The next week I phoned her as usual on the Thursday night. But she wasn’t in. So I left a message and waited once again for her to phone me back. About five on Friday I phoned her again and left a message, thinking that she would get it when she came in from work. Saturday morning I phoned and left another message, but my hopes were low. I figured that she’d gone away for the weekend again. She didn’t phone me back that weekend and she didn’t turn up at the Camera Club on Tuesday either.
So next Thursday I phoned again. After ten thirty so there was plenty of time for her to have gotten home form her classes. But once again she wasn’t in and I left a message for her. On Friday I phoned and left another message. And another on Saturday. When she didn’t turn up at the Camera Club that week or the next, I realised that she’d really disappeared for good. I was sorry that she hadn’t had the decency to tell me to my face. But that was probably just because I wanted to scream and shout at her to relieve my anger and frustration. But I still found myself dreaming about her every night.
Then a month later she turned up at the Camera Club again. After an unexplained absence of six weeks she walked back into my life.
the meeting was the judging of the summer competition. The judge had just held up the first of my prints and had started to comment about it when she walked in. I didn’t hear a word he said. All my being was focused on the fact that Alexandra was once again in the same room as me.
I’d half thought, really hopped, that she wouldn’t attend the Camera Club, that if she hadn’t the courage to face me when she’d dumped me that she wouldn’t want to face me ever again. Yet the fact that I knew where she lived burned in the back of my mind. And I knew that some day I’d have gone to her flat to face her again.
Now she’d come to me. But in a place where I’d not want to make a scene. Perhaps it was better that way. It’d only hurt to say the things that I’d have ended up saying in private.
The next hour is a haze. As the judge made comment after comment about all the photos entered in the competition I found my eyes constantly straying to look at Alexandra. I’d snap them back and refocus on the print the judge was discussing, but I’d not be able to concentrate on what he was saying. I try to listen to his words and find my eyes once again on Alexandra.
As soon as the meeting was over I left the main room. I was sweating and my knees were trembling. I went straight upstairs to get some coffee and steady my nerves before Alexandra could engage me in conversation. There was all the normal chit-chat going on among my fellow members of the club, but it all went straight past me. I knew that she was going to follow me up and I knew that she’d talk to me.
In my haste I ended up first in the queue for coffee, so I retired to the front room to sit at the table alone. I had just sat down and taken my first sip of coffee when she walked in. She hadn’t gone into the back room to get some coffee first, she’d walked straight in to see me.
“Hi,” she said in that soft whisper of a voice that even now can send shivers down my spine.
“Hi,” my voice nearly broke.
“Did we have a fight or something?” she stood beside me.
“What?” there was a strange ringing in my ears.
“You haven’t phoned and didn’t come to talk to me downstairs,” she seemed somewhat puzzled.
My heart must have been doing 120 or more, “No we didn’t have a fight.” I swallowed, “I did phone, but you never answered any of my messages.”
“Oh,” she smiled and sat down. “That was because I was on holiday in Spain.”
My heart skipped a beat as two thoughts flared simultaneously in my brain. “She hadn’t dumped me after all !” and “She’d gone on holiday without telling me she was going.” “She loves me”, followed by, “She thinks so little of me that she didn’t even bother to tell me she was going on holiday.”
I looked down. “Where did you go to?” was all I could think of saying.
“To Madrid and Stander and Abilla,” she smiled her excitement of the fantastic things she’d seen. “The cathedrals and castles were magnificent.”
“I’m glad that you enjoyed it,” I cut into her excitement. “Only sorry that you didn’t bother to tell me you were going.”
She stopped. “Of course I told you,” she looked at me.
“The last time I saw you was six weeks ago,” I stated. “And the last thing you said to me then was ‘see you next Tuesday at the Club’.” I shrugged, “I didn’t see you till tonight.”
She seemed sorry. “Oh that’s right,” she explained. “I went away for the few weekends before going to Spain. I guess I didn’t see you then.”
Derek and Paul came in with their coffee. Paul split a knowing look between me and Alexandra, but didn’t say anything.
“Congratulations, Kevin,” Derek beamed. “So you finally beat me.”
“Well that’s because we finally got a judge that wasn’t satisfied by ‘Pretty pictures’,” I replied smiling, happy to have something else to think about beside Alexandra.
“‘Pretty pictures’ my foot,” Derek plonked his cup down on the table and sat beside me. “It was because you finally took one that was in focus,” he smiled.
“After all those soft-focus, ‘Candy box’ shots of flowers you did last year !” I replied. “You’ve got some nerve.”
“So, where have you been for the last while, Alexandra?” Paul asked. “I haven’t seen you at the Club for weeks.”
“Oh,” she beamed. “I’ve been on holiday in Spain.”
“Really,” he smiled back. “Where did you go?”
Smiling she launched into a graphic description of her holiday. Paul encouraged her by saying that he’d been there a few years ago and they compared a couple of places that the both been to. Then somebody else said that his sister had married a Spaniard and that he’d stayed with her for two weeks at the beginning of the year. And he detailed all the famous places he’d been. Then the conversation turned to holidays in general. And, it being a photographic club, to the trials and tribulations of taking photos on holiday.
And all the time I sat there, while the conversation lapped around me, wanting to take Alexandra by the scruff of the neck and demand an explanation of why she’d just disappeared from my life, why she’d gone on holiday and not even sent me a post card? To beat out of her what she felt for me. To demand an explanation of why she treated me the why she did !
But I couldn’t say anything here. I couldn’t make a scene in front of every one. I didn’t want to make a scene, because I didn’t think an argument would solve anything. I just wanted to talk to her.
As the conversation faded and people started to leave I turned to her and asked softly, “Do you fancy a drink?”
“O.K.” she shrugged.
I stood and said “See you later,” to the guys.
Alexandra nodded her goodbyes and followed me out.
As we walked out of the club she started to turn left towards the pub we normally go to after meetings. But I didn’t want to be with her in the middle of a crowd again. I needed somewhere we could talk. Somewhere I could tell her what I felt about her.
I put my hand on her arm. “Let’s go to Ryan’s,” I suggested. “It’s just up the road and we can talk there.”
“Sure,” she turned to follow me.
When we got to the pub I discovered that instead of being a quite, sleepy little place, as it had been on the previous occasions I’d been there, it was jammed full of people. We made our way to the bar and I noticed a couple of free stools at a table in the corner.
“See if those are free,” I nodded towards them. “And I’ll get you a drink.”
“Great,” she replied over the noise of the crowd. “I’ll have a glass of Guinness.” And turned to make her way across to the stools.
I got the drinks and followed her over.
As I sat beside her most of the people broke out into a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Linda, making conversation impossible.
“Linda sure has a lot of friends,” I smiled at Alexandra as soon as they’d finished.
“Yes,” she smiled back. “It’s great, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I smiled back. Really great ! I thought, I come here for a heart to heart with you and end up in the middle of a birthday party.
We didn’t say much to each other for the next fifteen minutes. Just sat and drank and chatted about photography. All the time I was putting off raising the matter that most bothered me. But eventually I spit it out.
“So why did you disappear on me for six weeks?” I asked.
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