My Favourite Short Story Out! Happy Ever After
I could hear the bells, somewhere far away, echoes of the bells, even further away. I have never been here before. For the past two years we used to go to ‘La Chapelle’s’ bar almost every Saturday, but we never actually got into the restaurant. I always imagined it would be romantic, and so it was, though it was in a minimalistic, dull area of London. It was actually very romantic, but different to what I really liked. There were fresh flowers, white tulips and lavenders, as far as I remember. And small candles. A couple of each by every table. There were reflections of the flames and the flowers in all the mirrors, spoons and glasses. His eyes were twinkling as two little stars deep up there in the sky on a chilly summer night. We were two little stars somewhere in the universe that would soon come together, like drops trickling down the window becoming huge salty tears.
I was looking out the window, observing the streams of water, and people watching, but no-one passed around. Maybe someone did, but I didn’t notice, because the rain was so heavy that you could barely see the funky pictures on the wall right across the street. I thought that day felt like Ireland, so savage, but lush, bittersweet like our Guinness. They said Fiddler’s Elbow had the best Guinness in the whole of Brighton, and I believed them. But after a couple of years I’d1 say that that Irish pub had the best Guinness in the whole of England. One night they told me to leave my drink to settle, so I waited, and when settled, it indeed tasted better. I wouldn’t say it was particularly because of the process itself, but because if you really want something and you have to wait for it long enough, you appreciate it more. We drank our pints and had two more. Then we were after going to the beach. We wanted to pick up some shells and chase the waves up and down. It was still raining, but I loved that place so much that I even didn’t mind to getting all wet. So we walked around the beach, from the old pier to Hove and back. The waves were big and wild, washing all the stones away. And soon the beach was empty. Just him and I and the sea. I don’t like rain, but there I liked it.
‘What shall we eat? I kinda fancy fish or something really beachy, do you?’ So we ordered fish, scallops and champagne. We talked about everything, the scallops, work, our plans for the next week, us. That was just what we did. Talking together was for us like thinking for oneself. It was so natural, there was this connection in between us. Everything was lovely, just the fish didn’t go well with the jazz music playing there. I don’t know why, though.
I remembered that one day we were sitting in Hope and Ruin, back there in Brighton, same kind of music. I drank sour beer and he had a cider. The Guinness they did tasted funny, so we would never ask for it there. A desperate musician was playing the broken piano. When we first went to this pub we ordered the same, sour beer and a cider, but we left the place with an impression that it was rather quirky. It was too colourful, too bright, too jazzy. The tables were made of old electronic board games, the DJ’s table used to be a fridge in a previous life, there were pictures of Brighton from a previous life, and there was this huge clown by the door. We thought we would never come back, but there was something special about the place. After a couple of romantic serenades the place got flooded. The music was so beautiful, so lovely. The draughts were crying beer, the couples who weren’t in love fell in love and lovers loved each other even more, insanely, almost fatally. We looked at each other and left. We didn’t even finish our pints. That time I left with an impression that he was the one.
Suddenly, I felt somehow really nostalgic, like if something had changed inside of me. I had never felt anything like that before. But I always felt nostalgic when I ate seafood. It reminded me of Brighton. I knew it was coming, so I asked him: ‘Honey, when did you realise that I was the one?’ He looked at me suspiciously and got slightly nervous, but then he calmed down, smiled, and said: ‘I remember it vividly, it was that day we saw the artist in that pub we thought it was quirky.’ I just smiled back and sipped a bit of my fizz. He never remembered names. We’ve already eaten the seafood, and I fancied a dessert. I ordered just strawberries, like back in Spain where they consider fruit like a sweet and tasty cake.
Not a long time before we met, I travelled around Spain, and I visited this town in Catalonia called Gerona. The town is marvellous. It’s full of those little narrow streets where merchants sell seafood and wine that are better than anywhere. Restaurants and cafes buy it and prepare it in thousand different ways, each of its own taste and style, but I especially liked how they prepared it in this family bistro ‘Le Bistrot’. I don’t know if it was truly because of their spectacular cuisine, or because it was once ranked the most romantic restaurant in the world that I liked it. And there I learned to have fruit as a dessert. I’d always have strawberries and coffee after a meal. A couple of streets away there is this lovely little square by the river. It’s also good for desserts, I mean real desserts. A stall there sells a very nice ice-cream, not too sweet and very milky, milky like an English country cup of tea. In the middle of the plaza there is a statue of lioness. The local tradition says that if you visit Gerona and you want to come back again one day, you should kiss its bum. I thought that I would definitely want to come back, maybe with someone special, so just in case I climbed those little stairs to reach it, wiped the lioness’ butt with a sleeve and kissed it. And in two years time I came again with him. We would sit in ‘Le Bistrot’ in the terrace drinking cava and eating olives, we would go to the markets and buy flowers. The sun going up and down would fill our glasses and we would kiss and kiss and kiss. And right before we left, we both kissed the lioness.
Once we’d eaten the strawberries, I knew it was coming soon. Lately, he paid too much attention to my hands. He held them tighter as if he was somehow measuring them, and when he couldn’t hold my hands, he at least studied them visually. He looked so deep at them as you look into a liar’s eyes when you want to hear the truth. I’ve always imagined this very moment. I looked around. I saw people eating and chatting, waving to waiters to bring another bottle of their finest. The waiters were sweating in their tight fancy vests, running from a table to table and at each stop they’d try to read customers’ minds so they could make all their wishes come true. ‘You’re having an eye on the fluffy blueberry cake they’re eating at the table right next to you.’ ‘Blueberry cake, ma’m?’ And then he went across our table, both of our minds were wandering somewhere around, and the waiter knew that that night he couldn’t help our wishes to come real.
There it was, a precious ring right in front of me. He didn’t say anything, he was just waiting for me all trembling, all ready to put it on my finger to see if he chose well. I imagined this moment many times, in various places, but I had never imagined it in there, in ‘La Chapelle’, to which we had no bounds at all. So I just stood up, and left. At the door I glanced at him for the last time and I noticed a tiny little red spot on his white T-shirt right there where his heart was. But I had to leave. I never saw him again, but I heard that since then on he wears red shirts only, so no-one would notice that he was bleeding. He’s somewhere there, my other half, my soulmate, waiting for me to answer, still trembling, but knowing that I won’t respond. We kissed the lioness, but we never came back.