By Meg Sorick. Find other parts in the series and a family tree, here.
David stood at the curb, waiting for Meredith to pick him up. He texted her when he was just about to exit Terminal 5. Heathrow was bustling with other holiday travelers on this last Saturday before Christmas. When she finally pulled up in her VW Golf, he sighed in relief. She looked happy to see him. It was hard to tell what a person was really thinking when the only way you communicated was through e-mail. She laughed at his two large suitcases. “David, how long were you planning to stay? We do have washing machines, you know.”
He reddened. “Sorry. Just didn’t want to be caught unprepared.” He hoisted the suitcases into the hatch, then folded his long legs into the front seat beside her. He grinned sheepishly. “I wasn’t sure about the weather.”
“Well, I suppose that’s wise. The weather’s been all over the place. We went from snow two weeks ago, to feeling like spring today.” She merged into traffic and exited the airport. David kept quiet and let her concentrate on driving. “So, the flight was all right?” she asked, when they’d reached the motorway.
“Good. Are you hungry?” She glanced over. “Or would you rather just go home and have a rest?”
“No, some lunch would hit the spot. I’d rather just try and stay awake so I can acclimate to the time difference. Is that all right with you?” he asked. She looked a little tired herself. Had she lost weight? Or was he just remembering wrong?
“It’s fine.” She smiled. “We’ll stop at my favorite cafe in town. It’s on the way to my house.”
Meredith asked about his work. He told her things were busy. The company was expanding into Europe. There were plans to open up new facilities next year. He asked her how she’d been spending her break from school. She said she’d been catching up on the reading she’d been missing out on while teaching her classes.
The cafe wasn’t crowded on this last Saturday before the holidays. The students had mostly left for their homes and the town had quieted considerably in their absence. “Let’s sit outside,” Meredith had suggested. “Who knows if we’ll get another chance.” David had agreed.
They perused the menu and David asked, “What do you like? Any suggestions for me?”
She recommended the shepherd’s pie and they each ordered it. She said, “I thought I’d try to make dinner at home tonight. I figured you’d be tired and want to turn in early. You know, rather than go out again.”
“Yes, that sounds perfect. I have so much to show you, too. And I can’t wait to have a look at your grandmother’s scrapbooks and albums.”
They sat across from one another sipping their coffee, in comfortable silence. David smiled, remembering his dream. Meredith raised an eyebrow. “Something funny?”
A sudden gust of wind rushed in, flapping the table cloth and knocking over the centerpiece. Rain began to splatter against the ground and all the diners scrambled for the door. David took Meredith’s arm and pulled her inside, where she leaned against him laughing. “Well, that was unexpected.”
David kept an arm around her and said, “I guess we’ll eat inside.”
“David? Are you all right?” Meredith asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
David laughed. “No. Not a ghost. Just a remarkable sense of deja vu.”
“They say that means you’re in the right place at the right time,” she said.
“Well, I’ve no doubt of that,” he said shaking his head.
It was only a few minutes’ drive to her cottage but rather than go straight home, Meredith followed the coast road. At a convenient place, she pulled over and parked. They huddled under her umbrella and looked out over the English Channel. She told him you could see France on a clear day. David inhaled the cool, moist air and sighed contentedly.
That afternoon, when David had unpacked and had a chance to freshen up, he brought a black binder out to Meredith’s small dining table and set it down. She looked up from her book. “What’s this?”
“I photocopied all the letters and cards William sent home. That way I don’t have to keep handling the originals.” He opened to the first one. “Have a look.”
Meredith came over to stand beside him. She looked at the first letter, read the neat handwriting. David’s great-grandfather had been excited, as were many of the young men at that time, to go off to war. He described his training, the friends he was making, how they couldn’t wait to go and liberate “poor little Belgium.” She turned the pages, there were letters, post cards, a few photographs. She too, had a collection of letters from her great-grandfather, William’s brother Frederick. Her gran had saved them, preserved everything in scrapbooks and albums. Her mother had wanted her to know, if only through his writing, the kind of man her father, Frederick, had been. Meredith looked up at David. He must be exhausted by now.
“David, let’s not get into this tonight. We have two weeks. Sit and relax. I’ll fix you a drink and then start our supper.” She pointed to the sofa. “Go on.”
David watched as Meredith bustled about in the kitchen. She quickly chopped vegetables and grated cheese. He sipped her single malt whisky and savored. Now she whipped eggs in a bowl. “I’m just making omelettes. Hope that’s alright.”
A few minutes later she called him to come to the table. The omelettes were delicious, he told her. She blushed and thanked him. She said that she didn’t often get to cook for anyone else and that her skills were limited. He said he thought she did just fine.
He asked what kind music she liked. They liked the same things. She asked what he was reading. He named a popular American author. She read historical fiction. He told her he’d like to see the countryside if she didn’t mind showing him. She said she would be happy to. She asked if he’d like to hike along the coast one day. He said he would. He wanted to spend a day in London, too. She said she’d take him to the British Museum. He thought that sounded wonderful. They finished eating but didn’t leave the table. They kept talking until David finally yawned.
“Well,” Meredith said, rising from the table, “it’s getting late. I’ll clean up the dishes and let you get to bed, if you’d like.”
“Let me help you,” he offered, reaching for the same plate she had. They played tug of war with it until Meredith finally relented, laughing.
“All right, you can wash, I’ll dry and put away. Satisfied?” she asked, grinning.
David had his hands in the soapy water when the doorbell rang. He looked at his cousin, startled. She looked as surprised as he. She glanced at the clock. “I’ve no idea who it could be at this hour,” she said.
David dried his hands and followed her to the door. She opened it and gasped. A tall, lean man about his own age stood leaning against the doorjamb. He was sandy-haired, bearded and handsome in a bookish kind of way. He had also obviously been drinking. “Rob! What are you doing here?”
“Hello, Meri,” he said, slowly smiling. “I missed you. Thought I’d come for a visit.” He looked at David and frowned. “Who’s this?”