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by Paul Curtis  
11/10/2010 / Relationships

I found myself stranded in a strange town
With less than a week to go before Christmas
Stranded two hundred miles from home
With a seriously ill car in the garage
And a lack of will to contemplate train travel
In truth I was in no hurry to return home
To the empty soulless house that once was home
But now held no comfort for me
My wife of twenty five years had died a year before
Finally loosing her battle with cancer
And my children were all grown up now
With homes and families of their own
The house would be full at Christmas
Full of noise and hustle and bustle,
And the usual mix of love, laughter and tears
But for now it was cold and empty
So I booked into a hotel for the weekend
And I would drive home on Monday
So finding myself in a strange town
Just a few days before Christmas
And with more than a little time to kill
I decided I could fill part of my day
By doing some last minute Christmas shopping
As I stepped out of the Hotel I shivered
The day was cold, grey and damp
And clouds scudded across the December sky
It was the kind of day that chilled you to the bone
I made my way towards the high street
It was only a five minute walk
The receptionist assured me with a smile
As she jotted down some brief directions
In an effort to warm myself up
I walked briskly following her directions
Down the narrow almost Dickensian lanes and ally ways
Passing picturesque Victorian and Tudor buildings, well mock Tudor
As I went and it was indeed five minutes when I emerged
Onto the busy cobbled pedestrianised high street
It was a curious mixture of ancient and modern
At one end of the street a Norman church was visible
And at the other was what appeared to be a municipal building
With rather pretentious Georgian columns
There was still evidence of a row of Edwardian shop fronts
But much of the street was modern
With a little too much sixties influence to be easy on the eye
The street was criss-crossed along the full length
With festive lights and decorations
Which did there best to brighten the scene
I decided to familiarize my self with what the town had to offer
In the way of shops so I turned left and joined the throng of shoppers
Faces gloomy to match the weather
And headed towards the Georgian pillared building
This turned out to be the public library
As I dodged between the Christmas Lemmings
I made a mental note of shops I would return to
My progress was hampered by erratic shoppers
Who moved it appeared independently to any logic
Some seemed to zigzag everywhere and very few possessed
The ability to walk in a straight line for more than a few paces
And others would take a few steps then stop for no apparent reason
Then after a few moments pause carry on normally in the same direction
The sound of cheery Christmas songs and carols
Could be heard from every shop I passed
Though the cheeriness of the music
Was clearly not reflected on the faces
Of the shoppers going in and out of them
As I passed one shop Noddy Holder screamed "it's Christmas"
Just in case any of the reluctant shoppers were in any doubt
When I reached the other end of the high street
Where the church stood there was a little square
Which I wasn't able to see before
In the centre of which was the war memorial
And to its left was a magnificent Christmas tree
Covered in baubles and adorned by a beautiful angel
Assembled around the tree was the Salvation Army band
I took a few moments to admire the tree and listen to the band
And I was taken back to a distant time and place
The clock chimed and I was brought back to the present
I took a few more moments while I decided on my first port of call
Not realizing just how important a decision it was
I decided on Woolworths, always a favorite of mine at Christmas
But it also happened to be the closest
So I walked towards the store and pushed open the door
As I entered I paused to hold the door open for a woman coming the other way
I waited as she put her purse away into a huge handbag
And I wondered what I would get for my trouble
I had found the older I got the less women appreciated courtesy
The simple act of holding open a door could provoke a range of responses
A smile, a thank you, a nod, a sneer, a tut or a colorful mouth full of abuse
And you couldn't always tell who was going to do what
When she had finished fiddling and securing her bag
She moved to step through the open door
As she passed me she looked up said "Thank you" and smiled broadly
And then she stopped as I returned her smile and then I just stood there
Both of us stood motionless as slowly the recognition set in
We both stood there dumbstruck not believing our eyes
I'm not sure how long for but long enough for a queue to form behind each of us
We both blushed and excused ourselves
And stepped out onto the street away from the door
Neither of us knew what to say I couldn't believe it was Linda
Who I last saw 30 years before being driven off in a taxi
Disappearing off through the snow
With her palm pressed against the glass her neck craned to keep sight of me
And here she stood before me as beautiful as ever she was
The soft curls of her brown hair still danced on her shoulders
Yet with fine strands of silver threaded thru it
Her smile was still able to melt my heart even after all those years
Her smiling eyes still had the same sparkle
The years had been kind to her and too me much less so
I was still fumbling for the words to say as I studied her
When she reached up and hugged my neck
Kissing my cheek at the same time
And spoke softly in my ear "Paul, Is it really you?"
I simply said yes and we stood in that long comfortable embrace
I don't know how long we stood there not wanting to let go
Then as she relaxed her grip and I kissed her forehead
"It's so good too see you" I said feebly
She put her head on my chest, squeezed me and sighed
Then released her grip and pulled away slightly
And put her hand up to my cheek and caressed my grey beard
"Do you have time for coffee"? She said almost pleadingly
I said of course and she put her arm through mine and led me across the high street
Asking quick fire questions as we went
And I explained about my car breaking down
And that I was staying at the Cromwell hotel
She said "oh really" and "oh dear" delighting in my misfortune
We sat on a large comfortable sofa in Starbucks
And told the tales of our lives spent apart
Throughout I looked at her with adoring eyes
Pinching myself expecting to awake from a dream
As I had done so very may times before
I told her about my wife and children
She told me of her marriage and subsequent divorce
The good man I gave her up for turned out to be a violent drunk
She had no children which although unsaid was clearly a regret
With the aid of several cups of coffee we managed to talk away the entire morning
I suggested we might spend the day together
And have dinner together at the hotel
She accepted the invitation to dinner with a delightful smile
Then she looked at her watch and suddenly jumped up
"Look at the time, I have to go" she flustered
She said she had a prior commitment
"Lunch with mum" she said rather unconvincingly
She said it was something she couldn't get out of
As I helped her back into her coat the smell of her hair
Evoked memories of our past embraces
She fished out her mobile phone as we left the coffee shop
From her huge handbag and we exchanged phone numbers
And we firmed up the details for the evening
Then with a hug and a kiss she was off
I stood and watched her walk away her coat tails swishing behind her
She stopped briefly and turned to give me a smile and a wave
Then with the phone to her ear she hurried off again talking animatedly
I stood watching until she disappeared from sight
Then I went back to my Christmas shopping
And treated myself to a new shirt for the evening
I bought the gifts I was looking for and paper, tags, cards etc
And with all my shopping complete I returned to the hotel for lunch
The rest of the day seemed intolerably long
In an effort to kill some time I went for a swim
Used the gym, went for a walk
I got a haircut even though I didn't need one
I even wrapped the Christmas presents I had bought
But the time passed so interminably slowly
I walked into the hotel bar at 7 o'clock an hour early
Partly for some Dutch courage and in part because I had run out of things to do
I ordered a drink and then sat at the bar
Even though I wasn't expecting her until eight
Every time the door opened I turned to look for her
And when it wasn't her self doubt crept in
And with every false alarm the doubts got worse
What if she doesn't come?
What if she changed her mind?
What if she never intended to come?
What if? What if? What if?
Then at a quarter to the hour the door opened and there she was
There she stood wearing a simple black knee length dress
Black tights or stockings and four-inch stiletto shoes
Her legs as shapely as I remembered them
And in one hand she held a black leather clutch bag
Her face looked a little anxious until I stood up
And then it lit up in the most radiant smile
Then she walked towards me
Almost tottering on her heels and she laughed
I took her hand as she climbed onto a stool
And kissed her cheek the fragrance of her perfume was intoxicating
Going straight to my head like a strong spirit
The combination of her scent and my desire for her almost made me swoon
I ordered her a drink and we nervously made small talk
Like two strangers on a blind date
Until the waitress led us through to the restaurant
Once we were seated at our table
I asked her how her lunch with mum went
And she blushed the deepest red
She told me the lunch date was a little white lie
Because she needed the afternoon to get ready
And the animated phone call was to her sister
To rally the troops to get her presentable
We both laughed and any awkwardness was gone
We talked with such an easy familiarity
As if her departing taxi had only been a week ago
By the time we had finished our coffee the restaurant was empty
Except for us and a weary waitress waiting to clear our table
The evening seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye
And had all too soon come to an end
We got up and made our apologies
Linda went through the door to the ladies and I settled the bill
I said good night and had made my apologies again
Then went in search of Linda through the same door she had used
I found her standing by the Christmas tree
She had retrieved her coat and scarf from the cloakroom
Which were draped over one arm her bag was in her hand
Linda stood with her back to me gazing out of the window
She could see my reflection in the glass and smiled
I gasped at the beauty of her and pinched myself again
I wanted to kiss her so much but I was afraid
Afraid to break the magic of that special kiss
That perfect moment when we kissed in the snow
All those years ago when I let her slip from my grasp
For 30 years I had revered that moment
Relived it whenever I felt a snowflake on my skin
Or stood in a taxi queue on a winters night
Or when I hear the Salvation Army play
Or when the snow falls during Christmas time
For 30 years I had wanted to be back there holding her in the snow
And here I stood a few steps away and I was hesitant
As if sensing my turmoil she turned away from the window
And I took those few steps to face her
We stood for a few moments just looking at each other
Then she smiled her most heart melting smile
As she caressed my cheek then she pulled me to her
And kissed me gently on the lips, a tender and sensitive kiss
When our lips met electricity ran down my spine
And it was as if we were young again
Our lips parted for a second then met again
And her kiss became more intense, more passionate
Her coat, scarf and bag fell to the floor as our arms enveloped each other
We stood locked in our passionate embrace as the tree lights twinkled
Then she pulled away for a moment before burying her face in my neck
And spoke softly in my ear "you see that was as good as the first time"
How could I have doubted it would not be perfect?
I slid my fingers beneath her hair caressing her nape
And gently turned her head so I could kiss her sweet lips again
This time when we disengaged she put her head on my chest
Still holding on to me so tightly
I kissed the top of her head and smelled her hair
I didn't want to let her go, and then I said "please stay"
"I can't watch you disappear from my life in another taxi"
She lifted her head and looked at me and said
"I'm not letting you go again, not now not ever"
Then she smiled at me coyly and blushed like a virgin
And buried her face in my chest again
Then she scooped up her coat, scarf and bag from the floor
Took my hand and we walked in silence to my room
Outside the room she looked into my eyes and kissed my mouth
Then I opened the door and let her walk inside
She dropped her coat and bag onto a chair and turned to face me
Reached up and wrapped her arms around my neck
And whispered in my ear "I never stopped loving you"
My arms enfolded her and pulled her to me tightly
Then we kissed at first soft and tender then more urgently
And I began to un-wrap my most special Christmas gift
Wrapped in lace and silk instead of paper and ribbon
Caressing her body from neck to Lacy stocking top
And our love was at last made absolute
When our act of love was complete and our dreams realized
We lay holding each other in the afterglow
Silently content until we drifted off to sleep
I awoke to find her stood silhouetted against the window
Gazing out wearing my shirt to cover her nakedness
She turned her head to me and said "it's snowing"
I slipped out of bed joined her at the window
Standing behind her and enveloping her in my arms
We watched as the snow settled on the courtyard
She hugged my arms and said "How perfect is that"?
Both of us thinking back to the last time we enjoyed the snowfall together
We stood for a few minutes taking in the snowy scene
Then she inclined her head so I could kiss her
When my hands moved from her soft belly and cupped her breasts
She led me back to the bed and we made love again
I woke early and lay in the half light and held Linda's sleeping form in my arms
As I lay there I thought how good the fates had been to us
If my car hadn't broken down, and had I not rejected the idea of taking the train
I would not have been shopping on that cold grey morning
I thought about the moments I spent admiring that tree in the square
And listening to the Salvation Army band
And what thought processes made me do what I did
Was it destiny that I chose Woolworths at that very moment or just blind luck?
All I knew was that 24 hours before my life had been so empty
And now it was full and I was finally with my soul mate
Linda was in my life at last and I wanted her never to leave it again
But if fate decreed that this one special night
Was all we could have I would have to be content

I am a fifty something family man with a passion for writing and I draw inspiration from those around me.
paul.curtis1956 @

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