When Harriet met Salvador
She arrived at the quaint little pub in Bath twenty minutes early. Harriet was normally a confident and loud person, but given the circumstances, she was now a shrinking violet, for today was the day she was to meet Salvador. For months now, since she had answered the lonely-hearts advertisement on an internet website, she had dreamt of this moment, but now she wanted to hide.
Harriet Linley was thirty-five years of age and a divorcee. She had no children, no ties, so she thought what the heck, go for it girl. After the initial introduction on the internet, she had become a woman obsessed. They spent hours in the evening in front of the computer, oblivious to the outside world.
Harriet imagined Salvador to be a tall, dark, handsome Spaniard, and a certain Antonio Bandaras was etched in her vibrant thoughts. She checked her mirror as she sat on the barstool and gazed at the reflection of an attractive, redheaded woman, her blue eyes still as bright and mischievous as they were as a teenager. Granted, there were a few unwelcome lines, but the expertly applied make-up camouflaged the damage. She attended keep-fit classes regularly, so there was no problem with her youthful figure. Oh, where are you my Savador, my Latin guardian on your silver steed?
Harriet ordered another martini and fought off the leers from the male admirers, with a snarl that would have left Mike Tyson squirming in his corner. The music of Manuel of the Mountains serenaded her, and she smiled at the significance of the timing.
She watched the door open, and her heartbeat accelerated. A million feathers tickled her stomach, when the not so tall, not so young, dark man approached. She hoped and prayed he was not heading for her, but his radiant smile suggested otherwise. He was about five feet-seven inches tall with slicked back, grey hair, and wore the most flamboyant red suit she had ever seen. With his pencil thin moustache, he looked like a Latin spiv.
“Harriet, you are just how I imagined you.”
“Anto... I mean, Salvador.”
“This is for you.”
“A red rose. How romantic. It goes with your suit.”
“You like it, no?”
“It’s er... it’s different, Salvador.” She tried to hide her disappointment and offered a false smile.
“Well, here we are at last, like lovers in a distant dream, bonded together by kismet. You are beautiful, Harriet.”
“Why, thank you.”
“If only you knew how long I’ve been waiting for this day.”
The drinks flowed and Harriet succumbed to her date’s hospitality, even though he had clearly lied about his age. His claim to be forty-five was somewhat exaggerated.
“Tonight, I will take you to the finest restaurant, where I will treat you to the finest steak.”
“Sorry, Salvador, but I don’t eat the flesh of animals.”
“What is that? Nonsense. You will love it.”
“Not for me.”
“Well, maybe a little paella then.”
“Tell me, Salvador…what do you do for a living? I mean, all of that time we spent on the computer and you never once mentioned what you did for a living.”
“I am retired now. I once was a matador…the finest bullfighter in Spain.”
Harriet looked horrified. “You used to kill bulls?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes they prodded us or even killed the matador. It is a most dangerous sport.”
“Sport! You call murder a sport?”
“Murder? They are nothing but mere bulls.”
“Bulls have feelings too you know?”
“Do they? I never thought about it like that. Anyway, my bullfighting days are long gone.”
Harriet sipped her martini. “So, Salvador. Why England?”
“Ah, I met an English girl in Spain and we fell in love. She left me for another man, but I fell in love with England, where I’ve made my home… And you?”
Harriet studied the craggy features of the Spaniard. “I was married once, but like you, I’ve been unlucky in love.”
“So, here we are…two beans in a pod.”
“It’s two peas in a pod.”
“It is? You learn something everyday.”
They talked late into the night before they made their way to the restaurant. Salvador, though not what Harriet expected, still had a certain charm about him, which captivated her somewhat. He talked intently and she listened to his every word, cherishing each moment together. She saw beneath his ruggedness that he once must have been a handsome man. That he had not tried to bed her on their first date, though a little disappointed, she admired him for it. They said their goodbyes and agreed to meet the next evening. Goodbye, Antonio, hello Salvador!
The bright sunlight filtered through the tall trees, as the four companions waited eagerly for the equestrians to emerge from the early morning mist. Harriet was armed with a horn and a whip, her weapons of war. They heard the approach of the huntsmen before they saw them, the sound of the horn and the thunder of hooves unmistakable. The fox darted past them, confused and frightened as it made its escape.
Harriet’s group exited the woods and watched when the red-coated foe appeared, a pack of barking hounds preceding them. Harriet had been a member of the Cotswolds support group for the abolition of foxhunting for two years now. The scent dulling sprays had been applied to the coverts and the operation was now in motion.
Harriet and her band of hunt saboteurs dashed in front of the horses, honking their horns and cracking the whips, which the hounds responded to.
“Yut, yut-yut,” was the cry of the master of the hunt, bringing the hounds to a halt. Several other saboteurs emerged from the woods and encircled the confused huntsmen, spraying the ground in front of the baying hounds.
“Bastards! Let us pass!” demanded the master.
Jacko, the leader of the saboteurs confronted him. “You’ll have to ride over us now, won’t you?”
“You’re on private property. You’re trespassing,” said the master, eyeing the combat-jacketed intruders.
“Bollocks, this is public countryside, and you know it.”
At first, she did not recognise the red-coated rider, but then the voice registered.
“Salvador, is that you?”
“What are you doing here?”
“If you are with them, then I have nothing to say to you.”
“Reasonable? Since when has killing defenceless foxes been classed as reasonable?”
“You know this er... woman?” asked the master of the hunt, stressing the word woman.
“Yes, Horace, I know her.”
“Well, if you’ve any sense, you and the rest of your riff-raff will step aside and let us proceed.”
“I don’t think so,” said Jacko, cracking his whip and prompting the hounds to cower.
“You leave us no choice. Now step aside!” threatened Horace.
Jacko gave him the middle finger.
“How disgusting,” moaned a grimacing female rider.
“Come on!” screamed the master, as the huntsmen threaded their way through the protesters. There were a few minutes of chaos when some of the horses reared up, but others escaped through the cordon. The sounds of the horns and whistles filled the morning air, as the majority of the huntsmen broke through the ranks.
Harriet faced Salvador and spread her arms. The Spaniard looked her in the eyes and booted his horse. The horse started forward and Harriet sounded her horn, which startled the beast, causing it to rear up. The horse kicked out and caught Harriet on the head, before it tipped over backwards and collapsed onto its rider.
Some of the huntsmen dismounted and ran to the aid of Salavador, whilst the saboteurs gathered around Harriet. The blood streamed down her face as she looked across at Salvador, who was trapped beneath his horse, the last breath escaping from his lungs. She held his gaze and stretched out her hand to touch his, before she blacked out. Their hands were joined, as they were reunited in death.