Readers, this week's story takes place within the same universe as "Durchfall" and "Christmas With Mr. Cody." I recommend reading those first, but it's not one-hundred percent necessary. Without further ado, this is the third of The Adventures of Humphrey Holdsworth and Richard Aldwinkle... although, this one is more like The Adventures of Dolores. Let's not get hung up on semantics. Please, enjoy! Make mean, snide remarks in the comments section. Or exalt me with praise. Your choice!
I suppose if there were ever a time for me to tell you about myself, it would be now. Why don't we start with what you do know? My name is Dolores Anne Catherine Travers Holdsworth. I am married to Humphrey Howard Holdsworth and we have one son, Simon Travers Holdsworth. We live together in London, where we are constantly pestered by Humphrey's lifelong best friend, Richard Thompson Aldwinkle. It is a good life. You know this.
But there is much you do not know; an entire lifetime of experiences, passions, haps, mishaps, and happenstances. For instance, do you where I came from? Or on what crossroads I have taken to arrive at this one? There are many. But the most important involves Humphrey, an absent Richard, a sprained ankle, and a departing train.
I was born and raised on the English countryside in Worcestershire near Redditch. We weren't farmers or anything, no, we we lived there because father preferred the solitude or a large country home. He had been raised in London, but hated the city. So after completing his schooling, he sold everything he could and bought a small country cottage. Once he found work, he thought he had it all....
Until he met Miss Stephanie Clark, an American woman from Georgia; the most beautiful he had ever seen. She had always dreamed of going to England and after being fed up with her three years at Princeton she took the semester off and pursued her fantasy. She met my father at the side of the road. That junker car she had purchased finally met its end. Father was bicycling down the road and saw the helpless beauty. He took her home and helped with her car problems. She was all set to leave and resume her tour... but she did not.
And within a few months... they were married. Years later, their only child, Dolores Travers, was born. Shortly after my birth, mother was advised never again to have children. For a very long time, I resented this. I wanted a sister. Living in the country can be terribly lonely. I would have taken a bother, but no quite so happily.
I had a good childhood. My best friends growing up were my pets. When we adopted him, he was a lanky kitten we named Bones. Within a few months, however, we were forced to rename Bones. You see, Bones became a very, very fat cat. We renamed him Tubbs. When Tubs passed, we tried a dog we should not have named Philip. Father ran over poor Philip, which turned out to be fortunate because we are, and forever shall be, cat people. Our next cat was the prissiest creature on God's green earth. We named him Sparkles. Sparkles was, in fact, gay. I do not mean that in ye olde English way, nay, I mean that we had a quite homosexual cat. It was quite ridiculous because he liked all men, not only other male cats. When came winter time, I knitted Sparkles a purple scarf so that he could accessorize and look, dare I say, fabulous. The other curious about Sparkles was that he was magic. He had a strange tendency to appear in the strangest of places, almost as if he had achieved the power of teleportation. Legend spread across England of Sparkles the magic gay cat.
Sparkles lives to this day. He is thirty-two years old. I told you he was magic.
Upon being booted from the nest, I left the countryside. I had been to London a few times before and loved it. I love the closeness of everything. I love the people. I love the variety. I love sitting outside a cafe and watching people. I also love arguing with them.
As a girl, I was a master at arguing. People found difficulty in liking a pretentious little snot such as myself because I question everything. And then I developed my taste for biting sarcasm much sooner than average. Naturally, my purpose in moving to London was to argue with more people and therefore I chose enroll in a law school to learn proper argument. Of course, the thing I needed to leanr was how to argue without scathing sarcasm. It turns out that legitimate arguments require substance. Who knew?
Once every month, I would board a train and head home. It was always a highlight of my month because home was the place where I was truly loved. I had friends, yes, but it was not easy to forgive my Venus Flytrap nature. To put it simply, I was lonely. Beneath my quite fierce being was a very sensitive girl. I had trouble finding love. There was no man in my life.
Buy my parents knew this. They had found a nice man who would be waiting to pick me up at the train station in Redditch. His name was Charles, I believe, but I may be wrong. I never met him.
It was a damp, fall London afternoon and the train station was not crowded. It was 2:26 and my train was to depart at 2:30. Needless to say, I was in a hurry. I rushed through the station and failed to noitce the puddle on the florr of the platform, which proceeded to trip me, snap the high of my shoe, twist my ankle, and knock me flat on arse. It was at 2:29 when I realized that the contents of my bag had spread themselves all which ways. Without getting up, I crawled around on my knees trying desperately to get everything in order.
It was at 2:30 when I grabbed what I had, forced myself to my feet, and collapsed in pain just as my train departed. Everything, all at once, went wrong. As I fell, I could only thinkg about how much of a tosser life was being at the moment. Apparently, I was not destined for that train. Apparently, I was not destined to fall in love with Charles. Apparently, I was destined to suddenly find myself caught in the arms of a strange man.
He was nothing spectacular. His brown hair was in a perfect state of dull and his icicle blue eyes were hidden behind rounded thin-rimmed spectacles. He wore a poor academic suit, but he did wear it well. I looked into his eyes in that moment and saw both bravery and concern. I should have been impressed and thanked him. However, my wonderful nature answered instead, “You just get spat out of Cambridge?”
“Oxford, actually,” he kept a warm smile as he lead me to the nearest bench. “Took a bit of a nasty spill there.”
“I know,” I grumbled flatly. My ankle really hurt like all hell.
The man got down on his knees and took a look at my ankle. “I'm no doctor, but I don't think it's broken.” Still on his knees, he picked up the rest of my things and put them in my bag. “Prop up your leg,” he told me. “I'll go and fetch you some ice.”
As he left, I stopped him, “Wait, what is your name?” I'm not sure why I asked, to be honest. I didn't care about him; not yet. In all of my memory, I should not have asked. It simply does not compute. I was in pain and wanted to take it all out on the man helping me. It doesn't make sense, I know, but this is how it happened.
“Humphrey,” he said turning back as he walked away. As he left, I cam eot realize how shrewd I had been. Sometimes, and I am better at this now than I was, I am able to step back and see how may attitude affects otehrs. Here was this man trying to help me and here I was being a total arse. Did I change? Well....
Humphrey came back carrying a bag of ice and said, “The cafe was too kind.” He handed it to me and I applied to my sprain.
“Thank you,” a good side crept out.
“Where were you off to?” Humphrey asked as he sat down beside me.
“Home, over near Redditch,” I replied without looking at him.
“So, what brings you to London?”
This time I looked him in the eye, “I'm studying law... I have a knack for argument.”
“Is that so,” he smiled.
“What about you? Haven't you got someplace better to be?”
“Better?” He laughed. “Well, no, I've been here for the last four hours awaiting my best friend, Richard, but he's nowhere to be found. We were supposed to meet here and catch a train together, but that's obviously not happening. But none of that could be better than this.”
“How so?” I asked slowly as I cocked an eyebrow.
“A lot of men I know would dream about catching a beautiful damsel in distress-”
“Damsel in distress?”
“Well, yes, you fell and-”
“I helped you.”
“You suppose I needed your help?”
He squirmed, “Well, I don't suppose so, but I don't quite see you getting yourself serviceable in quite such a snappy turnaround.”
He had me there. And then I briefly wondered why I had been opposed to being a damsel in distress. Perhaps it was my argumentative stubbornness, but I had honestly dreamed of being rescued by a knight in shining armor in a situation such as this. The most likely reason for my fighting, however, was because I had not expected my knight to be a dork in a cheap suit. “I suppose you're right,” I admitted after a long pause. “Thank you.”
“Well, what's your name, damsel?”
“Don't push it,” I said, but decided to push back my attitude. “Dolores.”
“Your name is Dolores, you're studying law, and you're off to home in Worcestershire,” Humphrey recalled. “Is it nice there?”
“Beautiful. Rolling hills and greens. It's fall, so it's orange and yellow, of course. I couldn't describe it without doing it injustice.”
I thought over that for a moment and came to the conclusion that it was best put by someone else, “When the voices of children are heard on the green
“And laughing is heard on the hill,
“My heart is at rest within my breast
“And everything else is still.”
“Who wrote that? It sounds familiar....”
“William Blake. My favorite.”
Humphrey chuckled, “He's a class act section eight.”
“Yes, but... I love him.”
“I'm partial to Eliot.”
“That ol' plagiarist?”
Humphrey sighed, “Yes, yes, the ol' plagiarist.”
I laughed, “He made the stuff he stole better.”
“What is it about Blake that appeals to you anyway?”
“Both cruelty and compassion have human hearts. I enjoy his sense of duality, how he reconciles the world in such a ridiculous romantic fashion, yet manages to find beauty in all of it, even the bad parts.”
Cheeks red as plums, he said, “I found beauty in something bad.”
I knew I was beautiful. I had the looks. Men had stared at me and probably even lusted. The problem is my prickly personality. I like to think that I'm better today, but the better part of me insists that I haven't really changed. I'll let you decide. “You're a dork,” I said with my charming smile.
He chuckled, “Well, the next train comes soon... I ought to get you a ticket.”
Humphrey stood and started on his way to the ticket office. As he went, I suddenly shouted to him, “Buy two!”
“Who?” He turned and asked. “For what?”
“You're coming with me.”
Humphrey thought this over and grinned, “Alright, two it is!”
I don't remember exactly what I was thinking when I told Humphrey to get a ticket for himself. I know I wasn't thinking about how awkward it was about to be for me to bring a strange man home to my parents. I know I wasn't thinking about poor Charles. I know I wasn't thinking about Richard. It was spontaneous. I don't think I even expected it. I do know that I have never regretted it.
Humphrey came home with me. It turns out that Charles had chickened out. My parents were ready to console me for the lack of Charles, but instead found themselves shocked. I told them the story and I don't think that helped with the surprise, but they fell in love with Humphrey (even before I did.) He is smart, hard-working, and loving. Yes, he is dork, but he's my dork in shining armor.
It was about a year and a half later that Humphrey and I married. I dropped out of law school and took a job as a legal assistant in order to support Humphrey as he finished his Oxford education. I kept the same job for over twenty years. Humphrey's career began with some struggle as it was my salary that sustained us for the longest time. But we made it. I would not have it any other way.
Of course, I've left out a very important detail and this is Mister Richard Thompson Aldwinkle. Summarizing Richard is difficult, as is Humphrey relationship to him. They met in their very first day of their schooling and rapidly became completely inseparable. Humphrey was a shy, scared, but incredibly intelligent boy with enough brains for the both of them. Richard was a fearless, daring, mule of a boy with the mind of a pigeon. Their relationship was symbiotic. Richard stood up for Humphrey, and Humphrey did all their thinking. Of course, it was Richard who got them in trouble, but Humphrey took the brunt of the punishment because obviously is not smart enough to come up with their antics on his own. Usually it was Humphrey who simply went along for the ride. Now, I say Richard is unintelligent, but I only that in one way. He is not school smart, he is street smart. He is clever and quite the wise-ass.
How clever? Richard Aldwinkle is clever enough that he manged to get himself into Oxford despite having no qualification whatsoever. His only reason for going was, of course, Humphrey. Richard rode of Humphrey's success for his entire life. It really is quite impressive, but it's also quite annoying.
And that is Richard Thompson Aldwinkle to me: annoying. He is the eternal third wheel. Even after marrying that woman of a reptile, Delilah, Richard still leeched off of us. When Humphrey and I were dating, and even engaged, either Humphrey was smart enough to push Richard away or I was too stupid to figure it out; I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Had I known, would things be different? Would I have walked away?
Absolutely not. My life is a great one. Richard is frustrating and obnoxious, but the after-effect of Richard's blunders is always a good laugh or at least a decent story. Add to that, Humphrey would be miserable without Richard. Given the choice, Humphrey would pick me, but I wouldn't want Humphrey without Richard. Let me explain.
I am hard-arsed. I argue and I am demanding and I am sarcastic. I am assertive and I am stubborn. Humphrey is kind, bashful, quiet, and lenient. I lead Humphrey to get the most out of his intellect. I push him. The problem with Dolores Holdsworth is that I can be too structured, too unfun. I get things done, but I can be stressful. Richard is the opposite. He pushes Humphrey to the fun, passionate side of life. Humphrey, I propose, needs both of us. Without me, Humphrey is pure potential, but without Richard, his life would be quite dull.
Without Humphrey, Richard and I would be as far apart as grey from shine. But that's not the case. Instead, the most mysterious, interesting, and baffling dynamic exists. I would study it if I were not in it.
The final piece to this equation is our son, Simon, who manages to embody characteristics of all three of us, namely, and sadly, Richard. For some reason, Simon took a liking to my bafoonish nemesis. These two pull more pranks than a Canterbury to a Keenan (or a Halpert to a Schrute, as ya'll yanks might say.) And they're very good at it. They once released five mice into Humphrey's study and numbered the mice 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. He nearly went mad trying to find number five. Or there was the time Humphrey was put through a rotten Easter egg hunt. There's no shortage of vile ingenuity in those two. I just wish they could use their powers for good....
This is the life of Dolores Anne Catherine Travers Holdsworth. It is a very good life. It has its ups and it has its downs. There is no other life for Dolores. She is very grateful for what she has been given. I wish that very much for everyone else in the world.