If you missed our recent release of Christine Hillingdon's novel The Maddest Kind of Love then we're pleased to present it today as part of this week's #samplesunday.
Thank you for your kind words, Carissa. Yes, I have support from friends and family and you now. Thanks so much for that.
Anne is mostly confined to a chair, and she needs help with trips to the loo and in the bathroom. She has had several operations to help prolong her quality of life. What with that and the medication she is on for pain, she appears to be coping okay.
I guess at the moment I am stuck in a strange place, somewhere between wanting to be creative and living a real life again—and being completely disabled by Anne’s disabilities.
At times I do feel sorry for myself, but I allow that without wallowing in it. I find myself leaving my supports waiting in the wings because, paradoxically, I mainly want to be left alone.
Are you still into gardening? What sort of books do you read nowadays? I have drifted into Epic Fantasy.
I too have written Dark Poems. I have thought about sharing them. What do you think? Are they too personal? Best forgotten? Is it a too morbid idea?
I’ll sign off now and close this email with lots of love.
GK? What does that mean? It sounds familiar, but my memory is hazy. Chemo Brain hit in a big way. That and menopause. I’ll have to ask Jaye for the answer in due course.
I know a little of what Jaye must be experiencing right away. That wanting/needing support versus wanting/needing to be left alone. Nathan was wonderful, picking me up from chemotherapy, taking me to and from radiotherapy everyday for the duration, yet I shifted away, pushed him out—often.
He even suggested he shave his head as an acknowledgement of what I was going through. God forbid! I told him if he did I would never speak to him again.
The constant ringing of the telephone drove me crazy.
“Leave me alone!” I would scream and run from the room leaving Nathan to answer it.
From the solace of my bedroom I would hear Nathan telling the friend or family member that I was doing okay. Playing it all down. When deep inside I was falling apart at the seams. In meltdown mode. Unable to cope with the enormity of my diagnosis.
Subject: Dark Poetry
So glad we managed to connect. Yes, I am happy to send you my dark poetry, at least one or two of them and see how you cope with that. They are all extremely dark. I would like to read yours too. Perhaps they will give me an impression of normality?
As far as gardening goes, well the house we have now has quite a small garden, which is all I wanted. Nathan, as you may remember, isn’t into gardening at all, so I was able to design it to suit myself, once again, using ideas inspired by our overseas holidays.
The previous house had a wonderfully established cottage garden by the time we sold it. But so labour intensive. I couldn’t keep up with it.
Add to that, five minutes after we settled into the present house, the Government brought in strict water restrictions, so a different style of garden was definitely called for. I have planned for the unknown future in that area.
Since we were last in contact, Nathan and I have done such a lot of travelling and I have fallen in love with the Mediterranean style. So that is the type of garden and house we have now.
The back garden is a paved courtyard. It has lots of hardy oleanders, citrus trees, a couple of palms, and a water feature up against one of the rendered brick boundary walls. There is also a shaded paved area, with a small outdoor setting and a row of potted plants up against the rendered brick house.
The front garden is even smaller still but made colourful with standard bougainvilleas and dwarf oleanders. I even grow succulents. Remember how I used to detest them? I certainly don’t now that I’ve seen Southern Europe.
Regarding books, I’m into British Crime (yes, I am still in love with that country) and I also like reading crime novels from other countries that I have been to.
PS: What does GK stand for?
THE DARK poems are in my poetry file. I don’t re-read them. Tears will form if I do. The titles alone are enough to enable me to pick them out and hit the send button.
God! How will Jaye cope with them? What will he make of lines like “The knife slices through fat, taking the woman in me.” And “Femininity dumped on a theatre tray.”
Jokingly I suggest co-publishing a book. Poems to read while contemplating suicide. Or Poems to read while bleeding out . . .
The answer to the GK initials is in Jaye’s return email: Gentle Knight. The title I once bestowed on him. How could I forget?
And with that back comes so many memories . . .
The Botanic Gardens in full flower, drinking mead, candlelit baths. All those stolen, illicit hours.
They were wonderful.
And at work. Trying to be oh-so discreet, yet merely being in the same room with Jaye was enough to make the air seem alive with the love we had shared. It never ceased to amaze me how our co-workers couldn’t simply sense it.
Subject: Dark Poetry
Your poems are certainly powerful, gripping, and scary too. You poor soul. Your words touched me deeply.
I have sent mine though the post. Computer problems my end. Don’t ask. I’m besieged with them all the time.
I consider I can’t bemoan my fate to friends because there’s nothing they can say or do to help, and there is always the danger of boring people rigid. Did/do you experience that too? It’s strange how—
The telephone rings, all but yanking me out of my chair. Nathan’s voice from somewhere down the end of a rather long tunnel, announcing he is on his way home—and did I need anything from the shops?
I forget to ask for milk.
My head is elsewhere.
Yes, I know about not being able to talk for long periods to people. A few of my friends I don’t dare to even broach the subject with. They remain stationary before me, closed off. A “don’t even go there” gaze in their eyes. Too hard for them to handle. They can only swallow so much and sometimes even less.
I have felt so alone.
THE POEMS from Jaye (now renamed GK) arrive the next day. I race back from the letterbox to the kitchen, tearing the envelope in my haste to read them. I hold the poems in one hand, the other absently stirring spicy pork on the stovetop.
Tears flood my eyes, but I brush them away, wanting to read right up until the end. How can life be so cruel, I wonder? GK wrote of, “Why do I have the impression of weight, of this nonsense called life? Where has hope and happiness gone?”
But, there is a lovely surprise waiting in my email box. A happier poem from GK titled “Recollections.” It lists his favourite childhood memories, and goes on to the memories of what he calls us. As I read an amused expression forms slowly on my face.
They bring back so many memories of my own. I can’t wait to reel them off. Send them back, but it must be done when I am alone. I know I will have to wait for the time needed.
It will come—later . . .
NATHAN AND I are watching a British whodunnit. I lose the plot. Can’t concentrate. What is going on here? GK is in my head all the time. I remember this sensation from before, but didn’t expect it to happen again. Not now. Now twenty odd years later. When I am how old, for God’s sake?
I emailed GK and told him my thoughts about being on rock bottom. How we could at most go upwards from where we both are at present. GK’s last dark poem was dated a few months earlier, so maybe he is on the up and up journey at present? But, somehow I doubt it. Not with Anne the way she is.
Nathan hits the pause button.
“Time for a pee and cheese and crackers,” he announces, hauling himself to his feet. I wish he wouldn’t. He is so overweight. “Humongous Incredibelious,” is how he refers to himself in a joking matter. But it’s no joke. It annoys me, embarrasses me at times.
One of our friends has started referring to him as “Big N,” and although it’s done in a friendly way, I hate it. Where is the man I married?
I consider my own bodily changes and GK’s. He has made mention of his own “muffin top.” But he always went on about that, I remember. Well, he should try implants and menopause!
Nathan returns with a dinner plate laden with three different chunks of cheeses and a pile of crackers. His brown wavy hair is falling over one of his large brown eyes.
“I’m really enjoying this mystery. It has a plot that keeps on twisting. Don’t you reckon?” It is set in England and the scenery, as always with these programmes, is simply stunning.
“Yes, it’s great. It has a good cast of actors as well . . .” I say and go back inside my head as we both settle back on the couch. The cracker and cheese Nathan places in my hand glues itself to the roof of my mouth. No appetite for it.
GK’s poems pop back up. He wrote of being alone, but life as I know it is a solo experience. It doesn’t matter whom I choose to share it with. When it comes to the crunch it’s you that has to deal with you.
Years ago I fell in love. That love so deep, so dangerously deep. One hundred per cent of me offered up on a plate. Not a good idea. I know that now.
The secret, I’ve discovered, is to keep back ten per cent of myself. Never give my all. A safety net, there for falling back on if the need should ever arise.
It’s a hard thing to do. Re-enforcements needed from time to time. Mental reminders.
Ten per cent of me safe from the world. From life.
AS SOON as Nathan has left for work the next day, I fire up my computer. Twenty odd years ago I bought a thunder egg expertly cut into two halves. The next time I knew I was seeing GK I had taken it with me to the Botanic Gardens and showed it to him—before giving him half. The sole other half that exactly matches my half. Has he kept it, I wonder?
I ask one other question that has been constantly in my thoughts. Anne, does she know of the emails? Does she use the same computer? I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to hurt Nathan either. He is a good man. The most grounded person I have ever known. But, at times so grounded I feel like plugging his finger into a light socket and switching him on.
Nathan knows Jaye and I are emailing, swapping poems, discussing books and films, but he doesn’t know anymore than that. He doesn’t know GK is in my head all the time. Doesn’t know I am reliving all those secret illicit hours GK and I spent together.
The Lake House springs to mind. A beautiful, romantic film about two people existing minutes outside of the same time frame. Has he seen it, I ask?
GK replies. Tells me Anne, too, is aware we are in contact—but nothing more. The fact that he writes “nothing more” tells me he too is reliving our past times together. I can sense it between his lines.
GK loved The Lake House. I plan to send him a copy.
And yes, he still has his half of the thunder egg!
GK goes on to tell me something I am totally unaware of. The affair we had together twenty odd years ago didn’t die a natural death from his perspective at all. He admitted to having a kind of mental breakdown and being unable to cope with the two co-existing lives he was living.
He chose to let me go.
He had to for his own sanity. He had been deeply in love with me at the time and it was not an easy decision to make.
I am gobsmacked. I had no idea.
I ask him again about time out from the carer’s role. I have asked him before, but he has never really answered the question. Now he does. He manages a few hours a week—his sole respite.
This is not good news. He will burn out. He could become ill himself.
I feel frustrated. I want to help. But how?
Music is the one thing in the world that keeps me sane. It is one hundred per cent reliable. Always there when I need it, in all its glorious forms, to suit or change the mood I am in.
It’s my lifeboat. My religion.
But, I know GK doesn’t have this in his life. He never did.
He suggests a phone call during one of his respite periods.
I say yes.
The Maddest Kind of Love is available
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Christine Hillingdon was born in England and migrated with her family to Adelaide, South Australia in 1963.
She has been writing since school days and received a highly commended prize for a short story in her final year of high school. Since then she has had many short stories and poems published in a variety of literary magazines on and offline. Christine has won a few competitions along the way, including Poems for Passengers. This was a joint initiative between TransAdelaide and the Department for the Arts and Cultural Development, South Australia.
In 2011 Christine self-published a book through Peacock Publications about her twenty-seven years working as a psychiatric nurse at Hillcrest Hospital, South Australia. In May 2016, her children’s book titled The Girl From Far Away was published through Gnome On Pig Productions.
Her first novel of women’s fiction, The Maddest Kind of Love, is through Driven Press.