Shirley and her friend Linda met up in their local coffee shop to discuss what they wanted to do on New Years Eve.
‘Shirl shall we do our usual and go to the town hall dance? We had such a good time last year.’
‘We…ll I’m not really sure Linda. I had a bad experience after that as you know.’
‘I understand your doubts. You meeting up with that fella Dennis I suppose is something you want to forget. He turned out to be a real disappointment. How much was it he borrowed from you in the end Shirl?’
‘£200, and then after a couple of months he didn’t contact me any more and I’m still £200 short which I could do with right now.’ replied Shirley.
The two girls sat in the coffee shop for another hour discussing their failed love affairs and about boys they knew who might take them out to the New Years Eve dance, and other subjects like clothes make up and family matters and then after their third cup of coffee they went for some shopping therapy in the town centre.
After Shirley left Linda and made her way home she couldn’t stop thinking about Dennis, the boy she had met at last years New Years Eve dance at the Town Hall; she had really liked him. He had been on his own at the dance and had told her;
‘I originally come from Sheffield and have only lived in this area for a couple of months. I came down here to Kent on the promise of a job but when I arrived they told me that they had taken someone else on. Now I’m looking around for another one but at present it’s difficult to find one to suit my qualifications.’
Shirley said she was sorry to hear this and promised to let him know if she heard of anything. After the dance and feeling euphoric from seeing in the New Year she agreed to let Dennis see her home. She had drunk a couple of glasses of bubbly during the evening and was feeling quite merry, and was a little light headed as she left the dance hall, so she was pleased that Dennis had offered. She thought he was gorgeous, this tall handsome, smartly dressed boy from Sheffield.
‘I don’t live far from here Dennis so I won’t take you out of your way too much.’ Shirley said as they left the Town Hall.
‘Oh don’t worry Shirley, it’s such a nice evening a walk with you will cheer me up no end.’ and he took her arm and walked her home – very slowly, telling her more about himself and what he wanted to do in the future.
When he kissed her good night on her doorstep she felt all woozy, partly due to the bubbly and partly due to him being a good kisser. She was sorry when he left to go home to his digs. Before he went they arranged to meet up again in a few days. They had many more dates over the next four months, and their relationship was now very serious, so much so that they had started making some plans for the future. Dennis hadn’t yet found a job and was seriously thinking of looking further afield. Then one day he had said to Shirley
‘I hate to ask you Shirley, but I don’t know anyone around here to ask, could you possibly lend me £200 until next month as I have asked my parents for some money but it hasn’t arrived yet. I will definitely let you have it back as soon as they send it.’
Shirley never gave it a second thought; she took £200 out of her savings and lent it to him. Trusting him implicitly. She never saw Dennis any more after that. He just disappeared from the area. No phone call or contact of any sort. When she told her friend Linda she said to Shirley;
‘Isn’t it amazing and you thinking he was the boy for you and making all those plans for the future.’
‘I can’t believe he would disappear like that; without a word Linda, he wasn’t that type. We had made so many plans.’ and Shirley cried on and off for many days afterwards. She asked around but nobody had heard of the good-looking boy that she had fallen head over heals with. She didn’t know where in Sheffield he had come from, or any contact number there. She had never asked him. When she phoned his mobile it just gave a continuous unobtainable signal. She did try to find out if the mobile number she had of his had been superseded by another number but the Vodaphone shop she asked in didn’t know and said;
‘Perhaps he has changed to another provider like O2 or Virgin.’
In the end after several months searching she had to give up and resign herself to the fact she would never see him, or her £200, again.
All these thoughts had passed through her head as she walked home from the shops after leaving Linda. Now having decided with Linda to go to the New Years dance again at the Town Hall she pushed Dennis from her mind.
The New Years dance was in full swing when Shirley and Linda got to the Town Hall. Shirley looked, hopefully around to see if Dennis was there, but he wasn’t. So for the rest of the night she threw herself into the celebrations and had many dances, but to her mind none of her partners were as good as Dennis, and towards the end of the celebrations after Auld Lang Sine was sung tears came into her eyes.
After she left Linda and walked back down her road to her house she saw a figure standing at her gate. She gasped as she recognised who it was;
‘Dennis? Is that you?’ and ran towards him.
He seemed a different person, he was quieter, more restrained than when she last dated him nearly a year ago. He was dressed in the same suit he had worn then, but it was now slightly dishevelled. The street lighting outside her house threw shadows on his face, which made him look gaunt and older.
‘Where have you been? I have looked everywhere for you Dennis, you don’t know how much I have missed you.’ and hugged him tight.’
‘I’m sorry Shirley, I have tried to contact you but had difficulty.’
‘But you knew where I lived, why didn’t you call?’
‘It wasn’t possible. It’s difficult to explain. I came tonight to tell you we can’t see each other again as I have to go away. I can’t explain why. But you will learn one day why, maybe we will meet again somewhere although I can’t be certain.’ Dennis said this as he half turned to leave.
Shirley went to hug him again, but Denis had already started to walk away, and she watched him as he went, disappearing into the darkness after the light from a distant street lamp. She stood there for some time wondering whether to run after him but something seemed to stop her, holding her back. When she went into her house, and into her room, she threw herself onto her bed and cried uncontrollably. Eventually she cried herself to sleep, still in her dance dress.
In the morning of New Years Day when she went downstairs, her Mother could see she looked terrible and that she had been crying.
‘What’s up love? You look so sad, didn’t the dance go very well?’
Shirley told her Mother what had happened the night before about Dennis outside the house and telling her he couldn’t see her any more.
‘Well I don’t know, and him still owing you money. What was it £200? I hope he’s ashamed of himself. Oh while think of it I forgot to tell you there’s a letter come for you, it’s on the sitting room mantelpiece. It’s got Sheffield post mark I think.’
Shirley ran into the sitting room and picked up the letter. Her hands were trembling as she opened it and saw it was handwritten. She started reading it as her mother came and stood beside her.
I am so sorry that I have left it so long to write to you as I have only just found your address from Dennis’s mobile phone. You must have wondered why Dennis hadn’t been in touch with you for some time. I am afraid a car hit him as he was walking home from Sheffield station when he was about to visit us, and he was in a coma for several months. Sadly he died a week ago. I know you were very fond of each other, as he had told me so much about you. His funeral is in a week’s time, so if you would like to come just drop me a line and I will arrange everything for you this end. I do hope you can come, as I know he would have wished it.
I found a reminder on his mobile phone when going through his things that he owed you £200, which he had borrowed from you. I have put a cheque in with this letter.
I realise how much you, like his family, will miss him, and be distraught at knowing of his untimely death, so I can only ask you to remember all the good times you both had together, and know that he really did love you.
All my Love
Freda Stuart Mrs (Dennis’s mother)
Shirley took the cheque out of the envelope and just stood staring at it. Her mother put her arm around her shoulder and pulled her to her. Shirley now knew why Dennis had been there the night before, and the meaning of his words. She also knew that she hadn’t dreamed it and that maybe someday they would meet again.