From Lena Dowling…
On the rebound from a bad break-up, I’d signed up for speed-dating. All very well, except by the time the night arrived, I had moved on to stage two of post-break-up malaise: ‘sworn-off-men-forever’.
I wanted to bail, but I’d left it too late.
The speed-dating line-up was as expected, a parade of largely unsuitable candidates peppered with the seriously scary.
Well… except for number fourteen. Gorgeous wavy brown hair, broad shoulders, a warm smile.
He was cute.
And as I described my hermitic writers existence, rather than look around desperately for the speed-dating co-ordinator, silently screaming for rescue, he leaned forwards regarding me intensely, with his lovely blue eyes.
I was tempted, but I was sworn off men, and there was another problem. Number fourteen was wearing the exact same shirt my ex-husband used to wear – religiously.
If that wasn’t a sign, I didn’t know what was.
My pen hovered over the tick-box. They probably sold thousands of those shirts. Maybe it wasn’t a sign after all.
A few days later he called to arrange a coffee date. He was apologetic for sounding a little croaky – hung-over after a night out.
Cue squeaky break in the background music. I’d been down this road before. Nights ruined trying to support an inebriated partner swaying all over the place. Hours lost waiting for hangovers to abate before we could go to the mall, the beach, or anywhere there was light and noise.
I might not have been sure if the shirt was a sign, but this was a screaming all-points-bulletin.
But then I’d already agreed to meet again. Out of politeness, I kept the date.
He was waiting for me outside the café.
On time and thoughtful. I wasn’t going to have to stand in the middle of the café like a lost idiot, trying to pick him out in the crowd.
And that smile again. I’d almost forgotten how cute he was.
We talked. Shared lives. He lived in a converted church on a windswept hill, overlooking the sea. He was something of a recluse as well…
The café closed around us – the staff too courteous, or too schooled in the art of body language, to kick us out.
They grinned at us.
Our next date was a wine-tasting. He didn’t over-imbibe (the hang-over, it turned out, was a one-off) and when it ended, all too soon as if the whole evening had flown by in a heartbeat, he saw me to my car.
He kissed me and the sky above turned red. Literally. The moon that night was a rare ‘luna rosa’, an eclipse that turns the moon a reddish pink.
The omens had turned. Signs were good.
Later, worried he’d think I was nuts, I plucked up the courage to tell him about the shirt. ‘Consider it gone,’ he said.
That was six years ago now.
The offending shirt has never been seen, or heard from since.
And more importantly…
We’re still together.
In her previous lives, Lena Dowling has been a lawyer, policy analyst, and an administration manager. While Lena was born and raised in New Zealand, it was during a stint working ‘across the ditch’ in Australia that she took up writing in earnest. Having found her inspiration in The Lucky Country, Lena writes Australasian themed romances about gutsy, intelligent heroines, and the men who dare to love them. Lena currently lives in beautiful, sub-tropical Northland, New Zealand, with her own computer-code-writing hero.
Lena writes both historical and contemporary novels for Escape. Her latest novel, Legally Addicted, is a fast-moving, high stakes battle-of-the-sexes story with a Hepburn/Tracey flavour (and a hot one-night stand!).