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Baby I Love Your Way

If it hadn't been raining that day, I would never have caught the bus and consequently never met up with Ben again.

We first met five years earlier, in the summer of 1978. It was the night of my best friend's twenty-first birthday party. We all had similar celebrations during our final year at university. Mostly they took place in one of the city's small airless clubs.

Emma though had parents with a country house, complete with swimming pool and a lighted paved patio, where we slow danced to the strains of, Baby I Love Your Way, from the sweet-voiced singer on the sound system.

Later in his tiny garret bedsit, he pulled down my dress. My spread fingers explored his smooth chest and broad shoulders, as naked and entwined we kissed in the moonlight that spilled through the open window.

Now here he was again. Sitting next to me on a bus, on a rainy afternoon in April.

'Victoria, wow, this is a surprise, it must be...”

“Five years, this summer.” I interrupted, laughing unnecessarily.

“Right, it was a great summer.  Just before I went to America. You remember I was offered that dream

I remembered very clearly. I was happy for him and part of me even believed we would stay in touch. Just like we always planned.

“Well, the dream turned into a bit of a nightmare towards the end. I didn’t want to completely sell my soul to the company, so back I came. I start a new job next week.”

He phoned me the next day and the day after, always when my husband was away. We talked about his new job. Like my husband, he was a civil engineer, though unlike Carl he seemed genuinely interested in my fledgling career as a personal development counsellor. It was strange the things we had in common. A liking for sushi restaurants, plans to visit Egypt and a desire to try skydiving,  were just a few that came to light.

One afternoon he phoned as I was leaving the shower. That night, naked and sweating in the dark, I begged Carl to take me harder. But as my nails bit into his back, it was Ben's black shock of hair and intense blue eyes that I imagined hanging over me. 
A few weeks later he told me about his new flat.

'It’ll be great to have my own front door again.”

“When’s the big day?” My voice was steady,  though the hand holding the phone told a different tale.

“Pick up the keys, this Friday. Give me the weekend to get straight then come and be my first visitor.”

All that weekend my thoughts kept returning to Monday. Several times I decided to phone and cancel, claiming some alternative call on my time.

Yet in spite of all the danger, Monday found me alone with Ben for the first time in five years. At first, I followed him round the small flat murmuring pleasantries. But soon his enthusiasm won me round and made me believe that this could indeed be the start of an awfully big adventure. When we kissed it was like exploring terrain that absence had made unfamiliar. 

Lots of cards arrived today. It’s strange how a birthday often makes you think of the past. Just a quiet one this year I think. Dinner at the new sushi restaurant in town. Then maybe later we can lie back on the sofa, stream that old Peter Frampton album and Ben and I can party like it was 1978.



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