Updated: Mar 7
Gabrielle had, for the longest time, been a "Do-By-Selfer". She had got her jobs and promotions, on her merits. She had bought her home, with the money that she saved. She did everything - mowing the lawns, weeding the gardens, climbing the ladder and cleaning out the guttering. It was exhausting sometimes, but satisfying when things were done (and done her way).
Gabrielle had been married once, but it didn't work out. The kids from that union had grown and left home, and she had been alone for a very long time. She was used to it. She was even content. She loved not having to answer to anyone; loved being able to come and go as she pleased, and with whomever she wanted.
She was free. She was able to travel, and date, if she desired. Gabrielle was able to buy what ever she wished for, because the money she spent was her own hard-earned cash.
There were times, though not recently, when she had dabbled in internet dating. The older she got, the slimmer the pickings. There was never anyone at work; they were all either married or gay. Seriously, that cliché got old so long ago, that she gave up looking. And the internet dating sites really didn't help.
She got a dog a few years back, a sweet old rescue bitza. Who knows what kind of dog? He was a scruff-muppet, and she loved him dearly. Gabrielle even let him sleep on her bed. There was no-one else to complain that the dog was on his side, and anyway, the old mutt kept her warm in winter.
Gabrielle used to take Scrff (that's what she called the dog) for walks each day. It didn't matter where they went, the only people she saw were other middle-aged women! At every time of day, just other women. So, Gabrielle gave up looking.
Scrff was old when Gabrielle got him, and had died a year ago. The kids came home and gathered around her, knowing how much she loved the old shaggy thing. Then, they all went their separate ways, and she was alone again.
So, Gabrielle went on holidays. She was scared to travel alone, at first, and so she booked organised tours. It was such great fun! She would organise pre-dinner drinks with her fellow tourists each night, and they all became great friends. Lots of other women who were divorced, never married, and widowed joined in. They were kindred spirits and like-minded souls.
Gabrielle started volunteering for a charity, helping stock hampers for people in need. It was heart-filling work, and she relished her time doing it.
But, poor old middle-aged woman that she was, her body was starting to seize up. She tried massage, physiotherapy, walking, swimming, anti-inflammatories ... nothing seemed to help, at least, not permanently.
One day, Gabrielle and a friend went for a pedicure together. The lady who tended to Gabrielle had strong hands, but the gentlest touch. She massaged Gabrielle's feet, and touched a nerve.
It wasn't a physical nerve. It wasn't painful. It was emotional. Unexpectedly, Gabrielle started to weep, right there in the beauty salon. She felt, simultaneously, vulnerable and completely safe. The therapist stopped and gently laid her hands on Gabrielle's feet, and looked up into her eyes. Suddenly, Gabrielle was aware of what was missing.
It was like her body was supposed to have an outer self, that protected and cared for her, and Gabrielle was missing that part of her. It felt essential, and yet resolutely missing. She couldn't stop the tears. It was like grief. You know that feeling when you have lost someone special, and you'll never hold them again in your arms? Grief. Gabrielle was grieving a part of herself, that she never knew was gone.
Her friend wrapped her arms around Gabrielle, and let her cry on her shoulder. That's what friends do. Gabrielle thought to herself that she would be lost without the love that she had. Lost.
A little ship on raging seas, with no anchor to hug her close to a safe harbour.
When it was time to go home, the two friends parted lovingly, and Gabrielle started walking. She wasn't aware of what she was doing, she just was. She was a soul lost on an island in the vastness of the Universe, exposed to the elements.
She felt raw, like she'd just been born into the harsh light of day. Her heart, heavy, pulled her onward. It seemed like she walked forever; like she had walked across the earth; and now she found herself alone on a coast she didn't recognise.
The seas were pounding the shoreline, and the wind howled around her, whipping her long hair into her eyes. She wasn't dressed for such gruelling weather; just a flimsy summer dress and sandals suitable for a pedicure. Her skirt lifted in the gale, revealing bare legs and goose-bumps on her thighs.
From out of nowhere, a man in wet-weather gear came up beside her and threw a heavy coat over her shoulders. She didn't see him approach, and she jumped in surprise. And then, she turned and her eyes fell into his. Plomped right in there, like they were wells, and she'd lost her footing. And Gabrielle could feel her body falling headfirst into his soul. He could feel it too, and instead of rushing her into a warm sheltered café and offering her a mug of hot chocolate, he just stood there.
When he'd thrown the coat over her shoulders, his hands had rested there. And now, this man, this stranger who called himself Rafael, lifted the collar of her coat up around Gabrielle's ears, and his hands slowly wrapped around her neck. She let him.
And without thinking (truth be told, she had always thought too much), Gabrielle wrapped her arms in under Rafael's coat, and allowed the embrace to occur. Her guard was down, and so was his.
And in the warmth, they found each other. Amidst the gale, they discovered their safe harbour. Surrounded by seas and the howling winds of a tempest, they were anchor and ship; safety and adventure, stability and discovery. Home.
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