CHAPTER 1 – Love – “Vision of Lovely”
It was late December. Tiffany paused to put down her heavy bags of last-minute Christmas shopping. With 9 nephews and neices to cater for this Christmas, she didn’t have much change left from the £500 she brought out with her. She rubbed her sore hands together and glanced at the stores across the street. Their window displays were dazzling, but something far more appealing caught her eye.
The man was standing in the snow looking into a window displaying power tools. Tiffany seemed drawn to him. Suddenly he turned and looked straight at her. She felt vulnerable and he noticed and smiled. Her heart melted like the snow on the top of the cart selling hot chestnuts. The man began walking toward her. She tried to avert her gaze; pretending to look at the bus timetable on the nearby bus stop. Seconds later he was there, staring into her eyes.
“You look like you need a hand with those bags” He said calmly. “Can I carry them for you?”
“Yes, please!” she said, “But I’m only getting on the next bus to the Northern Quarter.”
“Well that’s a coincidence! I’m going that way myself, and my car is parked just over the road there!” He pointed down the street. “Please let me drop you off home. It’ll save you struggling on the bus with all those bags.”
Tiffany was hesitant. She didn’t know this man at all, yet when she looked into those eyes, she felt she had known him all her life. “I really don’t want to put you to any trouble” She said.
“It’s no trouble at all. Honestly, I really am going right through the Northern Quarter on my way home. I’ll make sure you get home OK with all that shopping.”
Tiffany still wasn’t sure. She paused for a moment.
The man looked at her quizically. “Please. You’ll be fine. My name’s Jeff by the way. Here … look!” Jeff reached inside his jacket and pulled out a photo of two children. A boy and a girl aged around 8-10. “These are my children. I see you’ve bought a lot of toys here yourself. Do you have lots of children?”
“Sadly, no. I’ve never been married. These gifts are for my 9 neices and nephews. The youngest is 2 and the eldest is 14. How old are yours? What are their names?”
“Christine, is the girl, she’s just coming up to 11. The boy is Colin, my youngest, he has just turned 7. Sadly my wife passed away earlier this year with cancer. I’m now bringing the kids up alone.”
Tiffany gasped. “Oh my! So where are they?”
“It’s OK, I’ve left them with their grandmother. I’ll be going over there to collect them after I’ve dropped you off.”
Tiffany began to feel a bit more comfortable. “Are you sure I won’t be keeping you?”
“Not at all! I’ve plenty of time and I find you intriguing. I’d like to get to know you better.”
“OK. Hang on whilst I let my sister know that I’ll be back early.” Tiffany reached for her phone and dialled a number. “Hello, sis? just to let you know I’m gettig a lift home, rather than waiting for the bus. Yes, I’ve managed to get all the kids present’s. Come round later and we’ll wrap them together”.
Tiffany looked up at Jeff whilst signing off. She thought for a moment that he looked a little agitated. But it must have been her imagination. She put the phone back in her pocket and he smiled. “OK, let’s go!” she said.
A short walk later and they were at his car. It was an Audi with a striking metallic blue finish. “Wow, this is a nice car!” Tiffany exclaimed.
Jeff pressed a button on his keyring and the boot opened automatically. “Yes. I’m rather lucky to be in a position at work that provides me with such luxuries.” He puts all their Christmas shopping in the boot and walks round to the driver’s door. “Please get in the front. It’s open … by the way, what is your name?”
“It’s Tiffany” She replied, as they both get into the car and sit down.
Jeff turns toward her. “Pleased to meet you, Tiffany!” He grins and holds out his right hand. They shake.
Tiffany feels comfort from the touch of Jeff’s hand and hesitates to let go. He spots the sparkle in her eyes and goes along with it. He puts his other hand gently on top of hers and looks at her reassuringly. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you home safely.”
She looks at him coyly and notices how deep and blue his eyes are. The moment appears to stand still in time as their souls meet on a different plane of existance. With a sudden realisation, Tiffany pulls her hand away and averts her gaze. Jeff appears unperturbed and puts the key in the ignition. “Buckle up then! I’ll have you home in no time” he says.
The journey was a mere 20 minutes, but in that short time they conversed cheerfully and found they had much in common. They chatted about their favourite TV programmes. They both loved detective series and hated soaps. They both liked the same kinds of music, even to the point of following the same local band! They found they had a similar sense of humour and laughed about some of the antics of the children. But all too quickly, they were outside Tiffany’s flat.
They got out of the car and took all the bags from the boot. Jeff picked up some of the bags. “Which flat is yours?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m afraid it’s the one right at the top. The attic flat” She replied.
“In that case, please let me help you carry all this stuff upstairs!” Exclaimed Jeff
“Oh, thank you! I really appreciate that!”
They dumped all the shopping on Tiffany’s sofa, then Jeff began to make his way to the front door.
Tiffany really didn’t want Jeff to go. “Would you stay for a coffee?”, she asked quickly.
Jeff hesitated briefly.
“Please!” she pleaded. “It’s the least I could do after all the help you’ve given me.”
Jeff thought for a moment and looked at his watch. “I’d love to, but I really must get going to pick up the kids now.”
Tiffany found herself saying goodbye with a lump in her throat. Surely this couldn’t be the end already? Jeff said earlier that he had plenty of time and now he appeared to be rushing off. She wondered what she might have said to offend him.
Jeff stepped away from the door and started down the hall. Tiffany knew she couldn’t just let him go and grabbed a ball point pen from the table next to the door.
“Wait!” she yelled.
She ran over to him and took hold of his hand. “Wait”, she gasped. “Here is my phone number. Please say you’ll call.” She wrote her number on the back of his hand.
He looked at her with a knowing grin as if he’d planned the whole thing. “Thanks! OK Tiff. I’m pretty busy with work up till Christmas, but I’ll take a look at my schedule when I get home and I’ll give you a call perhaps in a few weeks”. With that he left her tearful at the top of the stairs.
She watched as he ran down the stairs without a backward glance. She felt demoralised. She went back into the flat and flopped herself down on the bed.
Christmas came and went with no word from Jeff. Tiffany watched the children open their presents with a tear in her eye as she remembered the day she bought them. She told herself that she needed to be patient. Jeff did say it would be a few weeks. That didn’t stop her thinking about him though.
Tiffany occupied her mind by planning a new year party with the family and a few close friends. Alas, seeing her friends at the party and thinking about the year ahead was painful. She so wanted to celebrate the new year with the man she felt she had fallen in love with. She questioned her feelings every moment of the day and tried to convince herself that she was being stupid; that she couldn’t possibly be in love with someone she had only known for about 45 minutes. But still the longing wouldn’t leave her.
A few day’s later and she was back at work. She was glad that there was something else to concentrate on. But as the weeks went by, her dreams of that encounter began to engulf her. She lost concentration on her work. She lost her appetite and started losing weight. She spent most of the day in a dream state and felt more and more depressed. She became obsessed with her vision of Jeff and their imaginary relationship.
It was now February. Tiffany’s sister had watched her decline and decided to try and talk some sense into her. She called unannounced at Tiffany’s flat.
After exchanging the obligatory sisterly gossip, they sat down with a coffee.
“Look, I’ll come straight to the point, Tiff”, she said. “I’m not here for the usual sisterly chit-chat. I came round because I’m concerned about you. You’ve lost weight. One of your work colleagues told me your work has gone downhill. And I don’t see you out enjoying yourself anymore. What’s up?”
“He hasn’t called” she said “I don’t know what to do”
“Who hasn’t called?”
“Jeff…Oh sis, it seems so stupid, but I’m in love with him and I don’t know where to find him.”
“Hang on … Who is this Jeff person?”
“Don’t you remember? I called you from town before Christmas and said I was getting a lift home with the shopping. Jeff gave me that lift.”
“Oh! You didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend! Where did you meet him?”
“Well that’s the thing, sis …. he wasn’t … isn’t my boyfriend. I just met him when I called you. He gave me a lift home and helped me up the stairs with all the shopping”
“What??? I thought you’d met a work colleague or something! What the hell were you thinking, getting into a car with a man you didn’t even know? … and what do you mean you’re in love with him? He could have been a psycho or something!”
“I know it sounds ridiculous, but I can only put it down to love at first sight. The moment I looked into his eyes, I felt I had known him forever. And we have so much in common. I gave him my number and he said he’d ring, but hasn’t. I don’t know where he lives or works or anything. Only that his name is Jeff and he has 2 children and a blue Audi”
“Listen Tiff. You can’t be serious. You have to snap out of this right now. Do you hear me? This is all a dream and it’s not real. He is not going to ring you, so just forget him, OK?”
About an hour of serious discussion ensued. It was a difficult job but by the end of it Tiffany appeared convinced and her sister left feeling happier.
Then the phone rang.
The voice on the line said “Hello. Can I speak to Tiffany please?”
Despite the weeks that had passed, Tiffany recognised the voice immediately. It was Jeff.
They chatted non-stop for over 3 hours and arranged to meet that weekend.
Following their first weekend together, their connection was so strong that they saw each other every day and soon fell deeply in love. Within 3 months, they were married and Tiff moved into Jeff’s house.
But they didn’t live happily ever after…