September 8th, 1991

September 8th, 1991

At home, England

Sarah is married! The day started out with a few sprinkles but by the time we were ready for pictures in her mum and dad’s garden, the sun was out in full force.

“Look at you lot,” Sarah’s dad said, discretely wiping a tear, as the photographer barked, “No squinting!”
“Bleeding ‘ard not to,” Suzette, the other bridesmaid uttered, while I made a poor attempt at sucking in my stomach.

“You’re not crying, are you, dad?”

“Me? No. Think I’ve something in me eye.”

“Aw, bless,” Sarah and Suzette cooed in unison.

“No talking! Please!”

“He’s a bundle of laughs, where’d you find im, Sarah?”

“And three, and two, and one,” the photographer shouted, above the sound of the shutter, snapping what I imagine will be amusing pictures.

“He’s a mate of-”

“And silence!”

“He better not keep this up all day!” Suzette huffed, making me laugh.
“And we’re quiet! And we’re still!”

“Still annoying,” Suzette hissed, as the photographer waved his hand. “Bridesmaids, step aside! Parents, step in!”

Suzette shook her head and pulled me aside. “We’ve time for some happy juice, before we go to the church,” she winked.

I gave her a questioning look. “Listen,” she whispered. “If we ‘ave to be stuck in these frothy frocks all day, we’ll need a drink. Or three.”

Ah, a girl after my own heart!

 

August 24th, 1991

August 24th, 1991

At home, England

My four day Seattle trip was cancelled (no idea why) and now I’m on standby. With a maximum of only four hours’ notice, I could get called to fly pretty much anywhere in the world. As cool as that sounds, the reality of it means I won’t be able to go to Spain with mum. After everything mum does for me, I hate to disappoint her but I know she’ll understand. Still, I was really looking forward to a nice little getaway that doesn’t revolve around the needs of hundreds of passengers!

 

August 10th, 1991

August 10th, 1991

At home, England

I can’t seem to get out of my own way at the moment. I keep thinking, “tomorrow, I’ll do that tomorrow,” then I get up and within a few hours, my energy is zapped. Pamsy said it’s only natural for us to occasionally feel knackered after so much flying and different time zones but I have a sneaking suspicion my lackluster mood is more related to my love life, or lack thereof!

Two nights ago, I spent a couple of hours on the phone with William, who talks as if we’re about to get married! I keep telling him I don’t want to live in America but he either isn’t taking me seriously or thinks I’ll change my mind. I suppose in one way it’s good he acts so “normal,” but in another, I envision a life where I end up living somewhere I dislike, with someone who doesn’t relate to me.

Pamsy said I have, “a slight tendency to over analyze everything,” but that as long as I’m not with Ben, she’s happy! Speaking of…he spent the night here last week, all so fantastic, until he left, after which I spent the rest of the day wandering around in a daze, so much so that when I went over to see mum and dad, mum pounced on me the second dad took Tini out.

“Something’s bothering you,” she stated. “Wit is it?”

“I think I’m just tired,” I said, not daring to look at her. As much as I try, I can never hide anything from my mum.

“Maybe you need a wee holiday.”

I laughed. “The last thing I want to do during my time off is get on a plane.”

“We could go up to Scotland on the train.”

“And see Nana,” I was about to say, quickly catching myself as a wave of sadness swept through me.

“I miss her as well,” mum uttered, reading my mind.

“I know you do, I’m sorry mum. And yes, maybe we could go up to Scotland for a few days, that’d be nice.”

“We could go to Edinburgh,” she said, all smiles. “Something different.”

“Oooh, I like the sound of that. Let’s go the first week of September.”

“Is that no a wee bit close to Sarah’s wedding?”

“With any luck, I’ll be taken prisoner in Edinburgh castle,” I laughed. “That way I won’t have to wear that awful bridesmaid dress!”

“Och,” mum tutted, stifling a giggle. “Yer an awful lassie!”

 

June 11th, 1991

June 11th, 1991

At home, England

“I really don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Pamsy on the phone. “What’s so awful about it?”

“I just don’t like it!”

“Well you can’t change it.”

“I know,” I sighed. “But-”

“But what?”

“I don’t know how my mum and dad will react.”

“I think they’ll be fine. Our parents aren’t as old fashioned as we think they are and I think as long as you’re happy, they’ll be ok with it.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“Of course I am,” she chuckled. “Besides, you’ll feel better after you discuss it with William.”

“Hopefully, but I don’t know when that’ll be. He’s on an intensive training course then right after it finishes, they’re sending him out to sea. Argh, I’m so upset.”

“Listen, I’m sorry you’re upset but try and put it in perspective. It’s not like he has five kids or something!”

I opened my mouth to speak and burst into tears.

“Oh don’t cry, everything’s going to be fine. You love him and he loves you and I’m sure, given what Scott told you, it’s been really difficult for William.”

“I know,” I sniffed, “But I just wanted-”

“Everything to be perfect?”

“Uh-huh.”

“It doesn’t work like that, Karen, you know that. Love stuff is never easy.”
“I just wish,” I croaked, “he’d told me he was married before.”

 

 

May 25th, 1991

May 25th, 1991

Night flight from JFK – LHR

Met Christopher for lunch in Central Park, something he now does regularly, after, as he jokingly put it, “A Brit introduced me to it!”

“So good to see you again,” he smiled, halfway through his Ruben sandwich.

“And you. How’s Laurie?”

“Good. She’s good.”

“Seriously Christopher? You must know by now that I need way more than that!”

He laughed. “She’s busy making plans for the…our wedding.”

“Do you have any say in it?”

“Not really,” he said with a little chuckle.

“Seems to be the way.”

“Do you think William will be involved in your wedding plans?”

“Whoa! Did I say I’m getting married?”

“You’re engaged. Isn’t marriage the next step?”

“Actually, we’re not technicallyengaged.”

He burst out laughing. “You’re gonna have to explain that.”

“William expressed a deep interest in buying me a ring, that I just happen to wear on the finger that gets all the attention.”
His expression was questioning. “So, you’re not getting married?”

“I think we will at some point but-”

Another quizzical look. “You sound hesitant.”

I let out a deep sigh. “While I was on the island, everything felt surreal but now we’re apart it’s different. It’s difficult being so far away from each other. To be honest, I feel lonelier than ever.”

Giving my hand a little squeeze, he said, “They say true love always finds a way.”

“I s’pose that’s true but I just don’t want to get ahead of myself. Does that make sense?”

Never daring to speak with his mouth full, Christopher nodded enthusiastically, while I took a bite of my sandwich and motioned for him to continue.

“I Iove Laurie, I really do. She’s amazing but…well.” He looked away and I wanted to prompt him but I managed to keep my mouth shut. “Sometimes,” he continued, “I think family pressure played a role. You know, an almost thirty-year old unmarried man raises questions in the family circle and I know you’re younger than me, but haven’t you felt any pressure from your family?”

“Not at all. I mean, my mum has always been obsessed with weddings and anything of a romantic nature but no pressure as such about actually getting married, although when I told her William wanted to buy me a ring, she wasted no time in marching me to the antique jewelry shop.”

He cracked up laughing. “See what I mean?”

“Hmmm, I never really thought of it as pressure but now you mention it, I suppose there’s a, what would you call it? Expectation. There’s an unspoken expectation.”

“Exactly!”

“But you’re still getting married next October, right?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “In Connecticut. The guest list is currently hovering around two twenty but Laurie’s thinking it’ll end up being more like two fifty.”

“Phew,” I whistled. “That’s a lotta people!”

“Yes, it is,” he said, looking more unsure than I’ve ever seen him.

 

April 13th, 1991

April 13th, 1991

Night flight from LAX – LHR

To say I’m sad to be going home is a serious understatement and there’s no way an hour of crew rest will allow me to write about everything that happened today. Once again, mum is cocooned in the First Class cabin, no doubt having her every whim attended to.

Another early morning walk before breakfast, after which I wanted to change before going to the pool. Mum was eager to soak up as many rays as possible so I told her I’d meet her there.

I sat on the bed, starting at the phone and next thing I knew, I was dialing David’s  number! Being a Saturday, I knew nobody would be at his office, thereby granting me the luxury of listening to his voice on the recorded message.

After three rings, I heard, “This is David,” and felt my heart do that flutter thing, then the voice stopped and I realized it was him and not a recording!

“Day vid,” I stuttered, a wave of panic washing over me.

“Karen?”

“Ehm, yes, hi, it’s me.”

“Wow! This is a surprise!”

You can say that again!

We talked for what felt like ages before he asked where I was.

“Are you serious?”

“Deadly,” I smiled.

“How long are you here?”

“About another five hours!”
“Can I take you to lunch?”
“Yes! That’d be lovely,” I blurted, surprising myself. “Oh but wait, ehm, my mum is with me!”

He laughed. “I miss your expressions. And I’d love to meet your mom. I can be there in an hour. Does that work?”

“Totally,” I drawled, feeling the smile spreading over my face.

I paced around the room for a while before making my way down to the pool, where, needless to say, mum was all ears. “Are you sure you want me to go with you?”
“Of course, you have to come!”

“And are you sure you want to see him?”

I nodded. “I think it’ll help me to put it to bed, so to speak.”

“Right then,” she said. “Let’s get the glad rags on and show him how it’s done!”

Watching the familiar sight of David’s car pulling in, I took a deep breath and readied myself for the wave of emotions I expected I’d feel. He stepped out of the car looking as gorgeous as ever (maybe even more so with slightly shorter hair) and made his way first to mum, whose gushy reaction was the perfect ice breaker.

“Hey you,” he smiled, reaching to kiss my cheek, that culminated in a hug. “You doing good?”

“Very,” I nodded, a sudden sense of relief that the initial meeting was over. We stepped back from each other, smiled, then went in for another solid hug.

“You look awesome,” he said.

“Thanks,” I chirped, as he held the door open for mum.

Being in the car with mum and David felt very natural and we laughed about the times David rang the house, only to be bombarded by questions from mum, before she’d finally tell him I was away on a trip!

“Is there anywhere special you’d like to go, Karen?” David said, catching my eye in the rearview mirror. “How about Malibu?” I suggested, if only for the longer car ride and the chance to glance furtively at his baby blues.

Not far from the PCH, we found a cool looking Mexican restaurant and sat outside. Once the starter plates were cleared, mum excused herself and headed for the loo. David reached his hand across the table and I rested my fingers in his palm.

“I’m glad you called. It’s so good to see you.”

“You too,” I smiled.

“Your mom is a blast. It’s so awesome to finally meet her.”

“She’s really enjoying herself. I can’t believe she’s fifty.”

“She makes fifty look good, huh?”

I nodded and he gently squeezed my fingers. “How are you doing, Karen?”

I choked back the lump in my throat and said, “I’m getting on with it.”

“Good, that’s good.”

“And you?” I asked.

“Better.” He paused. “Last year was tough. For you, as well.  I really wanted to call, write, do something but I didn’t think it was…appropriate. I’m so sorry for the way everything…ended.”

“Me too,” I sighed. “But that’s all behind us now and we need to live in the present.”

“I always loved your attitude.” His use of the past tense stung so I quickly moved my fingers away and picked up my glass.

“Karen,” he said, slowly. “You need to know how special you were…are…to me. It’s important to me that you know that.”

“Likewise,” I uttered, unable to look at him.

“Are you happy?” he asked.

“Like I said, I’m getting there. And you? Are you happy, David?”

His gentle smile reminded me why I left my contact info in his jacket pocket on the flight to Delhi almost two years ago. But then his answer, “I am,” and the way he said it snapped me back to the present, making me feel cheated. “Does your happiness have a name?” It came out exactly as I felt and he hesitated before replying. “Do you really want to know?”
“Yes,” I stated.
“Michael. His name is Michael.”

I felt my stomach lurch as I mouthed, “Michael,” before saying it out loud. “Michael.” Saying the name brought everything into focus and when I looked at David, I thought of them together in the way he used to be with me and a shot of rage passed through me, swiftly followed by a deep sense that this was finally, “It.”

“Are you seeing anyone?” he said, catching me off guard.

I told him about my upcoming holiday to Antigua to see William, touching briefly on the long chats and letters we’ve recently shared.

“He sounds cool.”

“He’s a little… different. I can’t put my finger on it, but he’s a nice guy and I believe his intentions are good.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted mum coming back and either to lighten the mood or maybe for the purpose of acknowledgement, I blurted, “I just hope he isn’t gay!”

David’s expression was one of shock but when I started laughing, he did the same, so much so that when mum returned, we were still chuckling.

The remainder of lunch and the drive back was entirely pleasant and bittersweet all at the same time and with only forty minutes to spare before call time, mum said a quick goodbye, before heading into the hotel.

“I’m so happy you called,” David said, opening his arms wide. I tucked myself into him, closed my eyes and slowly breathed him in.

“Be happy,” he said, kissing the top of my head. “Be really, really happy.” His voice cracked and when I looked up, I wasn’t surprised to see his tears.

“You too,” I croaked, before pulling away, for what I knew would be the very last time.

 

 

 

April 12th, 1991

April 12th, 1991

Pacific Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, California

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (sorry, high on LA!)

Thanks to the eight-hour time change, mum and I were up before the crack of dawn, so we walked to the Santa Monica Pier, then popped into Café Boulangerie and devoured pancakes doused in syrup (oh my!)

On the way back to the hotel, I chuckled when mum said, “I’ve yet to see an ugly person!”

“It’s illegal here,” I joked (kind of!) “And I doubt they eat what we just had.”

“Och well,” mum said. “You only live once.”

I was surprised to see a few fellow crew waiting for the tour bus, the first stop of which was the hotel where the Virgin Atlantic crew stay. I was so hoping Ben wouldn’t be one of them. Any sign of him would have completely ruined mum’s day!

Mum was beside herself with excitement as we drove through Beverly Hills and said she couldn’t believe she was so close to so many of her, “Favourite Hollywood stars.” The tour guide was (wait for it!) an aspiring actor, who, upon request, did impressions of pretty much everyone, which was highly entertaining (and garnered plenty of tips!)

Spent the day at Disney, under the brilliant California sun that I doubt I’d ever tire of. Mum mentioned umpteen times how much she was enjoying herself and even though I’ve done all the touristy stuff before, it was nice to enjoy it through fresh eyes.

Back to the hotel for showers and a change of clothes, followed by a quick drink with a bunch of crew who didn’t appear fit for much other than holding up the bar! With such a huge time difference, I usually feel the same but with mum in tow, resting was not an option!

Being mum’s birthday dinner, I didn’t want to chance a new restaurant, so I took her to the cool Italian place I used to frequent with David. I quickly scanned the room, half hoping he’d be there, the other half relieved he wasn’t!

Mum loved watching the sunset from the roof terrace and declared, “Life begins at fifty!”

 

 

 

April 11th, 1991

April 11th, 1991

Flight from LHR – LAX

Pacific Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, California

I love New York like there’s no tomorrow, but LA pulls at my heartstrings like no place else.

One of the many amazing perks of working for an airline is staff travel. Both my parents qualify for staff travel concessions, so mum’s ticket was just over a hundred quid, which, considering the upgrade to First Class, is pretty incredible. We crew look out for our own and make sure accompanying family members receive the best service in the best cabin, as witnessed by mum’s beaming smile after landing.

Felt pretty nostalgic on the crew bus as we whizzed our way past the palm trees, to beachy Santa Monica but mum’s incessant chatter kept me from dwelling too much on that dreadful morning last November, when David came to my room and told me he’s gay.

I can’t deny the pang of sadness I felt walking into the hotel lobby but I pushed it aside and wasted no time changing and meeting the crew in the bar, where we enjoyed the hotel’s legendary Long Island Iced Teas (a further reminder of the countless times David met me here.)

In an effort to shake off any lingering memories, I suggested we take a walk to Venice Beach. The light is one of my favourite things about this place and tonight was no exception, with pale pink streaks painting the sky as mum and I strolled down the beach, oohing and aahing at the sight of the Pacific (and the gargantuan bodybuilders!)

“What do you think, mum?” I said, taking her arm.

“It’s some place, isn’t it? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Stunning,” she smiled. “Are you ok?”

“Uh-huh,” I nodded, breathing in the balmy air, another vivid reminder of the magical nights I spent with David, on his rooftop terrace.

 

April 7th, 1991

April 7th, 1991

At home, England

Millie rang to apologize for her ridiculous ranting last night about Antigua and how she felt, “put out,” by the fact I’m going sooner than I thought.

“If you’re so upset,” I said, in a newfound bold tone, “Then don’t bother coming. I’m not forcing you to.”

“I’ll get there a few days after you arrive. Will that be ok?”

Only if you lose your deplorable attitude, I wanted to say. “Yes, that’ll be fine.”

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

I resisted the urge to respond with the standard, “Me too,” and changed the subject.

We stayed on the phone for about an hour, mostly talking about my upcoming trip to Los Angeles.

“Is your mum excited?”

“She’s beside herself!”

“I can just imagine,” Millie laughed, sounding more like herself again. “You two will have a great time. Right?”

“I believe so.”

“It won’t upset you, you know, being there again?”

“I hope not,” I sighed. “I just want to show my mum around and celebrate her birthday.”

“So you don’t plan on seeing David?”

“Absolutely not!” I blurted, my words not quite matching how I felt.

“What would you do if you bumped into him?”

“Millie! I’m not going to be bump into him, he doesn’t live anywhere near where we’re going.”

“I thought you didn’t know where he moved to?”

“I might have done some, eh, some snooping.”

“You mean stalking?”
“No, I mean investigating,” I said, trying not to laugh.

“And what did Miss Marple discover?”
“Where he lives, as well as a phone number.”

Millie made a sound of disapproval but it wasn’t very convincing. “Well,” she continued, “Tell your mum to have a lovely time and I guess I’ll see you in Antigua.”

“You’ll see me before I leave. I’m leaving my car at yours, remember?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot. Ok, great, so I’ll see you then. Have fun in LA and don’t be sad.”

“I won’t,” I uttered, not quite believing it.