Jeff B at "Word in Edgewise" hosts this monthly blog. This, my first attempt, is an entry for November. If you wish to have a go yourself, click on the link above and visit Jeff B's blog to look at the rules and categories.
Sally had returned to her home town for the funeral of her uncle, her mother's brother and decided to stay on for a few more days. Steve her husband had to go back to work so left that evening saying that he would return for her at the weekend.
The weather recently had been wet and miserable and the day of the funeral started the same way. But the afternoon turned out to be glorious and the sunset was fiery and beautiful. Sally had promised Carol, her cousin, that she would go and spend a few hours with her the next day, it would give them chance to reminisce and maybe she would want to talk about her dad as well.
Gazing at the sunset took Sally back about 40 years as she remembered how she and Barney used to walk up to the wetlands and sit and watch the sun disappear over the lake. She had always marvelled at the colours even then. Barney had been her first boyfriend and she had loved him very much. She had got to know him at school, he was a couple of years ahead of her and a bit of a "Jack the lad", but she had caught his eye and eventually he had asked her out. She could still remember how she felt about him. It had been an innocent romance, especially compared with those of today, and they had gone out together for a few months. When one evening he told her, very gently, that he couldn't see her anymore she was devastated and cried for days. Her dear dad had tried to sympathise and said that one day she would wonder what she ever saw in him. She had thought then as she had ever since that she knew exactly what she saw and felt about him, and she always would. However, that evening she decided that on her way to see Carol she would drive to the wetlands, just to see it again.
The next morning she borrowed her mother's car, an old convertible that dad had been so proud of. Her mother hardly ever drove it now, it was too big for one thing, but would not get rid of it - "not yet" she would say and smile. Sally's dad had been dead for 25 years now, and she guessed the time for her mother to sell the car would never come.
She drove in to the town, passed her old school, then took a left turn along towards the lake. The road had been modernised with new systems and roundabouts and lots more houses than she remembered, but once off the main highway the lanes were pretty much unchanged. She passed the swannery, the lovely birds had been there for as long as she could remember, and before long she came to the lake. As soon as it came into view she slowed the car and just gazed at it. It was still as beautiful, especially now in the sunshine and with autumn leaves on the trees. It made her feel quite emotional and she was very glad she had come. She drove to the parking area.
Barney had admired Sally for quite a while before he eventually asked her to go out with him. He had had lots of girlfriends and they were all quite a bit more sophisticated than she was. She was quiet and shy but there was just something special about her. They had gone about together for a while but then he became unsettled and knew he had to finish it. It was partly due to pressure from his parents although he never told her that, in fact he had never really given her an explanation and she had just accepted it when he told her it was over. She was only 15 then. He was about to leave school and already had plans to go to college to try to get a degree. She was coming up to taking her 'O' levels at school. Any other commitments may spoil their chances and future prospects. And so it had ended and he had left their home town to go to college. One time when he was back he had got a friend to arrange a "blind" date for him with Sally. She had agreed and was amazed that he was her date, and they spent a very happy evening together. So then he asked if she would write to him whilst he was away and she had happily agreed to that too. However, with the pressure of his college work he found little time to write letters and eventually Sally wrote to say she had started seeing someone else. They didn't meet again for many years. At times, back at home, he would run into friends of hers and always asked after her, but never saw her and then one day he heard she had married and moved away herself.
Sally parked the car and decided to walk around the lake a little way. As she walked she thought about the last time she had seen Barney. It was very shortly after her dad had died. She had been staying with her mother and had driven to the local supermarket to get some groceries for her. She had borrowed the convertible then as well, the first time she had driven it. As she was backing out of her parking space she had nearly hit a man walking behind the car. Slamming on the brakes she wound down her window to apologise and found herself looking at Barney. She recognised him instantly even though he was now sporting a beard. They were both pleasantly surprised so she parked the car once more and got out to speak to him. He said that he had thought he had seen her a few days before in the town but that it had actually been someone else he knew. So then he had wondered to himself about her, where and how she was. They spoke for several minutes - she told him she was married with 2 children, a son and a daughter and he said he was married with 3 sons. As they parted he told her he was very glad to see her as he and his wife were selling up and emigrating to Australia. They had smiled at each other - remembering, perhaps. As she drove away she realised that she had almost certainly seen him for the last time.
Her thoughts were interrupted as she noticed a small cafe, which looked as if it had been built fairly recently. There certainly hadn't been one in her day. Inside it was warm and inviting and there was a lovely smell of baking and coffee beans roasting. A few tables were taken but there was one vacant by the window and so she made her way towards it. As she went to sit down a man sitting by himself at the next table looked up and smiled. Sally couldn't believe her eyes - it was Barney! She stood gaping at him and eventually sat down opposite him.
A waitress came over and Sally ordered herself a coffee and, as she was drinking it, realised Barney didn't have anything but he said he didn't need anything more and was just happy looking at the view.
And so they sat and chatted. She told him about her husband and family, including their 3 grandchildren and he owned up to 4 grandsons of his own. He and his wife and family had gone to Australia all those years ago, lived there happily and had only returned for a visit a couple of times before. He was on his own this time though and only for a short while. He said he usually came to the lake each visit because he had always loved it here. He had wondered if he would ever meet her again as they had that time in the car park.
When it was time to go, he walked with her to the convertible and laughed as she reminded him how she had nearly knocked him over. As she turned to say goodbye he reached out and pulled her towards him. They kissed briefly, sweetly - and hugged - knowing this would be the last time they would see each other. They held hands, trying to prolong the moment. He asked if she had been happy and her eyes glistened as she nodded and smiled, unable to speak. She got into the car, Barney leaned in, put his hand to her hair then stroked her face, smiled and walked away.
Sally sat quietly for a couple of minutes then started the engine. She glanced back but he had already gone.
She drove to her cousin's house in a daze. At least she would be able to talk about it with her, she was so amazed at the coincidence. Carol was pleased to see her but noticed immediately that she seemed agitated. They sat looking out at the garden bathed in the warm September sunshine, and Sally told her that she had been to the lake near the wetlands and how she had seen Barney. Carol, open-mouthed, stared at her for several seconds then got up and walked over to her bureau. She took out a newspaper cutting and passed it to Sally. "My love, you couldn't have seen him" she said, "he was killed in a car accident in Australia last year. I didn't know how to tell you".