Story 18: DeDe receives a mysterious message
Like many doodles, DeDe loves sharing flattering photos of herself, and she often has difficulty choosing which ones to share. In the same way doodles send ‘positive thoughts’ to tell their friends what they're thinking, they also send positive visions of where they are or where they’ve been. DeDe hopes her positive visions give the impression that she leads a far more glamorous life than she actually does.
As she was getting ready for the beach she had memory flashes of her recent holiday in Spain. She remembered Dante and Harley by the pool, Lily-Poo posing like a film star on a sun lounger and one particularly good one of Phoebe diving head first into BooBoo’s swimming pool. She dithered about which image to share, finally deciding on the one of all five of them in front of La Sagrada Familia. This, she thought, gave the best impression of having lots of friends and living the jet set lifestyle.
It didn’t take long before her friends where returning positive thoughts of how much they liked her happy vision. She was just about to remind Dante it was time to leave to catch Billy when a positive thought flew into her head. It came from someone called Vladimir Hurloff, a name she didn’t recognise. Excitedly she read the thought:
You don’t know me but I am your first cousin once removed on your mother’s side. You're auntie was my grandma, and I am trying to get in touch with long lost relatives.
I hope you will reply to this message and that one day you will visit me at my Castle on the banks of the River Volga, not far from the Caspian sea.
With affection, your loving cousin
The message sent DeDe into a bit of a spin, and she began to feel light headed. She was brought back to earth by Dante asking if she was ready to go to the beach. Hesitating, she said she didn’t feel like the beach and preferred to have a day at home. Thinking nothing of it, Dante quickly left to catch Billy train.
Once DeDe knew Dante was safely out of the way she read the thought again and again.
There were so many unanswered questions. She hadn’t known any of her aunties, in fact her mother had never spoken of having sisters at all, and how did a son of her auntie end up being called Vladimir and living in a Castle in Russia? She’d always thought her family came from the Suffolk - Norfolk borders. It all seemed a bit strange, but she was sure Vladimir would have the answers and tell she was aristocratic by birth with a whole line of noble ancestors. Her head filled with visions of ball gowns, tiaras and jolly house parties.
It didn’t take long before she was sending a flowery reply to Vladimir, saying how thrilled she was to hear from him and how fondly her mother had spoken of her dear sister, his mother. She went on to explain that her travels had not yet taken her to the Caspian Seas or a cruise on the Volga, however she hoped that now they had made contact, it wouldn’t be long before she did both.
DeDe’s head buzzed with possibilities. Perhaps she really was ‘posh’ after all, and perhaps all he dreams were about to come true. Was she about to meet her true family and know the opulence she’d only read about in her lifestyle magazines?
The first thing she would have to do was improve her posture and practice gliding serenely into crowded reception rooms. She knew she’d got into bad habits of slouching and plodding through muddy puddles in the woods. All this of course, would now have to change.
As she dreamt of dancing the summer nights away, Vladimir replied with a positive vision of himself in front of his castle saying, ‘At home, a summer afternoon’. Vladimir really was an impressive Golden Doodle she thought. The castle was particularly impressive with a turret at one end flying a large flag, that she thought must be the family coat of arms. For a while DeDe couldn’t take her mind away from the image. She was sure she saw the family likeness, although Vladimir did look a lot taller than her. Not long after, Vladimir sent another message saying he was planing to come to London to discuss his foreign investments and wondered if DeDe might like to meet him next Thursday.
DeDe didn’t hesitate and immediately replied saying how lovely it would be to come to London, adding she assumed he would be staying at the Ritz or another suitable central London hotel. Strangely Vladimir didn’t reply, so after a while she went off to join the others on the beach. She found them in the cafe nibbling some freshly baked Winton’s liver cake.
Not wanting to show too much excitement she sat down beside Lily-Poo and listened to the conversation. As ever, it was the same old chat, Harley talking about the holes he’d dug, Dante remising about a bestest ballie he’d lost, and Phoebe describing, in far too much detail, how she’d rolled in the smelliest seaweed.
Harley was about to tell them of yet another hole, when DeDe blurted out, “I’ve had a message from my Russian first cousin, once removed. He’s got a castle with a turret and a flag on it. He’s asked me to meet him next Thursday”
None of them knew exactly what to say, but when Dante mentioned he’d heard distant relatives were to be avoided, but they knew they need to show enthusiasm, while also warning her to be cautious about meeting strangers in London. After another awkward pause Lily-Poo offered to help DeDe choose what to wear. After all, if she was going to a grand London hotel, she’d need to look the part.
Dante still couldn’t understand why she wanted to meet a stranger, when she had all the friends she could possibly want right here in Camber. Harley secretly felt the same, but being more sensitive added a few encouraging words before leaving the cafe to dig another hole. Phoebe, thought it would be nice to meet family she didn’t know and wondered when she might get a positive thought from a long lost relative. For all she knew she could have a first cousin once removed living in the Caribbean with a swimming pool and a big barbecue.”
When Dante and DeDe arrived home DeDe immediately sent Vladimir another positive thought. She’d made up her mind, even if some of her friends were sceptical, she would meet Vladimir when he came to London. He was her first cousin once removed and therefore a loved member of her family.
All evening DeDe and Vladimir messaged back and forth, planning where they’d meet and what they’d do in London. They’d meet next Thursday in a restaurant she’d never heard of, on a road she didn’t know, called Edgware Road.
Over the next few days DeDe spent hours deciding what to wear. She wanted to be stylish but in a monied conservative way, nothing too trendy or brash. After umpteen conversations with Lily-Poo and hours spent consulting back copies of her lifestyle magazine, DeDe decided on the blue wool jacket she’d bought in the Miss Darcy’s range end of season sale.
It took ages for Thursday to come but eventually it did, and after much planning she was ready to catch the train. She decided to walk to Billy train with Dante, so he could take the one going to Camber and she could catch the one going to London.
The Camber Billy train, was on time, but to DeDe’s annoyance the London train was cancelled and the station master didn’t know the time of the next one. As Dante’s train slid out of the station she sat on the platform alone and helpless. She didn’t have a plan B. All she could do was wait and hope the next train wouldn’t be too long coming. As time dragged on she felt a tear coming, determined to hold it back she walked up and down the platform trying to think happy thoughts. After all she didn’t want to arrive in London with bloodshot eyes, as this would give Vladimir the completely wrong impression.
The more time dragged, the more anxious she became. She worried she wouldn't get to London and would never meet Vladimir. He would give up waiting, deciding never to contact her again. After fretting and worrying about what might happen, she heard the ‘toot-toot’ of a train announcing its arrival. Her spirits immediately lifted and she was excited again.
The journey into London was uneventful, she had two seats to herself the whole way. As they pulled into the busy St Pancras station she heard the driver apologise for the cancelation of the earlier train, reminding passengers they were entitled to apply for the ‘delay repay’ scheme. As she trotted to the barrier DeDe thought she wasn’t fussed about the delay repay, just grateful she got to London in time to meet Vladimir.
She’d already decided today was not a day for public transport, today was a special day, and she would definitely be traveling by taxi. Luckily there were plenty with their lights on outside the station and she quickly jumped in the nearest one saying, “Take me to the Edgware Road please”.
DeDe had never been to the Edgware Road, and what she saw, wasn’t what she had imagined. Surely this was not the sort of area Vladimir would be familiar with? She was even more surprised when the taxi pulled up outside the Cafe El Chippie. Vladimir had told her it was his favourite lunch time haunt, but it didn't look at all special to her. She’d imagined linen tablecloths with a harp playing quietly in the corner, but Cafe El Chippie looked more like a place that didn’t use linen at all. In fact she feared everything might be paper and that the cutlery could even be plastic. This must be a big mistake. Vladimir must have sent her the wrong details.
Taking a deep breath she opened the door scanning the room for Vladimir. There was nobody looking remotely like the photo, but as she scanned the room for a second time she noticed a rather shabby looking long haired doodle raise a paw in her direction. Surely this wasn’t Vladimir? How could this possibly be her first cousin once removed? She pretended not to notice him by looking the other way, but the shabby doodle got up and walked towards her. When they were face to face he said, “DeDe, it is so lovely to meet you, I’m your first cousin once removed, Vladimir”. As they kissed, French style, DeDe smelt a combination of stale coffee, red wine and cigars, which nearly made her choke. She drew herself away, pretending to have a frog in her throat.
Vladimir ushered her to his table and she took a deep breath before sitting down. Not only was Vladimir nothing like she expected, the cafe and the menu weren’t either. There was chips with everything and she couldn’t find the slimmers' options or a dish that wasn’t deep fried and full of calories. “So much for the steamed duck breasts with wild mushrooms she’d been dreaming of".
After a few pleasantries Vladimir said he would order from the counter. DeDe dithered before deciding on the cheese burger, even though the menu didn’t say where the beef was from or whether the herd had been organically farmed. At least at the cafe in Camber she always knew the lamb was from the marsh.
It didn’t take long before Vladimir returned to the table with the dreaded paper napkins and plastic cutlery. “This is all very strange” thought DeDe. “Surely someone who has a castle on the banks of the Volga can do better than this place for lunch?”
While they were waiting for the food, DeDe felt a wave of disappointment flood over her. She’d been so looking forward to a fancy lunch with her aristocratic relative, but the reality of this tatty burger joint in the Edgware Road was a real let down. She’d taken hours getting ready and now her prized jacket would smell of chip fat all the way home. Pulling herself together and thinking she must make the most of every situation, she started some light conversation. She chatted about her train journey, how she hadn’t been to London for ages, and that Dante’s brother BooBoo lived in Notting Hill.
Feeling she was talking too much about herself DeDe changed the subject by asking if his mother had the same apricot fur as her. Vladimir pretended not to hear, so she returned to talking about herself to avoid any embarrassing silences. At the very moment she broached the subject of family for a second time someone from the counter shouted “Number 138, who ordered number 138?” Without answering her, Vladimir got up to collect their burgers.
DeDe had never eaten burgers out of plastic boxes before, and was a little shocked her food hadn’t been served in a bowl; but as the day was proving to be full of surprises she just flipped off the lid and started to eat.
DeDe was determined to salvage what she could from the situation and find out about her relations. She felt Vladimir was behaving like the politicians who never answer the question on the tele. On the third time of bringing up the subject of family, Vladimir hesitated before taking a deep breath.
“I’ve lost touch with my family due to a misunderstanding, we had a disagreement about money. I borrowed a small fortune from my mother. You see I’d had a reliable tip from my financier to invest in a nightclub on the Baltic Riviera, it was going to be the new ‘In Place’ for fancy doodles. The financier told me the investment couldn’t fail and that I’d be able to return the money without my mother even knowing I’d taken it. The sad thing was, once I’d sent the cheque I never saw the financier again, he simply disappeared. It turned out there was no planned nightclub, it had all been a scam. To avoid the shame of facing my family I fled to London and have been here for nearly five years. When I saw your positive vision I remembered my mother telling me about her sister in England. You looked so like her I imagined you might be her daughter. It’s been difficult to make friends in London and I’ve been so lonely for far too long. I just hoped you’d want to be my friend even if we are not family”.
As Vladimir finished talking DeDe realised her mouth was wide open. Had she heard Vladimir correctly? Might she not be his first cousin once removed after all? Had Vladimir made up the whole story.? How could she even be sure he’d ever lived in a Castle?
Her mind was swirling with so many thoughts. How could Vladimir pretend to be her cousin when he couldn't prove it, and how could she fall for such a trick? As she recovered from the shock DeDe felt ashamed. She remembered how excited she had been to meet Vladimir and how keen she’d been to enjoy the highlife she thought he could give her. Had her reason for meeting Vladimir simply been based on how much money he had? She felt shallow and embarrassed at how she’d behaved. Perhaps she deserved to be taken in by this trickster?
As they finished their burgers, which really didn’t taste of anything, DeDe realised she wasn’t that disappointed that she didn’t have aristocratic relatives. There is more to life than fancy people with supposedly fancy lifestyles. She now knew she was so lucky to live in Camber with such special doodles who love and care for her.
When it was time to leave DeDe noticed Vladimir fumble for his wallet. She touch him gently saying, “Please Vladimir this lunch is on me. I’ve learnt a valuable lesson today. I realise I have all the family I need back in Camber and I can't wait to get home and tell them how much I love them ”.
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