Big Garçon is what his friends called Peter Kingston when he was growing up in a small town on the isle of St. Tilly. Pete was known as the town’s prankster. If you asked any of his friends about their childhood—what was it like growing up with Pete—the sharing would most likely include a story about when they were pranked. And the one they might remember most is when he pranked them while they were winding their way home after hours of play. Pete used to hide in the tall bushes and pull a lifelike looking rubber snake slowly across their path. He would jiggle it around for special effects. His friends not knowing if the snake was real or not would scamper away screaming while Pete sat in the bushes with a satisfied grin, smiling that he had tricked his friends once again. It didn’t matter how many times he pulled this trick, he got the same anticipated results.
The snake prank was an easy prank to pull off, because from time to time, there were real snake sightings in the neighborhood. Some people spotted them in their flowerpots, in between shrubberies, under abandoned shells or on fruit trees. So, Pete’s friends’ first instincts thinking they had seen a real snake was justified. The snake prank abruptly came to an end, when they caught Pete in the act of setting up the rubber snake. It didn’t go so well for him that day, because his friends ran after him, and when they caught him, they held him down and gave him a friendly beatdown. Afterwards, they hugged it out in a big group hug and had a belly laugh about it.
Despite Pete’s open gregarious personality, sometimes when he was alone or thought he was unobserved, you could catch a glimpse of a different Pete. In those moments, he had a sort of forlorn look, and sat hunched over with his hands propped under his chin as if in deep thought or worry. He had the appearance of someone who was carrying around a tremendous burden on his shoulders. It’s not a look you would expect to see on a twelve-year-old boy, especially not a prankster. Although, it was a look he recovered from quickly when someone appeared in his range. He would change back to the way his friends were familiar— ready to bring laughter!
Pete was given the name ‘Big Garçon’ by his friends, because he was a chunky kid who wore thick rimmed glasses. The lenses on his glasses were so thick, his eyes looked like they were four dimensional. It earned him his other nickname ‘Four Eyes’. But normally, everyone called him Pete instead of Peter.
From an early age, Pete walked around with an 8×10 notebook with pen and pencil in his knapsack. When he was not playing with his friends, he was writing in his notebook. You could always tell when he had an interesting thought or idea to write about. His eyes lit up as he scribbled away.
Whenever his friends asked “Big Garçon, what are you writing?” His response was always “Non ya business”. So, there was an ongoing plot amongst his friends to snatch his knapsack. They were waiting on the opportunity for him to put it down unattended. Though Pete seldom put the knapsack down, he did those times when they played jump rope. He loved to show off his moves between the ropes, but he could not jump as long he’d liked for fear his glasses would fall off his face. For this reason, he limited how much time he spent jumping.
One day when it was Pete’s turn to turn the ropes, he placed the knapsack down in a secured spot. Jason, one of Pete’s closest friends saw the opportunity. He waited several minutes biding his time as the knapsack sat unattended. He first thought of grabbing the knapsack, but instead he snuck the notebook out and quickly walked away without anyone noticing.
Jason ran to his home with Pete’s notebook. He ran up to his room and hurriedly opened up the notebook to read its contents. Jason was pleasantly surprised on reading a few of Pete’s stories. He enjoyed reading them. The stories included activities with friends, his observations of nature and a few science fiction stories. Then as Jason continued to turn the pages, he came upon some notes Pete had written in red. Jason read a few of the notes as tears ran down his cheeks. His dear friend was having problems at home. Apparently, his dad was abusive to both Pete and his mom. He would strike them once in a while. Pete journaled each occurrence; what they were and when they took place. Jason was overwhelmingly empathetic for his friend. He closed the notebook after deciding he had read enough. Now his thoughts were how could he get the notebook back to Pete without Pete finding out his precious notebook was missing or that he was the culprit who took it. Jason was certain that Pete would have discovered it missing by now, and assumed he must be livid.
At first Jason thought of calling a group meeting with the rest of their friends to brainstorm some ideas on how to get the notebook back to Pete. After further thought, he decided to come clean and to tell Pete what he had done. He went to Pete’s home and called him out. When Pete appeared, his eyes looked swollen as if he had been crying. They both sat on the stairs.
“So are you missing your notebook?” Jason asked.
“Yes, I am. What do you know about it? I will kill whoever took it.” Pete responded in an angry tone.
“No need to kill anyone, bro. I took it because I wanted to see what you wrote, and I was curious to know how well you wrote. And let me tell you, guy, you are a very good writer. You can get paid big time for your writing when you grow up.” Jason said reaching out to Pete and taking his hand.
“I’m not sorry I betrayed your trust and took your notebook.” Jason said still holding onto Pete’s hand.
“You are like my bother. We are the closest of friends. If you suffer, I suffer too. I read some of the other stuff too, what you had written in red. Why are you suffering in silence, keeping this mess to yourself?” Jason asked.
The look on Pete’s face changed as sadness overcame him. He hugged Jason and let the tears flow. The two boys sat in silence holding onto each other.
On Pete’s fourteenth birthday, he had a growth spirt. He shot up overnight from 5’ 5” tall to 6’. He was no longer the chunky kid. He had slimmed down considerably. His parents decided it was time he should have an eye operation to correct his vision, so they made arrangements for Pete to have Lasik eye surgery. The operation was a success. “Big Garçon” and “Four Eyes” no longer fit this young man’s new image. He was quite handsome with his new look. He gained his friends’ respect. They no longer called him by his nicknames. He was now Pete to everyone, and the young girls now set their sights on him. He was attracted to girls but not girls in his age range. He started fantasizing about older girls who were at least five to ten years older than himself.
During the following year, Pete’s writing kept improving. He enrolled as a contributor to the students’ monthly newsletter at his high school. Everyone took notice of and looked forward to reading his weekly entries. He was interested in writing all genres at this stage. But he thought mostly of being a romance writer. It did not bother him that he had no experience in the romance department. He knew he would get there some day. However, he dreamt about what it would be like to be with a woman. He heard the older boys at school talking and laughing about their hookups. And his fantasies grew more and more. He started lifting weights and swimming at the YMCA. His body now developed, he looked much older than his fifteen years.
He started having some concerns about his parents. He wondered how things were with them. His dad had been acting differently. He hadn’t seen any form of abuse from him toward himself or his mother, but he also often found his mother crying silently in the laundry room while she was doing the laundry.
“Mom what’s wrong? Is he hurting you?” He would ask when he saw her in that way.
He could not bear to see his mother hurting in any way.
“No honey, I am just a bit tired.” She would answer, as if she knew his mind.
“You will let me know if he hurts you, right mom?” Pete would respond.
“Yes Dear, your dad is a good man.” She would end their exchange.
His dad hadn’t given up the spirits, he still drank a little everyday, but he was a quieter version of himself. Pete loved his mom so much. She was a beautiful woman, tall, elegant, and slender and always had a ready smile for her son. He was ready to protect her with his life if the situation arose. He had been actually waiting for his dad to physically hurt his mom or abuse her in anyway. He felt he was ready to intervene and give him the serious beating he’d been wanting to put on him since he was a young child..
One day as Mrs. Lewis, Pete’s English teacher, was wrapping up the Writing class, she asked Pete if he could remain a little while after class. She said she would like to discuss his writing future with him. It was not a problem for him to stay. In fact, Mrs. Lewis is one of the older women Pete had fantasied about lately. He thought she was beautiful, and she had the same elegance as his mother. Plus, it was Friday afternoon, and he only had plans to meet up with Jason and a few other friends after school. They planned to go to the YMCA to do some laps in the pool. He really loved to swim. It cleared his head.
He walked to the front of the class to meet Mrs. Lewis as the other children left the classroom excited to begin their weekend.
“Pete, I would like to talk to you about your writing,” Mrs. Lewis began.
“You are a very good writer. Have you considered how you would use Writing in your future? Would you like to become a journalist?” She asked.
“I was thinking, you might want to consider getting your education in England. Uni offers great Journalism courses. You can choose from either print or broadcast journalism.” Mrs. Lewis said.
“Your mom attended Uni, didn’t she? You should start the conversation with her about going there yourself. What do you think about that idea?” She asked.
“I haven’t given much thought to my future. I just love to write and have been doing so as long as I can remember. I think it was when I held a pencil in my hand for the first time.” Pete responded with a grin.
“Okay” Mrs. Lewis said. “Then keep in mind what we talked about. I would hate to see you throw away your talent.”
After this comment, Pete stood up as if to leave, then considered a thought he had.
“I would love to be a Romance writer.” He said. “It’s something I have thought about for quite some time. I don’t think I need to attend Uni for that genre, do I?” He asked.
Mrs. Lewis picked up her pocketbook readying to leave.
“Just think about what I said, Pete. Have a great weekend. We will talk about it some more when I see you in class next Friday.” She said.
“You too, Mrs. Lewis, have a great weekend.” Pete responded.
He left her classroom with hormones jumping out of his pores.
He met up with his friends at the Y. They swam a few laps and afterwards stopped at the hotdog cart for a couple of hotdogs and a few bottles of coke to wash them down. When he got home he said “Hi” to his parents who were watching television in the family room. When in the privacy of his room, he thought about Mrs. Lewis. He wondered if she was attracted to him as he was attracted to her. He started thinking of his physical attributes and wondered what type of pleasures he could give her, a grown woman. He was just an inexperienced boy.
Over the weekend, he became a little concerned about his mother. Every time he looked at her lately, he wondered why she looked so frail. She seemed to have lost weight. He asked how she was doing.
“I am fine honey, don’t worry about me. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep, but I am more than okay. How was school?” She asked.
“School was fine Ma. Yesterday Mrs. Lewis complimented me on my writing, and suggested I attend Uni because they had a great Journalism department.” Pete responded.
“What do you think Ma?” Pete asked.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea, Dear. You will love Uni.” She said.
“We know Professor Dalton. He is in charge of the Journalism department. I think it’s a good idea for you to consider the suggestion. Your Aunt Myrtle still lives in Cambridge. You can stay with her. You still have a couple of years to think about it. I am proud of you. You are such a good son.” She told him.
He spent the rest of the weekend with his friends.
Friday took a long time to come the next week. His anxiety level was at a high peak as he waited all week for his English class. He was never so excited and nervous at the same time in all fifteen almost sixteen years of his life. When Friday came, it was the same scenario as the previous Friday. Mrs. Lewis asked him to remain after class. She looked extra special today, he thought as he sat in the chair next to her desk.
“Have you thought about what we discussed last week, Pete?” She asked.
“I have, Mrs. Lewis, and I also mentioned the idea of attending Uni to my mom. She said I still had a couple of years to think about it, but she finds it a great idea.” Pete responded.
“You may call me Lynn when we meet after class.” Mrs. Lewis reaches over and kissed him full on the lips.
Pete spent the weekend writing a few chapters of his first romance novel. Thinking about his recent experience and still feeling the glow of it. He wanted so much to share with Jason, his best friend in the world. They told each other everything, but he knew he couldn’t share about this situation. He promised Lynn (Mrs. Lewis) that what was happening between them would forever be a secret. She warned him that she could face prison time if her indiscretion was to become known. Pete promised. Fridays after the end of the English period became a very special time in his life. He spent weekends locked in his room writing away.
Two years later, Pete graduated from high school. He decided to attend Uni and return to St. Tilly to spend summer vacations with his family. He really hated to leave his mom behind. She hadn’t been looking that good lately. She seemed to be getting worse in his eyes. But his mom insisted he get his education and not worry about her. Pete went to England to stay at his Aunt Myrtle, and he enrolled in Uni’s Journalism program. He chose print journalism as his major. Thinking of his future, he could still have a profession as a journalist in case he couldn’t make a living selling books.
He had just finished up his first semester, and was making plans to go home, when he received a phone call that his mother was not doing well. He left right away to return to St. Tilly. He was going to take care of his mom, but he had a bad feeling about it. What will I do without her? He thought. When he returned home and saw her, he knew she was not going to make it. He took her in his arm laying next to her and could feel her skeletal form. She had become so thin, just skin and bones. Her frame felt so tiny in his arms.
His father told him that his mom had been suffering from cancer for the past four years, but she wished to keep it a secret from him. She did not want him to worry about her. He kissed her forehead as he held her close. “My sweet mommy, my sweet, sweet mommy!” He repeated as tears streamed down his face. For a few seconds, he thought he had seen a glimmer of light appear in her eyes along with a faint smile on her lips. Then her eyes flickered. The next moment she was gone.
Pete was devastated by the loss of his mom. He felt like he couldn’t go on without her. He never really had a great relationship with his dad because of the abuse he and his mother suffered. After his mother’s death, they just lived a peaceful existence under the same roof. His dad still drank alcohol everyday, though not as much anymore, but now he would pass out after a few drinks, and snore loudly lying on the sofa. Pete made sure he was fed and was taking care of his personal hygiene. His mom’s death devastated his dad. He was like a lost child without her.
Pete dropped out of the university and stayed in St. Tilly to keep an eye on his dad. He felt sorry for him. As time passed, Pete delved further into his writing. He published his first romance novel “Wicked Miss” and it did surprisingly well. It sold on Amazon and at all the major bookstores with excellent reviews and a five-star rating. Encouraged by his success, Pete continued writing, but he also secured a part-time job as a lifeguard at The Hearth, one of St. Tilly’s five-star resorts. During the winter months, they were very busy. It’s when tourism boomed on the island, as the Brits came every year on their vacations to soak up the sun.
Several months after his mom passed, his dad suffered an acute case of cirrhosis of the liver. Shortly after, he passed away. Pete believed his dad may have died from a broken heart. Though his dad showed his love in a strange way, he did worship his wife. He loved her. They met during their first year at Uni and married soon after they graduated. Pete was their only child. After his dad passed, Pete stayed on at the family home which now belonged to him. He continued to write romance novels and kept his job as a lifeguard.
Pete was not in a relationship. Writing absorbed his time not allowing for a committed relationship with anyone, and besides, he hadn’t met anyone special that he couldn’t live without. For now, he was satisfied with being a serial dater hooking up with girls he met on online dating sites. Sometimes he also hung out with girls he met on the beach where he was a lifeguard. This was how he met Apple, the famous singer and songwriter. They met when she was a guest at The Hearth.
Apple was an heiress to a famous jewelry company whose flagship store was based in London with a couple of stores located in Madrid and Milan. She kept this aspect of her life private and a secret from the public. She stayed far away from the family business dealings as much as possible and showed up only when it was absolutely necessary. She was a famous singer and songwriter by profession, a talent she felt blessed to have. She became famous when she was about 18 years old. Several of her albums went to GOLD and she had won many music awards.
Apple toured for half the year, then took time off for rest and relaxation. Of all the places in the world she could vacation, she chose St. Tilly. It was something about the atmosphere at The Hearth and the island itself that kept her coming back each time. She loved the warm climate. It was not too hot, and the humidity was low. It was where she felt most relaxed. She normally spent three weeks out of the year there. She also loved the quietness of the northern side of the island where The Hearth was located. Every year she reserved the Presidential suite ahead of coming to the island. That area was not overrun by tourists, as did the other popular resorts. Plus, she had her own private entrance to the whitest beach she had ever seen.
Her stay in St. Tilly was usually about three weeks, unless she got called home to attend a family business meeting. She had already been on the island for a week. She laid out in the sun everyday with large sunglasses covering her face so as not to be recognized. Her security detail was never far away. She asked to have her breakfast brought to the cabana precisely the same time everyday at 11:00 a.m. Today she noticed a young man sitting at the lifeguard post. She was struck by his muscular physique and good looks, but he appeared to be in a depressed mood. What a hunk, she thought, as she looked him over. She decided to have him checked out—curious about his glum. She gave a note to her attending security member to give to Pete. The note invited him to meet her in the hotel’s lounge for cocktails when his shift ended.
Pete heard someone famous was staying at the hotel. The staff was busy and was on their best behavior ready to serve. He didn’t care to know who it was. His job was outdoors keeping an eye on the safety of people out for a swim. Celebrities did not impress him much. He was doing okay for himself. His four books were on the best sellers’ lists, and he had a large following on Twitter and Instagram who were anticipating his next release—book five. Currently, he was having a bit of writer’s block even though he was close to the end. His characters weren’t giving him much.
He thought he should use a few of his vacation days for a short get away. He would get on his motorbike for a cross country ride. Riding alongside the ocean’s view has always cleared his head. It was his guilty pleasure that never got old. Taking in the fresh smell of the ocean. He could actually taste the salt on his lips. He had no words to describe the breeze that would lash at his face as he rode. St. Tilly was known for its perfect climate, and the sea breeze felt heavenly. It felt like silk brushing against his skin during his rides. He was thinking about his getaway when a tall, rugged looking man wearing dark sunglasses approached him. The man handed him an envelope with his name written on the front. When he removed the note from inside a whiff of the most beautiful perfume reached his nostrils. It was Apple’s stationary with her name scribbled in gold stamped at the top. It read “Peter, please meet me at the lounge when you get off work. Looking forward to seeing you.” Signed Apple.
Hmmm! So, Apple is our famous guest. He thought. He knew who she was and owned a few of her albums. “I wonder what she wants with me.” He said to himself. Even though the hotel staff was prohibited from socializing with the guests, Pete, because of his own celebrity as St. Tilly’s famous writer, had privileges. After his shift, he changed into his street clothes and headed to the hotel’s lounge.
He could see Apple sitting in the lounge as he entered. Wow, she is much more beautiful in person than her image on television. He thought. Suddenly, he grew excited to see what the meeting was about.
Before contacting Pete, Apple had already had her security detail check him out. So, she knew enough about him.
“Please have a seat, Pete. May I call you Pete?” She asked as she pointed to the chair opposite her.
Pete took her hand and kissed the back of it before he sat down.
“How are you Apple?” He asked. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I love your work and hold a few of your albums.” He said.
“And I am a fan of yours” Apple said to Pete. “As a matter of fact, I brought your book ‘The Irresistible House Maid’ to read during my stay here. What made you choose to write in that genre?” She asked.
“I think it was a curiosity I had at an early age hearing the older boys talk about their relationships with girls. As a young boy, I wanted to experience that and wanted to write about it.” He said.
“So what did you want to talk about?” He asked.
She cleared her throat, “Be my travel partner.” She said.
“You will be paid well for your services. The package comes with all expenses covered and a nice salary to go with that. I’m on the road a lot doing concerts as well as personal travel. I get lonely out there, and I think it would be nice to have a travel companion, someone to get out with about town to make my life more interesting.” She said.
“I also think we could collaborate on some song writing. I am on empty right now. I need to get some fresh material pronto. I bet with your writing skills and life’s experiences; we could write some beautiful love songs together.” Apple said chuckling. “Of course, you will have your freedom for your own writing projects. I won’t take up all of your time. I promise.” Apple said.
“When does this position start?” Pete asked.
“As soon as you are available to start. I’ll be at The Hearth for another two weeks, then I’ll leave to perform a gig in Monte Carlo. But you can start right now if you’d like. The job is yours if you want it. You can start whenever you like, Pete.” Apple said.
During the entire meeting, Pete was distracted by Apple’s beauty and her easy-going style. He saw no diva behavior from her, even when she placed their cocktail orders with the staff.
Pete had never felt this way meeting a woman for the first time. Could this be how it feels to fall in love at first sight? He thought. But he played it cool. They spent a few more hours chatting about themselves.
Pete decided to hold off on telling Apple whether he would accept the position or not. He tried not to seem too eager and interested, but he was doing cartwheels on the inside. He thought could this be happening to me ‘Big Garçon’, ‘Four Eyes’, was I dreaming? He took Apple’s hand and kissed it as he had done before. He stood up.
“Let me sleep on your offer, Apple, and I will get back to you in the morning with my answer.” He said.
“Okay, laters!” Apple said.
As Pete rode home on his motorbike, with the wind moving through his hair, his thoughts were in a flurry. He’d have to prep his home and set it up for Airbnb’s use. He stopped at Jason’s home to share his good news. Jason was excited for him. “Bro, you are gonna be a song writer?” Jason asked in a questioning tone. “You know, you were born to write. You are gonna be so big. You will do well, my friend, future world travel romance writer and song writer.” Jason said. “Hey, do you remember the time I grabbed your notebook?” Jason asked, as Pete playfully smacked him.
“You know Jason, seriously, I think you are right. I was born to write. I am a born writer.” Pete said. “And I think this woman is about to give me some incredible material to write about. Jason, man…this offer seems too good to be true, but I think I’ve just met my forever muse, the woman of my dreams, my future wife, my future babies’ mother. My writing is about to come full circle. I could probably spend the rest of my life writing about that woman.” Pete said. “And, you know what? I think I just might.”
OCTOBER 2020 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords Press
On Trinidad, the larger island of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is where Sheila was born. After a rewarding childhood, she migrated to the United States in the summer of 1969. Soon thereafter she became a Naturalized Citizen. Though she never took a Poetry class, her passion for poetry compelled her to a prolific self scholarship. Sheila resides in New Jersey where she spends her time enjoying her grandchildren and preparing her collection of poetry for publication. Sheila Henry’s writing style can best be categorized as Visual Poetry, blending emotion and vision into a poem or story of color. Her poems and short stories are featured at Spillwords Publications, Literary Yard, Sweetycat Press and other publications.