That precious moment when I was called a star.
It lay there on top of a pile of unattended correspondence pleading for a reply. An invitation to a birthday party to be held on Saturday week. What was both annoying and at the same time intriguing, was that the host’s wife was an old flame that had ditched me two years ago for a gentleman that was not only rich but according to her corresponded more to the profile of the man she would consider marrying. If I remember correctly when she made that declaration to me; the word love was never mentioned. During our three year relationship love was frequently on her lips. So maybe this transfer of her love for another man was not a subject to mention in my presence. Whatever the reason, being a shy and private individual, I was deeply upset and it took me some time to get over the broken relationship. Should I go?
I was certainly intrigued and curious to find out who had replaced me. At the same time did I really want to drag up all those glorious memories we shared together. From my perspective she was the ideal girlfriend. I could see her as a partner for life. My only hesitation was I did not have enough money to get married as I had a strong feeling that if we were to have children I would wish my wife to be a home maker. In my youth I had suffered from ambitious parents who were never home, being the only child I spent most of my early years alone at home with a housekeeper. My present job was the chief librarian in a large book store in the town’s centre. A job I enjoyed, but not very well paid. My only hope of acquiring some capital would be either a gift from my parents or their death. I had no intention of asking them.
Looking back over the three years spent with Emma they seemed to be full of sunshine and gaiety. She was an extroverted fun loving girl with an interesting serious and studious side. She called me Harry the tortoise as I was always ready to disappear into my shell. When we were together I had the impression her life mission was to change me from being an introverted individual to an extrovert. Her endeavours were charming, but in my opinion a lost cause. I had spent too many years enjoying my own company. When she was not trying to persuade me to come out of my shell we enjoyed many activities with mutual interest. We both loved reading and discussing books. We also relished travelling together, concocting cheap travel plans that would take us places seldom visited by tourists. I sometimes wonder what she did with the many interesting photographs she constantly took on these travels. Experiencing these trips was for me a taste of paradise. We were alone, only the two of us exploring different lands and cultures without any responsibility or interference from other human beings. I felt liberated, and lived in a world of constantly poking my head out of my shell. Emma told me I was a different person away from the daily struggle she felt I suffered from in our sophisticated society. It is true once home I hid behind reading and books. Regretfully all that is in the past; now to answer the invitation. Yes or No.
I was just about to sign a note of acceptance, but I hesitated thinking it might be more prudent to sleep on a reply. I realized to accept would mean stirring all those touching memories. In seeing her again it would certainly revive the pain I felt when she ditched me. Since we broke up it had taken me a few months to release my mind of her image, her laughter, and that lightness of spirit that squired through my natural defence armour. But I was curious to see her husband and the type of friends they had. I woke up the next morning; decision made; acceptance sent.
When the party day arrived I started to have second thoughts. Did I want to subject myself to being surrounded by a lot of people I didn’t know, listening to uninteresting chit- chat. Parties have never been my cup of tea. Now I come to think of it, if I remember correctly, on my birthday my parents were often absent being replaced by long distance telephone calls.
If I was going, it was pointless reminiscing. I changed into a casual grey suit, white shirt without a tie and brown brogue shoes. From the invitation showing their address I realized they only lived about 20 miles away in what was known as a posh residential area. As I stepped from the taxis I could not help admiring a well appointed house with the downstairs floors lit up like a Christmas tree. The noise coming from this part of the house was from the shadows of people having a good time, with, no doubt, the drink freely flowing. If I had been with Emma she would have laughed and teased me that Harry the tortoise will spend the night in his shell. That is exactly what I felt like doing.
There was no bell to ring, the front door was wide open, so I just sneaked in. Nobody took any notice of me. I looked around to be faced with a crowd of young privileged people enjoying themselves in elegant and comfortable surroundings. A few couples were dancing in the middle of the room. Not my world, in fact an ambiance I felt very uncomfortable in. I headed for the bar and ordered an orange juice. Just as I was being handed a glass I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find a smiling Emma. She leaned forward to give me a kiss on the cheek. As she did so she whispered in my ear. “I didn’t think you would come.”
“I nearly didn’t. I just want to see and hear if you have found happiness.”
She did not reply, but immediately suggested I meet her husband. Taking my hand she dragged me across the room to a group of young women talking with the host of the evening….Emma husband.
If I said he was a perfect example of the alpha male you would instantly understand. I had, for a fraction of a second, the image of a lion strolling amongst his pride. He had that aura of self assurance, an arrogance that comes with being born into a privileged social background where the members believe they have certain rights as regards the underprivileged. As he extended his hand in greeting he said.
“Ah! so you are the famous Henry that Emma often talks about.”
My immediate reply was.“Famous for what?”
Before the conversation could continue somebody had put on another record and people had started dancing. At this point Emma's husband asked Emma for a dance, stopping any further conversation with me. I was left there standing with a glass of orange juice in my hand. As I watched them dancing I felt an enormous sadness that Emma had chosen a man so different from what she always told me she admired in me. To my question of whether she had found happiness she had never replied to.
Suddenly without any warning I saw Emma starting to cough in a most painful way. The music stopped and people just stood there watching her fight for her breath. The room was transformed from people dancing to watching a person in the throes of struggling to survive. I could not believe that nobody stepped forward to help her, particularly her husband. The whole group of people stood like statues watching poor Emma fight for her life. Without hesitation I rushed forward crying she is choking to death. My immediate remedy was two powerful slaps on her back. What ensued was an enormous burp followed by a rapid succession of breathing movements. To steady herself Emma graded my arm. “You save my life.” At this point the statues awoke and started clapping with shouts of hero; star of the evening. I looked into Emma’s eyes and for a fleeting moment I saw a deep sense of regret and sadness.
“Now that I know you are all right. I am leaving”
Emma moved forward to give me a good bye embrace,. She murmured in my ear. “You where and always will be my guardian angel.”