CHAPTER 1 - Anyhow. I arrived.

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So. I want to talk about love. Yeah yeah, me- the woman who never got past the first (and very laboured) chapter of her premiere 'ChickLit' novel.

I need to talk about love.  December 1st is a difficult day for me. (Those who've read my memoir know of my lifetime friendship with Nikk and how I tragically lost him to cancer, three and a half years ago.) It's an annual tussle now, between finally going to visit his gravesite (I haven't been back since his burial) or going somewhere we spent time together to sit quietly and reminisce.

I still cling to that deep connection we shared. As long as Nikk continues to stare at me from atop my computer case I have an ally; I have unconditional support, unwavering belief- whatever new direction I choose to take. ("Choose " is an iffy word- most of the time I end up questioning how much is really my choice and how much the influence of others - or an unknown something - making choices for me?)

Was a whim- or for those who believe in serendipity or the metaphysical or the supernatural or... an afterlife, Nikk decided for me. I had toyed, the week leading to this date some months back, with the notion of going down to the Peninsula for the day- the place we met most often; sitting at the edge of the pier- maybe reading, or scribbling odd thoughts as I recalled them? But as I gazed at his photo one more time... I found myself on Expedia looking for B&Bs in the nearby Dandenong Ranges. There were hundreds of them! Yet, I only got to the fourth before I booked. Didn't know why that one at the time, usually I devote much more effort. (It's kinda fun, going through all the options?)

'Something Something B&B'. (I won't reveal the name since I will be talking about the owners.) Okay. The overly large period room shown in the pics had the almost standard fireplace, views in every direction, lush rainforest environment, 'boutique' feel, and, the parrots seen here and there equated to lots of assumed native wildlife sounds. Perfect really. As was the building itself, over a century old and, from appearances, lovingly restored and tended to. But like I said, there were hundreds of them. All offering the same amenities- give or take the 'period' aspects each had adopted- or hadn't.

So. I'm not really supposed to have written this. This story - a fraction of my life captured on digital paper - it wasn't meant to happen. I've stayed in B&Bs before, plenty of them. That train carriage on the hill, of course, is at the forefront- given the solemn promise I made to go back there. Funny that I haven't. Not so funny when you learn I haven't been because I'm "saving it". That's right - like Venice, and the Pyramids and that white corner cafe with the thatched chairs and walls framed by vivid wisterias on a speck of an island in the Mediterranean - I am saving it for a time when I am not alone; when love is at my side- literally.  Will it ever happen? Who the fuck knows. I believe it will; much as I believe I will open my eyes tomorrow and take my first 'awake therefore alive' breath. But who knows, right?

This one won't be saved, however. I will never return alone and since I will not be partaking the experience with my significant other... (the odds, the odds of partaking while we still can function somewhat...) this one will be a one-off, indefinitely.

Why did I end up there? Was it because out of the hundreds of others, this one had something else as well? The hosts? Again, letting serendipity run loose, I might simply accept at this juncture in my life that I was meant to pick this one so I could meet them. As you read, you might - like me - be led to certain conclusions affirming this. (Or at least Nikk seems to think so?)

I booked online and packed my bag. It had been a long time since I'd spent ANY time completely on my own, (laptop and lover in it aside) and... driving there... I felt curiously disoriented for a while. Where were the jokes offered up by one or both sons? Where were the silly pics taken, and my constant shouts of "That mailbox! Quick, take a pic!" (To date, we only have 2 mailbox photos despite my constant shouting. Wayyyy short of my 'million mailboxes' dream.)

Driving through the hills I felt it soon enough, however: The calmness. Reinforced by the old, familiar sounds and smells and sights either side of the winding uphill road. I began to relax- I even stopped at a French Cafe and had some lunch (Check-in was at 2.00pm and... the fact the owner of the cafe was friends with the owner of the B&B? I was past questioning how everything was connected, already.)

I reached the dirt road just before 2.00pm and avoided most of the potholes. (Some I drove over, just for the fun of it. Middle age does not mean mid-of-the-road safety, least not for me.)

There it appeared, just like in the advertisement. And there I was, a single woman at a 'couples only' retreat, intending to spend my first night away from home (alone) in what felt like forever.

I didn't give a thought as to how this might be interpreted by the hosts before arriving. Why would I have? I was on a mission: Privacy. I had plans. (No, I won't go into what those plans were, here. Suffice to say, none of your business? Besides, there's enough in what I WILL reveal to satisfy any amount of thirst for  "la passion".)

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