Several months of hope followed that conversation. I asked her one day what book I should read next and she laughed. A gentle laugh to make a person feel comfortable, like she had just thought of something delightful that she was about to share. She told me I should choose my own book. I should just go into the bookshop and browse. I said I wouldn’t know which to choose. She said one will jump out at me, I should be spontaneous. I was left with a feeling of anxiety. I didn’t want to go into the bookshop as I feared the bookseller would sneer at me. He is like that. His family have always looked down on mine. We are content with our lives, we have been a stalwart in this village since before our grandparents. My father and his father worked in the harbour. The harbour is the heart of the village. The hotels may be the cash cow and the majestic hills be lure, their beauty bringing visitors across the lake twice a day in the summer and twice a week in the winter. Without the harbour there would be no village. My family are proud to be the foundation on which this village is built.
I avoided her for a week, maybe ten days. I was ashamed of the fear that prevented me from going into the bookshop. In the end the bookseller solved the problem for me. He put a shelf of sale books in front of the shop. I chose the one with the tiger and the boy in a boat on the cover. I showed her my book about a week later, she said it was a good book.
Our meetings were more and more infrequent as I could not predict when she would be walking back from her bench. I noticed the wine bottle she brought was bigger, the normal size, and she would finish the bottle on the bench only going home when she had finished it rather than after the ferry had disembarked.