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.

 

January 19th, 1992

January 19th, 1992

San Francisco, California

I think to most people, California conjures up images of sunshine, palm trees, endless beaches and movie making, but I just came back from grabbing some tea and a muffin at the little place next door and I’m chilled to the bone! So much so that I jumped back into bed and piled on the extra blankets I found in the wardrobe.

We arrived yesterday afternoon and I managed to stay up ‘til ten last night which, considering we’re eight hours behind UK time, was pretty good. Still, no matter how late I stay up on this side of the world, I always wake up at some ridiculous hour feeling groggy and ravenous, hence the jaunt to the coffee shop!

Hopefully it’ll warm up today as a bunch of us are catching the boat over to Alcatraz.  Anna from my crew said it’s very eerie and the stories will make me shiver! I’m looking forward to seeing the place where Al Capone spent a chunk of his life but first, I might have to buy a coat!

 

January 16th, 1992

January 16th, 1992

At home, England

“Who gets married on Leap Year Day?” Pamsy screeched on the phone. “You’ll only get an anniversary gift every four years!” We continued chatting about my upcoming nuptials and when I told her how brutal Winter is in New England, she joked, “You might be better off wearing a white snowsuit and gloves!”

I have no idea how I’ll balance wearing something I like versus something I won’t freeze in! Mum, on the other hand, already bought a hat and not one but four new outfits, all of which would be much more suited to a wedding in Hawaii.

Planning a wedding while your fiancé is involved in rescue efforts at sea, for people fleeing their homeland in makeshift boats, seems frivolous so I’m glad our wedding isn’t going to be some frothy frock affair.

Growing up, I never gave much thought to my wedding, unlike some of my friends that have been planning “the big day,” since they started talking! I’ve never really understood putting all that emphasis on one day, when the really important part is the years that follow.

I’m excited that we at least have a date but I wish William didn’t have to head back out to sea so soon after. Between his work and mine, we decided to put our Honeymoon on hold until I get my Green Card and can live in the States legally, but who knows when that will be.

It’s crazy to think that in just six plus weeks, I’ll be married!

 

December 31st, 1991

December 31st, 1991

Benalmadena, Spain

Mum was mightily surprised this afternoon, when she opened the door to find me standing there.

“Happy Anniversary!” I exclaimed, attempting not to drop the bag of Duty Free goodies, as Mum lunged at me for a hug.

“Tom! Tom!” She yelled. “C’mere!”

Dad was out on the balcony, his face turned to the sun.

“He can’t hear you, Mum, the door’s shut.”

“Och, yer a wee rascal,” she chuckled. “You should have told us you were coming.”

“Then it wouldn’t be a surprise,” I said, removing the bottles of Champagne and chocolates I bought at the airport.

“Ooohh,” Mum cooed, pointing to the cabinet behind me. “Glasses are in there. Did you just arrive?”

“Uh-huh, the flight got in at half two.”

“Did you get the train?”

I nodded. “So easy isn’t it, and really inexpensive. Plus, you know me, I like to people watch.”

Mum squeezed me tightly. “Dad will be so happy to see you!”

“Looks like you’ve been enjoying the sun,” I said, just as the Champagne cork popped, making Mum jump. “Gets me every time,” she laughed as I filled the glasses, the bubbles fizzing away.

“The sound of celebration,” I said, keeping an eye on Dad as we crept in his direction.

Slowly, Mum opened the door and stepped outside as I remained out of view.

“Och, Champagne, now that’s fancy,” Dad said.

“Aye well, it’s no every day you celebrate twenty-five years of marriage,” Mum uttered, as I peered out to see her leaning in for a peck, before handing the glass to Dad.

“Where’s yours, Liz?”

“Right here,” I said, stepping into view.

A look of what I can only describe as astonishment flashed across Dad’s face. “Ya wee rascal,” he said, shooting up, wrapping me in a hug.

“That’s what Mum said!”

“You’re meant to be in New York.”

I shook my head. “Sorry, that was a white lie.”

We raised our glasses and clinked them together.

“Happy Anniversary to my lovely Mum and Dad, and here’s to many more!”

“Thank you, hen,” Dad smiled. “What a brilliant surprise.”

“Certainly is,” Mum said. “Oh, and Happy Hogmanay.”

“That’s right,” I said, looking at my watch. “Only eight hours of nineteen ninety-one remain!”

“Here’s to my two favourite lassies,” Dad said. “Here’s to us.”

“Here’s to us,” Mum and I echoed with another clink.

 

December 10th, 1991

December 10th, 1991

At home, England

Mum is fond of telling me I’m still young enough to make mistakes without having to worry too much about the consequences. So, with that in mind, I returned to Massachusetts and spent a fantastic week with William, enough so that I came home with my engagement ring planted firmly on my finger and my head filled with preliminary plans for our wedding next year!

As if that isn’t enough, I decided to rent out my house and promptly found a young, newly married couple who already moved in! Consequently, all of my furniture (etc.!) is now at mum and dad’s, including my beloved striped couch from Habitat that I saved long and hard for. It’s presently taking up most of the space in the hallway but (much to dad’s dismay) it’s great for lounging on during long phone conversations. Mum suggested I sell it and laughed when I told her I’m not ready for that level of commitment quite yet!

Between work trips I plan on commuting to Boston to spend as much time as possible with William and when he goes out to sea, I’ll be here, back in my old room but that will all change after we get married.

Without knowing the expiration date on this age versus mistakes thing, I plan on going full throttle to create the kind of life I truly want, in the hopes it’ll at work out!

 

November 4th, 1991

November 4th, 1991

Night flight from BOS – LHR, as a passenger

“Maddie!” Frankie beamed, the second she spotted me stepping onboard, motioning for me to follow her. Instead of taking a right, in the direction of the seat number stated on the boarding card, I followed Frankie through the curtain, to the First Class galley.

“Have you just been to see William?” she said, giving me a huge hug.

“Yes!”

“I knew it!” she said. “You’re glowing. Wait here a sec.”

She strode into the First Class cabin and tapped the Cabin Service Director on the shoulder. He turned his attention from a seated passenger to Frankie, leaned into her whisper and glanced in my direction. He grinned, nodded yes and I held Frankie’s gaze as she sauntered through the cabin, back towards the galley.

“Result,” she mouthed, quickly stepping aside to make room for a young couple. “Good evening and welcome onboard.” Her demeanor was all business as she checked their boarding cards. “Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Starbuck, may I take your coats?”

While they unfurled their scarves, and unbuttoned their matching camel coats, Frankie chit chatted with them, her air professional but friendly. Once they’d entered the cabin she gave me a coy look. “As for you, my lovely, I got you the best seat in the house and you know what that means.”

I gave her a questioning look.

“Bubbles, lots and lots of yummy bubbles. Now follow me please, Miss McGarr.”

 

November 2nd, 1991

November 2nd, 1991

At William’s family home, New Hampshire, USA

William was feeling poorly this morning so he stayed behind while I ventured out with his parents to the local diner. The tiny hole in the wall was chock-a-block, mostly with people their age (late 60s) all of whom seemed very chummy, but before I write more on that, I need to go back to last night.

William and his Dad were in the basement workshop, doing goodness knows what, while I was in the living room with Edith, looking at pictures of a trip she and her friend took to the UK about a dozen years ago. It’s interesting how when you first meet someone, they feel compelled to share their experiences and opinions of the week they spent in the place you come from! I feigned interest, but halfway through the second photo album, I was bored and hoped the end of the blurry pics with the cloudy skies was nigh!

“Your ring is beautiful,” Edith said, motioning to my left hand. “Is it a family ring?”

“No, but it’s very old,” I said, splaying my fingers.

“Did you buy it in England?”

“Yes, but ehm, it was a gift.” I thought it’d be crass to say, “William paid for it,” so I told her he bought it for me. She looked shocked. “William went to England?”

“No, no, William said he wanted to buy me a ring but, according to him, there were no decent jewelers in Antigua so he suggested I buy it when I got home.” A little nervous laugh escaped me and I knew I should shut up, but of course I continued. “He said I should have exactly what I want, considering how long I’ll be wearing it.” Slowly but purposefully, she closed the photo album, placed it on the table and stared at me. “You two are engaged?”

“I don’t know if I’d say engaged as such,” I stuttered.

I watched her swallow before she spoke. “In my day,” she stated, “when a boy gave a girl a ring to wear on that finger, it meant something special.” She didn’t take her eyes off me. “It isspecial,” I said, rubbing my thumb over the blue stone.

She stood up and I thought she was angry but she turned and smiled. “We have to celebrate,” she said, making her way to the door to the basement. She opened the door and yelled; “Time’s up you two! Grab a few bottles of wine from the cellar! Hurry up! We have something to celebrate!”

So, today at breakfast, I was introduced as, “William’s fiancée from Scotland,” which prompted a slew of questions about whether I know the McDougal’s, the McNabb’s or even the McTavish family who live in the small village next to the famous one where they make the wool, you know the one, with the wishing well in the centre of town, the place Joanie/Bob/Hank’s ancestors come from! I did my best to answer in as polite a manner as possible, but the one question I couldn’t answer was; “When are you guys getting married”?