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This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to persons living, dead or otherwise is purely coincidental. The ideas and thoughts that follow are pure fantasies.
© obohobo 2012
"Would you mind if I share your table, Pat?"
"Of course not, Carole, have a seat." Pat moved the brochure she'd been studying to give the newcomer more room, "How do you like working here?"
"Well, I've only been here a week but it seems okay and I get on fine with most of the others in the office. Are you thinking of taking a winter holiday in the snow?" she asked, eyeing the brochure.
"Not me, I'm much too old for that. My son's thirty in January and Bob, my husband, and I, thought we'd give him a holiday as a special present. He likes cross-country skiing and tries to go every year and doesn't seem to mind the cold. Says it makes a change from being in the dusty atmosphere at work; he's joiner at the Wills & Greton reproduction furniture works on the industrial estate and if he arranges it in good time, can usually take a holiday during the winter, especially after Christmas when work is slack. He keeps himself fairly fit but groans about his aching muscles when he gets back. Typical man!"
"Kim, my daughter's thirty in January too, January 14th. She's a nurse."
"Snap! John's birthday is the 14th, born at 6.13 in the morning."
"I pushed Kim out a little earlier, 4.36, about an hour and a half before you."
They spent the remaining half an hour of their lunch break discussing their children.
"John, my son, is a loner and spends most of his spare time making model farm carts and carriages. He does very intricate work on them and they look beautiful when they're finished but I despair of him ever leaving my home and finding a girlfriend and my having grandchildren. There are hardly any women where he works or in the model cart making club and he's too shy to go to a pub or a dance and I keep hoping that he might find someone on the skiing holidays he's been on, but so far he hasn't even mentioned a girl."
"I have a similar problem with Kim but for a different reason. When she was sixteen a man attempted to rape her and in her struggle he cut her face with a knife, leaving a scar down her right cheek. Between the rape and the disfigurement, which I think she over exaggerates, she stays at home knitting or doing embroidery. She's a help in the house, but Roger and I think she should be over the trauma by now and setting up a home of her own and like you, we'd like to see some grandchildren."
With lunch break nearly over and having discussed the problem in considerable depth, Pat suggested with a laugh, "Carole, why don't we do a little bit of matchmaking?"
Even at breakfast on the morning of my departure for Norway, a Saturday a week before my birthday, I had the feeling that something wasn't quite as it should be. Mother seemed very edgy and at last moment, she announced that we would be travelling in her friend Carole's car to the airport and used shopping in Cambridge as an excuse. "Why didn't she tell me before?" I mentally questioned, "She must have arranged it yesterday at the very latest." I tried to make sense of the odd things I'd noticed and particularly the fact that my parents paid far more for the holiday than their normal present especially considering I earned good money and normally paid for my winter skiing trips. Then she wouldn't let me in on any of the arrangements until the last minute and I only found out the name of the hotel they'd booked me in when she gave me the labels to fasten to my rucksack and hand luggage. "It's a birthday secret," she repeated when I asked. When the car arrived I noticed a girl in the back seat and as I put my two bags in the boot, saw a holdall and a case with similar tour labels and a girl's name and the name of the hotel I'd been booked to stay in written on them. "What's going on, Mum," I started.
"Get in the back and belt up," she ordered sharply and held the door open.
A worried looking girl dressed, like me, in winter sports clothing, sat on the other side of the seat. Instantly all the secrecy and hidden planning became clear and I'm sure the girl realised it too.
When we started off, mother confirmed my suspicions that the trip had been pre-planned to get us into a relationship. With her seat belt loosely fastened, she turned, smiled in a knowing way and said smugly, "Kim and John, you've been set up." She introduced us and insisted we shake hands; kissing wasn't practical with the seat belts. "When we found that you both had the same birth date, Kim you are older than John by 1 hour and 37 minutes, and for different reasons, you both had relationship problems, Carole and I decided to try being matchmakers and if it doesn't work, then no harm should be done, you'll get a free holiday, but we've booked you on the plane and into the hotel as a couple so you can get to know each other and maybe form a lasting relationship. Don't worry, Kim, you won't have to sleep with John unless you want to. It's part of a sports complex and the accommodation is mainly for students and school parties and the rooms are for two people in bunk beds, one above the other and with John being almost afraid of girls, I doubt he will deliberately climb into yours. Now, so that there are no major secrets, there are two things you should know about each other; John, Kim has a scar on her face from knife wound during an attempted rape years ago which she thinks disfigures her and her memories of the struggle to fight off her rapist, keeps her away from men." Kim immediately covered her face with her hands and I felt sorry for her, but mother ploughed on, "Yes, Kim, we thought it better for him to know right from the outset and not find it out a little at a time. John's problem, Kim, is that he is extremely shy with girls and I'm pretty certain it will take a little while for you to get him to say more than a few words but, once he's become comfortable with you, he should speak normally like he does with me. What I am certain of is that you will be safe with him, even when alone in the same room of a hotel otherwise Carole and I would never have agreed to this."
For a while she explained more of the reasons for 'setting us up' and tried to insist we held hands for the remainder of the journey but after a brief handshake we retreated into our corners. Fuming with indignation but hiding it, the same as I usually did, I pushed myself as far back as I could and kept quiet. Kim protested vehemently at our parents interfering with her life but in the end sat quietly when the two mothers ignored her. At first we stared unseeingly out of the side windows but I gradually glanced more frequently at her, although neither of us spoke, partly because Pat and Carole talked incessantly. Not ever having been close to a girl of my own age, she looked like any other perfectly normal girl, well woman really, probably a little on the short side, with neck length dark hair and glasses with fashionable frames but wearing her bulky cold weather clothes, I couldn't tell much about her body and, although I tried to get a sneaky look at her disfiguring scar, it was on the side away from me and partially hidden by her hair. "She seems very nervous and I suspect it has more to do with her rape trauma than the scar," I decided without any confirmation.
For the rest of the journey, my mind played with various scenarios, none of which I expected would happen, given that she didn't wish to be with me and, while I often imagined having a girlfriend and lover, I doubted it would happen with her even with us being thrust into each other's company.
My mind quickly pieced together the little scraps of information. "So that's what's up. I wondered at Dad and Mum paying for a holiday for the big 3-0 birthday as they put it, but I didn't suspect any of their plans until we arrived at Pat Grant's house and she appeared with her lanky son carrying a rucksack with a similar colourful tour label to mine. At breakfast when mother said we were picking up her friend from work and the pair of them were going shopping in Cambridge on the way back from the airport, I believed her. Gullible me. They're putting us together and hoping one and one will make one. Some hope of that happening, not with him cringing in the corner."
.... There is more of this story ...