by Andrew Lee-Hart
I plan my campaigns meticulously; check my horoscope each morning, chart the movement of birds, examine the entrails of the animals that I sacrifice on my altar, and pray to the to the gods of chance and luck to aid me during the day, and then if only the signs are auspicious do I set out upon my work.
But even then demons trick me, devils interfere in my affairs; in disguise they lead me astray and mock me when I fall.
There was an email from my sister waiting for me when I checked my computer first thing in the morning. Lesley is a mystic and writes horoscopes for numerous magazines and for the wealthy, and thus is famous in her way and almost as rich as many of her clients. She often emails or telephones me if something particularly good or bad has been revealed about me and has been doing so since I left home over ten years ago now.
Hi Andrew, looking at your horoscope this evening, unfortunately you will not have a good day. Please dont do anything stupid; maybe stay in if you can and dont go into the University. Certainly try not to talk to anybody new or go far from home.
When she had sent me similar warnings in the past I had telephoned the Classics Department to tell them that I would be working from home or that I was unwell, but that day I was due to give a lecture on Doric Temples followed by two tutorials, and after a speaking to by Professor Griffiths about my tardiness and frequent absences the previous week, I knew that I would have to go in. I tried to prepare myself as best I could; drinking herbal tea and meditating and vowed to think before I acted and generally not do anything stupid or unnecessary. Anyway what was the point of staying in when bad things could happen just as easily at home as in work?
My sisters warnings often left me feeling low and gloomy all day, even if nothing particularly bad happened. The problem was that I could not explain what I was going through to my colleagues or friends, as I knew from past experience that they would look bemused or think I was becoming a bit strange.
You mean you actually believe that stuff? a friend from University once said to me, when I explained why I was staying in my rooms all day.
There is a lot in it; my late mother was a medium and now my sister is, and a lot of what they predict has come true.
Oh, it is difficult to explain.
And my friend shook his head with incredulity and left me to my worries, and to gossip about me to my fellow undergraduates.
The lecture went well. I actually enjoy lecturing, certainly more than the majority of my colleagues who view it as an unfortunate distraction when they could be doing be more important things such as research or gardening. My predecessor in the Classics department, Doctor Gregson, had even been known to pay a postgraduate to do his lectures for him. Perhaps I like an audience and enjoy these young students (actually less than ten years younger than me, and some my age or older) looking up at me for inspiration. I feel like some priest from one of the Greek temples, all eyes upon me as I dispense the Holy Mysteries.
After lunch I had my two tutorials. During the first one, which was with my first year group, I noticed one of the students in particular. It was only the end of October, so I did not know my first-year students particularly well, but even so I was sure I had not seen her before; she was too attractive and striking for me not to have noticed her. She was called Pam and was taller and more smartly dressed than the other four students sat facing me in my overcrowded office, and her eyes never left me as I talked or listened to the other undergraduates. She looked quite tough as well, as if she regularly went to the gym or did boxing and I imagined that she could handle herself in a fight. She did not speak much during the tutorial but when she did, she spoke clearly and well, although with the slightest of Yorkshire accents, so she was probably from one of the posher parts of Leeds.
When the other students had left, and as I hoped, she stayed behind to talk to me. By this stage I had forgotten my sisters warning and felt happy as this young woman, with copious red hair sat close to me, her ever-active hands occasionally brushing my knee or hands.
I am sorry I missed your two tutorials she told me, maintaining eye contact. I tried to think of Gillian, my lover who teaches down in Brighton and who I rarely saw, but the memory of her could not compete with this vivacious woman who was so close to me.
It is okay.
I was only accepted at the last minute and then I had to get my finances sorted out .
We shared a smile at the ridiculousness of money and other such trivial things. And then I promised to give her some notes to help her catch up. We talked for an hour and I made her a couple of cups of coffee whilst we talked until the knocking on my door reminded me of my second tutorial and she gave me a quick hug before leaving. As I discussed the Greek Temples in Sicily with my second years, I could still feel the warmth of Pams breasts pushed hard against my chest.
My phone was ringing when I got home; it was Gillian, my lover.
I was worried about you all day she told me, I dont know why, but I kept feeling anxious, and you always say not to ignore such feelings.
Hello Gillian, nothing to worry about except that I have missed you.
Gillian was the only person I knew who took the supernatural seriously; she would listen to my sister for hours and would have her cards read, and allow my sister to do her horoscope, which is presumably why Lesley liked her so much, the only one of my friends or lovers that she had ever approved of.
After speaking to Gillian for an hour and arranging to travel down soon to see her for a dirty weekend Lesley then rang.
I was worried. How was your day? Did you stay home? I have been ringing on and off, why didnt you answer?
It was fine, I told her, perfectly fine. A good day in fact.
But the auguries; I didnt want to worry you, but the signs were all there, and they were ominous. Tell me what happened today, everything.
I went through my day but without mentioning Pam as I had a feeling that she would disapprove, particularly as she liked Gillian so much.
You see, nothing to worry about, I told her.
But there must have been something more, I can feel it.
By the time I was able to get away from the telephone and make and then eat my dinner, it was late and I felt rather picked on by both these women in my life, but then I thought of Pam and the feel of her body against mine and I felt less anxious and I wondered when I would see her again.
Fancy that we are here Pam said, her breasts glowing a light red in the sun from the window above our heads, fancy that I am lying here with you; a poor Yorkshire girl, naked with an Oxford Graduate.
And then she laughed uproariously before heading to the toilet, giving me a chance to admire her bare bottom as she walked across the room. And yet when I had got up that morning, Lesley had sent me yet another email warning me about the day ahead and warning me not to take any risks, but to stay safe and get home as quickly as possible, instead I had spent the afternoon in bed with Pam.
How did you know I went to Oxford I asked her once she jumped back in bed.
She kissed me on the lips, oh I have been doing my research; I like to know what I am getting into.
And then she kissed me again and held me down fiercely so that I had no choice but to succumb.
Sitting on the hill at Delphi I wondered what the Oracle meant; the words so unclear and strange. My lover faraway waiting for my return from all the battles I had fought. But I knew that I would never return to her, she was too faraway, and there were so many temptations that I could not help but be seduced.
I only stayed only a couple of hours in Brighton. I did not want to be a churl and tell Gillian that I was leaving her by letter, email or god forbid text. So I told her as we walked along the seafront. There was a cold wind blowing and she huddled close to me to keep warm. Even after I told her the news, she continued to cling onto my arm so that it took all my composure not to hug her and to change my mind.
But I have been waiting for you Gillian told me; suitors have come for me, but I have held them all off, stayed true to you.
We continued to walk along the front, in a town I had never liked, her hand lying gently on my arm. And then she stopped and hugged me and walked away, and I could tell that she was crying. After a moment I looked back, and she was standing a few feet away from me, gazing out to sea, waiting for her hero to return and rescue her.
You are only twenty I said to Pam, after we compared birthdates.
How old did you think I was? Younger I hope.
Well no, about my age. I thought you were a mature student.
You are only twenty-nine, there isnt much of a gap. I took a year out before University, travelled in the Far East. Does it really matter? My parents have a twelve-year age gap.
No I suppose not. Just thought you were a bit older, thats all.
Anyway I have been through a lot; left home when I was young. Lived with my boyfriend when I was seventeen, until he disappeared.
Oh it was nothing, I woke up one morning and he had scarpered. The police came round and asked me a few questions, it was just his stupid mother who thought that I had done away with him. I discovered that he was having an affair, so presumably he ran away with her; he was an impulsive man, and he liked his practical jokes. The point is I am older and more mature than these silly students you have to deal with, who live in one of the Home Counties with their rich parents and their riding lessons.
Oh my love, I could devour you, every bit of you.
Does your sister not like me?
It was nearly the end of the Autumn term and we had travelled up to London to see Lesley, it was our first night and we were lying together in her spare room, whispering whilst my sister muttered to herself in the front room.
Perhaps she is just being protective of her younger brother.
I dont know about that, but she clearly does not like me.
My sister had a large flat in Highgate, I could not begin to imagine how much it cost her, but there were lots of actors and sports people who were willing to pay a great deal of money for her services.
On our arrival Lesley had looked Pam up and down and smiled in an ironic way.
So this is your student? she said to me and led us in.
I am not sure where you will sleep, are you okay on the couch? was the first thing she said to her.
She will sleep with me I told her and gave her a look, but then looked away as I had always been intimidated by my older sister.
On Friday and Saturday evening my sister and I did charts; tracking stars and comparing horoscopes, whilst Pam watched television or read. And then Lesley would get out her cards and work out my future, which did not seem to involve Pam for some reason.
I can read your cards if you like my sister said to Pam on our last night, you might find it revealing.
No thanks she replied and turned a page in her book.
It is not scary she told her.
Pam looked at her, no, I realise that, but it is nonsense. I used to read my horoscope when I was a schoolgirl, but I have grown out of it now.
My sister looked at me and when she saw that I was not going to admonish my lover, she slowly gathered the cards and her papers together and stormed into her bedroom, and then came the sound of some South American music playing rather louder than it should have been.
As the panpipes squeaked around us, I looked at Pam aghast, but she looked back at me with an amused look on her face, and then she laughed and laughed, and I could not help but join in. And then we retired to our room and made love, Pam being even noisier and more passionate than usual. For a moment I shared in the mockery of my sister and her clairvoyance, but it was part of me too, something I had been brought up with, and I could not help but worry that something very bad would happen as a result of it, and that Pam was mocking something that she did not understand.
I did feel sorry for Lesley; ever since our mother had died when I was still at school, she had looked after me and protected me, our father long disappeared. I often wondered if the reason she was single was because she had been too busy looking after me to have a romance. But I had been self-sufficient for awhile, with a good job and my own house and she did still treat me like a child. Perhaps she did need to let me go for both our sakes and that Pam would help both of us to break free.
Oh stop kvetching Pam told me.
You. Moan, moan. We are doomed. Oh what will my sister say. Oh the stars arent right.
You cow I said, feeling very angry, all of a sudden, you dont understand any of it, and my sister is kind and caring, which is more than you are.
Suddenly Pam shoved me hard, so that I stumbled and then fell to the floor.
I am not a cow, but you are a fucking idiot.
As I lay there, momentarily helpless on the wooden floor she aimed a couples of kicks at my chest which probably hurt more than she intended them to, and then she glowered at me before grabbing her bag and leaving the house, slamming the door behind her. Whilst in pain my main emotion was shock that Pam had said fuck, as I had never heard her swear before.
As if by magic my sister rang that evening. My chest was still hurting where Pam had kicked me and she had not returned.
So how is your student?
You mean Pam. She is fine. Just out at the moment.
Are you sure? I sense something more.
I did not answer.
I did warn you.
We had an argument thats all. Everyone does.
You are lucky if she has gone. Now whatever you do dont let her back in your life. There are devils everywhere, and whatever you do you have to avoid them. I did not want to say anything as I could tell you were smitten but her aura was awful; all black and empty. She was leeching on you. And then .
I sighed and put the phone down on her midsentence.
Pam wasnt in my tutorial the following week, in her place was a young man called Ryan who lounged at the back, looking a little bored.
Some older chick asked me to swap with her he told me at the end of the hour.
I nodded; I had been nervous about seeing Pam again; wondered how I would get through the tutorial, but on the other hand I felt disappointed that she was not there and wondered if this was really the end. It all seemed a bit of an anti-climax.
Over the next few weeks I realised how lonely I was. I had no friends to talk about this with; there were people at the university I knew, but nobody that close and of course I should not have been having a relationship with one of my students anyway, so I could not tell any of my colleagues.
I wondered why I had so few friends. I had met Gillian during our first term at Oxford and we had stayed together throughout our time there, and thus tended to make friends as a couple; but perhaps they were more Gillians friends than mine, and certainly she was more in touch with them than I was and I suspected that now we had split up they would want nothing more to do with me. The only person who I was particularly close to and who I trusted was my sister, and she was the last person I wanted to talk to about Pam, as she would tell me that she had told me so, and would talk about her aura and how lucky I was to escape from her clutches.
Sometimes I saw Pam about the University; just a glimpse of her drinking tea in the Student cafe, waiting for a lecture to begin or in the library printing something off. She never looked at me or seemed to notice me, but my heart felt sore when I saw her and I would hurry away. I knew that I shouldnt see her, that I was doing the right thing by not renewing contact and that she clearly did not miss me, but despite all that was wrong with our relationship I missed her. During those weeks I lectured, took tutorials, and once home concentrated on an article I was writing for Classical Studies Journal, but thoughts of her were never far away.
One Sunday afternoon I was looking at an Alma Tadema painting in Leeds City Art Gallery; one of his classical fantasies, A Game of Chance in which three scantily clad young women were engaged in some kind of game with dice and a board. And then I realised that Pam was standing next to me.
Why are you following me? She asked.
I am not I responded, surprised, I often come here.
And at the University.
Well I do work there. And we are in the same department.
Even so .it is a bit creepy.
We stood there for a moment; I could smell her perfume, something expensive and erotic, and for a brief moment I wondered if it was she who had followed me, but her look of her displeasure and anger convinced me that this could not be true.
Why did you leave? I asked her.
You made it quite obvious that you prefer your sister to me. When I am with someone they are the most important thing in my life; family, old friends do not matter.
I am sorry that you dont get on with Lesley, but she is all I have got, when my mother died there was nobody else.
You have me now, or you did have.
And with that she pushed past me and out of the gallery, leaving me standing confused and anxious.
I stood on a cold and windy railway station trying to keep warm in the only shelter there was on the platform; it was ten oclock in the evening in February, my train was not due for another twenty minutes and I was shivering with cold, despite my Plymouth Argyle scarf and my woolly hat. I had been to a concert in a church in the outskirts of the city, and as my car had a nasty habit of freezing up in cold weather, I had decided to get the train instead. A young woman came onto the platform. She had pink hair and was wearing a leather jacket and a skirt to just above her knees.
I moved over to let her into the shelter. She smiled at me.
You look even colder than me I suggested.
I thought I would be getting a lift home, but the dickhead was drunk and stoned, and there was no way I would get into a car with him.
She huddled into herself.
Shall we cuddle to keep warm? She asked after a moment, and before I had chance to reply she was standing in my arms, her face soft and fragile against my chest. Her hair tickled my nose and I stroked her back, my fingers rubbing against the leather of her jacket, and she cuddled in closer.
Thank you she murmured.
I would have liked to have stayed like that forever; the young woman in my arms, warm and trusting, and for the first time in a long time I felt loved; it did not matter that I did not know the girl or that she was just using me to keep warm, I felt happy. All too soon the train pulled in and we slowly pulled apart and then sat opposite each other on the train as we headed into the city centre. She said nothing, just stared out of the window at the dark and her reflection.
As we left the train she kissed me lightly on the cheek.
Thanks for the cuddle and she was gone, her kiss still cold against my skin. I wondered where she lived; was she a student or perhaps a young woman with a job in the city. There was something disturbing about someone who was so trusting and open. Perhaps she had been brought up by a very kind and loving family and maybe that would be a charm against all those who tried to exploit her, I hoped so.
I rang Pam when I got home; I was feeling desperately lonely all of a sudden and wanted to tell her about the woman on the platform, but instead I told her that I missed her and wanted her back, and I apologised for all that I had done wrong.
Did you ask your sisters permission to call me?
No, Of course not. I am sorry.
Well if you want me to come back to you, you need to spend less time with her, she just makes you unhappy and is a bad influence on you.
I agreed, after all I was desperate to see her and perhaps she was right. Pam was round at my house within an hour, and I took her into my arms and then into my bed.
I did not cut my sister off entirely, but I rarely called her, and when she rang me I found an excuse to cut short the call.
I feel that I am losing you Lesley told me.
And whose fault is that? I asked.
She did not answer and so I put the telephone down, although in fact it was both their faults. Lesley had been rude and made no effort to mend the breach, but then if Pam knew I had been speaking to my family she would sulk and speak angrily about my sister who had brainwashed me and filled me with all that horoscope crap. It got so I would only ring my sister when I knew Pam had a lecture and dreaded it when the telephone rang, when Pam was in the house, in case it was her.
Pam had been watching whilst I spoke to my sister and silently applauded when I put the phone down so quickly, and I was glad to have made her happy. She was clearly struggling with college at the moment and would stay up late, sitting at my kitchen table attempting to write an essays, or trying to make sense of her notes.
I can help I would say.
No you cant, what would the university say? and she would weep and I would sit down next to her and later, when I joined her in bed she would kiss me hard and thank me.
I dont deserve you.
I was called in to see Professor Griffiths, who was sitting in his office looking serious.
There has been an allegation that you are having an inappropriate relationship with one of your students, he looked down at his desk, a Mrs Pamela Turner.
I started to say something, but he cut me off.
I dont really care to be honest; you are both adults, and in all honesty I cannot see any harm in it . this is off the record of course . but you do need to be careful, not everybody sees it the way that I do.
We looked at each other.
I am careful I told him, and I suspect it is malicious.
That is what I thought.
We talked about a few work-related things and then I stood up to leave.
Just be careful he reiterated, if I hear anything else I would have to do something and report it. And it if goes to Human Resources, then they will certainly take it seriously and you would be suspended and God knows what else. You are doing very well now, and are beginning to fit in, please dont mess it up.
It is your fucking sister Pam shouted at me in a rage, the fucking bitch. I stood back as I could feel the solid anger emanating from her, she has always been annoying but now she has done this. Now do you see how evil she really is?
But she denies it, and I actually believe her, I know when she is lying and I dont think she is. Anybody could have seen us; we are often out together in Leeds.
You rang her, after she did this? You need to stop siding with your bitch of a sister. Of course it is her. And she pushed me hard so that I stumbled against the table.
And Dont You Ever Dare Talk to Her Again. Not if you want me as your girlfriend.
Are you married? I asked a moment later.
Dont change the subject she shouted, my past is none of your business.
And she looked so threatening that I did not dare say anything more, although there was so much about her that I did not know about: Where were her parents? Who was the boyfriend who had just disappeared and now there was a husband? I shrugged and did my best to placate her, not wanting another fight which I would inevitably lose.
Hello again. Pam and I were queueing outside the cinema and there was the girl from the railway station.
Oh hello. Are you on your own? I asked her.
No, I am waiting for a friend.
Not the drunk who let you down?
No, just a friend from work. And she stood with us while she waited for her companion. Pam chatted with her in a friendly way. Her colleague arrived a few minutes later, apologising for being late, and then she gave us both a smile and went into the cinema ahead of us.
Who was that woman?
Oh, someone I met once
For some reason I did not want to tell her about how we met as I felt that Pam would be cross when she heard the story of the cuddle on the windswept railway station.
There is obviously something you are not telling me. Did you shag her?
No and then, as Pam refused to back down, I reluctantly told her about the freezing platform and the unexpected cuddle. She looked at me full of anger and then slapped me hard.
So you came back to me because you could not have that young woman?
No, of course not I felt stunned by her blow and had to sit down or else I would have fallen. The more that I explained the more cross Pam got and she eventually stormed out of my house, presumably to her flat, and I went to bed feeling a little stunned from her blow.
Whats her name? she demanded.
I have no idea.
What, you fucked her and you cannot remember her name?
I did not fuck her, we hugged because she was cold.
It is the same thing. I would never even look at another man she told me, not now that I am with you.
Well we werent together then, you had run out on me.
She always seemed to be in a towering rage now, and yet later she would apologise for her blows and her swearing, and make love to me as if in recompense.
You just frustrate me, she would tell me, you remind me of that boyfriend I told you about, and before that my parents. I just wished you loved me as much as I loved you.
I am sorry too I told her, and I am trying, really I am.
And I did feel that we were close to being a loving couple but somehow there was something wrong which meant we misunderstood each other. I did love her, of that I am sure but I was becoming scared of her temper and her anger and deep down I knew that I should end it, but I did not know how.
Two weeks later she almost killed me.
We had been arguing again, nothing serious as far as I could tell. She wanted to go out and I had essays to mark from my tutorial group who I was meeting the following morning.
They can wait she told me, lets go out and see the new James Bond film.
Maybe tomorrow I told her, or the weekend.
You are always busy.
But I helped you with that essay for Professor Griffiths most of yesterday evening I pointed out, you didnt complain then.
Without a word she walked over to the hob and then I felt the most pain I have ever felt in my life. I gathered later that she had hit me as hard as she could on the back of my head with the frying pan, but all I knew was that I was in agony, that the pain was unbearable, and I grabbed my head tightly to try and ease it. Apparently as I lay bleeding, my head on the kitchen table, she tipped the hot oil and eggs onto me, but fortunately I must have been unconscious or in too much pain to realise what was going on.
Later I was vaguely aware of shouting and loud banging, and then that I was being moved, but then I lapsed once more into unconsciousness, with just a sense of agony anywhere and everywhere.
Fortunately my sister had had one of her premonitions.
I just knew something had happened she told me as I lay on the hospital bed.
You trusted it enough to call the ambulance?
Of course. I had to lie to them, but thank god I did.
Yes they broke the door down, they told me that someone had reported gunshots and screams coming from my house.
Well I knew that would get them round, and the police too in case she was still there. I am just glad they believed me.
She held my hand tightly and then got her cards out and put them on the tray in front of me and began to lay them out.
The police interviewed me and apparently I will have to give evidence in court, I told her as she laid them out and made notes.
Dont worry you are used to talking to an audience. And hopefully that bitch will get what she deserves.
They told me that she has disappeared, but they are confident of finding her.
Christ I hope so.
By the time I left hospital it was the end of the academic year and so I moved in with my sister for the summer. A month later I still do not feel right; my head hurts and I have scarring on my face and neck, which I am told will never completely disappear. Worse is my lack of confidence; I am only able to go out early in the mornings or late at night when it is quiet and Lesley is right by my side, holding onto my arm. And almost every night I wake up screaming, feeling the pain and the smell of hatred and unbridled anger.
I thought that I would be in trouble at the University, but Professor Griffiths, belied his indolent reputation and had a word with the right people and I will be returning back to Leeds after the summer vacation without a blemish on my record. He has telephoned me several times and is coming down just before the beginning of term to see how I am. I do wonder if I will go back; even if I do feel better which I doubt - I am not sure I can stay in Leeds with its memories of Pam who has still not been caught and is under suspicion for several other misdemeanours as well as her attack on me.
In the meantime my sister and I spend our evenings casting spells and reading signs; protected from all that is evil by our magic and by our love, although sometimes I realise how weak that magic can be, and how helpless we are in a world full of demons that are full of hate and malice.
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