WRITTEN BY KATE FINNEMORE
A teenage love consigned to nostalgia? Not when you have a pair of young Cupids on the case!
“Tell me about the boy you were in love with back then, Mrs Monroe,” my neighbour’s daughter Eryn said as she stirred the concoction in the pan on the stove. She and her brother Sam were in my kitchen helping me make brownies.
“What – again?” I said.
She nodded happily. “Again.” Aged eleven, almost a teenager herself, she loved my stories of my teenage years back in the seventies. And I loved telling them.
Well, he was tall and very good-looking. His hair was dark, quite long, and curled down over his collar.
I was smiling as I remembered. “We drove around in a Sunbeam Alpine he’d bought second-hand. A convertible. Very sporty. Carnival red. He loved that Sunbeam.”
“Football?” Sam prompted.
“Yes, he was a centre forward. A brilliant player.”
“And his name was Mick Williams, right?”
Eryn sent her brother a long look across the kitchen and I frowned. “Is there something going on? Something I should know about?”
She shook her head, but Sam coloured up and I was left wondering.
“We were very much in love,” I said. “But it wasn’t to be. He felt stifled by this small town and went to London. I met and married Harry, and we had thirty-five very happy years together before he…”
A knock on the door saved me from finishing. It was the kids’ mum.
“Hey, Mary,” she said, kissing me on the cheek. “Hmm, that cooking smells good. Have Eryn and Sam been behaving? Have they invited you to the party we’re having next Sunday?”
“You will come, won’t you?” Eryn said.
“Bake a lemon drizzle cake for it. Please,” Sam added.
I saw the kids several times during the week that followed, and I was puzzled by the air of excitement I sensed in them. “This isn’t a special party, is it? Your mum’s fortieth or something?”
“No. Nothing special,” Eryn assured me. “But wear your prettiest dress.”
So I put on a soft mauve maxi dress with a swirling paisley print that took me right back to the seventies.
“There’s someone the kids would like you to meet,” Eryn’s mum said as I deposited a freshly baked lemon drizzle cake on her kitchen table.
She drew me through to the lounge. “He’s just moved here. He’s retired but works at the petrol station near their school. That’s how the kids met him, buying fizz and crisps on the way home from school.”
He turned towards me as I was ushered into the lounge, and my breath caught in my throat. His hair was thick and white, while the lines on his face revealed a man who’d led a long, happy life.
“Mary,” Eryn’s mum said, “let me introduce you to Nick Williams.”
“Nick,” I murmured. Not Mick.
I smiled and shook my head as he grasped my hand. The kids, bless them, had almost got it right. “Don’t tell me. You had a carnival red Sunbeam Alpine when you were younger. A convertible.”
He looked startled. “I’ve had lots of cars. But yes, I had a Sunbeam Alpine.”
“I bet you played football way back when. Centre forward. And you’ve moved down from London.”
“You’re right. Goalie, though. Not a forward.” He laughed. “But hey, what is this? Are you some kind of mind-reader?”
I was laughing, too.
Call it an inspired guess.
“I’m a Londoner born and bred,” he said. “Had a garage there but sold up when my wife died. I moved here just over a year ago to be closer to my daughter and her husband. Family’s important.”
“It is indeed,” I said, thinking of my two sons, both living a short distance away.
Eryn came bounding up. “Mrs Monroe’s a brilliant cook, Mr Williams.” She was almost hopping up and down with excitement. She and her brother had engineered this meeting, I thought, and she so much wanted it to go well. “You must try her lemon drizzle cake.”
“Eryn.” My tone was gentle. I didn’t want to hurt her. “Mr Williams’s first name is Nick. Not Mick. I’m afraid he’s not the boy I fell in love with all those years ago.”
“Oh.” All at once, her eyes welled up, and I put my arm round her shoulders.
“Don’t cry, Eryn.” Nick’s voice was low, reassuring. “After all, who’s to say what might happen in the future?”
My eyes met his. I saw the warmth and kindness in them, and a thrill whispered across my skin.
“That’s right,” I said, and there was the faintest hint of a tremble in my voice. “Who knows what the future holds?”