“Que Sera,Sera,” he was singing in tune with Doris Day while arranging his favourite navy blue cravat: the pattern of small anchors always put a warm gentle smile on his face as it was the symbol of two the most important things in his life – the family and the sea. Satisfied, he looked into the mirror for the final check, “Ready.”
That Sunday, like many others, his Jaguar headed North-West but this time the purpose of visiting Scotland was different. The last leg of the journey, the narrow road, took him straight to the doors of the hotel restaurant. He had booked the best table in the room – at the window with the open vista of the large bay. They could see his “Nitebird”, a 37 foot yacht lying in the middle of it if…
His advertisement at the dating agency read simply and straightforwardly, “A nice man is looking for a nice woman.” Internet and agency were, in fact, the last on his list of options in search of a woman who could become his partner and friend. His wife died three yeas ago when he was only sixty two. He immersed himself into work: successful lawyer – he was headhunted. Now, retired, he felt very uncomfortable and lonely living on his own in a four bedroom house. Friends and relatives could not fill the gap. His only son lived in New Zealand. He desperately needed somebody to share his hobbies and thoughts. He had had a couple of encounters which after a while would turn into affaires just “to shake the stress off.” Interestingly, that more and more often he would catch himself remembering his first girlfriend who had eventually chosen to join hippies – the style of life which in no way could have become his path, not at least, at that period of time when he was studying towards A levels exams. Together they never stopped inventing things – even their language had plethora of words which belonged only to them and nobody else.
A young couple occupied a table in the corner of the room so that only the young man could see Tom’s yacht. “Probably, he is a dreamer, a bit like me at the moment,” he thought. He started his Chablis, the wine he enjoyed most of all, and for that reason only had it for special occasions. “Today IS special,” he declared. He experienced mixed feelings of light fear and readiness for a great surprise at the same time: he knew something very important was going to happen.
She was only ten minutes late but in Tom’s imagination those minutes stretched into an hour. Without even seeing her, he felt with his back how the energy itself swung into the room and in a royal grand manner moved in the direction of his table. His heart was beating loud, and the music – “The Lady in Red” – was filling the room.
Considering himself a confident person, at that moment he felt completely disarmed. He managed to jump off his chair and awkwardly moved out her chair inviting the woman to sit down. Physical action produced positive effect on his bewildered body and mind: he regained his footings back. Now they both had that unwritten right to stare at each other for a few moments thus introducing themselves and getting some initial silent response.
“My name is Tom,” he said calmly offering her a glass of wine. “I am ‘Joyce’,” she improvised, making the first sip and smiled, “Did you know that Chablis is Steven Fry’s favourite wine?” “Yes, I know that. I met him in the Club, in London.”
She was quite tall, blond with live blue eyes; her voice was a bit hoarse as if she had been a smoker. The hands traitorously disclosed the age – late fifties. “Aristocratic women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries wore gloves. Was it, in addition to practicalities of life, a tricky way to hide the real age?” he wondered in his mind and asked her to introduce herself. He tried to picture her more precisely – to get her face features right. But it was nearly impossible because when she was sitting down on the chair she shook her hair so that the fringe elaborately covered her forehead. In addition, she was wearing big framed glasses. Looking at the bay Joyce suggested Tom to start the “exchange,” enigmatic smile touched her beautifully shaped lips.
Tom did not mind. He began the story of a successful lawyer from the last years of his career – the case in Hong Kong which he had won, then briefly about his marriage which was good and would give him peace of mind especially when he had to travel abroad. Joyce was a patient listener with a “Mona Lisa” smile.
There was nothing funny, but he felt so relaxed and content that her smile crossed the invisible bridge and touched his thin lips just at the moment when he was about to describe his passion, sailing. He topped up the glasses.
“Chom, chom,” she raised her glass.
Understanding of what he had heard reached Tom’s mind a few seconds later. He felt that he was stepping into the universe – so huge was the discovery. There are moments in life when you are face to face with the wind in an open sea, or you are at the peak of a high mountain, or you are listening to Concerto de Aranjues by Rodrigo – each of these moments can lead a man to major insights in life.
“Chom, chom, Joy,” he raised his glass.
This was his Joy, his first girl, his first lover, his unforgotten passion.