February 15th, 1992

February 15th, 1992

At home, England

I should be packing for tomorrow’s trip but instead, I’ve been poring over a short story I wrote last night about a girl who, two weeks before her wedding, receives a Valentine card from the first boy she loved. Not wishing to upset her Mother, the girl folds the card in half and stuffs it into the back pocket of her jeans, before returning to the kitchen, where her Mother has gone to great lengths to make the day special.

Over breakfast the girl and her Mother talk about their upcoming trip to Kenya and the animals they hope to see. Feeling like the card is boring a hole in her back pocket, the girl has a strong desire to run upstairs to her room and tear it open but her Mother has a lot to say, including how sad she feels because her daughter’s fiancé failed to send her a card.  The girl makes a poor attempt at hiding her disappointment by reminding her Mother said fiancé is somewhere in the middle of the ocean but this seems to fall on deaf ears and the Mother continues to question why the fiancé didn’t “Plan ahead.”

After what feels like an eternity, the Mother finally stops with the questions and the girl is able to excuse herself. With a strong desire for privacy and no lock on her bedroom door, she escapes to the bathroom, where she perches on the edge of the old bathtub.

Slowly and deliberately, she opens the envelope and removes the card. Her breathing is out of whack and in an attempt to steady herself, she takes a deep breath before opening the card. Her eyes move to the all too familiar handwriting and the word, “Love” appears several times. Slowly tracing the letters of his name, she reads, not for the first time, the PS; “It’s not too late to change your mind.”

That’s as far as I got with the story. At least for now.

 

February 14th, 1992

February 14th, 1992

At home, England

It’s hearts and flowers day and as much as I hate to admit it, I enjoy Valentine’s Day, so in that vein, I got up early to catch the postman.

Mum was in the kitchen, the radio set to some station playing mushy love songs, with stories of lost/unrequited/forever love. The table was set with the crisp linen tablecloth I found in Bermuda, over which Mum had strewn chocolate hearts. In the middle of the table was a vase filled with red roses, next to which sat a bright pink envelope bearing my name.

“Is this a special occasion?” I joked.

“T’is, miss,” Mum sang, spooning cheesy scrambled eggs onto my plate. “And I got your favourite bread,” she said, pointing to the stack of toast neatly lined up in the toast rack we barely ever use.
“Lovely, thank you Mum. Should I open the card?”

“Aye, go ahead,” she nodded, sitting across from me.

On the front of the card was a teddy bear, his arms laden with flowers and chocolates and the caption; To My Favourite Person. I smiled and opened the card, inside of which Mum had written; “You’ve been my wee Valentine forever and soon you’ll be married to William, living many, many miles away so I wanted to make this last one together special. I love you with all my heart.”

“Aw, Mum,” I uttered, my eyes beginning to well. “I feel horrible, I didn’t get you anything.” She was about to respond but we were interrupted by Tini who let out a loud bark as he scampered out from underneath the table.

“Shhhhh, Tini, it’s just the postman,” Mum said, pushing back her chair.

“Stay where you are, Mum, I’ll get it.”

Tini obediently followed me out into the hall, to the front door, where I picked up the post that had landed on the carpet and flicked through the small pile, looking for William’s handwriting. There were several bills and a card addressed to me but it wasn’t from William, it was from Ben.

 

February 12th, 1992

February 12th, 1992

At home, England

Just got home from a lovely evening chez H & M, where we ate the most delicious curry prepared by Uncle Harry. Whenever I eat such a culinary marvel I make a little promise to myself to learn how to cook but as Pamsy is fond of saying; “Karen can barely boil an egg!”

Dad and Harry had us in stitches with tales of their youthful shenanigans back in Glasgow during their single days, but I suspect, in the presence of Suzi and Christina’s young ears, they only scratched at the surface.

My upcoming nuptials were well celebrated and I only wish William could’ve been there to join in the fun. Harry said it’s lucky we’re not getting married in Scotland, otherwise Dad would have to rob a bank to pay the bar bill!

On several occasions, usually after one too many wee drams, Dad’s been known to reminisce about some of the girls he dated but those outbursts usually end with Mum whacking him on the arm and rolling her eyes as she exclaims, “Stop talking rubbish!”

Aside from William’s previous very short marriage, I don’t know much about who he dated but at this point, does it really matter? I’ve shared a few things with him about David and a couple of snippets about Ben but where do you draw the line on how much you divulge?

 

February 11th, 1992

February 11th, 1992

Night flight from BOS – LHR, as a passenger

Homeward bound, but in a sense, I feel like I now have two homes, albeit three thousand miles apart.

Those incredible but too short days with William were really what I needed and I’m leaving with a much better sense and acceptance, not to mention excitement, of the commitment we’re about to make to each other in just over two weeks, arghhhhh!

I know two of the girls on tonight’s crew, hence this very nice seat in 3A! I’m very aware that the time will come when I’ll no longer have access to such perks so I’m going to make the most of them while I can. I don’t know the exact price of a First Class ticket from Boston to London but not even halfway through the flight, I suspect I’ve already exceeded it, with the amount of Champagne I’ve consumed!

 

February 10th, 1992

February 10th, 1992

Apartment by the sea, Massachusetts

I’m here alone tonight and when I say alone, I mean alone, as in the only person I know in this part of the world, is gone. William’s home time was cut short due to the crisis in Haiti escalating and he was given just three hours’ notice to report to the boat.

Watching William don his uniform, I couldn’t help but think of his role in the horrific tv images of people being pulled from the water. He hardly ever mentions his work and I haven’t figured out if that’s because he’s used to it or because he’s able to detach from it. When he walked out the door, I felt so sad and tried to hold it together but it didn’t take long for the tears to show up.

The day dragged on and on and I really wanted to leave but according to the duty manager at the airport, tonight’s flights are heavily overbooked. Staff travel is great when the flight is wide open but when it’s busy it can be a bit of a nightmare getting on. There’s no public transportation here, nor do I have a vehicle so it’s not as if I can freely go back and forth.

The wind is howling, it’s pouring and I’m thinking of William and how long it’ll be before he get a chance to get out of uniform and get some rest.

 

February 9th, 1992

February 9th, 1992

Apartment by the sea, Massachusetts

There are times when it seems the stars align in your favour and that’s how it feels being here. Had William’s work mission not changed, he’d still be out at sea and I’d be home in England, feeling despondent, with no way of contacting him. It’s during moments like that when a phone call, say from someone like, say, Ben (ok, enough, I know!) can take the evening (and maybe even life!) down a totally different path. However, nothing of the sort happened and here I am, living each moment with William in what feels like our little love cocoon, a place I’m willing to leave only when we run out of food!

I guess some things are just meant to be.

 

February 8th, 1992

February 8th, 1992

Night flight from JFK – LHR – Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

We’ll be landing at Heathrow in just over three hours and shortly after that I’ll be boarding yet another flight back to America, only this time as a passenger.

I woke up feeling a little groggy so I forced myself to go out for a walk but with it being so cold, it wasn’t long before I was back at the hotel. I crawled into bed and turned on the tv but I find American tv so annoying with ads what seems like every few minutes, so I shut it off and picked up my book (The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, so good!)

I couldn’t seem to concentrate and found myself reading the same line over and over so I gave up on that and thought I’d try and sleep off the tequila induced headache which wasn’t quite bad enough to be considered a full-blown hangover.

After a short stint tossing and turning I gave up on the notion of a nap and took a very long way too hot shower. With the headache gone, I felt a little more with it and considered popping down to the deli for tea and a muffin.

Perching on the edge of the bed, I slipped on my ankle boots and jumped when the phone rang.

“Shit,” I mouthed, expecting it to be notice of a delay to the flight but instead, it was Christopher. He said he was jealous of my clear head and vowed never to drink tequila again! We chatted for a little while before he had to go and meet Laurie off the train. She lives in Connecticut so they only get to see each other at the weekend. Reading between the lines, I sometimes get the impression their relationship is quite formal in the way they communicate and spend their time together but who knows.

By the time we hung up, I’d lost interest in going out so I thought I’d ring the apartment and check the answering machine for any messages (one of perks of being in the States.) Expecting to hear my voice on the recorded message, I almost fainted when William answered! Seems there was a change to the itinerary, although I don’t think that’s what they call it in the Coast Guard! William will be home for a few days before heading back out to sea, so I’m going to spend my days off with him.

Flying across the Atlantic twice in less than twenty-four hours will no doubt leave me feeling wrecked but it’ll be worth it to spend some time with my soon to be husband. Writing that leaves me with a big smile on my face.

 

February 7th, 1992

February 7th, 1992

Lexington Hotel, New York

Back in my second favourite city (it’ll always be you, LA!) where the wind chill tears rapidly through every layer of clothing, reminding me of the expression; “Chilled to the bone.”

Flight was absolutely horrendous with the most unpleasant bunch of passengers I’ve encountered in a long time. Thankfully, us crew managed to keep each other going, especially during the most trying moments when it seemed every call bell was binging and bonging. The worst passengers are the ones that think it’s acceptable to make a grab for you. Whenever that happens (a lot today!) I have to bite my tongue to stop me from hissing; “If you need a diet coke that badly, then perhaps you should’ve brought your own!”

In spite of the arduous flight, it was worth it for the chance to meet up with Christopher tonight. We met in the hotel bar as planned (he was early, I was late!) and had a quick drink before braving the arctic air and heading around the corner to his beloved Irish bar, which, given his ancestry is Eastern European, I find highly amusing.

We grabbed the last two stools at the bar and Christopher wasted no time ordering while I used my glove to brush what looked to be bread crumbs off the bar.

“Why do you like this place so much?”

“I don’t know,” he said, glancing around. “I just do.”

“It’s a bit run down. Definitely not the sort of joint I associate you with.”

“Or you,” he chuckled. “Would you rather go someplace else?”

“Nah,” I drawled. “I don’t mind slumming it for a few hours, but first I need to go and wash my hands!”

As usual, we fell into an easy conversation and it didn’t take long before the talk turned to my upcoming nuptials.

“Are you nervous?”

I shook my head. “Why would I be nervous?”

“No reason I guess,” he said with a heavy shrug and a long draw of his Guinness.

“You don’t sound very convincing. Is there something you want to say?”

“Yes,” he nodded, licking his lips.

I cocked my head to the side, expecting some pithy revelation. “This pint of Guinness,” he grinned, “Is the best I’ve ever had.”

I smacked his forearm. “Tell me what you were really about to say!”

Slowly twisting the coaster, he said, “I’m kinda surprised you’re not marrying Ben.”

Leaning back on the stool, I gestured for him to continue.

“I always figured you two would end up together.”

Taken aback, I blurted, “You have to be kidding! Ben’s a bloody nightmare!”

“Maybe so, but I know you loved him.”

I waved my hand dismissively. “That was during my insanity phase.”

He gave me questioning look and I tried not to laugh when, in a robot voice, I added;

“I. Was. Crazy. But. I. Am. All. Better. Now.”

Christopher cracked up laughing and for a split second I thought I might tell him I bumped into Ben at the cinema but I knew if I did, the conversation would take a turn, raising questions I don’t have answers to. He put his hand on my shoulder and gently squeezed. “I just wanna make sure you’re doing the right thing, you know?”

I cupped my hand over his. “Thank you. I appreciate your concern.”

He held up his almost empty glass. “Here’s to you and William.”

“And to you and Laurie,” I said, clinking my glass to his.

“Same again or are you ready to kick it up a few notches?”

I laughed. “If you’re thinking tequila, this might not be the best place.”

“True,” he smiled. “But we can get a whole lot more drunk here for a whole lot less!”

 

 

February 1st, 1992

February 1st, 1992

At home, England

Home late last night from an amazing trip to Buenos Aires, a city I found to be joyful and refreshing, filled with suave men and sensual women who dance the Argentine Tango like there’s no tomorrow. The food was incredible and the crew mostly young, so all in all it was a great trip.

Woke up to a blue-sky morning and my first thought was of William and where he might be. I know the Coast Guard boat he’s on is somewhere around Haiti, a place I’ve never been. I can’t imagine rescuing people from the sea is any picnic but he never talks about his work so I don’t know how he really feels about it.

Over breakfast, I asked Mum if anyone called while I was away. Typically, I don’t get a chance to ask as she usually gives me a rundown within ten minutes of me walking through the door. I don’t think anyone realizes how exhausting life as crew is. Flight time home was just under fourteen hours, plus two hours before the flight takes off, then a two-hour drive home, after finally locating my car in the staff car park!

The second I asked if anyone rang, Mum stuffed a large piece of toast in her mouth, a sure indication that there was something she wasn’t keen on telling me. I busied myself with the eggs on my plate and talked about the trip but as soon as Mum got up from the table, I asked again. With her back turned to me, she uttered, “Ben.”

I made a feeble attempt at feigning surprise. “Oh, when did he ring?”

“The day you left on your trip.” She said, practically tossing her plate into the sink, filled with soapy suds. I watched her shoulders rise and fall and knew I should leave it at that but I had to know more.

“Did he leave a message?”

“Aye, something about you getting back to him.”

“Oh, ok,” I stuttered. “Ehm, did he say anything else?”

“Just that he was surprised you were away.” She turned and waved her hand in the direction of the table, my cue to clear the dishes and stop asking questions.

Mum washed, I dried and we didn’t speak until everything was put away.

“Thanks, hen,” she smiled, her usual demeanor back in place.

“No problem,” I said, wondering if I could get away with just one more question. She took my hands and squeezed them. “Are you nervous?”

“About what?”
She laughed. “Did you forget you’re getting married four weeks from today?”

I shook my head, a wave of sadness washing over me that I still can’t explain.

“C’mon upstairs,” she urged, “I’ll show you what I’m thinking of wearing to your wedding.”

 

January 26th, 1992

January 26th, 1992

At home, England

Had I written this a few hours ago, I’d be crying, commenting on the huge pit in my stomach and how conflicted I feel but now the tears have subsided and my stomach is free of the flock of birds I felt sure were flying around, but the conflict, ah, the conflict remains.

It poured all day, which only seemed to compound the sense of loneliness I’ve been feeling knowing I can’t talk to William since he’s somewhere out at sea. By late afternoon, Mum had clearly had enough of my moping.

“Fancy going out for a wee drive?” She said, her perky tone matching her expression.

“Not really,” I pouted.

“C’mon,” she said, slapping my leg. “Dad’s watching some war film on the telly and I could do with getting out for a wee while.”

“Where would we go in this weather?”

“The pictures?”

The thought of eating and not talking was more than appealing. “Yeah, ok,” I responded. “I think Frankie and Johnny is still playing.”

“Is that the one with Al Pacino?”

I nodded, adding, “And Michelle Pfeiffer.”

“Och, don’t tell Dad that,” Mum chuckled. “Otherwise he’ll want to come with us!”

The film was great and like the sap I am, I cried at the end, then we followed the throng of moviegoers out, in the direction of the lobby, which is when I spotted Ben and Mandy heading in our direction. Mum was in full animation mode, cooing over Al Pacino, her hands moving in time with her speech as I locked eyes with Ben, whose pleading expression mirrored my sentiment.

Stopping abruptly, Mandy thrust the giant tub of popcorn into Bens hands and disappeared into the loo. I knew I should sail past him and ignore him but with his back to the wall, one foot resting against it, he grinned and literally stopped me in my tracks.

Mum, still clearly caught up in her off-screen romance with Al, continued walking and talking.

“Hey you,” Ben uttered once Mum was out of earshot.

“Hello,” I croaked. “What’re you seeing?”

He held my gaze and spoke slowly. “A love story.”

“Oh, I haven’t heard of-” I stopped, quickly catching his drift. “I think you’ll like it.”

“Did you?”

“Uh-huh. The music’s beautiful.”

He tilted his head back in a way I remembered all too well. “What’s this I hear about you getting hitched?”

A nervous sounding laugh escaped me and I felt my cheeks flush. “Yep! Five more weeks!”

That grin again. “Here?”

“No. America. Very excited,” I gushed, glancing nervously at the loo door for any sign of Mandy.

He leaned in so close our cheeks brushed. A sensation of pleasure and guilt shot through me and my pulse began to race. “I miss you,” he whispered. “A lot can change in five weeks.”

My stomach somersaulted and I felt hot and cold, all at the same time. Mandy’s imminent return and Mums wrath combined to make me step back but all I really wanted to do was fall into him and allow nature take its course.

“I..I have to go,” I stuttered.

“Ok,” he smirked. “I’ll ring you tomorrow night. We need to talk.”

I didn’t tell him I’ll be in Argentina.