On July 10th, I published Part 1 of this story. If you did not see it, you should first have a look at the earlier instalment – you can find it here:
Then carry on with today’s add-on (seen below) or to open separately, click here:
“Travels with my Aunt” by Graham Greene
A Red Rose in her Hair – Part 2
Monica’s fingers tucked the stray strands of white hair behind her ears. She wanted to make sure the rose was in full view because Peter McLeod was somewhere in the room – she positively knew this – a few minutes ago, she’d felt the temperature rise slightly, and her intuition was never wrong. Oh yes, he’s here, she thought, but will the rose be enough to lure him over?
She let out a sigh; what a pain that people often made assumptions about her, based solely on her outward appearance. Yes she was getting on in years, but she still felt in her prime. Her enjoyment of adventure, meeting new friends and rising to challenges had not waned. She had no doubt that she possessed enough stamina for whatever lay ahead. She also had a strong feeling that if Peter invited her to join him on his trip to Yucatan she’d be able to help him get over the loss of his fiancée. Not in a romantic way – of course not – but helping people held great appeal for Monica – almost as much as adventure – and if she could combine the two? And with that thought came the command – Turn around to the right – Now!
A man much younger than her, but certainly not far from fifty, stared back. He twirled his index finger around his own ear, indicating the rose that rested against hers. Peter then moved his rather clumsy frame towards her table. An indefinable emotion deeply creased his features, and he quipped: “Monica Turner, I presume.”
She nodded and laughed at his version of the familiar quotation. “One and the same good sir,” she volleyed. And the time had arrived to get rid of the elephant in the room. “I can imagine you were expecting someone younger.”
“True that,” he replied with equal candour, “But here we are.”
As they sized one another up, they exchanged a bit of chit-chat – about the weather – the busy restaurant – should they order a meal or a drink first? “I could use an extra-dry double martini,” she confessed, and he agreed that he could use one too.
Despite her age, Monica seemed fit, fun – and she certainly looked eager to go to Merida. Maybe this would work out? “Do you have children? What will they think of you coming to Mexico with me? We are hardly a conventional couple of traveling companions.”
Monica looked pensive, and tried to come up with a way to allay his doubts. He had a point; her children would be horrified when she told them about this trip. She smirked when she imagined their comments: Mom, be sensible – You are a senior and that puts you at risk – There are so many con artists out there – Your days of globe-trotting are behind you – If you want to go on a vacation, join one of those escorted tours – But Janis and Jason didn’t understand. Just because she could not do everything as fast as she once was able to, did not mean she could not do them at all. “Has anyone else with my name contacted you?” she wanted to know.
Peter admitted she had been the only one; “And departure is just a week away,” he added.
She studied his expression and body language; he did not appear to be hopeful that someone else would come along.
“Have you read the book by Graham Greene – “Travels with my Aunt”, he asked her.
“Peter, it is one of my favourites.” Monica felt fully comfortable for the first time that afternoon. “My passport is good for three years; I have money earmarked for travel, and if you’ll have me – I’ll be your Aunt Augusta – ”
Peter reached for her hands – they were awfully frail – but he had made up his mind. “OK Augie. Let’s work out the details.”