A week or so ago I posted a short atmospheric piece triggered by an experience on the river bank. This is for those who found it too dark: it is, if you like, an antidote to Elegy. You inspired it, thank you.
A perfect V formed on the rivers surface, moving upstream fast. At its head an arrow point formed by a racing eight, the crew sweating at their oars, sunlight glittering on the drops of spray as each blade reached its zenith before plunging back into the river to drive the boat on. A fish’s eye could make out the name of the boat club, and the boat’s name, Eros, on the bow. An eagle’s eye, following the arrow could see ahead, on a bend in the river, a small wooden boat pulled into the reeds, secluded from both the bank and much of the river by willows. Reclining on the bench seat at the back a couple in their mid-thirties, the remnants of a picnic spread before them sat watching the sparks of sunlight on the bubbles in their glasses. A long, contented silence had preceded this moment. She had her glass in one hand; the other dangled immaculate pink nails in the water. Her eyes, beneath her wide straw hat, were dreamily half closed taking in the river and the broad, strong shoulders of the rowers coming towards them. He stirred, breaking the easy calm.
“Amanda, this last week has been one of the happiest I can remember.”
She smiled and turned to face him.
“Me too; we have had a lot of fun, haven’t we?”
“I don’t want it to finish.”
“I know, but we have lives to go back to.”
He took a deep breath.
“I want to go on seeing you. We’ve had some wonderful days out, but I want to know you better than that. I really like you.”
She carefully put her glass down, smoothed her daisy speckled dress, and took his hand gently in hers.
“Peter, you are a lovely, kind, funny man. You will make someone very happy one day. But you hardly know me. We’ve had a really good time, but it has to end now.”
“I don’t see why. You only live fifty miles away. We can both travel to meet up. Just because your assignment is over, doesn’t mean it all has to stop. I’ve never met any one like you before. I… ”
She cut him off with a kiss.
“I have never felt so close to someone so quickly before either. But there are problems with our having a relationship that you just can’t conceive. I want to take these happy days and keep them in a box that I can open whenever the world is treating me badly. I want to remember that there is one person that I didn’t hurt, and who never let me down.”
She put her hand on his cheek and reached up to kiss him again, but he pulled away.
“We all have our pasts,” he protested. “Whatever you have done, and I don’t for one minute think that you could have done anything very terrible, whatever you’ve done I can accept you for it. It’s not your past; it’s who you are now that I want to know better.”
A tear formed in her eye. “Please leave it. You’re only going to hurt us both, and you’re spoiling this beautiful afternoon.”
He wiped the tear gently away, took her in his arms and held her close.
They sat in silence, gradually relaxing again, each deep in their own thoughts. The river was quiet. The eight was resting, and only birdsong reached the bend in the river. A kingfisher flashed by, an iridescent cobalt blur. They both watched it go.
“Wasn’t that beautiful?”
“Like you.” Peter lifted her head and kissed her again. “I was thinking. When something that beautiful passes you by, you have two choices. You can let it pass, or you can pursue it to see where it went, and try to glimpse it again.”
Amanda looked up at him, warily, a flash of blue lace showing beneath the strap of her dress.
“I know about your past,” he continued. “If that is what’s worrying you, then you can forget it. I don’t care.”
“How did you know?” Her eyes were wide with horror.
“Trevor told me at work what you had been and what you want to do with your life. He waited until he could see we were getting close. He likes to play with people,” He made no attempt to disguise his contempt for his colleague. “I told him it didn’t matter and took you out that night to spite him. While we were at dinner I realised it was true. It doesn’t matter. You are beautiful, intelligent and witty; you care for people in a way that people like Trevor could never understand; just looking at you makes my day. So you see, you can’t hurt me and I won’t let you down.”
More tears formed in her eyes as she put her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. This time he didn’t pull away.
Downstream, the crew of the Eros pulled steadily for the boathouse, their day’s work done.
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