Love Never Dies – Chapter 5

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I arrived home only minutes before Veronica, and I helped unload the shopping bags from her car and carried them through to the kitchen where the kettle was already boiling. I made tea for Veronica and a mug of instant coffee for myself. Leaving Veronica to put away the groceries, I went out on to the patio. I was greeted by the sun peeping over the fringe of a cloud. It was pleasantly warm and when Veronica joined me, carrying her tea and a magazine, she had changed into knee-length cotton shorts and a halter neck top, all of which showed off her tan. She’d pulled her hair back into a small ponytail. “Nice ensemble,” I said, peering over my mug of coffee as she sat alongside me.  Veronica placed her tea on the table, crossed right leg over left and rested the magazine in her lap. “Hmm, thank you,” she smiled. “I was in fact thinking about putting on a swimsuit and laying out on a lounger. What do you think? Is it warm enough?” “I’d give it a little longer, see if these clouds disappear. But the forecast is for a warm, sunny afternoon.” “Okay, you’re right. I’ll give it a chance to warm up.” She lifted the magazine from her lap and started to flip the pages. It seemed as though she was searching for a specific article but, abruptly, she plopped it onto the table and reached for her cup and saucer. “Are you okay, Veronica?” She half-turned her head, raised her eyebrows and, with the cup poised at her lips, said, “Hmm, why do you ask?” “Well, you seem a bit restless. Something bothering you?” She drank some tea, leaving a trace of red lipstick on the china, and settled the cup back on the saucer, which she held in her lap. She looked down for a few seconds and said, “You know me very well, Richard, perhaps too well.” And she looked into my face, eyes searching and appraising. “Yes, something is bothering me… well, no, not exactly bothering me, it’s more… oh, I don’t know.” She shrugged her shoulders which set her bosom rippling. I then realised Veronica wasn’t wearing a bra beneath her skimpy top. Quite unusual for her. “Want to talk about it?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t know Richard, I really don’t know.” She paused briefly and virtually whispered, “But I think I should, to be fair.” Veronica had bowed her head again and was staring into her tea cup. I was concerned because, in the past few days, she had been most unlike her usual reserved, equitable self. The handjob and the wine drinking were two striking examples of Veronica behaving out of character. “To be fair?” I asked. “Fair to whom?”  Now she sat upright, sergeant-major straight, bare shoulders pulled back and undulating chest proudly jutting. She said, “I don’t want to make a big fuss, Richard, but I’ve been a bit… well, confused, lately. It’s nothing serious, just something that’s happened and…” she trailed off and sank back into her seat. I sat and waited for her to continue. The silence dragged. Veronica was evidently contemplating her next statement. The sun was warming up and birdsong carried on the light breeze which ruffled through the trees and hedges. I ran out of patience. “Are you going to tell me what happened?” I didn’t know where Veronica’s mind and thoughts had been but she was clearly startled to hear my voice. “What?” She looked at me, her face registering surprise as if she’d forgotten I was sitting there. “Oh, sorry, Richard. I was miles away,” and she sighed. “Yes, I could see that,” I said and resumed waiting for more information. She turned her face up to the sun, eyelids closed. “Mmm, I think I will get changed into my swimsuit,” she said. “Would you be an angel and get out a sun lounger for me?” “Yes, sure, of course,” I said, disarmed by this sudden switch in the conversation. “Thanks,” she smiled and again looked into my eyes, almost quizzically. “Why don’t you get one for yourself and join me. I’ll get you a cool beer. How’s that sound?” I nodded, somewhat bemused. “Yes, okay, Veronica,” I said and we both rose from our seats. I made my way to the shed where we kept our garden bursa escort tools and various foldaway sun loungers. Veronica disappeared inside the house. I set up the loungers, placed a small plastic table between them, and decided I should exchange my pants and sports shirt for swim shorts. At that moment, Veronica came through the patio doors and I was stunned: Veronica in a bikini! It must have been bought recently because she hadn’t worn a two-piece in years. Sea blue, the top was held up by thin straps and the panties were quite brief, cut high on the hips. I wolf-whistled and Veronica beamed at me. “Why, thank you, kind sir,” she said, walking towards me, proffering a can of beer and I’m sure she exaggerated the swing of her full hips. Sunglasses were lodged in her hair and she had refreshed her red lipstick. “When did you get that?” I asked, nodding at her outfit. Veronica laughed. “Before the girls were born. Can’t you tell? It’s not today’s style at all. Now they’re tiny thongs and patches which barely cover nipples let alone breasts.” “In fashion or not, you look good,” I said. “I discovered it the other day when I was doing a bit of late spring cleaning, sorting things out for the charity shop.” She grinned. “I tried it on just out of curiosity and was surprised that it fit me at all.” Then she tapped her stomach. “I’m having to breathe in here, you know, and my thighs are thicker. My bottom’s not too big, is it? Anyway, I’d never wear it in public.” I looked again at Veronica’s figure, this time a little more critically. As she sat on the lounger, her tummy sagged over the waistband and her legs were on the chubby side. Her bosom, I knew, was still defying gravity and, although her arms were somewhat fleshy, they were not yet flabby. Overall, not bad for a lady in her mid-fifties wearing swimwear she’d bought thirty years ago. She settled back on her lounger, dropped the sunglasses over her eyes and said, “This is the life, Richard.” It seemed she had forgotten all about our earlier conversation. I popped open the beer and took a swig. It was cold, refreshing. “Right,” I said, “I’ll get changed.” “Okay, I’ll still be here.” Inside the house, it was cooler and darker. I waited for my eyes to adjust after being in the bright sunlight and then made my way to the bedroom. Climbing the stairs, I felt my phone vibrating. I had a message. In the bedroom, I removed the phone from my pocket and looked at the screen. I was surprised to see: 1 message from Gaynor Reid. The time was 1:27, barely three hours since we’d spoken on the phone. I opened the message: Hi Richard, promised I wouldn’t keep you waiting. Have sent an e-mail xx I quickly disrobed, found my shorts in a drawer and then headed barefoot along the landing to my office. I booted up the computer and wandered over to the window while the machine whirred into action. I looked down at Veronica. From on high, her thighs were definitely plump and her hips generously spread in the lounger. I suppose the unexpected sight of Veronica in a bikini had prompted my wolf whistle. And that had me pondering: What on earth is going on with her? Why is she acting so out of character? She’s not menopausal. Been there, done that. It was a puzzle but I turned away and went to sit at the computer. Gaynor’s message was at the top of the inbox menu and I clicked on immediately. Subject: Telephone chat Dear Richard, First, it was really good to talk, to hear your voice again. I guessed you were a bit nervous and so was I. But I tend to come over a bit flippant in times of stress but you sounded serious and a bit shaky at first. Anyway, it was good and I’ve been doing virtually nothing since then but sit here thinking about you, about our conversation and what to do next. You may think I’m being premature here, Richard, but I am concerned about what might happen after we meet. (Notice the after). As I told you, I don’t want to get hurt by this relationship. Once was enough and I’ve avoided anything like bursa escort bayan it for thirty-two years now. Oh, I’ve had my moments, believe me on that, but you were my love and soulmate. I couldn’t opt for second best even though you weren’t available for me. I know: silly cow, but there it is. I’m in danger of waffling here. That’s my nerves. Okay, I’ve just sat back and composed myself again and this is what I’m thinking: One: Can you promise me no trouble will occur between me and Veronica. I don’t want to be responsible for any fall-out between you two. Two: Are you sure you can handle this situation? Meeting physically is rather different from cyberspace or even voices on the phone. Three: Why do you want to see me again? I mean, REALLY WHY? What do you expect and want from this reunion? Four: Are you available Friday morning about 11-30 for a few hours? Yes, whether it’s right or wrong, I do want to see you. It could be another huge mistake but, well, here goes. Either phone me (anytime you can) text or send a reply this way. Oh yes, stupid brain-dead witch: where to meet if you can make it on Friday? I’ve got a rough idea about your location area (the Mario’s restaurant car parking affair has helped) and I wonder if you remember The Toad’s Hollow on the river. We went there a couple of times on summer evenings. It’s still going, extended a bit, and they do food. We could even stroll along the riverbank and make believe we’re in romantic Paris. Or, perhaps not. Anyway, think about those points I’ve mentioned and I’ll wait to hear from you. Love Nurse Reid (as was) Gaynor (as is) Butterfly (hey, you know by now) Byeee xx I quickly read through the message a second time and sent it to my special GR folder. I put the screen on sleep mode and made my way back downstairs to rejoin Veronica while I chewed over this latest development. As I stepped onto the patio, Veronica asked me to bring over her magazine and I obliged, placing it on the table between our loungers. “You’ve been a long time,” she said. “In the loo, call of nature,” I said, patting myself metaphorically on the back for my quick response. “Have you put any sun lotion on?” “Yes, when I was in the bedroom. What about you?” “No, but I’ll be okay, it’s not that hot. No hotter than when I’m golfing.” “Right,” she said. I could see Veronica’s eyes were still closed behind her dark lens. She ignored the magazine I’d placed on the table. I relaxed back on my lounger. Well, relaxed may not be accurate. I lay back but my mind was busy, contemplating not only my response to Gaynor but the prospects of meeting on Friday, two days away. Just two days. After all these years.  I exhaled loudly and Veronica asked, “You okay?” “Yes, just relaxing,” I lied and decided I must phone Mick and arrange a phony golf match. The deceptions are beginning to pile up, I thought, and I recalled Gaynor’s husky voice, “I don’t want any trouble with your wife, you know.” “By the way, I can’t remember, Veronica, did I tell you I was playing golf on Friday?” “Hmm, Friday? Don’t think so. But I don’t think we’ve got anything on.” “Good,” I said. “Oh, wait a minute.” Veronica wriggled and sat up from her reclining position. She turned her head to look at me. “This Friday?” “Yes,” I said, my stomach churning and my heart drumming furiously inside my chest. Please, God, don’t tell me she’s arranged a dinner party. “I’m seeing Helen again on Friday. That’ll probably work out okay. You can eat at the club again, can’t you?” “Yes, sweetheart,” I said, relief flooding through my body. Then thought: Helen, the divorcee? Again? ~~~~~~~~~ That evening, I phoned Mick from my office to arrange my alibi (“Be careful, old pal,” he said) and sent an e-mail to Gaynor: Subject: Can’t believe it Dear Gaynor, Yes, Friday is good for me, excellent in fact. I remember The Toad and it’s not too far from me. I can make it by 11:30 and suggest we meet in the car park. I’ll be in a grey Volvo but I think you’ll recognise me from escort bursa my wonderful Facebook pic. You know, I’m quite amazed that we’re so close to meeting again. I never, ever thought I’d see you again. I dreamed about it but never thought it would happen. Crikey, I’m like a lovesick teenager. I promise I’ll have calmed down by Friday (oh, yeah, pigs are flying!) Please, don’t concern yourself about any fallout regarding Veronica. We’ve been together for a long time but I’m sure you’d be surprised about our relationship. It’s not what most people would think a marriage should be like. Anyway, that’s for another time. Just to say, all is under control and you need not have any fears. I have, of course, thought about the points you made and perhaps we can talk about them on Friday. On Friday, that sounds so normal and yet it’s so NOT normal: it’s very, very special. By the way, I’ll be dressed in golfing gear, just pants and sports shirt (maybe a sweater, depending on the weather) because that’s where Veronica thinks I’m going. Mick is my alibi. Think you’ll remember him: Mick Palmer, my old mate. Okay, my Petal (not quite sure about this butterfly wings bit) I’ll see you Friday at 11:30 (guess you’ll be a little late, just to keep me waiting on tenterhooks. A ladies prerogative, eh?). Till then, Love Richard x x x Downstairs, I found Veronica sitting on the couch, reading her magazine. “Would you get me a glass of brandy, please Richard,” she asked, looking over her shoulder as I entered the lounge. “Sure, anything with it?” “Perhaps a little more brandy,” she said, and chuckled. “A couple of ice cubes would be good.” I decided to join her in the choice of drink. I poured decent measures but didn’t bother with ice in my glass. “Here you go,” I said handing Veronica her drink and then walking to sit in my nearby armchair. “Thanks. Cheers,” she said and sipped. I watched as she put the magazine down at her side and looked across at me. It didn’t seem this magazine would ever be read. “You know what we were talking about earlier… ” she started and I looked at her, trying to remember which subject she was now recalling. I cocked my head to one side and raised my eyebrows. “We’ve discussed a few things today, sweetheart,” I said with a smile. She didn’t smile but dipped a finger into her brandy glass and stirred the ice cubes around. Then she licked the finger and finally looked up at me. “I mean about what’s been bothering me. Well, not bothering… just something that happened.” “Yes, I remember, that now,” I said. “It was before you decided to sunbathe and put on your old bikini.” Veronica nodded. “Well,” she paused. “Look, you’ll probably think I’m being stupid, that’s it’s something about nothing.” She stopped again. I waited and wondered what bombshell she was about to drop. Finally, I could wait no longer and broke the silence, “I can’t say until you tell me, can I Veronica?” “No, you can’t,” she said and lifted the magazine off the seat next to her. She dropped it on the floor and patted the cushion. “Come sit here with me, Richard.” I did as asked, settling back into the couch. Veronica, with brandy in her right hand, reached with her left and took hold of my right hand. I turned my head to look at her and she gave me a small, corner-of-the-mouth smile and took a deep breath. Here it comes, I thought, whatever “it” is. “You know that Helen’s been divorced for some months now, since John decided last year that his secretary was a younger and more desirable prospect.” I nodded. “And you’ve been a good friend, helping her through some tough times.” “Hmm,” she said. “Well, it wasn’t easy for her and, quite honestly, I worried at times. The doctor prescribed her pills. You know, tranquilizers and sleeping pills and such and I was worried that she might do something silly. Sometimes, especially when I went round to visit her in a morning, she slurred her words. I guess she was also drinking. Not that I could smell anything on her but she likes vodka and there’s not a lot of smell with that, is there?” I nodded and we both drank brandy. “Well, what I’m coming round to… a few weeks ago, after we’d been out for dinner, I drove Helen home. By the way, John’s let her keep the house under the divorce settlement.

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