David R. Ford is a young British writer from a place called Sunderland in North East England. It's the place that moulded his person and writing style to what it is, bold. The motto of the city in recent years has been Dare to Dream. This is a mantra he has taken on board and he will not quit until his dreams are fulfilled.
Holding Hands With Ivan by David Ford
All that greeted Abigail when she awoke, was her pillow. She was a girl far too young to be lonely, yet there she lay, in a void of despair, holding the sheets close to her for comfort and safety. Another day alone and afraid, was just beginning.
That Saturday began the same way every Saturday did, with breakfast at her favourite diner. Abigail had lived in the city since she was twenty, and every weekend for the last four years since, she came into Louis’ and ordered bacon and eggs with a strong coffee. She’d sat by herself in every single chair in the joint and heard all the golden hits on the radio while she watched friends become lovers, and lovers become wed on the other tables. The year was now 1957, and not liberal enough to see a twenty four year old woman sit alone and not think there was something wrong with her.
Today, she couldn’t take it, and watched the door instead. Abigail once believed in fate, till fate forgot about her. Then, the red double door swung open and in stepped the most handsome man she’d ever set eyes upon. His jaw was chiseled, hair brown as the sweetest chocolate, bright blue eyes immediately fixed on her.
Abigail began to blush. He was coming towards her! Why?
“Excuse me,” he said, forcing her to look up through her shame, “It looks like this place is a bit crowded, do you mind if I sit with you?”
“With me? Abigail replied, looking around at the hordes of empty tables around the diner.
“Yes, if you don’t mind,”
“Sure, I’m Abigail,”
“Ivan,” he said. A strange sense of familiarity came over Abigail, she felt like she’d met him before, but from where?
“Do I already know you?”
“No, I think I’d remember meeting such a pretty girl,”
“I just feel like I know you,”
“Maybe it’s just fate,”
“You believe in fate?” she asked, reinvigorated.
“Of course, I only came in to check the time, who’d have known you’d be sitting there?”
“It’s half ten,” she said, looking at her watch to avoid looking stupid.
“Perfect, Abigail, would you like to go for a stroll?”
“Yeah, then the cinema, and dancing?”
“I love the cinema and dancing!”
“Well come on then, lets leave while the radio is playing rubbish. I don’t recognise any of these songs,”
“They must be new,” Ivan said as they stood up and left together.
The sun was warm on their backs as they walked through the park. The smells of fresh cut grass and cool summer breezes surrounded them in their own little bubble.
“So, what do you do?” Ivan asked.
“I’m a book keeper for an accountant, what about you?”
“Shipyards, but I’m more interested in you. It sounds great,”
“Just a lot of numbers really,” she said, bowing her head.
“You need to be clever though,”
“You build ships for the country, that's much more important than number crunching!” Abigail said, instantly wishing she’d not come on too strong. She was terrified of scaring him off.
“Can I ask you something?” he said.
“Ok,” she braced herself for humiliation.
“Can I hold your hand?” that’s not what she expected.
“Oh, of course you can,” Abigail hand was taken by the softest and warmest hand she’d ever experienced. She felt safe and comfortable right there. This was all she’d ever wanted, someone who thought she was special and was proud to be seen with her. She never wanted the stroll to end.
“The park feels smaller than I remember,” she sighed.
“Yeah, let’s go see a film then, An Affair To Remember is on,”
“I’ve wanted to see that for ages! How did you know?” she said, squeezing his hand.
“Hunch,” Ivan said as he lead her to the picture house.
They sat together at the back of the screen. Abigail imagined herself as Deborah Kerr and Ivan as Cary Grant aboard that ocean liner, forgetting the rest of the world existed. Halfway through, she heard Ivan yawn, then felt his arm round her shoulder. It was difficult not to laugh like a schoolgirl when he did it. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends that somebody actually did that!
She snuggled into his arm. He was cheesy, but if it was for her, she didn’t give a damn.
“That was a great film,” he said outside.
“Magical, I loved it,”
“I bet it’ll still be your favourite in fifty years,”
“You’ll have to stick around and find out,”
“I’ll hold you to that,” he said, hugging her tight into him like it would be the last time. “Do you want to get dinner?”
Before she knew it, they were sitting in a restaurant she’d never seen before, and Ivan was bringing over two portions of fish and chips.
“This is my favourite, how did you know?” Abigail said, tucking in.
“It’s been my lucky day to be honest, Abigail. Starting when I met you,” he said, putting a chip in his mouth. Abigail’s cheeks were beginning to hurt from all the smiling she’d done that day.
“How do you make me feel so special?”
“It’s quite easy when you’re already so special anyway,” Agony in her cheeks now, like she cared.
After dinner, Ivan walked her home. Abigail began to feel the pit in her stomach deepen with every step, until finally, they were at her door.
“I don’t want today to end,” she said as he held her tight.
“Well, I did promise you a dance,”
“I’ve got a record player inside!” she said, hoping he’d kick etiquette into the curb.
“Perfect,” he said, as etiquette fell onto the road.
Abigail went to get them both a drink as Ivan picked a record. She entered the room just as Nat King Cole began to sing Unforgettable.
“You really are lucky. This is my favourite song, I’m not even surprised by now,”
“I suppose I’’ll have to try harder then,” he said, taking her hand and holding her waist, they began to spin slowly on the spot to the lush vocals and huge piano sound.
“Ivan, you could leave for Timbuktu in the morning, and I’d never forget you as long as I live,” Abigail said as the song wound down.
“I know you won’t, Abigail,” he replied as his eyes welled up. Abigail began to yawn, such a big day.
“Sorry,” she said, “I’m not usually up so late,”
“You should get some rest,” Ivan said, looking deep into her sparkling emerald eyes. “You’ll never lose your beauty as long as you live,” he said.
“I hate going to sleep alone, will you stay with me till I’m asleep?” she took Ivan’s hand in hers, hoping he’d have one last correct answer today.
“Of course, I’ll sit with you and not leave till you drift off,”
He put her to bed and lay beside her, hearing her breathing soften every second.
“I’m so glad I met you, Ivan,” she said, in a dream like state.
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Abigail,”
“Ivan, I love you,” she said, he put his arm over her and whispered into her ear,
“I love you forever,” Abigail never stopped smiling as she fell asleep that night.
As soon as he was sure she was sleeping, Ivan rose and picked his jacket off the chair. Reaching into the pocket, he pulled out a yellow envelope with Abigail written beautifully on the front. He put the card on the window and glanced down at the tarnished wedding ring on his wrinkled old hand.
“Happy anniversary, my darling,”
The varicose veins showed his age as swept the white hair off her forehead to kiss it.
He took An Affair To Remember out of the DVD player, put it on the shelf next to Nat King Cole, and left.
“Ivan?” a gentle voice called from down the corridor, “Ivan, how is she?” a nurse asked, rubbing something on her blue uniform.
“She had a good day, today,” he forced a smile. “We met fifty-nine years ago today, you know, got married exactly two years later. Now I have to introduce myself every morning,”
“Alzheimers is a horrible disease, my dad was the same,” she empathised as only a nurse can.
“I’m just glad that even though she wakes up in a world where she’s never met me, she still chooses to fall in love with me everyday. That’s what keeps me going you know. That I can still make her happy even though she doesn’t know me anymore,”
“It’s weird how everyday she falls completely in love with you all over again. Do you think there’s a reason, like soulmates or something?” she asked. Ivan put his hat back on and began leaving.
“You don’t forget love, Susan, that’s all it is,”
Ivan pulled out his car keys and headed home for the football.
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