“Oh, my God!” Susie said. She said it slowly, one syllable at a time. Her hands were to her mouth, her eyes wide open. “I’m so sorry, Paddy. I heard two plus two and made five out of it. I can see it all now. Come and sit with me in the living room.
We can talk business sometime else. I have some further questions.”
“I still don’t understand what you’ve heard that made you think that I was saying anything bad about you behind your back,” I said.
“All in good time,” she answered.
She walked across to me, took my hand and led me through. She got me to sit on an easy chair while she sat on the sofa where she could see me.
She raised her hands to her head and let her lovely red hair fall over her shoulders. I’d only ever seen it swept up. . She looked beautiful beyond words. That simple gesture made my heart beat faster.
“Question One,” she said, “Were you jealous?”
I told her that I had been, even though I had no right to be. She said that I was not to worry about that, but confirmed that Jake wasn’t a threat.
“Question Two,” was next, “How old do you think I am?”
I told her that I thought twenty-nine or thirty – especially since I’d seen her in her running gear. She screeched with laughter and told me that I was her friend for life. She then told me that yesterday had been her thirty-fourth birthday. She asked how old I was. I told her that I was now thirty-six. “Only two years between us you see,” she said.
She moved on to the dating business. She had been on dating sites for a year, perhaps less, after her divorce, but had stopped because most of the men she’d dated had been impossible. Some had sent misleading photographs of themselves, others just wanted a one-night stand or were total bores. Some of her friends still did it for a laugh. No one took it seriously. She then stunned me by telling me that, while there were one or two other men who’d asked her out, she wasn’t serious about any of them.
‘God!’ I thought, ‘The men round here must be blind. Only one or two?’
I asked her about her Valentine’s cards.
“I can’t believe you,” she said, “You noticed those? Forget them. Old flames!”
She sat for a moment looking at me. It was as if she were trying to make up her mind about something.
“There are two things you mentioned that I want to come back to,” she continued, “Before I do, can I check something – for completeness, as you put it?”
I nodded, eager to assist her: I was beginning to think that I might have been forgiven.
“I don’t want to jump to another mistaken conclusion,” she said, “Can I take it that you’d like us to be an item?”
I told her that I’d like that very much.
“Then why on earth didn’t you ask me?” she said.
I started to list again my reasons, but she stopped me dead.
“No, not why you didn’t think you had anything to offer – most of that’s irrelevant. Why didn’t you simply ask me? The worst I could have said was ‘No’”.
“Well,” I said, “because that’s the exact answer I would have expected.”
She pouted and my heart melted.
“You may be a marketing specialist, Paddy, but you’re really not much of a salesman are you? Don’t you people get trained to believe that ‘No’ usually means the client isn’t persuaded yet?”
I put my head in my hands.
“Don’t you think that I’m worth a little effort?” she asked, “’Faint heart never won fair lady’ and all that? It’s not very flattering to think that you’d give up on me at the first hurdle.”
I was lost for words. She was right. I’d been stupid. Again. I held my hands up in submission.
“Let me ask you something else,” she said.
“Go ahead,” I said, “I surrender.”
“No, seriously for a minute,” she said, “Just to satisfy my curiosity. When did you start to fancy me? Give me a date or some indication.”
I told her that she wouldn’t believe me, but I admitted that I’d found her really fanciable when we’d met that time in London. I told her that, at the time, I’d felt guilty being so attracted to her because I was happily married.
“This is crazy,” she said, “ I can’t believe that we, two adults, can both have been so wrong about so much all this time.”
I asked her what she meant.
“Come and sit with me,” she said. I did and she leaned towards me and asked me to put my arm around her. Her hair was brushing my face. Her light, citrussy scent was making me feel giddy. She moved her hand and locked its fingers into mine. I couldn’t believe what was happening or the reason she had turned around from one extreme to another since my arrival.
“Have a think about what you’ve been telling me while I tell you something.”
She paused and looked up at me.
“Right!” she said, “Listen carefully, Paddy Davenport, going back to that time in London, I fancied you, but I saw your wedding ring and said nothing.” She looked at the disbelief on my face and nodded.
“When we were talking, you were looking into my eyes and not at my chest, and I liked that in you.”
“Your eyes,” I said, “are the most gorgeous shade of green. I was mesmerised by them that morning. Your eyes and your lovely red hair.”
“I wish you’d told me that weeks ago, Paddy. We could have saved so much time.”
“It’s weird,” I said, “but do you remember that meeting we all had at my house?”
“Afterwards,” I said, “ Helen and I had a tiff. She said to me that you and I looked to be too close to be just colleagues and that I wasn’t to take her for a fool.”
“It’s true that I was watching you in your home,” she said, “a happily married man, a nice man who loved his family – and it just made me fancy you more. I’ve been listening to you putting together business cases and realised how intelligent you are – intelligent, but on tonight’s evidence, lacking common sense.”
She asked me if I was listening and told me that I must stop worrying. The way Helen left you has obviously damaged your belief in yourself badly. By the way, I won’t let you get away with neglecting me – or looking at other women – as you’ve probably gathered.” She snorted with laughter.
“Well,” I said, “Helen said before we split up that you wouldn’t.”
“She was right,” she said.
“Anyway, I’ve seen you with your son,” she said, “you were obviously a loving father. How is Paul by the way?”
I assured her that he was a lot better.
“Listen Paddy,” she said, “speaking of Paul reminds me that you’ll need to be leaving to collect him soon if he’s fit enough to come to the Parkrun tomorrow.”
“We still have a lot to talk about,” she said, “but I wouldn’t want you to keep him waiting. Can I come to your house tomorrow afternoon?”
“Of course,” I said, “Would you like a lift straight after Parkrun?”
She said it would be a great idea.
Today my featured photo is one I took in 2019, while walking my daughter’s dog along a woodland path near to where I live. I liked the grouping of the four men conversing around a green bench and the two dogs. I also thought that the winding stream, its banking and the path made an acceptable leading line.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-3ii 24 MP cropped sensor camera and 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 35 mm and f/8 Shutter speed was 1/20 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.