Riverbank Flowers Redux

When I wrote Riverbank Flowers and sent it to the lady, I was pleased by the romantic quality of the meeting. The lady in question however was struck not so much by the meeting as the parting and found the story sad… I had not seen this angle, and, going home that evening, wrote the continuation…….

Sometimes time doing nothing is a friend, sometimes time doing nothing is an enemy, sometimes time doing nothing is just a week of wasted time.

I had not stopped thinking of the raspberries, the rubies or the girl since she had left me on the riverbank. I had her first name, but no way to get in touch with her, and I sat, feeling a bit sorry for myself, until I realized that a week of wasted time was just too much if I really wanted to recapture the magic. I thought over our conversations, and one thing I did remember, was that she had said that one of her greatest pleasures was a Saturday morning coffee at a small Italian patisserie on the Rue St Elzéar. I spent Tuesday night driving up and down the Rue St. Elzéar, and had never realized that there were so many patisseries there. I did narrow it down to two, a Café Antonio, and a Gout de Milano, both of which sounded vaguely Italian. The first, however did not look like the style of restaurant that she would “love”, and so, at 6:30 the next Saturday morning, I positioned my self, with three newspapers and slim hopes at the second, ordered myself a café, and sat down to wait.

I was on my second paper and my third café when I felt a soft hand on my shoulder, and a quiet laughing voice beside my ear saying, “Took you long enough to get here”. I smiled and turned.

I was happy that she was here, proud that I had figured out the patisserie on the first try, angry at myself that I had wasted a whole week doing it, and sad that I had missed in our conversation what she considered an open invitation and a very broad hint. Even these feelings could not erase the smile from my face, or the renewed sense of magic that had just walked in. I asked her if she would join me for a coffee, and promptly ordered one for her and a large milk for me. I thought that four coffees in a morning would be a touch too much.

This time I got her name, address, phone number, where she worked and wanted to know so much more, but there is only so much you can ask in the first 30 seconds. I was quite sure that I did not want this magic to escape a second time. I gently lifted one of the newspapers and there appeared as if by the connivance of a magician two roses. I handed one to her and kept the second. I could not be sure, but I believe that the smile covered a small blush and brought back to her the flowers, and the memories, and the feelings of the riverbank. I told her that I had not imagined her without flowers in her hand, and had to return the favour of the beautiful gift of our first meeting.

The conversation spread to the news items in the newspapers which covered the table in front of me, and once again I was entranced by the sound of her voice, the feel of her hand (as every once in a while she would reach out and touch my arm, just to make a point), and the cute way she sipped her coffee, and talked, and got excited about things, and, and, and. There is only so much happiness that the human soul can contain, and it felt so good to feel my heart growing in an effort to hold all the joy that this moment was giving me. Somewhere in the morning I remember the soft touch of her knee against mine. For what seemed like the longest time, I did not dare to move. I had half a feeling that she was of exactly the same mind. We talked and smiled and acted as if nothing was different, yet there was an electricity from that simple connection, an energy that built in such a subtle fashion that it was barely recognizable, yet became utterly irresistible. Only when the waiter came with a refill for the coffee was the spell broken, the touch released, and the electricity gone but never forgotten.

I sat back, calmly listening and talking, when all I really wanted to do was stand up and yell at the world that they could not understand true magic until they had sat and talked with this girl, this person, this woman, this…. and it hit me that there are times when you almost have to make up new words for the thoughts and emotions that are contained in wonderful situations. I often think that these situations go by us unnoticed at the time at which they happen, but I was noticing everything, my mind working overtime to store away these memories like a great treasure to be brought our and admired at some future date.

We went through all three papers, a musical critique of almost every song that played on the radio in the café, the sea, the sky, and just as we were beginning to get started knowing each other, it was time for her to leave again.

This was not the mysterious disappearance of the riverbank, but an orderly ritual of courtship, played out by millions over and over again, and yet each time fresh, each time exciting, rarely sorrowful, often just a preview of the joy of seeing each other one more time in the future.

I paid and asked her if I could walk her to her bus. She smiled, and agreed, and as we walked out onto the street, I felt a small, soft hand reach out and gently hold mine.

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