Brian had chosen the Café Sophisticate as a meeting place more for it’s close proximity to the train station, than as a place suitably named for his custom. The cafe was a halfway meeting point between his Richmond flat and Noelene’s Ringwood home, the woman he had been in contact with on his RSVP dating website.
The cafe was approaching it’s busy time of day as lunch-time cycled round again. He was early, and chose a wall-side table that would enable them a more private conversation. He gave himself a reminder not to venture into any controversial areas of discussion such as religion and politics.
Noelene found a handy parking spot outside a butcher shop that would save her the bother of driving to her own local shopping centre later on to buy the chicken schnitzel she had planned for her dinner.
She was new to this internet dating business, being put up to it by her best friend Sue, who was keen to see Noelene’s life more fulfilled since the death of her husband some three years before. So, at sixty-one years of age, more to please her friend, she began exchanging emails with Brian five days ago.
She entered the cafe and looked around to see if she could recognise him by the photograph he had posted of himself on his RSVP profile, but it appeared as though he hadn’t arrived as yet. With a bit of luck he wouldn’t turn up and she could return home and forget the whole damn thing.
An older man stood up and waved to her from a table by the wall, indicating for her to approach him. Somewhat uncertain, she walked to his table, “Hello, you must be Noelene,” he said, offering his hand, “I’m Brian, it’s good to meet you in person.”
You don’t look like bloody Brian she thought, reckoning his photo was taken some five or more years ago, and felt a bit cheated; but following a lifetime of being nice, she passed no comment.
“I must say that’s a very interesting brooch you’ve got there,” Brian ventured, “It’s looks like it may go back a year or two.”
“It’s a family heirloom,” Noelene replied, “An enamel and sterling silver bluebird brooch. My mother used to wear it.”
“Well, it certainly looks interesting. Now, can I order a tea or coffee for you?” She asked for a skinny cappuccino, and made herself comfortable while he went to order the coffee.
“Did you manage to park OK?”, Brian said, returning to the table.
“Yes, no problem at all, I found a spot just a few shops away. And you?”
“I had my driver drop me off earlier, and he’ll return later to pick me up for the return journey.”
“You have your own driver Brian? Really?”
“Of course. Well, what with Melbourne traffic and all, I’ve had a driver now for years.” He broke into a laugh, adding “A Metro Trains driver that is.”
With coffees delivered, they talked about their children, the price of Melbourne real estate, and of this and of that.
“Getting back to dating site business if I may,” Brian said, “Would you mind if I asked you how long it has been since your husband passed?”
“Just over three years.”
“You must miss him?”
Her husband Frank was killed when he crashed his car into a light pole when returning home after a night out with the boys. A partner in a well known real estate business, he was well remembered by all in his community: twice Mayor of the City of Hollington; long standing school council chairman of St.Matthews College; and a former best and fairest player for the Hollies footy team.
She remembered him as a bullying, lying, unfaithful, self centered, right old prick. The fact was she didn’t miss him at all.
“I guess we just have to learn to take the good with the bad I suppose,” she said ambiguously, “Anyway, how long have you been on the RSVP website for?”
“Just under six months,” Brian replied. They both sipped their coffee.
“And how long have you been single?”
“Well, this is the thing Noelene, I’m married actually, it’s a bit-”
“Oh now look here Brian, the first thing is that you are much older than your photo, and second, you say that you are single in your profile, but now you tell me that you’re married. If you think that I have come all this way from Ringwood to find-”
“Hang on a sec Noelene, please,” Brian interrupted, “It’s not what you think, just give me a chance to explain. I see my wife most days of the week, but she doesn’t see me because she doesn’t know who I am. Margaret is in full-time care with Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Oh goodness me, that is just awful. Me and my big mouth. I’m so sorry to hear that Brian. How long have you been together?”
“Since we were both teenagers, two lifetimes you might say. I couldn’t possibly divorce her.”
“You don’t think perhaps that you’re on a dating website too soon?”
“Well, that’s the thing you see. It was Margaret on one of her better days; she insisted that I did. And it was Margaret who chose the photograph.”
“Well, yes, I was kind of wondering about that Brian.”
“It was the last true photo of us taken before the onset of Alzheimer’s. I cut her out of it of course, but the arm you see around my neck is hers. Marg didn’t want me to be alone for the time when she would fade away for good, but still be. She wanted me to find someone else, to be happy, and to always, but always count my blessings.”
Noelene placed her hand over his and lightly squeezed it, in that most gentle display of understanding towards another person’s dilemma.
“She sounds like a truly wonderful human being Brian. And although I can see that the present time must be so difficult for you, I suppose you can look back on the many happy years you’ve had together – and let me tell you, not every couple get to do that.”
She saw no reason to add that she was speaking from personal experience.
“Hmm, well, reading between the lines, it seems to me that you don’t really want to meet anyone at all on a dating website, do you?”
“No, I don’t Noelene, the truth is I’m just trying to please Marg’s wishes for me to be happy,” he said, his emotions beginning to emerge from their confinement. “It’s all a bit bewildering to be honest with you.”
He took a moment.
“But when I see her tomorrow, and whether she hears me or not, I will tell her that I met a wonderful woman from Ringwood by the name of Noelene. A woman who admired your strength and your wish for me to be happy, and that we came to a shared understanding of each other.
And, I’m really sorry for wasting your time Noelene.”
“Not at all Brian, because as it turns out, both of us are here today to try and please someone else, and after all, where can be the harm in that?”
It was time to go.
“Well, my driver will be picking me up on the 1:13 to Richmond,” he said, “And the rude bugger never waits for me, so I’d best be getting along.”
As she drove home, she decided to accept the sometime loneliness that her single life dealt her; but it had to be better than to be living with someone she had no love for, or need of. She would wait to see if that changed. She would count her blessings.
Sue phoned her during the six o’clock Chardonnay Nightly News to see how everything went earlier. “We got on really well Suze,” she said, wearing her dressing gown and bunny rabbit slippers, “And we both decided that neither of us was ready to meet anybody else quite yet. Thanks for caring by the way.
Now, how was your day?”