Imagine you’re with a woman who makes you happier than you’ve ever been. Imagine you’ve taken her on a trip to a place with a long and illustrious history. Cambridge, for example. Now imagine you run into another woman you met, many years before. A woman who holds a place so special in your heart you haven’t even told your best friend about her. Bob Pendleton doesn’t have to imagine.
From Rick Kimberly’s Guide to the English Countryside, a Rebel Ink Press release:
Janet Woodlark stepped out of the lift as I was paying for the bookmark, calendar and jute bag with museum logo my companion couldn’t live without. I saw the tall blonde woman and her gorgeous blue eyes, eyes I’d memorized so thoroughly I’m sure I can still tell the difference between left and right based on the pale flecks of brown in the irises, about three seconds before she saw me. Long enough to realize that of all the people I could have run into on this trip she was both the one I would have hoped for and the one I’d dread most. The incidents with Julia and Clare, uncomfortable as they’d been, were inconveniences compared to the potential of the only other woman who meant anything to me.
I didn’t look forward to explaining her to Alicia even though there wasn’t that much to explain. Only a week or so in York but a week gone too quickly. A week that constituted one of, if not the most memorable period of my adult life, none of which had ever, or will ever, find a place in a “Rick Kimberly Guide” or any of the short stories I’d tried to write but never got more than two handwritten pages before giving up and feeding it to the shredder. Some things defy expression. How do you find words to describe a perfect week? Nearly perfect, anyway. Perfect would have been if my heart had let happen what my brain dearly wanted but I was young, insecure and conflicted by a dream I should have known would never come true. I’m not so young anymore and the dream, reduced to a vestige, is safely packed away in my emotional attic.
“Robert!” Janet’s delicious Yorkshire accent filled the small museum shop. “My God, how are you? I had no idea you were in Cambridge. What are you doing here?” She reached me in about three steps and had thrown her arms around me while she spoke, only letting go and taking a small step back after the last question but not without a quick kiss on my cheek.
“Hello, Precious. Sorry. Doctor Precious.”
She covered her mouth as she laughed. “There’s a name I haven’t been called in a while.”
“Just doing some research on a new story with a little sightseeing thrown in.” I returned the kiss with all the affection I could afford under the circumstances.
“Are you doing a Cambridge guide? Brilliant!”
“No! No, I’m doing an English Countryside slash small town slash not really sure guide. We’ve only been here a little over a week. Still working on details. Haven’t gotten around to the bigger picture yet. You know how I work.”
“Yeah, of course. But you’re back in England. Have you run out of the more exotic places, then? You’ve done Sri Lanka, have you?”
“Sri Lanka. Of course you’d bring that up. One of my unchecked boxes but I’ll get there. If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll get there.” I could have mentioned, but didn’t, I’d already started work on it but since all I’d written to that point was the dedication, and even that was only in my head, decided against bringing it up.
“I should hope or all that wine will have died in vain.”
“That would be tragic.”
“You said ‘we’.” She looked around the shop. “Is someone with you?”
“She’s around here somewhere.” I scanned the room looking for Alicia.
“I might’ve known. Robert Pendleton without a pretty girl by his side? It’s unnatural, that is. What’s her name?”