“Is this seat taken?” The voice broke through Mick’s musings, and he looked up to see two smiling brown eyes gazing down at him.
“Oh, right, no,” he blustered, half-standing to welcome the newcomer as she sat. He couldn’t believe his luck – she was the One who had occupied his thoughts for weeks, and here she was sitting with him. He had dreamed of this moment, and here it was actually happening.
“It’s Michael, isn’t it?” her voice floated through to him again.
“Yeah, ‘Mick’ to most folks. You’re Sheila, right?”
“Shona to most folks,” she laughed. Her voice had a throaty, musical quality. He admired her dark brown hair gently waving in the soft breeze. These tables by the river were crowded with students and staff out enjoying the brief sun. It felt positively Mediterranean, especially seeing sail boats and ferries in the distance, along with a seemingly ever-present frigate in the bay.
“You could imagine you were on the Med rather than Helensburgh this weather,” Shona remarked. Mick started. It was as if she were reading his thoughts. He hoped she couldn’t see what was currently on his mind!
“So, tell me about yourself,” he said abruptly.
“Like what?” she smiled back at him.
“Let’s see… What do you teach? And, where were you before?” he asked, adding to himself “…before you walked into my dreams.”
The next minutes were spent sharing information. Shona had just moved back from Aberdeen, where she’d done massage for five years; this was her first teaching job. Mick himself had been lecturing in communications for years. They hadn’t quite got to personal details before Shona headed off to class. Mick followed slowly; his second years were always late.
The next day found Mick at the same table; the weather was holding, and Shona appeared almost on cue.
“The seat’s free,” Mick intoned, as she approached. She smiled. It was as if there wasn’t an intervening evening or morning, the conversation picked up right where they left off. Details of failed marriage and half-baked relationships, on Mick’s part, were discussed and set aside.
He finally asked at one of their lunches (always in sunshine), “How about dinner Saturday night?”
“Funny, I was going to ask you!” she said. Mick figured so.
The night arrived. He’d chosen the very posh Grande restaurant in the City, quite on purpose – they’d have to share a long cab ride home to Helensburgh. He was at the restaurant ten minutes before their meeting time and settled into a comfortable daydream at the bar. He imagined they’d be a bit worse for wear after a good few drinks, they’d stagger out into the Glasgow drizzle and giggle their way into a cab, and kiss and tussle in the back like teenagers. Nearing home, his, he would casually suggest she come for some ‘refreshment’ before continuing home. One kiss would lead to another….
After twenty minutes he got restless, checked his phone – no messages. After forty minutes, four unanswered calls, and five shots of whisky, he left the bar despondently and headed out in the dark. He wasn’t sure if it was the drizzle making his eyes wet; either way, he didn’t see the cab as he stepped off the kerb….
“How’s our patient today?” The voice broke through Mick’s musings, and he looked up to see two smiling brown eyes gazing down at him. He liked Nurse Shona, her visits always cheered him. She paused before taking her accustomed chair by his bed and jokingly said, “Is this seat taken?”.
By Zee McCartney
Clydesider’s short story competition was judged by Donny O’Rourke, Dalmuir Library’s writer in residence. Thank you to all entrants, Zee receives a handcrafted wood fountain pen.
The short story competition title for the next issue is ‘The Alternative’. Entries should be no more than 600 words and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 3 2017 with ‘short story competition’ in the subject box. All entrants should live or work in West Dunbartonshire.