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March 2, 2015 7:24 am  #1

Solace - the First Encounter

Before I tell you my story, I should explain that I come from a rather unique family. We’re all born with, or somehow acquire, unusual abilities. For example, my sister can tame any animal with just a glance. My brother can play any song on any instrument as soon as he touches it. But me? I never had any sort of special ability, at least, none I’d known of.

But recently, things have changed. I took a long weekend because I was feeling homebound, and I desperately needed to get away from familiar surroundings. I remember that it was a cloudy Sunday afternoon, the weather was crisp and I was enjoying my chance to explore the big city. As the afternoon went on, I wandered further and further from my hotel, until I realized I was in a part of town where tourists usually did not go. “Sketchy” would be putting it mildly. And, naturally, it was at that moment that the heavens opened and the rain began bucketing down. I’d been smart enough to bring a jacket, but having heard the weatherman predict “light showers” I’d left my umbrella behind. Now I was soaked, cold, and hoping I could find a taxi – or even a city bus. But the streets all seemed to be deserted.

Just as I prepared myself to begin a long trudge back, I caught a glimpse of a light in a window. My instincts told me to keep walking, to get to a less edgy part of town. But I felt as if I was being pulled to the light. The fact it was a neon sign advertising a cheap beer didn’t deter me. I saw my hand grasp the worn door handle, pull open the door, and felt my feet carry me forward.

The bar, if you want to call it that (“dive” might be a better word) was old, dark, and reeked of stale smoke from years gone by. There was a group of about six or seven men huddled near the TV, and a bartender who was listlessly wiping down the bar. Despite my misgivings, I was happy to find someplace where I could find shelter, at least until the rain stopped.

I made my way to the bar and ordered a hot coffee with sweetener and milk. All I really wanted was something hot to warm my hands, but figured the coffee would give me an excuse to hang out until the weather improved.

A burst of sound from the group caught my attention, and as I glanced over I realized they were watching the home team in their latest endeavor to make it to the championship. I was never a sports fan, so the fact our team had finally gotten their hands on the ball didn’t really mean much to me. I sat back, and the bartender brought over a mug, then poured what appeared to be dark sludge into it. The sweetener and milk made it just barely drinkable, but I wasn’t going to complain. ANYTHING beat the soaking I’d been getting outside.

As I fished in my purse for my book, I saw movement out the corner of my right eye. I glanced over, and observed another patron sitting in the shadows at the end of the bar.

Something about the man seemed oddly familiar. He was what one would call a “slight” man, with dark hair and dark eyes. He was slumped forward, staring into what looked to be a pint of Guinness, oblivious to the noise from the TV in the corner.

Where had I seen him before?

As he sat up and took a swig of his ale, I got a good look at his face. That’s when I realized - I saw him nearly every Wednesday night. I knew him as “Dr. Silas”, the enigmatic scientist who was part of a newly formed group of heroes that were battling an onslaught of alien life forms infesting Earth. I was a huge fan of “Line of Defense” and did my best to never miss an episode. Truthfully, a big part of the reason I was such a fan of the show was because I had quite a crush on Dr. Silas, or to give the actor’s true name, Ross Carlton.

What was he doing here, in the big city, in this dump? And then I remembered they filmed “Line of Defense” here in the big city. I wanted very much to ask Mr. Carlton whether the rumor that Dr. Silas was one of the aliens, or at least was partly alien, was true. The message boards were all divided on whether Dr. Silas was an enemy or ally of the group; my belief was that he wasn’t sure himself where his sympathies lay.

But after another glance at Mr. Carlton, it was apparent he was not in any mood to be disturbed. He still stared moodily into his glass, his hands wrapped around it as if to prevent anyone taking it from him. Or was he trying to derive comfort from it?

With a mental shrug, I turned to my book and my (vile) coffee. I’d read only a few pages when I heard a soft noise – which, oddly enough, came through loud and clear even though the bar itself was filled with the cheers and groans of the sports fans, not to mention the non-stop commentary from the TV itself. I looked up, and after a pause went back to my book.

There it was again! It was a quiet breathy sound, almost like a sigh. I glanced up again, trying to figure out where it was coming from. All was still.

I turned back to my book. After another couple pages there was another soft sound, this time more like a sniff. And, after a pause, there was another sniff. A few more minutes went by, and then a third sniff caught my ear.

I looked up from my book again, and this time heard a combination sniff and sigh, and I realized it was Mr. Carlton doing the sniffing.

All at once I was fighting an internal battle. My reasonable side informed me that he did NOT want to be bothered, certainly not by a potentially rabid fan. But at the same time I just *knew* I had to approach him. I didn’t know what I was going to say, or even why I had to speak with him, but the compulsion was so strong I couldn’t fight it off.
I stood up and grabbed a handful of napkins from the dispenser at the center of the bar, then took a step forward - then another. After a few hesitant moments, I’d made my way over to where the actor sat glowering sullenly into his drink.

“I’m sorry to bother you . . . .” I began.

He didn’t even look up as he snarled “I’m not giving autographs today!”

“No, that’s not it,” I heard myself say. “It’s just that I heard you sniffling and . . .” I laid the napkins on the bar and pushed them toward him.

He looked up at me, a quizzical expression on his face.

“I thought you might need these.” With a smile, I added, “I have allergies too. I know what a pain they can be.”

He examined the pile of napkins, and then turned back at me. I shrugged, gave him a wry smile, and started to go back to my seat. As I stepped away, I heard a soft “Thank you. And . . . .”


He sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I just . . . I’ve been having a bad day. . . .”

“And you didn’t want to be disturbed. I understand, and it’s ok. I won’t bother you any more.”

“No, wait, please. I don’t want to be rude. At least let me go ahead and give you an autograph.” He grabbed a napkin and took a pen out of his breast pocket. “Whom should I make it out to?”

I shook my head. “Really, you don’t need to do this.”

“But I want to. Just because I’m having a less than good day doesn’t mean I should take it out on someone else.”

Again a strange compulsion overtook me. “Do you want to talk about it?” burst from my lips.

He hesitated. “How can I be sure you’re not a reporter? The last thing I need is to end up in the tabloids.”

This time I could feel myself grinning. “The last time I did any reporting was in my high school journalism class, and I only got a C. But I’m told I AM a good listener – and I do know how to keep secrets.” I added as I sat on the stool next to his.

“It’s nothing. It’s silly, really.” He sighed. “It’s just . . . my children aren’t happy with me at the moment.” He took a long pull from his Guinness.

“Oh? Why is that?”

With a shrug, he continued. “I don’t know if you know, but I spent the last three months filming a movie in Austria.”

“I know. I can’t wait to see it!” I blurted out. “But go ahead. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

He took another swallow of Guinness. It seemed as if he was trying to work up his courage. “Well, I got back a couple of days ago. I told them I had a whole week before I had to be back here for “Line”, but they weren’t happy about that at all. I thought my giving them a whole week would be great, but they didn’t appreciate it.”

“What do you mean?”

He sighed again. “At first, the kids were quiet. But that evening when I started unpacking, my son Lucas came into the room and asked me why I was bothering to do that.” He grimaced. “I asked him what he meant. He just looked at me with hard eyes, and finally said “Why bother to unpack? You don’t want to be with us anyway.”  So of course I asked him “How can you think that?!?” and then he said “Well, after the last “Line” season ended, you came home for a week, then you went to Europe for three months. Now you come back for another week, and then you’ll fly out for your stupid TV show. We won’t see you for months! And then when you come back, you’ll just go off again to do another stupid movie!” So I said to him “You know I have to go where they need me, son. Acting is my job; it’s how we can afford this nice house, your school, your games and things . . . .” He paused and took another long gulp of ale. “He just stood and stared at me. Finally he said “You don’t have to work ALL the time. You SAY you want to spend time with us, but you never do.”

Of course,  I tried to tell him that wasn’t true. After all, I have been spending as much time with them as I can, but all he did was shout “I wish you’d never come home! I wish you’d just go away and stay away!!” Then he ran out of the bedroom and slammed the door.”

The actor’s eyes glimmered in the dim light.

With a sigh, he continued. “Later, I was reading my daughter Emily her bedtime story. When I finished, I said like I always do “Goodnight June Bug and I’ll see you in the morning.” And then she said to me “Will you be here when I wake up?” I told her “of course I will! Aren’t I always here when you wake up?” and that’s when she said “Only sometimes. Lots of times you’re not.”

He swallowed hard.

“And then she added ‘How many sleeps before you go away again?’ ” I told her she had six more sleeps before I went away, but that I’d be back again soon.”

 His voice broke. He took another sip of his Guinness, and I noticed his hands were shaking.

“And then what happened?” I asked.

He was gazing into his glass as he continued. “Later, after the kids were in bed, I told my wife Laura about my conversations with them. I said I was worried that I was missing out on a lot of their growing up, so I had decided to spend less time filming and more time with my family.” Another pause, another swallow, and with a grimace he went on. “She just looked at me and said “I’ve heard that song and dance before. You always say you’ll spend more time with us, but then something comes along that needs your attention more.” And then it turned into an argument, a real shouting match. I’m surprised we didn’t wake the kids.” With a shake of his head, he went on. “I think that was the worst fight we’ve ever had. When we got up the next day, she handed me my suitcase and told me I was better off coming back here so I could be ready when “Line” starts filming again.” He swallowed hard. “She kicked me out of my own house!”

“How did the kids take it?” I asked.

“Lucas didn’t say anything. He wouldn’t even look at me. But Emily grabbed my knees and wouldn’t let go. She kept crying “Daddy, don’t go! Daddy, don’t go!” and before I could say anything, my wife peeled her off me and said “Daddy has to go to work. That’s what Daddies do. They go to work and ignore their families.” And then the cab was there. She just pushed me out the door and closed it behind me.”

All I could do was shake my head in sympathy.

His voice broke again. “I’ve tried calling my wife at least six times since then, but she won’t answer. And then I tried to call my son.  He’s blocked my number!”

“What about your daughter?” I probed gently.

“She called and left me a message. She was crying and saying “Come home, Daddy. I want you to come home!”

His face contorted in a way I’d seen before, but this time it felt different. This time he wasn’t acting -  the pain and the tears were real.

There didn’t seem to be anything else to say, other than “I’m so sorry”. I felt helpless; there wasn’t anything I could think of to do – but then, again, I was overcome by compulsion. I leaned forward and quietly patted his arm.

He gulped, lowered his head and began to cry in earnest. I pulled my stool closer and put my arm around his shaking shoulders. Time seemed to stop; I was aware of nothing but the two of us – him weeping and me comforting as best I could.

I have no idea how long it was before he sat back and wiped his eyes. It might have been only a few minutes; it might have been more than an hour. All I knew was that the world had seemed to go on hold while he cried. All I could do was sit with him and let him cry everything out; there was nothing to for me to say or to do except to be there. Oddly enough, his weeping didn’t attract any attention at all; it was almost as if we were invisible and inaudible. However, just as it was over the big game started coming to a close - the score was tied, and the sports fans were caught up in the excitement.

After however long it took he finally appeared to have unburdened himself, and it was at that moment the room suddenly grew much brighter. A glance at the window showed me the rainstorm was over; the sun was breaking through the clouds. It seemed a perfect metaphor for what we had just experienced.

As he sat up, I heard myself say “I have an idea. Sometime in the next few weeks, why not have your son and daughter come up for a long weekend? They can each come up for their own weekend and you can spend some time with them one-on-one. There are plenty of things to do here in town that kids enjoy, like the Zoo and the Science Museum.” I could see a glimmer of enthusiasm start to spark in his eyes.
“I’m guessing your kids aren’t as upset about you not being home as they are upset they don’t spend as much time with you as they’d like.”

He considered this for a bit. “A lot it would depend on our shooting schedule - but it’s possible; I could ask the writers to give me a few extra days off here and there.” After a moment he added “And maybe their grandparents could take the kids for a few days so Laura and I could spend some one-on-one time together as well.”

For the first time since I’d entered that dimly lit bar, I saw him smile. “Thank you, um . . . ?” He blushed. “I’m sorry; I don’t know your name.”

I returned the smile as I gathered my things and got ready to walk back to my hotel. And I heard myself tell him “Just call me . . . Solace.”

"We have our stalking memories, and they will demand their rightful tears."

March 4, 2015 3:40 am  #2

Re: Solace - the First Encounter

This is an awesome idea.  I really like it a lot.  The paranormal-ish setting gives it a nice bit of intrigue, and I like how you've created a nice character that you can continue to use for more and more stories down the line.  I can't wait to read the next one!


March 5, 2015 7:23 pm  #3

Re: Solace - the First Encounter

Caircair-  what a great story and character!  I wish I had this super power!  You have inspired me to write, I have some time off...we'll see what happens.  Keep writing with this character, I love her!

" do not cry. They will do anything BUT cry. They stop themselves crying. And eventually they do cry if it is bad enough. So that's how you know with a man how bad it is for him. Because he would've stopped himself...Men always cry like that. They don't cry and in the end they do and if they do then it's overwhelming." ~Michael Caine

April 29, 2015 4:00 am  #4

Re: Solace - the First Encounter

Yeah seriously, I wish I WERE this character! Great fic!


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