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Don't Look Back

The sky seemed to be more blue from inside the church and she sat for a minute listening for his footsteps. He was taking forever. But return he would, she knew it. If the Reverend Mother would ever let him go, that was. While she cooled her heels in the chapel waiting for him!

It was one of those embarrassing moments which occurred from time to time in their rather – let’s face it – unconventional relationship. She, the unwanted guest, kept out of the way while he was – if not exactly wined and dined, well, tea-and-sandwiched by a couple of adoring nuns. But after tomorrow, this would cease. Forever!  She laughed inwardly to herself, remembering the venerable sister’s cold, enquiring stare when she had arrived at the convent by David’s side. Of course she had no business being there, it was his final courtesy call on this convent community before entering the seminary. But he’d pleaded with her to accompany him and wait for him while he got the ‘duty visit’ over and done with. Then they could go to some convenient place and savour their last few moments together.

The Reverend Mother had tactfully suggested that she “might like to wait awhile in the chapel” whilst David was attended to with full convent hospitality.  Linda grimaced. It was cold in here. She felt like she could murder a cup of tea!

'Clearly the uninvited guest!' she muttered to herself. Yes, it was annoying the way people viewed her close friendship with a boy earmarked for the priesthood. “Never mind!” she told herself. “It’s only for today. Tomorrow, everything will be different.”  It wasn’t that she wasn’t enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, or that she didn’t appreciate the beauty of the historical building. It was just the insult, that label of ‘unwanted visitor’ against which she chafed. It didn’t even seem to occur to David, the cynosure of all eyes, that he had embarrassed either herself or the nuns. Well! She could tolerate this much. Until tomorrow!

It was over! He was back. Standing, signaling to her at the chapel door. His directness annoyed her. She wasn’t keen on being summoned away from here either. It really was a lovely old building and she’d enjoyed sitting here in a way, drinking in the peace and sombre splendour. He was bidding copious farewells and thank-yous to the Reverend Mother and two other nuns. “Well, you won’t be saying Mass for a long time yet!” laughed the Reverend Mother. “But do come around give a talk to the students. The young people today need proper guidance and good role models!” “Oh, sure! As soon as I can,” he agreed. “When I get home I’ll be in touch.”

Leave taken, they walked out of the convent gates and down the road to get the bus for the town centre. They walked at a moderate pace, taking in these last moments.

“Well, Father Dave! Or rather Father Dave-to-be! Who’s that fallen woman going around with you?” she laughed, imitating the speech and gestures of the Reverend Mother. Dave looked serious.

“I never said that! You think I told them that about you?”

“Oh, don’t worry, I know that!”, she replied. “Anyway, what business did I have there? It was your call, not mine." They waited for a couple of minutes at the bus stop. The bus arrived. They boarded and were at the town centre within fifteen minutes. Now! The question of where to go for a final chat. Dave volunteered that he was “not very hungry’”

“Well, why would you be? The nuns practically stuffed you with sandwiches judging by the plates I saw going into that room from my lonely little seat in the chapel! Well, I’m going in for a burger. You can do whatever you like!” she declared. In a fast food restaurant, she ordered a burger with French fries and coffee. He just drank coffee. Helping himself, (without asking) to some of her French fries now and then. They sat in companionable silence while she ate, totally enjoying each other’s presence. It was hard to believe, in a way, that by this time tomorrow, this companionship would be in the past tense.  Both at the crossroads of life, their paths had lately crossed. Drawn together by chance, this temporary relationship had become as necessary as breathing to both of them. Until tomorrow.

Food over, they got more coffee and talked. Of course that was not the done thing in a fast food restaurant, but they didn’t care. They had a long discussion about their hopes, dreams and plans for the future. He envisaged a life of prayer, study and Christian ministry. She wanted to relocate to the city, get a flat and the job as a media professional for which her education had prepared her. Most of all, she wanted to reach her potential and ‘become something.’ She did not want to become a frustrated, bitter woman in middle age, having missed the bus, putting all her eggs in one basket and investing in a relationship which had prevented her from fulfilling her ambitions,  leaving her depleted and angry.

Her mother was a living example of this. Not to mention her aunt Katy, a homemaker, deserted in middle age as her husband absconded with a woman who clearly had never compromised on anything. She looked at him. He looked at her. They were not lovers. Would never be. Oh, they had almost kissed once, maybe twice, but good sense had prevailed.  They got up and left the restaurant, and began the walk to her house. About half an hour was the usual time it took. They reached her gate. He held her hand and smiled.

“It’s confusing!” he said. “I felt so sure! But in these last few weeks, something has changed. Linda! Should I go tomorrow or not?”

“Yes, go!” she replied. “You’ve waited for a long time for this. If you don’t go, you’ll regret it. If it works out, that will be great. And if not, at least you’ll know. This is your dream. Don’t get distracted now! Just walk on and don’t look back!” She kissed him on the cheek, patted his arm and walked through the gate into her house. She opened the door with her own key and let herself in. She didn’t look back. Not even once.

This post originally appeared on Write Away on WordPress on 21st September 2009

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