FOR THE LOVE OF KATE BY ANDRINA CONNELL
I was sure of it. Somewhere there was a perfect partner for my friend
Getting a date for Kate has been my life’s work. It began way back in the school playground. “Olly Brown asked me to give you this,” I told her, pushing a small bundle covered in crumpled birthday wrapping paper at her.
Kate stepped back. The bundle fell to the ground and a slice of birthday cake lay at her feet.
“You have it please, Susy,” she said, smiling as she flicked her blonde pony tail over her shoulder. “I don’t like jam and cream together in a sponge cake.”
Well, I did. I bit into the gooey sweetness and licked my lips. PoorOlly, I thought. His birthday would not be as happy as he had hoped.
As teenagers, we went round in a group. Table tennis and badminton at the youth club saw us change partners with little thought of romance. We joined the tennis club and sat around drinking lemon and lime, so much more sophisticated than cola, when we weren’t playing mixed doubles.
The next summer was the year we began partnering each other with no points to score.
Tony Ross and I became an item but Kate didn’t have any staying power.
Then Tony’s pal Tim got four tickets for a pop gig and offered them to us if we could get Kate to go as his date.
She seemed pleased and we made a lighthearted foursome… until Tim went to Bristol University and Tony went to Edinburgh.
There were phone calls back and forth and we eventually did meet up at Christmas. By then Kate and I were also busy studying. We started college and that brought new experiences, new people. Kate lost touch with Tim but
Tony and I still saw each other when we could. We got Kate a few dates but she seemed to get bored very easily.
“What could possibly have been wrong with that one?” I asked after a particular dishy guy got dumped.
“He was a plane spotter.” She groaned. “Would you stand for ages at the end of a runway in the pouring rain?”
Hank – honestly! – a country and western fan, complete with heeled boots, got her interested in his kind of music for a little while. All too soon she sent him riding into the sunset.
Then there was the guy who didn’t believe in going to the cinema. He read film reviews on his laptop. When a film was deemed watchable, it was viewed in its entirety on the same laptop. That was usually on a park bench.
“I’d rather see them on a cinema screen,” Kate told him as the closing credits rolled for their relationship.
With our degrees gained, followed by teacher training, we got posts in schools ten miles apart. Kate bought a small flat overlooking the park.
I was still at home and saving hard. Tony had qualified and had a flat quite near my school. I spent much of my time there.
“How do you stick with the same guy?” Kate wanted to know one night as
“Kate’s a big, grown-up girl. She’ll find a man when she’s ready”
we ate toast and cheese in her flat. “I love him,” I admitted. “Does he love you?” “Oh yes.” “What does it feel like?” She looked at me intently. “Fantastic,” I sighed, hugging myself. Kate sighed too. “I think there’s something wrong with me. I must lack a button that tells me I should stick with a guy. Keep him interested in me.”
“You’ll meet him one of these days,” I assured her. “Just keep looking.” I resolved to keep looking for her too. One day my older brother emerged from beneath the bonnet of his latest old banger to ask, “That friend of yours, Kate – has she got a boyfriend?”
“Not at the moment” I frowned. “Are you going to ask her out?”
“Might do.” He smiled that lopsided smile he reckoned was sexy. He rubbed his oil stained fingers down his overalled thighs. Fancied himself something rotten, did my brother.
Tony heard all about it that night.
“I’ve been trying to get Kate dates for years and there’s my own brother, right below my nose, fancying her.”
“Kate’s a big, grown-up girl,” Tony said. “She’ll find a man when she’s ready,” and he pulled me closer as we sat together on the settee in his flat. “Leave her to sort out her own love life. Let’s concentrate on ours,” and he kissed me. I kissed him back and forgot Kate. She never did go out with my brother. Actually I don’t think he ever got round to asking her.
When Tony and I got married everyone said what a beautiful couple Kate and the best man made. They’d be walking down the aisle soon, they reckoned confidently.
Then the best man was posted abroad – and Kate had no notion to walk as far as that with him.
Then she fell in love. She phoned me in a great state of excitement. “Susy,” she breathed. “Oh, Susy, this is marvellous. It was love at first sight. I don’t believe I could be so lucky. Can you come tonight to inspect it?”
“Inspect it?” My head was reeling. “What is he, a robot?”
“It’s not a he,” Kate laughed happily. “It’s a cottage. There’s a stream at the bottom of the garden and fruit trees and roses and it has a wood burner, the floors are…”
“OK, OK.” I stopped her guided tour. “I’ll see it for myself tonight.”
I did wonder if it had a garret, and whether she would acquire a cat to complete the picture in my mind.
The cottage was all she had enthused about. Not content with buying it, she had plans to extend it. Just like the cottage adjoining hers.
When a gleaming BMW pulled in next door, I thought I had found the reason for the enthusiasm. But the handsome form emerging from the car was greeted at his door with a kiss from a pretty little brunette. Foiled again.
Once Kate sold her flat, Tony and I helped her move into the dream cottage. Over the weeks her euphoria increased – she had a glow I’d never seen before. Even Tony noticed her new happiness.
Preparing a chilli for our supper one night, she told us an old friend was coming to share our meal.
My eyebrows rose. Whatoldfriend? I wondered.
“His father did the building work next door but he’s retired and now Oliver has come home from working abroad to take over the family business.”
She was smiling, oh, such a smile and her eyes sparkled. I frowned. “Oliver?” My sixth sense twitched. Kate was positively beaming. “He wonders if you still like jam and cream in a sponge cake?”