Taste For Adventure
|Supermarkets are supposed to be good meeting places for young singles, but the
only people under thirty I'd seen, had kids in tow and trolleys piled high. Still I
continued to shop at the large one next to the gym on Thursday nights, but only because 'I
worked out' there so it was convenient.
Then last week it all started to happen. Everything seemed as usual. I chose the shortest queue and emptied my basket onto the belt and business came to a halt, the till roll needed changing. The lady at the front watched all her goods checked through before searching for her cheque-book, then had to ask the date and shop's name. The next one had managed to fetch the only tin of beans in the place with no bar code, and the supervisor had to be called. Yes, everything as usual.
Except for one detail. The hair on the neck of the customer directly in front of me was absolutely breathtaking, thick, black and curly and just the right length to leave that vulnerable space above the collar, that fascinates me on a baby or a man, and this was no baby.
My exertions at the gym always left me shattered but suddenly I never felt more awake, more alive. I watched his strong hands pack his shopping and managed a brief glimpse of his profile as he paid, then swiftly left.
I packed my own things feeling positively bereft, until I came to a large box of chocolates that I knew wasn't mine. The checkout girl confirmed my guess that Mr Wonderful had left it behind so seizing my opportunity, I volunteered to run after him with it.
My heart racing, I hurried out, only to see him disappear round a corner. Hampered by my gym bag on one shoulder and shopping on the other, I ran as fast as I could, but he was miles ahead when I reached the corner.
I'm not proud of what I did next. A lorry slowed down to turn and I hopped on the back, hanging on to the tail-board for dear life until it stopped at a crossing, where I could see Mr Wonderful heading towards the river. And just my luck, the bridge was completely blocked by football supporters coming towards me.
Without even thinking, I took a flying leap onto the narrow parapet and made my wobbly crossing, to the good-natured cheers of the crowd. I got within earshot of Mr Wonderful but he didn't hear my shout.
above all the noise. I hadn't much breath left by then, and he soon left me trailing again. Then, tragedy. A girl of about my own age, stepped from a doorway and walked alongside him, chattering away, obviously no stranger. I gave up. I would catch a bus at the end of the road, and go home.
Then a car pulled up at the kerb, and the girl got in, alone. For some reason, I got my second wind, and vowing never again to grudge the time and money I spent at the gym, I sped off in pursuit again. We were in a quiet residential area, and soon Mr Wonderful entered a large house converted into flats.
Keeping my eye on the right door was difficult, 'm the row of identical houses, and as I drew up I looked for some sign. Only to groan when I saw two lights go on in the adjoining flats on the third floor. For a fleeting moment I wished I'd been blessed with brains instead of brawn, and could've planned ahead. But I could only make use of what I had, and hope for the best.
Fingers crossed I chose the window and threw gravel up at it, but it was too high. So climbing a drainpipe seemed less daunting than knocking on a stranger's door, in my far from tidy state. The wall was ivy covered, and there were footholds but it was still a formidable climb. Miraculously, I reached the balcony intact and peered through a chink in the curtains into what was plainly a man's bedroom, and the man had a huge cat.
I can remember the window opening, the cat flying at me and tipping backwards over the balcony, but I have to rely on my mother's version of what happened next. Apparently, my gym bag saved me from more serious injury. Even so, I suffered a broken leg, cracked ribs, a sprained wrist and countless bruises, apart from concussion.
A man from the flats had stayed with me until the ambulance arrived and travelled with me to the hospital.
My mother was very impressed by this man, Mark. He had seemed most concerned about me when he phoned her and offered her a lift to the hospital. He took my bags to her house and confused her with queries about a box of chocolates he'd found on the ground.
' I advised him to ask you himself when he visits you later,' she concluded.
As visiting time approached, I lay hardly feeling the pain I was so excited. Romance and adventure only happened to other people, or in films, or even TV adverts. I closed my eyes, trying to imagine what his first words would be.
Then I heard a man's voice, a deep brown voice.
'Don't you want me to know the colour of your eyes, then? They were closed the last time I saw you.' I pretended to be asleep, while I thought of a reply that would stun him. 'So you want me to guess, do you? Right, I'll say green.'
So I just had to open my eyes. Who was this man holding that box of chocolates? Certainly not Mr Wonderful.
'I didn't expect you to recognise me, maybe if you saw my cat. But I don't think they let cats in.'
The penny dropped.
'You must be Mark, but what .... ?' my voice trailed off.
'Happy to make your acquaintance,' and he gently covered my fingers with his own, and he did seem genuinely happy.
By the end of the meeting I was happy too. Mark told me that Mr W., a good neighbour, earned his living as a fashion model, and I knew immediately that we would not have been compatible. I don't mind that Mark's red hair covers the nape of his neck, but if he did decide to have it cut, I wouldn't complain.
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