It was the morning of the next day, the day she was going to meet him. She woke up unusually early, made coffee and went into the garden. She stepped onto the soil in her working boots, with the night-gown still on, and placed coffee on the ground as she kneeled to tend to the plants. The soil was moist from the morning dew, the Sun has just started to appear at the far end of the estate, behind the garden wall. The air was chilled but rather light, refreshing. She stood up, stretched as if greeting the day, and smiled. The birds were singing. There was not much to do this early in the garden, she watered the vegetables last night and the day will not be too warm to have to do it again before the evening. She was content with what she saw, the progress, the growth was already showing, slowly. Most of the garden was covered with grass, apart from a small chunk on the right; she grew vegetables there. A few flower beds were nicely spread around the yard as well. After a minute or two she picked up her coffee and went to sit in the rocking chair that was placed on top of the garden, just next to the glass door that led to the house. She sat there pondering, and occasionally a bumble-bee passed by.
Here and there there were bees tending to their morning nectar from the flowers. It was not time for mosquitoes yet so she sat there in peace enjoying the daffodils moving at a touch of the breeze, while the rest of the garden looked rather still. Eventually she went in and made breakfast, leaving the glass door slightly open for the new fresh air to fill the house. She made toast, unsure if she was going to eat it. Then she poured milk in the bowl of cereals and added strawberries. That was her breakfast.
His day started a little later than hers. She already finished breakfast by the time he got up. He put the kettle on as soon as he got out of bed, and made coffee soon-after. They both liked coffee, and he liked making it for others as much as for himself. He used to do that quite often, before he moved from his family house. This was the second year he lived on his own. He had a little morning ritual, though. He picked it up from his father. As coffee was brewing he would drink three glasses of water, before coffee, before breakfast, first thing in the morning. Same at night, a glass of water would be the last thing he took before going to sleep. He believed that’s one of the reasons for good health, water. This morning something else accompanied his ritual; he was thinking of her. Everything seemed to have been waking up, the trees were budding with new leaves, they were light green colour so they even looked new. Tulips were in full bloom, and some daffodils still too. The trees seemed young, and if you could ask them how they felt they would probably say they feel happy. Spring makes the trees happy. He felt a day younger too, since he met her. As if this new encounter brought something refreshing into his life. He was thinking of that while drinking coffee, in fact he was quite amazed since he never felt this way. And he didn’t even know her, yet.
After breakfast he went for a swim to the local swimming pool. Usually he was there almost as soon as it opened, so it was not uncommon that he was the only one swimming, as if he had his own private pool; for thirty minutes a few times a week, at least. By the time he was leaving people started gathering up. He was quite health-conscious so he biked everywhere. This morning he had to bring his bike for a minor repair, because one of the breaks wasn’t working as good as it should have. After that was done, he cycled home. He noticed a few bumble-bees in the garden next door, but since bumble-bees buzz around every spring, he didn’t think much more about it.
One of his neighbours was an elderly woman who had a dainty shop where she sold woollen jumpers and sweaters that she and her daughter made by hand. The shop was in-between an art shop and a clothes shop, for it had various arts and crafts on sale as well. The old lady, Virginia, noticed him as he came home on the bike. Five minutes earlier than he normally would. Something was different about him, she thought. He seemed maturer, more manly, and rather happy too. She smiled and said to herself, “There is a girl around. I am glad for Paul.”
In the meantime, she, the woman with the red hair, was sitting on the veranda writing. She spent a few hours every morning writing her novel, that is every morning she wasn’t working. Hours would pass quite quickly when she was writing, or rather she wasn’t aware of time passing at all. He, on the other hand, started to feel a bit anxious as the time to meet her was approaching. Will she like me? What do I need to do to impress her, to make her meet me again after today, and again? He took a few deep breaths to shake the anxious thoughts and decided to leave those worries to the moments when they will be relevant and resolved to trust they will take care of themselves somehow naturally, through their interactions. At least he hoped they would. She wasn’t anxious at all, but she did look forward to meeting him. Something about him seemed interesting, intriguing, yet since she was careful in making judgements until she knew exactly what she thought, she didn’t allow her imagination to take the better of her.
I will not describe how their first meeting went, that is for them to tell, and at a later date they might reveal more than what I will tell you now. There was, however, one lovely moment where after they spent some time together, spoke for a while, laughed, walked in the park, they were passing by the area where he lived and they dropped into the dainty shop his neighbour owned. In the spark of inspiration, he bought her a red sweater from that shop, to match her hair. Now was the time for her to be impressed and for him to be oblivious of the inner movements within her soul, until she told him later on. She watched him laugh, speak with the old lady with kindness of a gentleman, his youth showed through his shoulders, and when he turned to look at her and smiled, she returned it, but something was lit in her soul, something she didn’t notice till later that night when she got home. As they walked out of the shop, beaming with happiness she revealed a secret to him. Perhaps what she revealed was not so serious to be called ‘a secret’, but since she couldn’t recall ever saying it to anyone else, apart maybe her mother, she thought it deserves this fancy name. That was also her way of telling him she liked him, and he knew that. The secret was that she always wanted a red sweater, that is a new one; the first and last one she ever had was when she was but five years old. That one was hand-made by her granny, a lady she recalls more through stories than her own memories. She still had that old jumper, she kept it in what looked like a treasure-box, but naturally the old sweater was too small.
She came home that night feeling totally renewed, as if she started to live her life all over again. Even though before meeting him she enjoyed life, she wan’t one of the unhappy people who were waiting for happiness to happen to them at a later date, but what she was feeling now couldn’t compare to anything she experienced before. The trees were not the only ones happy in spring, she was happy too. Oh, and the bumble-bee? She didn’t kill it. It came to the kitchen through the glass door and found its way to the jar of honey she opened in the morning during breakfast. She forgot to close the jar and so the bumble-bee fell into it and poor fella, he drowned. She wouldn’t notice it tomorrow, nor the day after, nor the one after that. In his own house, Paul was wide-awake, unable to sleep. No longer anxious he felt as happy as she did. The trees were happy as well, for it was spring.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 17th April 2015)
Photo by © Iva Beranek