There seated at the octagonal table in the bay, sat a young petite woman in her mid-thirties, in the quaint village styled tearooms, with its rustic beams, lead-light windows, attracting his attention. Uninterested in her surrounding’s she gazed intently out of the window with her deep blue penetrating eyes, and long blonde wavy hair. Almost hypnotised by her elegant figure, unable to withdraw his eyes off her; and oh how fragile she seemed. Had she noticed him, intently gazing at her . . . she must have been blind not to have, or was she wrapped up in her own world? He wondered what she was doing, sitting there all alone.
Time passed by without her giving any sign of preparing to leave. It looked as if whom ever it was that she was waiting for, had stood her up. What a jerk, he must be, letting her wait like that.
He hadn’t had a real conversation with anybody for so long now, and had started to feel lonesome. He resolved to approach her, and having built up the courage to do so, got up and walked over slowly to her table.
“May I join you?” he asked.
She looked up briefly and smiled. “Please do, I have been expecting you,” she answered, looking back out of the window, without any display of interest or show of surprise.
“I saw you looking at the old rectory,” Benjamin blurted out in an apologetic manner, “and I wondered…I lived there for a few years as a child.”
“You did?” she asked without managing to show surprise or interest. “You don’t sound local though?”
“I have been abroad for some years now. I guess that makes me sound a little funny.” I couldn’t tell her the truth . . . she wouldn’t believe me.
The laughter of the once light-hearted couples that filled the tea-room and turned it into a warm sanctuary, faded away quickly as they had risen in his head. Leaving them again in the cold atmosphere; as the street light, cast a shadow upon their window table.
One of my fondest memories of the village has to be our first day home for the holidays. My brother, sister and I would ride our bicycles through the village and wave here and there, heading for the isolated cottage, nestled down by the river.
She was not our real grandmother, but she was ‘Gran’, to us. We would dash up her path, round the side and in the back door. There she would be, waiting to greet us as usual, sleeves rolled up from her floury hands, wearing a spotless white apron.
She would butter fresh scones, ever so warm and tasty, topped with home-made jam, along with cream cakes. We munched and munched, as we told her about the adventures we had at school, as we sat round her kitchen table.
We would leave with cheeks bulging and glowing as we retraced our way home.
“I am so sorry,” Benjamin said. “I let my mind wonder to the good times. You were saying?”
“I was asking if they are friends of yours,” she said, looking at the group of people standing outside.
Benjamin turned and gazed through the window, following her amused gaze, and gaped at the window in utter astonishment. Standing only a few feet from him, they looked ever so familiar.
“That’s my parents,” Benjamin blurted out. Peter and Samantha James, and along side my brother Michael and sister Christina, just as I last remember them. “But of course, it can’t be them, they died many years ago.”
His father, Peter was standing, motionless, staring at Benjamin, with his right hand above his eyes, apparently in an attempt to shade whatever light came from inside. Benjamin was staring back in utter disbelief, unable to decide how to react to this vision.
“But what does he want?” Benjamin asked of himself. “Why is he staring at me like that?”
Peter James retraced his steps back within the group, smiling, waved a hand in a saluting motion, turned around, and disappeared into the dense fog that seemed to arrive and disappear with them. He had a very fond time of life with his family, who had been gunned down in their own home; the look brought back forgotten and painful memories.
“I’m glad they have gone,” Benjamin said quietly, almost to himself.
He turned back to the woman, making an effort to act his composed self again. “I must apologise for my behaviour. You will think me rude. I have been sitting here without introducing myself. My name is Benjamin, and you are?”
“I’m Anna Beaumont, and I didn’t think you rude. A little strange perhaps,” she said, smiling reassuringly.
“I’m glad,” he said, smiling back. “So, what are you doing here, all alone?”
A light of amusement passed through her eyes . . . she had beautiful, lively eyes. His own gaze was riveted to her graceful face, and he could not bring himself to look away. “I am only having an innocent conversation to while away the time a bit,” she replied. “What about yourself?”
He suppressed the urge to tell her about his dream and, the real reason he was there. After all, she was a total stranger who would be justified in thinking him odd to undertake such a trip on account of memories from a past time . . . or would she?
“I have come to visit the streets of my youth, you could say,” he said guardedly.
“And how do you find it?” asked Anna.
“The neighbourhood, you mean?” She nodded slightly. “Well, I don’t know. It’s kind of strange . . . it’s just as it was when I left. On one hand, I know every stone around here, but on the other, I don’t seem to recognise anybody, but people have acknowledged me.”
“So what are your plans?” asked Anna.
“To tell the truth,” Benjamin said. “I’m not sure what I want to do next.”
“It seems to me that you are making a very poor job of your visit,” Anna said looking at him with mocking eyes. “Didn’t you make any plans at all before you came here?”
“Actually, I acted on impulse. It felt right that I should visit here, and so I came.” The truth of this fact had only just dawned on him. He actually had no plans at all, except for the general idea of getting to the roots of his memories.
“For one thing, I just feel like walking around to make my peace with the streets of my childhood.” He now felt as if he owed these streets an apology…for leaving them so suddenly, but it wasn’t his choice.
“Then why are you wasting your time sitting here, staring at this old building? Shouldn’t you be out there instead?”
“You know, I wish I could visit the old house. I should like to stay awhile and let my mind go back to when I was a child. But I don’t think that its’ present occupants would agree.” Benjamin stated, with a yearning to see inside.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you,” she said. “I’ll take you around to see the streets and what’s in them. I can show you things. I know my way around here.”
Her hand was in his, and she was on her feet. He didn’t know why, but he sensed he could trust her, the feeling was there.
“Thank you, I’d like that,” Benjamin replied with thanks. “I do feel a little lost.”
“Okay. Now just hold my hand and don’t let go. I don’t want to lose you,” she said, with a soft reassuring smile.
He left with her through the main door, and they were outside, blending in the milky white mist that had appeared and enveloped them in it.
A sensation passed through his body as he looked deep into the mist, as he gazed he was sure she had taken him back to his childhood times, when he lived in the village, but how can that be?
That was the last time anybody saw Benjamin again.
Finally, he had found an everlasting peace, he had come home!