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The happenstance

19 Feb 2023 | Written by By Elsa Browne

The Joy Club member Elsa Browne shares this touching story of old flames and chance encounters…

She strode purposefully towards the entrance to the supermarket, flushed from her exercise session with The Joy Club, her shopping list running through her head. She had recently returned to the UK, having lived in South Africa for many years and was still getting used to her new town. To one side of the door to the shop the man bent over a pushchair, strapping in a toddler, caught her attention, causing her to stop. She leaned in closer to him and, after a moment, impulsively touched his arm – “Aren’t you Jack? You were friends with Jamie?”

The man straightened up and peered at her, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “Maybe” he replied hesitantly, “but… I don’t think I know you?” She smiled, now certain. “Picture me with dark hair” she tugged at her grey ponytail “and knock at least, um, 50 years off my age”. Her expression was eager, expectant. A look of recognition crossed his face as he lit up with a broad smile. “Wow, yes, I never…” he put his hand to his forehead. “You don’t remember my name, do you?” she laughed. “It’s Christine, people called me Chrissy. Chrissy Graham I was”. “Chrissy!” he now exclaimed. “Of course! You look, just – or should I say – nearly the same!” Just then a woman came out of the shop and stood beside him, looking bemused. Jack turned to include her. “Denise, my wife – this is Chrissy, when we were teenagers we were all in the same crowd. And she recognised this bald old man after all these years!”… He shook his head in some amazement.

“I never forget a face” Chrissy explained and smiled at his wife. Denise fussed briefly over the toddler who was grizzling a little, saying “And this little man is our grandchild. We’re about to have a coffee, would you like to join us?” “Sure – the delights of being retired and spontaneous!” replied Chrissy, her shopping now less important.

In the nearby coffee shop, Jack explained that they lived in the next town and were visiting today, spending time with their grandson. Occasionally Denise chipped in with a comment. But mostly Jack and Chrissy talked excitedly, reminiscing, sometimes with bursts of laughter, sometimes discussing friends from the past with some earnestness.

When Chrissy returned to the table with coffee refills, Jack said “You do realise that all the boys were in love with you back then?” Chrissy squirmed. “Really?” she looked down, embarrassed. “But you” he continued “only had eyes for Jamie”. Chrissy responded ruefully “Pity he only had eyes for… the blonde girl. Lou.” She smiled a little wistfully. “I lost touch with all that gang over time” she said “mainly because I don’t do social media at all, and with my late husband’s job, we were always on the move, different countries…”

“Yes” Jack filled in “Jamie married Lou. But unfortunately, it didn’t last.” She shrugged and said “See? You can find out about people in real life, even if it takes 50 years.” Jack stood up and checked his phone as he leaned to one side, looking over her shoulder. “Anyway…” he said as Chrissy turned to see where he was looking. His eyes flashed with pleasure – “James lives around here and I sent him a quick text… and, ah, here he is!” Suddenly rooted to her chair, Chrissy saw the still striking, blue-eyed man who had stopped at the table and was looking directly at her, a warm smile on his face. “Chrissy!” he said with genuine delight “I often wondered what had happened to you!” and he took both her outstretched hands in his, as she silently noted her unexpectedly weak knees and wondered whether it had anything to do with this morning’s exercise session.

Do you have a short story of your own that you’d like to share? Go ahead and send it over via submissions@thejoyclub.com – we may even feature it on our blog!

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