Warm thanks go to LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proofreading, editing skills and of course encouragement.
This very short story -- more of a cameo really -- is written as a third person narrative; not my favoured (or usual) method of telling a tale. However, many folks enjoyed reading this story when it was first posted elsewhere, so I thought I'd use it as my first posting on Fine Stories.
The scene, a grand Victorian hotel, somewhere on the South West coast of the British Isles. The time, the present.
"How was your meal this evening, Mrs Letterman?" the waiter asked as he placed a cup of coffee in front of her.
"It was perfect, as it always is here, Mario. You can tell the chef I'd like to take him home with me. I've never been disappointed with a meal here yet."
"Thank you, Mrs Letterman. Karl will be pleased. He takes a lot of pride in his work."
Out of the corner of her eye, Mrs Letterman was watching a man, who had been sitting over the other side of the dining room, slowly rise from his chair, leaving his pretty young companion still sitting at the table, as he had done every evening since Mrs Letterman had arrived. He somewhat tentatively made his way out onto the hotel's balcony, where with only slight difficulty, he located his usual chair and turned it around, then he sat down facing the sunset.
Mrs Letterman could see that -- the man's female escort, who'd remained seated at their table -- could only just prevent herself going to his assistance.
Lazily a golden retriever dog, which had been warming itself in the last rays of the evening sun moved over and sat at the man's feet.
"Mario, can you tell me who that man is that just went out on the balcony? I find his face somewhat familiar."
"That's Colin Marsh, Mrs Letterman; the famous author. If you've read any of them you have probably seen his picture on his books, and he's been on television quite a few times. Mr Marsh spends a lot of his time with us." Mario turned and gestured at the young lady who had been left sitting at the table. "The young lady with him is his secretary, Katherine. Very pretty, isn't she."
"Yes, she reminds me of myself when I was her age."
"If you don't mind me saying so, Mrs Letterman, I remember you were extremely pretty as a young lady; you had all our pulses racing back in the old days. I must say you still are a very beautiful woman. Mr Letterman is a very lucky man."
"You flatter me, Mario. And one has to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And of course some men do not realise what they have got, until..."
"I'm sorry, Madam." Mario couldn't quite follow what Mrs Letterman was actually saying to him.
"Never mind, Mario, it's not important now. Thank Karl for the lovely meal for me."
Mario, realising that he had been dismissed, discreetly retired from Mr Letterman's table.
Mrs Letterman watched Colin Marsh through the window as she drank her coffee. He sat almost motionless staring at the distant headland and sunset; one hand gently stroking the dog's head.
When she had finished her coffee, Mrs Letterman stood up. For a moment she hesitated, undecided, thinking about her next action. Then having made her decision, she confidently walked out onto the Balcony.
Before her was a view of the sea, with the cliffs leading away to the headland in the far distance. Colin Marsh was the only other person on the balcony; evidently lost in his private thoughts, his gaze remained apparently locked on the distant headland. He had made no sign that he was even aware of her presence.
"Lovely view, isn't it?" Mrs Letterman said, as she got near to him.
"Yes," was his only reply.
"I love watching the sun go down over the headland."
"I like, the way the colours change as the sun gets lower."
"Yes." Still Collin Marsh did not turn his head in her direction. Mrs Letterman tried a different tactic.
"I'm sorry, that was very un-thoughtful of me. I'm disturbing you."
"No, you didn't disturb me. I see this view every night when I lay in bed; it's burned into my brain. I sit on this balcony at sunset whenever I'm at this hotel and live it again." Colin Marsh's eyes hadn't moved from the headland; he still didn't turn to look at the beautiful woman standing close to him.
"You've been here before?" she enquired.
"Many times." He smiled, but still didn't turn his head in her direction.
"It's nice here, and I love the view. Especially at sunset."
"There're some views that you can never forget. This view is very special to me."
"If you don't mind me asking, Mr Marsh. I know from your books that you've travelled all over the world. What makes this view so special to you?"
"What would you like the long or the short story, Mrs Letterman?" Still the man's head didn't turn towards her.
"Oh, you know my name. Either story - I've got plenty of time."
"I heard Mario talking to you in the dining room at breakfast."
Collin Marsh was silent for a few moments; Mrs Letterman thought he was steeling himself before he continued.
"Many years ago when I was a very young man, I used to sit on that parapet over there in the evenings, with a young lady. Ottilie ... Ottilie Allen was her name, a young lady that I loved very much.
"But then I was only fifteen years old at the time, and I never did get up enough courage to tell her how I felt about her. We sat together, on that balustrade over there, every evening for two weeks and talked about anything and everything."
Mrs Letterman thought she detected more than a hint of a sigh in his voice.
"Now, whenever I come back here to this hotel, I sit here and watch the one love of my life, sitting there on that balustrade. I can see her sitting there now, in my minds eye."
"What happened to her?"
"I really do not know. When the holiday finished, it was over."
"Didn't you write to her or anything? She might have felt the same way about you."
"Oh, I intended to write to her, but on the journey home we had an accident. I was unconscious for many months. When I came out of the coma, no one could find her address. My father's car, and almost everything in it, had been totally destroyed."
"Surely the hotel could have given you Ottilie's address."
"I was just a child back then. It was many years before I thought of getting in touch with the hotel. By the time I did, her family had moved home."
"So you gave up on looking for her?"
"No, I come back here each year. I watch Ottilie sitting on the balustrade over there, and I remember that summer."
"From what you say I assume that you haven't found anyone for whom you have felt the same ... emotional attraction."
"You assume correctly Mrs Letterman. There can only one girl of my dreams."
"Not even your beautiful young secretary?"
"Katherine," A warm smile came over Colin's face, "Is certainly a beautiful young lady, and I've become very attached to her in the last five years. I really don't know what I'm going to do when she's not around nagging me anymore."
"She's leaving you?"