It’s Sunday midday. Instead of enjoying coffee in bed I am sitting in a crowded little café on the Algarve. I am on my 5th galao and my hands shake as I write. Whether it is the coffee or my nerves I am unable to tell. Why? Well, let me tell you about my week.
After I had spent most of last week pining over my mystery man (and recovering from LFW), I had resolved on getting a grip on myself and my life back. One week I had given Leon to prove that my waiting for him was worthwhile. After that, I had promised myself (and Kate), I would go on a blind date with that guy she has wanted me to meet.
Wednesday I woke from a bizarre dream involving a stranger and suppressed desire… Feeling restless, I went for a run. Down Royal Avenue, through the Chelsea Hospital grounds to the River and along the Chelsea Embankment. The fresh air and monotonous motion cleared my head and I began to look forward to the day.
On the way back, I stopped at Amorino, one of new Italian favs for coffee, for a flat white and booked myself in for a facial treatment at the Chelsea Day Spa. The HydroPeptide Infusion Facial always cheers me up… after all, or so I tell myself, it helps me defy age!
Back home, I made my plan for the day (which involved a lot of “not fantasising about Leon”) and chose a particularly cute light periwinkle blue dress to further brighten my mood. Six hours of sound work, a large latte and my luxurious facial later, I still hadn’t heard from Leon. Oh, it wasn’t any good! I couldn’t get this man out of my head.
I called Kate and she promised to come home early and bring a bottle of Valpolicella, one of my favoured summer reds. We sat long into the night and talked and talked, smoking the occasional (and very naughty) cigarette. Voicing my anxiety made me feel a little better. Tomorrow, I felt sure, would be a better day.
Thursday dawned bright and golden. A perfect day for the country side and a little diversion in form of Blake. This very old school friend of mine had taken over his family estate, literally in the middle of nowhere. A relatively short drive from London into Kent, visits to his estate had the most calming effect on me. Long, winding and quite deserted country lanes, high hedges, apple trees and the soft downs of Kent’s fruitful pastures with its woolly sheep provided the perfect backdrop for a refreshing escape from the city.
Despite the fact that Blake had married a couple of years ago and was expecting his third son, he had never quite given up a puppy-like devotion to me. The genuine pleasure in his brown eyes and the quiet adoration with which he regarded me when he thought I wasn’t looking made my heart melt (ever more so since he had married Laura and was finally off the market).
I drove through beautiful autumnal Kent, deliberately choosing small country lanes. Every mile I put between me and London increased my sense of freedom. I felt the weight of the past weeks ease on my shoulders and actually started singing (something that I hadn’t done for some time). Who cared about demanding editors and conceited designers? And who on earth cared about elusive Spanish greying temples and dark eyes?
Serenely, I pulled into Blake’s estate and was greeted by the housekeeper, a stooped and wizened looking woman, who had known me since the age of 11. Laura, she told me, had gone up to Scotland with the children and Blake was out, inspecting the construction of a new tea-pavilion by the river. Briskly, I threw on a pair of wellies and a light tweed jacket and started trudging up to where the construction site was just visible on the bottom of a shallow valley.
Deeply inhaling the fresh, earthy air, I once again marvelled at the beauty of Blake’s home land. Acres and acres of pretty downs, a clear river, some woodland and a big lake made the perfect surrounding for raising a family.
How had I never seen this before? Nearly twenty years had I enjoyed Blake’s family’s hospitality, had I bathed in his sweet admiration and not once had I actually considered that all this could one day be mine. I thought about Jane Austen’s ingenious characters. Should I have been more like Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice? She had married a man she didn’t love and in return received her own estate… But no, I was like Lizzie: strong, independent and resigned to marry only for the deepest love!
Love, I mused – what is love? Infatuation and desire, like I felt for the wretched Leon? Or fondness and respect lasting for over twenty years? No, I shouldn’t go there, I told myself. Blake was happily married with a baby underway, living the country gentleman’s life and I… well I was a successful London journalist, socialite and dating-expert; I loved my life! And yet…
And as sudden as a summer storm, tears welled up in my eyes and I envied Laura. This chubby, round-faced, cow-eyed, happily married, woman. Married to Blake, kind, honest, faithful Blake, who was always there. My Blake, I thought and immediately checked myself. I wasn’t thinking straight. I had never wanted Blake to be anything but my good old school friend, who I came to visit when I needed some sanity away from the supersonic speed of my London life.
Angrily, I wiped the tears away – great I would look smudged now. And while I was still raging at myself, torn between the desire to see his familiar face and running as fast as I could from my unbidden, unwanted thoughts, I felt a large, warm hand on my shoulder that gently turned me round.
There he stood, smiling at me, his brown eyes full of joy. I threw myself into his strong arms and let him hold me until I had wept myself empty. He simply stood there, lightly stroking my head and holding me to his wide chest. Such was our intimacy that I didn’t need to explain and Blake didn’t ask any questions.
I felt immensely relieved when all my cooped-up emotions had been released. Taking Blake’s arm we started walking back towards the house in companionable silence. “Tea?” I smiled. Blake had always been of the practical sort and tea as a first aid to heart-ache was so like him that I couldn’t help but cheer up. A few hours, several cups of tea, scones and freshly clotted cream with homemade strawberry jam, and a long chat later, my good spirits were fully restored.
That night found me lying in bed wohlig tired from the day. I felt blessed to have a friend like Blake, who, despite that fact that we would never be together, I knew would be there for me until the end of time.
Friday morning I woke to find a text from Leon on my phone.
“Won’t be in London for another week – meet me for dinner in … on Sunday! L.” I stared. Really? He wanted me to fly out to … for a dinner on Sunday? What about the Friday, Saturday-date rule (where a guy is serious about a girl when he asks her out on an important night out, e.g. Friday or Saturday – these are the nights where he misses out on the game if he meets you, therefore committing himself to the date)?
I felt resentful but couldn’t help the tingling in my lower belly. I would be with Leon this very weekend! I decided to ask Kate and Anna (a good friend of ours) to come with me – not as chaperones, but to take my mind of him and we enjoyed a girly Friday evening and Saturday being chased by the local sunny boys and English sun-seekers alike.
The hours are ticking away and soon I will return to my room to ensure I look absolutely perfect. At precisely 6pm, a car will pick me up and take me into the mountains to a remote vineyard. I am trying to remain calm as I am about to embark on another adventure with mysterious Leon.