“I look at you and see the rest of my life in front of my eyes.” Unknown
She was early. One hour early than the agreed time. She stood momentarily at the door scanning the stylish decorated restaurant, possibly looking for a strategic place to sit where she could watch the door and easily catch her friends as they arrived. A cute young waiter came to her rescue just as she was perching herself on a nearby table for four. He smiled politely at her. She smiled back. He extended his hand at her and introduced himself as Mark. She shook it feebly. He was holding a neat folder on his hand, he looked at it and back at her, then he sweetly said, “Miss Kate, your reserved table for four is right here.” He pointed at a corner.
“Thank you,” she whispered and proceeded to it. She almost forgot that, Lucy her friend, the organiser of today’s dinner party had called earlier and reserved a table for four. How the waiter knew her name she didn’t dare ask. She was in no mood for a conversation, but she secretly guessed that Lucy must have tipped the restaurant that she, Kate, would be the first to arrive. “She is always the first to arrive,” She must have told the hostess. The first? She shook her head slightly. Mark, the cute waiter helped her sit and handed her the drink menu. She looked at the wine list. She wanted something strong today. Perhaps a tot of tequila would lessen the tight knots she felt in her stomach. A tot? Heck, she wanted the full bottle of tequila. She just wanted to drown herself. Today was meant to be fine dining with her friends, and so she mastered all her strength and beat the temptation and instead ordered a fine bottle of red wine, an Italian name that she could not even pronounce. A few minutes later, Mark had poured her a glass. She checked her watch she had more than fifty minutes to herself before the rest of the girls arrived. That was exactly how she had wanted it. To be alone a couple of minutes and just immense herself in her thoughts as she sipped her drink. She knew she would finish the bottle before the rest arrived. She intended to.
Today was her birthday. She was 40. She sipped more wine. She was proud of herself and her achievements. Sitting there, sipping her wine, listening to soft piped music from the background, Kate started reflecting on how she got to where she was today.
She was a successful business woman. An overachiever running a lucrative communication business. The business was five years old. She reflected on her life. More Wine. She had been employed for a better part of her life and had risen up the corporate ladder and made herself a sort after business manager. At some point she had gone back to school and bagged her Masters degree in Business. At the peak of her career she quit her job.
She was a hungry woman. Hungry for what? She wondered to herself. More wine. Hungry for success? Hungry for love? She wasn’t sure. More wine. She had registered her communication and consultancy firm and it picked like wild fire. She reminisced on that day that she drove into a car show room in her modest Toyota and drove out of it in a brand new Range Rover paid for in cash by herself. A girl has to reward her hard work, She smiled. More wine. Her business picked. Her clients loved her. She was doing superbly great, she thought to herself. More wine.
Today she is 40. The big 4-O. Her friends are celebrating her. She is the last one of her four close friends to hit it. The rest were already a couple of months settled in between the four and the zero. More wine. Of all her friends she was the unmarried one. But she was the most successful. Built on self success, her Instagram bio read. More wine. her friends had husbands and little kids running around. They had families, She had a career. More wine. More thoughts.
By this time she was drowning more wine than she could pour. Phil. Phil came to mind instantly. He loved her or so she thought. They had been together for almost a decade, for better part of her late twenties and mid thirties. She was faithful to the man. He wasn’t to her. At some point of their relationship they had lived together. She thought they would get married and have kids. She had a plan for her life. A girl always has a plan. Her’s was to finish school, get a job, get married have kids, get a house with a picket fence and a dog. All this before she hits thirty. More wine.
Things didn’t work out with Phil. She wondered out loud to herself why she had stayed in that relationship longer than she should have. She blamed herself for missing all the signs. The signs were there. I didn’t miss them. I ignored them, she said to herself. More wine. She went through a lot of emotional abuse from the man. The unfaithfulness that came with it. The numerous women she had to fight off him. The two miscarriages she had. The torture, the mental turmoil that came with it and the financial burden she bore in that relationship. She stayed through years of abuse and neglect from a man she cared so deeply and who said he loved her but whose actions spoke otherwise. Yet she stayed throughout the years.
Then, the beatings came. He would drink himself silly through out the night. Came home in the wee hours of the morning and harassed her throughout. More wine. He would blame her for loosing his job. He hit her not once not twice and the beatings became a regular. Yet, she stayed. She thought about the emotional pain she went through covering up for his actions. How it tore into her like a knife to flesh. She couldn’t understand how she worked twice at her job and shinned in her career while at the same time hiding her dark personal life. More wine.
One day, she woke up. Tired of all the excuses. Tired of crying and being depressed. Tired of making up cover stories why she had bruises on her face and arms. Tired of being used by a man she thought loved her. Tired of living a lie. She made a decision that would change the course of her life. She packed her bags and left her house one early morning when Phil had gone out. That was her turning point. Like a determined woman to rebuild her life, she never looked back. She gave up on love. She gave up on men. She was going to build her life right from the bottom. That was seven years ago. More wine.
She looked at the wine bottle, it was half full. I am an optimist, she chuckled to herself. As she was pouring the last drop, she looked up and saw a tall well-built gentleman staring at her, smiling down at her. She thought it was the wine playing tricks on her. He broadened his smile. She looked at her watch then at the door. She wished that, that second her friends will walk through the door. She ignored him. He didn’t move. She sipped her wine. He took a seat. He extended his hand. She looked at it suspiciously. By now, she was sure she was hallucinating. The wine has got to her.
“Kate, its me,” He said excitedly as he shook her hand.
She sipped more wine.
“Its me, Tim. Oh my,” He threw his huge arms around her and embraced her tiny frame. It felt awkward. Her mind was not processing. She knew she should push him away, but for some strange reasons she didn’t.
He seemed familiar.
“It’s been decades,I have missed you!” He was now laughing and holding her hands. Staring into her eyes. He was talking hurriedly. She couldn’t make out what he was saying. She was confused. She lifted her glass, it was empty. I need more wine, she thought. He continued talking animatedly while holding her hands. He seemed very excited and happy to have seen her.
She looked at her wine bottle. There was no single drop left. She sighed. Tim. She knew she should know the guy but she wasn’t quite sure whether it was the wine with the strange Italian name that was making her think funnily or she was dreaming.
Then she looked squarely at his handsome face for the first time. It hit her. Tim.
“Oh My God, Tim!” She almost let out a scream when she realised who he was.
Her first love. The guy who was crazy about her in high school. Her high school sweetheart was right there staring at her. Her love of her life was holding her hands! She had thought she would marry this guy. Back in the day, when they were young and restless teenagers they loved each other. They even had names for their kids and the places where they would live when they got married. They had planned out their lives down to the last details. But as fate would have it, Tim left immediately after high school with his family to The States and they lost touch. They never communicated. They both grew up and life happened uniquely to each of them.
He was there, holding her hands, talking. It seemed surreal. Tim, her true love was sitting next to her. He was looking deeply in her eyes, studying her face. It felt like high school again. Kate felt a teenager, a shy, young, naive girl in love. She was speechless. She was motionless. It felt like a dream. It felt like the world stopped for them right at that moment. It felt like they were just the two of them, two lone people. Two people who seemed like strangers drawn to each other with so much to say.
Wait, how did he find me? She asked herself.
Excited, Confused, caught in a mix of emotions, it dawned on Kate that her friends had set her up.
To be continued…..