me, and glimpsed how lovely that the place must have once been before all the development. I could hear a bird singing and it reminded me of when I was a girl; how I would awaken to the dawn chorus. Was there still such a thing? I wondered. I'd heard the songbirds were diminishing, like everything else that was beautiful on the earth. It was hard to imagine the world to come.

Garbage littered the bank and the creek; fast food containers, bottles, cans, cigarette cartons and those blue strips that tore off the cellophane wrappers; straws, squashed indistinguishable items. Apparently on some highways they found feces in bags where people hadn't bothered to stop.

A groan of despair escaped me. "We're living in a world of pigs," I muttered angrily. "It's my planet too, and they're ruining my garden." At my feet, almost hidden beneath a wad of sodden newspaper, I noticed a tiny, star-shaped flower. "I feel like that plant, struggling to survive in a hostile world. Do you think it's getting worse, or is it my imagination that it is?"

"It is the way of this world," the old guy said. "To be here is to discover what it is you don't want."

I glanced sidelong at him. "Really. Well, I'm getting there. This place has changed so much in my lifetime, it really depresses me."

To my mortification, I couldn't hold back sudden tears and I apologized. "I've just received some bad news, and it's starting to hit home. My husband wants a divorce, and I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry. This is the first time I've been alone since he told me." I looked up at the sky through blurred vision. "Sometimes I think there's nothing left for me here. I keep thinking … well, it may sound strange, but I keep wanting to go home. Only I don't know where home is."

He reached over and put his hand on mine. "There must be one place on this earth where you have felt truly happy."

I thought for a moment. "Well, yes. There was a place once. In the Cariboo." I smiled at what was now a distant memory. "I camped by a lake. I've never felt peace like that since."

"Sometimes it helps to revisit places where we have once been happy," he said gently.

"I was younger then though. Things were different. Safer. I could never go there again. Not on my own. Not these days, I'd be too frightened."

"I'd have thought you had more courage than that," he said, looking at me curiously. Almost provocatively.

He looked away from my sudden confusion, and stood up abruptly.

"Well, I guess I'll be going along now." He reached for my hand and held it firmly. His hand felt warm and comforting. "I've enjoyed meeting you, my dear. Thank you for your kindness. Au revoir."

"Au revoir," I whispered.

I watched him clamber down across the embankment, cross the creek and disappear into the woods. I thought perhaps he'd wandered out of his property; become disoriented and walked the wrong way. Or perhaps he liked to go and sit on the highway to watch the cars. Different strokes for different folks, and to my reckoning the human race was getting weirder by the minute.

"Everything okay?" Bob said, as I got back into the truck. He was reading one of his hunting magazines and barely looked up. He didn't notice I was too distracted to answer him.

I felt strangely stung by the old man's unspoken challenge. It just seemed … well, it had certainly touched a nerve. Exactly what nerve, I couldn't say. It was just one of those things you ponder afterwards.

***

At work the following Monday, "I suppose I'll have to deal with it," I told a co-worker, "but I'm in rather a shock. It was so unexpected."

"Me too," she said. "How the hell will we make our payments now?"

We'd both arrived to find termination papers on our desks. Our company was closing down at the end of the month and we were two more workers to bite the dust. My planets must have been out of alignment or something; at the end of the month Bob was moving in with his girlfriend.

That evening, seeking comfort, I called my children. The telephone was a marvelous invention, as was email, but oh, how I'd rather have held them close and breathed in their scent. Virtual reality just wasn't the same.        

I tried not to cry as I told them about my separation from their father, I didn't want them to know how bad I felt. Well, that's a joke really. They hardly had time to listen, let alone wonder how I was.

I hung up with a stabbing pain in my heart. What had this world become, I wondered, when we no longer had time for one another? I was their mother. Didn't that mean anything any more?

I barely knew how to get out of bed the next morning. At work the boss informed me I'd accrued some holiday time, and asked would I like to take the time off or have the money. I said I'd take the time. Let someone else do the packing, I told my co-worker, I'd have enough of that to do of my own soon.

On impulse I decided to go on a camping trip. Bob made no comment, but he did look a bit sad. That surprised me really. Perhaps he'd been looking forward to watching me suffer for the remainder of the month.

I packed up the car and, past Hope -- the analogy made me laugh -- I found myself on the road to Lytton. I could have gone east, on into the interior, but something drew me north. Even though I told myself it was a foolish thing to do, the old man's words had been bugging me, and just as a scent or a tune will evoke feelings, perhaps I hoped I might retrieve a few happy memories.

It took me six hours to reach Williams Lake, and then I turned west. I arrived at Till Lake that evening. There was no one else about. It did cross my mind about rapists and murderers, and I didn't sleep very well that first night.

The second was better, and by the third, a remnant of those old feelings did come back, but they brought down on me the most awful sadness, and I wept for much of the night. In the morning I awoke exhausted. My eyes were so swollen I could hardly open them.

When I did, I started suddenly. I could feel my pulse throbbing in my neck: someone was sitting outside the tent! My instant reaction was to wish Bob were there. Then I reminded myself, he'd never be there again. Swallowing back fresh tears, I unzipped the tent.

"Good morning." It was the old man, and he turned and smiled at me.

"What are you doing here?" I said. "I don't understand."

"We don't have much time," he replied. "You only just made it."

He gestured around us, and suddenly I noticed the others, appearing around us like sprouting mushrooms. They were chattering to one another and eagerly pointing upwards. I squinted against the sun, then gasped and cringed with fear as something huge materialized above the lake. It was as if it existed in a different dimension because although it hovered, shimmering above the water, the trees and reeds were barely disturbed.

The crowd started to walk towards it.

"What's going on?" I said. "Where are they going?"

"Home," the old man said. "Like you, they've been looking."

I gazed at the spectral. That's what it was … or seemed. I can't describe it in any other way. It was something not of this earth to be sure. It was calling me: bidding me return. And I knew with a great certainty that once I was bathed in its radiance, I would yearn no more.

***

I can't say I went without giving my family a thought. I did imagine them, wondering after a while why I hadn't called. And I thought of Bob too. I hoped he wouldn't be questioned by the police or anything for my sudden disappearance. Unless, of course, my body would be found. I didn't know. I didn't know anything except I must go. Better to be remembered for who I was now than in the future be an even lonelier, unwanted and resented old lady.

The old guy held out his hand, and I took it.

He felt me tremble and he smiled gently. "Don't be sad about your family, Cathy," he said. "One day I could be waiting on the side of the road for one of them too."

I smiled back at him, took a deep breath, and we walked home.

 

 

 

"The Man at the Side of the Road" Copyright © 2001. Celia A. Leaman. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

 

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Author Bio

Celia was raised in Devon, England. After she emigrated to Canada in 1980 she had short stories published in magazines in the UK, Canada and the United States. One of these was translated into brail; another sold to a South African magazine. She also wrote and co-directed a play, performed on Galiano Island, British Columbia.

Celia writes in several genres. Her novel, Mary's Child, the first in the Dartmoor Series, reflects her love and knowledge of the South Devon moors. Both it, and a short story, "Jay, the Farmer's Daughter" (in No More Regrets and Other Stories available from Twilight Times Books) were inspired by the legend of Jay's grave, near where she used to live. There are two sequels to follow Mary's Child: PastPresent I: Awareness, and PastPresent I: Resolution.

Twilight Times Books has also published Unraveled and Deceitful Hags, mainstream, humorous novels spun around the Gulf Islands in British Columbia.

Over the years Celia's interest and focus on writing has grown. She is a tutor for Writer's Online Workshop (http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com) where she interacts with students wishing to focus on the Short Story. Outside the home she works as a Librarian Assistant.

Celia lives in British Columbia with her husband.

TTB titles: Deceitful Hags
Mary's Child
No More Regrets and other stories
Past Present I
Unraveled

Visit Celia's web site

 

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  Reviews

No more regrets is a selection of stories that come straight from the heart and go straight to the heart. Celia A. Leaman writes with great tenderness and a soft-spoken sense of humor, never shying away from the darkness of the soul. Every story moved me, surprised me with insights and gave me something to ponder about: how a small decision can change your life, how love can manifest itself in unexpected ways.

Reviewed by Christine Spindler, author of the Inspector Terry Mysteries.
 



Have you ever searched for your true self? Have you ever yearned for true love? If you have, you will identify with the characters in this collection of enjoyable short stories.

Taken from all walks of life, these tales will move you to tears or make you smile. Meet Annie who found satisfaction in what she had and did not yearn after things from the past and Maxine who found the courage to stand alone through an acquaintance with Annie. Their story will find echoes in the empty rooms of many hearts.

Visit Karly who lived with a duck. A tragedy leaves her an empty shell until an outside threat forces her into awareness of her surroundings. Her involvement in saving a park leads to consequences she couldn't have foreseen. A mystery that adds real flavor to the mix.

And, if you love laughter--the kind that leaves you light of heart, join Nell as she meets her prospective mother-in-law in "She Drove A BMW."

Ms. Celia Leaman displays a real talent for creating realistic characters whose lives are affected by outside forces, some to be shattered, some to be healed, and some to begin again. These are stories that could happen anywhere to any person.

It is with pleasure I recommend this collection of short stories as intriguing and a study of the human heart. Enjoy.

Reviewed with pleasure by Anne K. Edwards, Author of Journey Into Terror; for Ebooksnbytes.com
 



An intriguing collection of stories is presented here by 'the Devonshire babe', Celia Leaman. It is an eclectic mix with the common characteristics of interesting locations, unusual characters, and odd situations. Many have animals playing a prominent role, and the supernatural is no stranger here. The author includes her comments following each story, often sharing what went on in her life when she wrote that particular piece.

It is hard to review a book of short stories-I don't know quite where to begin. What I shall do is describe a couple of my favorites, in some detail, but with the reservation that another reader might well prefer different choices.

In "A Change of Life", 60-year-old Violet wakes to her usual aches and pains, lazily showers, and goes on about her day. It feels different somehow. Looking for her winter clothes, she comes across her old Halloween costumes-and they bring back memories, wonderful memories, a whole life's worth of memories. She dresses herself in a silver costume from the early years of her marriage, one that her husband had refused to allow her to wear; it is a way of recapturing her lost youth....

In "She Drove a BMW", Nell has decided she wants to meet Nick's mother on her own. He's been talking about marriage, and saying that the two must be introduced, but she decides to check things out ahead of time. She and her friend Marcie go to the café' frequented daily by Nick's mother. Marcie has brought the six day-care center kids she's looking after, so it's not exactly a quiet bunch. Nell will identify Nick's mother by the car she drives; she doesn't remember exactly what model it is, but it starts with a 'B'. The encounter doesn't go particularly well...

I enjoyed most of the stories, and I definitely recommend this collection.

Reviewed by Chuck Gregory for Timeless-Tales.net.
 



"Author Celia Ann Leaman proves her versatility as she lends her voice to this poignant collection of about a dozen short stories. While each tale is unique, the binding theme of hope and acceptance despite the dark moments of the soul lends them startling clarity and poignant insight. Whether the epiphany arrives with a man standing at the side of the road or a wealthy woman sitting in a café, Leaman captures the individual moments that seem insignificant and yet in hindsight, were points of resolution, knowledge, or self-determination. With grace, wisdom and humor, Leaman creates those pivotal moments with a vow of "no more regrets." Very highly recommended."

Cindy Penn, Senior Editor, WordWeaving.com; eBook Specialist, Midwest Book Review

 

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