Tom Chapman’s Short Stories
Reg saw her again as he dozed in his tub-chair in the common room, or at least he thought he saw her, but surely, it couldn't really be Lorna - could it?
It was fifty years since he last saw Lorna, since her father had made it quite clear that his daughter was not to marry below her status. Reg had loved Lorna, and she had responded with great feeling, but her father had then forbidden her to have anything further to do with Reg. A strong and domineering man, Lorna's father was not to be denied, and when the opportunity of a promotion in the bank was offered to him, he gladly took it and Lorna's family moved to the city. Reg continued his honest work in the local factory, but never was there another love in his life to come up to Lorna.
He had never married, but his trustworthy toil and upright character had made him one of the stalwarts in that small country town, and now, as health and life were failing, he was being cared for in a small nursing home.
All through the years he had carried a picture of Lorna with him. It was not a small black and white 'snap', typical of those times, but rather, a full colour image in his mind. That image had never faded. He could still see her graceful stance and that striking full-flowing hair with a coppery glint that caught the sunlight.
And now there was Lorna again, with the graceful poise and movement, and the coppery glint in her auburn hair. He knew that Lorna must be near seventy or so by now, but his long-carried picture had not changed. He struggled with the thought that as life was ebbing low perhaps his mind was trying to fulfil his lifelong desire, and in the quiet and lonely moments, was trying to live what had been denied.
Reg concentrated hard, he was sure he wasn't dreaming, but there she was again.
"I'm wide awake," he said to himself, "and it must be her", but he knew that she was one of the young nurses there and had been introduced as Melanie.
"Good morning Reg," she said as she passed.
"Good morning Melanie," was his automatic response.
But still she looked so much like Lorna.
Each day when Melanie was on the morning shift, she and Reg would exchange those greetings, but eventually it happened.
"Good morning Reg, how are you feeling this morning?"
"Good morning Lorna, I'm feeling..." His voice tailed off as he realised what had just sprung out from the subconscious.
"What did you call me?" said Melanie as she stopped in her tracks. "Did you call me Lorna?"
Reg was embarrassed and hesitatingly replied, "Yes I did, I'm sorry. People's names are important. I hope I haven't offended you."
"No, no, not at all," Melanie quickly replied, so as to put him at ease, "But that is so strange, the only person that I know named Lorna is my grandmother."
Reg's mind was in turmoil, and his heart beat a little faster.
"Many years ago, Melanie, I knew a girl about your age who carried herself like you do, and had the same coloured hair. You remind me so much of her. Her name was Lorna, Lorna Jacobson, to be exact."
Reg now had Melanie's full attention.
"Lorna Jacobson!" Melanie exclaimed, "That was my grandmother's maiden name. And you are Reg? That Reg? Oh it surely couldn't be!"
"What do you mean 'That Reg'" Reg asked, inwardly hoping, but thinking it was almost too good to be true.
"After Grandpa was killed in a plane crash, many years ago while on a business trip, Grandma, in some of her more pensive moments, told of a young man in some country town who was a special friend." Melanie continued, "The way she spoke of him, I think she must have loved him. There was always a kind of softness in her voice when she mentioned Reg by name. Could you be the Reg that she spoke of?"
"Well, I think that might be right," Reg replied, "I have always lived in this town. Did she ever mention the town where she lived as a girl?"
"No, she didn't," said Melanie, "but she was very, very interested when she found out where it was that I was going to for my nursing appointment. Maybe it's no wonder - going to work in a nursing home in her old home town."
Over the next couple of weeks Melanie and Reg exchanged stories, and they discovered more and more similarities as Reg told of his past and Melanie recalled what Grandma had shared from those early days. Melanie contacted Grandma, and she confirmed that the Reg she knew was indeed Reg Foster.
Lorna had felt it deeply when her father had moved the family away to the city. As far as he was concerned the opportunities for advancement and success were much better there, and there was the bonus that Lorna would be taken away from Reg. In his eyes, she was worth much more than to be married to a factory worker.
He had developed some very important contacts in the banking and business world and, much to his liking, managed to match up his daughter with a very successful financier. Being the kind of person he was, Lorna did not have much say in the matter. The match was workable enough in its own way, everything was correct and proper, there was a subsequent family, and Lorna faithfully discharged her duties as a wife and mother. But it seemed, from what she confided after that plane crash, that she had always held in her heart a love for Reg.
Reg had no such parental pressure, and remained single. Over the years he constantly looked at the girls that came across his path, always hoping to see Lorna again. He now had aged, but his memory of Lorna always remained as the beautiful young girl that had been taken away from him.
And now the years of working in the dust and fumes of the factory had taken their toll, and he was suffering serious health problems, deteriorating prematurely. But now, even at this late stage, he had had his vision fulfilled. His long-held picture of Lorna had come to life. What a wonderful coincidence that this lovely caring young nurse was actually Lorna's grand-daughter.
Melanie deliberately came over to Reg in the common room and greeted him with a kiss. They had shared so much about the times that had passed—Melanie letting her Grandmother know about Reg, and Reg finding out about Lorna's life—that Melanie felt that Reg was almost like part of her own family now.
"Reg, guess what, "Melanie announced with excitement, "Grandma is coming to visit us, and she would really love to see you again. She has never forgotten you through all those years. I pick her up from the train tomorrow morning. She is looking forward to a cuppa with you."
Reg's voice trembled with excitement, "That will be lovely. I never thought such a time would be possible."
For the rest of the day, Reg's thoughts were occupied with seeing Lorna again. It was all too late now for any lasting relationship, but just to hold her hand again would be pleasure beyond his dreams, after so many years.
The train pulled in and Melanie looked for her Grandmother. There she was, smiling with eager anticipation. Melanie ran to her, threw her arms around her neck and said, "Oh, Grandma, it's so good to see you again, and Reg has hardly slept since I told him yesterday that you were coming."
Reg was sitting up waiting and alert, as Lorna and Melanie walked into the room. He looked at them, but only recognised Melanie. Fifty years had changed Lorna so much, but then he looked again as she walked towards him. There was the unmistakable dignity in her bearing. And she looked at the old man, now a far cry from the young fit teenager she knew so long ago. Melanie wondered how they would feel about each other.
Lorna sat down beside him and they held hands once again. Melanie need not have worried. Lorna and Reg looked at each other, and their smiles spoke volumes.