The story is now entering its final week and the relationships between Susie and Paddy reach new highs and lows. If you’ve been reading this story for a while, don’t stop now.
Susie had pre-prepared a salad for our tea and some home-baked apple pie for afters. She said that she’d kept the pie portions small so that we wouldn’t be jogging on full stomachs. My mouth was watering already and the food fully lived up to my expectations. The salad was fresh, crisp and colourful. The pie pastry was light and the apple pieces had softened beautifully. Just to make it perfect, she’d made some delicious golden-yellow custard. I told her that I was well and truly impressed.
Learning new steps
After our meal, while Susie went upstairs to get changed ready for going to the park, she left me downstairs watching the news on the living room television. By the time the weather came on she was ready and it was my turn to get my running kit on. She directed me to her bathroom upstairs. Everything looked modern for an older house like hers. As I changed, I heard music being played downstairs. I couldn’t make out what it was but it had a Latin-American rhythm. I put my street clothes into a carrier bag that I’d brought for the purpose and made my way back downstairs.
The door into the living room was open and I could see, as I approached, that Susie seemed to be dancing to a routine that was being demonstrated on her TV screen. It looked like some kind of line dance to a salsa or mambo tune. A few years previously, Helen and I had signed up for salsa lessons, but we’d quit after a few weeks because I had evening work commitments. The lessons we’d missed were too difficult to make up. I guess that was one of the things that Helen had complained about. I recognised some of the basic moves – a kind of box step with chasses, change steps and cross steps with toes pointed outwards– but all done with a lot of slow, exaggerated hip sways. I stood in the doorway and clapped.
Susie turned around blushing from her face down to her neck when she heard me above the soft music.
“That looked amazing,” I said, “I take it that you go line-dancing?”
She shook her head.
“No, it’s a dance fitness video that I found online.”
“I like the music,” I said, “Who is it? What’s it called?”
She said that it was Camila Cabello and the track was called “Havana”.
I told her that I’d heard it before being played in a shop as background music and that I liked it; that it was catchy.
The music had ended by this time.
“Now that you’ve seen me,” she said, “you have to try it with me.”
I protested that I had two left feet but she pulled me towards her and instructed me to stand by her side, hold her hand and to follow the steps on the screen. A couple of times she had to stop, laughing at my clumsiness, then demonstrating as she pulled and pushed me, to the music. I found that watching her feet and copying helped, but I had difficulty following exactly to the music’s insistent beat.
After a couple of times of restarting the video I was beginning to manage to her satisfaction. She stopped the video and turned to me.
“Mmm!” she said, “You’re not a completely hopeless case, but I think that more practice is called for. You’ll have to book another lesson, soon. Anyway, you’re warmed up now ready for our training session.”
On our way to the park, I put my laptop, papers and bag of clothes into the boot of my car. The image of her hips swaying to that seductive rhythm was to stay with me for days.
Crossing the park, she asked how I was getting on with Jenny. I said that she seemed to be okay, but that she was never in the car long before I had to drop her off. Susie asked if I’d mind giving her a lift again. I promised that I’d oblige.
The cloud had thickened during the afternoon, but I drove us to the park to be ready for later anyway. Susie said that she’d jog back home as usual or ask Jake for a lift if it started raining.
The training seemed to be working for me. I didn’t have as much difficulty in keeping up and I wasn’t as breathless afterwards.
By the time we’d finished, the rain had started. I walked with Jenny back to the car and noticed that Susie was walking with Jake to his car. Jenny had obviously seen me looking because she mentioned it in the car soon after we started off.
“You’re not jealous are you?” she asked. I could see that she was watching me closely.
“What on earth makes you think that?” I asked, perhaps too quickly.
She just smirked.
“Jake’s married,” she said, “He’s no threat.”
I thought it better to say nothing. Whatever I said I was likely to dig a hole for myself.
“What are you getting her for her birthday?” was her next question.
I asked whose birthday she was talking about.
She told me that it would be Susie’s birthday the following Wednesday.
I saw this spiral staircase – presumably a fire escape at the side of a hotel – and its afternoon shadows one day when I’d stopped at traffic lights in Widnes, Merseyside. I resolved to return at a similar time the next time it was sunny, which I did and captured this image.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera and 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens @ 45 mm and f/13 Shutter speed was 1/60 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was taken handheld and post-processed in Lightroom Classic.