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Learning to Love

"It is a story of new beginnings."

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I’ve been alone all my life. Mum and dad were killed in a car accident when I was only three years old. I can’t even remember them. All I have is a pewter frame, a family heirloom, with their photograph. With no living relatives, I was sent to an orphanage.

There was no love in that cold place. Sure there was food and clothing, a roof over my head, but that was all. None of the nurturing, caring, soft touches a parent provides.

I learnt, early on, that if you wanted something in life, you were the one to provide it. I suppose I built up a protective shell, cocooned myself in layers of hardness so that no one could hurt me again.

When I was old enough I moved out, getting a job in an office, where I could hide in the anonymity of paper and files. The city hid me from the world. In that concrete maze of steel and cement and isolated busyness, I survived. The set of keys to my tiny apartment was the link to the only place where I felt I belonged.

Then I met Lisa. Friends had never played much of a role in my life until she breezed into my life. She lived across the hall. At first we exchanged polite hellos each time we passed, but as time went on, I became more comfortable in her presence. Maybe we weren’t close, but we would meet for coffee and exchange ideas. Lisa was bright, bubbly, outgoing; the absolute antithesis of me. She was hard to ignore and I accepted her as a friend.

It was Lisa who introduced me to Harry. “You’re lonely Susie,” she said. “You need to get out and about. You spend too much time at home. It’s not good for you.” I argued but Lisa was an insistent sort of person. “Just meet him. You never know.”

We were to meet at the park. Lisa said this was neutral ground, non-threatening. If I wasn’t happy I could just walk away. Run away, more like it, I thought.

It was a fine and sunny day. I didn’t know what to wear, but Lisa said jeans were good. I fussed with my hair, feeling edgy.

Lisa was standing with Harry near the duck pond. He looked kind of cute. Lisa introduced us. “I’ll meet you here in an hour,” she said, as she whooshed away.

I eyed Harry, nervously. I felt so stiff and uncomfortable in his presence. This was way out of my comfort zone. What did I say?

Then he looked at me, turned his full gaze on mine. Harry had the most delicious eyes, eyes that seemed to look into my soul, eyes that drew me to him. Deep brown, with a gentleness that I never knew existed. Words suddenly seemed to mean nothing. They weren’t needed, we just connected.

After that first meeting, the pond became our favourite place. We liked to sit and watch the ducks glide by. It was a peaceful spot, one where we could enjoy each other’s company without the noise and bustle of the city intruding.

Sometimes we went for long, slow walks out in the countryside. We’d drive out to a quiet area, where the trees met over our heads and the spring blossoms wafted vibrant scents. Those were special times, where we got to know each other better.

It took me some months to feel I could trust Harry. Trust has never been my strong point. But as time went on and he stayed around, despite my sometimes erratic feelings, I relaxed. Harry was in for the long haul.

At the park he introduced me to several of his friends, one being Alex. The three of us would sometimes meet for coffee, or just to sit and talk in the park. Harry had expanded my horizons. I was beginning to accept more people into my circle.

I liked to hold Harry’s face in my hands, nestle close to him, feel his warm breath on my cheeks. His eyes would look into mine and I’d be lost, lost in the wonder of it all.

I never thought I could fall in love. It wasn’t something I planned or even expected. But Harry taught me to love, and to love with such depth, such feeling that my whole body seemed to ache with it.

The day came when Harry made his move. I think he felt that I was ready for a bigger commitment. We were down at the park. I was seated on our favourite bench. Harry appeared more restless than usual, he kept fidgeting and getting up and walking around. “Sit down Harry,” I said. “You’re wearing out the grass.” He touched my hand, looked into my eyes.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

He didn’t answer, just gazed around the park, as if looking for someone. It was then I saw Alex walking slowly towards us. My heart skipped a beat.

Harry dashed across the grass towards Alex. That’s when I knew that Alex was the man for me. I rose from the bench and followed my golden retriever into Alex’s arms.

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