Do you want more conversational material to listen to in English? Do you want to find out all about my personal life and opinions? Do you want to learn authentic words and slang that British people use in everyday life?
Well then, Elevenses with Ariel is for you! Elevenses with Ariel is a short daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. In it, I talk about my hobbies, my past and pretty much whatever I feel like. It’s fun and much more relaxed than the main show, and the listeners LOVE it! Many have said that it’s like sitting down to drink a coffee with me, although I’ll have a tea, I think!
You can listen to the first episode for free at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Eleven, and further episodes are available for $5 a month on Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. People are leaving comments and chatting about each episode, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. So again, you can listen to the first episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Eleven.
I look forward to having elevenses with you!
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 four. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear4. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear4. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
To be honest, I don’t really know what to talk about this week. I obviously talked about something quite big last week.
If you didn’t hear last week’s episode, definitely go back and listen, because I explained a bit about one of the characters in the story and I made an announcement about myself.
Actually, this week has been a bit difficult in terms of my mental health. It’s nothing to do with the podcast, I’ve just been very tired and not having very positive thoughts. I think it’s quite normal right now with coronavirus to have dark periods.
So I’m not going to dwell on it, I’m not going to think too much about it, I’m just going to move on into the story. But don’t worry, I am doing fine, it’s not that dramatic! I just had a few rough days. I’m feeling really good now, though.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Your eyebrows are the lines of hair above your eyes. When you are confused or want to ask a question, you can raise your eyebrows.
An idiot is a stupid person. Idiot is not a nice word to use to describe someone.
When you tear something, and the past tense is tore, you pull it so that it breaks. If you pull your clothes, they can tear. You can tear a piece of paper easily. You can also tear hair out of your head, but this hurts a lot. If you tear through something, you break through it to the other side. If you tear something apart, you tear it into lots of little pieces. If you are very hot, you might tear off your clothing to cool down.
When you squish something, you press something soft with your hands, so that it makes a sound like [squish]. For example, if you are making a cake, you need to squish dough between your hands. When you make hamburgers, you have to squish meat between your hands. If you have slime, it can be fun to squish it.
When you beat someone, you hit them again and again, so that they hurt a lot. Hitting is just once, but beating is hitting many times. When you beat someone up, you hit them until they are hurting a lot and on the floor. Usually, it’s the big bully at school who likes to beat people up. Luckily, I’ve never been beaten up.
When you tell someone that, if they do something bad, you’ll hurt them, you are threatening them. For example, if you think your friend is going to tell the teacher that you stole their textbook, you might say, ‘Hey! If you tell the teacher, I’ll put your head in the toilet.’ That’s a threat, you are threatening them. As adults, it’s probably better not to threaten people!
In a car, there is a big round thing called a steering wheel. You use the steering wheel to move the car left and right and to park it. If you hit the middle of the steering wheel, the horn will go off, and it will make a sound like [horn beep].
When you are in a relationship with someone and you tell them that you don’t want to see them anymore, you are dumping them. If you dump someone in a bad way, like by sending them a text message, you can make them very sad. Getting dumped usually feels horrible, and it makes for a day of crying and eating lots of ice cream.
A waistcoat is a piece of men’s clothing that was worn a lot in the past, but now is only worn for formal occasions. You wear a waistcoat over a shirt and under a blazer. A waistcoat is like a shirt without sleeves. It has buttons, a collar and usually two pockets. In the past, men would keep pocket watches, old-fashioned watches, in their waistcoat pocket.
A needle is a small, sharp metal thing that you use to make clothes. You put thread through a needle and put the needle through material, such as cotton, to join it together. Getting the thread into the needle can be quite difficult, and you have to be careful when using a needle because they are very sharp.
When you look in the mirror and see yourself, that is your reflection. Nowadays, we have mirrors everywhere, so we see our reflections often, but in the past, you had to find a river or a piece of glass to see your reflection.
Smash means to break something into lots of small pieces. There is a Marvel superhero called The Hulk. He always says, ‘Hulk smash!’ If you smash your phone screen, it’s going to get lots of glass everywhere, and it definitely won’t work anymore.
When you pretend, you do something but you don’t really do it. For example, if you pretend to eat, you don’t actually put the food in your mouth. If you pretend to drink, you don’t actually put the drink in your mouth. If you pretend to know something, you say, ‘Oh yes, I know that!’ but really you don’t.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support me on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get an extra story every month, as well as Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. Last week, there was the new intermediate bonus story The Castle of Stone, a comedic story involving a very important piece of underwear… You can support the show and get all the extra content at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
Dear Heart Chapter 4
Sending an email because I want to get my thoughts out quickly. Typing is so much quicker on a computer, you know? I thought it was the same as a typewriter, but deleting and rewriting changes the way you think.
Yeah, I know, I’m talking about writing again! Always the same with me, huh? I spent all of yesterday looking at typewriters to replace the broken one. It’s not like I need a new one, but that was my favourite. I had to stay up all night on eBay to win it. Or rather, I had to get my friend to stay up with me. You know how bad I am with tech.
Ugh, got to go, Nigella is coming in, and she’ll try and read over my shoulder. She’s started saying nice things about me now. I don’t like it.
Wanna meet for lunch? I can show you how to use one of my ‘nice pens’, as you call them.
I clicked ‘send’ and then immediately realised my mistake.
The broken typewriter. My God, why had I mentioned the broken typewriter? Of course Cass felt awful about it, but it was Monday morning, and I wasn’t thinking clearly, and—
‘Thinking about someone special, Fergus?’
Nigella’s voice made me jump. She sat down at her desk and grinned at me.
Oh, she knew.
‘Just thinking of a dream I had last night,’ I said quietly.
‘Did it involve motorbikes?’
I grabbed my cup of coffee to hide the redness on my face. I was starting to act like a traffic light.
‘N-no.’ I stood up quickly. ‘I’m going to get a coffee…’ I looked at my cup. ‘Or, er, a tea. Since I already have a coffee. You know, two drinks are better than one. Do you want something?’
Nigella raised one of her perfect eyebrows. Her eyebrows were pieces of art. They looked as expensive as her clothes. Unfortunately, they were more for attacking than admiring.
‘You know I like coffee in the morning. Usually you have it waiting for me…’
‘Yes, yes, I’m sorry!’
I ran and hid in the kitchen. This was the start of a horrible day, and the whole time I was waiting to get an email back from Cass.
That was the problem with texts and emails. The other person could respond at any time, so you were always waiting for it, like a child waiting for Santa Claus. At least with a letter, you knew that there would be a delay. Waiting was half the fun. And if I’d written that message by hand, I wouldn’t have said something so stupid.
Finally, around 4pm, I got a reply. But not in the form I expected. She’d left a note in my post box, and I had no idea how long it had been there. My heart beat like a machine as I opened it.
Our classes are over. Clearly, you’re doing fine without me, and I’ll just break your ‘nice pen’ if you try to help me. We’re colleagues, anyway. Let’s keep it that way.
The handwriting was completely different, back to being a drunken spider, and it only got messier as my tears fell on the page.
It was over, just like that? I hadn’t realised until then how much she meant to me. I might have even fallen in love with her.
And I ruined it by being a weak idiot.
‘Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.’
A memory came back to me, tearing through my chest like a piece of paper.
Cristina, my ex, never liked mess in the house. I was tidy, but to her, I was messy. I hated throwing things away, especially presents, and I never threw out old letters.
I hid them in boxes under our bed, made sure that they weren’t in the way. But one day, I looked under there and found it empty.
‘Where are my letters?!’ I cried.
Cristina was in the kitchen making dinner. She was squishing meat in her hands, making burgers to be fried.
‘Oh, those old things?’ Squish, squish. ‘I threw them out.’ Squish. ‘They were just collecting dust, weren’t they?’ Squish.
Blood fell from the meat. Tears fell from my eyes.
‘They were mine. Some of those letters were from years ago. Friends who aren’t around anymore.’ I pulled at my hair. ‘They were—’
‘Don’t cry,’ she said, dropping the meat and putting her arms around me. She got blood on my sweater. ‘I didn’t know they meant so much to you. How could I? They were just old letters. Fergus, I wish you wouldn’t get so sad about everything.’
I blinked, and I was back in the office. I bit my lip and dried my eyes, and then tore Cass’ note apart.
I went home early. I decided I deserved it, given how long I worked most days. Besides, what were they going to do, fire me? The whole company would stop working within days without me.
I almost left the office without anyone noticing, until I heard Sam’s nasty voice behind me.
‘Leaving so early, Cass? Got a date with your little puppy?’
Normally, I would ignore him. I knew the things he said about me behind my back, but I also knew I could do nothing to stop him. He was a man, and I was a masculine woman. If I complained about him, it would only cause problems. But if I stayed around him too much, I would end up beating him into a hamburger, and that would cause even more problems.
Today, I couldn’t stop myself.
‘You know what, Sam,’ I said, walking over to him. ‘You’re lucky.’
‘Lucky?’ He raised his eyebrows. ‘Why, are you flirting with me? I wouldn’t say that makes me lucky.’
‘You’re lucky because you’re such a disgusting, unattractive man that you know your place. You sit here on your computer, and then you go home to sit at your other computer and look at pictures of women who’ll never be with you. If you were a real man, you might actually go out and try to meet someone. But you won’t, and that’s what makes you lucky.’
I leant over the desk, and he leant back in his chair. His grin was gone, replaced by a look of fear.
‘Because if I saw you in a bar, there would be nothing stopping me from beating you up.’
He gulped. ‘Are you threatening me? I’ll tell Nigella. I don’t think she’ll be happy.’
I grinned. ‘I haven’t put a finger on you. You really think they’ll believe you? We barely talk, Sam. What reason could I have for threatening you?’ I leant back and picked up my bag. ‘Have a good afternoon!’
By the time I’d got in my car, I knew I’d made a mistake. The joy of threatening Sam had turned to fear. What if someone had heard me? What if I lost my job?
I held the steering wheel and took some deep breaths. This always happened when I was sad. I turned it into anger. Maybe Fergus was right, and I should write poetry instead.
My cheeks burned hot red at the thought of him.
Whatever. As if I would ever write a poem again. Hopefully, I’d never see him again, either.
His email had hit me like a knife in the chest. He was trying to make me dump him, I realised. He wouldn’t do it himself, because he was afraid of me. So he sent that little message, mentioned the typewriter. Made it clear exactly how he saw me: a bull, unable to love and care for him.
Or was I thinking too hard about it? Maybe it had just been a stupid thing he’d said. But he was always so careful with his words. He’d probably been thinking this all along and was just too scared to tell me.
Well, it didn’t matter anymore. I had ended it and saved him from his fear. I was alone, and I could look after myself just fine.
I drove to pick up Penny from my brother’s house. I was in the worst of moods to be looking after her, but I had no choice. Greg had a date, and I wouldn’t take that away from him.
‘Oh, you’re early!’ he said, sounding very pleased. ‘Penny, your aunt’s here! Damn, Cass, you look sad. Did you get dumped?’
‘I did the dumping. You know what I’m like.’
And it was true. In all of my past relationships, I was always the one who dumped the other. I still remembered my first boyfriend, the look on his face when it happened. He had been a strong man, but he broke like cheap glass.
‘Look, if you want me to cancel—’
‘No,’ I said. ‘You need this.’
Before he could say another word, Penny had run downstairs and jumped into my arms. I forced myself to smile as she asked question after question. She had fallen in love with the word ‘why’ recently.
She’d been warmer with me recently, since I started dating Fergus. That was probably all going to change now.
‘Easy, girl,’ I said, picking her up. ‘Let’s get you in the car first.’
But once we’d sat down and started moving, her questions continued.
‘When can I meet Fergus?’
‘Because I’m not seeing him anymore.’
‘Because I decided not to.’
‘Because I didn’t want to. I don’t want to. We’re too different.’
‘Because I ruin every relationship I have!’
I slammed my hand into the steering wheel and the car beeped loudly. Penny started to cry.
‘Cassie is angry at me!’ she wailed.
‘No, I’m not, I’m not!’
I wanted to hug her, but we were in the middle of the road. So I had to sit there, trying to make her feel better, as she cried all the way home.
When we arrived, I turned around and tried to hug her, but she moved away.
She was worried I would hit her, just like I hit the steering wheel.
‘Listen to me, baby, OK? Cassie just got a little angry, but it has nothing to do with you. It’s my own problem. I’m a big, stupid bull.’
Penny sniffed. ‘You’re not stupid, and you’re not a bull.’
I grinned. ‘Just big, then?’
‘I promise I’ll never hurt you, OK? And I’ll try not to hurt Mr. Car again. I know how much you like him.’
Penny touched the seat softly. ‘But not as much as Mrs. Motorbike.’
‘Well, I think you’ve probably hurt Mr. Car’s feelings by saying that!’
Penny giggled and jumped into my arms.
I felt like I was made of glass.
That weekend, I did something I rarely did.
I went shopping.
I had no reason to go normally. I had enough furniture, I bought the same bathroom products every week at the supermarket, and I had more than enough clothes. Who needed more than four sweaters?
But I had decided, out of nowhere, that I needed a new waistcoat. Never mind that most men didn’t wear waistcoats anymore. Never mind that I felt like an idiot when I wore one. I would buy a waistcoat, and then I would grow a moustache, because that’s what men do.
That was an advantage of living in a big city. There were plenty of expensive shops to waste all my money on, and the staff inside looked very happy to see me. Clearly, they thought I would make a good customer. They brought me tea, took measurements, showed me waistcoats of all shapes and sizes. They all looked wonderful, until I put them on my body and looked in the mirror.
I was still the same Fergus, an idiot who didn’t deserve any woman’s love.
‘I’m sorry, I can’t buy this,’ I said to the young man who was helping me.
‘Well, sir, if it’s to do with the price, I’m sure we can agree on something.’
‘No. It’s me.’
I left them looking very confused and walked home.
When I got back, I saw a letter had arrived, from Barry. I happily opened it, until I remembered what we’d last been talking about.
It’s so wonderful to hear about your girlfriend. You deserve happiness. You know that, don’t you? I know how hard it’s been for you, but you are an amazing person. I’m so glad you’ve found someone who can see that.
I stopped reading and threw the letter on the floor. If I didn’t, I would likely tear it apart.
A horrible feeling climbed through my body, like needles travelling through me, desperate to get out. I tore off my sweater, undid my bowtie, and poured myself a glass of whisky.
I drank it in one go and saw my reflection in the window.
My forehead was pressed together, making cruel lines. It looked like a piece of folded paper, a bad poem that I had thrown away.
My God, I was angry. It was something I felt so rarely that I could hardly understand the feeling.
What was I angry at? Cass?
No. I was angry at myself. I wished I could reach into that glass and smash my own reflection.
I couldn’t do that. But I could do the next best thing.
I slammed the whisky glass down on the table and went into my study. Where the typewriters were.
The Sholes & Glidden was still on the desk, sitting next to the broken X key. I lifted it up, struggling under the weight, and got ready to smash it.
And then my phone rang in my pocket. I stopped, the anger going cold inside me.
I should ignore it, finish my smashing. But the ringing of the telephone woke me up from my anger, and I realised how stupid I was being.
I would be throwing away one of my best typewriters. And for what? Just to show that I was a man?
I carefully put it back on the table and pulled out my phone.
I woke up on Sunday with a horrible headache. It felt like someone was pushing needles into my skin.
I turned over in bed, expecting Fergus to be there. In my dream, we had spent the night together.
Then I opened my eyes and remembered what had happened.
I had dumped Fergus and spent a week feeling miserable about it. We didn’t see each other at work, but if we had, we would probably pretend not to.
Part of me wished Fergus would get mad at me, would tell me I had been bad to him. But that wasn’t the kind of person he was. That was why I liked him in the first place.
Last night, Jo had gotten tired of my complaining and took me out clubbing. It was a place I used to go to a lot, and I knew a lot of people there. Several girls came up and flirted with me, and I couldn’t handle it. It just reminded me of what I had thrown away. So I got very, very drunk.
My phone buzzed, stopping me from trying to remember all the stupid things I’d done.
It was Greg.
Can you look after Penny this morning? I was thinking of going for coffee with Wanda.
I definitely did not want to go out into the cold morning air and listen to all of Penny’s questions, but I was so happy to see Greg dating again. At least one of us deserved it.
Sure. I’ll be 30 minutes.
I pulled myself out of bed and got ready.
As expected, Penny was full of energy when I picked her up. I answered everything she said with ‘Mm’, ‘Well, you know’ and ‘Oh, really?’ until she finally gave up and talked to her doll instead.
‘So where are we going?’ she asked finally, after having an argument with her doll.
‘To my place. I thought we could draw.’
Or I thought she could draw and I could cook mountains of fried food.
‘I thought you liked drawing?’
‘It’s much more fun to do it together. Me and Lisa, we both draw something and see who can do it better.’
‘We can do that,’ I said, pretending I hadn’t been planning on not doing that. ‘Didn’t you say I’d gotten better at drawing?’
‘Yeah, but you don’t enjoy it, do you, Cassie? You don’t have to pretend.’
My mouth fell open. I thought I had hid my feelings from her perfectly. When had my little niece gotten so clever?
‘Well then, what should we do?’
‘We can go to the park instead,’ she said. ‘I know how much you like to exercise.’
Right then, I really didn’t feel like exercising, but I would do anything for her.
We changed direction and went to a park that I’d never been to before. It had a big playground, and Penny immediately joined in with the other kids. At first, I sat back and watched, but then I noticed all the parents were helping their kids with things. Picking them up and things like that.
Fine, then. I would get some exercise, just like Penny said.
I moved quietly behind her, and when she was least expecting it, I picked her up and held her high in the air.
‘Rawrrr!’ I cried. ‘I’m the nasty motorbike unicorn, and I’m here to take you away to Unicornland!’
At first, Penny screamed, and then she started laughing. I ran around, carrying her here and there, throwing her up and down, letting her ride on my back. She was getting heavier, sure, but it was no problem for me. I saw some of the fathers watching, realising that they could never carry their child like that. I felt proud of myself.
‘Put me down, you nasty unicorn!’ cried Penny. ‘I am the princess of Unicornland, and therefore I get to ride you!’
‘Not if you can’t catch me!’ I cried, and ran away across the field.
Penny chased me, and of course I was much faster than her, so I let her catch me. Then I had to let her ride me, walking on my hands and knees, getting grass all over my jeans. I felt like an idiot, but I had never heard her laugh so much.
‘Oh, Cassie,’ said Penny. ‘You’re so much fun. I wish Dad could pick me up like that.’
‘I’ll tell him you said that.’
As I drove her home, I felt a peace in my heart.
I wasn’t a bull. I was a unicorn. A big, strong unicorn with an even bigger heart.
And I knew who I wanted to pick up now. Who I wanted to carry into my home, write poems with, and say sorry to.
I had been weak. I had let a broken typewriter break our relationship. I had let my fear of being bad to him take control, and I had dumped in the cruellest way possible.
I had to make it up to him.
‘Auntie Cassie,’ said Penny, as we got out. ‘Are you sure you’re never going to see Fergus again? He sounded so nice.’
‘I was just thinking that. Actually, Penny, I could use your help…’
END OF CHAPTER 4
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