Snippets of Downshire Life – The Ides of March
The Dulcets were a collection of villages and hamlets comprising of Dulcet Meadow, Dulcet St Mary, Dulcet Green and Dulcet-on-Brooke, to name but a few, and of course Dulcet-on-Willow which was a large sprawling village beside the gentle shallow River Willow, which ran unhurriedly from the Pepperstock Hills to the more vibrant River Brooke.
David Harding lived alone in the village, in a Victorian cottage, and he also ran his own Antiques business, called Buy Gone Daze.
He was a bit of a fitness freak and had always prided himself on the fact that he had never had a day off work through illness, but one day in January he woke up with a thumping headache, a raging temperature, a scratchy throat and he ached all over, and although he got up and went into the bathroom to shower, all he actually did was have a drink of water and then returned to his bed, from where he phoned Lisa Peinado.
Lisa had worked for him at the shop since she left college, and she had loved him for almost as long.
“Hi David, is everything OK?”
“No, I’m not coming in today” he croaked
“Oh dear, really?”
“It’s the flu I’m afraid” he said, “Could I ask a favour?”
“Of course,” she replied
“Can you open up and run the shop without me?”
“Yes, yes” she replied enthusiastically
She knocked on the cottage door about twenty minutes later, and he opened the door to her knock.
“Hi David” she said brightly “oh dear you look dreadful”
“I don’t feel at all well” she replied
Lisa tested his forehead with the back of her hand and he was burning, and then she fished in her pocket and brought out a box of max strength cold capsules.
“Take these,” she said “Then go back to bed”
“Thanks Lisa” he said “I’d kiss you, but I don’t want to give you my flu”
“Well I’ll take an IOU in the meantime” she said, mainly to herself, as she left the cottage.
As it turned out she not only ran the shop that day but for a week and a half, as Flu gave way to a chest infection, so she was a regular visitor to the cottage keeping him supplied with medications, hearty soups and stews, and during the period of his incarceration he had plenty of time on his hands and he used that time to good effect, firstly by reflecting on his life, past and present, and his eyes were finally opened to something that had been right under his nose for years, or perhaps someone would be more accurate, and the fact that was now staring him in the face was that he was in love with Lisa.
The other thing he did was to read, anything and everything, and one of the things he read about were the Ides of March, which was a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15th, and it was marked by several religious observances and was notable for the Romans as a deadline for settling debts
“I have a debt to settle” he said out loud.
He remembered that when he was first struck down by the Flu he had said
“I’d kiss you, but I don’t want to give you my flu”
And her barely audible response was
“Well I’ll take an IOU in the meantime”
“I owe her a kiss” he exclaimed “And I intend to settle my debt”
But he had to get rid of the flu and the chest infection first, it wouldn’t make the impression he wanted if he was to cough in her mouth, so it had to be after he was fit and well, so he consulted the calendar and he thought March 15th, the ides of march, was a definite target, as he thought that that date would be quite appropriate.
He returned to work on Monday of the week of the Ides and he found he had more than the one debt to settle, as she had not just kept the shop running in his absence but had increased sales for the duration.
“Are you sure you’re well enough to be back?” she asked “You haven’t come back too soon”
“I’m fine” he said “But I’m going to ease back into it, so you carry on doing what you’ve been doing as if I was still in my sick bed”
As the week progressed he kept barely half an eye on the business as he found it difficult not to spend every second watching Lisa and wondering why he had been so blind, but as the week progresses his general blindness had been replaced by awe.
When Friday arrived, he had to pull himself together and make his move, and he chose the moment they were beginning to close up shop for the day.
“Well Miss Peinado I am so pleased with how you’ve kept the business going, and more, I’ll treat you to dinner”
“Oh lovely” Lisa said
“You’ll probably want to go and change”
“I don’t need to change for the Ruddy Duck” she retorted
“I know but we’re going to the Willow Tree” he said
“The Willow Tree?” she gasped
“But that’s really expensive” she said
“You deserve it” David assured her “the table is booked for 8 o’clock, “Will that give you enough time?”
“Oh yes plenty” she lied “If I leave now”
“You’d better get off then”
The Willow Tree was a very good restaurant and not the kind of place you can just walk in off the street, it attracted a good many, discerning diners, and had a waiting list that ran into months, but because the owner was a friend of his he pulled a few strings and managed to jump the queue and calling in a favour proved to be worth it when he saw Lisa walk towards him as he waited outside the Willow Tree.
The restaurant was every bit as good as its reputation, but he would have been equally happy sitting on a park bench eating fish and chips out of the paper if his dining companion was Lisa.
After a first-class meal with first class company, a liberal quantity of wine, the long and intimate dinner came to an end, and David offered to walk Lisa the short distance to the house she lived in with her parents.
“That was a lovely meal, thank you” she said as they walked
“As I said before it’s no more than you deserve, I just hope it goes some way to paying the huge debt I owe you”
“You don’t owe me anything” she said
“Oh, I do, I owe you for looking after me while I was ill, then for running the shop for me, and running it better than I do, I might add” he said “but more important that even that, I owe you a kiss”
“What?” she gasped
“I remember offering you the reward of a kiss, as a thank you, but I didn’t wish to infect you with my malady”
“Yes, I remember” she said expectantly
“And do you also remember saying you would accept an IOU?” he said
“Yes, I do, but I didn’t think that you heard me” Lisa said and looked down at her feet
“Well I did, and I think that it’s about time that I repaid my dept” he said as he turned to face her
“Oh… yes… I agree” Lisa said and lifted her eyes to meet his, and then by the light of a lamp post, he paid his debt.