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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 five, the last chapter. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear5. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear5. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So yes, it’s the final chapter of Dear Heart! Thank you all so much for listening along. I love to hear what you think of all of the episodes, but especially the stories I write myself because, you know, it’s always nice when people say nice things about my writing.
After you’ve finished listening to the episode, do go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear5 and leave a comment! Let me know what you thought of the whole story.
I have to say, I really loved writing this story. In particular because I fell in love a bit with Cass as a character. Honestly, Cass is kind of the person I want to be. I’m not as cool as Cass, though, and definitely not as strong, but now I am thinking of learning to ride a motorbike, so we’ll see! Maybe I’ll turn into Cass.
Anyway, I’m definitely thinking of taking this story and making it into a book, but first I would edit it, I would make it longer, I would make the story better and I would make sure it was really clear and easy to understand.
I worry that maybe this story should’ve been intermediate rather than pre-intermediate. I think it was quite a difficult one. So if you found these episodes hard, don’t worry, I think it was my fault. Sorry about that!
But yeah, definitely go and leave a comment at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear5. You can even leave a negative comment. I’ll probably delete it, but you can try!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
When you swear, and the past tense is swore, you say very bad words. I don’t want to say the really bad swear words here on the podcast, but I will say some less bad swear words: crap, damn, and damn it. People usually swear when they are angry or want to threaten someone. Some religious people consider words about God swear words, for example, they don’t like saying, ‘Oh my God!’ or ‘Jesus Christ!’ when you’re angry or surprised.
Some clothes you can just pull over your body, but others need more work. For example, with shirts you have to do the buttons up, and with a bowtie you have to tie it. When you take off a shirt or a bowtie, you have to undo them. It can be really annoying when you get home in the summer and you’re all hot and want to take your shirt off, but the buttons are all hard to undo!
Straight means heterosexual, as in, someone who is attracted to the opposite sex. Straight men are attracted to women, and straight women are attracted to men. It is the opposite of gay, which I am.
When someone is sad, you will probably want to comfort them. You will pat their back and say, ‘There, there,’ and maybe tell them it’s not all that bad. It can be hard to comfort someone. These days, we often have to comfort people online or over the phone, and that can be very hard.
An app is an application, a program that you use on your phone. When you turn on your phone, there are lots of little squares and if you press them, you can do different things. These are apps. For example, Facebook, Instagram and Notes are all apps on your phone.
Seek, and the past tense is sought, means to search for something. Seek is just a more poetic word than search. For example, you might seek the meaning of life, or seek forgiveness, ask someone to forgive you, for something bad you did.
When something is flying in the air and touches the ground, it lands. When aeroplanes land, they have to go very slowly, and they shake a lot when they touch the ground. Ships also land, when they arrive to land from the sea.
When your voice catches, it stops in the middle of you saying something. Your voice usually catches when you are sad or you have something in your throat. For example, if I’m saying something really sad, I might almost cry and my voice will c-catch.
Shove means to push something hard. When you push someone, you just want to move them, but when you shove them, you want them to fall over. Children often push and shove, because they don’t realise that it’s rude.
A corridor is a part of a building that you find between rooms. For example, in school you will have a corridor with lots of classrooms next to it. You walk down the corridor to get to your classroom.
When you burst into applause, you suddenly start clapping. For example, [bursts into applause]. If you see a really good play or concert, people will burst into applause at the end.
When a man gets married, he will choose a close friend to be his best man. The best man helps his friend on his wedding day. For example, the best man will help him buy his wedding clothes and help organise things on the day.
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 I talked about coming out, a very funny video of local British politics, The Women Who Glue and exploring my sexuality. You can support the show and get all the extra content at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
A big thank-you to my new patrons, as well as patrons who have increased their pledge: vallejc (I have no idea how to say this name!), Mattes (again, don’t know), Przemek Kozioł and FLAVIA PAPINUTTO. Thank you so much. Your support really means a lot to me, even if I can’t pronounce your name.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
Dear Heart Chapter 5
I wasn’t usually the kind of person who swore, but during that car ride I swore enough for my whole life.
Nigella had sounded so worried on the phone.
Fergus, Fergus! It’s a nightmare. Something’s gone wrong with the email system, and all the messages are being deleted. We could be missing important information from our customers! The IT department isn’t answering my calls. Can you come in and fix it?
I should have said ‘no’. First, it was a Sunday afternoon, and second, I had no idea what I was doing. But this was Nigella. If I said no, she’d fire me over the phone. And I couldn’t handle being dumped twice in the same week.
It was only when I arrived at the building that I realised how strange the whole situation was.
Why weren’t the IT department answering her calls? I could understand why Cass wouldn’t. She’d said she never answered work emails or calls on the weekend. But didn’t they have someone who dealt with emergencies like this?
The building was almost silent when I walked in, but as I approached Nigella’s office, I could hear her swearing quietly to herself.
She was leaning back in her chair, her feet up on the desk. The top button of her shirt was undone, showing a lot of chest, and she was wearing a very short skirt. Her hair was in a complicated style, very different to the usual way she kept it. She was smoking a cigarette, filling the room with smoke. I supposed the smoke alarm in her office didn’t work.
‘Ah, you finally arrived,’ she said. ‘I already fixed the problem.’
I felt like I should leave. She was looking at me in a very different way than usual, like she was… hungry.
‘Come sit down,’ she said, pointing to the chair opposite her desk.
‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea.’
‘It’s not an idea.’
I slowly walked over and sat down, placing my hands on my legs and sitting up straight.
‘Was there anything else you wanted help with?’ I asked.
‘Fergus, there’s no need to be so serious,’ she said. ‘Let’s have a drink.’
She opened the drawer and pulled out two glasses and a bottle of whisky. I wondered what else she had in there.
‘I don’t drink,’ I said quietly.
‘Oh?’ She poured both glasses. ‘Didn’t you go for a drink with your girlfriend?’
‘Cass?’ I bit my tongue. Crap.
She smiled like a tiger. ‘Ah. So it’s true.’
How did she know? Had she read through our letters? Our emails?
Of course, we’d kissed in the car park, but there was no way Nigella could know everything that went on, was there?
‘We just went for a drink,’ I said. ‘One time.’
‘But she is your girlfriend?’
‘No. We ended it.’
‘She dumped you.’
Her eyes went wide, and she pushed the glass towards me. I picked it up and considered it.
I had almost smashed my best typewriter earlier, and now my boss was… I didn’t know what she was doing, but I thought I would need the whisky.
‘There’s a good employee,’ she said as I drank. She sighed. ‘I don’t know what Cass’ problem was. You’re such a nice man.’
‘Yeah, well, nice men make for bad boyfriends.’
I sounded like the typical guy who had just got dumped.
‘You know, I thought you were gay at first.’ She leant forward, ran her finger around the edge of her glass. ‘I thought, “There’s no way such a smart, polite and well-dressed man can be straight.” I mean that as a good thing, I hope you understand.’
‘Sure,’ I said.
Where was she going with this? I checked my watch. I really, really wanted to go home.
‘You know, I could get her fired.’ She stood up and walked around the desk, smiling the whole time. ‘It’s not against company rules to date a colleague, but with what she said to Samuel…’
I froze. Samuel?
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘Oh, of course.’
She stopped by my chair and leant on the desk. Her chest was right in my face. I made myself look down.
‘She threatened one of her colleagues, a rather nice Australian man. Said she would beat him up.’
That guy. The one who had called Cass ‘the bull’. He deserved to be beaten up. Anger grew inside me again, until I realised what she was saying.
She could get Cassandra fired.
‘Please don’t! She’s done nothing wrong. She’s just very… direct with her feelings.’
And if I had been the same, told her how I’d felt about her, maybe she wouldn’t have dumped me. But it was too late for that now.
‘Fergus.’ She took my chin and pulled my face towards hers. ‘There’s a simple way to get around all this. I don’t want to fire Cassandra, of course.’ She was moving closer. Her breath smelt of whisky and cigarettes. My heart screamed at me to get out. ‘So just do what I say…’
She froze, inches away from kissing me.
I stood up, pushed her away.
‘Nigella, you’re drunk, and you’re about to do something that you would regret. And if you fire Cass, you’ll regret it, too.’
I picked up the whisky bottle and left the room.
‘Where are you going?!’ cried Nigella, running after me.
It was clear now just how drunk she was. She’d hidden it well.
I went into the staff kitchen and poured the alcohol down the sink.
She looked at me, blood in her eyes, and said, ‘I will fire her. Sooner or later, you’ll have to do what I say.’
I threw the bottle in the bin. ‘I’ll quit if you do. In fact, I’ll probably quit anyway.’
‘Hah! You’ll never get a job in this town again if you leave me.’ She held onto the table so she didn’t fall over. God, she was really drunk. She was talking like the bad guy from a cartoon.
‘Nigella, don’t do this.’ I put a hand on her shoulder, just lightly. ‘You’re a very talented, strong woman. You don’t need to hurt others to get what you want. There are plenty of men who would fall on their knees for you.’
Tears appeared in her eyes.
‘You don’t know that. Most men are idiots. They can’t handle a woman who knows what she wants. They want someone weak, someone who’ll never be more successful than them.’
‘That’s not true.’
‘How do you know?!’
‘Because I fell in love with Cass.’
I had said the words without thinking. But it was true.
I was in love with Cassandra, and I didn’t care if she’d dumped me. I would get her back.
‘Oh, Fergus… Why can’t more men be like you?’
Before I knew it, Nigella was holding me, crying onto my shoulders. I comforted her as best I could.
‘Drink some water,’ I said, sitting her down and pulling out my phone. ‘I’m going to call you a taxi. What’s your address?’
She quietly told me and I wrote it down in the notes app on my phone. The whole time, she avoided my eyes. Clearly, she had started to feel bad about what she did.
I went out into the corridor and made the call. But I was hardly paying attention to the conversation, because the whole time I was thinking about Cass.
She had dumped me because I’d hurt her, so I just had to make it clear how much she meant to me. But how? It had to be something special.
As I finished the call, I saw something in the app. It was a note that started with Dear Heart.
It was one of the writing prompts we’d used, the first night I went over to hers. I had saved it in my phone and completely forgotten about it.
I opened the note and read the poem, and then I knew exactly what to do.
Me, Penny and Jo worked until late in the evening to finish it. I had told Jo we didn’t need them, but they insisted.
‘I was here for the start of it, and I’m going to be here for the end, as well!’
‘You would stand there and take pictures if I let you,’ I said.
‘Oh, are you offering?’
‘No! Jo, thank you for helping, but I’m trying to win Fergus back. Not make him think I’m a freak!’
‘Listen to her,’ said Jo to Penny. ‘She still thinks she’s a freak. Isn’t she silly?’
‘I know,’ said Penny. ‘I always tell her that she’s a unicorn, but she doesn’t listen.’
‘Quiet, you two,’ I said with a smile, ‘and get back to folding.’
Hundreds of origami hearts sat around us on the floor, each with a single word written on them.
They were the words from the poem I’d written for Fergus, the night I’d taken him back to mine.
I don’t know how to listen to you
You beat so loudly I can’t hear
But could it be, another, too
Is trying hard to reach my ear?
For in this room with its four walls
And on this bed with its two sides
A soft and gentle heart-song calls
And makes my body want to cry
Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe I had written it at all, especially while drunk. But Fergus had brought that out of me, a part of me I’d never known before.
Pretty words weren’t enough. I needed to show him I was sorry.
So I folded a bigger heart, picked up a pen, and started writing.
I hurt you, and I’m sorry. I thought that I was the strong one, but now I see that I was always weak. I attacked out of fear, and in the end we both lost because of it.
Please, do you have room in your life, in your heart, for an idiot like me?
‘Why are you biting your pen?’ said Jo, grinning at me. ‘Are you writing about S-E-X?’
‘I know what sex is!’ cried Penny.
‘No,’ I murmured. ‘I’m about to write three words. Words that I’ve said before, but I’ve never really meant.’
Penny gasped. ‘You love him?’
I took the pen out of my mouth.
‘Yes, yes I do.’
And I wrote the words.
I arrived early on Monday morning, to avoid Fergus and Nigella. If I saw him before he read the message, I didn’t know if I could handle it.
There was always the chance that he would read it and still not want to talk to me. And I was OK with that. At least then I would know I had tried my best.
I found his post box and put the hearts inside. They were tied together, so that the poem was in order, with the letter at the end. I almost wished I could see when he read it, after we’d spent so much time making it.
Then I went and made a coffee and sat at my desk. I had to get to work, or I’d be thinking about him all day.
I turned on my computer and opened my email account. And there, at the top, was a message from Fergus.
I froze. For a minute, I considered not opening it. Was it going to be how I imagined? An angry letter telling me how awful I was for dumping him? Or worse, was it going to be about work, and he’d pretend our relationship had never happened?
I saw the subject of the email: Dear Heart
I opened it, and a video of Fergus appeared. He was sitting in his office. His hair was a mess, and his bowtie was undone. He looked down at his phone and then started talking.
You aren’t of bone or metal
I could cut you with a knife
I could boil you in a kettle
And away would flow my life
I could eat until I could no more
And then you would not move my blood
I could seek my death and go to war
I could lose you in a flood
How is it that you are so weak
And yet without you, I can’t speak?
Why do you like a drummer beat
When pressed against her heat?
Dear Heart, I have to say, I’m scared
You could depart me any day
Dear Heart, I’m falling, promise me
That when I land you will not break.’
He looked up at the camera, and I felt my heart grow three sizes.
‘Cass, dear Cass, the last time I wrote to you, things didn’t go so well. So I’m sending a video. If you’re watching this, it means you didn’t waste all that time teaching me about technology.’
I grinned, tears coming to my eyes. He looked so beautiful. My Fergus.
‘You didn’t just teach me about that. You taught me how to ride a motorbike. You taught me I didn’t have to worry about my weird hobbies. You taught me I deserved love.’
His voice caught, and I wished I could hug him. Kiss him.
‘I know I said stupid things, and I didn’t make my feelings clear to you. A very bad woman once made me feel weak and stupid for having such feelings. So let me make them very clear.’
He cleared his throat.
‘I love you, Cassandra, with all my heart. I know it may be early to say that, and I know you may not want me anymore, but that’s the truth. That’s the story of my heart. My mind food. Whatever you want to call it.’
My chest hurt, and I wanted to be there with him, holding him.
He loves me, and I love him.
No poem had ever sounded so simple or so perfect.
‘If you do decide to change your mind, well… You know where to find me. Now please excuse me while I dry my eyes and try and turn this thing off.’
I laughed, tears falling down my cheeks, as he spent a whole minute trying to end the video.
‘Morning, Cassandra,’ called Sam. ‘You’re in early.’
I ignored him and jumped to my feet, pulling on my coat.
My heart shook like the engine of a motorbike. I had to see him, and fast. Hell, if I had to kiss him in front of Nigella, I’d do it.
I went to leave, but Sam stood in my door.
‘What do you want?’ I snarled.
He had an awful smile on his face. ‘You should be nicer to me. I told Nigella what you did, and she seemed very happy. I wouldn’t be surprised if she fires you today.’
An alarm sounded in my head, but the beat of my heart was too loud to hear it. It took me a moment to realise exactly what he was saying.
‘Fire me? Well, if that’s the case, then I don’t have to feel bad about doing this.’
I shoved him hard, sending him falling to the floor, and jumped over him.
‘Hey, where are you going?!’ he cried.
I ran through the corridors of Love Letter Inc., ignoring the confused employees who were just arriving around me. I pushed through doors, jumped over bins, and flew around people.
And then I turned a corner, and saw him running towards me.
I opened my arms and he jumped into mine.
‘Oh, Cass! Is it really true?’
‘Yes! I love you, I love you, I love you.’
I ran my hands through his hair, kissed him on the head, on the lips.
‘There, do you believe it now?’
He laughed, his throat catching, and kissed me back.
Then I realised that everyone was looking at us. They were about five seconds away from either bursting into applause or calling the police.
‘Uh, let’s go somewhere a bit quieter,’ I said.
I opened the door next to us and pulled him inside.
It was the copy room, where we had first met. And it was empty.
I locked the door and continued kissing him.
‘You still haven’t said the words back,’ I said.
‘Well, maybe if you—mm—stopped—mm—kissing me!’
‘How about this?’
I lifted him up onto one of the tables and started kissing his neck.
‘Oh, oh, I love you, I love you, Cass—ah, careful! I don’t want the whole of the company hearing the noises I make when you… Aah!’
We continued in this way for a while, and I was sure everyone had seen us, but I didn’t care. Sam had told Nigella I’d threatened him. If I was going to lose my job, I was going to do it in style.
‘We really should stop,’ said Fergus finally.
‘Give me one good reason I shouldn’t put you on my motorbike and take you home right now.’
Fergus bit his lip. ‘Well, I’d like to keep my job, for example.’
I raised an eyebrow. ‘You think Nigella’s going to be that kind? Listen, I just spoke to Sam and—’
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, putting a hand on my lips. ‘I fixed everything. Nigella won’t make any problems.’
‘Oh? I hope you didn’t use the same methods you use on me on her…’
‘Of course not! But,’ he said, jumping off the table, ‘if we do actually want to keep our jobs, we should probably stop kissing in the copy room.’
My heart felt like it might explode.
‘So you mean we have to spend all day apart, doing work, thinking about what we’re going to do after work?’
‘Not all day.’ He grinned and put an arm around me. ‘We can… go for a walk on our lunch break. There are some trees outside where we can hide.’
‘I like the sound of that.’
I kissed him one last time. But it wasn’t enough. I needed something to remember this moment.
Then I looked at the photocopier and had an idea.
‘Give me your hand.’
He did so, and I pulled a pen out of my pocket, writing on his hand and then mine.
‘Don’t look yet.’
‘Fine,’ he said, grinning widely.
I pulled him over to the photocopier, opened it and placed both our hands inside. Then I hit the ‘copy’ button.
Out came a piece of paper with both our hands on it, with two words written on them: Dear Heart.
‘Oh,’ he said, holding up the paper. ‘I love it.’
I held onto him, and it took me a very long time before I could go.
TWO YEARS LATER – FERGUS
Your wedding day.
Everyone tells you it’s going to be the best day of your life, but for me, it was the scariest. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and in the morning, I could hardly think. But I had to get up, shower, do my hair, get dressed—with my very new, expensive waistcoat—and answer about fifty phone calls from my mum.
In the end, Barry, my best man, took my phone away and said, ‘Margaret, Fergus is going to be absolutely fine, and so is your hair, but if you don’t stop talking to him, he won’t get to the wedding at all!’
I was so happy to have him there. It had been strange, the first time we’d met in real life. For so many years, we’d just been pen pals, as Barry lived in Thailand. But he’d returned to England a year before, so we’d finally met.
It didn’t take us long to feel comfortable with each other, and Barry got on very well with Cass, too. In fact, they could spend hours talking about motorbikes, and sometimes I almost regretted introducing them to each other.
‘I’m too nervous to eat,’ I said, as Barry offered me a croissant. ‘Let’s just go. I don’t want to be late.’
Barry grinned and hugged me. ‘Relax, Fergus. It’s going to be wonderful.’
‘I know, I know.’
At first, I had done all the planning for the wedding. I’d spent months doing research, trying to make everything perfect, until I felt like I was going mad. In the end, Cass took it out of my hands and said, ‘Penny and I will plan the wedding. If things go wrong, you can blame us, OK?’
Finally, I agreed, and Cass took control. She kept everything secret, including her wedding dress. She’d gone and stayed with her parents so that I wouldn’t see anything. Well, I supposed that was traditional, but nothing about us two was traditional.
When we arrived at the church and walked in, I gasped. From every part of the ceiling, origami hung—hearts, stars, even motorbikes. When I looked more closely, I saw that some had drawings on them, from Penny, and others had poems written by Cass.
I felt like I was going to cry, and I hadn’t even seen her yet. Ever since we had gotten together, she had started writing more and more, and I loved reading her poetry so much.
‘It’s perfect,’ I said quietly. Beautiful, personal and not too expensive. Far better than what I was planning.
‘I told you you’ll be fine,’ said Barry. ‘Now, let’s go get ready.’
The beginning of the ceremony passed by very quickly. I barely heard what the priest said because I was too busy thinking about Cass. What kind of dress would she choose? I found it hard to imagine, given that she so rarely wore dresses.
Then, finally, she entered the room.
She wasn’t wearing a dress at all. She was wearing a man’s suit, the perfect size for her body, with a waistcoat even nicer than mine. Her shirt hugged her, showing her beautiful arms, and an origami rose sat in her pocket.
And now I was crying. She was perfect, exactly how she was, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to get married. Who needed those complicated dresses, anyway? I heard people talking around the room, but I didn’t care. She was mine, and I was hers, and that was all that mattered.
Then she was next to me and the priest was saying, ‘You may now kiss the bride.’
And I did. Or rather, she kissed me, and we held onto each other for a very long time. Jo shouted and cheered, and Penny cried, ‘Eww!’
We went outside, where I expected to find a car waiting for us. Instead, there was Cass’ motorbike.
‘Why do you think I wore a suit?’ she said.
I laughed. ‘I love you so much.’
We put on our riding clothes over our suits and drove away. I held tight, pressed my chest against her.
‘Where are we going, dear Cass?’
‘Wherever our hearts take us.’
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.