Susie and I looked at each other, eyes wide-open in shock, as we took in the news
I looked at Tony and asked him how he felt about soldiering on. He’d received an invitation to a job interview the previous Saturday. If he were successful, he’d be working for a large company that produced a well-known range of breakfast cereals. He’d also come to think that he wouldn’t have much to contribute and that Susie and I seemed to have got the development pretty well nailed, even if just the two of us continued.
There didn’t seem much more to say, so the meeting broke up, everybody wishing each other well in their futures. Susie and I collected our things together, thanked the others for their efforts to date, and left them to it. I left feeling totally deflated, totally frustrated. I asked Susie if she wanted a lift. She pointed out that I’d have to drive well out of my way home. I said that it would give us a chance to discuss what had been said. She agreed.
Once we were back in the street and in the car, we just sat there, speechless for a while, looking out of the windscreen at the street ahead, each with our own internal struggles to deal with that development. At last Susie turned to me.
“Is that it then?”
“Do you want it to be ‘it’?” I asked. I had a similar feeling in my insides to that I’d felt on the day that Helen had said that she’d be leaving me.
“I need to think,” she said, “Can you drive for a bit? Give me a bit longer?”
Once we were underway, Susie asked me for my impressions. I told her that it had seemed to me for a while that neither Ben nor Jason wanted to get too involved. I’d felt no real sense of enthusiasm or urgency from either of them. It had been as though they were distancing themselves from what we were trying to do. I was more surprised about Beverly’s announcement, but it did explain why she’d turned up unexpectedly at the meeting. Susie said that she’d felt exactly the same and was glad that she wasn’t the only one thinking that way. I asked her if she’d decided what she wanted to do now that there were just the two of us. Again, she said that she’d been wondering about that prospect too, as she’d listened to them. She put my question back to me. I told her that I still wanted to see the idea come to fruition but that I couldn’t do it alone.
She momentarily placed her hand over mine as it rested on the gearstick and said that she felt the same. I felt the almost erotic shock of her soft palm on the back of my hand and mentally willed her not to remove it too quickly.
Susie sighed and sat back, resting her neck on the headrest.
I told her that, unlike the others, I could see a definite role for myself in the venture, but that there wouldn’t, couldn’t be a business without her.
She asked how I’d see my role.
I said that I could help with the development of initial online promotion, together with advertising in local newspapers to get us up and running. I said that I saw myself having an ongoing role visiting any companies who’d expressed interest – to talk through with them things like the nature of their business, their expectations and their budget. I told Susie that, if I could get agreed specifications and prices from those visits, she’d then be able to produce something bespoke to fit their needs. I suggested that we could tailor a training programme to provide an after-sales support service. We’d make a great team.
“Do you really think that we could do it all on our own?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I assured her.
She reached across, smiled at me, took my left hand and thanked me. She told me that she’d hoped that I would say that. I think that what had happened in the meeting had really shaken her confidence. She seemed relieved that what she’d done hadn’t been a waste of time. I was relieved for a much more selfish reason. The end of the group project was something I could cope with. I knew that I’d be able to get a job of some type. The thought of possibly never seeing Susie again was of a wholly different order. I had no claim on her – for me she would be forever unattainable, but simply being with her, seeing her smile and hearing her voice had come to have a value greater than I’d realised until only minutes before.
On the way back we discussed the third- party bits that Jason and Ben had mentioned and I said that I’d do some online checking.
A bit further along, she asked if I’d be going to the training session on Thursday. I told her that I would, stiff as I was.
I then told her that I’d be bringing Paul with me on the Saturday morning: that I’d noticed other youngsters running with their mums or dads. I’d even noticed one dad pushing a pram with a baby in it as he’d overtaken me. I said that I’d obviously take longer to complete the circuit: Paul’s six-years old legs were younger and fitter but not as long as mine. Susie said that his lungs were younger too though, so I might struggle to keep up with him. She said that she looked forward to meeting him.
I also learned a bit more about her. She told me that on Wednesday evenings, she often played netball. I said that it was no wonder she looked so trim with all that exercise. She looked at me, laughing, and said that flattery would get me nowhere, but she said that I could come and watch if I’d like. I said that I’d like to but she wasn’t going to persuade me to join in. She explained to me, in my ignorance, that netball was not a girls-only thing. There were increasing numbers of male teams internationally and some male friends, spouses, children and so forth often came to cheer her team on.
I asked her was this her night for going out with the girls to discuss dating exploits. She looked sharply at me and asked why I asked. I told her that I remembered what she’d said when we’d met at her house, the day after Valentine’s Day.
“Oh, my God,” she said, “Fancy you remembering that.”
She told me that, yes, she would be meeting her friends as usual, but that they didn’t only talk about dating site experiences.
As, she got out of the car at her house, she thanked me for the lift, smiled and told me to ‘keep the faith’.
Today my featured photo was taken at Meols beach on the Wirral Peninsula of Merseyside. The image is of a boat on the beach, mid afternoon. The boat’s name “Womack” can be seen clearly at the rear of the boat.,
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens @ 34 mm and f/8 Shutter speed was 1/1000 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.