|A Mysterious Lady in Skegness
Short story by Bob Attewell
This story is about two women.
My wife Nancy was a speaker of pearls of wisdom and seeker of a better life. She left me for another man.
The other woman, Jade, was a speaker of few words. She literally fell into my life while I was on holiday in Skegness.
Nancy was a great one for sayings. Even in her absence, they would come to mind in certain situations. She’d have had a field day with the things that happened in Skegness. I can hear her now repeating her favourite words of wisdom... “Faint heart never won fair maiden”...“There’s no fool like an old fool.”
It all started on a bus. It was travelling quite fast, so when it braked suddenly, there were some harsh words said. Strangely, the woman who was affected most by the incident reacted the least. She was thrown into the aisle. She looked quite shaken and embarrassed, but made little fuss. I helped her back into her seat.
When my stop came, the woman got off as well. I walked beside her and offered some small talk. She did not reply and I wondered if the bump had hurt her more than anyone realised.
Entering the caravan site, I said goodbye and went through the gate beyond which lay the camp shop and laundrette.
I found myself pondering on my lack of luck romance-wise. In truth I was a shy person. I would have liked to have got to know this lady, but making friends didn’t come easy to me. “Few friends, many acquaintances,” Nancy used to say.
To my surprise I sensed that the woman was behind me. This excited me and I wondered whether to stop and wait for her or keep walking and see what happened. My usual reticence won the day.
I decided to put her to the test. I would weave between the caravans and see if she followed me. I was disappointed to find she was not there when I glanced back. So disappointed, in fact, that I turned back to see where she had gone. Then – total embarrassment. We met face to face as I rounded a van.
I didn’t know what to say. I just looked at her and she looked at me. “Are you staying on the site?” I managed to ask eventually. She didn’t answer. “Would you like to pop into my caravan for a cup of tea? Perhaps you could do with a rest after your bump on the bus.”
Again there was no reply, but she seemed to understand and walked with me.
I let her in the caravan and sat her down on the florally decorated settee which ran the length of the dining room area and curved sharply to become seating for the table in the corner. I was glad I’d had a clean-up before I went out. I’m not the world’s tidiest person – no need to be on my own – but I was concerned about what other people thought.
“A cup of tea’ll do you good. Sugar?” I asked. Better make it two, I thought in the silence.
I decided not to question her any more. It wasn’t doing any good anyway. For some reason she wasn’t saying a word, and sooner or later I’d got to find out why. I passed her a mug of tea and sat quietly at the table sipping mine.
A minute or two later she spoke her first words. “Thank you for being kind to me.”
Nancy always said a cup of tea had amazing qualities.
“That’s OK,” I said. “You had me worried. I thought you were suffering from amnesia.”
“I needed to know I could trust you,” said the woman. “When the bus nearly crashed, you didn’t get angry and swear like the others, so I thought you could be the one to help me.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“My name is Jade,” she replied. “Please do not ask me many questions. I need a place to stay tonight. I cannot go home.”
“You’re welcome to stay here tonight, Jade,” I replied, “but tomorrow I go home. My week’s holiday is over. I have to vacate the caravan by ten o’clock.”
“I only need to stay tonight; tomorrow I go,” she said.
“What a difference a day makes,” said Nancy’s voice in my head. Sometimes I felt so timid and alone, and now here was this lady who had come into my life without any effort on my part. She was here in my caravan for the evening, and no one else need know anything about it. A gift horse, Nancy would have called it.
The next morning there was no time to lose. I had to get myself and my belongings out of the caravan and make sure everywhere was clean and tidy for the next occupants. I was glad of Jade’s help. But my pleasure turned to despair when I realised she had disappeared. She had gone out with the bin bags and failed to return.
I searched for her as long as time would allow, but I knew instinctively she had taken her chance to slip away. Soon it was time to have a last look through the caravan to check I was not leaving anything behind. Secretly I was hoping to find a note she had left me, but there wasn’t one.
This mysterious lady had come and gone like the proverbial thief in the night and I was left with memories of a strange and bewitching encounter.
But if this incident had been a surprise, it was nothing compared to the surprise that awaited me back home. I walked in to find Nancy sitting on the settee. She jumped up as I entered, startled by my arrival.
“Bob, dear,” she said nervously. “I’ve come back – if you’ll have me. I’ve been a fool. The grass wasn’t greener. Can we let bygones be bygones? Forgive and forget?”
Now I was the one who couldn’t speak. Seeing my wife again was the last thing I had expected. I began to wonder what had gone wrong with her new love, the younger, more exciting man she had left me for a year ago. I had always yearned for her return but it had seemed too much to hope for. Was this really happening? Before I could say anything she spoke again, in typical proverbial fashion.
“Silence is golden,” said Nancy hopefully. “When love is greatest, words are fewest.”
“Of course I’ll have you,” I replied. “Besides, it’s like you’ve never been gone.”