by H.St V. Beechey
Kenny’s is a wonderful place. The art on display is mostly that of contemporary Irish artists, and as for the books…. They have everything: Rare books for the collector, with an emphasis on Irish works, but also a really comprehensive selection of hardbacks and paperbacks. There were busts of Irish writers scattered through the premises. It is almost unnerving to be under the gaze of Greats such as Shaw, Yeats and Joyce. Yes, Kenny’s is definitely my kind of place and I took to it immediately. It felt like a spiritual home.
I arrived early of course, by an hour or so. It didn’t seem to bother the courteous staff – I guess they are used to browsers – and I was engrossed in a book when she arrived. Helena must have stood there for several moments before I was aware. She was smiling her quiet reserved smile, but her eyes were kind – fond even, and they held a tolerant twinkle.
I flushed and stammered, and felt thoroughly stupid, but it was as though the sun had broken through clouds, as though birds were singing and bells ringing… the almost breathless expectation of a child’s Christmas morning and a remarkable feeling located somewhere near my diaphragm. ‘Strange’ observed my observer, ‘that must be what they mean by my heart leapt ‘ My face must have expressed something of this, because her smile widened and she came closer and turned her face upwards to be kissed.
‘Wow,’ she said breathlessly, “that is some hug!’
Guiltily I released her from my grip. ‘You came!’ I said. ‘You came!’
‘And so did you. That means we have something to talk about. Let’s find somewhere we can have a quiet cup of coffee. Are these yours?’ She pointed at the pile of books I had amassed during my wait.
I carried them towards the cashier. “I’ll get them delivered to the hotel. I’m sure they’ll be able to arrange that.’ They did, and Helena and I slipped out into the May sunshine.
The Irish are very good at that sort of thing, somehow giving their hospitality industry a warm and personal touch. We found ourselves in a secluded alcove of a quiet little coffee shop with a name like Meg’s Kitchen or such. A smiling waitress served us with coffee and cream and some delicious small cakes that had a home-made look. There were few other customers, and none at adjacent tables, so we were free to talk. We wasted little time on “How are you?” And “Where have you been?”. Small talk seemed unnecessary.
‘What happened?’ I asked. ‘What on earth did Bonnie say that made you leave so suddenly. You still had four days of your booking left.’
Helena didn’t take my question as a criticism (Bonnie would have, for sure!).
‘I couldn’t stay. Things would have been too difficult: For you, for me, and yes, even for Bonnie.’ She made a helpless gesture. ‘She is a very clever woman! In fact, even now, I am completely amazed. She started by expressing her sympathy. She said that you had told her about Michael and how we had taken his ashes to Inisfallen. She went on to ask my advice “as an older woman” on how best to handle you; that she had quarrelled with you over a woman called Magda, and how she had forgiven you when you pleaded with her to join you in Ireland.
‘She proudly showed me the engagement ring you had sent her by special courier. She capped it by asking if you had invited me to your engagement party that very night, and said I must be sure to come. She must have told this story to Garry and his mates, because several of them called over to me “See you at Charlie’s party!”‘
‘And you believed her?’ I said incredulously.
‘Well, your stories were so different, I didn’t want to get caught in the middle. I decided to pull out to give you both a chance to sort things out. It seemed the best thing to do. That way you would either stay with her or come to find me. By the way, when did you leave Killarney?’
‘About three hours behind you. I didn’t even stop for breakfast!’
Helena laughed. ‘What! No Breakfast? Now I know you are serious.’ And we smiled happily at each other. ‘I wonder where she got the ring,’ I said. ‘Some poor sucker in Frankfurt!’
The rest of the day was spent in a flurry of activity. Largely a question of logistics. I wanted to be with, or at least near, Helena, whether that meant transferring her to my hotel or me to hers, but I was very careful not to make assumptions or to suggest that I took her for granted. I had suffered too much during the past week to put our new relationship at risk. Let her seduce me, I thought. That way she can’t say I’m taking advantage. I remembered back to my Judo days Pull when pushed -Push when pulled. It works every time.
It did too. That evening and night are forever engraved in my memory. Delightfully, unhurriedly, one thing led to another. Dinner. Dancing. A walk in the moonlight ( a three-quarter moon this time) Then, curled up in front of a glowing fire, the night had grown chilly, we gently and naturally made love.
Helena had shown no surprise at the outcome of our reunion. I wondered, perhaps, if that hadn’t been a decision taken when she resolved to contact me. Still, I wasn’t going to argue with a benevolent providence. All I knew was, right from that morning, I was conscious of good vibes. They were still there,I thought, as I cradled her in my arms and looked down at her beauty as she slept. May the good vibes continue.
© Copyright H.St V.Beechey March 1997
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