A Beautiful time at the Seaside

Romance happens for an old couple at the seaside, in this story. The lady is a widow and the man is still single.

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1. A beautiful time at the Seaside

“A Beautiful Time at the Seaside”

by

 

Michael Bannister

Gladys looked out of the National Express coach window and at the motorway traffic.  She’d left Victoria Station, London, an hour before.  The weather had cheered up since leaving London.  The rain had stopped and the sun was now peering out between clouds.

Back in London she’d left behind her lonely existence, ever since her Bert had died two years ago.  The house seemed empty without him, but in her mind it was fully furnished with lots of memories of the happy days. 

The coach had now stopped and Gladys could see a family in a car along side her.  The children in the back seat were playing with a sandcastle maker and bucket and spade.

Mark, Gladys’s only child, was now living in Canada with a wife and two children.  She missed him.  About a year ago they came to stay with her for three weeks.  Those three weeks were the happiest three weeks of her life, with her grandchildren blowing away the dusty cobwebs of her house with youthful shouts of joy and laughter.

Mark and his wife, Linda, brought back happiness to her life.  But after three weeks things slowly went back to the way it was.  She dreaded going back to her empty house after a week’s holiday at the seaside.  That was now, she thought, but given six days in which to think about things positively in the calm settings of a seaside resort, things might seem different.

She saw her reflection in the window and smiled because even now she was missing a cup of tea in her kitchen.

When she stepped off the coach two hours later, she found herself on a road alongside the sea front.  Pulling her wheely suitcase behind her, she headed for the nearest taxi.

“Excuse me,” she said to the driver, through the taxi’s open window, “could you take me to White Sands B&B?”

“I could, but it would only take a minute.  It’s just round that corner,” said the taxi driver humorously.

He was right, Gladys saw White Sands as soon as she turned the corner.  The young couple who owned White Sands was most obliging, and he even took her suitcase up to her room for her.

The room was small but cosy with a single bed draped in a yellow bedspread, a table and chair and tea and coffee making facilities on the sideboard.  There was also a small colour television on a shelf fixed to the wall.  Gladys settled in for the night.

The next morning she went down to the dining room.  There were three tables in the dining room and an elderly man was sat at one of them.

“Good morning,” he said, turning in his seat to see her better.  “Won’t you join me for breakfast?”  His hand was indicating one of the three empty seats.

Gladys, who never looked her pensioner age on the worst of days, thanked him and sat down opposite him.  She knew her facial highlights were her big blue eyes and, and despite skin that sagged a little, her short blond hair was in fashion.

He had such a warm smile, she thought.  She told him her name and he told her his. 

“They’ve got two kinds of breakfast here, Continental and full English.  I’ve already tried the Continental – cardboard, sour margarine and jam.  The full English will set you up for a day at the seaside, trust me,” said Charlie.  His mischievous green eyes were like two apples bobbing about on water, never still for Gladys to catch with hers.  They were as buoyant as his grey, curly locks.

“I’ll have the full English then,” announced Gladys.  “By the looks of it, it was good.”  They both looked at his empty plate with the knife and fork neatly placed together upon it.

“Good choice,” said Charlie.  “Tea?” 

He poured her a cup of tea.  “Though tomorrow’s my last day here, I don’t mind showing you around, that’s if you don’t mind?”

That morning they went out together.  There was one place Charlie wanted to take her especially, to the funfair.  The last time Gladys had been on a Big Dipper was when she was a schoolgirl.  Could this be right, Charlie wanted her to ride with him on the Big Dipper?

“Come on, Charlie, we’re a bit too old for that, aren’t we?”

“No.  Definitely not.  Trust me.”

So they went on the Big Dipper.  Gladys didn’t know if her heart would stand up to all the motion, but she was surprised, it invigorated her and she loved it.  She wanted to go on it again, but Charlie put his foot down.

Later, at one of the stalls, Charlie won Gladys a big teddy bear.  They went on a few more rides, Gladys clutching her teddy and Charlie laughing and joking.  He knew of a good café where he’d had a good meal before, so he took her there.

Later that afternoon when they arrived back at White Sands, they were both exhausted.  Before Gladys went up to her room, Charlie told her he would be waiting for her in the conservatory.  White Sands had a small but comfortable conservatory at the back that looked out onto a well cared for garden.

There was nobody else in there when Charlie sat in one of the large easy chairs.  He smiled with satisfaction when he thought of the day he had just shared with Gladys.  He hadn’t had so much fun since, well, he couldn’t remember when.

“This is lovely,” said Gladys, as she walked into the conservatory.  She had quickly changed into a long, rose patterned, flowing gown.

“My, you look beautiful, Gladys, in such a lovely dress.”

She sat in the easy chair next to Charlie.  For a while they gazed out onto the magnificent garden, well aware of each other’s presence.  Then he broke the ice.

“Are you attached, Gladys, because I haven’t heard you mention anybody all day?”

“There was Bert, my husband, but he died a while back.  There hasn’t been anybody since,” she said.

“I’m sorry to hear that Bert died.  Did you have a long and happy marriage?”

“Yes.  What about you, have you got someone in your life?”  Though Gladys liked to think of her Bert, she somehow thought it was Charlie who she should be thinking about.

“I’ve had female companions all my life, but I never married, to my regret.”

“Why regret, Charlie?”

“I’ve never had a warm and loving wife to come home to.  I’ve never had wedding anniversaries or children to love.  I’ve missed so much of life,” said Charlie, not bitter at all.

“I fear going back home to an empty house.  It’s so lonely,” admitted Gladys.

He nodded his head in recognition.  “It’s the same story in my house.  We are a pair, aren’t we?”

They both laughed and found themselves looking into each other’s eyes.

“I’ve had a wonderful day, Gladys,” said Charlie from the heart.

“Me, too.”

“Tomorrow’s my last day,” he said, barely able to mention it.

Gladys, as if wounded, looked away from Charlie and back to the garden.  “Then we must spend tomorrow together,” she said, without thinking.

“Why?”  Charlie knew why, and so did she, but he craved for her reply, her inner most thoughts.  He felt sure she held tender feelings for him as he did for her.

“Look at the time, I wanted a bath before going to bed tonight.  I must be going.”  She stood up and walked towards the door.  “Goodnight, Charlie.”

“Goodnight, Gladys.”  He saw her reflection in the window disappear through the doorway and felt his heart sink.

Gladys awoke in the early hours of the morning to a dream she didn’t want to forget, so she went through it, from start to finish, feeling such a beautiful sensation of warmth and security as she did so.  Should I tell Charlie about my dream tomorrow or just stay quiet?  The question nagged at her all through the night and she never got any more sleep.

Charlie ate his full English right in front of her while she just sipped at a cup of tea.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat?” he asked again.

She just shook her head slowly, as if she was in a colossal quandary as what to do next.  Then she decided to do it right there and then, tell him of her dream.

“Charlie,I got a lot of sleep last night and I had a dream.  A most vivid dream that I remember very well.”

“Oh,” replied Charlie.

Gladys swallowed a pebble and went on and told him.  “I dreamt we got married today.”  There, she had said it, now what?  She watched Charlie for any sign of what he thought.

He stopped eating and looked at his watch.  “Gladys,” he began anxiously, “will you be here in ten minutes?”

“Yes.  If you want me to be.”

“Yes.”  He jumped up from his seat and darted out of the dining room.  Seconds later she heard the front door slam.  I think I will have a full English after all.

She had just finished her breakfast when she heard the front door slam shut again.  Then he stood there beside her.  He was clutching something small in his hand.  He got down on one knee and extended an open jewellery box where sat a lovely wedding ring.

“Gladys, will you marry me?”

“My dream?” asked Gladys.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night either,” said Charlie.  “Now answer me woman, will you marry me?”

“Yes.”

 

      Ends.

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