I see him approaching from the beach. He is walking at a fast pace, looking inside the bars and restaurants without slowing down. He occasionally acknowledges some of the lads working, but strides on undeterred. His long black curls float around, framing his chiselled cheeks. His full lips are set in a serious expression. His eyes dart from table to table restlessly. He looks like a man on a mission. He is wearing jean cut-offs and a black sleeveless vest, I can’t take my eyes off him.
Now he is nearly levelled with the restaurant I am in, he looks up, sees me and breaks into a most spectacular smile. He slows down, waves at me and then starts at a trot toward my table.
I’m happy to see him, but more than that, I’m relieved he is not in the same wretched mood as I left him in.
‘I’ve been looking for you. I am sorry.’
‘It’s okay.’ I find myself saying without really meaning it.
‘It’s just that I waited the whole day to see you yesterday and I really missed you. I know we only have very few days together, and I want to spend all the time possible with you. I didn’t want to sound rude. I was just upset I didn’t see you and Sanka did. I’m sorry.’ He looks vulnerable and deeply upset.
‘It’s okay.’ I repeat, and this time I really mean it. I feel sorry for this young man, who seems to have grown so fond of me so quickly. I feel responsible for upsetting him. I feel important, valued by his outburst. If he was so upset, he must care a lot more than I thought possible.
He is visibly relieved when he understands that it really is all forgiven, that all is forgotten and that I’m not angry with him.
‘I should go back to work now. I just wanted to apologise.’ He turns to go, but steps back to me and kisses me on the cheek. ‘I love you, Maddy,’ he whispers in my ear.
My eyes grow a thousand times bigger. Luckily, he is not waiting for me to answer but strolls back off to the beach. I’m speechless.
I follow him with my eyes all the way down the beach. He is making his way at a half trot through the sand. His hair flying behind him. He is a striking young man, and I can see I am not the only one noticing. I can’t quite understand why he would want to be with me.
’And why wouldn’t he want to be with you?!’ I opened up to Cindy when she joined me because I couldn’t keep all the muddled feelings inside any more.
‘You’re a most remarkably beautiful woman in your prime. Your body is the same now as when you were in your twenties, your blue eyes have always been mesmerising and a few lines on their sides only make them even more interesting. What’s there not to like? You have depth girl, you have history, you have experience. If I were a young man, I would no doubt fall in love with you!’
‘You would??’ I say incredulously.
‘Of course! Now, I need some food,’ and she raises her hand to attract the attention of the bored waiter.
While Cindy orders lunch for both of us, I wrack my brain for a reason why I couldn’t possibly be the centre of someone’s attention.
‘But he’s so much younger than me.’ I hiss to Cindy as soon as the waiter moves away with our order.
‘If he’s not worried about it, why should you be?’
I have no answer for that, and I just sit quietly sipping at my drink.
When our food arrives, I’m glad I only ordered a small salad. I’m really struggling to eat. The weather is too hot to stuff myself with food, and my stomach is tied in knots. But I think I’m happy... and sad. I feel wanted. But I’m scared. It’s all a bit unexpected and surprisingly exciting. I want to see him. I want to hear his voice. I want to understand his world better, but I only have three days left after today, and then we will be too far apart to be able to hold this bond together.
‘And you know I always say that things happen when you’re ready.’ Cindy wipes her oily chin with the napkin. ‘I think you’re quite ready,’ she winks at me. ‘You’ve been punishing yourself for far too long, now get out there and live a little.’
‘But I find it so hard!’ As my eyes well up, Cindy puts her hand over mine on the table.
‘I know, but ruining your life won’t change what happened. There’s nothing you can do to change the past, and you need to stop blaming yourself.’
‘I know.’ I sniffle.
’Maddy, it’s been three years. You have to rebuild your life. Kyle would want that, you know it.’
‘Yes. He’d hate me being miserable and growing old without putting myself out there for some goofy adventure.’ I smile with fondness at his memory and wipe away the tears that are streaming down my cheeks.