Dinner For Two
This charming complete story by Susan Wright has a twist in the tale.
They had shared a lovely meal, but the evening hadn’t turned out as Valerie had expected . . .
JANE was surprised when her mother didn’t greet her with her usual smile. “What’s the matter, Mum?” she asked. “Oh, I’m feeling miserable,” Valerie explained as she stepped back so Jane could come in. “I feel like I haven’t got anything to look forward to – and I keep thinking about Fred. It’s nearly a month since he let me down.” Jane held up a paper bag. “This will cheer you up. I was at the shops and bought doughnuts, so it’s not all bad.” Valerie managed a smile. “I’ll put the kettle on.” Jane followed her into the kitchen.
“Mum, you’ve got to stop dwelling on what happened with Fred.”
“What didn’t happen, you mean.”
Jane glanced round as she opened a cupboard to take out some plates.
“I know you’re disappointed, but he obviously chickened out, or decided he didn’t want to meet up after all. You’re going to have to accept it, I’m afraid.”
Valerie sighed and sat herself down on a chair at the table.
“I know, but I can’t stop thinking about him. He sounded so excited when he sent me that e-mail.”
“Yes, but e-mails are funny things, Mum. People tend to type –”
“And I didn’t think he was the sort of person to chicken out,” Valerie interrupted.
“I know,” Jane sympathised, remembering that evening.
She and her mum had waited in a restaurant for two hours for a man who never turned up. Valerie nodded. “He obviously had a change of heart, but he could have sent another e-mail to say he wouldn’t be coming. What if I’d been sitting there on my own?”
“Yes, but maybe he couldn’t work out what to say.”
“Sorry would have been a start!” Valerie huffed.
“Saying sorry’s not that easy, though,” Jane said, taking the doughnuts out of the bag and putting them on two plates. “He would have felt obliged to give a reason and . . . well, that might have been hard.” Valerie sighed. “I know. All the same, I felt a bit of a lemon. I got all dressed up for nothing, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but at least we had a nice meal,” Jane pointed out. “That tiramisu was amazing!”
“It was.” Valerie smiled. “I keep meaning to find a recipe to try making it myself, but I’ve been so busy the last few days, and anyway, I couldn’t get on the internet last time I tried.” “Why not?” “No idea.” Valerie shrugged. “My e-mails didn’t seem to be coming through, either.”
“It’s probably OK now,” Jane said. “I’ll have a look at your laptop in a minute and see if it’s working.”
“I hope it is. I keep hoping I might get another e-mail from Fred. He might have been ill for the last month.”
“He might have.” Jane didn’t sound convinced. “Or he might just have changed his mind, Mum. He might have decided he couldn’t face seeing you again after nearly forty years.”
Valerie sighed again.
“So why did he send me that e-mail in the f irst place, then?”
“Maybe he just got overexcited when he got hold of your e-mail address and found out that you were widowed, but then got cold feet. I mean, it would have been awful if you hadn’t got on, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, but I’m sure we would have,” Valerie replied. “I loved him at one time. I can’t imagine he would have changed that much even though he’s lived in America for such a long time. He’s still my Fred, isn’t he?” Jane raised her eyebrows. “He’s not your Fred, Mum. You both married somebody else, if you remember.”
“Yes, and I don’t regret marrying your dad for a moment,” Valerie said before taking a sip of her tea. “But Fred and I are both on our own now and your dad was never as passionate as Fred.”
“Too much information!” Jane exclaimed, getting up to fetch her mother’s laptop. “I don’t want to know what you got up to with Fred, but I’ll never understand why you didn’t marry him.”
“Because he wanted to work in America.”
“You could have gone with him!” Jane called from the living-room before reappearing with her mum’s laptop. “Mind you, I’m glad you didn’t or I wouldn’t have been born, but –”
“I was too scared,” Valerie interrupted.
Jane opened the laptop and peered at the screen.
“Yes, like you were too scared to e-mail Fred to ask why he didn’t turn up. You might find out now. Look!” She pointed to the screen. “The internet’s working, and there’s a message from him. Shall I open it?”
“No!” Valerie slid the laptop away from her. “I don’t want you reading my e-mails.” She stared at the screen for a minute. She couldn’t resist.
She clicked on the e-mail, read it and frowned. “I don’t understand.” “What does he say?” “He’s confirming our meeting! He’s excited about seeing me and he’s brought me a present from America!”
“What? So did the e-mail get lost somewhere?”
“I don’t know.” Valerie swivelled the laptop round so that Jane could see the screen. “I just don’t understand.”
“Oh, I think I do,” Jane said a moment later. “He writes his dates like an American. They write the day and the month the other way round. We got it all wrong. Fred’s going to be at the restaurant tomorrow!” “Tomorrow?” Valerie gasped. “Yes. You’ll have to get your glad rags on again.”
“Oh!” Valerie laid her hand across her chest. “Will you be able to come with me again?”
“Of course.” Jane grinned. She pushed a plate towards her mum. “Looks like you’ve got something better than doughnuts to look forward to now!”