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© 2003 Lynette
"How will I know who he is?" I asked my best friend Sally at the office.
"Easy, I’ve thought of that. He’ll be the one carrying ‘The Daily Mail’
newspaper." Sally smiled in that organized sort of way of hers.
I was beginning to wish that I’d never agreed to this blind date. Who on earth went on them
anyway? Weirdoes and sad cases like me, I thought to myself. It had sounded a bit of a laugh at first when Sally had told
me that her brother, Alan, had come back to Wales to live. Divorced and living in Australia for the past 15 years, his wife
was still out there. She had absconded with the office manager at work. Now Alan was back wanting to make a fresh start. The
only trouble was after 15 years he’d lost touch with most of his friends, so yours truly had agreed to step in.
"Don’t look so worried Lynda," Sally chided me, giving a nudge with her elbow. "Honestly,
you’ll really like him. He’s so romantic, you know. He likes to wine and dine the ladies."
Yes. I could guess the type, a real Don Juan if ever there was one. I didn’t like the sound
of him at all. As I sipped my coffee during our break-time, I thought about the sort of man I did like. He didn’t even
have to be good looking as such. He just had to have that something special about him. Charisma, maybe.
He would be the sort who would be happy to walk in the rain. We’d talk about absolutely anything
until the early hours of the morning. Just happy to be in each other’s company, sometimes not talking -- in companionable
silence. I was brought back down to earth as Sally slid a red box across my desk.
"Here’s the Valentine card Graham sent me!"
On the outside, it was padded with red roses on the cover and lots of hugs and kisses inside. Yeuch!
Sentimental Graham. Honest, dependable and boring. I was jealous, really. It was ages since anyone had sent me a Valentine
card. Simon’s must have been the last in 1998. He gave me a beautiful card. The verse made me cry to realize how much
he loved me. Then he made me cry again, by dumping me the following month for a vivacious red head. Men could be such rats!
Still, I had tonight’s date to look forward to didn’t I? After work I took a long hot
soak in the bath with lots of bubbles and a glass of Asti Spumante. I let the day’s events wash over me with the romantic
strains of Burt Bacharach playing on the CD in the bedroom.
I chose not to wear my new dress. My mother always said to wear what makes you feel good and what
you’re comfortable in. That way you’ll be more relaxed and at ease. So I chose my little black dress topped off
with a black and white spotted scarf. The dress had done the rounds: 3 weddings, 2 funerals and a dinner party. Sounded like
the title for a film.
When I arrived at the Fontana de Trevi Italian restaurant, I was a little early. I stood back by
the church obscuring myself from view. I could see who was turning up without being visible that way.
At that moment, a young, well dressed man in a gray suit rounded the corner. Was that him? But
no, there was a young lady walking towards him. When he saw her, his face lit up, and as if by magic, he produced a single
red rose. She seemed delighted judging by the way they hugged and kissed. Newly in love lovers. I watched them disappear into
the restaurant. A man standing outside was looking at his watch. He was so scruffy I hoped it wasn’t him. He had obviously
been stood up. Looking at his watch one more time, he walked off into the night.
Then I spotted him with the tell tale newspaper tucked under
his arm. He didn’t look at all how I expected he'd look. Casually dressed in a check shirt and Chino canvas trousers.
"Hi," I said as I walked towards him. "See you’ve got the newspaper then?"
"Yes," he said raising his eyebrows.
"Ready to eat?"
"Oh, I’m ravenous." His blue eyes twinkled. Yes, this man did seem to have charisma. "After
He followed me inside the restaurant. A waiter showed us to our table.
"Sally’s told me so much about you," I giggled. "I feel as if I know you already. But you
don’t look at all how I expected you to."
"No?" he said looking faintly amused as we ordered our meals.
I can’t remember when I’d had such a good time. I felt at ease with him, as if I'd
known him all my life. We had been at the restaurant for over an hour, but it felt like five minutes.
"Fancy a walk in the park?" he asked as he slipped my coat over my shoulders.
As we left, it was beginning to rain. A man to walk in the rain with, I sighed. It was almost as
if my wish was coming true. Too good to be true, a voice inside my head told me.
Beneath a large oak tree, Alan beckoned me to sit down on a wooden bench.
"Here, let me put this underneath you to keep you from getting wet," he said. He carefully placed
his newspaper on the seat.
It was then I noticed the newspaper wasn’t a copy of the ‘Daily Mail’ as Sally
had told me Alan would be carrying. It was the ‘Daily Express’. I felt a cold shiver run up and down my
spine. What had I done? I’d picked up a total stranger. I could feel my body tensing up. I froze.
"You look cold," he said putting his arm around me.
How on earth could I get myself out of this? "I have to go now," I said standing.
"All right," he looked a bit bewildered. "I’ll drive you. The car is back at the restaurant."
"No, I’m fine. Thanks for a lovely evening."
I bolted through the park. Five minutes ago it had been a romantic moonlit place, now it was eerie
with dark shadows and the echo of someone’s footsteps. I felt as though my heart was going to beat out of my chest.
The next thing I knew I was lying sprawled out on the wet pavement, and my ankle was hurting.
"Here let me help you up," said the stranger as he ran to catch up with me. It must have been his
footsteps following me. "Why did you run off like that? Didn’t you want to come out with me tonight?"
I looked up at him and burst into tears.
"What’s the matter? Didn’t you enjoy our evening?" he asked.
"Yes, I did. I really did. But you’re not Alan. You’re a stranger," I sobbed.
"What are you talking about?" he looked confused.
"Well, if you’re Alan, why did you bring the ‘Daily Express’ then?" I accused.
"Because they ran out of the Mail in the newsagents," he laughed. "It was 7:30 in the evening after
all!" He reached into his shirt pocket and produced a photograph. "Here we are. Does that satisfy you?"
It was a photograph of he and Sally taken quite a few years back by the look of it. There was no
mistaking that Afro perm Sally used to have.
"I’m so sorry," I said letting him help me to my feet. "I just panicked."
"That’s okay, no harm done." He put his arm around me to help me walk to the car.
Although I felt foolish, I knew Alan had that something special as we walked along in companionable