This is the first short story i wrote in a creative writi8ng class some thirty years ago—–
Heart of Glass
Theresa’s heart skipped a beat as she watched Bill walk slowly across the reception area of Oakland Hotel. He was dressed proudly in his military uniform that displayed the two medals he’d been awarded for his gallantry the Gulf. It was his bravery that had led him indirectly to the Oakland. He’d been given sick leave after his leg had been badly injured on his last tour of duty. Bill’s doctor had suggested he take a vacation after his rehabilitation and before he returned to active duty. The regimental chaplain had suggested Oakland.
“You’ll be pampered and it’ll do you the world of good. Then you’ll be back on duty in perfect shape,” the padre had told him. Bill had agreed. He’d no family and nothing better to do.
Bill did indeed feel that it had done him good. The rooms were comfortable, the staff attentive and the food was good, basic home cooking. The large grounds were full of colourful flowerbeds and pathways that led to a stream shadowed by the oak trees that gave the hotel its name. He’d taken a shine to Theresa the first time he’d seen her behind the reception desk. Her navy dress complete with white collar clung to her slim figure. Her violet coloured eyes were reflected serenely in the delicate gold chain that hung gracefully around her neck. The minute he saw her, he thought she could have come straight from the front cover of Vogue, in another life. He smiled as he remembered that all too recent first meeting; he’d always had an eye for a girl in uniform, even behind a reception desk.
As Bill walked towards the desk and Theresa, he remembered the walks they’d taken through the grounds together each afternoon and the chats they’d had, finding that they had shared many interests. He remembered his first, and only, chat up line.
“The first time I saw you I thought you must have come from Heaven.” He’d blushed and she’d laughed so angelically, putting him back at ease.
Approaching the desk, he smiled at the memory.
“Don’t be silly,”she murmured to herself, crossly, as she watched him. “He’s a nice guy, but nothing can ever come of it. Just pray he doesn’t have a glass heart. It would be a sin to break it.”
Bill smiled as he asked Theresa for the key to his room.
“How’s the leg?” she asked sympathetically.
“It’s been a devil today,” he grimaced and then apologised. “Sorry I shouldn’t have said that.”
“You don’t have to be,” she smiled, “I’ve heard worse in my job, believe you me.”
“I’ve heard the way some of the people have spoken to you. I think you’re a saint to put up with it.”
They giggled like two school children, easy in each others company. Although she’d not known him long, she felt comfortable with him and liked him a lot more than she’d let herself admit.
“I’m leaving tomorrow morning,” he said, his voice becoming a little more seriously. “I was wondering if you’d like to have supper with me this evening. We could eat in the restaurant here?”
Almost a minute passed and she hadn’t answered.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked. I didn’t think. Perhaps you aren’t allowed…..” his voice trailed away.
“Yes, I’d love to,” she answered.
So it was with some trepidation that she met him in the foyer of the Oakland restaurant at 5.30 that afternoon. Each felt a nervousness about the forthcoming evening. Suddenly the meal they were about to share felt more like a formal date than a casual supper between regular friends.
Michael, the head waiter, escorted them to a table by the window overlooking the gardens where they had spent several happy hours. Bill ordered a bottle of Merlot, his favourite tipple, without thinking.
“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head humbly, “I just didn’t think. I seem to be doing nothing but apologise.”
“Don’t worry. Worse things happen,” she smiled, forgivingly, “I’ll order an orange juice
when Michael comes back with our starters.”
She really is an angel, he thought to himself. Most of the girls he’d taken to supper in the past would have snapped his head off for making such assumptions.
They both knew they had a lasting friendship as they chatted; a friendship that would stay with them for ever as their lives took them in different directions. They shared a love of art, literature, history and travel. As they chatted animatedly they both knew deep down that their relationship was doomed to go no further. Tonight they would say goodbye for ever; however they enjoyed talking well into the night about a variety of subjects.
Midnight struck and they both knew that the evening had drawn to a close.
“Can I write to you, at least?” Bill asked for he knew that it was an impossibility to see her again.
“No, I don’t think that is a good idea.” Theresa replied sadly as her voice trembled and her shoulders lowered.
“I understand. At least I think I do,” he replied softly, reaching for her hand across the table. She left her hand there for several seconds before pulling it away.
“At least I can walk you to your door,” he continued somewhat softly.
“That would be lovely,” she smiled serenely.
The least she could do was allow him that and so they walked in silence across the courtyard of the convent next door. She turned to face him. “If only I had met you before,” she said simply and was gone into the convent gate. She knew that the Mother Superior would be waiting for her to return from her late night duty at the Church run ‘Retreat’ where she worked voluntarily whilst serving as a novice. In the morning when she rose for the 5.30 prayers she would have to make sure that her Confessions met with the Mother Superiors approval and that she say the required number of ‘Hail Mary’s’. Penance enough for meeting that once in a lifetime friend.