The sun had just peeped over the watery skyline it’s rays like fiery spikes reaching out into space. Their reflection on the ocean set the waves ablaze, spreading as the sun rose higher on the horizon.
Jilly walked along the water’s edge, the receding tide leaving her footprints untouched in the damp sand. She breathed deeply of the salty air, feeling invigorated, ready for the day ahead.
It was mid-summer in Australia and the weather bureau had forecast another 40+ degree day leading to afternoon thunder storms. The now deserted beach would soon be crowded with bodies of all shapes and sizes, seeking to escape the heat.
Now that the sun had cleared the horizon Jilly made haste to return to her apartment, which was only minutes away from the beach. She headed to a set of steps leading to the promenade, when a piece if paper, caught by the breeze, wrapped itself around her ankles. As she reached to pull it away, she saw that it was a handwritten note.
At the top of the steps was a refuse bin. Jilly, being of a tidy mind, decided she would throw the note into the bin. Noticing that it was written on very pretty paper, with violets, and in a neat hand, it suddenly sparked her curiosity, and instead of throwing it away, she folded it up, and put it in her shirt pocket.
Back at her apartment and feeling hungry, Jilly set to making a pot of tea and toasting muffins. She sat with her meal at her dining table, where the window looked out over the promenade below, watching people arriving at the beach for an early morning swim
Feeling in her shirt pocket for the note, she pulled it out, unfolded it, and smoothed out the creases. “Darling”, it read,” I have those books you asked me to look for, I’ll be in Melbourne at the conference for another week yet, you can ring me after 7pm on my mobile…(number followed) Important you contact me….love…M”
There was no date on the note, and no way of knowing how it had ended up on the beach below. Jilly tried to imagine who ‘M’ might be, male or female?, young or old? and had the note once been housed in an envelope, addressed and stamped. Her thoughts wandered through one scenario after another. Had fate chosen her to connect with this message? The idea was fanciful! Those words could be part of a distant past, and still, it played on her mind as she went about her daily business.
Jilly was a Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of a major import company, and she often worked from home, especially when her boss was overseas. As was the case at the time of my story, This gave Jilly the opportunity to work her own hours, as long as she kept everything like emails and such, up to date.
The day passed uneventfully with the airconditioner keeping the temperature in the apartment at a comfortable level. Outside, heat haze rose from the tared road surface and tops of parked cars, while on the sandy beach, a few heat hardened bodies roasted in the afternoon sun.
By late afternoon, Jilly had finished with the company’s correspondence. Taking an ice-cold bottle of drink from the fridge, she stepped out on to the balcony of the apartment, and sat on the cane patio lounge.The sun was behind her now and a warm breeze wafted across the ocean. Once again her mind drifted to the note. Did “Darling” ever ring ‘M’?
Later that evening, just as the news was finishing on the television, Jilly picked up her phone and dialed the number on the note. Her hands were shaking so much that she had to punch the numbers in a couple of times before she got it right. She was ready to pretend she had wrung the wrong number if she lost her nerve.
“Hello, Matt speaking,”
“Hhhhhello,” her mouth was dry and sounded kind of squeaky,” my name is Jillian Swan, you don’t know me, but I found something that might belong to you”
“Really? are you kidding?” his first thought was, ‘this is a joke from one of the guys at the office.’
“Nnnnnoo, In fact it found it’s way to me personally,”
“C’mon, who put you up to this?” He sounded annoyed
“Seriously, I found this piece of paper with your phone number on it, and…well, I guessed you wouldn’t want just anybody to have it.” it sounded sillier by the minute.
“Well, it sounds like ‘just anybody’ already has it!” he snapped “tell me what it says.”
Jilly read the contents of the note to him, adding, “It actually wrapped itself around my ankles, it seemed like some kind of an omen or something. That’s why I didn’t put it in the refuse bin at the beach.”
“This all sounds like a prank that one of my so-called friends has put you up to!”
“I’m sorry Matt, or whoever you are, I hope it was ‘Darling’ who accidently lost your note, and that she rang you, just as you suggested. I will tear it up now, and you’ll never hear from me again.” by this stage Jilly was feeling embarrassed and tearful. All in all, it had been a stupid idea, talking about omens and things being meant to happen, to a complete stranger.
“Don’t hang up Jillian, I apologise for not taking you seriously, sadly, I do remember that note, only too well. In fact, I would like it, if you would return it to me.”
Jilly regained her composure, ” Of course, if you give me an address, I will mail it to you.”
“Well no, if you would permit me to buy you a coffee, you name the place, and the time, and I will give you the final chapter of the sorry tale.”
She thought about that for a moment. “Well, how would I know you?”
“I’ll be the lonely guy sitting at a table, all by himself.” he laughed,
Jilly laughed with him,”OK, do you live anywhere near Bordertown?’
“Yes,” he replied, “In fact, I’ll be there tomorrow morning at the courthouse, you see I’m a barrister.”
“Oh” Jilly had a mental picture of a man in a white wig and a long black gown”
“We will break for lunch around midday, if you could meet me at the bottom of the courthouse steps, we could go from there. What do you think?”
“I guess that’s alright, I’ll wear a blue dress and a white sunhat so you can recognise me.”
“Till tomorrow then, Jillian.”
The next morning Jilly woke early and proceeded to attend to the business of the day. There were several phonecalls to make, emails to answer, and a message from her boss to say he would be back in Bordertown that day at 3pm.
At 11am Jilly turned off her computer,and switched the phone to ‘message bank’. She showered, washed and dried her long brown hair, then put on her makeup.
The blue dress had been a ‘spur of the moment’ purchase, one she could neither afford or justify. With its flared skirt, tiny waist, and scooped neckline, it was definitely a ‘special occasion’ dress. Jilly had no special occasions to celebrate at the time it caught her eye.
“Well, here goes nothing,” she whispered as she slipped the blue dress over her head. When she looked in the bedroom mirror, she had to admit that it was a perfect fit.”You are being really ridiculous,” her reflection told her,”This is not a date you are going on!” But she couldn’t help feeling just a little bit excited.
Jilly arrived at the court house right on midday. It was another 40oC day so there were not many people out in the sun. There was a park bench under a large leafy tree not far from the courthouse steps, so Jilly sat in the shade and waited, nervously.
The man who approached her, wore a white shirt open at the collar. Over one arm he carried a dark cloak, and his other arm carried a briefcase.
“Ah, judging by the blue dress, you must be Jillian” he held out his right hand to her.
“And you must be Matt, please call me Jilly, it’s much less formal” she shook his hand, and in doing so,stoodup.
“Have you found a suitable place where we can talk?
“There’s a coffee lounge in the arcade across the street, It’s air-conditioned so we can get out of this heat” Jilly started to lead the way.
“Good thinking”, Matt said, as he followed her over the crossing.
Once inside the coffee lounge, with their orders taken care of, Matt and Jilly settled into a corner booth away from the entrance.
“This is nice”, he said approvingly, looking around ” Do you come here often?” it was such a cliche that they both laughed.
“No, never,” Jilly answered.
“How did you know it was here? he asked.
“Oh, I live close by and I’ve walked past it many times. I work from home most of the time so I don’t have any reason to go out for coffee.”
They made an attractive couple as they sat drinking their coffees and indulging in small talk. A pretty brunette in a blue dress, and an ‘almost’ handsome man with a winning smile, both about thirtyish.
Jilly reached into her purse and pulled out the note. After all it was the reason they had met. She passed it across the table to Matt, but he made no attempt to open it.
“It’s a few years since I saw that piece of paper,” he said quietly, “You say you found it on the beach. I have no clue as to why it even still exists.”
“You don’t need to tell me anything about it, Matthew, I can see it’s still a painful subject.” Jilly reached over the table and held Matt’s hand.
“I’m surprised at my own reaction, I’ve put those memories behind me, or so I thought . But maybe reliving it with someone new, I mean, someone who wasn’t there at the time, it might not feel so raw.”
” I have a willing ear if you really think it could help” Jilly wasn’t so sure that she was qualified to give advice to a stranger, but somehow it seemed she had been chosen for the job. Didn’t that note practically knock her over?.
“Her name was Angela. We met at a charity ball and in the beginning we were almost inseparable, She wanted to be a film producer, that meant she was away a lot on location learning the ropes. I was doing corporate law at the time and not making a lot of money, so marriage was on the back burner.”
“The week I sent her that note, she had been working with a film crew in the Simpson Desert and I was attending a conference in Melbourne. I knew she would get back to Sydney before me. so I sent her the note. Angie’s favorite flowers were violets, hence the flowery note paper.”
“I had been making a few plans unbeknownst to Angela, and I had been offered better money to change companies. It was my intention to get her feelings about it when she called that evening, but I didn’t get the chance.”
“The plane that was to fly Angie and the rest of the film crew back to Sydney lost power in a storm coming over the Blue Mountains. It crashed, killing all on board. When I finally arrived home, the note was in our mail box.
Tears welled up in Jilly’s eyes, “I’m so sorry for you loss,”she said,
“The first year after the crash was the hardest, every thought that came into my head included Angie, I was stuck in the past.”
The coffee lounge was filling up with the lunch time crowd, their noisy chatter made it difficult for Jilly to hear Matt’s words.
“How long has it been since then?”
“Three years,” he answered, “But it’s not so hard to talk about it now. It was good of you to listen.”
“I think we need to vacate these seats so that other people can move in,” Jilly stood up and moved away from the table.”Let’s go for a walk along the beach.”
Outside, a cool southerly breeze had driven the heat away. They walked slowly along the promenade, and when they came to the top of the steps, Jilly turned to Matt and pointed down toward the sand,
“That’s where I was accosted by your note and it wrapped around my ankle.”
“It’s a very pretty ankle,” he said, colouring slightly, ” It certainly seems to have an element of fate about it, “he took Jilly’s hand and pressed it to his lips.”I hope this won’t be the last time I see you.”
“I was hoping that too,” she said, holding his gaze for a moment.”I have to meet with my boss this afternoon at 3pm, but if you could call me later this evening, say 8 o’clock or so, we could plan something from there.”
“I love the way you think!”
And you, reader, can take it from there!!!!!!