I rang my new lover, Jay. ‘’Can you meet me at The Lemon Tree at 7.30pm?’’ It was a new tapas bar in my local town in Halifax, Yorkshire, England. It was a dreary old mill town, pretending to be cosmopolitan. It perhaps succeeded and fooled some on a rare hot, sunny day. Today it was one of those and I loved to sit outside The Lemon Tree and dream of being back in Andalusia, Spain, drinking tinto verano (summer red wine) and enjoying little dishes of calamari, braised courgettes in honey and patatas alioli (potatoes in garlic). The menu wasn’t quite as authentic, but I could dream and imagine being back in the pretty Spanish town I had grown to love. Jay agreed to meet me that evening.
After years of working in the high pressured environment of banking, I was offered an escape, a way out and an opportunity to leave with a nice severance package. I had to tell him I planned to leave and live my dream in Spain. I was going to ask him to come with me. I had fallen head over heels in love with this young, tall dark and handsome man. He was passionate, artistic, and intelligent and even had the Mediterranean looks. The first time I saw him, I thought he was Spanish or Italian, until he opened his mouth and his accent was almost as broad as any others who had lived in this town all of their lives.
I met him in the new art gallery that had been created in a space in the old Mill that loomed over the town. The bank I worked for rented some of the mill out and I was sent to set up a new office department there. Six months down the line the company was taken over by a larger international bank and the business transferred to London. I realized my job was under threat I often had a walk around the mill at lunchtime, to visit a new café bar that had sprung up and one lunch time I decided to look around the gallery. All the work displayed was mainly of local artists but I was especially drawn to a collection of lake and mountain scenes, almost fairy-tale and magical, full of vibrant colors. I must have stood for over five minutes staring at one painting and getting lost in my own fantasy of being back in Spain.
‘’I see you are admiring the work of Carlos Moreno’’ The man startled me. ‘’Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump. My name is Jay’’.
‘’Oh it’s OK I was dreaming of a place in Spain I love, a little village in the mountains of Andalucía. Nice to meet you Jay, I’m Sally.’’
Jay held out his hand and as I shook it I felt a warmth and instant connection. I was blushing, a confident woman of forty something and I was feeling like a teenager again. He asked if I wanted to pop into the gallery café for a coffee.
‘’I can tell you more about the artist if you are interested; he actually grew up in Ronda, a beautiful town not far from the lakes and mountains of Andalusia. I manage this gallery, but can take a break for half an hour.’’
I really should have been heading back to work, but I already knew my career was likely to be coming to an end and my passion and dedication for the job was dwindling.
‘’I would love to Jay’’ I agreed without hesitation.
Within half an hour he had told me that Carlos Moreno was his grandfather on his mother’s side, which explained his Mediterranean looks. He also told me the artist moved to Yorkshire to marry his grandmother and never went back to Spain. Unfortunately he died of lung cancer when he was 42, but in the six months before he died he painted the collection that was displayed in the gallery.
‘’It was all from his memory’’ Jay explained. ‘’I think that is why they appear somewhat mystical and fairy-tale like. I never got to know my grandfather, but have a sense of him through his art work. I was so happy that the owner of the gallery let me display his collection’’.
We agreed to meet for lunch the next day and then continued to meet every day, either for lunch at the café in the gallery or at the Lemon Tree in the evening. He told me more about his family and how he regularly visited distant cousins in Ronda. He told me of a wonderful little farmhouse that had been passed down to him just outside the town and how he has dreams of living the simple life there. His dreams were of keeping goats, having an olive grove, writing and painting. The house, however was in a state of disrepair and needed much love and attention.
After our first evening date Jay walked me to my car and moved forward to embrace me. I knew it would be passionate and I longed to kiss him, but I had to tell him my secret. I meant to tell him the first time we met and had lunch, but I was scared he wouldn’t want to see me again. I pulled away from him, avoiding the kiss.
‘’What is it Sally?’’ He looked hurt and embarrassed. ‘’Have I misread the signals?’’
I burst into tears. ‘’Oh no Jay, I so much want this, but I am afraid I have deceived you’’ I continued to sob. ‘’I am married and my husband is at home drinking himself stupid every day, while I try and keep the house and bills going. I should have told you. I am on the verge of leaving him, but have been so afraid of what he might do.’’
Jay got in the car with me and held me until I stopped sobbing. He kissed the tears away from my face and held me again. ‘’I am falling in love with you Sally. I feel I have met my soul-mate in you. We want the same things I am sure of it’’
‘’Oh Jay I know and I feel the same, but you can’t want me now I have deceived you’’. The tears were welling up again.
‘’I want you more my love. I want to protect you and give you the happiness you deserve. We will make it work, we have to as we are meant to be.’’ He reassured me and we had that passionate kiss and embrace. Once I fell into his arms I knew we were meant to be.
When I got home that night my husband was in a drunken stupor again on the sofa. I threw a blanket over him and went to bed, dreaming of Jay and the life we could have. In the morning he was still asleep on the sofa, stinking of beer and cigarettes. I know I had tried, really tried. He wouldn’t accept any help and his family even told me to leave him. It was hard as I loved him once, but looking back I began to doubt it. I didn’t know what real love was until I met Jay. I wrote my husband a letter and told him I was leaving him. He could have the house, the big house with the over fancy furniture. I didn’t need it or him. I confessed I was in love with another man and I was leaving him. I stuck the note on his whiskey glass as he was sure to read it then.
When I got to work, my manager called me in his office and said ‘’Sally, you know the takeover has put our jobs at risk and I have been made redundant. The bank are offering the chance for you to move to Head Office in London with a great package or voluntary redundancy’’.
I knew immediately I would take the redundancy and told him there and then. I took the rest of the afternoon off and drove into the country where I walked and contemplated my future. By mid-afternoon I had a plan. I could live my dream and Jay’s dream if he was willing. I rang my lover and arranged to meet him that evening at the Lemon Tree.
Jay listened to me tell him how I wanted to go to Spain and live a simple life, perhaps have a little café bar, keep goats and grow olives. He said it was his dream too and we could live it together. We talked about his little farm house and how we could work on it and make it a home. I felt my life was becoming mine and my dreams were coming true.
We kissed goodnight and promised that would be our last night apart. I was going to leave my husband tomorrow, never to sleep in that hideous marital bed again. Never again would I smell stale cigarettes and booze.
Driving past the village pond on my way home I saw a sad, tramp like figure splashing about trying to drag the bed into the pond, then I realized it was my crazy drunken husband. I know now the marital bed will never be slept in again and I waved at him as I went to pack up my belongings.