Uncanny Love Tales – (06) Hidden in Tweed
Peter Nesbitt was staying in Braithwaite at the Coledale Inn for a few days, it was his brother Johnnies idea, a short break in the Lake District, a change of pace and some R&R, unfortunately Johnnie’s idea of rest and relaxation was the consumption of copious quantities of Jennings Ale.
But Peter, now in his early thirties, was looking for something more than drinking games and hangovers so on Monday morning, bright and early he grabbed his backpack and set off for a walk on the hill in the early sunshine.
He left the pub and set off down the lane towards the stile which would set him on the path to the hill and as he got halfway along it he happened to notice another walker heading for the same stile from the opposite direction.
She wore stout walking shoes, old fashioned brogues, with long argyle socks, a grey tweed skirt and a drab shapeless sweater and her hair was tied in a bun beneath a tweed cap that matched the skirt and she looked about forty.
If it hadn’t been for the coloured backpack, he would have thought he’d stumbled through a portal into the 1930s.
“After you” he gestured
“Thank you” she said accompanied by a nervous smile in a voice much younger that her appearance.
Once she was over the stile she set off at an impressive pace and was very sure footed as she strode off ahead of him, he had to admit that although her footwear was old fashioned it was considerably more appropriate for the conditions than what Peter was wearing.
It wasn’t the warmest of days, and he’d elected for shorts and a T-shirt and in his little backpack he only had a waterproof jacket a drink and a sandwich.
The weather in the Lake District was notoriously unpredictable, despite the bright start to the day, so it wasn’t really a surprise that by mid-morning the blue sky had been consumed by grey.
Peter was on top of the hill looking out across the valley and the lake, he had no idea if it was Bassenthwaite Water or Derwent as he’d lost his bearings a bit, after all he wasn’t really familiar enough with Cumbria to find his way around without a map which of course he didn’t have in his pack either.
He sat down and opened his pack, ate his sandwich and drank his drink but when he looked at the distant sky he didn’t need a map or anything else to tell him it was coming his way so he decided to make his way off the hill ahead of it as quickly as possible.
He hadn’t even reached halfway before the low cloud settled a thick mist all around him.
Peter had on his light jacket, which was getting wet in the mist, he also had good trainers on, but on the damp stone they were not really fit for purpose and he was slipping with every other step.
The fog had come down very quickly and was extremely thick in places.
“You should just sit it out” a soft voice said
“I’m sorry?” He said turning around and seeing the frumpy woman sitting on a large flat rock.
“You should just sit it out” she said again
“Is that wise?” Peter asked
“Yes, this band of cloud is due to blow through in a couple of hours” she said confidently
“Is it? He asked
“Didn’t you check the weather forecast before you set off this morning?” she asked
“No” he admitted and sat down next to her “I’m Peter by the way, Peter Nesbitt” and offered his hand
“Sarah Hallam” she responded
Sarah Hallam was 28 years old, single and happy to be so, all things considered, she had studied law at university but after three years she decided it wasn’t the career for her, so she followed a different path and had been a proof reader for a legal publisher for the last six years, it suited her well as she could work from home and so didn’t have to interact with people.
It meant that she spent a lot of time on her own, which she didn’t mind as she was happy in her own company, however although she lived in seclusion in the country she still liked to get away to somewhere different whenever she could, normally to some place beautiful and the Lake District was certainly that.
When they met at the stile, Peter had ridiculed Sarah’s mode of dress, but as they sat on a large flat rock in the fog, he had to admit that she was more appropriately dressed than he was, at which point he shivered.
“Do you have anything useful in your pack?” Sarah asked
“It’s empty now I’m afraid” Peter replied
“You did come well prepared” She said sarcastically
Luckily for Peter, Sarah’s backpack was filled with a wealth of useful stuff, a thermos full of coffee, Sandwiches, Kendal mint cake and a blanket all of which she generously shared with him while they spoke candidly about their past.
Peter was interested to hear about Sarah’s profession as he and his brother Johnnie were also in publishing as they jointly ran a printing company, specializing in high end books.
“I don’t mean to pry Sarah” he began “I understand that under our present condition they are indeed practical, but why are you dressed like a….”
“Frump” she suggested
“Well I wouldn’t have used that word exactly, but Yes” he agreed “I’m sorry”
“Its fine” Sarah said “it’s quite simple really”
Peter listened intently
“When I was at University, in my first year, I had my heart broken, badly” She confessed
“And again, in the third year, much worse and nearly cost me my degree”
“I’m so sorry” Peter said sympathetically “But why the tweeds?”
“Well after the second time I resolved to have no more truck with love” She said without emotion “or relationships”
“I am single and glad to be so” she added and paused for a moment and Peter spoke
“So that’s why you dress to make yourself look fifteen years older than you are?” Sarah nodded
“I have found that if you are a shapeless old frump, men tend to leave well alone”
“What a waste” he thought to himself
“And what about you?” She asked
“Well I’ve also had my heart broken” he confessed “just the once for me though”
“Once would’ve been enough for me” Sarah mumbled
“I’ve not given up hope completely” Peter continued “But I’ve not met the “one” yet”
She nodded her understanding
“I’ve not found my soul mate yet” was what he meant
“In truth I use work much the same way as you use Tweed” He said
“My brother Johnnie says I work too hard and should get out and have some fun”
“It’s nice that he cares about you” Sarah said
“His idea of fun differs greatly from mine” he said and they both laughed
By about three in the afternoon a light breeze got up and started stirring the mist.
“Right on time” Sarah said though she was a little disappointed, as she was rather enjoying herself, and that took her by surprise
“Perhaps we should wait for another half an hour or so” Peter suggested also in no hurry to leave.
“Good idea” Sarah said
By 4.15 they couldn’t really delay it any longer as watery sunshine was beginning to penetrate the mist, so Peter began handing the remnants of their impromptu picnic to Sarah which she packed neatly away.
“Thank you” Peter said
“For what?” Sarah asked
“Sharing your lunch and your blanket” he said “and for your company”
“Oh, there’s no need to thank me” she responded and gave him a smile
“It would have been a very dull afternoon had you not happened along”
Peter thought he detected a slight blush on her cheek.
“She’s a very attractive and confident girl beneath the frumpy exterior” he thought
It was as they walked down the hill in the weak sunshine that he decided that he would endeavour to get her to re-join the world and if not embrace the waves then at least dip her toe in the water.
They were just approaching the stile they had crossed earlier in the day when he said
“I was wondering, as you were so generous to me today you might allow me to repay the favour”
“There’s no need” Sarah relied cursing herself for her cowardice
“It’s the least I can do”
“There really is no need”
“Just dinner at the Pheasant in Keswick” Peter persisted
“Ok” she relented and to herself added “Good decision”
“But tomorrow would be better for me” she said as Peter helped her over the stile
“Great tomorrow it is” he said smiling “I will look forward to it”
Sarah had taken a bold step by agreeing to the dinner, it took her by surprise how much she wanted to, and she had opened herself up to disappointment again, but having said yes, she didn’t want to hold back now.
If she was going to make the most of it, she had to make the most of herself and as she hadn’t packed anything remotely suitable for dinner she had been in Kendall all day shopping for girl clothes, that was why she said she couldn’t make dinner the evening before.
Peter spent his day fending off questions from his brother Johnnie, about where he was going and who he was meeting, he loved his brother but his biggest fear was that Johnnie would pitch up at the pub and unintentionally spoil things before they got started.
So, he told him he was taking her to a restaurant in Ambleside an hour later than he was actually meeting Sarah in Keswick.
Sarah was second guessing herself and as she stood in front of the mirror wearing a little black dress, her long brunette hair was down, and her face was subtly made up.
It had been a while since she had given herself the treatment and the face, she was wearing was her third attempt.
The first one left her looking like a mortician’s subject and the second resembled a clown, but she was running out of time so the third one would have to do.
Why on earth did she agree to do this, what was she thinking?
“Because you wanted to” she said out loud to the mirror “now suck it up and go and knock him dead”
Peter was sat in the bar a full half an hour before he was supposed to meet Sarah and he was insanely nervous; he hadn’t felt like that since he was 15 when he was waiting outside the multiplex for Cindy Brownlow.
However, as he sat there, he was thinking it was a mistake to arrive so early as his stomach was doing somersaults.
When Peter turned around and saw this brunette in the little black dress coming towards him, he couldn’t stop himself from saying
“Will I Do?”
“Comme ci Comme ça” He said making a gesture with his hand
“Charming” she said
“I was expecting someone in tweeds” Peter pointed out and she laughed
“I decided to make an effort” Sarah said as she sat down
“I thought this might be more appropriate”
The evening passed by so quickly, it was like an information exchange, and they were so absorbed in each company that they completely lost track of time, to such an extent that they had to be asked to leave.
“Oh, dear we seem to have overstayed our welcome and there is so much more to say” Sarah said
“Then we should perhaps consider this an adjournment and pick this up again tomorrow”
She nodded her ascent with a broad smile on her face and he was rather pleased with himself for his legal reference almost as much as the securing of another date.
They agreed to meet again the next morning by the stile where they had first met and she was transformed, the frump he’d met on the hill the day before was gone forever.
No wonder Peter hadn’t been able to find his soul mate for all those years of searching, she was hiding in plain sight.
Sarah Hallam, the woman who was a stranger only two days before, would be at his side every day thereafter.