Davina had prepared carefully for this meeting. Hair, make-up, shoes with matching hand-bag; nothing had escaped her attention.
For years she had dreamt of this moment, playing out the scene in her mind over and over. She knew every twist and turn, every word to come, as long, of course, that she didn’t mess it up. His image was clear in her mind; the boy who had grown into the smiling powerhouse everyone loved. Back then she’d been shy, slipping under the radar, and so lost him to the world.
Harold. His name started as a little breeze in the back of her throat, gathered strength as it rolled forward, then lifted her tongue to close off with a most satisfying click. Over the years she had whispered his name under the bed-clothes, shouted it across the sea, and fruitlessly searched for it in school reunion registrations. Finally she’d given up, settling for a more practical love.
Bumping into him on the internet had caught her by surprise, and now they were to meet. Would he even recognise the essence of the girl from long ago still residing in her old woman’s body?
Upon arrival, Davina scanned the café for his thick mop of hair, his smart dress-code, but no-one matched her memory. Heart sinking, she moved to the only free seat, angling it slightly so that she could watch the door.
She noticed that the old man opposite her was also expecting someone. Each time the door opened, hope sprang into his baggy jowels, only to slink away, disappointed. She wondered who it would be; his wife, child, grandchild?
His stooped shoulders, whispy remnants of hair, and scarred hands spoke of a hard life. The tired suit hung on his thin frame.
Davina was first to speak. ‘It’s hard waiting, isn’t it?’ she asked gently.
‘Yes’ he responded. Davina noticed his kind eyes were framed by warm wrinkles. ‘She will be here soon.’
‘Someone special?’ Davina asked.
‘The most beautiful girl that ever walked the earth. Are you waiting for some one too?’
‘A man I knew once’ she replied, feeling slightly foolish. ‘Is it your wife, this girl you’re waiting for?’
‘No, my Mary passed away, God bless her soul. No, this girl, she glides like an angel, skin smooth as silk, and when she looks at me across the room I can feel her reading my soul.’
‘Wow! Davina said. ‘She sounds really special.’
‘Oh yes’ he replied. ‘I’ve waited fifty years for this day. Dreamt about it, planned it. Never thought for a moment it would ever really happen.’
Davina froze. ‘Fifty years?’ she managed to squeak, searching for any similarity to the Harold of her memory. The man seemed nice, but hardly the stuff of her dreams.
‘I just hope she isn’t going to be disappointed’ he sighed. ‘We all change, you know. It was a life-time ago, a cu[board full of adventure. I’m not the swash-buckling chap I used to be.’
‘No’ Davina said faintly.
Just then, the café door opened wide, admitting two elderly folk.
‘Here she is’ Davina’s companion cried with delight, but Davina didn’t notice. Her eyes were locked on the man behind; her beloved Harold.