‘The Kissing Game’ Final Chapter, Short Story Serialisation by Milly Reynolds

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Elena had a theory that whatever Pluto touched, he could potentially mask or make invisible in a birth chart. It was only a theory. Pluto’s reputation was one of transformation. She calculated that if Christopher Marlowe had been born around 2pm on the day of his birth, Pluto would have been exactly conjunct the Sun. But what did it really mean? She ran it by Mary one more time.

“So I’ve set the chart for 2.13 pm, look at this.”

Mary understood the meaning of this birth chart. “It’s him to a tea, isn’t it? The Moon rising in Leo, all that drama and creativity in his personality. And then the Sun and Pluto locked together in Pisces in the eighth house, he just had to be this shadowy, mysterious and strange individual, a spy – a man wearing a mask! It’s funny, but some say the image of Shakespeare in the First Folio looks like he’s wearing a mask.”

“And look at the well-developed Mercury, in good aspect to that Jupiter Saturn conjunction. He was a born writer too.”

Mary sat up. “Ah yes, of course, the birth and death of kings, that’s true. This conjunction is associated with that. And I would argue that Marlowe’s Edward the Second was really the first history play, very much along the same lines that Shakespeare would continue to write and develop later on.”

Elena then noticed something else. “He died on May 30 1593, didn’t we find out?”

“Yes.”

“Look, if I put in the transits for that very day, Pluto is closely conjunct his midheaven and Neptune is hovering close to his ascendant, just like it is in mine right now.”

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Elena was beginning to feel more than a twinge of excitement. “Pluto on his midheaven might mean his career was rocked to its foundations, destroyed even, but it could also mean it goes underground, to become a career in disguise. And Neptune dissolves his personality. It’s like a kind of death.”

Mary eyed her friend. “Yes, either way he disappears forever. It is all very Faustian.”

“What do you mean?”

Mary picked up the book with the picture of Marlowe in it. “Maybe his play Faustus was not only a warning us about getting mixed up with magic, it was in part autobiographical too. Maybe he’s been in some kind of limbo ever since he died, a place from where he can at least contact us through the medium of dreams.”

Limbo maybe, but Elena still couldn’t figure out the other mystery. “So are we any nearer explaining the initials on that oak tree, I wonder?”

Mary thought for a few seconds. “Not yet, but give it time.”

Elena took the pregnancy test as a precaution, she knew pretty well what the result would be: positive. Michael too had his suspicions, though neither of them had intended starting a family just yet. Although privately pleased, even with the continuing morning sickness, she kept it to herself.

So it was with mixed feelings that Elena booked a doctor’s appointment, somewhat surprised to get an appointment that same day due to a cancellation. She had been sick again that morning, several times, and didn’t feel too good while she sat in the waiting room. It concerned her that she couldn’t see her own doctor. Instead she had been given an appointment with a locum, Dr Kim Parris. At least it was a woman, she much preferred to see female doctors.

Half an hour later, she was still waiting, the appointments evidently running quite late. Elena was wondering whether she should go to the toilet, when the light on the screen flashed. It was her turn. Taking a deep breath, she stood up and walked briskly to the surgery door, ignoring the slight sickness she was feeling once more in her stomach. She knocked on the door.

“Come!”

Some women had rather deep voices, she figured. She opened the door to find no one.

“Please, sit you down,” came a voice from behind a white screen.

“Thank you.”

Doctor Parris emerged. He was putting on a jacket, his hair swept back. He was clean shaven and smirking. Elena blinked a few times during those few seconds. They seemed to be gilded with a semblance of eternity.

“Elena, what a lovely name,” he said, sitting down in front of her. “That’s Italian for Helen, isn’t it?”

ends

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020

‘The Kissing Game’ Chapter 9, Short Story Serialisation, by Milly Reynolds

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Elena had taken herself off to the spare room, the very room where Michael had said she had sleep walked in to the previous night. One thirty and she still wasn’t asleep, she was simply too apprehensive, too much going on in her head. Once more she lay back and opened another book she’d borrowed from Mary. She came across a reference to the fact that most children were baptised within two or three days of birth, at least until more recent times. This was because of the much higher rates of child mortality. It made her think. With that thought in her mind, she lay the book down and closed her eyes. 

The room was dark, quite small. Long curtains were closed, just a peep of light came through a gap. Outside there were distant voices, so she opened the curtain a touch to see. It was the canal or river she had seen before, though there was less activity this time, as if it might be evening. As she turned away, she noticed a mirror with an ornate frame on the right wall. Keeping the curtains open, she looked at it. Elena had the clearest blue eyes, a smooth, ivory complexion. She brought a hand to her face, touching the soft flesh.

“I am… quite beautiful,” she whispered.

She recognised the room, the bed in the corner where someone was lying. Walking up to the bed, she recognised him, though he made no move, as if he was asleep. She peered more closely; then he opened his eyes, slightly.

“Elena,” he croaked, weakly, “you have destroyed me.”

She stepped back as he reached out, trying to touch her. “What’s the matter with you? Is it something I’ve done?”

“Elena, you have destroyed me.”

She felt a sudden unease. “What have I done?”

He tried to smile, though it seemed to be difficult. There was pain written all over his face, emotional as well as physical discomfort.

“Just… tell me who you are.”

His hand fell limply by his side, a weak gaze remaining fixed on her where she stood. 

“Don’t go!”

Kneeling down she put a hand in front of his face. There was no breath. She checked the pulse on his wrist: nothing. His candle had burned out. Elena closed his eyes, reached forward and kissed his cheek. Then she sat on the chair next to the bed. Tears began to well up in her eyes, though she wasn’t sure why. Did she know this man? And if so, how?

“I want to come out of this dream now,” she said out loud, wiping her eyes. Yet she remained in the room, apparently present in some time which may have been four hundred years ago. She began to feel queasy, quite strange in fact. So she stood, but had to sit down again, feeling quite faint. She bent down on all fours and was sick into the empty chamber pot by the bed. There was no cloth or tissue to use, so she wiped her mouth on the bed sheet. Suddenly without the strength to get up, she lay on the floor, closing her eyes.

Elena felt the gentle stroking of her hair. Opening her eyes, Michael’s concerned face was examining her own.

“It was quite a shock to find you lying here.”

“Where am I?”

“The toilet, I see you’ve been sick. Something you ate last night, was it?”

“No,” she said, faintly, “I don’t think so. What time is it?”

“Six o’clock. Have you been like this before, recently?”

Elena thought for a few seconds. “A little yes. I thought it was the lack of sleep.”

Their eyes met, instinctively, though neither dare ask that most pertinent question. Michael helped her to her feet and led her back to bed.

“Get some sleep, I’ll take the day off, it won’t matter.”

“I’m not sure I want any sleep.”

“Hm, because of him? This strange kisser fellow?”

“Maybe,” she said, laying down her head, “though I get the feeling that I won’t be seeing much more of him in my dreams.” 

“I like the sound of that. I’ll get you some water.”

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020

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‘The Kissing Game’ Chapter 8, Short Story Serialisation, by Milly Reynolds

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The following morning found Elena knocking at Mary Allen’s door. Her neighbour could see that something was amiss.

“This is getting seriously weird.” Mary brought through a Royal Albert pot of tea and two matching cups and saucers, placing them clumsily on the coffee table in front of the sofa. “Early Grey, Elena, things always go better with Earl Grey.”

Elena wasn’t much in the mood for small talk, she just wanted answers. “What do you think he meant by saying that I feed him?”

Mary flopped down beside her, with a whiff of Chanel 19. “It’s love, isn’t it?”

“Love? But how can it be love?”

Mary poured a little milk into each cup. “I don’t know how, but it is. Love is blind, they say. Never experienced it myself.”

“The problem is that each dream is getting longer, clearer, more real somehow. He even spoke to me, properly this time from his lips, though there weren’t many words. Michael thinks I’m working too hard, but I’m not. I haven’t been able to work for days, I felt quite ill this morning. And I’m getting worried now.”

“About falling to sleep?”

Elena nodded, watching Mary fill up her cup to near the top. “If only I knew who he was, why doesn’t he come out and tell me.”

Mary sat back in the sofa and sighed. “Have you looked at yourself in a mirror in these dreams?”

“I’ve not come across one yet, though I know my hair is a bit lighter than my own, virtually blonde in fact.”

“Then those initials carved in the oak tree, PH, you said?”

“Yes.”

“The P could be you, if he sees you as Persephone and the H is Hades. Unless we’re talking about two historical figures.”

“Like who?”

“It would be a shot in the dark but I’ll give it a go.”

“You mean, find out all the men in the past whose Christian names begin with H? That would be a very long shot.”

“Not all history, Dear. From what you describe he lived somewhere between 1490 and, say, 1600. And there’s already something bugging me about all this.”

“Bugging you!” Elena reached for her cup of tea.

“Yes, I can’t quite put my finger on it, from what you described about him and that initial H… the number twenty three. I don’t know. We’ll go through to my library in a minute, I should’ve been onto this days ago.”

Mary Allen’s library, in fact her spare room, was an eclectic collection of books, old and new, mainly historical, though there was plenty of biography and fiction too. Elena sat down on the wooden chair and watched her friend peruse the massive selection of titles.

“Maybe we should just stick to the internet,” Elena said, eyeing the grey sky out of the window.

“No, no, Dear. Books are far better, especially my books.”

Elena noticed that Mary was drawn particularly to the Shakespeare section, which included a copy of the First Folio.

“Shakespeare, Mary?”

“Hm. You know when I said this fellow’s odd behaviour reminded me of Hamlet’s ghost?”

“Yes.” Elena noticed a book that had Pluto in the title, one of Mary’s astrological books. She stood up and pulled it out of the bookcase. “Can I have a look at this?”

“Of course, Dear, jump in. We need to get to the bottom of this.”

Elena recalled that some astrologers talked about Pluto’s mask, from the myth of Hades, who was said to wear a mask which could make him invisible. “Maybe this isn’t all about Neptune and the Moon after all, like we suspected.”

Mary turned to face her, peering over her reading glasses. “Go on.”

Elena held up the book about Pluto. “Perhaps it’s all about drastic change and masks and hidden things.”

“What makes you say this?”

“It might be a hunch but think we can narrow down the search to someone in history born on February 23. I just know that number means something.”

“You may be right, Dear. Let’s get to it then.”

An hour later, after much intensive searching on the internet and through Mary’s book collection, they had found nothing of apparent significance.

“It’s looking as though I’m going to have to wait until tonight to find out more.”

Mary knelt down beside her, putting a consoling hand on hers. “It is all rather exciting though, isn’t it? I know it’s easy for me to say, but you really can’t beat a good mystery.”

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020