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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Love stories / Romance
- Subject: Fate / Luck / Serendipity
- Published: 08/17/2019
Where are you?Born 1948, F, from Epping. Essex, United Kingdom
Where are you?
The woman hurtled along the crowded pavement in the centre of Durham. She was shouting into her mobile:
‘Where are you? Just do it, do as I say Sam. You get yourself back home’.
She sounded frantic but also threatening. Her whole body radiated tension and fear. Pedestrians glanced at her curiously, some even stood and watched her.
‘I know you’re sleeping rough’ she screeched into the phone ‘but, where are you?’
At the other end of the phone, a boy stood huddled in a darkened doorway in central London. He held tightly onto a bag. He shivered, shuddered and then was violently sick. When it was over, he wiped his mouth on his jacket sleeve. He picked up his mobile and silently listened. His mum was still screeching at him. Calmly he turned the phone off.
She was never going to make him feel bad again.
He stepped out of the doorway and began to walk towards Trafalgar Square. He didn’t really know London but he had wandered about for three days now and he liked it around Buckingham Palace and Green Park. He had found Trafalgar Square by accident, just wandering down the Mall. He liked the buskers and the street artists. In a world that had become so bleak these people gave a little colour to his day. In truth, he was terrified to find himself so alone.
Sam came from a small village near Durham. It had once been full of miners. Now it was a run-down shell of a place. But it had been home. Mum spent all her time drinking in the Working Men’s Club and she had come home one night two weeks ago and hit him once too often. He had never hit her back, never once retaliated. She was a woman and you just didn’t do that. All his mates said ‘Why don’t you just belt her back the once. Hard. She’ll never do it again’.
But he just couldn’t.
That last time was the worst time. She had come for him with a broken bottle. This time he had grabbed her wrist hard and bent her hand back until she dropped the weapon. Then he had gone upstairs, filled a bag with some clothes, picked up his phone and walked away. He still had his wages from last weekend working in the chippy.
He would go to London. It seemed such a cool thing to do. He had looked up the cheapest way to get there, and it was by National Express coach. He also knew it would take hours and hours, a journey of some three hundred miles. But it would give him some time to think and at least he would be warm and dry on a coach.
Today Sam sat on the edge of a fountain in Trafalgar Square and watched. He was very, very hungry. He had noticed the huge building that housed the National Gallery. He was not one bit into art but he thought it would pass the time, and anyway, it had just started to drizzle.
He wandered over, climbed the steps and went through the revolving doors. Once in the building he turned right into the first set of galleries. He quietly stood and looked at the paintings. He found them quite calming. He liked the ones by some bloke called Turner. They looked a bit mad to him but he thought that was cool.
His attention was caught by a small girl with very red hair. He watched as she unfolded a little chair, positioned it in front of a painting, and then from a large bag took out a pad and began to draw. Curiously, he wandered over and looked over her shoulder, He was astounded. She appeared to be able to copy exactly what she saw.
Without turning around, the girl said, ‘What do you think?’
‘Amazing’ breathed Sam, ‘How do you do that?’
‘Years of training and hard graft, that’s how’ she replied.
Sam sat down crossed legged next to her.
‘Hi, I’m Sam’
Hi, Suzie. Are you interested in art Sam?’.
‘Never bothered with it before. Just came in to get out of the rain. But I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. I like that mad bloke, Turner’.
‘Why do you call him mad?’ Suzie asked in a puzzled tone.
‘Dunno, just looks mad to me, all mixed up colours, like a bad storm’.
Suzie turned and looked at Sam properly. ‘God, do you usually look so terrible’.
He laughed ‘I’m sleeping rough. Never done it before. It’s horrible’.
‘Dangerous too’ she replied, ‘You eaten today?’
‘I haven’t’ he didn’t even try to pretend.
‘Ok, come with me’. She started to pack up her things.
‘Oh no, I’ve stopped you working’.
‘I’m hungry and dying for a coffee. You’re not stopping me doing anything. Come on’. And she started to walk down the gallery.
Sam shrugged, picked up his bag and followed.
They went out of the gallery, down the steps and along the Strand. Suzie walked into a café and ordered two large coffees and two rounds of toast. Sam reached into his pocket, but Suzie said ‘No these are on me. I might be hungry one day and I’d like to think someone would do this for me’. Then she pushed both rounds of toast over to Sam and he demolished them in minutes. Suzie smiled.
‘How old are you Sam?
‘17, be 18 next month. What about you?’
’19, nearly 20’ she grinned.
‘Hey look Sam’. She pointed to a hand-written notice pinned to the counter. ‘KITCHEN STAFF WANTED’.
‘Wow, do you think I should ask?’
‘I do. If they take you on, you can stay at mine. I’m in the student halls of residence and you’ll have to kip on the floor, but it’s a start’.
Sam went up to the counter and Suzie could see him chatting to the woman behind the counter.
When he came back he was grinning.
‘Start tomorrow night, 5-11pm. Cash in hand, not worried about me having a National Insurance number. I told her I’d had plenty of experience serving. Didn’t say it was in a fish and chip shop’.
They both laughed.
‘Thanks Suzie. How can I make it up to you?’
Suzie grinned, ‘Well for a start you can model for me. I’m supposed to have completed a life drawing module. I haven’t even started it yet. But you’ll do. Agreed?’
Sam went bright red. ‘Do I have to get my kit off?’
‘Indeed you do’.
Suzie looked him slowly up and down. ‘Right, let’s get back and put in a couple of hours of drawing’.
She picked up her little folding chair and her bag.
Sam followed her out. As they walked he switched on his mobile and there it was, a text message from his mum
‘Where are you? Get back home now’. Sam breathed deeply, then switched off the phone.
Suzie looked at him curiously ‘Everything OK?’
‘Sure, all fine. Just somebody wanting to know where I am’.
10 years later:
Sam lived with Suzie for six weeks and then he was given a room over the café. They had got on so well and Sam had posed for Suzie so that she could complete her life drawing assignment. He still felt hot, all these years later, whenever he thought about it. He had felt so embarrassed but knew all she saw were muscles, bones, shades of light and dark.
‘Oh, get over yourself’ she would laugh as she made him pose for another session, and it was the least he could do after all the help she had given a homeless 17-year-old boy who was escaping his abusive mother.
He had never gone back to Durham. For a few weeks, he had received terrible texts from her, but he just deleted them. There was no going back.
So here he was 10 years later. Suzie was now married with a child and her own design business. They were still friends and he was often invited over to the family home in near by Euston.
Sam ran the café now. He never forgot how the owner, Maria, had taken him on to wash dishes. It was a cash in hand job, but it had given him a start. Slowly, slowly his faith in human beings had been restored. His mother had made him feel so worthless. He didn’t feel that now.
The café was now a Tapas Bar and he had taken on the lease. Maria was Spanish and she had introduced him to the delights of tapas and Fino sherry.
One evening when they weren’t so busy. Maria had asked Sam what he wanted for his future. He’d thought about it for a bit and then he said ‘Maybe to open a bigger bar or a restaurant but I would need to learn some more about the Spanish way of life, the culture and the language."
‘Well, get yourself to night school’ Maria laughed. You don’t really have any social life, always working, working, working’.
Sam had done a bit of research and found that City Lit, an adult education facility, was just along the Strand and up Kingsway. He’d wandered up there early one evening and asked about Spanish language classes, and that’s how he met Hetty.
It was a beautiful golden September evening. City Lit was having an enrollment evening. Sam joined the queue to sign up for a 10-week course, ‘Spanish for beginners’. Little did he know that those 10 weeks would change the course of his life.
He was now 27 years old. Hetty was 49 and close to concluding her job as the fashion editor of a local newspaper. She wanted a change as she approached 50. She was a very good-looking woman, not dressed ‘too young’ for her age but always ‘on trend’ as they say in the fashion world. She had this unique ability to add a scarf, or some well-chosen jewellery, or a bag. Something that just made her stand out.
Standing behind her in the queue Sam noticed her shoulder length hair streaked blonde but best of all he noticed she had fabulous legs which tonight were clad in black opaque tights and she was wearing high heeled black ankle boots.
Sam heard her say to the girl on the desk ‘No, I think I will just sign up for one term and see how it goes. I haven’t spoken any Spanish since my school days and I don’t want to think how many decades ago that was.
‘Right’ thought Sam ‘Older woman but fab’.
He was completely intrigued and signed up for the same course.
Three weeks later the course started. 18 people had enrolled. The tutor was called Paulette. She was a brisk no-nonsense woman, and started the class by asking the students to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them and tell them one true thing about themselves and one false thing. Everybody laughed at this but there were some slightly embarrassed looks.
Sam had made sure he sat next to Hetty. ‘Right’ he said, ‘having introduced himself ‘I’m married with two children and I run a tapas bar’.
Hetty said ‘I’m a science teacher in a secondary school and I have an interest in fashion’.
Sam looked at her carefully. ‘I don’t believe you are a science teacher, but I do believe you are very interested in fashion and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that was more your line of work’.
After a very animated 15 minutes Paulette called out to the class ‘Ok everyone, finish up now and we’ll go around the class and see who can tell fact from fiction’. Again, the whole class laughed. The course had got off to a cheerful start.
Hetty looked at Sam ‘I believe you run a Tapas bar but I don’t believe you’re married’.
Sam sat back and thought, ‘She’s gorgeous’ and found himself wondering what her skin would feel like.
‘He’s got a lot of front. Thinks he’s god’s gift’. But Hetty did notice that he was a very attractive man. Tall, quite stocky, with silky black hair just a shade too long and beautiful blue eyes. His eyelashes would have been gratefully received by any woman.
The first term of the course went by quickly. Ten weeks of good attendance from everyone and a lively, interested atmosphere. Sam and Hetty chatted each week at coffee time while quietly appraising each other.
The second term saw almost full re-enrollment. This was unusual for the Winter months when it was so tempting to stay indoors in the cold, dark evenings and keep warm. Paulette was quietly gratified that the class seemed to thoroughly enjoy the sessions, and so it was half-way through the second term that she broached the subject of having a three-night break in Jerez, the sherry producing area of Andalusia.
Paulette said that they would be able to practice their Spanish language skills, see and experience something of the culture of southern Spain and, most of all, have some fun. She showed her students a power point presentation which highlighted all the main attractions of the town and nearby region.
The class was highly enthusiastic.
Sam thought ‘Wow’ and imagined the bliss of three days being close to Hetty.
Hetty thought ‘Oh dear. Shall I go?’. She felt the pull of her attraction to Sam. But thought crossly to herself that it was all too ridiculous. She was old enough to be his mother.
The class talked enthusiastically about arrangements. Flights could be booked with a budget airline and rooms could be found in an even more budget hotel which was within ten minutes’ walk of the centre of Jerez.
Hetty and Sam both opted for double rooms. Neither wanted to be in a spartan, lonely, single room, even if it was cheaper.
The weekend break was arranged for the third week in April.
Hetty packed carefully. She was brilliant at this, always able to travel hand luggage only. Long, beautiful skirts, calf-length trousers, tops with sleeves because she hated showing her arms now.
‘Don’t want to look like ‘mutton’ she thought as scarves, belts, beads and flip-flops cascaded into her case. This way she knew she would be able to pull all her outfits together. She weighed her case to make sure it conformed to the hand luggage weight restriction, and then packed a book, make-up, toiletries, ticket, passport and mobile phone. She drove herself to the airport.
The first person Hetty saw at the airport was Sam. It was almost as if he was waiting for her. She felt slightly annoyed by this. He grinned at her.
‘My god she looks gorgeous’. Hetty was wearing an ankle-length white skirt, black fitted tee-shirt and sun glasses rammed on the top of her head. Silver bangles on her slim wrists and what really captivated Sam, a discreet silver ankle chain.
The group arrived at Jerez airport at 11.15am. It had been an early start, but as the coach whisked them past fields of wheat just turning from pale green to yellow, and whitewashed buildings that reflected the light, the group felt pleased to know they would have most of the day to stroll around in the beautiful sunshine.
They arrived in Jerez to find that their hotel was opposite a bodega. They were booked for a visit around it later. The fumes of sherry wafted out into the street.
After everyone had checked into the hotel the party strolled round the old quarter of the town and then lunch was taken in the square opposite the cathedral.
Sam muttered quietly to Hetty ‘I really want to spend an evening with just you’.
‘Hetty replied’ I’m old enough to be your mother’.
Sam grinned ‘That’s definitely not how I’m seeing you’.
Hetty gave Sam a very challenging look and replied’ Ok. Meet you in the bar at 8.30pm. We’ll keep Spanish hours. Nobody goes out before 9pm in Spain’.
Sam was waiting in the bar when Hetty came down.
‘What will you have?’
‘A beer please and a dish of olives’.
That surprised Sam. He was sure she would ask for a glass of wine.
They sat chatting easily at the bar, and when they had finished their drinks, they walked out into the balmy night. Mimosa hung in heavy bunches and lemon trees gleamed under the old -fashioned street lights.
Hetty stood in the street and breathed in. It was heavenly. The sky was inky black but with a beautiful pale moon hanging over the red tiled roof tops. As they walked they passed open windows and from one, high above the street, they heard flamenco music and the stomping and tapping of shoes. They looked up and could see it was a dance studio. Sam executed a few steps on the pavement of which he fondly hoped were flamenco moves. Hetty looked on in astonishment and then roared with laughter. She felt happy.
They came to an arched doorway of a bar where they saw hams hanging from hooks in the ceiling. Tapas dishes were lined up along the counter.
‘This’ll do’ said Hetty and in they went. She ordered ice cold sherry for them both and a Spanish stew made with black olives and tomatoes.
‘I like this, you’re very masterful’ Sam grinned.
Then he got serious.
’Stop Hetty. This isn’t a game. I really feel something for you. I’m scared, excited, happy. I know you’re older but you’re gorgeous’.
Hetty did stop then and looked Sam in the eye.
‘Sam, I’m 49 years old. I’m a widow, a mother of kids who are only a few years younger than you are. I’m also a grandmother. How is that special? How is that exciting?’
‘You interest me. I want to get to know you, find out about you. Please don’t make this about your age. It just isn’t an issue. I’m not thinking about your age when I’m with you’.
For the next two days Paulette guided the group around Jerez. They went to the bodega to see the sherry making process, shopped, ate tapas, kept Spanish hours, lunching late in the afternoon and dining around 10pm. They went to an art gallery and Sam remembered that 17-year-old boy who had wandered into the National Gallery and looked at proper art for the first time.
Hetty asked Paulette if there was any live music happening in the town.
‘Sure’ said Paulette, ‘there’s a band playing in the main square tonight’.
They all headed over after dinner and danced under the stars, staggering back to the hotel around 3am.
Sam yawned as they walked along the hotel corridor.
‘Room 324, isn’t it?’ he said nonchalantly.
‘That’s right. Here we are’.
He leaned forward and his mouth grazed her cheek. ’See you tomorrow Hetty’.
She turned her head. As their lips met Hetty sighed, ‘This is probably the most wrong thing’.
Sam’s hands slid down her back and he pulled her closer.
Waiting at Jerez airport for the flight home everyone agreed the break had been a great success. They had practised their Spanish language skills with varying degrees of success and much laughter.
The whole group had been much entertained by watching the scenario of Hetty and Sam being played out and the simmering charge between the two. They were certainly not fooled by the banter between them as they sought to down-play the attraction.
On the flight home everyone was quiet, tired but happy. They had hugely enjoyed themselves.
The first thing Hetty did when she got home was to make herself a cup of tea. She sat down to have a good think. She knew herself to be very attracted to Sam, but she wanted no ties. She liked her freedom and living alone. He wasn’t worried about the age gap, so, why was she?
Then she laughed out loud. It had been such fun. Let nature take its course.
She would enroll for the third term and then see.