- The Mountain Climber’s Beginning
Let me tell you a story. Just three nights ago I was in a public bar, in the back country. It was called the Woodcutters Arms – an old and low slung tavern with peeling daubed walls, cut into the slopes on the edge of the forest. You’d think being so far away from civilisation it’d be empty, but it was so located as to catch a great deal of passing trade – it’d served hordes of itinerant workers over the years – so that night business was brisk. The hearth was lit with a crackling fire, the cracked leather chairs were full and the bar keep was run off his feet keeping up with orders from weary travellers.
I’d been climbing that day, and had summited a local mountain that involved more than a little skill and care, so I was at the bar feeling rightly proud of myself; another badge of achievement. I had a pint of their home brewed dark ale (which I have to say was magnificent) and was just thinking how nice it might be to book a room overnight there when a hot bit of totty in the far corner caught my eye. That she was extremely pretty was undeniable, but it was not just her beauty that bugged me. Rather, I had a vague sense that I had seen her before, but I couldn’t place her in any part of my life – school, work, romance, travel, nowhere. Nope, nothing. It was just my eye for pretty girls.
I just had time to dismiss the silliness of déjà vu when a man jumped on to a stool beside me and obscured my vision of her.
The fellow ordered a double whisky, and tapped his fingers in an agitated way while it was poured. He was very thin, draped in a long leather jacket of some vintage. I estimated he was about a decade younger than I. His hair flowed spectacularly over his shoulders, and he occasionally brushed it off his face. I had always envied men who could grow hair to such lengths; I kept mine short and well cut to avoid it becoming unkempt. When the whisky arrived he sank it straight away, banged the glass on the table and said, “Same again, if you will, please.”
He looked at me, with eyes that wondered if I was safe company. He was very handsome in that will o’ the wisp kind of way, as if he’d been caught in flagrante delicto with a nymph and had been chased away by two satyrs. I said,
“Four shots in four minutes. You’re traveling fast tonight.”
His fingers tapped the bar again and he turned to check progress on the drink. Then he swung his stool closer to mine. I must have appeared safe, or maybe it was the booze.
“I need some advice,” he said. “You look like a man who knows the world.” His eyes were earnest and desperate.
“I’ve travelled,” I said, “but more than that, I’ve loved and lived. Often to my detriment, but we live and learn, sometimes.”
I sank the last of my ale and ordered another. I was sure a story was coming.
The young man’s whisky arrived. He drank it as before and then ordered the same as me. Then he said,
“Let me tell you a story,” he said, “and you’ll understand why I need your advice.”
Our ales appeared on the bar, dripping with foam on the sides. We each cheered the other and took a sip.
“That’s a fine beer,” he said and then leant close to me to confide his tale.
* * * * *
- The Lover’s Discovery
“Three nights ago, I was driving along one of the minor roads out this way. It was pouring, and visibility was low, so all I could do was depend on my headlights as they lit the sheets of rain in front of me. Several times I nearly ran off the road, and would have plummeted down the mountainside had I not been so vigilant.
“Then, I swung around one corner and there, starkly lit in the headlights, was a young woman, standing in the middle of the road. I slammed on my brakes and the car skidded to one side. I saw her fly back and I thought, oh my god I’ve killed her. I got out and raced over to where she lay on the bitumen. The rain was pelting down on her. I couldn’t see any blood though. I dropped down to inspect her face and make sure I hadn’t caused any head injury when her eyes opened. She shielded her eyes from the downpour and said “I’m sorry.”
“I asked if I’d hit her and if she was injured and she said no, she had actually jumped back and stumbled on the road. I gave her my hand and said ‘I’ve got to get you out of this rain”. It was only when she was in the car that I realised how inappropriately dressed she was for the situation we were in. It’s no understatement to say that she was scantily clad. She only had summer dress on, which was soiled and torn, and she was soaked to the skin. And I’ve got to say, even though it was totally the wrong time, that cotton clinging to that skin: she looked as enticing as any woman I’d ever seen.
“I asked her what she was doing and where she was going, and tears welled in her eyes.
“I have been such a fool,” she said, and dropped her head into her hands and sobbed.
“I have to say, it was all wrong, but as I sat there watching her slight shoulders rock with her tears, I felt an extraordinary longing for her. She had dark hair. Her fingers were fine, her frame petite – everything I look for in a girl.
“I took her my car to escape the rain, and I put a towel I had in the back seat around her shoulders to dry her off, and keep her a bit warm. She tugged it about her and turned her head to thank me.
“At that moment, when she looked at me, I fell in love. Her eyes were a deep brown, her nose a perfect bridge and her lips were exquisite. I stared at her as she rubbed her hair with the towel. When she had finished, her hair was a torrent of black tresses that tumbled across her face and only made her more alluring.
“I said, “We need to get you into some dry clothes, and a warm dry place.” I knew of this pub, so I started the car and headed off into the teeming rain. On the drive I stole glances as she leaned her head against the side of the car. I tell you, she was an absolute doll.
“Once here I organised for the hotelier to lend her some clothes and booked a room for her to use. When she came down after changing she was wearing a pair of scratched dungarees and an oversized sweater. And you know what? Their raggedness only accentuated her beauty.
“I was smitten. I told myself I was a fool for feeling that way, I had only known her for about an hour in the teeming rain, and had only heard about a dozen words pass from her lips. But, wow, I had to acknowledge, it had happened. I had fallen in love with her. Impossible I know, and against all reason, but there it was, pure passion, the desire to live with this woman and care for her and watch her flower as the years pass. I was dizzy with her.
“But the night got even more interesting. We dined by candlelight and she told me her strange and intriguing story. Allow me to tell it to you, using her words as best I recollect them.
* * * * *
- The Maiden’s Transformation
“I’ll tell you my story,’ she said, ‘even though I feel so utterly stupid. My boyfriend and I had had a picnic in the woods. As you know, the weather had been wonderful all day. It was hot so I only had a light summer dress on. I didn’t expect I’d be out later when the rain broke.
I was in love. Edward – that’s his name – was ten years older than me, and was handsome and caring and made me smile and feel safe. He was an outdoorsy type, but a diligent worker in town and was considered quite the catch. We met at a dance, and talked all through the night and after as the day wore on. I loved him quickly, and he professed his love for me on many occasions. I thought I was tremendously lucky to have found him.
We had been dating for six months when he arranged today’s picnic. He’d gone to enormous effort to organise it, with hampers of fine foods and champagne, a picnic blanket, a thermos of coffee, and we’d motored out into the woods where we could be alone. It was all so perfect. So I thought today must surely have been the day he would propose.
It’s silly I know, and of course you know what happened. He didn’t propose. In fact quite the opposite. He sat me down after lunch and said he didn’t love me anymore but had fallen love with someone else, so we should break up.
Well, as you can imagine, I was shocked to the core. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That after all this time, he didn’t love me. I loved him, we were in love; he had professed his love for me many times. How was this possible? And how, and when, had he fallen for another woman?
It was all too much, so I got up and ran. I just ran. I was sobbing and running and crying and howling. My world had just been ripped apart. After a while I tired and sat down on a tree stump and let myself drown in my tears. His words had been so final, I felt so discarded, like I was an old shirt he could throw away and replace with a fresh new one.
When I finally stopped crying I realised the day was coming to an end, and it was starting to get chilly, but I had no idea where I was. I didn’t even know which direction I had come from. I was totally lost. And then it started to rain. I didn’t know what to do, so I just sat there some more and started crying again.
Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. Ordinarily that would have startled me but by this time I just didn’t care. I looked up and there was a little old lady standing in front of me under a large umbrella. She wore a huge green coat and a coloured cloth scarf. She had faded tattoos on her cheeks, but in my tears and the growing darkness I couldn’t make out what they were. She was carrying an open shopping bag out of which protruded the most extraordinary looking vegetables that I had ever seen. They were spiked and bright red and blue – I remember that because everything else was shrouded in the grey of evening. She invited me to get under her umbrella and go to her place and dry out.
We walked for what seemed a very long time and eventually came to a small wooden shack hidden in the trees. It was a humble cottage that you’d be forgiven for thinking wasn’t water proof in this incessant rain, and it leaned slightly, as if it was deciding if it should fall over.
When the old lady turned on a porch light I realised what a sight I was. My summer sandals were ruined, my feet and legs covered in mud, and my dress was torn and filthy. She opened the door and bade me enter.
Inside was a large living room with a small kitchen at one end. Three fusty couches were placed around an old rug in front of a hearth. The room was stuffed full of pictures and sculptures of the weirdest kind. I saw a man’s head sticking out of a crab, a woman with six breasts with legs spread as her baby crowned, a man with an open chest that contained a skull, and a menagerie of unnatural animals – bloated toads and lizard horses, or dogs with bulging heads and no teeth. On the wall was a huge tapestry that, in its time, would have been magnificent, but now was faded. It looked like it was a mandala of sorts, but its sapphire and ruby threads were grey with age.
The whole hodge podge frightened me and I stood there shivering in my wet clothes staring at the room, while the old lady lit a fire in the stone hearth. She beckoned me over and I stood warming my bones and watching the shadows cast by the flames as they danced over the statues and figures in the room. They appeared to come alive and it was more than a little unnerving.
The old lady approached me with some old clothes and urged me to put them on. I hesitated, as I was wearing very little beneath my dress but she said,
“It’s okay, sweetheart, you’ve got nothing I haven’t had myself at one stage in my life.”
I needn’t have been worried though because as soon as I took the clothes from her she walked over to the kitchen area. She returned with a mug of steaming liquid.
“Drink this,” she said, “it is a little brew I made to warm your cockles.”
“What is it?” I asked, and again she noticed my hesitancy. She smiled and cackled a little and her eyes sparkled.
“It is called English Breakfast Tea,” she said, “but I add a little something extra to it, called milk.”
Embarrassed by my obvious suspicion, I took it from her and, holding the mug in both hands, eagerly drank the tea. It was fragrant and warming and settled my churning nerves. The woman sat on a chair that faced the fire that now raged in the hearth and indicated I might do the same on the one near me. I sank into warm cloud-soft leather and for the first time since running from my would-be fiancé, I felt at ease.
The old lady said,
“So, your story is that you dressed in an especially summery outfit for your boyfriend for a country picnic in the sun. He’d taken care to stock the picnic basket handsomely, and he held your hand and your heart as you clinked champagne glasses and stared into each other’s smiling eyes. You were sure this was the day he would propose to you, but at the last moment, the moment when the proposal would best take place, he did the opposite, and told you he loved someone else, that you and he had no future form this time forward. Am I right?”
I was shocked to hear her words and wondered how she could have been so accurate. I watched the flame light flicker across her face and my suspicions were immediately resurrected. I saw, not a woman, but a ghoul, a malevolent and foul harridan who was about to visit me with some form of evil and here I was in the middle of the forest unable to resist. Her head tilted back and she cackled, with the sound crabs make when they scuttle across a rock platform.
“Oh, the look on your face,” she said. “Who is this woman? Is she a witch? How can she know so much about me?”
She cackled again and then looked at the fire.
“It’s no secret, my child. You aren’t dressed for hiking, in those clothes. But you are dressed in a particularly beautiful way – simple, elegant, fresh with a touch of erotic possibility. The man you were dressing for was obviously someone you wanted to impress. But you also expected the picnic would conclude with the marriage proposal, not just because you looked so vibrant, but the impact of its failure was so striking that you were prepared to get lost in the woods in completely inadequate clothing. He didn’t just break your heart, he shattered it. For a man to have that effect means he not only failed to propose but he announced your replacement. That’s how men do it. They say ‘It’s not you darling, it’s the new girl.’”
Needless to say, I was stunned, and not a little piqued that I could be so plainly read. I felt my cheeks rouge and I looked into the fire to avoid her in case she was watching me.
“Here,” she said, “have some of this.” She had pulled out a platter of bread and cheese and pickles and salami. I hadn’t seen her bring them to the fire, but then, I was not in as state to observe much at all. Needless to say, I was starving and I tucked in so ravenously I feared I was making a pig of myself. It was all so tasty. The old lady then pulled out from beside the hearth a bottle of liquor, and raised her eyes inquiringly.
By this time I was happy to accept her hospitality without suspicion, and she poured me a generous draft of brandy. Under its influence I gave no thought to my circumstances or how I might try to get home. Those thoughts never entered my head. The old lady said,
“Many people think me a witch, living here alone in the woods, amongst my weird collection of objects. Yes, I saw you gawking. But don’t worry, everyone who comes here does. Not that many come here to visit, which is why the stories about me expand into larger tales of witchcraft and sorcery, and strange goin’s on.”
She shot a stump of bread into her mouth and chewed triumphantly. The firelight unsettled her features as she chewed, drawing on her all sorts of macabre faces. She took a sip of the brandy and said,
“I’m more of a Miss Marple than a witch, but it’s fun being the subject of so many stories. People are deferential when I duck into shops. Eat up, my girl, there’s more to do tonight.”
I was about to ask her what she meant by that last comment but before I could ask she said,
“We’ve got to work out what to do with – what’s his name?”
“Edward,” I said
“- Edward. What will we do to him?”
I was shocked at the question. My only thought all afternoon was one of despair and disappointment, and what a chump I had been for so badly misreading our relationship. I had not spared so much as a second in contemplation of Edward. Dear Edward, dear horrible loathsome, duplicitous bastard Edward. At her question my innards twisted and a rage burst within me. How dare he? How dare he dump me so callously? And take another lover before doing so? How dare even turn a wandering eye away from me? There was nothing wrong with me. I was a great catch – devoted, sexy, supportive. I laughed at all his pathetic jokes. I picked out the food crumbs from his moustache. I tolerated his socks on the bedroom floor. What was he planning to do anyway? Have a picnic, dump me and then have us both drive the two hours back into town? He was an idiot. A manipulating, deceitful, boorish, philandering, egocentric idiot.
But I loved him. I loved him still then. I hadn’t fully dragged myself away from him, not in the few small hours since I ran away. A large part of me still held his heart and hoped for our future together. I told myself, it wasn’t too late, surely. He could see the error of his ways. How noble it is to forgive a repentant heart.
The old lady sucked her teeth and said,
“I know everything you’re thinking, dear, and none of it is true. But now is the time, in the heat of your passion and confusion, to forge a plan for the morrow, whether it be revenge, pardon or indifference. And you ask why do I know this? Because I was once you. I was in love. I was jilted when expectation was at its apex. I ran too. This is how I ended up here. I’m also a bit like Miss Havisham. Except that I got on with my life and didn’t wallow about in a bridal gown eating mouldy wedding cake. So what’s our plan?”
To me she looked a lot more like an aging Amazon anxious to make her come back. She stood up, and appeared surprisingly tall from where I was sitting. The fire light behind her seemed to enlarge her body and she stood erect and commanding like a prophetess about to perform a sacred rite. She strode over to the kitchen and retrieved a massive carving knife. I recoiled in fear in my chair, but she held out a commanding hand and said, “This is not for you.”
She pulled out one of the strange vegetables I had seen in her bag and I was horrified to see that it moved, like a trapped animal. She flung it on to the cheese board and before I had a chance to see what it might be she swung the knife on to the – the thing. I heard a shriek and a gush of blood leapt into the fire. It crackled on the logs; the fire held, but a dreadful stench rose from it. I felt giddy and had to close my eyes and block my nose, so I didn’t see much of what happened next. I think she cut a lock of my hair as I felt my hair move, but I have no idea what she did with it. I heard some banging in the room and an incantation began. My head began to swirl at that moment and I wondered if I was going to make it out of there alive.
In my terror I heard Edward’s name mentioned, and mine, and the word revenge, and memory and something about an apprentice. Then there was an almighty crack and I saw the pink of my eyelids flash and felt a blast of hot smelly air. Then it all went quiet again.
I sat for quite some while too frightened to open my eyes, my head dizzy and my limbs weak from fear, or maybe drugs. I thought maybe she had drugged my drink, and all this was a hallucination. I was terrified. I opened my eyes in dread, fearing the worst, but the old lady was sitting just in her chair with her brandy balloon in one hand, staring at the fire with a weary and grievous expression.
I said, “What just happened?”
She turned to look at me, and I was shocked to see her eyes were spinning dials. I hesitated to return her gaze lest I be dragged into some trance or coma. I was convinced now she had drugged me somehow, with the tea or the brandy, and I was even more afraid. When she spoke, her voice was like gravel, as might be the voice of either an exhausted person or a demon, I don’t know. She said,
“Edward has no memory of you, none at all. He does not know who you are. His memory is completely wiped. He wouldn’t even recognise your friends or family if he came across them. Every association with you has gone. The times you spent together, the plans you made, the love you expressed – poof, all gone. He is a blank slate. When next you meet him, he will have no idea who you are. He will be intrigued by you and want to make conversation, as if he was meeting you for the first time, which, in his mind, he will be. That will be your chance. You will have his undivided attention and interest, and you may do whatever you want. You may decide to exact a vicious revenge upon him for what he did today, or you may choose to try to love him again, or you may simply walk away. That is up to you. But meet him again you will, for I will have him delivered to you, by none other than Love’s Apprentice.”
At that moment I had an overriding drive to get out of the old hag’s house. I don’t know what she had done, or who the Love’s Apprentice might be, but this was weird beyond recognition and I did not feel safe at all. I wanted to be rid of her mumbo jumbo, her dark house, and her terrifying spinning eyes. I had to escape her drug addled madness before she did something to me.
I jumped up and grabbed my dress and fled through her door into the rain. It was night by then, which you know, and I floundered through the dark, hitting my head and limbs on trees and getting soaked to the skin. I stopped for a moment and flung off the clothes she had given me, as I did not want anything to do with her, and put on my dress.
And then, not long after I stumbled on to the road and there you were, with your headlights on, skidding to a halt. I leapt to the side to avoid being hit, and you picked me up and here we are.”
* * * * *
- The Lover’s Rediscovery
The young man ran his hand through his tresses and drank his beer in one gulp. He slammed the glass on to the bar and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. Then he ordered another one for each of us. He said,
“That was her tale. You see why I was so fascinated by her. Not only was she beautiful but her story was intriguing. Whereas I had fallen for her at the moment I saw her in the car, by the end of the story I was totally and utterly smitten. I sat there gazing into her eyes and had to remind myself to listen. And when I did, the tale was more and more extraordinary. Who was the old lady in the forest? Was it witchcraft or narcotics or something else that the young girl witnessed?
“Whatever it was, her beauty and her voice and her tale and circumstances ignited in me every passion I possess, the desire to protect her, to adore her, to reassure her and make her laugh, and of course, to lie with her and succumb to the pleasures of the bedroom.
“We finished the meal, and enjoyed some digestifs by the fire. When she was tired I led her to her room. At the door she thanked me for being so gallant and attentive to her needs. I replied that it was the least I would do for one who had so easily captured my heart, and would do the same again if given the chance.
“She smiled at that, and blessed me with a soft but chaste kiss, and then bade me good night. I made no attempt to enter her room or take and advantage of her. My first thought was for her security and well-being, but I stood outside her door for some time afterwards dreaming of the possibilities of love with her. Oddly it was only then that I realised she had not told me her name. Other than her story and the way we met, I knew nothing at all about her. But I resolved that I could fill in more details in the morning.
“However, when I inquired with the hotelier as to the well-being of the lady in the room I had booked, I was told she had departed, and she had left no note or means of contacting her. At this news I was distraught. I felt a great opportunity had slipped between my fingers and I was a fool for not making sure to meet her again. And since then, as I said earlier, I have been pining for her hopelessly. My only thought is of her – her grace and beauty, the sweetness of her perfume, the softness of her lips. It is torture, but one I will not avoid, for it rages in my heart with such promise and possibility. I have never felt this way before. Never.
“So, if you think four shots in four minutes is fast, I tell you, it is necessary, as it is the only way I can cope with the turmoil within me. I would so love to see her again, and hear her voice, and praise her loveliness before her, and make her feel grand and loved.”
He again ran his hand through his long hair and drank from his beer.
I said to him, “So, you said you need my advice. What advice do you need?”
He looked at me with plaintive eyes and said,
“What the hell do I do? I have searched for her everywhere. I have returned here every night in the hope she might be here. But I know nothing about her that might help me locate her. I don’t even know her name. I had booked her room in my name so the hotelier had no information about her. I have nothing. You look like a man who has experienced the world, and has countered the pains of love. What do I do?”
* * * * *
- The Mountain Climber’s End
I leant back on my stool and looked about the hotel. It was bustling. Groups of people on lounges or stools were conversing vibrantly and gusts of hearty laughter blew about the cavernous space. A mighty fire warmed the entire tavern, and patrons drank and shouted and laughed as the mood took them.
I turned back to the young fellow. His story was absorbing. The girl, the old lady – they held a mystery that demanded investigation. Was she as naïve as he thought? Was the old woman really a witch? Or had the girl been generous with her truths? I pitied him. I knew love, and how it can derail a man. He seemed a novice at it all. Perhaps I did have something to assist, even if I couldn’t actually locate the object of his desire. I said,
“I understand your dilemma, my friend. What you are going through happened to me once. I sacrificed everything I had out of infatuation with a woman, and I was lucky to escape with some dignity when I realised what I thought was love was not. It was no fault of hers, it was my blindness that caused the error. She was upset when I left her, but looking back, I know it was for the best.”
The young fellow’s shoulders fell and his brow furrowed darkly.
“Are you telling me to give up on my love?” he said.
“No,” I replied, “I’m telling you you may have to if you can’t find her, but when you do, you may find it to your considerable benefit.”
“But I can’t,” he said. “You must understand, I simply can’t. Unless I find her I doubt I will ever know true happiness.”
“Or that you pursued a folly,” I said. I took a swig of beer and clapped the man on the shoulder. “Cheer up, man,” I said. “You might think she is the only one, but let me tell you, beauty abounds in the world and there’s plenty for the picking. Take that young filly over there for example.”
I indicated the young lady I had been looking at before he arrived, and he leapt from his seat.
“That’s her!” he said, so loudly that a couple of men near us turned and scowled.
“This is the girl!” he said.
He grabbed me by my shoulders and stared me straight in the eyes.
“This is fate!” he said. “I knew it! Come, come let us meet her and you will see why her story is credible and how captivating she is.”
He grabbed my coat sleeve and hauled me off my stool. I was dragged through the gaiety of the crowd. We arrived at the lounge occupied by the young woman and a female friend. They paused mid-conversation when we arrived. I saw surprise trip across her face when she looked at us before she quickly regained her composure. A small alarm sounded in my brain, but I couldn’t tell why – probably the young fellow was about to be disappointed again.
“Hello,” she said, “it’s my saviour.”
She stood up and gave my love-struck companion a peck on the cheek. At this close distance I could see why he was so smitten. She had a lightness to her that was seductive, yet I suspected she was unaware of its effect. She turned to her friend and said,
“This is the man I was telling you about, my knight in shining armour.”
She did not bother to introduce us however, but turned back directly to her erstwhile knight.
“You were so nice on that night, I don’t know what I would have done had you not come along when you did,” she said. “And no doubt you are wondering why I had to leave before I had a chance to meet you.”
At this comment the young fellow softened his stance and his brow relaxed. His anxiety was about to be relieved, and hope was obviously flooding his head.
“I was in such a state. My heart needed to get home and find the support of my friends. I couldn’t cope with a new man after such an eventful day. I’m sorry, but it’s as simple as that. I didn’t want to hurt your obvious feelings, but I needed my own space to recuperate for a while and adjust to what had happened.”
“That’s okay,” my friend cooed. “I understand, and I apologise if I was in any way importunate on the night.”
“No, no, no,” she said and touched his chest with her hand.
I smiled at her friend who was waiting on the couch. She smiled back and got up. She shuffled past us.
“I’ll go buy us some more drinks,” she said. “You guys do your catch up.”
I stood back to let her pass. She stopped and said close to my ear,
“This guy really helped her the other day when her bastard boyfriend dumped her. But he came on a bit too strong. So she’s got to be nice to him but say no. We were just setting the trap for the ex’s demise. It’s going to be very, very nasty.” Her eyes lit up with a wicked brilliance as she spoke. I thought, the poor ex-boyfriend is going to be in for a rough time.
“The sisterhood gets revenge,” I said.
“You have no idea,” she said and grinned with a malevolence that gave even me goosebumps. She added, “You should stick around and watch the blood flow.”
I watched her work her way through the patrons for a while and then turned back to my companion and his would-be lover. She was saying,
“I owe you my full focus, but I’m helping my friend with an important job application right now. How about the two of us have dinner?”
The young man nodded vigorously. The poor kid was almost falling over himself. It was pitiable. The young woman continued,
“Let’s make a definite time. Tomorrow at seven. I am free all night and we can talk. How does that sound?”
“Great,” he said.
“In fact,” she said, “why don’t you go and make the reservation now so it’s set in stone.”
“Great,” he said. I’m not sure he had too many words left in his head.
The young man turned and shot me a grin as wide as triumph and slapped my arm as he left. I watched him scamper towards the bar like an eager puppy.
I turned back and realised I was alone with the woman, and sensed great opportunity. I’d had a great day and now this beauty was inviting me to talk. I figured she’d used the dinner reservation as an excuse to get rid of the young ‘un; no doubt the friend was waiting at the bar to detain him, leaving me, the worldly wise, to venture in unencumbered. Watch and learn, youngster, watch and learn. I said,
“I don’t believe we’ve met before.”
She extended her hand and said, “No, sorry, we weren’t introduced. I’m Elizabeth. Would you care to join me?”
“Love to,” I said. “I’m Edward.”
* * * * * *