Young at Heart would love to meet by C J Richardson 2011
I’d never lied about my age before. Well, certainly not to this degree. I remember the week before my eighteenth birthday I pretended to be older to get into an adult movie but this. This was in a completely different league.
Why would a twenty-four-year-old want to pretend to be fifty you might be asking yourself? Well, it’s simple really. My mum is fifty and she is very beautiful and intelligent and funny and great to be with. She is also very lonely and painfully shy.
Dad has killed suddenly in a car crash five years ago and we both lost the most important person in our lives. I watched the mum I knew and loved, disappear before my eyes. It broke my heart to listen to her cry herself to sleep every night, month after month. I cried for my Dad too but I cried more for Mum who I was sure would never recover from the pain of losing him.
The crying did stop eventually and the house was filled with silence. It was almost deafening as I came in each night from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. I began to dread it and went out most evenings to escape the deathly hush.
One morning, early last year, I woke up and felt that something had changed. The sounds and smells of spring outside the open window made me feel so alive, but there was something else that was different about this morning. It was the sound of the radio playing in the kitchen. I slipped out of bed and crept downstairs. Mum was sitting at the table looking at a photo of Dad, dabbing her eyes with a hanky and sniffing. She looked up.
‘Oh! Sorry love. I didn’t mean to wake you. I was remembering how we used to listen to the radio on Sunday mornings so I put it on. They were just playing one of our favourite songs and it set me off. Take no notice. I’m fine.’
‘That’s ok Mum. It’s nice to hear some music. Would you like some tea?’ I asked reaching for the kettle. Feeling encouraged by her mood, I decided to jump in with both feet. ‘It’s a lovely day Mum. How about we go out for a drive and stop somewhere for lunch?’
‘I...I’m not sure...’
‘Oh! Come on. We’ll have a lovely time. It’s too nice to stay in.’
‘Right, that’s settled then. You go and get dressed while I make this tea.’ I said as I ushered her out of the chair and pointed her in the direction of the stairs.
We had a lovely day and she even managed an occasional laugh amongst the tears as we reminisced about Dad and some of the funny things that he used to do.
Things slowly improved after that. Mum started to see friends again and go out for an occasional drink or meal with them. She had been a legal secretary for years but had resigned after Dad had died. She now found herself a part time job in a solicitor’s office not far from home. The laughter returned to the house and finally life began to move on. Everything was fine apart from one thing. Mum was lonely. She kept saying that she was fine and that Dad had been enough for her but I knew that she would never be truly ‘fine’ until she could love again and be loved by someone who would take care of her like Dad did. That’s when the idea came to me.
I would join an on-line dating agency and pretend to be Mum. She would never agree to do something like that so I thought that I could give her a helping hand without her knowing. I could worry about how I would get them to meet when I had found Mr Right.
I discovered an agency very quickly and signed up. My digital photo albums provided a fairly recent photo of Mum that I could use. It was one of the two of us last Christmas at Gran’s house. That would do. I uploaded the photo and inserted the caption ‘Me with my daughter at Christmas’ I filled in all her personal details, likes, dislikes, hobbies etc...sat back and waited.
Within a couple of days, there were several responses from eligible men. Their ages ranged between forty-five and sixty. Some looked quite handsome, but none were particularly interesting. None of them seemed to have the same sort of interests as Mum. Ok, they loved walking, reading and dancing, but nothing lit a spark that said ‘YES – this is the one’.
The weeks passed and I had begun to think that it wasn’t such a good idea after all when...
There he was. This was the right one. No doubt at all. His name was Michael and he lived in the same town. A full head of steel grey hair, big brown eyes that sparkled with mischief and the widest smile I had ever seen. I read what he had posted about himself. ‘Loves wandering through woodland and wildflower meadows with a picnic in tow. Loves to get caught in the rain on summer afternoons. Longs to share these experiences with a warm heart and a gentle soul.’
I felt my heart skip and the butterflies in my tummy danced. This was Mr Right. This was the sort of man who could love my mum. This was what I had been waiting for.
All I had to do now was get them together. I hurriedly sent him a message to say that I would love to meet for a drink the following evening and suggested a pub that wasn’t too far away from where we lived. He accepted almost immediately and I was so excited that I nearly ran downstairs to tell Mum.
I had to handle this very carefully.
‘How do you fancy a drink at The Crown after work tomorrow Mum?’
‘Mmm... maybe. It depends on what time I can finish. There seems to be a lot of case work at the moment. I might have to increase my hours.’
‘Well, we won’t go until seven so you should be home by then.’
‘Ok. I’m...I’m sure that will be fine.’
Mum didn’t sound too convincing. She didn’t suspect did she? I hoped not.
The hours dragged at work and I was glad to finally get home the next day. Mum hadn’t arrived but I spruced myself up while I waited for her. The phone rang. It was 6.45pm. ‘Hi Rachel, I’m really sorry dear but would you mind if we went for a drink another night? I don’t like to let you down but something has come up at work. I’ll explain later.’
‘But Mum.’ Too late, she had hung up.I flopped into a chair. ‘What am I going to do now?’ I asked myself.
‘What will I say to Michael? How will I explain?’
Well, one thing was for sure. I couldn’t just leave him standing with no explanation. I picked up my handbag and put Mum’s red scarf around my neck (the one that I had said she would be wearing) and set off.
The pub was really crowded and I had to fight my way to the bar. I ordered a G & T and waited. I sipped it slowly and swallowed hard trying not to spill any as I sat there shaking from head to toe.
I thought it was someone trying to push passed me at first but soon realised that I was being tapped on the shoulder.
‘I’m really sorry but...’ I started to say
‘Oh, you’re her daughter? I mean... I...couldn’t she make it?’
This wasn’t Michael. He looked similar. Those big brown eyes?
‘Are you Michael’s son?’
‘Afraid so. I’m Joe. Can we sit down while I explain?’
‘Err yes of course. I think that I have some explaining to do too.’
He showed me to a seat and then went back to the bar. The butterflies were dancing again. He was gorgeous.
Joe returned with a glass of lager in his hand and another G&T for me.
‘Let me explain.’ he said ‘I’m afraid that my Dad wasn’t the person behind this dating thing. It was me.’
‘Pardon? What do you mean?’ I was so confused. It was me that had been pretending to be someone else.
‘I had been looking at the dating site with my Dad to see if there was anyone on it that he might like to meet. When I saw the picture of you and your mum I decided that I had to get to know you. I know you weren’t actually asking to meet anyone and I know it was really wrong but I thought that if I pretended to be my Dad and got to meet your mum, I could explain the whole thing to her and ask her to introduce us. I wrote down some of the things that I like to do on his profile in the hopes that your mum might respond. I wouldn’t blame you if you walked out of this pub right here and now. I realise that it was a stupid idea. I’m so sorry’’
I didn’t know what to say. I just stared at him. My heart was pounding. Joe...what a nice name...
‘Sarah. Sarah.’ Someone was calling me. I looked up to see Mum walking across the room... with a man?
‘Sarah, I’m sorry I cried off for the drink. There’s someone I would like you to meet. This is Geoff Reardon. My boss. We decided that it was better to come and tell you instead of just waiting for the right moment. I guessed you’d be here. It’s just that we have become quite fond of each other and...’
What on earth was going on? Mum? With a man? I looked at Joe and managed a weak smile. That beautiful wide smile came right back at me.
Maybe it hadn’t been such a bad idea after all.