The day I celebrated my fortieth birthday I considered myself a very lucky man. I lived with and was married to an extremely beautiful woman who had given me four lovely kids. I adored all five of them; they were my life and anticipated the next decade as much as I had relished the last.
By the time that next decade had passed, my life had changed dramatically and not for the better. My wife, who I had thought loved me as I did her, decided that she no longer did, in fact, didn't think she ever had. I had been her ticket away from a domineering mother. She liked me, even cared about me but definitely didn't love me. She told me this one evening during a minor argument and then she could not understand why I was so devastated. She was quite happy for our marriage to continue as before, understandable I suppose, as nothing had changed for her, well other than me knowing how she truly felt. The following year was a nightmare, easily the worst year of my life for me. Sadly I made it hell for my wife and the kids, as I tried and failed to come to terms with the sham my marriage was and apparently had always been. We split up after that year, as it proved that regardless of how much I still loved her, and I did, I could not live with her, knowing that it was not reciprocated.
There followed a brief period with lots of dates, always with considerably younger women, a few of whom shared my bed for short periods, as I tried to regain my self-respect in the misguided belief that this would a young woman would do that as well as prove my manliness. All it did prove was that I was not cut out for the swinging life; I am by nature monogamous and for me sex, as important as it was in my life, needed to be part of something greater. After one evening of sweaty sex with a twenty-one year old, followed by post coital conversation, I realised that there was more than just physical years between us. It shows how sad I had become because I can't even remember the girl's name. I love conversation and this girl, who was intelligent enough, just did not have the life experience to hold my interest beyond the initial 'courtship'. This led me to my current situation, one of celibacy.
At fifty-one my celibate life only occasionally got to me, but the previous month had been worse than normal. Hannah O'Connell was the main reason for this. She had started work in our office about three months earlier and I was immediately attracted to her, at least physically. This did not bother me at first, as there were many nubile women that attracted me but none enough for me to be tempted from my chosen path. I'd put Hannah in her mid thirties, a woman's prime in my eyes; she was petite, about 5'4" and just over 7 stone (about 100lbs) with long fiery red hair and a lovely freckled face.
It was only when she came to work on my team that I really got to know her; she was a Business Analyst and moved between various Development teams on a regular basis. As the lead developer it was my job to liase with the BA so we did quite a lot of talking and not all of it work related. It turned out that she had the same sarcastic sense of humour that I had and it wasn't long before insults were flying between us, much to the amusement of my team. I have always been like that, especially with my family and it was great to find that Hannah, like my own children, could easily give as good as she got. My type of humour needs to be two-way for it to work; if I insult someone and it isn't returned then it stays as just an insult and not banter, when the latter is my intention. I am usually pretty good at deciding who will react well and who will be offended, though I must admit to a few disastrous miscalculations.
It wasn't long before I started, first to look forward to our meetings, and then to plan a few that weren't strictly necessary. Initially I had no ulterior motive beyond her company at work but it wasn't long before I wondered about the possibilities of seeing her outside of work. I knew that she was single and currently unattached, though the latter situation amazed me. What scared me was her age compared to mine, and her beauty compared to my lack of it, to say nothing of the fourteen-inch height difference. Unlike Hannah I am far from petite standing at 6'6" and weighing about 18 stone (250lbs); too much of that weight was around my middle, testimony to poor eating habits and an even poorer exercise regime.
I was a little sad that Hannah had joined our team close to the project's completion as it wasn't certain that she would be involved in my next one. I did consider that it might be for the best if I wasn't tempted by her wit and looks too often. There was just that something special about the way we clicked and I knew that for the first time in many years I had met someone who could probably tempt me from my self-imposed exile.
As is usual in our company, when a project is finished successfully the company usually funds a night out for the entire team involved in its delivery. As our offices are in the middle of nowhere and its staff commute in from all over the area, the norm is for us to go into the nearest big city, which is Birmingham. Because of England's abysmal public transport and the company's strict drink rules they also offer subsidised hotel rooms as part of the evening's entertainment.
In the past I have always either missed the functions altogether or just stayed an hour or so before heading home. Most of the team are under thirty and much of the activities have little appeal to me, especially the main one of getting drunk as swiftly as possible.
I had already told our Project Manager that it was my intention to give this one a miss too and she told me that she had kind of expected that that would be the case.
What changed everything was when Hannah came over to me one morning a few days before the planned celebration. This was very unusual, as her desk was nowhere near mine and all other meetings involved preliminary emails or Sametime (internal IM).
"What's this I hear about you not going the party?" She asked as soon as she was within hearing range.
I nodded and explained my position.
She then asked me a very surprising question. "Will you change your mind if I ask you to?"
I thought by looking at her and from her tone that the request was genuine, but given our mutual insults and wind-ups I wasn't positive. I thought about her question and quite quickly knew that I would. I still asked her why would she want me to change my mind.
She looked me in the eyes and I felt faint. Hannah has emerald green eyes, she says to remind her of her motherland, and when I looked at them this time they seemed to drag me into them. She answered with a simple sincerity I could not doubt. "Because I want you to go."
I knew that I was beginning to have feelings for her before this but from the moment I stared into her eyes I was confident that I could easily love this woman, in fact I was sure I already did, not the all-powerful love that I had for my wife, but a tender love that I wanted to cultivate and grow. As usual I tried to use humour to hide these sudden emotions surging through me.
"I didn't really want to go but I can't compete with witchcraft or magic, so if the little Leprechaun demands my presence then so be it!" I answered with a grin, using one of the pet names I had for her.
She lit up the room with her smile and said simply without any of our usual repartee "Thank you!" before heading back to her desk.
I spent the rest of the morning thinking about Hannah's request and just what I should read into it. By lunchtime I had managed little or no work but had reached the monumental decision that I needed to ask Hannah out. If there was even the slightest chance that Hannah felt something for me beyond friendship then I had to find out. I would forever regret not doing so. She would be the first woman that I'd asked out for nearly a decade and my nerves were tense to say the least. I also knew myself well enough to know that I needed to do it today before I managed to convince myself that it would be a big mistake.
I quickly fired Sametime up and asked Hannah if she would meet me for a quick coffee as soon as she had chance. After a few question marks as her initial response she agreed to meet me in the cafeteria in ten minutes.
Typically I was waylaid by one of the managers on my way out and ended up about ten minutes late. I grabbed an espresso and headed towards Hannah. Her smile lightened my soul and I immediately felt more at ease than I had a few minutes earlier.
"So what's with the clandestine meeting?" She asked with a grin knowing that no meeting in our busy canteen could ever be thought of as clandestine.
I'd made my mind up not to beat around the bush so I said. "For the first time in ten years I've met someone that makes me want to give up being a hermit." Hannah was well aware of my chosen lifestyle.
She grinned and asked. "What poor woman will have to put up with this new David then? I suppose you want me to smooth your way."
"Poor woman is right, but she is a real Celtic witch and merits someone as bad as me. Besides, I'm doing the rest of mankind a favour by offering myself as her victim."
"Celtic witch eh? There is only one woman around here that matches that description and I hear that she has taste. What makes you think she'll lower herself that far?"
She was still smiling as we continued talking in a similar vein and I felt that everything was going fine when for no apparent reason my nerve went. I felt insecure, that I had made a mistake.
Hannah, like all women, found it simple to read my face, and seemed to instinctively know my doubts.
.... There is more of this story ...