The Wrong One
by Nigel Gordon
After twelve years in the army, Peter had returned to civilian life, not really sure what he wanted to do. All he was certain about was the he had to get out of the army. It was not that he did not like the army; in fact he loved the army. The problem was he also loved men. For an officer in the British Army that just was not on, unless you were in one of the more exclusive regiments.
The problem, which surrounded Peter now, was that there just was not anybody. There were plenty of 'friends' but no one special.
He had left the army because of Trevor. Trevor was everything he had wanted. In fact Trevor was everything anybody could have wanted. Kind, well mannered, good looking and pleasant company, a fact that caused him to be the centre of attention for most of the females in Aldershot. All of whom seemed to disregard Trevor's total lack of interest in them.
It would probably be wrong to think of Trevor as homosexual. If anything he was asexual, the idea of sexual relationships never really entering into his mind, which was something of a pity as they entered into the minds of nearly everybody who was with him.
Trevor was sexually attractive and attracted everybody, male and female. Even those males who would have regarded themselves as being strictly heterosexual, would feel themselves attracted to Trevor, though they would never think of such attraction as homosexual. It was just being a good buddy.
Peter had also been attracted to Trevor and for a variety of reasons Trevor had responded. It could not be said that Trevor felt physically attracted to Peter, but he did feel safe with Peter. If Peter wanted something more than company, that was all right with Trevor. He did not mind one way or another. There were others, however, who did. Word of Peter's relationship with one of the rankers quietly, but quickly, got passed to the commanding officer. In a short interview it had been made very clear to Peter that he should resign his commission and leave the army.
Peter had, regretting the loss of his army life but thankful that he still had Trevor, who the army also found an embarrassment. Unfortunately without the position of rank he held in the army, Trevor no longer found Peter offering safety. He did find it, however, in a rotund, matronly, wealthy American widow.
So that was good-bye to Trevor and left Peter somewhat alone.
Gay society has a life style of its own and set of mores which its members accept. There are accepted ways of behaving in that society, just as there are in any other society. Twelve years as a commissioned officer in the British Army is not the place to learn them. Peter made a couple of visits to gay clubs and pubs in the surroundings of Birmingham. He was always an outsider never quite fitting in. Though from time to time he would meet somebody and get into a relationship with them but they never seemed to last long.
He got himself a job as a manager with a Midland's security firm, brought a small house in a somewhat better part of town and acquired a red sports car. In all aspects of his life he seemed to be a perfect bachelor. Comfortably off, in his early thirties with a good secure job and plenty of prospects.
He did not feel like cutting himself off from society and took an active part in local politics. Joining the local party, there was only one effective party in that area of Birmingham. Helping them to canvass at the elections and being a firm supporter of Mr Heath. He was most welcome at the summer garden parties where middle class and rising accounts wives targeted their unmarried daughters at him, wondering why their aim appeared not to by quite right.
It was at one of these parties that he met Joan, dowdy, old before her time, Joan, the stalwart party worker, who always helped out. She even went canvassing in those parts which supported Labour, or worse the Liberals.
As Headmistress of one of the not so better off Primary Schools in the more depressed part of the city, Joan had developed the caring, well mannered personality of everybody's maiden aunt. If anybody had problems it was Joan they would go to talk to. It was not long before Peter found himself taking small problems to Joan. Usually, whilst running her home, in that small red sports car, after party meetings.
He never actually told her he was gay, she just seemed to know. It was an accepted fact and they would often discuss the passing relationships that he had, of which she never seemed to approve.
"You know Peter, that new boyfriend you've got just isn't right for you, " would almost inevitably be her comment the moment a new one arrived on the scene. Not that she had met them. She just seemed to know, but then she knew so many things.
The exact extent of Joan's ability to know things came to Peter's attention when late one evening he met her by accident in the centre of town. Peter had been working very late at the office, as he had for the past four or five weeks and was on his way to the car park when he saw Joan. There she was standing by the bus stop, rather bedraggled under the onslaught of a heavy rain fall, she gave too much of her income to various good causes to afford a car. Tired and irritable as he was Peter could not leave her there, knowing that there was not a bus for another half hour, so he crossed the road and offered Joan a lift. Joan accepted and upon arrival at her small house insisted that he come in for a coffee.
In actual fact it was hot chocolate that she served up, divining that this was what Peter needed more than anything else, especially fortified with a good dash of fine Brandy. She then informed him that he need not think of leaving until he had told her what the problem was. Technically he should not have told her anything, but after two months of increasing pressure on him to find an answer he felt like telling someone. The security firm he worked for had a major contract to supply shop detectives to a large chain of stores around the Midlands. This was a very lucrative contract and for some years the client had been very pleased with the results. Recently though the level of shop lifting had gone up considerably. Far beyond the normal expected and partially accepted level.
They had of course changed all the security staff assigned to that client. They had brought in special experts from outside, so far all to no avail. Now the problem had been put on his desk with the message to solve it or leave. The way things were going it seemed he would have to leave.
Joan listened, then, after pouring him another cup of hot chocolate, with if anything more brandy in it, went over to the small chest on the sideboard, opened it and removed a pack of strangely marked cards. Peter had seen Tarot cards before, but these were very different from the normal Tarot cards you can buy in the shops. Every one had been hand drawn and finely painted.
"Your work?" he asked.
"No dear, a gift from an old friend of mine, awitch down in Exeter." Was the matter of fact answer he obtained from Joan. Followed by instructions, "now dear shuffle the cards and cut them into three piles."
Peter felt a bit foolish but did as Joan told him and half listened to her ramblings about a young man with white hair and empty boxes. He was rather glad to get away. He respected Joan and did not like to see her making a fool of herself like that.
It was not till the following afternoon that he started to think about what Joan had said and also about the store's own internal security staff. Especially about the younger Mr Mallinson, grandson of the owner, who was in charge of internal security. The young man did have very light hair, not actually white, but very close to it.
Maybe he was desperate, maybe he was just prepared to try anything but that afternoon he ordered a round the clock watch on the head of internal security. Five days later the young man was arrested and an elaborate theft operation uncovered which involved nearly half the internal security staff and a few of the warehouse staff.
In the end no charges were brought and everything was hushed up, with the grandfather packing the young man off to the States. Where, incidentally he is now serving a very long prison sentence for trafficking in drugs.
After that Peter started to take the occasional problem to Joan. Sometimes she would help, more often than not she would not. Sometimes it was with cards, at other the crystal or the runes were used. The main thing though was that there was somebody Peter could discuss things with outside of the firm.
Peter came to understand that Joan was a witch and he accepted it. By accepting it he was accepted by them, for through Joan he met many others, a leading local politician and his wife, the minister of a local church. A couple from Sheffield, recognised by many as High Priest and Priestess, and by even more as the Landlord and Landlady of a pub which served some of the best ale and food in the country.
Peter never became a member of the coven, but like many others he became a friend of the coven. At the great festivals he would go along and join the celebrations of life, experiencing the peace and unity which is the way of the witch. He also helped many within the coven. When Sheila opened a shop selling supplies for the many covens in England, he arrived in his little red sports car to whisk her away from a horde of reporters. When Michael walked out on his boyfriend after another major row, Peter offered accommodation for the night, nothing more, just accommodation.
When it was that Sheila and Joan first saw that there was something between Peter and Michael is not known. That Michael's relationship with his current partner was breaking down was clear for all to see. The situation there was impossible. It was not long before they came to an end all together and Michael moved out and took a bed sitting room in a house owned by one of the coven members. After that Peter and Michael started seeing a great deal more of each other. Everybody who knew them agreed they were the perfect pair, even Michael's ex-lover, though he did state it with some venom.
Perfect they may have been but they just did not seem to get it together. For if the truth is to be known they were both a bit scared that if they tried to make it anything more than a friendship they might scare the other one off.
So it was that Joan and Sheila decided to take a hand. Peter was away up in Lancashire, attending a conference on Security. Michael was in London on a project for his firm. It seemed to the two witches an ideal time.
Carefully they collected herbs from the garden and the woods. Wax for the candles from the bees, first asking permission from the Queen. For the earth they used salt, for the air incense, a bowl of water to represent itself and two beeswax candles provided fire. With these things they formed the rite, Peter and Michael together. Michael with Peter, Peter with Michael.
As the candles burned their wax melted and flowed together, forming a union. Making the two into one.
Peter was the first one to arrive back in town and as was his usual practice on a Saturday morning he went to the shop, ready to talk to the many who dropped in for a chat and a coffee. Both Sheila and Joan were there, waiting, ready, expecting.
Michael was later arriving than anybody expected. In fact it was nearly closing time when he walked in, accompanied by the most beautiful young man ever. It only took one look at the two of the for everybody in the shop to know they were deeply in love.
"Hi", greeted Michael generally to all present. He indicated the young man at his side, "this is Peter". The regulars in the shop quickly greeted the newcomer making him welcome, whilst at the back two witches were heard to say, "Oh no, the wrong one."