Pause For Love!

Cof­fee Break Tale

My Weekly - - Contents - By Tess Ni­land Kim­ber

Queu­ing in the Septem­ber sun at Arun­del Cas­tle’s en­trance, Mark slid an en­ve­lope into my hand. I guessed what it was. My fin­gers itched to open his birth­day card but as I tried to, his hand cov­ered mine.

“Please – open it later, Kara,” he whis­pered.

“You shy?” I queried, smil­ing into eyes not quite brown; not quite green.

I was anx­ious to read his words but re­spected his hes­i­ta­tion. It was early days in our re­la­tion­ship. Newly divorced, I wasn’t sure I was ready to “move on” but my feel­ings for Mark had am­bushed me and my re­solve – which I of­ten re­peated to my best friend Joanne, and any­one else who’d lis­ten, that I didn’t want to get in­volved af­ter Con­nor – had com­pletely melted away.

“Me? Shy?” Mark smiled, his dim­ples deep­en­ing.

Blush­ing, he cov­ered my lips. His gen­tle kiss was like a full stop.

“I wasn’t ex­pect­ing that,” I said, pulling away as re­luc­tantly as a day-trip­per leav­ing the beach while the sun’s still shin­ing. “The kiss or the card?” “Both,” I teased. The me­dieval majesty of the cas­tle swelled be­fore us. Shuf­fling in the queue we even­tu­ally reached the ticket of­fice.

“We want to see every­thing,” Mark told the man in the peaked cap.

“You’ll need Gold Plus tick­ets,” he replied as Mark in­sisted on pay­ing. “My treat – for your birth­day.” “Thank you, that’s kind. And re­ally ro­man­tic – to visit a real-life cas­tle.”

We wan­dered off, catch­ing tan­ta­lis­ing glimpses of su­per tidy gar­dens. De­spite my in­ter­est in the Cas­tle, its trea­sures held less ap­peal than he did for me. I hoped he felt the same.

In­side the grand hall, we stud­ied var­i­ous in­for­ma­tion dis­plays.

“I’ve read it twice but haven’t taken in a word,” Mark grinned, pulling me close.

I laughed. I was the same; forc­ing my­self to con­cen­trate on the guide’s com­men­tary as we me­an­dered dimly lit cor­ri­dors. My hand was itch­ing – as im­pa­tient as a row of ex­cla­ma­tion marks – to stroke his cheek, learn the con­tours of his face, the curve of his chin.

Ours was a mod­ern ro­mance. Af­ter meet­ing on­line, tex­ting and email­ing had robbed our first date – ten pin bowl­ing – of un­fa­mil­iar­ity. Was I ready, I con­stantly ques­tioned, to fall in love again? I trem­bled. Nerves?

I scoffed at that. I was a grown woman of… well, I was an adult. When I’d dated as a teenager the pres­sures were ob­vi­ous.

“Back then you had to get to know some­one,” I’d told Joanne af­ter Zumba, count­ing the dat­ing stages on the fin­gers of my now ring-less hand, “Hope the boy liked you as much as you did him.”

“Yes,” Joanne agreed. “And at the end of the evening the pres­sure was to keep the kiss to just a good­night kiss.”

I smiled, re­mem­ber­ing her words. It was the first time I’d told her about Mark.

“We’ve changed and so’s the dat­ing game. There are dif­fer­ent pres­sures now.”

Tech­nol­ogy meant I knew Mark be­fore we’d even met.

“Do you come here of­ten? doesn’t cut the Cole­man’s any­more, Kara.” “No… Am I ready for this?” Jo smiled, kindly. “Time’s passed since Con­nor… Does Mark make you happy?” “Oh yes,” I said, quickly. “Then,” she laughed. “You’re ready!” Now I longed to be in Mark’s arms, feel his vel­vet lips on mine, as we viewed the Cas­tle’s an­noy­ingly in­hab­ited rooms. Even in the cor­ri­dors we were watched by knights in ar­mour. “The ban­quet­ing hall,” droned the guide. “I’ve been hurt, Kara,” he said, sud­denly. “I wasn’t sure I wanted this yet but I’m dy­ing to get to know you,” he breathed softly.

Slowly, I smiled. So Mark too wor­ried about mov­ing on. Hear­ing his con­fes­sion, I liked him even more. In­stantly, I was swept back to my teenage years, try­ing to judge the sit­u­a­tion. Silently, I stud­ied him – the ques­tion mark hang­ing in the dusty, cas­tle air. “Yes,” I breathed, stretch­ing to kiss him. Jo was right. I was ready to move on. A re­la­tion­ship with Mark held the prom­ise of some­thing spe­cial. Of course, there were no guar­an­tees. We mightn’t last. We might not be as com­pat­i­ble as we hope. But we’ve both found the nerve to start a new para­graph. To­gether.

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