Lisa rushed to open the door, even though she was still in her nightie. She’d worked late last night and slept in but didn’t want to miss the post. Old Jimmy the post man was early; he didn’t usually deliver until after eight and ringing the doorbell meant a parcel, a parcel containing the birthday present she’d ordered online. If she missed the delivery she’d have to trek into town to pick it up at the sorting office which she couldn’t do until the weekend, so she’d be too late for her mum’s birthday.
She was breathless as she hurried to the door. She was even more breathless when she opened it. Kerchow! Her mind spun. He was gorgeous! Dressed in his red post office uniform and orange Hi-Viz jacket he seemed to fill the doorway. A sprinkling of raindrops sparkled in his black as night hair making it shiny as jet, dark brown eyes surveyed her and, in a fleeting moment of madness, she had the overwhelming desire to have his babies. She was so struck by his looks all she could do was stand and stare for what felt like forever, until she realised he was staring back.
Suddenly she became aware of what she must look like; bare-legged, pasty-faced with bed-hair. Worse still, the words ‘I Never Wear Knickers’ were emblazoned in red on the front of her shorter than decent nightdress. It had been a joke present from her brother whose wild sense of humour was legendary and who’d dared her to wear it. That was when she was with her ex-boyfriend Marc who had no sense of humour at all. No wonder he was staring! Probably couldn’t believe his eyes.
She swallowed, pulled herself up to her full height and said, ‘Ah, a parcel,’ as though it was the most natural thing in the world to see a gut-wrenchingly handsome example of masculinity on her doorstep at 6.30 in the morning and greet him wearing hardly anything at all.
He smiled and his eyes softened as they filled with mirth. ‘There are letters too,’ he said holding out some envelopes.
‘Yes, of course,’ she said taking them. Then, before she knew it he was gone and she could breathe again.
All through the day at work the vision of his face kept intruding into her brain and imposing itself on the faces around her. It was ridiculous, she told herself, but somehow she couldn’t get him out of her mind. What must he have thought of her, pudding faced without make-up, blonde hair all awry and that nightdress!
That evening she sorted out the up-to-the-neck and down-to-the-ankles pale blue flannel nightgown her Nan had bought her. ‘For those cold winter nights,’ she had said.
Then she unearthed the cosy dressing gown Marc had left behind. She put a hairbrush and sick of lippy on the hall-stand, so, should he call again she’d be able to present a reasonable, at least half-decent image.
She was awake at six, heard the clock chime seven and decided to get up and make a cup of tea. Her feet had hardly touched the floor when the doorbell rang.
Adrenaline pulsed through her veins, butterflies sprang to life in her stomach and a broad smile stretched across her face as she rushed to open the door. In her haste she forgot about the dressing gown, hairbrush and lippy. She’d also forgotten how difficult it was to run in a full length flannel nightgown. The fabric wound itself around her legs and, as she opened the door she caught her foot in the hem and tipped forward propelling herself into the arms of the astonished postman. She breathed in the citrus tang of his aftershave and revelled in the solid safety of his muscular arms. Her eyes were on a level with his tantalisingly attractive jawline and goosebumps prickled her back. She’d fallen for him in a big way but hadn’t meant to demonstrate it in such an obvious fashion.
‘Oh God, sorry,’ she said, her face burning hot enough to light a fire on an iceberg.
‘My pleasure,’ he said, helping her back to vertical. Laughter danced in his melting chocolate eyes and Lisa found herself covered in confusion all over again.
‘One to sign for,’ he said handing her the package and hand-held computer.
She took a couple of breaths to steady herself and signed her name as slowly as she could, taking the time to read the text on the computer screen. She swallowed. ‘You’re new aren’t you? Haven’t seen you round here before. What’s happened to Jimmy, the old postman?’
‘He had a bit of a fall,’ he said. ‘I’m filling in ‘till he’s back on his feet.’
‘Oh,’ she said, handing him back the computer.
‘Have a nice day and mind that nightie doesn’t trip you up again,’ he said with a grin. He touched his hand to his forehead in farewell.
Lisa groaned as she shut the door. He must be laughing all the way to the post office, she thought. What a dork I must have looked.
Over the next week Lisa received at least one parcel every day. By the end of the week she had at least managed to get her act together and had brushed her hair and put some lippy on before she opened the door. Each day their doorstep exchanges became longer and more revealing. By the end of the week Lisa had found out that his name was Gareth, he lived alone, loved sport, went para-gliding at weekends and was saving up for a sports car. She still had collywobble knees, butterflies and trouble breathing whenever she saw him but a wave of pleasure would engulf her as she watched him walking up the front path.
In the middle of the week there were cards as well as packages. ‘It’s my birthday,’ Lisa said when he pointed them out.
‘Congratulation,’ he said. ‘Have a great day.’
‘I will,’ she said although she knew she wouldn’t. She was working late again and the birthday drink she’d planed with her friend Becky had been cancelled as Becky was in bed with flu.
‘You must have a lot of friends or are you running some sort of business?’ he asked one day in the third week as he was delivering the umpteenth package.
‘I’ve got lots of friends,’ she said, which wasn’t true either.
‘Not that I’m complaining,’ he said. ‘I look forward to your deliveries. Such an interesting array of parcels. I can’t imagine what’s in them.’
‘You’d be surprised,’ she said and shut the door.
The following Monday morning as Lisa opened the door, no longer rushing as she knew he’d wait, she was surprised to see a woman carrying her letters and packages.
‘Where’s Gareth,’ she asked, alarm clenching her stomach.
‘Gareth?’ the woman said. ‘He’ll not be back anytime soon.’
Lisa’ heart dived into her slippers. Breath escaped her as her hopes and dreams fell like sparrows into the mud. The thought of never seeing him again filled her insides with dull aching sickness. Suddenly the days ahead felt empty and pointless. What had started as a jokey exchange on the doorstep had become meaningful and important and something she relied on to brighten up her day. She’d never missed anyone so much in her life. Tears filled her eyes.
‘What happened?’ she asked as the knot in her stomach tightened.
‘He had an accident. Fell off a cliff. Nasty business,’ the postwoman said shaking her head.
‘But he’s alright isn’t he?’ Please say he’s alright, Lisa thought as a hundred dreadful scenarios whirred through her brain.
‘Well, he’s in hospital. Broke both legs. Be a while before he’s back.’
Lisa sighed with relief.
It didn’t take her long to find him at the hospital. He was on her list of new patients. He hadn’t ‘fallen off a cliff’ as the postwoman put it, but he had landed badly while para-gliding and broken both his ankles. When she saw him lying there her heart fluttered. He was still gorgeous and now he was all hers.
‘Hi,’ she said as she walked up to his bed. ‘I’m your physiotherapist. It looks as though we’ll be spending lots of time together if I’m to get you back on your feet.’
Surprise followed by a broad grin lit up his face. ‘Fantastic,’ he said. ‘I’ll look forward to that. So there is an upside to broken ankles. I couldn’t be in better hands.’ The look in his eyes told Lisa he meant it.
All those hours online ordering things for next day delivery and sending them to herself over and over again had paid off. Now all she had to do was find homes for the stuff she’d bought and hopefully a new home for her hapless postman. ‘Any questions?’ she asked.
‘Just one,’ he said, his eyes sparkling with interest. ‘That first nightie. Do you really ‘Never Wear Knickers?’’
(First published in Take-a-Break Fiction Feast Magazine)
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