Once I Had A Secret Love

Mr Collins, of Collins, Collins and Collins, Solicitors, looked across the table at his new prospective client, an elderly though still attractive woman. “So if I understand you correctly,” he said, “you’re saying that Paul McCartney wrote the song  ‘Michelle’ about you.”

“That’s right,” said the woman.

“But you booked this appointment as Rita Russell.”

The woman didn’t seem to understand. “That’s because it’s my name,” she said.

“So your name isn’t Michelle?”

“No.”

“Is your middle name Michelle?”

“No,” said Rita. “It’s Hayworth.”

“Rita Hayworth Russell?”

“Yes,” said Rita. “My mother was very into the movies in the 1940s.”

“And why do you believe that Paul McCartney wrote the song about you?”

“We were at school together,” she said. “He was my first boyfriend, and he told me once that he loved me.”

“And when was this?”

“In 1950,” she said.

“So you were both -”

“Eight,” she said.

Mr Collins began to feel a headache coming on. “And you believe that 15 years later he wrote a song about you, but decided not to use your real name.”

“Yes,” said Rita.

“Why would he do that?”

“So she wouldn’t know,” said Rita.

“She?”

“Yoko,” said Rita.

“Er, it wasn’t him who -”

“That’s also why he wrote most of it in French,” she said.

Sont des mots qui vent très bien ensemble?” asked Mr Collins.

“Yes, that,” said Rita.

“Do you know what it means?” asked Mr Collins.

“Well, no,” said Rita. “I did Metalwork at school instead.”

“So when he says – to you,apparently – ’I will say the only words I know that you’ll understand’, he in fact says the only words that you won’t.”

“Like I said,” said Rita, “he didn’t want anyone to find out it was about me.”

“Did it ever occur to you,” said Mr Collins, “that the song was just a story, that it wasn’t about anyone in particular at all?”

“Listen, John – can I call you John?”

“If you like,” said Mr Collins. His name was actually Clive, but he didn’t feel that it would help to mention that.

“Well, John, most songs are true. When Gene Kelly sang that he was singing in the rain, he was there on the screen, singing in the rain.”

“Are you saying,” said John, or Clive, “that Elton John is a Rocket Man, that Bono still hasn’t found what he’s looking for and that Madonna is like a virgin?”

“I don’t know who any of those people are,” she said . “They’re way after my time. All I know is that ‘Michelle’ is written about me, and so my brother Clark -”

“Clark Gable Russell?” guessed Clive.

“Yes,” said Rita, surprised. “Do you know him?”

“Never mind that now. What about Clark?”

“Clark says that I should get some of the royalties.”

“In the same way, presumably,” said Clive, “that David Bowie should give some of his royalties to the Laughing Gnome.”

Rita stood up, picked up her handbag, and walked towards the door. “I can see that you’re not taking me seriously,” she said. “All I wanted was some money to help me through my old age. My pension’s not enough, and I’ve no savings because my job never paid that much anyway.”

Clive felt really sorry for having made fun of her. “What did you work at?” he said.

She turned back from the door. “I was a meter-maid,” she said.

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