Tom – December 1998
Tom is on his way to the pub, running late as usual, when he sees her through the window of the art gallery. She is wearing a red dress and has the most arresting almond-shaped blue eyes. He watches as she tucks a strand of blonde hair behind one ear. He has never believed in love at first sight, laughing at how naïve it is to imagine someone is ‘the one’ after just one glance. After his recent string of average dates Tom is convinced it only happens in films, not real life. When she smiles back at him there is a hint of mischief behind her eyes. Already he is imagining what it might feel like to kiss her. But then she turns away.
His mobile rings. ‘Tom!’ a frustrated George says, ‘Where are you?’
‘I’m coming. Be with you soon.’ He hangs up and reluctantly walks away.
Did she feel anything too in that split second or was it all in his imagination? He stops. Looks at his watch, hesitates. In a film his character would surely head back to the gallery and search for this woman. He wouldn’t stroll down to the pub to see George, his old school friend, and talk about sport, cars and roadworks in between rounds of beer. He walks back to the gallery. She looks like a model. She’s out of your league, a voice says inside his head. What are you going to do? Introduce yourself and then what? How do you know she’s even single? I bet you she isn’t … you’ll look like a fool. And George will be cross that you’re late yet again…
Tom enters the crowded gallery, immediately feeling out of place in his jeans and old leather boots. Certain this is an invite-only exhibition, cheekily he accepts a glass of Champagne from one of the waitresses; anything to give him courage. He pushes through the throng: she isn’t anywhere to be seen so he heads upstairs, praying she hasn’t left already. His heart stops when he sees her standing next to two men, one much younger than the other, tall and slim with light brown hair and black-rimmed glasses. She has a boyfriend. Of course she does. They seem very much together, affectionate and familiar with one another. She’s talking to both men, laughing as she touches her nose. She has an aura about her that is entrancing. He follows their gaze, looking at the painting. At once he can see she is the woman in the picture. She’s wearing a black wide-brimmed sunhat and a dark dress that shows off her slim graceful arms. He longs for the two men to walk away and as if they have heard his prayer they sweep past Tom and back down the stairs, clearly talking business. She doesn’t notice him approaching. She seems lost in thought. He must not lose his nerve now.
‘I’m Tom.’ He holds out his hand.
‘Alice,’ she says, returning his smile.
She is elfin-like in looks with a cute button nose. He believes she’s about his age, twenty-six. She is stunningly beautiful. She has a face that is impossible to forget.
As he stands close to her, Tom is certain that his world is about to change irrevocably, so why is that voice inside his head telling him to walk away, this will lead to trouble.
He ignores the warning, instead asking her what she does. ‘Music,’ she says, taking him by surprise. ‘I write music. I love singing.’
As they continue to talk, Tom feels as if their paths were meant to cross. Everything that he has been through has led him to this moment.
To meeting Alice.
Perhaps love at first sight does happen after all.