Pause For Love!
Coffee Break Tale
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.