The Blind Date – Jeffrey Archer

15 12 2011

Another story i loved for you..

The Scent of jasmine was the first clue : a woman

I was sitting alone at my usual table when she came and sat down at the next table. I knew she was alone, because the chair on the other side of her table hadn’t scraped across the floor, and no one had spoken to her after she’d sat down.

I sipped my coffee. On a good day, I can pick up the cup, take a sip and return it to the saucer, and if you were sitting at the next table, you’d never know I was blind. The challenge is to see how long I can carry out the deception before the person sitting next to me realizes the truth. And believe me, the moment they do, they give themselves away. Some begin to whisper , and, I suspect, nod or point; some become attentive; while a few are so embarrassed they don’t speak again. yes, I can even sense that.

I hoped someone would be joining her, so I could hear her speak. I can tell a great deal from a voice. When you can’t see someone, the accent and the tone are enhanced, and these can give so much away. Pause for a moment, imagine listening to someone on the other end of a phone line, and you’ll get the idea.

Charlie was heading towards us. ‘Are you ready to order, madam?’ asked the waiter, his slang leaving no doubt that he was a local. Charlie is tall, strong and gentle. How do I know? Because when he guides me back to the pavement after my morning coffee, his voice comes from several inches above me, and I’m five foot ten. And if I should accidentally bump against him, there’s no surplus weight, just firm muscle. But then, on Saturday afternoons he plays street cricket for his locality. He’s been in the first team for the past seven years, so he must be in his late twenties, possibly early thirties. Charlie has recently split up with his girlfriend and he still misses her. Some things you pick up from asking questions, others are volunteered.

The next challenge is to see how much I can work out about the person sitting at the next table before they realize I cannot see them. Once they’ve gone on their way, Charlie tells me how much I got right. I usually manage about seven out of ten.

‘I’d like a lemon tea,’ she replied, softly.

‘Certainly, madam,’ said Charlie. ‘And will there be anything else?’

‘No, thank you.’

Thirty to thirty-five would be my guess. Polite, and not from these parts. Now I’m desperate to know more, but I’ll need to hear her speak again if I’m to pick up any further clues.

I turned to face her as if I could see her clearly. ‘Can you tell me the time?’ I asked, just as the clock on the church tower opposite began to chime.

She laughed, but didn’t reply until the chimes had stopped.’If that clock is to be believed,’ she said, ‘it’s exactly ten o’ clock.’ The same gentle laugh followed. ‘It’s usually a couple of minutes fast,’ I said, staring blankly up at the clock face. ‘Although the church’s perpendicular architecture is considered as fine an example of its kind as any in the West country, it’s not the building itself that people flock to see,but the Madonna and Child by Barbara Hepworth,’ I added, casually leaning back in my chair.

‘How interesting,’ she volunteered, as Jo returned and placed a teapot and a small jug of milk on her table, followed by a cup and saucer. ‘I was thinking of attending the morning service,’ she said as she poured herself a cup of tea.

‘Then you’re in for a treat. Old Sam, our vicar, gives an excellent sermon, especially if you’ve never heard it before.’

She laughed again before saying, ‘I read somewhere that the Madonna and Child is not all like Barbara‚Äôs usual work.’

‘That’s correct,’ I replied. ‘Barbara would take a break from her studio most mornings and join me for a coffee,’ I said proudly, ‘and the great lady once told me that she created the piece in memory of her eldest son, who was killed in a plane crash at the age of twenty-four while serving in the RAF.’

‘How sad,’ said the woman, but added no further comment. ‘Some critics say,’ I continued, ‘that it’s her finest work, and that you can see Barbara’s devotion for her son in the tears in the Virgin’s eyes.’

The woman picked up her cup and sipped her tea before she spoke again. ‘How wonderful to have actually known her,’ she said. ‘I once attended a talk on the St.Ives School at the Tate, and the lecturer made no mention of Madonna and Child’.

‘Well, you’ll find it tucked away in the art. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.’ As she took another sip of tea, I wondered how many out of ten I’d got so far. Clearly interested in art, probably lives in London, and certainly hasn’t come to St Ives to sit on the beach and sunbathe

‘So, are you a visitor to these parts?’ I ventured, searching for further clues. ‘Yes. But my aunt is from St.Mawes, and she’s hoping to join me for the morning service.’

I felt a right chump. She must have already seen the Madonna and Child, and probably knew more about Barbara Hepworth than I did,but was too polite to embarrass me. Did she also realize I was blind? If so, those same good manners didn’t even hint at it.

I heard her drain her cup. I can even tell that. When Charlie returned, she asked him for the bill. He tore off a slip from his pad and handed it to her. She passed him a banknote, and he gave her back some coins.

‘Thank you, madam’ said Charlie effusively. It must have been a generous tip. ‘Goodbye’, she said, her voice directed towards me. ‘It was nice to talk to you.’

I rose from my place, gave her a slight bow and said, ‘ I do hope you enjoy the service.’

‘Thank you,’ she replied. As she walked away I heard her say to Charlie. ‘What a charming man.’ But then,she had no way of knowing how acute my hearing is. And then she was gone.

I sat waiting impatiently for Charlie to return. I had so many questions for him. How many of my guesses would turn out to be correct this time? From the buzz of cheerful chatter in the cafe, I guessed there were a lot of customers in that morning, so it was some time lot of customers in that morning, so it was some time before Charlie was once again standing by my side.

‘Will there be anything else, Mr. Trevathan?’ he teased. ‘There most certainly will be, Charlie,’ I replied. ‘For a start, i want to know all about the woman who was sitting next to me. Was she tall or short? Fair or dark? was she slim? Good-looking? Was she___ ‘ Charlie bursts out laughing

‘What’s so funny?’ I demanded

‘She asked me exactly the same questions about you’

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