Harriet was leaning on the railings near the pier with her pack of fish and chips, idly watching the world go by. She took a chip and bit into it tentatively. It was very hot and nearly burned her tongue, but she couldn’t wait to eat more. This was a very rare treat for her. She had taken a cheap train trip down to Brighton for the day, using her railcard. It was the end of summer, and she hadn’t had a holiday for nearly two years, for one reason or another. She had craved some sea air for so long. She took a bus from the station down to the pier. The smell from Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip shop had enticed her as soon as she got off the bus.
She stabbed her little wooden fork into the crispy piece of fish, and managed to scoop up a little bit, dropping half of it back into the packet, before discarding the fork and picking up the piece of fish in her fingers. Even Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips somehow didn’t taste the same these days, as they did when she was a girl. In those days, she would buy sixpence worth of chips, and drench them with salt and vinegar before they were wrapped up in a newspaper parcel. Today she had just sprinkled a small amount of salt over them, and a dash of vinegar. One shouldn’t have too much salt these days, should one?
She took a second chip, and waved away the squawking seagulls that were starting to mob her. She wasn’t going to share her precious feast with seagulls. She held her package close, just in case one got adventurous and decided to swoop in and snatch something.
Just then a group of motorbikes thundered into the road. Not the usual sort of modern bikes, she thought, these looked more like the bikes she remembered from the old days. The bikers parked up a bit further down the road and started wandering in her direction.
As the group of bikers reached her, one of them stopped and said, “Hello, those smell nice, did you get them from Harry Ramsden’s?”
“Yes,” Harriet said, “Do you want some? I can’t eat any more, I’m far too full. If you don’t have them, the seagulls will.”
“Ah! Don’t mind if I do,” he said. “Thanks. My name is Terry, and this is Bob, Dave and Mike. Cheers!”
“You’re welcome. My name’s Harriet.”
Terry mused a while. “Harriet. That’s a pretty name. I knew a Harriet once. Many years ago. We used to date. Come to think of it, you look a bit like her. Older, of course.”
Harriet thought for a moment. “Strange,” she said, “I remember going out with someone called Terry all those years ago. Not for long though, my parents moved up north, so we lost touch. Terry………Terry Marshall, I think his name was.”
“Close!” he said. “Terry Marsden. That’s me. Well, what do you know! Fancy meeting you here after all these years! Now let me repay you for the chips. Can I buy you an ice-cream?”
“I’d like that,” said Harriet.
Terry went over to the nearby ice-cream stall, and bought two ninety-nines. Meanwhile he told his mates he would catch up with them on the pier later. The other three laughed, and winked at him mischievously.
Terry and Harriet chatted easily about the old days, remembering how they used to ride down to Brighton on a Sunday with their friends. Harriet would ride on the pillion of one or another of the bikes, of course. They had been part of a group in those days, nothing serious. Terry had taken Harriet to the pictures a couple of times, but most of the time the group of friends just used to meet up in coffee bars, or go out for rides on the bikes. When Harriet moved away, they lost touch, and Harriet had soon met and fallen in love with someone in her new town. She was married a couple of years later.
“So what happened to your old man then?” asked Terry.
“Oh, we raised a couple of kids, but after twenty six years, he up and left me, for a younger model!” said Harriet.
“It happens!” said Terry. “My missus ran off with my next door neighbour after thirty years! So is there no-one in your life now?”
“No, I’ve given up on romance,” said Harriet. “I’ve had two failed marriages. I don’t think I could go through all that again.”
“Never say die,” said Terry. “It’s never too late. How about you and I spend today together here? Catch up on old times.”
Harriet felt an old familiar tingle. She remembered how Terry had made her feel all those years ago. He was still charming, and very good looking for his age. His silver hair suited him. She remembered he had been very dark when he was young, and hard to resist. She felt very comfortable with him now. What harm could it do? They were both free, no ties. She liked the twinkle in his eyes. It was a long time since she had felt like this, years. She felt herself coming back to life again…….
“Why not?” she said. “You only live once.”
Written for Helium.com “Seaside Romance”