Sunday, 13 February 2011

One fair lady - a story

She was a sucker for a musical. Write a play, put songs in it, and she'd be there. It didn't matter if it was trite and predictable, she didn't care if it was contrived and cheesy; with the first note of the overture she would instantly suspend all disbelief and be entranced. There'd been few defining moments in her life that wouldn't have been improved by the people all around her turning as one to an imaginary audience and, with shining teeth and sparkling eyes, bursting into song.

Her teenage role models had been the irresistible Maria from West Side Story, the irrepressible Maria from The Sound of Music. She'd modelled her approach to parenting on a combination of the chaotic care of Caractacus Potts and the matronly magic of Mary Poppins. But it was the character of Eliza Doolittle that had captured and held her. Perhaps it was the name, so close to her own Lizzie; perhaps it was the London setting. She'd certainly known people who would judge her on account of her accent.

She'd sometimes felt uncomfortable with the notion of a girl needing or wanting to change so drastically to fit another's definition of proper, but there was something so very enticing about that dramatic transformation. The very idea that, if you only tried hard enough, you could become beautiful and accepted. She'd pictured herself playing the part on the West End stage. Manipulating her vowel sounds, overcoming her gracelessness and winning the heart of the curmudgeonly but oh-so-clever Professor Higgins.

So why, when he played the soundtrack tonight, as they sat and ate together, did she have to blink away the tears? Why did she feel the need to straighten her shoulders, hold her head high and pretend all the optimism and joy he expected?  She could still remember the time when she'd offered to give her heart to anyone who'd stand outside her door and sing 'On the street where you live'. So when exactly had the transformation from cockney girl to stunning socialite become such a parody of misguided hope and untaken chances?

She looked across the table at her own intellectual. She pictured him singing  'I've grown accustomed to her face' and wondered when that had become a reflection of reality rather than a love song. Was it inevitable for everyone to eventually reach a stage when they have to accept who they are?  When do people realise that the best they'll ever be has already been?

Sighing, she got up to clear the table. Slim chance that she'd ever again want to dance all night. He stood up as she passed his chair, reaching out to catch her hand. She knew he'd meant well and that she'd disappointed him with her silence, she just didn't know how to explain. But as Lizzie looked at him he grinned and then, still holding her hand, he very softly started to sing,
'All at once am I, several stories high, knowing I'm on the street where you live.'


Hillary said...

Made me a little sad.
Still, I'm really enjoying reading your beautiful stuff. I've read some of your older pieces now, too.
I think I'll go watch My Fair Lady. I love when Jeremy Brett sings "On the Street Where You Live".

light208 said...

I will confess, I've never seen My Fair Lady. I found this enchanting however and now feel the need to go and watch it. You may start a craze.

Happy Frog and I said...

'When do people realise that the best they'll ever be has already been?' I loved that line and often wonder it myself. Perhaps we never fully do as the realisation would be too difficult.

This post took my back to my uncle who performed in several musicals at a tiny theatre in Palmers Green. I used to love going to watch him perform and remember him performing in My Fair Lady in particular.

Jayne said...

Oh, kind of sad. I wish she were more optimistic. But it's a great piece! Really nice short. ;)

Pat said...

I used to be a bit sniffy about musicals but suddenly - in late age - I found them entrancing - the good ones I mean. That's why there are always coachloads of oldies Keeping the theatres going. I still appreciate a good serious drama but love the spirit lift of a musical. Something about the human voice singing its heart out.
I could have daaaaaaaanced all night:)

Baglady said...


I seem to be of a differing opinion to some of your other commenters - for me this reads as a happy ending. She just didn't realise that she had her own Henry Higgins all along.

Am I wrong?

Starlight said...

Brilliant! I loved one particular line: "Was it inevitable for everyone to eventually reach a stage when they have to accept who they are?" because I often ask myself a similar question.
I agree with Baglady - I think there is a happy ending in this story. (I hope that I didn't totally miss your your point.)

Simon H said...

Although tinged with sadness and a little regret, I felt this was a happy ending too. I am a glass-half-full person, but to me this was a 'real world' love story.

Sally-Sal said...

This was amazing.

I loved this line especially: "When do people realise that the best they'll ever be has already been?"

Perfect, as always.

caterpillar said...

I felt that somehow this story has a happy ending, or well...will have a happy ending....

otherworldlyone said...

This is my second time reading this - just loved it. My favorite bit is the third paragraph - yes, the entire paragraph, ha. :)

Jane said...

Lovely story.I felt sad for her then of course the ending changed all that.
Please tell me I'm right & it was a happy ending.

Olga said...

I admire the way you describe these nuanced feelings and events. I don't care whether the ending is happy or not; you really don't know when and how things end.

Friko said...

Goodness Gracious, etc. I just saw you at Fran's blog.
I never knew you had a blog of your own, but I am sure I saw your name a long time ago on mine.

This is a lovely story, I am glad you ended it on a forgiving and hopeful note.

Sharon Longworth said...

Hilary - I'm sorry if I made you sad, but I'm very pleased you like the blog. I never expect people to go back and read my old posts - so thank you very much for doing so.

Light208 - you must watch it if you can. It's much better on stage, but the film is a good substitute and Audrey Hepburn is simply beautiful.

HappyFrogandI - how lucky you are to have an uncle to watch on stage.

Jayne - thank you. I was feeling kind of sad when I wrote it, so that probably came through more than I intended.

Sharon Longworth said...

Pat - I fully intend to keep the theatres going! And you're so right about the joy of the human voice singing its heart out.

Baglady - no real rights or wrongs, but I did intend for it to be a happy ending. My own lack of singing ability makes me completely in awe of anyone else who can actually sing, so the image of a man singing to someone he loves is always especially powerful to me.

Starlight - thank you! and no, you didn't miss the point. I think there are probably plenty of us who are still trying to work out who we are.

Sharon Longworth said...

Simon - thank you. Yes I see you as a glass-half-full kind of person - that's why I'm surprised that you'll listen so often to my incessant whinging...

Sally-Sal - you are too kind. I have loved your last couple of posts - great writing.

Caterpillar - thank you and yes I think a happy ending is what I hoped for.

Sharon Longworth said...

OWO - I always think I've done ok if I get a positive comment from you - so I'm very glad you liked this one - thank you!

Jane - yes, a happy ending was what I was aiming for, but it's been interesting to see the different interpretations.

Olga - thank you and welcome to the blog, I hope you'll stop by again.

Friko - hello and yes, I do stop by your blog every now and then and thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Thank you for returning the visit!

Maryx said...

Romantic.. in it's own right. =)