Neither here nor there

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 15, 2017

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Submitted: August 15, 2017

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Neither here nor there.

 

 

In different circumstances he would have gone; but that’s neither here nor there he told himself. But it wasn’t true he would always regret it. Life doesn’t present too many chances and when they come along you have to grasp them with both hands. Rebecca had been the love of his life; and she’d begged him to go with her; they’d discussed it over and over. Charlie had made all sorts of excuses; but the real reason was that he felt out of his depth with Rebecca’s colleagues; all those boffins and star gazers, the thought of spending three days on a remote mountain top with so many super intelligent people had frightened him to death. That was it you see; his ego had prevented him from doing the right thing, and he couldn’t forgive himself. Rebecca had suggested the two of them should drive; take their time and make a holiday of it!  Travel a week early; fly to Chile collect a car from the airport and drive to the conference. But Charlie had turned the opportunity down; it’s the chance of a lifetime she’d said but Charlie was having none of it.

It was six months since that fateful day and Charlie still couldn’t get the thought of Rebecca and that awful phone call out of his head. His mind drifted back, as it always did to their first meeting and the blissful twelve months they’d spent together. He always smiled to himself whenever he thought of the two of them together; so different yet so compatible; they’d met on an internet dating site. Even now the circumstances that brought them together seemed unlikely; Rebecca was a scientist and Charlie a bank executive. He couldn’t have guessed at the time what bliss and what heartache a computer could generate. It was a Monday morning after a sterile weekend indulging his passion for rugby Charlie had complained to his PA that the world was short of eligible women and she’d suggested a dating site. You could get fired  for making a suggestion like that Charlie had told her; but despite his misgivings he signed up with a well known, up market agency specialising in bringing busy executive types together.

 

The first two dates the agency set up had been a disaster; first was a buxom blond who seemed to bulge out of every article of clothing and was at least ten years older than the twenty five she claimed to be; second was an intelligent good looking brunet who’s only topic of conversation was her small dog. She even insisted on bringing the pooch to the restaurant Charlie had booked for their first date. So embarrassing! She told the maître’d that “Tarquin was house trained and that he could sit under the table. Charlie loved animals but Tarquin was a dog too far.

Charlie by nature was impatient and after those two failed encounters he was ready to cancel his subscription so when the agency contacted him for a third time he was very sceptical. He remembered the conversation with Mrs Wilson his contact at “Discreet Liaisons”; she’d worked very hard to convince him that Rebecca Goldfield was worth meeting and that she was compatible with his profile. Yeah, yeah thought Charlie, she’s probably got a backside like a bus and keeps two Great Danes. Anyway, against his better judgement Charlie had agreed to meet Rebecca. Even then he nearly missed the appointment. There’d been a protracted board meeting and he didn’t leave his city office until seven o’clock; his date with Rebecca was in a West End restaurant at 7.30. The taxi got stuck in traffic and Charlie had to walk the last half mile in pouring rain; he arrived at seven forty five looking like a drowned rat. He walked into the restaurant feeling like excrement and there she was sitting at a table with a glass of red win in her hand. Where have you been? She said in mock anger when he introduced himself; they didn’t tell me you were a water baby. His hackles began to rise; he was just about to give her a piece of his mind when he noticed the twinkle in her eye and he started to laugh! So began one of the most interesting and exciting evenings of his life; the waiter took his wet jacket; they ordered food and began to talk.

Charlie’s mind had been over and over that evening during the last six months; he was never  romantic; love at first sight was a totally alien concept; and yet that evening Rebecca’s personality and style had enveloped him. He’d been overwhelmed by her view of the world and the way she laughed. They’d been thrown out of the restaurant at midnight arranged to meet the following day and from that point had been inseparable. Two months later Rebecca had suggested Charlie move into her flat; she’d inherited a beautiful apartment which overlooked the river Thames just south of Battersea Bridge. Despite some initial reservations Charlie had moved in and to his surprise found living with Rebecca was a joyful experience. Looking back; that first meeting had changed Charlie’s life; before they met he’d been one more lunatic trying to make sense of the asylum; when Rebecca breezed in life seemed to acquire a purpose; she’d introduced him to another more interesting dimension.

Charlie had been fascinated by the way she talked about her work and her zest for life; she was a free spirit with a brilliant mind and a wicked sense of fun. He remembered a conversation they’d had when she first explained what she did for a living. I’m an astrophysicist working with a research group studying quasars she’d said; people seem to think you’re either a mad scientist or a mindless stargazer; no one seems to ascribe emotions or feelings; they think you spend so much time talking to computers that you become one; and its nothing like that. Rebecca had apparently spent a large part of her adult life studying the stars with a radio telescope calculating light values, working out interstellar distances and speculating about the affects of the “red shift”. You can’t look at the vastness of space, the complexity of our local solar system and the forces that keep it in place without wondering who or what created it all she’d said. Her view was that even if mankind discovered who or  what; they’d be no closer to establishing why. Charlie had laughed when she pronounced that if there is a God he must be a bit strange with a totally silly sense of humour.

 

Charlie was a pragmatist; pounds shillings and pence coupled with the need to make a profit had made him cynical. He’d lived through the Thatcher years; “loads a money” and bankers being seen as little more than pigs with their snouts in the trough. Living with Rebecca had given him a new perspective. Although she had a first class degree in mathematics she looked at the world like an artist; she was able to see our planet and life on earth as it really was; a grain of sand in the cosmos. She’d explained that the more mankind knew about the universe the less he understood. That year spent living with Rebecca had been a turning point in Charlie’s life. He remembered the day she came home from work and told him about the conference she’d been invited to in Chile. He’d never seen Rebecca so excited; she’d been invited along with two colleagues to visit The Gemini South Telescope which was perched at a height of 9000 feet atop the desolate peak of Cerro PachA3 mountain, in the Chilean Andes. She’d begged Charlie to go with her; the conference organisers had booked her a double room at the hotel facility at the base of the mountain. Charlie could stay with her and meet some of her international colleagues. They had lots of time booked on the telescope; its designed to produce extremely sharp images of the universe in infrared light; you’ll never see anything like it again. Charlie remembered her enthusiasm; he’d resisted the temptation to go and they’d said their goodbyes at the airport three weeks later. A day later Rebecca called from Chile to confirm she’d arrived safely and was looking forward to the drive to their hotel. She’d call again when they arrived at the observatory. Charlie heard nothing for three days; he was sitting in his office when the phone rang, it was the “human resources” director from Rebecca’s office. The news that Rebecca had died in a helicopter crash left him numb; it was days before he was able to piece the story together. Apparently the plan had been to drive from the hotel in a 4x4 vehicle the five or so miles to the Gemini observatory. On the first day however Rebecca and her group had been offered a ride in a helicopter which had been chartered by some of their American colleagues. The aircraft had crashed coming in to land on the mountain top. Everyone had been sympathetic at the time; they’d tried to comfort Charlie and the family members of those killed in the crash; but Rebecca’s loss left a hole in Charlie’s life that no amount of sympathy could fill. In other circumstances would he have gone? The question was hypothetical; it was neither here nor there!

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© Copyright 2017 Peter Piper. All rights reserved.

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