Notes from the author.
I don’t normally write short stories and this is the second one I have ever written. It’s also not the genre I normally write but this year I have decided to embrace change so I thought that I would do something different. So I put my pen to work and had fun seeing where my mind would take me!
This is a short story of allowing yourself to dream and what can happen when you do ……
Emma quickened her pace as the torrential down pour beat down on her umbrella. The force of it straining the spokes. A gust of wind blew it inside out and she darted into the newly refurbished restaurant and stood shivering in the doorway whilst trying to put it down.
She was late for her shift and by the look on the manager’s face she knew that he wasn’t having a good day. She mumbled an apology that was met with a stony stare and she quickly unbuttoned her saturated coat and disappeared into the lady’s room. She glanced at her reflection in dismay. Her red hair was plastered to her head and huge droplets of rain water were sliding down her straighter than straight fringe and landing on her nose.
Pulling a handkerchief out of her pocket she proceeded to dry her makeup free complexion. Her manager’s stern face face sprung to mind. Gosh, the least that he could have said was thank you for covering Ellie’s shift. She’d braved the wind and rain to get here, and had given up her own night out, she thought, suddenly feeling very unappreciated.
Kneeling down she craned her head under the dryer and blasted her hair with hot air. It was not exactly a salon experience, eyeing her matted hair in distaste, but it was better than dripping water onto everyone’s plates. Tugging a comb through her disheveled locks and reapplying her makeup, she gave herself an approving glance in the mirror before heading out to start her shift.
The restaurant was packed full of regulars, students, friends and lovers, all engrossed in conversation and celebrating the new year.
She couldn’t remember the last time that she had been out to share in the festive spirits with her friends. For the past two years she had always been put on the rota to work. She’d been so looking forward to this New Year as she hadn’t been put on it but then Ellie had called in with a reasonable excuse and she had been asked to cover for her. No wasn’t in her manager’s vocabulary so of course she had to say yes.
Although she was appreciative of her job, and her colleagues who were a good bunch to work with, it wasn’t her life plan to work there forever. Like most things of late, things certainly weren’t working out as planned. It was obvious that she was doing something wrong, and she just wished that someone would tell her what it was, so she could get it right for a change.
She’d spent a large proportion of her life dreaming of owning her own restaurant on a Mediterranean island. A dream that she had once shared with someone very dear to her. A beautiful soul called Roberto whom she had met whilst on holiday. A holiday romance that despite what her well-meaning friends had said to her, was just a fling, had turned into something so much more. He had asked her to marry him as well as be his business partner and she had foolishly said no. It was an opportunity that she’d wished she had taken and still kicked herself for letting her fears stand in the way. The years passed, the phone calls had dwindled and the dream had faded.
She’d come to the conclusion that she could blame no-one else except herself. Each New Year she’d promise herself that she would go for that goal, tell Roberto that she would find a way to fly over to start a new life with him but then life happened and that day never came. The vision of her bright future seemed less tangible each year. The colourful picture eventually fading into a negative.
So here she was, at 28, working as a waitress and earning enough money to barely survive least of all thrive. Her confidence had hit rock bottom and she had forgotten how to dream. Or at least she’d forgotten how to dream about those magnificent outcomes that she used to always do when she was a teenager.
‘No-one else is to blame except yourself Emma. You had the chance and you chose not to take it.’ Her mother had stated. ‘It’s all in the mindset! You have to start having a great conversation with yourself so you can make those changes!’
‘You wouldn’t understand because you don’t live my life.’ She had snapped and had slammed the door on her.
‘But I do understand that you’re a highly intelligent woman, with talents down to your legs. How is anyone else going to notice that if you don’t!’ Her mother had shouted after her.
She knew that what she was saying was perfectly true but it hadn’t made her feel any better. She had spent three years of her life at college training to be a chef and she still hadn’t made it into the kitchens. She was confident that it wasn’t due to her lack of skills so she guessed her mum was right, and it was time to weed out the garbage, and have a good talking to herself!
It seemed that there was a lot of people around her lately who seemed to be thinking the same thing she thought, her mind wandering to the eccentric elderly lady in the park whom she had met that morning. She had been sat on the bench feeding the pigeons. Her whole life’s contents tucked into an old torn bag. Emma had a distinct feeling that she’d met her somewhere before but she couldn’t pin point where. What she had said to her had startled her as it had almost echoed the exact conversation she had had with her friend earlier. It seemed that everything in her life was coming back as an echo lately. Seeing it as a sign from the universe she told herself that she’d make those changes tomorrow, but tomorrow never seemed to come.
‘Would you like to buy some bird seeds to feed the pigeons my dear?’
She shifted her attention momentarily from the text message and onto the other woman. She smiled politely and shook her head. ‘I’m sorry I’ve got no change on me.’ Not exactly the truth but she needed all of her money to see her through until the next pay-day. Every penny counted these days!
‘I see you do the same thing every day my dear. You come to the same park, you sit on the same bench, you think the same thoughts, you sigh, and you never smile. How do you expect your life to be any different if you always do the same?’ The old woman had croaked.
Her mouth had fallen open. ‘Excuse me.’
She had stood up and handed her a bag of bird seed. ‘Just imagine if the birds had the same attitude. They would never migrate.’
She shut her mouth but was still too shocked to speak. By the time she had recovered it was too late to ask her how on earth she could have possibly known her name as she had walked off. Stunned she’d sat there for a couple of moments watching as the pigeons had flocked around her, eager for the seeds.
‘Don’t look at me like that.’ She had retorted to the birds. ‘You don’t know what my life is like. You’ve got it easy as you can just fly away.’
She had emptied the contents of the seed packet onto the floor and strode through the park coming to rest on the next bench. She had closed her eyes and breathed in the smell of the freshly cut grass that was mingled with the heavenly scent of the mint plants that were flourishing behind her. It was her piece of paradise; a world within a world, where she would come to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city. She had jumped at the sound of the woman’s voice besides her and her eyes flew open.
‘You’re still here then. Still going in the same direction that you always do. I thought you may have gone a different way today.’ The voice mocked.
She was shaking her head in disbelief. ‘Look, do I know you.’
The woman chuckled and began to rub her bare hands together to breathe some life into her blue fingers whilst inching towards her. ‘Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. It all depends on you.’ She had turned her piercing blue eyes onto her; her voice suddenly stern. ‘Emma Jane Harrington, your life is for living. You were meant to live your passion, you were meant to live your purpose…’
‘Who on earth..’
‘I haven’t finished yet young lady. You have been given the biggest gift of all, the power to give love to yourself and to others.’ Her grubby hand patted her own. ‘Giving my dear is oh so powerful. If you say you haven’t enough to give then you’ll never get any more. Once you can see this then you’ll see a different world.’
Her arm wrapped itself protectively around her body. ‘How dare you. I do give, I give…well I can’t give money because I don’t have enough to give…but I try to give in other ways.’
The old lady smiled and nodded. ‘Of course you try my dear.’ She stood up. ‘Well it was nice to meet you Emma. Have a nice life!’
‘Hey wait.’ She caught the woman’s ripped sleeve. ‘Who are you and how do you know so much about me?’
Those piercing blue eyes stared back at her; a life time of regrets reflected in them. Each line on her weather worn face was etched deeply into her mottled skin. Her gaze ran over the delicate shape of her face and the fullness of her lips and she guessed that it was a face that had belonged to a very beautiful woman once.
A flock of pigeons nearby took flight and one landed on her shoulder and another perched itself on her head. She loved birds but the pecking motion of its beak as it ate a seed from her hair, startled her and she jumped to her feet. The birds dispersed, soured over the trees and landed on the band stand. When she had looked back the bench had been empty. Her eyes had scanned the park but there had been no sign of her. For one so old and fragile looking she had certainly disappeared fast she thought, shivering beneath her coat and tucking her hands into her pockets.
Although she was not there in body her words still hung heavily in the air. They drifted on the wind and for a moment she could have sworn that she was stood behind her and was whispering softly into her ear. She had darted a glance behind her and was surprised to find that the park had been completely void of people. Feeling spooked she had picked up her pace and exited the park.
It was an experience that she couldn’t shake off and she was still thinking about it as she arrived in work that evening. It had unnerved her because things like that didn’t normally happen except in the movies of course.
Whoever said the truth could hurt, certainly made a lot of sense. Which explained why she was still carrying it. Although she loathed to admit it the woman had made a lot of sense. These days she had no vision and she was more inclined to spend her time noticing all of the things that she had done for other people rather than what they had done for her. No wonder her luck had dried up. Oh god, how on earth had she let her life get like this?
Emma came back to the present and realized that the handsome gentleman whom she was about to take the order off, had already ordered but she hadn’t heard a word. She mumbled an apology and asked him to repeat it. His alert gaze noticing the still far away look in her eyes and the sensual lips that he guessed never smiled.
‘So what is a beautiful young woman like you stuck in here when you should be out enjoying yourself.’ He asked
A glimmer of a smile tugged at her lips. ‘Earning a living and trying to make my way in the world just like everyone else.’
‘Ah I see. And if you had the choice of being anywhere in the world right now, where would that be?’
She didn’t even have to think about that. ‘Portugal.’
He smiled. ‘Ah Portugal. Good choice. It’s a very beautiful place with very beautiful people in it. There are many beautiful places in this world so why there though?’
She sighed. ‘I left my heart there a long time ago.’
He smiled and handed her the menu. ‘It’s very important to follow your heart.’
‘Yes I think..’ Stopping short as she caught sight of the beady eyes of the manager looking straight at her. A quick glance around the restaurant told her that it was filling up fast so she said quickly. ‘Yes, that is true but in this case I don’t think I can. Can I get you anything else?’
He smiled politely and shook his head.
The shift seemed to drag; almost as if time had stood still. A bit like her own life, she thought as she prepared the bill for him. As she approached the customer she caught sight of him searching in his suit jacket and he shifted uncomfortably as he spotted her. She anticipated his reply before he’d even voiced it.
‘It appears I have left my wallet in my other jacket.’
She’d lost count of the times she had heard that in the last year. ‘Ah.’
‘Yes ah, which means..’
‘Let me guess…you haven’t got the money to pay the bill.’ She finished for him.
He nodded and she could see that he was squirming. She glanced down at the £75.00 bill and she knew that this wasn’t going to go down very well with the manager. She shifted uncomfortably and was just about to do what she always did and call him over but suddenly remembered the woman’s words. And then she heard herself say something that was completely out of character.
‘It’s OK. I’ll settle it for you. Just drop it in tomorrow.’
His eyebrows raised. ‘You don’t have to do that.’
‘I know but I’m feeling in a festive mood.’ Gosh had she really said that. She never felt in the festive mood anymore. ‘Trust me it’s fine. I presume you won’t leave the country.’
He laughed. ‘Thank you..I’m sorry I don’t even know your name.’
She smiled and pointed at her badge.
‘Pleased to meet you Emma. I’m Jonathon. I will bring it round first thing tomorrow.’
She stuck her hand into her apron and curled her fingers around the fat pile of notes. She hoped that she was a good judge of character as she placed the money onto the plate. Her eyes following him as he walked out of the restaurant and jumped into the cab! Because if she wasn’t then she’d be walking to work for the next month.
A week later with still no sign of him she’d kicked herself and had put it down to experience. It reminded her why she’d never been too generous in the giving department because people always seemed to take advantage of her. She was just about to clock off when she spotted an elderly gentleman come through the doors and walk over to the manager. She saw him point in her direction and moments later the stranger was striding towards her.
She nodded and smiled.
‘I believe this is for you.’ Handing her the envelope. ‘My son sends his apologies. He was called away unexpectedly hence it being late.’
Her slender fingers curled around the extra thin envelope. It was too thin to have her £75.00 in it, she thought and her face was one of disappointment. She tore it open and felt a glimmer of hope surge through her as she spotted a cheque. Her eyes flew to the four-figure sum and she let out a gasp that sounded like a squeak.
‘I think that there has been a mistake. It should only be £75.00 not £2,000.’ She tried to pass him the cheque back but he pushed her hand away and shook his head.
‘No Emma it’s the correct amount. My son said that it’s interest for taking so long to pay it back.’
‘Wow! Wow. That’s a lot of interest. Gosh things don’t normally happen like this to me.’ and then she started laughing; a big bellowing laughter that made her colleagues turn and stare. ‘This is wonderful. Tell him thank you very much.’
The elderly man ambled to the door. He shot her a glance from over his shoulder and caught her dancing on the spot and he smiled. ‘Oh yes and he also said to tell you to use that money to follow your heart.’
Emma surveyed the beauty of the landscape around her. The miles of golden sands, a crystal clear ocean and the orange-yellow hues of the evening sky. She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of salty ocean whilst listening to the frothy waves crashing against the nearby cliffs.
A seagull perched on the wall of her outdoor restaurant and she threw some seeds onto the beach. A flock of well fed birds swooped down and she smiled as they guzzled the food before once again taking flight. It reminded her of the incident with the bird lady and she so wished that she could have seen her again to thank her for helping her turn her life around. Her words had been the catalyst to something wonderful.
She had used the £2,000 to take a much-needed holiday. She’d gone back to the place where she had fallen in love with Roberto and had managed to recapture a love and a life that she always knew deep down that she was worthy of living. A life that she had once believed had been beyond her grasp. The day that she had phoned her boss to say that she was leaving was the day that her new wonderful life had begun and she hadn’t looked back since. Forward was a much better direction to take!
She felt his strong arms around her and she rested her head back against his muscular chest. His lips caressed her neck and she closed her eyes; savoring the moment. Life was magical again, just like she knew that it would be.
As she turned to kiss him, she was stopped in her tracks by a figure that she thought that she would never see again. A figure of a well-groomed woman who was draped in jewelry and whom was making her way to the table. She looked vivacious and animated and you could see that life had treated her well. Gone were the rags of her clothes and in their place was elegant attire. Her weather worn face that carried the stresses of life was smooth and glowing and she had the appearance of a woman half her age. Her appearance was indeed different but she would recognize those piercing blue eyes anywhere.
‘I’m sorry baby.’ She kissed him on his cheek ‘Just give me a minute. I need to speak to someone.’
His quizzical gaze followed her to the far end of the restaurant.
Her eyes were like wide saucers as she lessened the distance between them. ‘It is you!’
Her twinkling eyes met hers and she nodded.
‘But I don’t understand.’ She continued. ‘What are you doing here and who are you?’
She scraped the chair back, stood up and took her hand. ‘I’m just passing through. I’m happy that you listened to me Emma. I knew you could do it and it’s so good to see you smile again.’
Her brows knitted further together. ‘Thank you but please tell me who you are.’
She sat back down, her manicured fingernails tapping rhythmically against the menu. ‘Each one of us has choices available to us in this life time my dear. Many different realities that we get to create. There are many paths to go down. You chose the right one.’ Her eyes resting on the sandwiches by the bar and the chalk board next to it which stated in big bold letters. IF YOU NEED TO EAT PLEASE TAKE ONE FOR FREE! ‘I could only guide you but it was you in the here and now, that had to walk that path which would determine the reality you would get to live. Do you understand?
Her brow furrowed and she pondered over what she just said. ‘I think so.’ She didn’t have the heart to tell her she had no idea what she was talking about. She sat down and clasped the other woman’ s hand. ‘ I just want to tell you that I’m very grateful for the day that I met you. You were the catalyst to everything but that still doesn’t answer my question.’
She laid the menu down and sat up straight. ‘Forget the 86-year-old exterior. Look into my eyes and tell me who you think I am.’
She was mesmerized by the beauty and the wisdom that were contained within them. Deep in her being she knew who she was. She would recognize those eyes anywhere as she had been staring in the mirror at them for an entire life time. She didn’t know how it was possible but because of what had happened in the park that day, she was now a firm believer that anything was possible if you believed enough.
Her lovers hand on her shoulder startled her and she jumped.
‘Emma, you OK?’
She swung around to face him. ‘Yes, I’m fine, why do you ask?’
His curious gaze met hers. ‘Because I was wondering whom you’ve been talking to for the past ten minutes.’ He pointed to the now empty seat. ‘It’s not a good thing to talk to yourself my darling.’
It took a while to digest what had happened. Finally she took a deep breath as the full realization of what had occurred hit her. ‘Yes, I used to think the same until now but I’m so glad I did otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.’ Her arms wrapped around his neck and her blue eyes that were filled with admiration met his dark mischievous ones. ‘Will you still love me even though you now know that I talk to myself.’
He laughed. ‘What ever makes you happy my darling. To me you’ll always be perfect!’ He said capturing her lips with his own.
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