Margaret was sat on the edge of the bed, as large as life and twice as effervescent. Her lithe body was outlined within the white shift she wore, the material rendered almost transparent courtesy of the new day coming through the open curtains. Mac moved across the bed and wrapped his arms around her. On her lap was a new handheld, a tablet device she called it. She had only took delivery a day or so ago but already the pair of them had run its battery down several times. Margaret wriggled with the attention given her and turned her head to start their day off with a kiss. “He’s sent us the article to look at,” she explained.

Turning to sit cross legged on top of the black duvet she reminded him of one of those monochrome photographs Walt had shown him that Sunday afternoon. Her long dark hair falling about both shoulders set off not only her pale face but the white garment she wore as well. To add emphasis the black duvet set her apart as the focus of attention within the bare room of plain walls and wooden floor. Mac smiled at her. It was a smile for just being there for him, there when he awoke every dawn of late, always happy and loving, just there for him and that meant everything at the moment, his Sal in this world she was all that kept him from falling over the edge.

She began to read the piece out aloud. At first it was all Nigel Tyas had promised, and more importantly what they had hoped for, Mac in particularly. A story of concern, Mac’s concern, for a life lost somewhere, nobody knew where, a story of loved ones left wondering where their family member had gone to. Fuelled by an anticipation that searchers and searched would soon be reunited once this report hit home it ran very well but ever so slightly alongside the main core of it, as Margaret read on, Mac listening intently, seemed to be a hint of concern around why no one had actually come forward already. Why had he not yet been claimed. It was hinted at several times, not in as many words but the inference was there all the same and Mac picked up on it. Margaret seemed not to. An ever so slight suggestion of him being a loner, in his life before and still now, and the use of two words especially bothered him, ‘unique individual’, making him wonder if he was not the only party Mr Tyas had been in touch with prior to writing his piece, and if indeed the journalist could possibly have a slightly differing agenda to the one he purported.

“The photo’s a gud un,” Margaret quipped on finishing the read and handing him over the tablet. It was the one taken of them both stood at the farmhouse door, framed by the entrance to his sanctuary and rescue. There was an inset to one side of this main picture, a blown up portrait of the man himself, this unique individual, and one in more ways than this world could ever understand.

A quick reread on his part and they both agreed that the journalist had done his job so handing back the tablet Margaret replied positively to the invitation to print. She hit the send button just as Walt’s voice shouted across to them with his invite to breakfast.

And that was how it had all finally started, kicked off. The frenzy. Difficult to say thinking back, so much had already gone off, even though it was only a week or so ago, whether or not the article was the catalyst, there had been that slight attention beforehand of course, but coincidence or not that cooked breakfast marked a divide.

Sat on a more than blue, fake leather couch, awaiting further airtime while something called a commercial break was taking precedence over his own interview, and watching the square screen of an auto cue, now still, showing the paragraphs from the presenters last question it was hard to imagine that just over one week had passed since that first national broadcast, but here he was a celebrity of sorts. The initial local radio station interview seemed an eternity away now too, poles apart from this intrusive brightness and the makeup, off all things the make up, put on his face, the heat from the intense lighting and the hustle and bustle of the studio floor irritated him the most.

Huge cameras, three of them, cumbersome articles on wheels but almost rooted to the shiny grey floor with their weight, poked lenses his way, all seeing eyes desperate to capture the very essence of his soul. Laughingly, the makeup department had been to work on his hair too, brushing it in a cascade that now framed his face. Powder puff over his healthy complexion ensured no reflections on camera. He never took much notice of his appearance if the truth be told but here in this artificial world of half truths and false friendships beauty was everything.

Nigel Tyas’ national newspaper campaign had quickly taken on a life all of its own after the article hit the streets and grown out of all proportion, all proportion whatsoever. Infant, junior, teenager and adult all in the space of ten days. Ten days. Two hundred and forty hours or so, give or take a few, not that he was counting. Well actually he was, though not for any reason the wavy haired presenter with bushy blonde eyebrows that met above his nose was aware of. A man trying not to act his age, and seriously not succeeding, the well fed anchorman sat two cushions apart from Mac and dithered with his tweed jacket buttons, first fastening them then undoing them, straightening his pale pink stripe shirt then tucking it firmly into a pair of pale blue jeans. No belt? That seemed odd for a start off. Why would a man not wear a belt to hold up his trousers, and why was he so much on edge when not on air and quite the opposite when the camera was rolling.

Mac forced a smile at him, it was what his agent had told him to do. Yes, he even had an agent to manage his affairs now, courtesy again of Nigel Tyas, a ‘readily available at the drop of a hat kind of a guy’, his agents own words, ‘ready to make cash from crumbs’, his words again. Mac did not need to force any smile, they were very easily forthcoming, and all of their own fruition.

Not two weeks. Not long at all. But so much had happened, except the obvious. No one had come forward, and after all the media exposure as well. Mid day news programmes, afternoon magazine hours, both television and radio, every one wanted a piece of him, to be in on the act, his act, though none of them knew the truth behind the charade. Not yet. The professors had kept themselves quiet too. No contact or any invitation back to see them. What were they about? He truly was the ‘man with a mystery’, this the title given him on his introduction to the breakfast show now again going out live to the nation. A woman’s hand suddenly appeared from over his shoulder making him jump slightly. She struggled to pin the small microphone back to his coffee coloured corduroy shirt, it had fallen off in the break and Mac had not noticed. The perfume she was wearing overpowered him for a moment but by the time he realised what was happening she was gone again.

“So why has there been no one coming forward?” The programme was back up and running, the presenter asking that question once again.

Mac stole himself away from his meandering thoughts and rejoined the discussion. “If I knew that there’d be no need of me sat here Frank.”

Frank smiled sympathetically back at his guest. “We touched on your life since losing your memory Mac, can you add anything to what you’ve already told us?”

“This sort of stuff does not feel like me to be honest Frank, that much I believe to be true…”

“All the attention?”

“Yeh! But don’t get me wrong, I’m truly grateful for all the help offered me but what goes with it……. well if it helps me find my home then it’ll be all worth it.”

“It makes you feel uncomfortable?”

“Doesn’t sit right with me at all, I feel like I’m going to wake up any moment and it all be a dream.” Mac smiled again.

Frank shuffled a little from one cheek to the next while taking direction. “A lot of people, and I mean a lot of people are interested in your story Mac I can tell you. They all want to help I’m sure but I suppose all you want is your actual family members to come forward. Have you no recollection at all….”

Mac interrupted. He knew the rest of the question. Camera two came on line and looked towards him. “Not really, I can’t add any more than I’ve told everyone so far. A farm, Mum and Dad I suppose, I don’t know if I’ve even a brother or sister.”

“Now, it has been suggested Mac, that they may be out of the country. Maybe their away on holiday or something?”

“I couldn’t tell you Frank, I just haven’t got a clue.”

The words rolled over on the auto cue under camera one. “You’re scheduled to meet up with some important people today I understand?”

“Well I was.” Mac paused momentarily. “I was supposed to be seeing the Prime Minister, and just before I got out the taxi this morning, on my way up here, I received a call that the meeting had been dropped.” The way the conversation had gone still bothered him but he tried not to show it and just shrugged his shoulders.

“Any explanation for why?”

“No, just a sorry and they’ll be in touch.” The conversation had gone quite the opposite actually with no intimation of any future date.

“So what’s this week been like for you, since your story broke?”

Mac thought for a moment, put the phone call out of mind and tried to put other things into perspective. “Crazy I would say.” The money was helping though. “I was even recognised by the taxi driver bringing me here from the station this morning. On the train I was asked for my autograph many times, to write it on peoples magazines which had my photo in them, others had diaries, notepads, anything they had on them and some even used napkins from the buffet car. It’s all a bit crazy.” Margaret and Walt though, they were the ones he was doing all this for. A local bank manager had rushed through his application for an account asking his permission to advertise the fact, though that had not hit the media yet.
“It’s all a bit overwhelming, I mean photographers keep popping up in the most unlikely of places, just to snap me eating a bacon sandwich in a cafe or visit a charity shop in town with Margaret. Why would that be of any interest to anyone?”

Frank ignored the obvious answer. “And, you mentioned Margaret, she must have been a great help for you since you two met?”

“Margaret’s been a pillar of strength I can tell you. I don’t know where I’d be without her, and Walt her father also. If it wasn’t for them………”

“It has been said, and I’m sure you are aware…..” Frank finally went on the offensive, “that you are ‘a catch’ to quote one woman’s magazine. That bashful charm and juvenile, some describe as little boy lost face, if you don’t mind me quoting, has caught the eye of many of the ladies.”

Mac laughed. “Little boy lost, yes, one title in the week did describe me as that, both in appearance and life……”

“So it goes without saying really you will have someone back in your former life.” Was Frank trying to be helpful, not suggestive, offering some hope of sorts. “I’m sure that person will come forward.” He shuffled again crossing one leg over the other as he turned to face Mac more directly, his arm disappearing over the back of the couch. Now the twist to his approach was delivered. “So I am sure happiness and love will find you.” The intonation in the last few words was on a rise in pitch.

Mac knew what was being suggested but pretended he did not, and rolling his eyes down a little answered. “Well who knows what the future will bring Frank.” Always leave them wanting more had been the final instruction from his agent, never give up everything and always keep them guessing.

The interview was about to finish, the presenter was being asked to wind up courtesy of a hand gesture from a man on the studio floor the far side of the cameras.

“Well that’s where we’ll have to leave it I’m afraid Mac” Frank said almost apologetically. “We’ll all keep wishing you a speedy recovery and I hope it’s not too long before everything works out.”

“Thanks for the opportunity.” Mac was about to say a thank you for all the hospitality as well but Frank was already onto the next topic of the running order while out of camera shot he was being ushered off the couch by the same lady who had adjusted his microphone earlier. The perfume gave her away, the playful scent catching the back of his throat again was a perfect match for her bubbly personality and efficient manner, though the high heels she wore threw her tall slim frame bejewelled in shimmering silk off centre slightly as she tried to walk upright and business like.

She escorted him to the studio door and wished him a very good day and quick resolve to his problems and with that he was on his own, the heavy studio door shut in front of him, his only option now to make a way out the building and find the best route home to peace and quiet. The city was too noisy a place for him anyway, he hated the hustle and bustle of it all completely.

Eight interviews in nearly as many days, most of them only a cockstride away from town so not interfering with the farm work and for the most part thankfully his tasks had not suffered. The last thing he wanted was to let Walt down, after all if it had not been for him goodness knows what would have been his future. This one today had been a lot further to travel though, to the city, and with Margaret occupied around the parlour he had taken the local public transport.

The train carriage home held no other passenger for the moment. He was on his own, blissfully alone and at peace with himself. He had not been offered that luxury for many a day. Taking out his own handheld he moved seats and secreted himself in one corner of the carriage, took a few photographs and started a diary entry.

“Sal, if you could only see this train, and hopefully in another ten days you will I hope love, it’s so past it, shabby, torn cushions and stained furniture. It ambles along at about fifty miles an hour, on a track that rocks the whole carriage from side to side, a thumping noise from underneath, clickety clicking as the wheels roll along. It’s like, do you remember those archive films we were laughing at, those videos taken long before the last push, the steam trains an all, well this train is just one step up from……”

He had to stop talking. The dividing door of the carriage was being slid apart. The device went out of sight.

“Tickets please!” A uniformed guard eyed him straight away. “Can I see your ticket please?”

Mac obliged and produced his day return, paid for by the television station, as had been his taxi fares for that matter. He had not had to pay a penny towards any of his travel arrangements of late, ‘all part of the perks of celebrity’ his agent had disclosed on their second or third telephone conversation. The guard punched the ticket, returned it and went on his way.

“You have to produce a paper ticket Sal, to travel. It’s so surreal,” he continued with the diary. “And the carriage, it’s empty. Now I know we don’t travel much back home, try to keep journeys to a minimum but I can see from the windows lots of cars in traffic jams, that’s what they call em here, traffic jams, just lined up nose to tail in queues on the roads. Makes no sense at all.”

The corrugated dividing door slid open again. This time another passenger. One who had travelled in on the same train as him earlier that morning. A smartly turned out individual of thinning ginger hair combed over from left to right and a gingerish beard to match. It had been the long grey coat he wore, single breasted with small lapels that had caught Macs attention, a smart cut tailored overcoat a little too warm for the weather he remembered thinking, but everyone to their own and anyway who was he to criticise with his fashion sense. His own grey checked coat and tan trousers would not be everyones choice of attire he was sure. If he was not also mistaken, this same individual had been outside the cafe he had visited in the city wanting to buy a bacon sandwich just before the interview having missed Walt’s breakfast. He had had to set off so early this morning. Mac smiled inwardly. Perhaps this man had been to the same television centre to give an interview of his own. How much of a coincidence would that be. He thought of making conversation but the man never caught his eye and the long strides he took told of a more pressing business. Within ten or fifteen paces he was out through the other divide and away.

Mac sneaked the handheld back out and continued. “The experience through the portal still keeps bothering me as well Sal. There was a fiery sun the size of fifty of ours at one point. It covered the whole of the horizon and was blisteringly hot. Was it a warning or something? It’s kinda been on my mind since I saw it.” When he paused the handheld stopped recording. For a while he was back at the bridge staring at that huge ball of a sun, a giant of a star ready to burst and engulf the planet it had so long nurtured. Under the bridge he stayed, for a while at any rate, the lullaby of the railway track and heat in the carriage bringing on a slumber that threatened to betray his task in hand if anyone else came by, but his arms were so heavy with delight that he could not even be bothered to raise them from off his lap and put the device away. A yawn sent him to stare more on the bridge and its contents, clickety click, clickety click, the beating heart of the train carrying its cargo ranged back towards the countryside leaving behind in its wake the urban sprawl of concrete and metal. Clickety click, clickety click, Mac meanwhile was adrift.

A vibrating in his trouser pocket announced an incoming call on the other pink handset awakening him with a start. It was Nigel Tyas. Just in time too. The station before his stop was just passing as he took the call.

Quickly he composed his thoughts. “Nigel. How are you?”

“Just calling to say the interview looked good.”

“You watched it?”

“Yeh! Listen, I’d like to do a follow up, a special in the Sunday edition this weekend. What d’ya think?”

“Ok by me Nigel, d’ya want another interview?”

“Yeh! ……..some more pics too please……….”

The signal jumped in and out making any more conversation difficult. Mac shouted a final exchange. “I can’t hear you, Ok! I’ll call ya later when I get home, I’ll call Tim too.” Tim was the name of his agent. If the money was to keep rolling in he needed to keep him informed.

The train pulled up at Mac’s stop, the doors opened and he alighted just as the rain began to fall. Not that it bothered him. It was quite refreshing actually, made more so by the much better scenery all around him compared with when he took to the journey. He skipped his way out the station, a satisfied expression all over his face. It was all turning out fine, as did the weather, and when Margaret met him at the lane, she was off to see a neighbour, the sky had brightened once more and what remained of the afternoon looked promising. He would be able to finish irrigating the potato field.

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