A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.
As I boarded the train from Bath to Paddington, serious doubts began to creep in. I was a country boy, born on a farm in Somerset. And I knew that moving to London would be like moving to another planet. Nonetheless, I had made my decision. I had come to the view that life should never be predictable: it should always be random. I wanted to go on an adventure. I didn’t want to marry the girl next door. I didn’t want to follow in my father’s farming footsteps.
On the other hand, I did have money and a degree, so in theory, I shouldn’t be destitute any time soon. As I got off the train I didn’t yet have a hotel booked. That was a deliberate part of my random strategy. I would decide which hotel only when in the taxi.
“Where to young man?” I rattled off the names of four hotels which I knew were reasonably priced and not light years away from Paddington.
“Yes, but which one?”
“I don’t mind. You decide.”
“I don’t usually recommend hotels. I’ll need to know a bit more about your visit.”
“I’ve just started a gap year, and I’m looking for love, life and adventure.”
“Okay. Well in that case I choose none of your hotels. I have another in mind. Do you want to know more?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well It’s not one that I’ve recommended before, but if you decide to go there you will meet the love of your life.”
“How will I know if it’s her? I could get hooked up with the wrong girl.”
“Good question! She will be wearing a pearl earring. Will that be enough of a clue?”
“Like in the painting you mean?”
“Well not quite. The earring in the painting is actually quite large. But she will be wearing just one?”
When I arrived at the hotel the girl with a pearl earring was nowhere to be seen. I stayed in the hotel bar all that evening, waiting. But at breakfast the next morning, there she was, sitting alone. She was beautiful and I couldn’t help but stare.
I knew I had to approach her, even though it felt cripplingly awkward. “Do you mind if I join you?”
She looked around. “There are other tables.”
“Yes, but I couldn’t help noticing your lovely earring. Does that sound a bit lame?”
“No, lots of people admire my earring. It’s a nod to the painting of course. I absolutely love art. The earring was a gift from my dad.”
“He’s not a taxi driver?”
“No, he’s an architect.”
“I take it London’s not your home. You wouldn’t be in a hotel otherwise.”
“No, I’m just visiting for a few days. I have friends here and there’s an art exhibition I simply can’t miss.”
“Can I ask where home is?”
“Bath, I travelled up on the train yesterday.”