I say goodbye to my friends from work as we walk down the painted brick steps. Usually, I go for a drink and hang around Leicester Square. But I think I can do with getting to my bed, sinking beneath the covers and having a good sleep.I love this time of year because the shop buzzes with customers and I get to meet lots of lovely people who love art. The only down side is that I’m on my feet most of the day. Thank the lord for trainers and flat shoes- without these, I’m sure my feet would be hanging out with all the poor soles killed by insanely tall and painful high heels.
It’s post Christmas and late December, so central London is the place to be. There’s chatter in the air, music plays from bars and the delicious smell of food almost makes me change my mind about going to bed. As I turn a corner, the frosty wind sweeps across my face and I decide to walk faster as a way of keeping warm.
What was I doing at this time last year? Ahead of me are pretty decorative plagues hanging above. The plaques have words on them and the word that sticks out to me is ‘Love.’ That’s what I was doing this time last year; I was busy being in love with my then to-be-husband as we decided to celebrate the New Year in Berlin. It’s a long story how we broke up after being together for a year and a half . Those two years felt like forever. We realised that neither of us wanted to get married just yet. I loved him but not enough. And that was the end of everything. The funny thing is I was so sure that I could see myself spending the rest of my life with him. I was hanging on to something that ended months ago; I didn’t want to believe it. Here I am now a year later. Happy? Absolutely. Do I miss him? Sometimes, especially when memories creep up on me. The good thing is we’re still amicable.
I reach an alley way with restaurants and cute independent shops busy with people. The Christmas season is still in the air as fairy-lights stream from one building to another. Maybe it’s the way the lights beam faintly, the chilly feel of the wintry air or the cobbled ground. For some reason I feel like I’m in a movie scene waiting for a cheesy proposal. I can’t imagine someone proposing to me again. I quite like being single and I haven’t met anyone that makes me think, ‘I could love you one day.’ I guess God knows the plan.
When I’m at the end of the alley style street I accidentally bump into someone, momentarily losing my balance and dropping my hand bag.
Both of us bend down to pick up my bad at same time and knock foreheads.
‘I’m sorry’, I hear a male voice say.
‘No, I’m really sorry’, I say. As he helps me up I catch a proper glimpse of him. This man is dressed as if he stepped out of the 1950s; he is classically handsome and wears a long overcoat.
He hands over my hand bag and,as if seeing me properly for the first time, his eye open in astonishment. ‘Hold a sec. Meryl?’
I study his face again and that’s when it hits me. Heath from uni. What a tiny world.
‘Oh my word. Heath.’ We laugh and hug each other. We went to some art society during first year before he left for drama school. He was always great to hang around and apparently charming. We were friends but not super close. ‘How have you been? Loving the style by the way.’
‘I’m great, Meryl. Thanks, you haven’t change one bit yourself. I’m doing the stage thing. It’s a hard business but I love it. Are still in the art and baking scene?’
‘Brilliant. I’ve got to see you perform. Anyway, I work in an indie art galley shop and I do personal projects on the side.’ It’s as if we saw each other yesterday. A man like him must be taken. I mean, a golden personality and good looks. What’s not to love?
There’s a silence between us and I feel a tad bit self-conscious. Heath said I look the same. That’s a compliment, right?
‘Well’, he begins, ‘I’ve got a performance in a couple of weeks. It would be great if you came to see it. We could also catch up’, he says with a nervous smile.
‘That would be fun’, I say. Why am I nervous too? Come on Meryl. This is not a date. He is not implying that at all.
I take his mobile number. ‘It was nice seeing you after so long’, I say.
‘Same here. See you soon, okay?’
With that we go our separate ways. I look behind me and among the lights the decorative sign with the word ‘Hope’ catches my eye.