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The Honeymoon Couple

Anne Bealing Published: 01 February 2024

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Man and woman embraced looking at sea

‘Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our descent into Gatwick. The weather on the ground is cloudy with a temperature of 10 degrees. Please make sure your seat belts are fastened.’ The cabin crew, their work nearly over, bustled along the aisle preparing the cabin for landing and checking that everyone on board the jet had complied with the captain’s instructions.

Alice glanced down at her lap. Her seat belt was still done up. The sunlight from above the clouds shone in through the small window making her new gold wedding ring look brighter than ever. She twiddled it round her finger, pleased with how neatly it fitted next to the sapphires of her engagement ring. She slipped her arm through Barry’s and smiled at him. He looked bronzed, relaxed and happy - and as always there was that twinkle in his eye whenever he looked at her. He leant across and kissed her cheek.

‘Nearly back home,’ he whispered as the plane descended into the cloud obscuring the sun that had shone so steadily throughout their honeymoon in Madeira.

‘It’s been such a lovely time. I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. The days just flew by! We must go back soon.’ She squeezed his hand, not too sure if she was ready for the landing.

The sunshine of Madeira was far away but never to be forgotten. The other guests at their hotel had called them ‘The Honeymoon Couple’ and had wished them every happiness. One couple they met were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary and everyone had laughed when someone figured out that Barry and Alice would have to be over a hundred years old before they could celebrate fifty years of marriage.

As the cabin dimmed and before the journey was over, Alice thought how her life had changed in the last six months and especially in the last two weeks in Madeira. Her first time flying. Her first time abroad. At long last she was being cared for – a complete role reversal and one that she was totally enjoying. Caring for her elderly mother had been her whole life for such a long time. A year ago Barry moved in next door and had become a good friend. They had shared cups of tea over the kitchen table. He had helped her with the garden which had been in serious need of much attention, which Alice just did not have time to give. He had told her about his work on the gas rigs off the coast. He was relishing retirement although it was tinged with sadness since his wife died four years ago.

One morning, six months ago, Barry had arrived to start gardening and had found Alice crying, surrounded by black bin bags and piles of her mother’s clothes destined for the local charity shops. The funeral was over and Alice was trying to face the future alone.

‘Leave that for now,’ he’d said softly as he held out his hand and led her to his car. They’d driven to the coast in the summer sunshine and she’d felt so much better. They’d laughed at the comedian in the end of the pier show, played the arcade games and enjoyed a fish and chip supper. He’d bought her pink roses – her favourite colour. It had all felt so good. From that day on she felt like a tourist in her own country – they went everywhere together and on Christmas Day he had slipped the sapphire ring on her finger and asked her to be his wife forever.

The island was a beautiful place for a honeymoon – like nothing Alice had ever seen before, except on the travel programmes that she had watched with her mother on so many evenings. She had immersed herself in the tropical colours and scents and had enjoyed every moment of being there. The ‘bird of paradise’ exotic flowers, bought at the airport, would remind her of the lush hotel gardens and the days she and Barry had spent together by the pool.

Alice peered through the cabin window. Now the sky was grey. England. She could see green hills and fields dotted with white specks that must be sheep. The runway lights stretched out into a bright future. The pilot made the final descent smoothly. They were home.

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