She dreamed of a life where commissioners opened lift doors in hotels so she could travel to a suite far above real life. Once ensconced, she would feed on canapes and sip from something cool and refined, not always alcohol, reflecting on the disordered world below.
She inherited her beauty from her mother, a courtesan by disrepute, who visited her infrequently and was rumoured to enjoy minor-royal connections. She spent her childhood with a relative of sorts, who warned her regularly that giving into appetites would lead her down her parent’s ruinous path. Her father, apparently well-connected though nothing could be proved, stayed in her mother’s life for the length of an assignation, leaving his daughter with some features but no parental care.
I met her on a train as she journeyed to the university sited in my town and then my life. I was chaste in my courtship and caring in my manner, I like to think, and for a time that seemed enough for her. She sought kindness and a tolerance for dreams, and I offered her that with open heart. I was slightly older than her by thirteen years, and safely wrapped in a dead-end job, but in those early days that seemed of little consequence.
She did not live with me but “In halls:” a posh way of describing university lodgings. For a term we met frequently and I was pleased to show her the city she now called home. We dined out on fish and chips and talked of adventure over polystyrene cups but she seemed happy and trusting which, I think, was new to her. I was happy, soundly so, and towards the end of her first term she stayed with me and in my arms: I cannot forget.
In the morning I fed her egg and toast and she sat in bed, the picture of a contented girl, drinking coffee from a mug and balancing my tray upon her knees. To make the one you love content is a great prize I discovered, and I dreamed it would be my mine for all eternity.
At term’s end she was to set off by train again, and I saw her on her way, holding her bag. When we arrived at the station there was a man or boy there, depending on your viewpoint, who “Just happened to be going in the same direction as her, and would she like to travel to her home by car?”
She looked uneasy to be fair, and glanced at me requesting my approval. I, innocent by discipline, agreed of course, because we trust in those we love do we not? There can be no other way.
You will not be surprised to know that journey took her away from me indefinitely. Blessed by the looks her mother gave her, and gulled by the fortune the young man enjoyed, she drove past her home to a hotel somewhere in London, where a commissioner opened the door to the lift so she could travel to the suite she dreamt was hers by right while surrendering to her paramour. She sent me the letter demanded by good manners, in which she explained that she would love me always but could not live in suburbia and I offered nothing more.
It is not polite to be unduly bitter so I settled for sadness and lived with it indefinitely. Twenty years later, to channel my regrets, I wrote her story in a book and some kind publisher issued my tale under the title “Breakfast With Honor” because Honor was her name. For reasons no one can explain, the book achieved a level of success which placed me in a bookshop in London signing copies for a straggle of customers as they passed by my desk.
She was older now, of course, but to my eyes the same: married she said, but not currently, and mother to a daughter. She said she would wait for me by the door and, as she walked away, I asked myself. “Can you raise the cup of hope and drink the same dream twice?” Time will provide the answer.