Novels with a surprise ending

The Pianist

‘Cunningham House’, a 20 room mansion built in 1870, was situated in one of Britain’s great historic cities – Chester. The city has a background of over 2,000 years of history. It is surrounded by a wall built by the Romans to protect it from invaders. Many of the city’s houses are of Tudor or Georgian architecture. It has the oldest still-in-use racecourse in Britain. It is said that its Eastgate clock is the most photographed in the world.
 
The first owner of the Manor House was Major William Cunningham-Parker, who was the first citizen of the town at that time. He was a passionate and accomplished pianist, but in 1920 he died on the keys of his beloved piano while playing and singing his favourite waltz – The Blue Danube – by Johann Strauss.
 
He loved singing the lyrics of this classic masterpiece; his voice, strong and vibrant, reverberated throughout the house.
 
“Danube Blue, so bright and blue,
Through the vale and field you flow so calm,
Our Vienna greets you.
Your waters stream through all the lands,
You merry the heart with your beautiful shores.”
 
It was often alleged by the neighbours that sometimes, often during the night, they would hear the clear sounds of this classic melody being played on the piano and his singing, even though the mansion was now empty and uninhabited.  The property was subsequently occupied by his heirs, one generation after another. It was finally owned by Robert Cunningham-Parker, himself also a pianist. His passion, however, was acting, and for this reason he had moved to London to follow his acting activities, leaving Cunningham House empty.
 
As he had no intention, for the time being at least, of returning to Chester, he leased the mansion to the Chester Heritage Foundation, who adapted it for cultural purposes. For the opening of the revamped property, the Heritage Foundation was to produce a play based on the history of the House, piano ghost and all, in the large courtyard of the same house. Who better than Robert himself to play the role of Major William Cunningham-Parker? He was intimately familiar with the house, knew the character of his ancestor well and, of course, he was a pianist and also an actor. When approached by the Foundation, Robert accepted immediately.
 
The open courtyard was full despite the bad weather conditions on the day. Snow was falling heavily, the wind was a gale force and the cold was bone-shattering. The play was, however, a huge success. The actors gave a brilliant performance and the applause at the end was long and deafening. The whole story and history of the House was shown to perfection. The part that really stole the performance, however, was the playing and singing of William Cunningham-Parker’s Blue Danube, which mesmerised the audience. As the audience, pleased and satisfied, were leaving the theatre-style courtyard and the Director, also satisfied with the performance, was resting in his room, Robert Cunningham-Parker burst in breathlessly. “I’m sorry, awfully sorry! It was impossible to make it in time, the snow made chaos on the roads tonight, I was held up. I’m very frustrated to have let you down, I can tell you, sorry!”
 
“What?” gasped astonishingly the Director, “Do you mean to tell me that you did not play and sing The Blue Danube?” “Of course I didn’t play and sing!” said Robert. “I was 30 miles away in Stoke at the time!”
 

The Separation

I didn’t believe her when she said that she was leaving. She had been telling me this many times before, but knowing her – a lot of words and no action – I took it with a pinch of salt. However when I returned from work on Friday afternoon, I caught her packing her things up in boxes. “What are you doing?” I said. “I’ve told you that I’m leaving,” she replied. There were several boxes lying about in the room, some closed and taped, others still open being filled up.
 
We’ve had our tiffs sometimes . These were nothing of a serious nature really, just what two different characters living together normally argue about. We always made up almost immediately, apologised, shared a hug and continued our life together, although 
the situation appeared to be serious today. She was definitely leaving. Her mind was made up. There was no turning back. I would have to adjust to living in this house without her. She was throwing discarded clothes in a corner. “Don’t throw that out,” I told her. “That dress had always been one of my favourites”. “You’ve never told me that before Jimmy,” she responded. It was a simple cotton dress, old fashioned really, but it had looked nice on her.
 

The Librarian

Helen and Margaret were sisters but they were as different as chalk and cheese. Helen was outgoing, extrovert, friendly, confident, talkative, noisy, exuberant and always laughing. She was also beautiful with a fine delicate complexion, high cheekbones and long auburn hair that seemed to be always shining. Margaret, on the other hand, was introvert, timid, lonely, more of a listener than a talker and unsure of her place in the world. She was also rather common-looking with a pallid face, slightly protruding nose and mousy black hair which seemed always needing to be combed. 
 
And yet they were as inseparable as twins – always together, looking after each other, going out together. They had no secrets between them so much so that oftentimes they recounted their dreams and expectations of life. Very often they were in each other’s room, swooning over records of their favourite singers. Helen liked modern singers and bands like One Direction and Rihanna while Margaret favoured the old singers like Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Johnny Ray. 
 
Margaret ran single-handedly the town’s library with dedication and fervour that put a smile on her face every day. She was passionate about books, reading everything that came her way, whether they were ‘classics’ or ‘comics’. She knew all there was to know about books and their authors. Clients told her that she was ‘a walking reference book’. She had purposely sought work at the library because she genuinely loved books. She felt calm and at ease in the quite atmosphere of the library surrounded by shelves and shelves of all kinds of books. 
 

Adam, Eve and the Apple

It is an accepted fact to all Christian faiths that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman created by God. According to Luke “God created Adam from dust, and then breathed life into him”. Then, in the first-ever ‘surgery’, God removed a rib from Adam’s side and from it he created Eve. When God pronounced judgements for their disobedience, he told the serpent that he would crawl on his belly and eat dust; he told Eve that she and all women after her would have pain in childbirth; and he told Adam that he and all his descendants would experience painful toil on earth until death. When bad Cain murdered good Abel, our fore-parents had another son, Seth, from whom, it must be, we are descended.  
 
And what about the apple? Was it really an apple? There are different interpretations of this incident that happened at the Garden of Eden. Some say that the word ‘apple’ is symbolic; it means God forbade our fore-parents to do something, but not exactly not to eat an apple. Others say that it was the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ that was forbidden, and others hold that it was truly an apple fruit. I sometimes wonder what today’s picture would be if our fore-parents had not disobeyed God’s wishes. The idyllic life of no labour, no disease and no death, would have meant that today there is no need for work, for hospitals, for cemeteries, for doctors and for undertakers. It would also mean that men and women, thousands of years old, would be roaming the streets of town! I don’t know what to think really. 
   

The Italian

It was just three years ago since her husband, God rest his soul, had left to the other world. He had come into her life to steal her heart and disturb her soul. He was the only man in the world that she had wanted as her companion for life. They had spent thirty wonderful years together. Many times now, sitting in her favourite armchair sipping a hot cup of coffee, she remembered the places they had visited together, the joys and the heartache of everyday life, the charming words he said to amuse her, so many things. How she missed him. 
 
Ella, her only daughter who had married and was living abroad for the last eighteen years, encouraged her when she phoned to go on outings which the Local Council organised frequently for elderly persons. “We both loved Dad, but we cannot bring him back. You should think of yourself and move on now Mum,” she often told her. She did go for a couple of outings, not because she felt like doing so, but because she did not like to displease her daughter. 
 

The Interview

Susan Wilkins arrived at the offices of ‘Osborne-Kerr Enterprises’ for her interview as a typist. Just turned 18, she felt a flutter of excitement in her stomach as she entered the building with trepidation.
The little confidence Susan had, deserted her the minute she opened the door and entered an oak-panelled reception area. She was impressed with the surroundings. A glamorous girl sitting behind a desk gave her a professional smile “Can I help you Miss?”
Susan broke into a cold sweat. “I’m here for the interview”, she blurted nervously, instantly thinking of a hundred better ways she could have introduced herself. “And you are?” asked the receptionist, “Wilkins, Susan Wilkins”, replied Susan. “We’ve been expecting you Miss Wilkins”, replied the receptionist. Susan’s pulse raced. Was it her imagination or was the receptionist reprimanding her? She looked for a clock to check if she was late. 
 
“Miss Wilkins” asked the receptionist a few moments later. “Sorry” Susan apologised, conscious she had not been listening. “Mr Osborne-Kerr will see you shortly. Would you like to have a seat while you wait?”
   

The Return

August 1945. The Armistice was signed; the war was over. From all over the battlefields in Europe and those beyond the Pacific, the fighting men were now returning home to embrace their eager mothers, wives and children. From all over these battle-scarred places they streamed, back to their country, back to their homes, back to their loved-ones. 
For five long years they fought hard, courageously, gallantly and with a patriotic sense that makes men heroes.  In the last year they suffered hell, defeat, humiliation and tasted the bitter effects of occupation. 
Yet not all that went away to fight their country’s cause were now returning home. Some still lay there, buried beneath the soil of battle in a foreign land; these will never return home, will never cry at the sight of their mothers. Their duty done, they now sleep peacefully in the ruins of Stalingrad, El Alamein, Arnhem, Kursk, Berlin and other battlefields. 
 

The Rebel of Baka

The state of Baka, bordered by the equally small states of Malik and Radan, situated in the African continent, has four million inhabitants.  It has been run by a dictatorship led by the notorious General Georges Patu for the last five years. He has ruled his little country with an iron fist policy, imprisoning, torturing and killing those who oppose him. 
The people are very poor and often die due to the lack of food, treatment and medicine, but Patu, his family and his henchmen enjoy a luxury life. They have amassed a fortune in money and gold now deposited safely in various banks overseas. 
The brutality of his army has instilled fear in the hard working people of his little country. Patu does not know the meaning of justice, fairness, moderation, and good governance. Those who oppose him come to one end – death. 
He was very different when he was a child – shy and loving. He did not know his father, but his mother who was poor and lived in a shack, loved him dearly. She sheltered him from danger as he grew up in the often turbulent country.
   

An Act of Jealousy

Those who are conversant with the profondities of love will appreciate better the sorrow of the parting. ‘Love’, it is often said, ‘lies on the border of hate and is adjacent only to madness’.  I wonder sometimes why the noblest of virtues should be so frail and so mysterious. How often has it also been said that ‘he who loves as an adolescent, learns to hate as a grown up’. 
 
There are instances in life when man will ponder on bygone memories and learn to criticize his own folly from the logical point of view. And so, in this manner, he pondered.
 
……….Yesterday she was mine; my wife; vowed she loved me; promised to make me happy; we laughed, loved and made merry………
 

Strange Experience

It all happened suddenly about 4.00 a.m. of Wednesday, 14 March 1859. I tried to stretch my limbs, lift my arm, move my legs; nothing happened. I tried to call my mother but my mouth produced no sound. My eyes were fixed in a permanent position. Strange enough however, I could hear everything – the clock ticking, the dogs barking, my brother snoring in the adjacent room ………. everything. I had nothing to do except wait patiently. Those were desperate hours. 
Then the real story began. It was 7.00 a.m. when my mother came to wake me up for work. She shouted in my ears. I heard her and saw her beside me but I could not answer back. I could not move, smile or show any sign of communication.
My mother, driven mad, rushed downstairs repeating to my father and brother that I was dead. I saw them near me with tears on their cheeks and a desperate look in their eyes. They were shocked and crying. Even my father, my brother and my sister seemed to confirm my mother’s fallacious belief. I had to admit myself that I was dead or, better still, would soon be dead. 
The doctor was called for and, on entering the house, told them that they had spoilt his sleep. He then pompously entered my room. I could see his bald head bending on my chest. He was tickling me with his long, untrimmed moustache. And he smelled!  I had to endure all this for some time. Then the long experienced doctor straightened up and concluded that I was dead. Dead!!  How could I convince them that I was alive?
   

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