The Voice of an Angel
I can still recall the first proper conversation I had with Amanda. We had spoken from time to time in the context of our class. These exchanges had not gone beyond a simple greeting or conveying a message. Though they were memorable to me, I doubted she attached the same import to them as I had done.
It was early October in our Lower Sixth at College and a geography field trip had been organised. It was physical geography much of which concerned the effects of glaciation. The impact of a huge body of ice on its environment. ( Eerily prescient don’t you think?) I found the study of over-deepened glacial troughs, lateral moraines, aretes and striations interesting although I always preferred human geography. I have always found the human element holds a fascination for me.
I sat on the coach with my group of friends and watched as Amanda boarded. She wore a bright yellow ski jacket (for back then wearing such jackets was regarded as the height of fashion) and held her bobble hat in her hand. I could see the straps of a backpack across her jacket and as she walked along the aisle of the coach, she caught my gaze and smiled at me. Those wonderful lips, fresh and devoid of the masking make-up that I would come to taste on other women as I grew older, curled upwards as she smiled for me. I was entranced by the widening of that mouth and the white teeth that were exposed and it was all I could do to break my reverie to return that smile. The chattering of my friends drifted away and just became background noise as I felt that strange warmth wash over me.
Later that day I was engrossed in taking measurements on the limestone pavement that formed part of our study on this field trip. The large incised surface of exposed limestone spread in all directions atop the hill. The sky was a mixture of blue sky and the encroaching grey of the clouds which threatened to lower and encompass us in their foggy embrace. It was dry and cold, a slight icy breeze brushing across my face, but I did not mind as I concentrated on my work.
“This is where they sat together,” said a voice. I knew in an instant who it was. Amanda did not speak with the local accent. It was something that I was drawn to because neither did I. Even now, nobody is able to place where in this country I hail from. The well-spoken neutrality we both shared was not something that lacked colour or depth but rather elevated us above the adenoidal whine and the blunted vowels of our peers. Some regarded us as posh, but that was incorrect, for neither of us could be said to come from such stock as the upper class. I only knew that I loved that voice. It was clear and precise, yet with warmth that made me want to listen to every word, to each syllable and picture them forming in the air as they floated across to enter gently my ears.
I stopped my work and turned to see Amanda as she walked towards me, hopping over a gap in the rock formation.
“Yes I know,” I answered and gave a small smile.
“You know?” she said as she dropped down and sat next to where I was stooped, her long athletic legs dangling over the edge of the limestone pavement. I could not help but let my eyes look over her legs, clad in tight leggings, from booted ankle up to the hem of her long jacket. Slender and enticing lines.
“Yes, I do,” I replied as I set down my clipboard and pen and sat beside her, mirroring her position. She looked at me for a moment as if scrutinising me, her eyes rounded and enquiring. I said nothing, waiting for her next words as I held her gaze. How I wanted to lean in and kiss her, feel the warmth of her lips against mine, such a contrast with the ice-tinged day around us.
“Who sat together her then?” she asked with a sweep of her arm. She removed her gaze from mine as she looked out over the valley beyond, away from where we sat.
“Catherine and Heathcliff,” I answered.
“Very good,” she trilled and clapped her hands together in delight. She kicked her feet forward and let them fall back, booted heels drumming against the smoothed stone on which we sat. Her delight at my answer was akin to that of a child, yet I did not think of her as immature, but rather her naked enjoyment of my answer not only delighted me but made me feel closer to her.
“I love Wuthering Heights, it is one of my favourite books,” she explained.
“It is one of mine too,” I admitted.
“Really?” she looked back at me. The question was not accusing but rather one of pleased disbelief that I liked the same novel as her.
“Yes,” I affirmed, “I am studying it in English Literature but I had read it before anyway.”
“I wish I had chosen to do English Literature,” she admitted, “but there are only so many subjects you can do.”
I nodded in agreement.
“They sat here enveloped in one another, just the two of them as if the rest of the world no longer matter or indeed ever mattered. I would love to be so entangled with someone like they were, part of one another. It is so romantic, so beautiful,” she continued. I listened relishing every word that came from that wonderful mouth. Dare I admit I felt the same way? Dare I even suggest I thought this about her?
“You know, it was when Cathy and Heathcliff were here on this limestone pavement that Heathcliff said one of my favourite parts of the book.”
“I think I know which one but I would like to hear you say it,” I replied and then felt that I had sounded too keen and gushing. She looked back at me and gave me that smile again.
” Close your eyes,” she said and I knew immediately the part that she was reciting. It was what Heathcliff had said to Cathy. I sat waiting for the next line, but instead she nudged me with her elbow.
“Go on, HG, close your eyes.” she urged. I felt a surge inside as she said my name and I immediately obliged, shutting my eyes and waiting until she spoke once more.
“Close your eyes, if when you open your eyes the day is sunny and bright so shall your future be, but if the day is full of storm, so shall your life.”
I waited as she fell silent. My skin tingled and I felt so alive as I was the subject of her words.
“Now, open your eyes.”
I obeyed and her beautiful face filled my vision. She was sat smiling at me as the dark grey clouds loomed behind her, menacing and ominous.
“What is your favourite part? It has to be from here though, from this place,” she pressed interrupting my thoughts of her angelic face and the darkness that surrounded her. I paused for a moment as I reflected and looked to the side. The words rose into my thoughts as I turned back to her. She was waiting, hanging on what I was about to say. I had her entire attention. She was focussed on me. Just me. I cleared my throat and began to speak, I spoke the words slowly and deliberately.
” I pray one prayer, I repeat it till my tongue stiffens. Catherine Earnshaw may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you. Haunt me then. I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always – take any form, drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you.”
My words faded and she just looked at me. The smile was gone and instead a look of awe was etched on her face. I realised that her hand had taken my hand and she had done this part way through when I was speaking. She squeezed it and then let go, standing and moving away. I watched her depart as she looked over her shoulder at me and smiled that smile once again, just for me.
23 thoughts on “The Voice of an Angel”
I walked from Haworth to Stanbury once, and was very disappointed to find that “Peniston Crag” was not some lofty peak, but a bunch of black rocks where people walked their dogs.
Where was this limestone area?
I don’t remember the closing eyes part–was that from one of the movies?
I liked the Robert Kavanagh-Orla Brady one. The Olivier-Oberon one tried too hard to be romantic and to ignore the fact that the characters are drawn together because they’re both fucked up.
A line from a poem by Lamartine comes to mind:
“Un seul être vous manque, et tout est dépeuplé.”
I loved reading this text, HG. Again, I could “see” the scene; this is called talent (yours), because it doesn’t happen with just any writer whose texts I read.
This prayer I prayed shortly before my 25th birthday; his first name started with a C, too:
“May you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you. Haunt me then. I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always – take any form, drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you.”
I dare say this prayer was answered.
One of our common acquaintances said I had killed him – that he had died because of me – as he had travelled to the country where I was living to visit me, and that is where he died in an accident.
For a long time afterward I had a recurring dream, in which I would dive – there was water, for some reason – into his grave to bring him back up to the surface of the Earth, alive, and then take his place in the grave.
He haunted me for over twenty years, until last year, when I met Narc-ex, who reminded me of him at first.
Aaahh, the beautiful and elusive, ethereal and alluring, Amanda.
Blonde hair, slender, athletic figure, graceful moves..
..the unforgettable voice..
I think it is best to be the “Amanda” for your kind.. The longing, the belief of perfection, without ever experiencing devaluation, and remaining just out of your grasp…
Yet for you, she is forever yours. Correct?
Perhaps you are correct, perhaps this is some form of love..
Did you devalue those early “loves” too? Wasn’t there Becky (I may have forgotten her name) the little girl who looked at you so admiringly and held your hand?
They have all failed, therefore they were all devalued.
You know it’s funny, I feel like I have learned quite a lot from your teachings and feel sufficiently ‘armed’ at this point with everything you have given us. And yet I find myself coming back and peeking in, less for the knowledge now and more for the writing itself. You do have quite a way with words, HG. I would say you should write some fiction, but how do I know you haven’t already? Perhaps some day I will stumble upon your true identity when I find a match to your writing style. If I do though, I promise not to tell. 😉
Ha ha thank you
When I first heard your voice, it reminded me of Reginald Gardiner, an actor in the 40’s , “Christmas In Connecticut “ with Barbara Stanwyck, he played the part of John Sloan who she was going to marry. I love old movies! He was born in Wimbledon, England. Your voice was deeper and more formal than I was -expecting?, of course now it’s just you!
“… her beautiful face filled my vision..,as the dark gray clouds loomed behind her, menacing and ominous.” And that the sky foretold your future, and that she didn’t know how mesmerized you were with her. She came to you because of your gaze on the bus, you could have been hers, she reached out to you, she touched you, why didn’t you? You just let her walk away.
HG, the world needs great fiction, even if it’s based on real life. Writing novels should be your priority over whatever else you do for a living.
If you all buy more of my books then I will turn to writing full time.
A book publisher would probably pay you a six-figure advance on a book, with the number of followers you have. That would mean writing fiction under your HG name though. I’m putting in a request for editing typos when you do fiction, btw.
Reciting Heathcliffs Prayer off the top of your head while sitting on Limestone Pavement would be something that would stay etched into a teenage girls’ memory forever. It seems unlikely that she would just leave town with her parents after a display like that without having anybody know where she went. I’m not sure how embellished this story is, but it’s a beautiful piece and I did enjoy reading about the one that got away, so to speak.
This reminds me of when I met my daughter’s dad. We had both gone back to school as adults and I sat next to him on the very first day.
I remember scanning the room to pick my seat and I thought to myself “he looks safe”. I have a tendency to meet “awesome” people in school and get distracted from my studies and this time I was determined to stay on track. So much for that plan.
I’m a bit of a chemistry nerd and he needed help so I offered to tutor him. He called me the cuter tutor. As I was balancing out chemical equations on the board I turned back and looked at him and he just had this awestruck look on his face. We became inseparable and 2 months later he told me he was in love with me and was leaving his wife. Which was shocking because he always talked so highly about his wife. I told him we shouldn’t see each other anymore and he broke down and cried and told me his marriage was a lie. I never saw anyone go through a divorce so fast, like within weeks. 6 months later I was pregnant.
After that it was a slow decline and we finally ended it after 5 years. I thought he was the LOVE OF MY LIFE. Two people were never more wrong for each other. We had nothing in common. I would tell my friends that it felt like he was stealing my energy. Of course no one had a clue what I was talking about but deep down I knew it wasn’t right.
Now I am single and have so much energy and little to no stress. In that relationship, I was drained and depressed and in physical pain . I had tried so many diets, supplements, antidepressants and blood tests to try to figure out what was wrong with my health. Maybe it’s a thyroid problem, maybe I shouldn’t eat bread. Constantly trying to fix something internally when the problem was clearly external is exhausting. We went to therapy once near the end and he refused to go back a second time because he said “if we go back there we will definitely break up.” I think he knew the psychologist could see what the real problem was. Now I’m 20 pounds lighter and I eat whatever I want and feel great. I don’t need their fuel but I need to protect them from mine.
I found this to be quite beautiful and innocent HG. There is a part of this that reads as if you are given hope, a hope of love and attention that you were always denied. This one touched me and drew me in just as that first piece I read did almost four years ago. You are a very gifted and talented writer, thank you for sharing your work with us.
You got her hg…checkmate!
There were feelings in there it would seem.. Are there no variances in how fuel feels? Is it all just powerful or not powerful? What is the warm feeling you are describing? I. Need. To. Know.
If I didn’t know better it seems to suggest that empaths allow you a glimpse of the good feelings but only for a temporary time.
Somehow HG, your story reminds of Lolita – Humbert who looks at every adolescent girl for his long lost love Annabel. Dare I say this is a bit profaning comparison but intimately the point is the same- longing for the first love.
Withering Heights is a masterpiece, no doubt!
Hmm, you remind me somehow of J.D. Salinger – not a role model ( his private life) but such a dept, such a brilliancy in his novels.
“Even now, nobody is able to place where in this country I hail from.”
My guess is from within the confines of the Manchester A to Z.
The first sentence remains correct.
Am I close? 🙂
I have spent a little time there but it is not where I am from.
Your accent is close to Manchester I think.. when I hear your voice the famous person who most closely reflects your accent is Steve Coogan, but you sound more refined! The way a northerner says ‘bath’ gives it away; the way you say ’empath’ is what has me thinking you were definitely bought up in the North. I won’t dig further, I feel I’m too close to guessing but I reckon you wouldn’t say bingo if I guessed right anyway!?!
I have lived all over and my accent is not close to Manchester.
Blimey, that’s a blast from the past…..the A to Zs!! They are probably still going in some form or another, but I’ve not seen one for years!!!