Dear listeners: I want to find out more all about YOU.
So I’ve made a survey, also known as a questionnaire! Basically, you will answer some questions about how you listen to the podcast, to help me understand what you want from it.
But I know how boring it is to fill in surveys, so after you complete it, you will get a beginner bonus story, The City Mouse and the Country Mouse! It’s my way of saying thank you for being such wonderful listeners.
OK, let’s start the episode!
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is Dear Heart. This is chapter two. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear2. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear2. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
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Anyway, I’ve been feeling very professional lately! I’ve been doing all kinds of things like creating this PDF, posting more in the Telegram group, answering my emails every day—I know, I’m shocked that I’ve managed to do it—and it’s all working up to a book release.
That’s right, Easy Stories in English is coming out with a series of books! If you follow me closely, you’ve probably heard me mention it, but here I am officially announcing it.
So this book is going to be a collection of 10 short stories. Nine are from the podcast and there’s one original one. But there’s going to be four versions of the book: a beginner version, a pre-intermediate version, an intermediate version and an advanced version, with all the same stories.
So if you’re a really keen learner, a really enthusiastic learner, you can read the same story four times in four different levels, and actually, this is a great way to learn new vocabulary. Also, I have updated the stories, I have added vocabulary explanations, pictures, and it’s going to have a beautiful cover and lovely packaging.
So I’m really, really looking forward to this book, and if it goes well, I will definitely be releasing more books as well!
So the book will be published around the world in ebook and paperback. So you will be able to read it on your phone, on your Kindle, but also as a paper book! You will be able to buy the book online through all kinds of online bookstores, such as Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books and so on.
And around the time of the release of the book, I will be doing some giveaways! So if you really, really like the sound of the book, but maybe you don’t have the money to buy it, don’t worry, you will have a chance to win a copy!
If you’re hearing this and thinking, ‘Wow, that sounds so cool! I really want to help out,’ well, you can! You can join Ariel’s Book Team.
So Ariel’s Book Team is a group of my most passionate and excited listeners who I will send the books to early for free, so you can give me feedback and comments. And then when the books are released, you can leave a review on all of the different websites where it is sold.
This will really help me create excitement around the books, it will help other people find them, and it’s also a great way for you to work more closely with and get exclusive material before everyone else.
So if you want to join my book team, go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/BookTeam.
I do ask, though, if you’re very, very busy and you don’t think you’ll have time to give comments and post on social media and leave reviews, maybe don’t join the team. I do want people in the team to be actively taking part and reading all the emails.
If you’re unsure, you can always reach out and send me an email at Ariel@EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and we can discuss it. I understand that people are busy and you have your own lives, but I really want to create the best book release possible!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
When you like someone romantically, and you want them to know that you like them, you can flirt. For example, you might tell someone that they are very pretty, or give them presents, or laugh at all their jokes. When two people both flirt with each other, they have a flirtation. A person who likes to flirt a lot is flirty. Personally, I think I’m pretty bad at flirting? I like to think that I can flirt with people, but I don’t think it’s very obvious. Often, if someone is behaving strangely around me I think they might be flirting but I’m never sure. Flirting is hard!
When you clear something up, you tidy it and clean it. For example, if you have a really big meal, there will be plates and food all over the table, and you need to clear it up. If you don’t understand someone, your friend can also clear it up for you, explain what it means. For example, maybe you think that Ariel hates you because she told you to ‘Burn in hell!’ But actually, she was just making a joke, so your friend clears up to you that Ariel actually likes you.
Basically means ‘more or less’. It’s a word we use when we want to explain something in a simple way. For example, you can say a fridge is basically a cold box.
Lean, and the past tense is leant or leaned, means to move in a direction but without moving your feet. For example, if you want to see something better you will lean towards it. You won’t walk, but the rest of your body will move towards it. If you like someone, you often lean towards them while they are speaking, and if you don’t like someone, or they smell, you would lean away. If you can’t find a chair to sit down, you could lean against the wall or lean on a table.
Slam means to hit something very hard so that it makes a loud noise. For example, if you have an argument with someone, you might walk out of the room and slam the door behind you, so that they know you are really angry. If you are having an argument in a pub, you might slam your drink down on the table. Don’t slam it down too hard, though, or it might break!
When you take a deep breath, you go [takes a deep breath]. You breathe in a lot of air. When we take deep breaths, it makes us calmer. Many people use deep breathing as part of meditation.
Drunk means you have drunk alcohol, like beer or wine, and you feel strange. Actually, most people like getting drunk. In the UK, beer and cider, which is made with apples, are popular types of alcohol to get drunk. British people mostly like getting drunk very much. Personally, I don’t drink often, because I don’t like how you feel afterwards.
Shut up means to stop talking. It is usually used as an insult. If someone is being loud and annoying you, you might say, ‘Shut up!’ It is not very nice to do this, but children often tell each other to shut up.
When you do something really bad to someone, like hurt them or offend them, you usually apologise. However, if you do something really bad, you might need to make it up to them. Basically, you will need to do something very nice to show that you are sorry. For example, if you broke your friend’s expensive guitar, you could make it up to them by buying them a new one. It is especially important to make it up to someone if you are in a relationship with them and have hurt them.
Words that rhyme end in the same sound. For example, ‘cat’, ‘bat’, ‘pat’ and ‘sat’ all rhyme. ‘Thing’, ‘sing’ and ‘ring’ also rhyme. Rhymes are very important for songs and poems, as the end of each line usually rhymes. For example, the beginning of The Beatles’ song Yesterday goes, ‘Yesterday; All my troubles seemed so far away; Now it looks as though they’re here to stay; Oh, I believe in yesterday.’ Here, all the words end with -ay. Of course, songs and poems don’t have to rhyme, but personally I love rhyming!
When you wink, you close just one eye. Winking can mean lots of things. For example, you might wink when you are flirting with someone, or you might wink when you are telling a joke to make it clear that it’s a joke. You could also wink to send a secret message to someone that other people won’t see. Some people can’t wink, however.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
Dear Heart Chapter 2
We exchanged letters for several days. My handwriting improved with each one, but I definitely needed help. Sometimes I couldn’t read what I’d written!
I quickly discovered that Fergus was quite silly, under his old-fashioned appearance. The endings to our letters had gone from kind regards to most especially kind, nice, sweet, soft and careful regards.
But despite our written flirtation, we still hadn’t managed to arrange our first class. I kept inviting Fergus to my office, but Nigella always had a reason to stop him leaving. Not only that, she kept him working late, so I couldn’t even see him afterwards.
Finally, I decided this couldn’t go on. I was starting to forget what he looked like, and although I loved his handwriting, it wasn’t the same as seeing his cute face.
Besides, I was starting to worry that maybe he didn’t like me. I had flirted very directly with him on our date, and now it almost felt like he was hiding from me. I knew Nigella worked him hard, but I hadn’t seen him once since the restaurant.
Well, there was only one way to find out.
It seems to me that the walls of Love Letter Inc. are not the right place for our classes. Would you like to come to my house this Saturday?
I can teach you the ways of Microsoft Outlook, and you can take my writing level from a five-year-old to an eight-year-old.
Kindest, most wonderful regards,
I quickly folded the letter and took it to the secretary. We were a big company, and we shared the building with another one, so the secretaries delivered messages and parcels between the departments. Fortunately for me, Nigella was on the other side of the place, and I rarely saw her.
‘You’re sending a lot of notes,’ said Craig, our secretary. He loved to talk about everything that happened in the office, and he was friends with Nigella. Not someone to be trusted.
‘Oh, you know what the people in some of the other departments are like. If I email them, they never reply.’
‘I’m sure,’ said Craig. His eyes briefly went down to the letter and then up again.
I should’ve put it in an envelope. Now I was worried he would read it when I wasn’t looking. But it was too late to take it back, so I just smiled and said, ‘Have a good afternoon, Craig!’
Of course, I answered yes. I had been trying to ask her on another date myself, but I always got scared. And was this even a date? It was really more of a… class or something.
Cass lived in one of those apartment blocks, that grew out of the ground like huge trees. They scared me a bit, to be honest. I wondered what it was like to live on the top. What if you got drunk and fell out the window?
Luckily, Cass lived on the third floor. I knew I was in the right place when I saw the bike outside her door. It looked like she rode motorbikes and normal bikes, which seemed like far too many bikes for one person, but I was more of a walking guy.
‘Come in!’ Cass cried as soon as I knocked on the door. ‘It’s open.’
I pushed the door open to find a very small apartment with a very big mess. All around there was equipment for fixing bikes, climbing mountains, and piles of toys which had to belong to Penny.
‘Sorry, sorry,’ Cass cried as she ran around, trying to clear up. ‘I’m a pig! You can sit down.’
I found an empty space on the sofa and carefully sat down. The table was made of rough wood, and it looked like she had made it herself. There was a bottle of something on it. Engine oil? It made me feel like I was sitting in a garage, which wasn’t something I’d actually ever done, because garages were places for cool men who rode motorbikes.
‘It’s fine,’ I said quietly. ‘Don’t worry about me.’
After Cass had cleared up enough for herself, she pulled out a laptop and put it on the table, and started explaining email systems to me.
In the end, it was easier than I thought. But that was because Cass explained things well. She went slowly, and gave lots of details. I could understand each part of the system, and I imagined she must think about motorbikes in the same way.
I had never thought about it much, but I didn’t usually understand how things worked. I just used them, and got angry when they broke. Like with the photocopier. I didn’t understand why I should learn about things like that. But now, hearing for the first time in my life what an email actually was, I started to feel curious. Maybe she could explain to me how an engine worked…
After an hour or two, my brain was full up and we took a break. I took the chance to look through Penny’s craft materials. It was mostly pens and pencils, lots of glitter, stamps and things like that.
‘But she’s really into writing letters now. Don’t ask me why. She comes to visit me and gives me a letter and says, “Write me a reply!” as if I’m not standing there. And it’s embarrassing, because her letters always look better than mine!’
‘Well, do you have a proper desk?’
She opened her eyes wide. ‘No. Why?’
‘You can’t write on this table. It’s too low.’
‘I do find my back hurts when I write for a long time…’
‘Writing space is really important! If you don’t have a desk, lie down on the sofa and use some pillows. Go on, try it.’
So she lay down, and I sat on the floor next to her. She put an old book on two pillows and then put the paper on that.
‘Huh, this is more comfortable,’ she said.
She started writing, and then I made a face.
‘It’s just… The way you’re holding your pen. Here.’
Without thinking, I took her hand and started moving her fingers. Then I realised that we were basically holding hands.
I looked up, and she was so close, leaning over me from the sofa.
‘You have such soft hands,’ she said.
‘You like that?’
‘Yes.’ She moved her thumb over the back of my hand, but she continued to look in my eyes. ‘And your lips are, too…’
I leant forward, ready to kiss her.
And then the door to her apartment flew open.
‘I can’t handle it anymore!’
I could have murdered Jo. Just when I was about to kiss Fergus, they flew into the room, killing the atmosphere.
Jo didn’t even seem to notice that Fergus was there. They slammed the door and walked around my apartment, shouting about something that I couldn’t understand. Their face was a mess, covered in makeup that had been half washed away by tears.
I stopped holding Fergus’ hand.
‘Slow down, Jo. I can’t follow you.’
Jo stopped suddenly and looked at me, and then at Fergus.
‘Who are you?’ they said.
‘This is Fergus,’ I said. ‘Cup of tea?’
‘Nice to meet you,’ Jo said, not paying attention to Fergus. ‘I’d rather have vodka.’
‘Tea it is,’ I said. ‘Now sit down and take some deep breaths.’
I tried to make the tea as quickly as I could, because I could feel the awful atmosphere from the other room. It had to be relationship troubles, I thought, which meant that Jo would only be thinking about themselves. I heard Fergus try to talk to them, but they didn’t even reply.
I brought in three cups of tea and pulled up a chair to sit opposite Jo. Fergus looked quite scared, but was trying to smile.
‘OK, what’s going on?’ I said, as Jo took breaths deep enough to eat a whale.
‘Men. That’s the problem. I can’t handle them anymore.’
‘Which one was it this time?’ I said, taking my tea between my hands.
This was the story of Jo’s life. They seemed to have the worst luck in the world with men, and many evenings they’d spent crying on my shoulder.
I couldn’t understand why. Yes, Jo was a lot. But they were beautiful and kind and exciting. Any man who acted like this towards them didn’t deserve their time. But Jo always gave it to them.
‘Lance,’ they said, taking a big drink of tea. ‘Ow! I thought this was vodka?’
‘Clearly you’ve already had enough vodka. What did Lance do?’
Jo had been dating Lance for a while, and was completely in love with him. I could see where this was going.
Jo slammed the mug on the table, sending tea everywhere. Fergus jumped and spilled his own tea.
My mouth fell open. ‘Married? He kept that a secret, even after saying all those things to you?’
‘I know! So, like I told you. I can’t handle it.’ They leant back on the sofa and sniffled. ‘I just don’t get it. I’m so wonderful and glittery and exciting. That’s what they all say. So why do they do this to me? Why are all men such pigs?’
‘Not all men are like that,’ said Fergus quietly. ‘I mean, you seem very nice. I’m sure there’s—’
‘Hah!’ Jo looked at Fergus. ‘I don’t know who this guy is, Cass, but he doesn’t get it.’
‘Jo,’ I said. ‘Be nice.’
‘Sorry,’ they said, clearly not sorry. ‘But here’s the truth: the only kind of men who would be good to me are the kind of men I’m not attracted to. I don’t know why, but I only seem to fall in love with men with arms bigger than their brains. Why am I like this, Cass?!’
They started crying, and I knew I would be here all evening if this continued. Once Jo started asking, ‘Why am I like this?’ it was a sign that things were serious.
‘Let me make some toast for you,’ I said. ‘To make you less drunk.’
When I came back from the kitchen, Fergus was gone.
‘Where did he…?’
‘How should I know!’ cried Jo. ‘He got up and left. Honestly, I don’t know who that guy was, but the way he looked at me… And that comment! “Not all men.” Really, Cass, you need better friends.’
‘Jo, shut up,’ I said, pushing the plate into his hands. ‘He just left?’
‘Yupp. Didn’t even say goodbye.’
I felt a big, heavy stone fall into the bottom of my stomach. THUD.
Jo was too much for Fergus. Jo was too much for most people, really. But could I be in a relationship with someone who saw my friends like that?
‘You know that was the guy you helped me write the letter for, right?’
‘Oh. Oh.’ Jo put down their toast guiltily. ‘The one you liked?’
‘Damn,’ said Jo, hitting themselves on the head. ‘We have to make it up to him.’
The last thing I expected to find on Monday morning was a letter from Cass. I thought that our relationship was basically over. Clearly, I wasn’t cool enough for her friends, or I was too old-fashioned, or whatever. After hearing that conversation, I didn’t think she’d want to keep talking to me.
I’m really, really sorry for what happened on Saturday. Jo has a very… special way of dealing with their problems. They didn’t mean to get angry at you. They didn’t realise who you were.
Let me make it up to you. We’ll go for a drink tonight, or whenever Nigella lets you out. I’ll pay, and I can explain all about Jo, if you want.
Exciting and glittery regards,—(Jo wrote this, sorry)
I felt a bit better about what had happened. She did like me. I would just have to get used to her friends. But that was true in any relationship, right?
I wanted to show her that I was learning, so I replied by email.
You told me that emails should be less serious than letters, so I wrote ‘hey’. Are you proud of me? Soon I’ll be using emojis…
I’d love to go for a drink. Nigella’s away today, so I can leave at five. Meet you outside?
Glitter-less but still exciting regards,
A few minutes later, I got my reply: Great, see you then.
Five o’clock couldn’t come soon enough.
After a few drinks, we’d cleared everything up. I explained the whole situation with Jo, and made it clear that they weren’t angry at Fergus, and he apologised for leaving without saying anything.
‘I just… I thought you must hate me.’
‘Hey,’ I said, taking his hand. ‘I really like you.’
He smiled wider than he ever had before, and my heart jumped a little.
‘Have you ever… written poetry before?’ he asked.
I tried to remember if I had. Back in university, when I was first discovering I liked girls, I had written some drunken love poems for someone. But I didn’t know if you could call those poetry.
‘That’s what I do when I have feelings like this,’ he said. ‘Good feelings, bad feelings, all mixed together. It’s like looking at a bowl of food when you don’t know what it is. You’ve got to taste it, you know? Poetry is tasting for the mind.’
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ I said, ‘but please continue.’
‘Oh God,’ he said, looking at his drink. ‘I must be quite drunk if I’m telling you all about poetry and mind food…’
‘I’m interested. Really. I just… Look, I can’t write that.’
His mouth fell open and then closed again.
‘You just… You just do it,’ he said, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
‘Easy for you to say! I don’t know anything about art.’
‘Not true,’ he said. ‘Think of a motorbike engine. Isn’t that art?’
I snorted. ‘It’s bits of metal and oil. How is that art?’
‘There’s art in everything. Look, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, if that’s what you’re worried about. But it can, of course. Think of it like…’
He picked up my empty glass of beer and held it in front of his eye.
‘Everything looks different through here.’
‘Careful, you’ll get beer on your eye,’ I said.
‘Too drunk to care. But poetry is like, explaining the world through an empty beer glass. Or something.’
‘If it’s so easy, why don’t you write a poem now?’
He slammed the glass down on the table and smiled. ‘Oops, I didn’t mean to put that down so hard. But you know what? I think I will write a poem.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Sat at a bar in a city bigger than my heart; All around me, life moves, beats, jumps; But the only place I can breathe is in your art. Ugh.’ He took a big drink of beer. ‘That was terrible. That was like, mind McDonald’s. I promise I can do much better.’
‘Wait, that was bad for you?’ I said. ‘That was… I mean, it wasn’t perfect, but it was…’
‘A taste of my mind?’ Fergus said and winked.
Oh, I liked it when he was confident and flirty. That was cute.
‘And it was delicious.’
‘Your turn. It can be about anything.’
I puffed my lips like a horse. ‘Fine then. I’m full of beer and full of you; I’d love to get some fish and chips; But in my heart, what I really want; Is to know the taste of your… lips.’
Fergus’ eyes went wide. ‘V-very funny. And you—’
I grabbed his face and kissed him.
END OF CHAPTER TWO
If you enjoyed the story and want to say thank you, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click the orange button that says Buy me a coffee! Then you’ll be able to send me $3 so that I can buy a coffee, but really, I’ll probably get a bubble tea. And I’ll think of you while I drink it! Thank you for listening, and until next week.