V is for… Venice

By Vita Forest


Phoebe liked the way he talked about music, how his fingers tapped on his leg as if he was playing the drums.  She liked that Gabriel played the piano accordion, the piano and the guitar.  She did not like how he praised the recorder.  All Phoebe could think of was the high pitched shrieks and squeals and ear-splitting blasts of the recorder her brother had played.

“I don’t like instruments you can clean in a dishwasher,” she retorted.

“What?!” he appeared flabbergastered.

“Maybe we didn’t have the high-quality ones you are obviously talking about.”

She liked that he was studying music, but did not like that he seemed to look down on people who worked in ordinary jobs. Weekday jobs.

“You don’t like it when people earn money then?” she clarified, somewhat disgusted.

“No, it’s not that,” he tried to explain.  “My friend was an amazing cello player, but now he works in a bank.  He didn’t give it a chance.  He didn’t try for long enough.”

“In your opinion.”

“In my opinion.”

“My friend Chloe chose to work in Engineering precisely so she can still enjoy music.  She keeps it as something she loves, not as something she has to do to pay the bills.”

“Hmm,” he answered.  “Interesting.”

She liked that she could tease him and he didn’t seem to mind.

Phoebe liked that she could hear his music through the deep passageways of the tube stations, floating up the escalators as she floated down.  Or surprising her as exited a train, “Minding the Gap”.  She liked the private smile he gave her, behind the piano accordion, behind the open case strewn with coins, behind the other commuters watching him play.  Sometimes Phoebe would stop and listen on the way to her job-that-didn’t-pay-in-change.  Sometime she took the chance to watch him from a distance, to look at him objectively, at how he was when she was not there.

She liked his collection of old-style hats – Homburgs and Fedoras.  Except when she didn’t.  Except when they annoyed her, when they seemed a little trite.  A little forced.

Phoebe could not understand how he could live in London and yet go so rarely to Paris, to Europe in general.

“It’s just a train trip!” she shook her head in exasperation.

“Yes but you tourists have to do everything.  It’s like a race.  You can’t just live your life.”

“Life your life?  You mean getting drunk with your friends every weekend?”

That was another thing she didn’t like.  The weekend mornings wasted nursing hangovers.  Phoebe didn’t have time for that.  There were places to go, things to see.

But he did like Venice.  He did have a poster of crumbling palaces, water lapping against them, on his wall.  He had enjoyed getting lost in the maze of streets, had loved sitting on vaporetto and watching the sunset, had watched intrigued as the workers went about their business, carrying supplies through the narrow streets in wheelbarrows.  Gabriel had appreciated the Grand Canal and San Marco’s Square and even the golden mosaics on the ceiling of San Marco’s basilica.

So he was alright, Phoebe thought.  He was good on the important things.  He was good on Venice.



G is for… Gabriel

By Vita Forest


Phoebe wandered through the rooms of the Victoria and Albert.  This is why she was here after all.  To see some art, to get inspired.  She should be happy, she really should.  But there she was, weighted down in her chest by loneliness.  Who knew that when she wasn’t there, the slightest little thing could trigger this almost crushing nostalgia for home?

Clear blue skies, the shriek of lorikeets, she was even thinking about how the chocolate tasted different.

Good grief! as her friend Rory would say.  Friend… That was another thing.  So far today, the only person she had spoken to was the woman at the ticket desk who hadn’t even looked at her.  No wonder Phoebe was feeling a little bit wobbly.

She walked through another gallery.  A sculpture gallery.  It was full of scenes of violence.  Silent violence.  Frozen violence.  But violence.  It was as if some fairy had stopped time at the exact moment that the blade was about to pierce a neck, or the fingers were about to crush a windpipe.  Muscles clenched, adrenalin flowing, mouths screaming in agony.

Amongst all this mayhem, some kind of art class was sketching.  They were sitting cross-legged, leaning sketchbooks on their laps and hatching and cross-hatching away.  Looking up, looking down, the sound of the soft brush of the lead on the paper.  Phoebe walked between them, as fascinated by the living as she was by the stone.

Will you be my friend?

She wanted to lean against that beanied boy and sketch the struggle with the snake behind him.  She wanted to lend someone a 4B pencil and borrow someone’s scarf.  She wanted to know all the in-jokes, who always left their homework to the last minute and who was going out with whom…

Will you be my friend?

Maybe she wasn’t cut out for travelling.  Maybe she should have just stayed at home.  It took so much energy.  Working out the smallest things – how to buy a train ticket, what the five pound note looked like, where to buy decent bread.  But she was being ridiculous.  This was what she had spent the last year saving money to do.  She should damn well enjoy it.

Phoebe passed through a set of glass doors that sighed as she pushed them open.  She found herself in a cool, dim room lined with tapestries.  Pre-Raphaelite, she thought.  She strolled through the hush, past the angels with thick feathered wings and draped robes, past the maidens walking in a garden or perhaps it was an orchard.  There was fruit.  What kind of fruit?  The Pre-Raphaelites liked their nature didn’t they?  She could probably recognise it if she looked.  She sat down on a bench in front of it.

The door opened behind her.

An apple.

She could hear someone’s feet moving across the cold wooden floor.

Will you be my friend?

They came and stopped in front of the same tapestry.

A pomegranate.

And sat down beside her.  Right beside her.  Phoebe turned her head in surprise.

Gabriel looked at Phoebe and smiled.  Would she remember him?

Phoebe stared at him, raising her hands to her cheeks in astonishment.

“I know you,” she whispered.  “I know you!”

“Good,” he grinned.  ” I hoped you would.”

Phoebe was shaking her head, “You don’t understand – this is amazing.  I’ve bumped into someone I know in London!  It’s like, a miracle.”

And the draughty room rang with the sound of their laughter.