Friday, 3 April 2009

Romantic Interest 3


What if they do like each other at the beginning? What if they are already friends?

Let's consider an extract from my novel, 'Revival'.

The basic scenario is that a man has returned to the old family home after twenty years. His parents have been dead for two years, and he has had his own family killed in a car crash nine months ago.

The second day back, he is going into a shop.

As I went to go in through the swinging glass door, a woman was trying to come out. We spent perhaps fifteen seconds performing that curious dance of the socially inept, each deciding simultaneously to give way to the other, hopping from side to side like exotic birds of New Guinea in a previously unseen mating ritual.

Then the woman stopped in the middle of the doorway and stared at me.

"Gareth?" she asked hesitantly. "Gareth Lloyd?"

I looked at her. Perhaps forty, the same sort of age as me. Someone who knew me from when I had lived here? Memory tugged like an undertow. Curly blonde hair, nice face despite the little encroaches of age.

"Rhian?" I offered.

"It is you!" she said triumphantly. "I heard that someone had come back to the house. I thought it might be you." She thrust out a hand and we shook. Someone muttered behind me, and we moved out of his way onto the pavement, still holding hands.

"Sorry," I said, releasing my grip. "You're looking well."

Rhian Davis had been one of the children I had gone to school with, and later one of the adolescents I had hung out with, when we both attended the secondary school here. We had been friends, I suppose, but never quite made it to the stage of a couple, despite a few kisses and cuddles in bus shelters and taxi ranks when waiting to come back from a night club in nearby Barmouth or Aberystwyth.

She was indeed looking well. Under the baggy jumper and jeans tucked into green Wellingtons, her body looked trim and fit. She still had her fresh country complexion and clear blue eyes. Almost unconsciously, I looked at her hands. No rings or recent evidence of rings.

"Is it still Davis?" I asked. She shook her head, smiling a little sadly.

"It is now. I was a Johnson for a while, but it didn't work out." She looked at me again, putting her hand on my arm in a gesture that was surprisingly tender, almost intimate. "I was sorry to hear about your parents. They were well liked. I miss them. How's the wife and family doing?"

I swallowed. My voice was rougher than I intended when I answered her.

"Dead. They died in a car crash nine months ago."

Rhian's face showed shock and surprise. She had barely known Linda and the children, but she was one of the few who had sent Christmas cards every year after I went away.

Her hand tightened on my arm momentarily. I looked into the glass window of the newsagent and saw the pair of us reflected there. We looked like a couple.

"Oh, Gaz, that's awful. I had no idea."

"I was in Afghanistan at the time," I said roughly. "A drunk driver smashed into them head-on. Killed himself as well."

I didn't add that I had wanted to have the satisfaction of killing him myself, but it must have shown in my face, because Rhian withdrew her arm and took half a step back.

I took a deep breath and swallowed again, feeling the prickling in the eyes that presaged the pointless, detestable tears. Looking away for a second to get myself under control, I saw us again in the shop window. We didn't look like a couple now. My face, reflected in the plate glass, looked like someone who has been to hell, and brought some of it back as a souvenir.

"I'm sorry Rhian," I said, forcing myself to look at her once again. "I don't really want to talk about it yet. How are your folks?"

"They died a couple of years ago, just after yours," she said. "Within a few weeks of each other. A lot of people seemed to die round about then." There was a curious hardness in her tone. "I don't really want to talk about it either. Not here and now anyway. Are you staying long?"

I thought about it. Depended on your view of long, I suppose.

"I've moved back for good," I said. I'm going to do up the house and settle down here."

I felt a little stab of pleasure as her face brightened.

"Oh, that's good," she said. "Perhaps we could get together for a drink sometime next week." She seemed suddenly hesitant. "That is, if you want to. I mean…"

It was my turn to touch her arm.

"I'd like that," I said. "Let me have your phone number."

She recited the number and I jotted it down in my notebook. I remembered that, at school, she had always been good with figures.

"I'll ring," I promised. "Tuesday sometime?"

We parted. I watched her walking down the street for a moment.

When I turned to come face to face with myself in the window again, some of the hard expression had left my face. Now I just looked unkempt, shaggy, and vaguely lost.

Note how our protagonist feels a stab of pleasure when she is pleased he is staying. Note also the little tenderness - her laying a hand on his arm in sympathy; their reflection looking as if they are a couple.

OK, they have been friends for over thirty years, and they are both lonely and therefore vulnerable, but they could become more than just friends, if the writing is any indication.

Always start small and build. Don't start with a passionate kiss, start with a handshake, or a pat on the back.

This relationship develops thus:

On the way back through the darkening afternoon, I used the payphone on the corner to call Rhian.

"Hello Rhian, it's Gaz."

"You're a day early," she said, sounding surprised, and perhaps a little pleased. "I thought you were just being polite - you know, don't ring us, we'll ring you - that sort of thing."

"Well, I don't want to sound eager or anything," I said, "but are you doing anything tonight?"

There was a lengthy silence. I was determined not to be the first to break it. When Rhian answered, the pleasure had gone from her voice, replaced by caution.

"Why? What do you want Gaz?" she asked.

"I'm sitting in the old house alone every night," I said, "and you're one of the few people I still know and like in this town. I'd like some company, that's all." I was startled at how much truth there was in that. "I've been alone for nine months now," I added.

When she responded this time, the warmth was back in her voice.

"Oh, Gaz, of course. I could do with some company as well. What do you want to do?"

"You decide," I said. "I'm only just back, so I don't know much about the night life."

"Night life!" she scoffed. "The best selling postcard here in the summer is completely black on one side. Guess what the title is - 'night in Brynddu'. Why don't we just get a takeaway and a bottle of wine and go back to your house? I'll meet you in the Happy Garden about half-seven"

"Aren't you worried people will gossip?" I asked innocently.

"It's OK," she said. "I'll wear dark glasses and a scarf. No-one will recognise me."

"Half seven it is then," I said. "And I'll spring for the meal."

I was about to hang up when I heard her say something, very quietly, almost as if to herself.

"Thanks Gaz; thanks for asking me."

I felt another curious rush of warmth towards her.

"No, Rhian. Thank you for saying 'yes'".

I gently put the phone back in its cradle.

So they have a date! You youngsters, trust me. When you get to forty, or more, you no longer care about looking like an idiot. You will just ask someone out, just like that.

The next post will show the progress of this relationship.

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