She’s driving on an autumn sunny day, and on her Spotify playlist James Blunt’s nostalgic voice sings “You’re beautiful”. She remembers driving another car, years ago, while listening to that same song on the way to meet him. At the time they were working together on a project, there was nothing between them, or maybe only a feeling of growing trust, the beginning of a friendship, of shared ideas; somehow there was a taste of something good to come. And she felt beautiful as in the song. Now, the song is still full of meaning, but she doesn’t feel beautiful anymore; and now only a memory of the past remains, of what was, and might have continued to be, but in the end did not.
An unexpected love
She drives her dark blue Volvo on a warm summer day. She feels good. Maybe she shouldn’t. Her marriage has ended, and it was a hard decision to make, but she has to admit it had been agonising for a long, long time. She and her husband (now ex-husband, she tells herself) had long ceased to be in love with each other; the burning passion that brought them together reduced to cold embers, never to stir again.
She is at the height of her career. She thanks the stars for this moment, especially now that her marriage is over. But then, she thinks, marriage without love is nothing, I’ll be better by myself. I have my children, and my career. And my dear friends. For the moment, it’s more than enough.
And she feels happy, contented, as she drives to that other building, where the new company – just acquired by the one she works at – has its headquarters, and where this man, this man she has known superficially for years and always found aloof and arrogant, she now discovers to be, not only highly professional, but warm and friendly, and above all sharing many ideas with her about life.
Over the months they have often met, to discuss the merger between the two companies, and she has found herself more and more drawn to him, to his ethics, his strength, the feeling of security that emanates from him. She enjoys talking to him and she knows he feels the same. Maybe this is the beginning of a friendship, she thinks.
A gift from life
But it’s not. After some time, she starts seeing him differently. She finds him handsome, in his so very tall and slim frame, his dark looks that remind her of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff. And he’s not indifferent to her, either. One day she tells him she is divorcing, and he confesses to having someone in his life. Soon this someone is out of his life, as he makes space for her to come in, and they accept the truth: they are deeply, passionately, madly in love with each other. A love so unexpected, so overwhelming, so beautiful as in the song by James Blunt, that she can only say it’s a gift from life. And a generous one.
They go on to live a great love story. In the beginning, they keep it quiet; after all they are co-workers, with executive positions, so they prefer to let their relationship consolidate before coming out. In a big city where almost nothing can be hidden, where coincidences abound, they manage to keep their love secret; they hide in dark corners of unknown restaurants in secluded streets; they go to the movies in small theatres that almost no one knows about; they avoid all popular places; they walk the main streets side by side, arms entwined only when it’s dark and there’s no one about; they find a place near the beach where they spend their weekends together, enjoying every minute, every second, with unabated passion. They feel like teenagers again, and is there anything better in life than feeling like a teenager in love? Especially when you are in your forties, and thought crazy love was a thing of a long distant past. Only it wasn’t.
They travel. They roam Italy, the most romantic of countries, together, and the most unforgettable of all evenings is the one they spend in Florence, where they exchange “wedding” bands with the date of that unforgettable August day engraved; they promise to love stay together for all time, and they have the most incredible, passionate night of their lives. Florence, the city of love. Of their love, too.
She could go on, and on, memories flooding her thoughts; the memory of a love so strong she thought would never die, of candlelit dinners and whispered words over the table; of walking, arms entwined, looking at the stars up in the sky and wishing this happiness could last forever; of waking up feeling safe, completely safe, in his arms and knowing this was it, the man she had been waiting for all her life.
She stops the car. She has played the song by James Blunt over and over again and it makes the memories even stronger, if possible. She shakes her head. It’s all gone. No more love, no more feeling like a teenager, no strong arms to hold her close or the feeling of his lips placing a soft kiss on her hair. No more whispered “I love yous.” No more.
She finally turns off the music. She goes out of the car and shuts the door. As she walks towards a nearby building, a building that holds no excitement, no promise of adventure like the one of years ago, even so she smiles and thanks the universe for her beautiful love story. After all, she says to herself, no great love has a happy ending.