The Flame that never dies
The pretty young woman dropped her glove on the pavement. As she stooped to collect a young man beat her to it.
“Let me get that for you. It’s bad luck to pick up a glove you’ve dropped.”
He handed her back her glove and received a big beaming smile in return. The woman tilted her head slightly to the side and said. “Thank you.”
The young man was taken aback by the reaction. He was called Keith Stone and his experience with the other sex was limited to a few stolen kisses at school dances. He was not normally so forward with women and the glove situation was not a pick up technique. It was an old wives tale that he heard and he didn’t want any misfortune to befall the woman.
“Would you like to go for a coffee?” asked Keith. Keith’s confidence was new found and he wondered where he had got it from. Never in his wildest dreams would he ask a young woman to go out with him. What made it even more remarkable was that the young woman was as beautiful as any one he’d ever seen.
“Sure.” Keith got another sunshine smile. “My name’s Diana.”
“I’m Keith.” Keith tried hard not to make his voice unsure. The kind of girl like Diana doesn’t drop into your lap every day. “There’s a nice bar/cafe around the corner. Wendigo’s.”
“Nice. Have you any other tips on how I can avoid having bad luck?” Diana asked good-naturedly.
“It’s bad luck to sit on a table. They say that if you sit on a table you won’t get married.” Keith was embarrassed after saying this. He had met Diana a matter of moments and had already mentioned marriage. Diana would know he had never sat on a table in his life. He was expecting the elbow any second.
“You’re fun.” she said without a hint of sarcasm. Keith was having all his Christmases at once.
They went inside the eatery and Keith ordered two coffees. Diana pretended to sit on the table before telling Keith she had to go to the Ladies room. Keith sat down counting his lucky stars. He soon began to count in the thousands because Diana was gone a long time. Twenty minutes had elapsed. Looking round the crowded place there was no sign of her. Keith was distraught. Had she done a runner? Keith asked the waitress if she could check the toilet for him. The waitress returned with the news that the Ladies room was empty.
And so was Keith’s life. He had had rejections and let downs in the past, they didn’t compare to this. He had made a connection with a raving beauty and she seemed so nice. It hurt him that he had been deceived. This incident would play over and over again in his mind all through his life. Many times he had imagined a different ending. The most popular being him and Diana leaving the cafe hand in hand.
Keith had a few girlfriends as the years passed. With each one all he could see was Diana. What would Diana be doing right now? Was Diana unhappy? She was in every film he watched, every book he read, every song he heard, every room he breathed in. She had a grip on him that he found hard to escape from. The amount of times he had revisited that cafe in the forlorn chance…
There was one girlfriend he had that was called Monica. Keith had worked out that the last letter of her name was the same as Diana’s. Monica was attractive but had one little fault that irked him. She forced him to watch TV movies with her. TV movies were her way of life. Daily she would sit dazzled by second-rate thrillers with titles like, A Mother Locked up, Broken Vows, Family at War, Intimately Yours, Runaway Rascal. Cheryl Ladd and Donna Mills starred in every other vehicle. Monica and Keith’s relationship petered out. There was no cinematic adventure in it at all.
Hermione the sneezer didn’t last long in Keith’s affections. Hermione sneezed like a whoopee cushion. She didn’t expel much gunge from her blowhole when she blew her top, only leviathan sneeze noises. Keith figured that Diana would have a nice, petite feminine sneeze. It would sound something like a pleasant Artemis. Bless you, thought Keith.
As happens in life, Keith moved on. The day came when he did not think of Diana once. This multiplied on various occasions into two and three days at a time. A week! it got to the stage that there were only fleeting references to the blessed Diana. He’d got over her at last.
His latest flame was Marie. With Marie he had found happiness. An average looking girl with long black hair and pretty blue eyes she loved Keith for his good nature. “I’m Keith on you” she would say during their many pillow talks. She kept upping the ante with variations on the theme. “I’m very Keith on you” “I’m really Keith on you” “I’m absolutely Keith on you”. Keith loved nothing better than Keith on Marie, stealing her fire with his own “I’m Keith on you” remark.
It was while browsing the perfumery shop for unguents for Marie that Keith’s world turned upside down. There, by the Gucci stand stood Diana. Twenty five years had passed since the day she left him with two coffees. She was as stunning now as she was then. He could not see one single piece of aging on her. She looked up from the counter and his heart was racing when she stared his way. Then she said.
“Mum, are you nearly done yet?”
She was talking to the woman behind him. And there she was, the real one, leafing through the gift sets, twenty five years older: Diana. That quarter of a century had done little wrong to his dream girl. She was, if it were at all possible, even more beautiful than before. Maturity had given her another arrow in her quiver to match those striking good looks.
Keith said “Diana.”
Diana was surprised. “Do I know you?
“It was a long time ago. We, kind of, dated. I bought you a coffee.”
“I don’t remember.”
“It was Wendigo’s. It’s, uh, closed down now.”
“Mum.” the younger version of Diana was getting irritated. Keith continued.
“I don’t think you liked me much. You said you were going to the bathroom and you never returned.”
“Ah. I remember now.”
“I sent the waitress in to see if you were there but…you were gone.” Keith tried to put a pragmatic voice on it, hiding the hurt that he carried in his soul.
“That is funny, when I got out you had gone and I didn’t blame you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Diana smiled. That beautiful beaming smile of old. Keith was bewitched again. It was as if all that had happened in their lives in-between was nothing. Diana went on.
“The downstairs toilet was full so I had to use the one upstairs. Turns out it wasn’t to be used but I didn’t see the “Do Not Use” sign. It had a faulty lock and I was locked in there for about an hour before a member of staff freed me. I had a feeling you might have thought I’d slipped away so I wasn’t surprised you had left. The waitress you called must have just checked the downstairs toilet. If only she had remembered about the upstairs loo things could have been so different. That is funny, don’t you think?”
She beamed another ray. From the back of the store a male approached them.
“Come on Di, we’ve been in here all day.”
“Alright then, bossy-boots.” She took the man’s hand and said to Keith. “Nice meeting you again.”
And with that Diana with her, presumably, husband and daughter turned away from Keith and disappeared from his life again.