Alison Found

byAndyhm©

© Andyhm. 2018

The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons. All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are 18 years old or older.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Once again I was surprised and honored when Blackrandl asked if I could submit an offering for her next literary event; to write a story with a nautical theme. I wasn't able to submit the story I'd promised for her last event due to ill health, but I'm on the road to recovery.

Readers of my other stories will know that I feature a fair number of boats in them. This story was always going to be about rediscovery and sailing away into the sunset. It's something that I'd been working on for the past year, a longish tale I intended to split into two parts. The first part, the introduction, was to be a romantic rediscovery of lost love, introducing the main characters. The second, loss, and anguish on the high seas.

I didn't want to submit the second half of a story to the event, so I've merged all the parts into one long story. It does mean that the guts of the tale take a wee while to appear, and I repeat; it's long!

On top of her efforts organizing this event, Blackrandl1958 was willing to edit this tale, for which I'm very grateful. All the remaining mistakes are mine as I can never resist that final tweak.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Alison Found:

Who was Alison? The girl next door or ...

Prolog: The present.

We knew that the full moon could be a problem, it was too bright, and we were sure to be spotted as we approached the marina. We were going to have to delay until it set. The ideal time for us to approach the yacht would have been 1:30 AM, but the moon didn't set until 2:30 and we needed to be back on the 'Girl,' well before any of the local fishermen began stirring when dawn broke.

The three of us waited by the beached zodiac, dressed in black wetsuits. We watched as the moon crawled towards the horizon. At last, it disappeared, and the moon glow vanished, leaving the sea and the coastline of the island in almost complete darkness. Our only illumination the countless stars in the night sky and the reflected lights from the small town the other side of the marina.

No words were required, the inflatable was launched, and the almost silent electric outboard started. We headed out to sea, moving out of the safety of the cove and began the long sweep around the headland that hid our destination.

*****************


Part 1: London - Lost love found.

The hotel bar had been slowly filling up as the nearby theaters and restaurants emptied. I sat back in my chair at the bar, and managing to catch the eye of the barman, pointed at my empty glass. He nodded and a few moments later, a fresh glass of Armagnac sat in front of me.

As I picked up the glass and inhaled the heady aroma, I was deep in thought. Jesus Christ, that really had been Alison in the restaurant. Shit, talk about a walk down a deep dark and very painful memory lane.

I raised my glass to my reflection in the mirror behind the bar and drank a toast to the man I'd become. The thirty-year-old man reflected in the glass toasted me back. I'm Josh, Joshua Thomas, but only my mother calls me by my full first name. I'm a tad over six feet when I'm not sitting down and staring at myself. I'm no Adonis but then nor am I Quasimodo. I'm Mr. Middle of the road, and I was emotionally wrung out from the events of the last couple of days.

I hadn't been back to London for a couple of years; hell, I hadn't been back in the UK. A week ago I'd been enjoying the sun on the deck of the 'Lost Girl,' my forty-five-foot sailing catamaran moored in the marina in Valencia harbor, and I'd no plans to leave the Mediterranean. My boat was my life; it was my home, it nurtured me because I was damaged goods, and Alison was the reason I was damaged goods.

I had required a good reason to decide to return to the country of my birth, and that reason was why I was sitting here. I'd been relaxing on the bench in the cockpit of my boat, contemplating my upcoming cruise to the Aegean Sea. I could sail the 'Lost Girl' single-handed at a pinch, but it was a lot easier with help. I'd put the word out amongst the local sailing community to see if I could find someone interested in joining me for the trip. There were usually several ex-students hanging around looking for a cheap way to travel the Med. I'd met with several and one girl; Mandy stood out.

She was 21 and an experienced sailor, her parents had an apartment on the island, and Mandy was living on their 35 ft. Yacht moored the other side of the marina. I met with her, her boyfriend and her parents for a drink at a local bar, and she impressed me with her calm confidence. She'd been sailing since she was ten and was looking to travel and earn a little pocket money during a gap year between her bachelor's degree and starting her masters.

Her boyfriend, Paul, wasn't as experienced but at least understood one end of a rope from the other. Initially, I'd only anticipated taking on one crew, but they looked so happy at the chance to sail together I offered both of them a place, with the usual conditions. I'd cover all their expenses, pay a small salary and provide transport to an airport and a ticket home when the trip was over.

That's was when my phone rang, and I learned that Stephen had died. I told them I'd be back in a week and caught a flight the next day.

The reason I had returned was to attend the funeral of an old university friend and honor his parents request that I give one of the eulogies. That wasn't why I was sitting at the bar contemplating drowning my sorrows; that was a deeper, darker and very personal reason.

The funeral service had been the usual depressing event that I'd anticipated. Stephen and I had gone to school and university together before going our separate ways, but we'd been good friends and had continued to keep in touch. I'd been stunned when I got a call the previous week from his parents, telling me he'd been killed in a freak skiing accident and asking me if I would please give the eulogy.

I met up with several other university friends at the funeral, and five of us had agreed to meet up the next evening for a meal. Paul, who was a very successful journalist, had managed to get us a table at one of the very latest fashionable restaurants in the west end.

The evening had begun with great promise. This was the first time in several years that all of us had been able to catch up. It was nice that after the somberness of the funeral, we were able to relax. There were five of us, Paul, Catherine, Julia and her husband, William, had met up in the bar of my hotel for a drink before walking to the restaurant. We sat and enjoyed the good food and wine, reminiscing about Stephen and his exploits at university; our version of an Irish wake. Then catching up with everything else that we'd been up to.

As the meal drew to a close, Julia grasped my arm and gestured across the room. She said, "Isn't that Ashley Bell, the actress, over there?"

God, I hoped she was wrong, I turned to see where she was pointing. My stomach turned to ice and my evening to shit. She sat in the corner of the restaurant, the woman's whose face was indelibly engraved in my mind. There were some subtle differences: her nose looked cuter. She'd apparently lost that little dimple on her chin. Her long blonde hair has a more golden tone to it, but it still flowed down her back. She was smiling as she spoke to her companion across the table from her; he was a handsome man in his mid-thirties. Oh yes, I knew this woman; only when I'd known her, she was know as Alison Peters. Seeing her brought back all those bad memories of abandonment that I thought I'd managed to suppress.

I gave her a noncommittal shrug, "I can't tell." I lied and then said, hoping to deflect her interest, "I don't think so."

I was lying to them and myself; there was no doubt in my mind it was Alison.

"I'm sure it is," Julia insisted. "I love her films. I'm going to ask her for her autograph."

I started as Julia stood up. I watched as she made her way across the room and asked the actress for her autograph. A man at a close by table half stood, only to settle back down at a nod from Alison/Ashley. She smiled at her, and they spoke for a few moments. Julia pointed back at our table, Ashley looked across at us, and our eyes met. For a moment she looked puzzled then her mouth open in; surprise, shock, horror, I couldn't tell? My feeling of nausea grew unbearable, I stuttered my apologies, and dropping some money on the table, I hurried away. I glanced back and saw Julia looking at me in surprise and Ashley speaking urgently to her.

The streets were wet, and I pulled up my collar against the cold wind and rain. My mind was as cold as the wind, and I shivered as I made my way back to the hotel and the warmth of the bar. My phone rang several times, but I ignored it.

***********


How do I describe Alison? Everyone already knows her as Ashley Bell, the actress. I gather she's supposedly one of the world best actresses of our generation, one who had been nominated for an Oscar for several of her films. To me, she'd always be Alison Peters, Ali, the girl who used to live next door. The girl I'd grown up with. My first girlfriend and was the girl who'd broken my heart and destroyed my confidence in myself as a man.

She'd been five when I first met her. We had moved into the house next door, and my first recollection of her was a blonde haired girl peering over the low fence between the back gardens. Her face was smudged with dirt, she smiled at me, and the five-year-old me met my soulmate.

"Another?" The barman's question interrupted my thoughts. I focused on him and was surprised to find my glass was empty.

"Please." A moment later, a fresh glass was before me. I picked it up and swirled the amber liquid around the glass and inhaled the heady aroma before returning to my memories.

She'd been my best friend throughout my childhood. Her parents, Michael and Joyce, had become my second parents. We held hands as we first walked the short distance to school. She'd given me my first kiss at my eighth birthday party. I was the only person she would let call her Ali, and she was the one who called me Jos, no one else was allowed!

At the age of fourteen, she was a beautiful teenager who showed the promise of the stunning woman she was going to be. She was also possessive; she walked up to me at the school disco and pulled me away from the girl with whom I was dancing. She slapped the girl and told her to stay away from her boyfriend. Then she wrapped herself around me pulling my face down for a kiss that had all my teenage hormones buzzing.

At the age of 16, she was the most beautiful girl in the school. She rejected the advances of the most eligible boys and confirmed our relationship at every opportunity she could.

Then a brief 18 months later, she was gone, vanishing in the blink of an eye from my world.

It had all the elements of a grand Shakespearean tragedy. My grandfather had moved to Australia to live with his new wife. My grandmother had died before I was born, and several years ago he'd met and fallen in love with Beverley, an Australian woman he'd met on a cruise. They'd been in a serious traffic accident, Beverley had died, and granddad wasn't expected to survive.

Beverley had no family, so my parents and I flew over to be with him. He died a week after we got there, and it took another two weeks to sort his and Beverley's estates out before we were able to fly home.

I had been desperate to see Alison after almost four weeks away. I'd missed her so much, and I'd made my mind up that I'd never be separated from her again. Amongst my grandfather's belongings had been my grandmother's engagement ring. An impressive diamond and sapphire ring. My parents had offered the ring to me, and I was going to ask Alison to marry me. We had agreed that we would get engaged on her 18th birthday and marry after we had completed university. Now I had a ring; I wanted to show it to her.

I was out of the car before it had even stopped, the ring box in my hand. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. Their house was empty, the windows bare of curtains and an estate agent's sold sign lay on its side in the front garden.

"There was an almighty row a few days after you left," Mrs. Carpenter from across the road told us. "The police came and took the husband away. The wife and daughter packed up and left the next day."

She had no idea where Alison and her mother had gone. "Michael came home after a couple of days, moved out, and put the house up for sale. It was sold last week, and nobody knows where Michael has gone. The new owners are moving in next month."

"But didn't Alison leave any messages for me?" I asked, barely able to speak as I fought back my tears.

"No lad, she got injured in the fight and was taken to the hospital, she never came back here. It was Joyce who came back the next day and packed up the suitcases for her and Alison."

"What, who hurt her?"

"I don't think it was that serious lad, she was holding her arm when they put her in the ambulance, that's all," Mrs. Carpenter said. Then said in a so-so voice to my mother. "She from number 45 said that Michael caught Joyce in bed with her fancy man, her American boss."

Nobody could tell me what had happened to Alison. After watching me mope around for several days, my father went to Joyce's office and spoke to some of her colleagues.

When he got back, he told me, "I'm sorry son, they couldn't or wouldn't tell me much. Joyce and her boss have resigned. They think the three of them have gone to America. I'm sure Alison will get in touch as soon as she can."

She didn't, I wallowed in my misery for some years. I sleepwalked through most of my first year at university, only coming out of my shell because of the attention of my flatmate, Stephen, and his friends, the same Stephen I'd given the eulogy for the day before.

I had to wait ten years before I got my first clue as to her whereabouts, and it came in the last place I'd expected. I was 38,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, flying to Canada, and there was her face staring out at me from the monitor set in the back of the seat in front of me. She was the female lead in the film I was watching.

I know that given the current culture of 24/7 entertainment news, it was inconceivable that I hadn't been aware of her career as an actress earlier, but in my defense, I have been living on a boat for most of the past five years, and as I discovered, she was no longer calling herself Alison.

I rarely watched the television, and when I could, only for the sports. The only time I ever bothered to watch films was when I was flying, and then only if I hadn't got anything to read. I'd only decided to watch that film as it was an adaptation of a book I'd enjoyed.

Books, music and the local cuisine were my choices for enlightenment, not that surprising, as I was a travel writer, and I liked to embrace the local culture. I paid the bills by writing holiday and travel articles for magazines and the Sunday supplements. I paid for the luxuries by being a semi-successful novelist, selling just enough copies to live comfortably on a sailing boat in the Mediterranean.

Her face haunted me from the screen, yet I couldn't recall seeing her name in the details of the film. She was the woman I'd loved so much that after she disappeared it took years of therapy for me to get over her and attempt to lead a normal life, or at least as normal as possible.

It wasn't until I checked the credits at the end of the film for her name that I worked out that she was now going by the name of Ashley Bell, a name I vaguely recalled. I remembered reading sometime in the past that Ashley Bell was an academy award winning actress.

The flight I was on was the start an important business trip, and I was kept very busy for the first few days. In what little spare time I did have I cyber-stalked the woman Alison had become. It took me a few days to locate her; she was in Australia on the set of her next film.

I tried to get in contact with her. I guess thousands of people send her messages each year. I found the name of her agent and email contact address for Alison. I emailed her. A simple message where I used her real name and professional one. I gave what I thought was enough details of her earlier life that should have indicated that I really knew her. I gave them my contact details and sat back and waited hopefully.

Several days later, I got a message back to say that Miss Bell had read my mail with interest but was sorry she didn't recall me and couldn't enter into personal correspondence with her fans. I'd tried her Twitter account and fan site at the same time and was equally ignored. What little hope that I'd get answers to my overriding question of why seemed dashed. It seemed she didn't recall the boy who lived next door to her for so many years. She'd obviously moved on and wanted nothing to do with her old life.

I thought it would have hurt to be ignored again, yet somehow, it didn't. I suppose that time had insulated me from my younger emotional self. That's when I understood my feelings; just what seeing her again after all these years meant to me and the revelation I had only been interested in finding out why she'd never tried to contact me all those years ago. Now, even that didn't matter anymore.

****************


Now, two years later, after having accepted that Alison would never be part of my world. I'd seen her in the flesh, and suddenly my feeling of loss was overpowering. All I could think about was to get as far away as I could. Totally irrational behavior I know, but finally seeing her once more had brought back all those feelings of heartache and loss I'd thought I was over. The thought that she probably wouldn't acknowledge me if I'd tried to speak to her was more than I could bear.

The noises of the bar drew me back to the present, and I drained my glass. I must have been musing for some time as the crowded bar had thinned out somewhat; there were only a dozen stalwarts left.

My phone buzzed, for the umpteenth time and again I ignored it. A voice I'd never forget spoke softly from behind me.

"Damn you Jos, are you going to keep on ignoring calls from your girlfriend, your oldest friend?"

I didn't move; I kept staring at the glass in my hand. "My oldest friend," I said bitterly, "would have found a way to get in touch twelve years ago. My girlfriend would have known she was breaking my heart. She may have even considered answering my emails two years ago, but apparently, now she's far too fucking important to correspond with 'old friends,' especially one she doesn't recall. Are you sure you've got the right person?"

I heard a sob and felt a presence settle on the stool beside me, but I didn't look at her.

"I'm sorry, Jos," She said tearfully. "I didn't know I'd hurt you that much."

"Don't call me that, only one friend was allowed to call me that, and you aren't her anymore."

There was a silence that was finally broken by another sob. "Jos I'll go if you want me to, but please, love, let me try to explain what happened." She looked nervously at me. "Can we go somewhere a bit more private and talk?" she pleaded.

I looked around the bar, most of the patrons were subtly, and in a couple of cases, blatantly watching us. No, not watching us, her!

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