She had not changed.
In my minds eye the picture was thirty years old, a fragment of a dream, of what might have been. Yes she had aged, but so, had I, and if the truth was admitted, the intervening years had not been over kind to either of us. I was heavier than I would have wished, and my hair 'distinguished' grey; her face had more 'laughter' lines and she wore her shock of white hair proudly. Her figure, slim as ever still looked good. Of course she had changed, but still somehow she had not changed.
"Hello, how are you?" I said - Wonderful opening line, I thought wryly, but what else to say.
"Not too bad - on my own now. Getting used to it as time passes." She responded.
"Would you like a drink, if it's still there, I remember there used to be a tea-room close by." I suggested.
She laughed - the same gentle, tinkly laugh I remembered - "No," she chuckled, "that's been a dry cleaners for over ten years now. The inn is still there though, and yes, they do a good afternoon tea."
She was silent as we walked round the corner and down the quiet, leafy lane to the old inn. We decided that it was too nice to closet ourselves indoors so we elected to sit in a corner of the garden, shaded by the old tree.
"I'll go and order for us."
I watched her as she walked across the garden, my groin twitched as I once again followed that delectable ass with my eyes. 'Damn it!' she still made me hungry for her. I knew then that even if it was only once, I would sleep with her one more time. She returned, smiling as she crossed the garden; "About ten minutes," she said, "fresh scones just out of the oven, strawberry jam and cream. I know you can't resist them."
I laughed and said, "You remember then."
As she rejoined me and sat in the seat opposite I was treated to a flash of leg as she sat down - they were still in good shape, right to the top or bottom, dependent on your point of view.
She looked across at me and her mood became a little more serious - "Yes. I remember, I could never forget. It was a long time ago wasn't it, but I think of you as if it were yesterday, you know." She put her hand up to stop what I was about to say and I saw as she looked at me her eyes glistening in the sunlight, just a faint touch of moistness showing. "No, I will never forget, in fact," and she stood up so as to move and help hide any emotions beginning to surface, "recently you've been in my thoughts most days."
She was behind me now and I felt her hands on my shoulders. She caressed them gently, almost absentmindedly as she spoke softly. "I had to call you and ask you down to meet and talk once again - especially after reading the piece in the paper - I am sorry she's gone, I know how close you were."
"Yes." I replied, trying to hide my feelings and then, failing miserably felt the tears come again. Someone once said that grief is like seasickness - when it strikes, it takes over totally, and just when you think you have everything under control it bulldozes you into submission once again. I felt her arms tighten around me and hold me and was somehow aware of her own tears mingling with mine.
A little while later as things slowly evened out we both became aware that the afternoon tea had been discreetly left for us. No words were necessary as I poured that much-needed drink. The emotion of the moment had drained us totally. She giggled as she took the proffered cup and then, lifting the serviette, wetted a corner and cleaned the mascara where it had smudged onto my cheek as we had clung to each other. I took it from her and returned the gesture - "You look rather like a startled Panda, caught in the rain."
She laughed again. "How long are you going to stay?"
I was caught out by the direct question and could only reply that I had not given much thought to the matter. In truth I had not even thought about it - the hundred and odd miles journey down had only taken a scant couple of hours and I had not expected to linger, indeed in some ways I had deliberately not expected to stay over. I said so.
"Oh," was the only comment, then "will you eat with me tonight before you return - I won't take no for an answer."
Rather later we walked slowly up the hill and the view, as always, took my breath away. We stopped, silent, and looked out over the bay to the far distant side - twenty and odd miles away. The hills blue and remote in the haze of the late afternoon. Beyond on the mountains clouds, dark and tall threatened summer thunder. We turned and walked up the hill to the once ruined coastguard station now renovated and her home.
I sipped a cold beer as she clattered in the kitchen preparing our meal, sat on the window seat with the panorama of the bay below. Some quiet music played and I smiled as I recognised my old favourite - Acoustic Alchemy - Natural Elements, it fitted the mood somehow.
Her hands touched my shoulders and stirred me from the reverie - "Penny for them?"