“Thank you for your explanation Steve,” George said, “It puts my mind at rest. I’m sure that you two will find enough common ground – and enough love for each other – to make the next steps work, whatever they may be.”
Beryl agreed and gave Steve a hug. “Good luck,” she said, “I mean it.”
They all walked back together, across the road to their homes on Vicarage Crescent.
Wednesday 27th April Peter’s House
Peter had finished his tea and was settling down for an evening in front of the television when his smartphone rang. The display told him that it was his Dad calling. He let it ring a couple of times while he decided whether to answer. He remained angry about what had transpired on their recent walk around the Mere. He pressed the Answer icon and waited for Steve to speak first.
“Peter,” he said, “it’s Dad. “Can you hear me?”
“Hi,” Peter replied, “I can hear you, but I still haven’t decided whether I want to talk to you.”
“I’m sorry to hear that you feel like that, Son. I just wanted to explain something.”
“That’s all very well, Dad,” Peter replied, but if you can’t be honest with me I don’t see that I want your explanation.”
“Listen, Peter,” I was honest with you,” Steve insisted, “the problem is that, as recently as last Sunday night, neither Cathy nor I had felt able either to fully understand or to express our feelings to each other – let alone anyone else. You may not know this, but on Sunday afternoon, Cathy got from Barbara the same sort of inquisition that you put me through. So, it seems that you and Barbara are both furious with us.”
“I’m sorry, Dad, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”
“Peter,” he pleaded, “We didn’t understand our own feelings properly until you and Barbara made us face up to them. The day before we went to the Mere we’d just been talking and getting to know each other better. We haven’t always been anything like friends of any kind.”
“By the end of our most recent conversation, only the day before that walk, we were getting to feel much more comfortable and that night there had been a social dance. We were dance-partners all night – that was new too. As we danced, something changed. I realised that I wanted a closer relationship with her. Later that night, I had doubts.”
“I couldn’t see that she would feel the same – why I’d expect her to. That was the state of play when you saw us meet for the first time after that. When I saw her, it was as if I’d been hit by an electric charge. I was embarrassed and confused. But nothing had been said between us so I couldn’t admit to you something that I wanted badly but which didn’t exist. Do you see what my situation was? I wish that I could have said more then. I was really sad that you felt so badly.”
“What your situation was?” Peter queried, “Something has changed then?” It was a question.
“Yes,” Steve said, “thanks to you and Barbara. You saw what we couldn’t admit even to ourselves. On Sunday night, Cathy rang me to ask how I’d got on with you after the meeting. I explained and we talked and talked. I learned that she’d felt the same as I had. We agreed that you and Barbara had been right.”
“The question was what would we do about it? Neither of us wanted to end something we both wanted so much. We agreed that we needed to get to know each other much better before we could put anything on a more formal basis, yet we had to give our families – and the gossips – as much as would allow us to meet more regularly.”
“That’s why I’ve rang you: that and try to make peace with you. Cathy will be telling Barbara and Paul. She’s dreading doing that because Paul can’t stand me. He didn’t like me as a teacher and has never forgotten. Cathy and I, sort of, went public last night at the dance – again so that we could dance together without exciting speculation. Do you understand?”
“Sort of,” Peter said, “But aren’t you two a bit long in the tooth to be starting a Mills and Boon romance?”
“We aren’t at the Mills and Boon stage yet, Son,” he said, “but love doesn’t wait to check your birth certificate.”
“Ooh”!” exclaimed Peter, “You have got it bad. Are you going to tell Mum?”
“What!” said Steve, “you mean you haven’t told her?”
“Not yet, Dad,” but if you don’t, I will.”
“Don’t fret, Son,” Peter assured him, “When we spoke a couple of weeks ago to arrange next Sunday’s meeting, your Mum must be psychic. Before the call ended, she specifically asked whether there was someone from Dancing who was behind my sudden conversion. There certainly hadn’t been at that time. There was nothing even on the radar. So, I recognise that, to help her get closure – if that’s what she wants – I will need to tell her. Not that she was right, but that she had made a lucky guess.”
“Fair enough,” said Peter, “As long as you do include her in the loop. Anyway, thanks for coming clean. I believe you. That’s too complicated, even for you, to be a lie. All I wanted was to know what was going on. I just felt that you were hiding something from me.”
“Please believe me, I wasn’t.”
“Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, congratulations. She seems a nice lady. Pretty too for her age. You could have done a lot worse. I wish you luck – both of you. I hope it works out.”
“So do I,” his dad said, “ How do you think your Mum will react?”
“Oh, that’s a difficult call, Dad,” Peter said, “After all, the reason she left was that you weren’t paying her the attention that she, or I, deserved. What should she think? Someone else has come along who you are paying attention to. Why Cathy and not her? She could be really angry about that. Why wait for a new love in your life before you feel the need to say sorry? That doesn’t play well either. On the other hand, she and Julian are solid – she now gets the love that she hadn’t felt from you. She might just feel, ‘So what. Get on with it’ – if you are very lucky.”
“That’s what I thought too, Peter. Forewarned is forearmed.”
“Okay,” Peter assured him, “I’ll say nothing – give you a head start.”
They parted on good terms.
I introduced todays post with a photo that I’ve used before to represent Peter’s house and, as a featured photo today, in desperation for a way to represent this conversation, I’ve resorted to a shot of two phones. The left-hand landline handset to be understood to act as Steve’s analogue mindset while Peter has a more modern digital mobile device.
EXIF data were: Fujifilm X-T4 26 MP cropped sensor mirrorless camera and Fujinon XF 16-55 mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens. 1/10 secs @ f/5 and 24 mm. The ISO was 800.