I would remind readers of my blog that the following story, was written in 1991, long before the general use of the internet and Facebook:
A Burning Love
Copyright J. S. Raynor 1991, 2016
One of the most significant days in Paul Dalton’s life was when he scalded his hand as a result of knocking a pan of boiling water off his cooker. Paul was a twenty‑four year old art student who lived on his own in a small flat and, usually, managed to look after himself quite well. It was midday on Sunday when the accident happened. He was boiling an egg in his cramped kitchen when the door bell rang. The noise made him jump and, as he turned in the confined space, he caught the handle of the saucepan, showering the scalding water over his left hand. He never thought he could scream but, in that situation, he managed it without any difficulty. He did have the presence of mind to immerse his hand in a bowl of cold water and held it there even though the door bell was ringing even more urgently.
He recognised the anxious voice of his fellow student, Dave. “Paul! What’s happening, Paul?” He wrapped a towel around his hand and went to open the door for Dave. “What’s happened?” he repeated as he saw the pain in Paul’s face. As soon as he explained what he had done, Dave insisted on driving him to the casualty department of the local hospital.
Fortunately, the hospital was not very far away and had a world‑wide reputation for its specialist burns unit. As usual with all casualty departments, there was a queue of people waiting for attention. Paul assured Dave that he did not need to wait and agreed to phone him for a lift after receiving attention.
It was as Paul took his place to wait his turn that he noticed her. Her shoulder‑length brunette hair framed a face so beautiful and serene, it took his breath away. Her slightly parted lips were full and very sensuous. She must have been the last person to enter Casualty before Paul and was sitting on his left. Like Paul, she was obviously in pain and was clutching her left arm where a wide bandage had been hurriedly wrapped. She was wearing a very short skirt and sleeveless blouse and, although the circumstances of meeting were not happy, Paul found himself immediately attracted towards her.
“Do you think we’ll have long to wait?” Paul asked, unable to think of anything better to say.
“At least half an hour, I think.” Her voice was soft and warm sounding, making Paul’s heart melt a little more. “What has happened to your hand?” she asked, seeing a large handkerchief wrapped around Paul’s hand.
“Oh, I tried boiling an egg without letting go of it.” Her laughter at Paul’s reply caused several heads to turn in obvious disapproval. Her clear blue eyes sparkled as she laughed. “What about you?”
“It was a burning piece of charcoal which flew out of a barbecue and landed on my arm.”
“I am sorry ‑ I can appreciate how you feel.” He paused. “I’m Paul Dalton.” He offered his hand.
“Hello, Paul ‑ I’m Linda Schofield.” She took his hand and gave it a short but welcoming shake. The two chatted happily until it was time for Linda to receive some medical attention. In that time, Paul had discovered that Linda was nineteen, studying for A levels and was hoping to take English at University. They had even shown each other their burns and Paul, much to his surprise, had made a date with her for the following Friday, to take her to the local cinema. It was only after she had disappeared into the examination room that Paul realised he hadn’t asked for her address. He cursed himself as he was called for treatment without seeing her again.
When Dave arrived to give him a lift, there was little mention of Paul’s injury, which was now dressed in neat bandages. “You ought to have seen her, Dave. She was absolutely gorgeous ‑ a good figure and a perfect smile.”
“I can see you were so captivated by her that you didn’t ask her where she lived. How are you going to find her?”
“I don’t know” Paul admitted. “Perhaps I should just wait outside the cinema.”
Dave shook his head. “Too risky. Can you not find her address from the phone book?”
“That’s an idea. I’ll have a look when I get home. She can’t live far away from here.”
Although Schofield was not an uncommon name, there were three numbers within the same area. Paul decided to walk near to all three addresses in the hope of spotting Linda. The following evening, he walked to the first address and soon realised that this was not the correct one. A couple, who looked to be in their seventies, were fussing about their tidy little garden. He was in luck at the second address, though. Linda was just leaving the house and looked fantastic in black slacks and a white, close‑fitting jumper.
“Hello, Linda. How’s your arm, today?” She looked blankly at him. “You’ve not forgotten me, have you? Paul? I met you in Casualty last Sunday.”
“Oh, of course” she said with a sudden realisation. “Please excuse me ‑ I was miles away. Er.. my arm? It’s a little better. Still sore.”
“It will take time. At least I understand how you must be feeling.” Paul raised his bandaged hand as a sympathy gesture. “Listen ‑ we didn’t arrange where to meet when we go to the cinema on Friday. Shall I come to your house?”
“Erm..no. I’ll meet you outside the cinema. What time?”
“Is seven o’clock alright?”
“Yes ‑ that’ll be fine. I’ll see you then …Paul. I must dash, now.”
Paul felt pleased with himself and made his way home. Those few days seemed to last an eternity as he waited for his date with Linda. When the night came, Paul chose his clothes carefully and made sure that he smelled clean and, hopefully, macho. He was in for a surprise when he met Linda outside the cinema. She was wearing a sloppy jumper and very worn jeans. He was also surprised to notice that her hair was untidy, as it might have appeared first thing in the morning. She had far more make‑up on her face than was necessary and more than Paul expected.
“Hi, Paul.” Even in those two words, Paul felt disappointment, as they were said with an air of disinterest.
“Hello, Linda. How are you feeling? I mean …how’s your arm?”
“Oh, that’s not bad. I’m feeling bloody awful after a party I went to last night. Too much drink and acid. Have you been to any good parties, recently?”
“Er … no, I haven’t.” Paul was stunned. As an art student, he had been through his fair share of high living, but, from his meeting at the hospital with Linda, he felt certain that she wasn’t one of the ‘low life’. The last thing he wanted was a relationship with a raunchy, irresponsible girl who would be ‘burnt out’ by the age of twenty‑five. As they walked into the cinema, he wondered if he had made a mistake in dating Linda.
His worst fears were to be realised. Throughout the evening, she displayed every undesirable characteristic that Paul could imagine. Her language was coarse, her voice too loud and she did everything possible to humiliate Paul. She even caught his injured hand and seemed unconcerned at the pain it caused him. At the end of the show, Paul knew, without doubt, that it was the worst date he had ever been on.
The biggest shock was yet to come. As they were leaving the cinema, they came face to face with Linda’s double. Paul was completely lost for words and looked first at one and then the other girl.
“You little bitch! I thought you might do something like this”, said the Linda who had just appeared.
“Paul, this is my twin sister, Joan. Don’t mind her ‑ she’s jealous that I’ve had a date and she hasn’t.”
“You liar! How dare you pretend to be me! Paul ‑ I met you at the hospital, not her. She told me you met her outside the house and that you couldn’t go to the cinema, tonight. Like a fool, I believed her, too. It was only when I realised that she had gone out that I knew she was probably meeting you herself.
“You don’t want to believe her, Paul. She’d do anything to spoil my evening.”
Paul was totally confused. He just could not take in the situation or work out who was who. Several people had stopped to watch the strange confrontation. Eventually, Paul took command of the situation and demanded “Right, both of you ‑ stop this arguing. I want both of you to roll your left sleeve up.” The two girls meekly obeyed and, much to Paul’s frustration, both of them had a bandage on their arm. After a little thought, Paul said, “Unfasten your bandages ‑ both of you!”
Linda’s double immediately started to unravel her bandage while the girl he had been with all evening didn’t make any effort. As soon as he realised the implications, Paul said, “It’s okay, Linda, you don’t need to unfasten it any more. So, who have I been with all evening?”
Linda, with obvious relief, said “She is Joan, my identical twin sister. Though why she had to pretend to be me, I can’t imagine. And just look at those filthy clothes, Joan ‑ you’re a disgrace to the family. Just wait till Mum and Dad hear of this.”
At this, Joan burst into tears. “Don’t you know why I did it?” she sobbed. “I did it for us. I wanted to convince Paul that you weren’t worth bothering with.”
“She certainly did a good job of that” thought Paul. “But why?” he asked. “I just don’t understand.”
“Because we’re twins” Joan continued “we are meant to be for each other for the rest of our lives. No man must interfere with that. Do you hear? No man!” With this final proclamation, Joan rushed away from them, still sobbing.
The real Linda ‑ the soft, warm‑hearted Linda who Paul had met at the hospital, stepped up to him and put her arms around him. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that, Paul.”
He held her close and kissed her gently as one of the strangest nights in Paul’s life came to an end.
As a footnote to the above story, when I was at Secondary school, there were identical twin girls in the form above me. I really fancied Linda, although it never progressed beyond a brief kiss on a school trip.
I did write a short story in January, 1991 titled “It’s only a brainstorm”. This took a light-hearted, humourous approach to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but, considering the awful events which have since taken place in that part of the world, resulting in many tragic deaths and the emergence of the Islamic State, I feel it is better not to include it within this blog.
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
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