Calcutta, India 1857: Her scabrous locomotive from Delhi arrived two days late yet through a haze of soot and smoke and to the overbearing melody of whistles, clatter, hoots and bells bang into the oppressive humidity of the City of Joy arrive it eventually did. The delay? Perhaps dung on the tracks, peasants on the roof, maybe a makeshift bomb or something else irksome according to the shoulder shrugging portly jobsworth guard – although from his body language he plainly had not a blind clue.
As ever I was there to greet my ‘first class only’ Queen of Sheba. Not for her to be squished in with the diaphoretic traders in regular class or in the lower ones where body odours make for a most rancid perfume. “Take a piss at your peril” the Viceroy once told me – words I had passed on to her!
I took her dainty hand, had a porter grab her luggage as she alighted the carriage none the worse for the journey, indeed looking her dazzling usual self. Not a stain of note on her embroidered pink Ghagra Choli, a gown that gave away her Rajasthan roots. It had cost me a small fortune in bribes to have her travel out of sight of and contact with the rank and file. Worth every last penny though for she is my treasure.
“I love the hustle and bustle of Calcutta you know…and the smell of the food is so sublime……..look there the old street hawker…him there, that one …fetch me a Veg Chow if you would darling I’m famished…I could eat a bloody horse I think…wish those Hindus would keep their wretched cows off the street though. They do chuck up a bit when you get too close.”
“Veg Chow! Chinese food? Surely not?”
She just gave me one of her ‘looks’ and without delay I, grinning as cheekily as a rebuked ‘couldn’t care less’ schoolboy, acceded to her request. As per usual, and throwing decorum aside, she scoffed her nosh on the hoof.
Later, at The Grand Hotel in the heart of the city the fancy had taken me to share her bath yet on this evening she was having none of it. It was thus I took a drink in the bar while she bathed. Over dinner taken on the balcony of our suite of rooms that night she announced she was with child. That the child would be a fine blend of two purebloods of different race and creed spelt ‘mongrel’ to the bigots; spelt a new pedigree to both her and I. Besides being both well-heeled, and I, Gyges to her Nyssia all would be well for our flawless egg shell and chalk child.
Worryingly in the circumstances there was civilian unrest within the subcontinent as it was thus that I determined I would return home to England with my lover for the period of her confinement and likely thereafter. That we would build our very own kingdom of Lydia where we chose, a given.
Richmond, Surrey, England 1968: Spotless the marble tiled kitchen floor; tarnished the life of the barefoot rich boy of mixed race who walked them. At least that’s what the self-deprecating, dressing gown clad, bleary-eyed, one day maharajah thought as he fumbled through the making of his breakfast espresso caffeine hit.
When lies copulate with truths the visual analogy is inevitably painfully accurate – there for all and sundry to gawp at. Where once it was satin sheets, marmalade and buttered toast, itchy crumbs, thighs and all things sweet, riverside strolls, Canada geese to avoid and moorhen chicks to adore, the way things had turned out that last spring together had removed those joys forever; slammed the door of love deservedly smack in his face.
“Go now or you’ll leave in instalments” she had told him. He left of course. In shagging the new waitress at his swish restaurant in Swiss Cottage he had plainly taken a step too far. His lover had for all intents and purposes kept her composure while he, once the remonstrations were done with, had turned to drink and hashish as was his want; had become even in his own eyes a lethargic waste of space. Notwithstanding this night he would leave the realm of reality; would up his game and pay, ‘The Man’ for pure white snow.
Dealer and punter were to meet in the park where King Henry had hunted roe deer back in the day. Secluded the woodlands there, fine the view of The Thames when eight miles high. As per usual the candy man arrived late. Was it a monkey or grand in cash he had agreed to he wondered? Mattered not when you are as rich as Croesus and any sum is merely small change. As he waited by the ponds he almost but not quite recalled her exact parting words, “I mistook your door key as the key to your heart,” or such like.
It was 2am and with a Purple Haze jumbled brain when he saw her there, right in front of him; his great grandmother, young and as fresh as a daisy as in the painting at his deceased father’s house yet now before his very eyes. An hallucination perhaps yet she seemed to have substance, her form suggestive of flesh and bone. “You have forfeited your claims to your lover, outraged propriety. You know what you must do.”
Dreamers validate the other realm; one where blades slice naught but thin air. His dream was over.
As the glorified boy slipped his mortal coil he thought he heard her say, “Who will possess themselves of my kingdom now?”