We had moved from the window seat, into the main bar and sat at another table, talking non-stop about children’s radio, where we’d lived as children (me Cambridge, him Cornwall and Surrey) beer and pubs, previous places we worked (him Hampshire then another school in Oldham, me at a pickle onion factory in Manchester, an inner-city school also in Manchester, a language centre in London) pubs and beer… the time flew past and time was called, e.g. the bar was closed. We stood up to leave, and no!!! I had left my bag somewhere, my very expensive bag!!! Fortunately it was still in the window seat, an amusing little incident and probably the first time he saw a different side to me, forgetful, absentminded, careless…
“Would you like to come back to my place for a coffee?” he asked. Um… should I? Um… probably not… but we had had such a pleasant evening… um… OK, yeah, that would be good, but I don’t want to stay late, things to do tomorrow.
He lived in a small terraced house in a small Pennine village, just over five miles from my bungalow. I didn’t know what to expect, but whatever I had imagined, seventeen cats was not one of them. His ex-wife had left them when she left him. As a colleague I knew this already, except for the cats. He went to make coffee and I cleared a mountain of stuff from the saggy leather settee and perched on the edge, intrigued and a little appalled by a small mountain, a pyramid of cigarette ends in front of the hearth. I eventually realised that they concealed an ashtray… single bloke lifestyle, I decided.
He came through with two coffees, sat in the armchair beside the fire and picked up the TV remote.
“I just need to catch up with the cricket,” he said.
Well, this wasn’t what I had expected, and when the cricket update finished and he asked if I liked the band Cream and put on a video, I realised that nothing of this evening was anything at all like, not even remotely like what I had expected.
It was late and I asked if he would give me a lift home and he jumped up (well, not exactly jumped) and picked up his keys. He drove me the few miles to my bungalow and then walked me to my front door as I rehearsed in my head what I was going to say when he asked to come in.
We got to the front door and I took out my keys.
“Well, goodnight, it was a great evening, glad you liked The Old Saire Inn,” he said.
“Thank you, yes I enjoyed it very much, and the beer.”
“Goodnight,” and he turned and went back to his car and I went into my house and shut the door.
I stood in the hall for a moment, and realised I was smiling to myself. With a bigger grin, I went to the bathroom to wash and to clean my teeth before bed. That night I had the most curious dream. I dreamt he was standing at the end of my bed and he was looking down at a tiny black-haired baby which he held in his arms.
Two years later I remembered this dream as I looked at my husband standing at the end of our bed cuddling our little son. As Jane Eyre said ‘reader, I married him.’