“So, from your understanding of the upper class stereotype, do you think we love in the same way that everyone else loves?” The laugh had gone and the fire was once again the object of her attention. Stupidly, it made me somewhat envious. It was obvious that she wanted to look anywhere else but at me and she suddenly seemed quite nervous and vulnerable. That look. What was it? So rarely had I seen this look before. She looked…forlorn? Yes, that was it. She looked forlorn.
It didn’t suit her.
“I’m afraid that I am the very last person to be able to speak of love with any kind of authority. I’m sorry.” Here was I taking to a stranger and yet, somehow, it felt instinctively right to be completely honest. She drew her eyes away from the fire and let them rest upon my chest. If I didn’t know better, I would have said she was looking for my heart.
“How so?” her voice nothing more than a whisper.
My life with Gem, told as an anecdote, came tumbling out. As Penny sat in silence, I soon became oblivious to her presence and spoke more to myself than to her. As my sorry tale came to a close, I apologetically explained about reading the email “it was wrong and I know I shouldn’t have done it, but…” and then proceeded to explain the crux of its contents whilst omitting the gory details, she could garner them for herself “…and so here I am, mending my broken heart with Richie.”
Many a true word said in jest as they say.
It was a few moments before she spoke. Not that I really noticed nor cared for, in my head, I was back staring at the computer monitor and reading that email for the first time - once again.
“So do you still believe in love?” Her question penetrated my thoughts although it took me a second to realise where I was.
“I was taught to believe in love, my mum is a bit of a romantic. My dad too, if truth be told although he would never readily admit to it. I thought I was in love but seeing now how easily I have walked away from it makes me realise that I truly wasn’t. It is all but impossible for me to determine whether it was the idea of love that I loved or if it was the person providing this possibility; that ‘someone to love’ as it were. It really is a rather complicated notion and one that generates more questions than answers for me.” The depth of my own answer had surprised me and I took a few seconds to consider what I had said.
“Actually, on reflection, forget all that. Yes, I believe in love but only in the way as described to me by my mother.”
“Which was?” Her sincerity was almost palpable as she shifted in her seat and crossed her legs underneath herself. Only now did I notice how big these chairs were, or maybe it is how small she is, it was certainly one or the other. Her glass had been abandoned on the table and she rested her head in her hands, supported by her elbows on her knees. It really was quite remarkable how completely at home she was in these stifling surroundings. She seduced me into believing that we were old friends simply discussing life; thus providing a comfort and confidence to speak my heart and mind without fear of judgment or ridicule.
It was a beautiful feeling.
“Love is when you can look into the eyes of another person and only see the reflection of your own soul. I rather like that idea and believe that it will happen for me one day.” In saying this, one of the unruly crowd hanging behind her caught my attention.
“It sounds like you believe in fate. I didn’t think that a man like you would.” She struck me as genuinely surprised.
“Another stereotype perhaps?” I said teasingly, my eyes too slow to catch hers as she looked back into the fire. The moment gone, I continued “I certainly do believe in fate, and why not? If I didn’t, why else would we be having this drink? I had never even heard of this estate until last week and now here I am enjoying myself with, quite literally, the Lady of the manor.”
“So you are enjoying yourself? Good. Me too.” As Penny said this, she settled back into her chair and placed her hands, one over the other, in her lap. She still sat on her legs. It amazes me how she manages to make even this pose seem so effortless yet graceful. I have no idea how she does that.
“So what is next for you, love-wise?”
“Who knows?” Rather than feeling bitter and consumed with hurt and regret, I just feel relieved. Obviously she is intent on using her career to climb the social ladder and that doesn’t really interest me, being honest. I have always been more interested in being ‘content’ rather than ‘happy’. ‘Happiness’ seems to be such a fleeting emotion, whereas ‘contentment’ has a more enduring appeal.” Penny was nodding in agreement at my distinction between these two ideals. “It seems that I had five months to get used to being single but only now it’s official. To be totally honest, I am thinking to join a dating site and see what happens. I am not averse to the idea of giving fate a hand, you know? Although I have absolutely no idea why I am telling you that.” I really didn’t and laughed in embarrassment at the absurdity of my need to admit this to her - a complete stranger.
After graduating with a couple of useless degrees in law, Alexander McCabe left his Scottish homeland and wandered nomadically around the globe to experience the rich diversity of culture that the world has to offer. For the moment, it is Toronto's turn to provide a suitable abode for him and the wife that he picked up along the way...
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