Alison gave up on falling in love years ago. Even before online dating was the last resort to try and find the person of your dreams. Everyone else who was in a happy relationship seemed to make it look so easy, like it all just fell into place. Show offs. Without realising, Alison had just said that aloud and now looks slightly odd. Sitting at her usual table in her favourite cafe, reading the latest recommended book whilst drinking her large mint hot chocolate with extra cream, she looks around cautiously and luckily nobody was looking at her (directly anyway). But, more awkwardly it looked like the people closest to her where stifling laughs. This could just be her paranoia though. Well, back to the book. Just as she picks up where she left off, before her thoughts wondered back to her jealously at how others are blissfully unaware of actually how hard it is to find someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with, let alone one date with... and relax. This time, due to self awareness she rolls her eyes at herself and thats when she spots a rather nice looking man walking past the window. He slows down and is looking straight at her. He has very striking eyes, clean shaven yet with a dark stubble shadow making him instantly rugged but in a soft sexy way. Shes not entirely sure what to do, she can feel herself going red and starting to panic. She breaks eye contact and goes to dive into her bag to reach for her phone, but rather embarrassingly hits her head on the table on the way down with a big thump. Oh bugger it she hurtles in a rushed whisper and fumbles around in her ridiculously over sized handbag for her stupidly large smart phone which is somehow always impossible to find amongst the mess. Discreetly, she puts her hand to her head just as someone taps her lightly on the shoulder and says in a hushed tone Are you ok? that sounded quite painful. Even more embarrassed now, Alison takes a deep breath in an attempt to sound vaguely sane. Yes, thank you. and smiles reassuringly. The kind male stranger responds with a perfectly pleasant smile and returns to their no doubt perfect partner who in this case is also male. Ah, well thats a nice change Alison makes sure that she thinks this one to herself. His partner was also looking at her with a sympathetic smile, but then returns to their conversation as if that little episode didnt happen. Thankful for the humiliating part to be over, she dares a look out of the window to see if the beautiful man saw the whole thing. Her heartbeat begins to return to normal when she cant see him anywhere, though sudden panic rises when she acknowledges the fact that he could have walked in and saw the whole thing close up! No, doesnt appear to be in her cafe either. Thank goodness! And now whats this, a slight spate of disappointment? Oh lord, time to leave before she tumbles into the rabbit hole further... Without another thought, she finishes her sublime hot chocolate and packs away her things. She waves her farewell to Mike behind the counter (shes such a regular now theyre all on a first name basis with her) and continues with the rest of her Saturday.
Walking around the shops she picks up little trinkets as she likes to do whilst sauntering around the lanes in Brighton. Spring in Brighton is always a delight. Everybody has a skip in their step as they can feel the hot summer just around the corner. Which, in the past, always used to be promised. Nowadays youre just lucky if it doesnt rain the whole day. Anyway mustnt be negative. Good things dont happen to people who moan all the time. Picking up her mood instantly she spots a beautiful dress in one of the shop windows, AND its on sale! This day just got far better.
Before she knows it, Sunday night has crept up on her and shes feeling the usual dreads... until she reminds herself that she actually likes her job now so tries to shake herself out of them. Working in a design company she enjoys the company of her fellow colleagues as theyre a happy and creative bunch. Idea sessions are the best, very blue sky thinking is what they call it. No limits. She likes that, no barriers, no restrictions. Just thinking of seeing them is enough to break herself out of old bad habits and so she makes a cup of tea and settles on the sofa to continue reading her book. This mustnt be a very good book as her mind flitters instantly back to the dashing (who says dashing these days?) young man who created a rather humiliating few minutes for her. Getting impatient with herself for embellishing such nonsense, she sets herself straight and gets back into her book. She wakes with a start. Very confused, she sits up and takes in her surroundings. It all looks vaguely familiar and reality slowly seeps back into her mind. She was having the most amazing dream about the handsome gentleman shed seen that day. She lies back and clings on to the dreams slowly creeping further and further away from real life. If only she says aloud this time knowing that shes completely safe to do so in her own home. Theres a sudden annoying tring sounding from somewhere and begrudgingly Alison leaves her dreamy world and embraces reality full pelt. Hello? Slightly still husky from being asleep, Maggie her dearest best friend returns with an exaggerated husky tone and they both laugh creating a sweet melody (slash cackle). So, big weekend then love going by that tone? Oh, you know, same old. Out until 7 am and exhausted after turning down so many people because they just werent right for me. Its heartbreaking to see all of those disappointed faces, all in a queue. It was positively endless Mmm hmmm, I feel so sorry for all of those men, you man-eater you. Giggling away they catch up on all of the important bits and pieces in their life. When reality dries out, they start with the celeb gossip and latest scandals afoot. Towards the end of the conversation, Maggie suggests dinner one night in the week as her husband Paul is out at the football. Alison pretends to look in her calendar to see if shes free and suggests a time she can squeeze Maggie in. Maggie as ever, delightfully goes along with this act because she's always loved Alisons sense of humour. If ever she was feeling down, Alison would be her favourite (as well as the only) person to snap her out of it. Which, unfortunately was the reason for the call and why they needed dinner together, so that Maggie could break it to her best friend that she was leaving the country, indefinitely.
Saturday came and went, and yet another week went by until Alison finally stopped bursting into sporadic tears everytime she thought of Maggie. Of course, she would never in a million years show this terrified, heart-torn reaction to her best friend because she would never let her emotions get in the way of her decisions. Maggie was going on an adventure together with her husband in his incredible new job and their new life was leaping into the next exciting stage. When Maggie told her over dinner, Alison couldnt help but show her immediate painstaked reaction but quickly turned to her resolve to assure Maggie they would talk even more than they do now over video calling with such fandy dandy new crazed gadgets. Maggie seemed delighted with her response, and Alison hoped it was convincing enough because inside she was in total pieces. They didnt speak for a few days, Alison couldnt without crying. It was better that way. Two months until she goes, thats plenty of time to get in all the Maggie time she needed until they could work out a routine to talk regularly. Reassuring herself that Maggie was only on the other side of the world and not dying, she snapped herself back into positivity and decided that a visit to her favourite cafe was in order. Before she talked herself out of it, she had a hot shower, prettified herself and headed straight out.Sitting in her usual spot, Mike delivers her large mint hot chocolate, a hazelnut biscotti on the side, and a small piece of paper. Alison looks up quizzically, and he says The usual, plus a little extra two surprises Hes holding on to something so secret that hes fit to burst. Look at the piece of paper my darling.... If it was any other member of staff this really wouldnt have been so dramatic. But, as Mike was akin to flout the normal law of hetrosexuality he upped the campness to create the perfect GBFF Gay Best Friend Forever. Without wanting to disappoint, Alison obliges and unfolds the piece of paper. Its a scribbled name, and a phone number. Hes been coming in every Saturday asking if youve been in. Alison cant quite believe what was happening.... before her mind took her too far down the embellished dream, she said Who? but couldnt quite bite back the smile that wanted to stretch all over her face and beyond. The man who caught your eye a few weeks back, you know, the one that made you almost knock yourself out?. Alison had that shrinking feeling again and as she winced she said through gritted teeth Please dont tell me he saw any of that to which, Mike replied Forget about it, he didnt mention it exactly so I would just make sure you give him a call.... Alison stared down at the piece of paper, she couldnt quite believe what was happening. Shed started shaking from the pure adrenalin. No chance of reading her book now, it certainly wasnt compelling enough to take her mind of things. Instead, she dunked her biscotti into her hot chocolate cream and took a very satisfied bite at the exciting things to come.
Looking in the mirror, she looked like a terrified rabbit in headlights. And now she knows how they feel. Before her life starting flashing before her eyes, she took a deep breath and fought to calm herself. Just short of slapping herself in the face to bring her fully back to her usually reserved self (whatever that was) she looks straight back at her reflection and tells herself What is the worst thing that could happen? Big mistake, a tumult of bad thoughts swam into her mind. What if he changes his mind, what if he saw the ridiculous series of events that followed after they made eye contact, what if hes a complete dodo? Oh dont be so ridiculous! Look at yourself! If he is a dodo, you send him on his way and that will be that. Finding and unleashing some self confidence at last, she collects her wit and gets her bag together. With one final check in the mirror, she lets one last sentence of reassurance leave her lips I can do this.
As she walks up to the cafe (being the first place they saw each other it only made sense), she sees someone sitting at her usual table. With a shriek she knows instantly that its him. Hes even more good looking than she recalled. She collects herself once more just outside, and then with a sudden defiance strolls into the coffee shop like she was stepping into her new life. Unfortunately, things that youve thought about and rehearsed in your head a thousand times never go smoothly, so of course she would stumble over what seemed to be thin air as she made her entrance. Throwing a horrified glance towards Mike at what she had just done, he simply shuts his eyes and shakes his head slowly. Great start. Smoothing herself down, she tries to regain the self confidence she found from somewhere previously and strolls calmly over to the most handsome man in the coffee shop.Richard? Alison surprises herself at how she managed an even tone. He stands, holds out a hand and simply says Hi, Alison and then his face transforms into the most wonderful smile she has ever seen. Sitting down, she prevails in not messing anything else up for the entire conversation. They sit there together for hours it seems, catching up like old friends rekindling their friendship from years ago. Before they know it, its past lunchtime and recognise together that it might be a good idea to go elsewhere for some food. Alison reaches down to her bag to get her purse when he suddenly says Careful! and rushes to put his hand in the way of the table. Realising his only possible reason for doing this was because of what he saw last time, she simply shuts her eyes tight and says You saw everything last time didnt you.... Richard looked sheepish. I made sure I walked away before you saw, but I had to fight the urge to come in and make sure you didnt do any serious damage.... She didnt have any response to this other than to shrug her shoulders with a surrendering smile and say Well, its good that youve discovered the real me now. Everything in my house is bubble wrapped.... They both laugh together and Richard pays before she can do herself any harm.
Five years later....
Sitting with Maggie on the luscious Australian beach made her realise just how much she missed having her best friend around. Everything just seemed so much easier, and just right. They cried when they first saw each other, and it hadnt got any better the next 3 times theyd seen each other either. But that just made them appreciate how happy they were to see each other. They slotted straight back into their normal routine easily each time, which always warmed Alisons heart. They both watched the kids making sandcastles whilst the men were out attempting to windsurf. It was utterly amazing how the four of them all got on. Neither of them could imagine a life now without the other couple. Seeing her god children playing, Alison rubs her baby bump fondly hoping (and somehow knowing) that her and Richard will be just as happy as her best friend and her husband.