What do you do when you first meet your true love the day before she flies back to Australia? For Jon, the answer was simple; you follow her as soon as possible. One small problem – PhD students like Jon have very little money. For Vikki, his beloved, the answer was more difficult; handsome, clever, surf-hero Dan has carried a torch for her for years…
Jon rang his mum and chatted; about his work, her work, and the latest news from his dad’s parish; before raising the subject that was uppermost in his thoughts.
“Mum, I need to borrow some money. It’s rather a lot, I’m afraid.”
Carolyn Hall thought for a moment. It wasn’t like Jon to ask for money. He’d managed on his own since his first term at university.
“How much do you need, love?”
“About two thousand pounds, I’m afraid.”
“You’re not in any trouble, are you?”
“No, and I should be able to pay you back quite soon; within about six months, I think.”
“I’ll have to talk to Dad first.” She hesitated for a moment, and then added, “I know it’s none of my business, but Dad will want to know why you need it.”
She waited for the explosion. Jon had always made it very clear that he needed to be independent; that he was going to live his life without interference from his parents. She sighed. It must be difficult for him, being James’s son.
“It’s a bit tricky. And it sounds as though I’m going bonkers. All I can say is that it’s very real to me. I’ve met this girl.”
“Oh, Jon, I am pleased for you!”
“The trouble is, she lives in Australia. I met her just before she went home, and now she’s there and I’m here.”
“What’s her name? What’s she like?”
“Vikki; that’s with two kays and an i. She’s beautiful, Mum, just beautiful. And clever; she’s just finished a master’s degree in education at Cambridge. I knew the instant I saw her that she was the right girl…” His voice trailed away as he relived the moment.
“Oh, Jon, you’ve got it bad, haven’t you?”
Jon tensed, and then relaxed. He laughed.
“Yes, I suppose I have! But that doesn’t make the feeling less real, you know?”
“I know, Jon, I know. That was how I felt about Dad when we first met. It’s worked for us so far! I still feel the same about him. But it wasn’t the way he fell in love with me, if you follow me?”
“Thank you, Mum. For telling me about you and Dad, I mean. Do you think it would be better for me to ring him and ask about a loan?”
“I think Dad would appreciate that, yes. Man to man, you know.”
“Okay, I’ll do that. Thanks for the advice.”
Vikki scooped up the letter from the mat, and raced to her room. The sun struck obliquely through the window, making the wall at her bedhead dazzlingly white. The petals of the posy on her dressing table glowed translucent in the reflected light.
Vikki looked at Jon’s handwriting, with its firm downstrokes, its well-formed letters, its fluidity. Her heart sang. His voice was vivid in her memory, and she imagined him sitting beside her on the bed reading the letter to her.
Thank you so much for writing. You made me really happy when I read that you had ‘danced with delight’ because I planned to visit!
You’re right; we don’t know each other very well. You say that matters to you, and that you guess it matters to me. Be reassured; it does. I want to know everything about you, the big things and the little things, the essential and the trivial. It will be such a joy learning about all these from you!
Or do you mean that you have doubts about whether what we felt that magical night will prove ephemeral? Is that why you say, “We mustn’t be carried away”?
Let me tell you how I feel. I love you. You have changed me. In the past, I’ve always thought carefully before doing anything, but you make me feel so certain that we belong together that I don’t need to think about it, I just know it.
I want you to know this, Vikki. The thing I want more than anything in the world is that you should be happy. If, in the future, my love for you becomes an obstacle to your happiness, I shall let you go. It would break my heart – I can hardly bear even thinking about it – but I would do it.
By the way, there is something more practical that I need to tell you. I had another run-in with Guy. He was after your address in Australia. I didn’t tell him, of course, but yesterday somebody broke into my flat. They didn’t take anything – and there was quite an expensive laptop on the desk in full view – so I suppose Guy might have been the burglar. Take care, my dearest.
I hope so much that I shall soon see you in Australia; I should be able to suggest some dates next time I write in a few days. How I wish I was with you now!
With all my love
Vikki held the letter against her lips, smiling.
“Jonathan! This is an unexpected pleasure. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Dad. How are you? And the parish, of course?”
“We’re doing nicely, thank you. The occasional hiccup. If you want the latest news, the organist has just quit. I don’t suppose you want to hear about that, though?”
They chatted casually for a few minutes, until Jon said, “Actually, Dad, I had an ulterior motive in ringing you.”
“I thought you might have.”
Jon winced. That accomplished, cultured, know-it-all, self-satisfied tone of voice had haunted his childhood.
“Would you lend me two thousand pounds, please.”
There was a short silence. James Hall waited for the explanation to be offered. Jon struggled with his pride.
“I’m in love with a woman who lives in Australia. I need to go and see her.”
There was a longer silence.
“That’s a fair sum, Jon.”
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think I needed it.”
“There may be a difference between what you think you need and what you actually need.”
Jon struggled to relax, to remain calm, to remain courteous. This constant assumption that he didn’t know what he was doing, that he would screw up if left to himself…
“Dad, if you hang on a minute, I’ll explain. I met Vikki the day before she was due to fly home. It was – astonishing – stunning. I just knew immediately that she’s the one. She seems to feel the same way. I want to go to Australia to confirm what we feel.
You may think it’s a gamble. Maybe you’re right. But it’s my gamble. Your money will be safe, whatever the outcome.”
“Oh, for goodness sake, Jonathan, it’s not the safety of my money that concerns me. It’s your future, your studies, putting all that at risk just because you’ve met an attractive girl who’s bowled you over. What about your studies, anyway?”
“My professor is happy. In fact, he’s asked me to go into the University of Melbourne to establish personal links with the staff there. It’s a great chance to network.”
“I just don’t want to see you hurt, Jon.”
“Not going to Australia and losing her would hurt me more than anything I can imagine.”
“Mm. Yes, I can see that might be so.”
“All right. You may have the money. I’ll transfer it to your account this afternoon. Would you be happy to repay it in twelve months?”
“I’m taking on some more tutoring. Can I pay it back monthly over six months starting in October, please?”
“Yes, that’ll be okay. Take care of yourself, Jon. I’m proud of you, son. You’re growing up into a fine man.”
Jon almost dropped the phone. He stammered goodbye.
James Hall replaced his receiver. Two thousand pounds was almost his entire savings. He would just have to hope that there was no emergency in the next ten months.
After the call, Jon put his phone on the desk and stared out of the window.
Right. Time to check availability of those cheap flights he’d found!