Death of a playboy.

Jack drained the last of the vodka from the bottle in his fist and then threw it, overarm across the trail. He watched the arc of its flight in the evening sun and then heard it shatter on a hidden rock in the undergrowth. The sharp, angry noise suited his mood. It helped, but it wasn't enough. Nothing could ever be enough, not now. He might just as well throw himself into the sea and end it all. It wouldn't work. No, he supposed he'd just have to hang himself. Perhaps he could go back to the bar and persuade Griffin to sell him another couple of bottles and he could drink himself to death. He dropped his head into his hands and groaned at the fickleness of life. Less than a year ago and he'd been free, free to go where he pleased, free to do what he wanted. Now, because of his own stupidity, everything had changed.

Before he came to Forget-me-not Valley Jack had been a wanderer and content to be so. He took his pleasures where he chose and never looked back. Lovers came and lovers went and no-one touched his heart. Not a penny to his name and he wasn't worried. He loved to party. Then a solicitors letter had finally tracked him down after eight years in the chasing and he learnt of his fathers death and his chance of an inheritance. Jack hadn't seen or heard from his father since he was three years old and had no feelings for the man one way or the other but the letter came just at a time when he needed to leave town in a hurry. Gwenda had found out about Tina and Tina's father was going to get some news that would not make him happy at all. So a quick letter to Messrs Pollitt and Brown and an advance of 2000g and Jack skipped town just ahead of the shotgun.

Takakura, his father's old partner, had met Jack at the pier in Mineral Town and shown him the way to the Valley. As they had come down through the steep gorge into the open Jack had been blown away by the beauty of the place. To his amazement he actually got on well with the taciturn old man. In fact he got on well with practically everyone in the place. It was such a laid back, welcoming place that he soon called it home. The farming was hard work and yet oddly satisfying. When he got bored there had been Griffin's bar and congenial company. It had been easy to pop back into Mineral Town or take a fishing boat back to the city. As for company there had been Muffy, Nami, Celia, Flora and little Lumina, who adored him. Each of the girls found Jack a real charmer and he found them equally charming. Muffy was a fluffy bundle of fun, Nami, worldly and street wise, Flora was so athletic and Celia, so sweet and surprisingly voluptuous. Then there were the woman of Mineral Town. So many sweet things he wanted to sample them all and it was impossible to choose just one and he did hate to see them sad.

Time had just flown by that it had been winter before he knew it and the year drawing to a close. He had come home late one night from a hard days drinking in Mineral Town to find Takakura waiting for him. Jack had been confused to find him there and even more confused when the old man had demanded to know what he was going to do with the livestock and was he taking the dog with him. It had taken nearly an hour before Jack had finally grasped the seriousness of his situation. Takakura had fed him several large, black coffees and then pointed to the relevant clause in the contract he'd signed when he first took over the farm. He hadn't actually read the thing before he'd just assumed it was a fairly standard document apportioning profits and the usual life assurance and will. But there it had been in black and white at the foot of page six, clause seventeen; if he didn't marry by the end of the first year the whole farm reverted to Takakura and all he got was his share of that years profits. The end of the year was here and there was no bride in sight. It had sobered him up faster than any coffee. How the hell was he going to find a bride in three days! This was the death of all his plans. Even though he'd hardly acknowledged them even to himself, at the back of his mind he'd known he was willing to wait for a few years, build up the farm and then marry Lumina. Now that was all blown out of the water. She was only fourteen and without the farm he wouldn't stand a chance.

That evening he'd drowned his sorrows in the company of Gustafa and Rock. Somewhere around the sixth or seventh bottle someone had suggested following the time honoured tradition and calling on the Goddess for help. Apparently if you threw a tribute into her pool she would grant you a wish. Like most things when your drunk it had seemed perfectly sensible at the time. So the three of them had weaved there way up to the pool, at midnight Half a punnet of strawberries and a handful of winter berries had gone through the ice and Jack had leaned close to whisper his wish. Rock had muttered something about being careful but couldn't remember why and the three of them hadn't cared less. Jack made his wish and, to his astonishment, he thought he had had a momentary vision of the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen smiling up at him from the crystal depths of the pool. He was sure he'd passed out then and dreamt it because when they'd woken up there in the morning neither Gustafe nor Rock had seen anything. He'd slunk back down to the farm to find Vesta waiting for him with a tearful Celia. A pregnant Celia and he was married the following morning. Funny, he couldn't actually remember going that far with Celia, still there were a few blanks here and there and, more importantly, his wish had been granted. The farm was now his, Celia was sweet, pretty and biddable. Things weren't so bad? Were they?

Well, yes, they were!

Celia as a sweetheart was a joy. Celia as a wife was a nightmare. He'd felt sorry for her through the pregnancy. She had had a bad time, she was sick all the time and cried if he left her for even a hour or so in the evening. She stood about in the farm watching him all the time and crying endlessly. Once the baby was born she turned into a world class nag. She didn't like him coming into the house dirty, she didn't like him having friends, she hated him going to the bar and she wouldn't hear of him even speaking to Gustafa or Rock. If he spoke to another woman, even Vesta she'd throw a temper tantrum that lasted for days. On top of that she was the most boring person in the world. Jack had felt that if he had had to listen to one more lecture on housework he'd scream. As for the child he felt nothing. He was sure his pre wedding suspicions had been correct. The blond haired, blue eyed boy was the ugliest, sickliest, whiniest brat he'd ever seen. Sweet William ( more like sour cabbage) was the apple of his mothers eye and his piercing screams went through Jack's brain like a dentists drill.

At two months he'd had enough and decided to hit town for a boozy, sex filled weekend. He'd got up early and made for the beach where Rock had left a boat for him. He'd set off full of hope. Rosheen would be thrilled to see him and he could forget the awful Celia for a whole three or four days. Oh yes, from now on he was going to do as he pleased and she could go to hell. He pushed off, raised the sail but after an hour of fighting winds and currents he found himself back on the beach. He tried again but with similar results. Well, if the weather was against him he'd abandon his plans for the city and walk into Mineral Town. It was a long time since he'd been there, before his marriage in fact. His pal Rick would be pleased to see him. He set off up the path past Vesta's farm and climbed steadily until he'd reached the gorge. Strange how the wind had seemed to grow in strength as he had climbed. All around the valley the air was still and peaceful but here he could barely keep his balance. The wind had pushed him back. It had felt like a solid wall. He'd managed about half a dozen steps but could go no further. Exhausted he'd had had to come back to the mouth of the gorge and sit down to get his breath. As he'd sat there young Kate had passed him by, said hello and then proceeded to climb up out of the valley with no problem at all. Jack had jumped to his feet to follow her sure the wind must have dropped but it was worse than before. Ahead of he he had seen Kate moving easily along the road but he'd found he could make no headway.

" What the hell is going on?" he'd yelled. To his amazement he'd actually received an answer.

" Well, Jack," the sweet melodious voice had seemed to came from all around him. " Isn't this what you asked for?"

"W ho are you?" Jack had spun around looking for the speaker. " What wish?"

" Jack," the voice had continued."You came to my pool and made a wish, don't you remember?"

" A wish..."Jack had stammered.

" You wished for a wife."

" Yes," Jack had agreed " But what has that to do with this? " You wished for a wife, at once, so that you would never have to leave the valley."

" Yes, but this can't be right"

" Of course it's right," the voice had stressed. " I gave you a wife now you don't have to leave the valley."

" But I can't leave the valley!" Jack had yelled out.

" Yes," she'd confirmed " you should have been more careful what you said. You don't get a wish for nothing you know."

" You can't mean it." Jack had been horrified, it just couldn't be true

Well it was true. Try as he might it seemed there was no way he could get out of the valley. \no matter what he did he just couldn't get out of the place. It seemed that his wish had killed everything for him. He was trapped here with the dreadful Celia twenty four seven with no hope of release. He was working like a dog on the farm, funny how little Takakura did these days, Already the stupid woman was dropping hints about another baby. She was everywhere, god he could hear her calling him even now. He knew he'd better go. Jack heaved himself to his feet, staggered and vomited into the grass verge. That about summed up his life. God, he felt so bad. There was something he should have done, what was it. Oh yes, Celia had asked him to buy something for their dinner tonight and he'd spent the lot. Hell, she'd never shut up. Looking round he spotted some mushrooms, half hidden in the grass and staggered over to pick some for soup. His hand shook as he picked them and he stopped himself just in time as he nearly added a poisonous toadstool. Maybe he should just eat it and get it over with. As he went to drop it his hand paused and the constant fog in his brain seemed to clear a little and a thought began to grow. " I granted you your wish and sent you a wife, now you can't leave the valley." wasn't that what she had said? Well, what if he no longer had a wife? A smile began to grow on Jack's face. Anything was worth trying.

" Coming Celia," Jack called. Oh, yes mushroom soup for dinner today.