They’d been dating six weeks, and he was the perfect man. Except for his voting; conservative. Oh, and maybe his high-mindedness. But other than that, perfect. She, after all, was far from perfect. Slightly overweight, multiple jobs, short, especially as compared to him. But, looking at him as he slept, she was ecstatic that her singleton days were now over.
Without opening his eyes, he said, “Bridget. Stop looking at me.” He didn’t crack a smile as he said this. He then turned over, away from her.
“If I let you sleep, can we do something special tomorrow?” Tomorrow was Sunday, and she desperately wanted to have lunch with him. Not just lunch, but a picnic, on Primrose Hill, near Regent’s Park. With wine. Not too much to ask, really. She’d plan it, pick up the food from the deli at Shepherd Foods on Regent’s Park Road, and she already had the wine. In her mind, it would be like The Sound of Music; just she and Mark, on a lovely picnic, in the lovely park.
His reply was a mumbled, “Yes. Now go find something to do for an hour.”
Sunday brought sunshine and beautiful weather. She’d gotten up and dressed before him. He hadn’t asked her yesterday about what special plans she had, so she kept it to herself by some miracle, thinking she’d surprise him this morning. “Mark, are you ready?” she called out, entering her bedroom.
He was up, just slipping into his shoes. “Good morning,” he answered with a relaxed smile on his face. “I enjoyed last night,” he said and stood, nuzzling a kiss into her neck, brushing her hair back out of the way. “Am I ready for what?”
“A picnic! The view from Primrose Hill is breathtaking.” Her excitement was impossible to miss.
“Bridget, I don’t recall discussing a picnic for today. I’ll have to pass. Been called into work. Can I make it up to you tonight? I’ll bring pizza and wine.” This was all said as he moved out of the room and toward the front door, grabbing his briefcase from the chair where it sat.
“Mark...you said you’d do whatever I wanted today! You can’t go to work. It’s a bloody Sunday!” Her disappointment was evident on her face, tears stinging at her eyes.
He honestly did not remember discussing a picnic with her, although he certainly felt remorseful that he had been called into work. He’d like nothing better than to spend the afternoon with her. It was certainly preferable to having to go into Chambers for the better part of the day.
“Darling, I have to go; it’s not that I want to. I’m very sorry about your picnic plans. Would you rather go out to dinner this evening? Will that make it up to you?” The pleading look in his eyes almost swayed her resolve, but not quite.
“No. I’d rather not see you tonight. I’m furious at this moment. I’m sure we’ll talk soon. Have a nice day, Mark.” She then shut the door on him and listened to his departing footsteps on the stairs.
She was more than angry. She was hurt. Just when she was about to sit down for a good cry, her mobile rang. Running to her purse, she fished it out, almost dropping it in her excitement. She was sure it was Mark, calling to tell her he was sorry, that his work couldn’t be helped. Maybe he could get off early, and they could still make the park.
When she finally opened it, the caller ID showed it was Tom. “Hello, Tom,” she said, trying to hide her disappointment from her friend.
“Bridge, what’s the matter? Did I catch you at a bad time? Or are you in the middle of something with your Mr. Darcy?” he asked her with a sly tone in his voice.
“No! Definitely not with Mark right now! Oh, Tom. Why are men such fuckwits? Present company excluded, of course,” she clarified.
“Uh oh. Do I need to come over? Give me an hour, and I’ll be there,” he said sympathetically, feeling she needed him more than just over the phone.
“I have a better idea,” she exclaimed. “I have a picnic lunch on order. It shouldn’t go to waste. Can we go to the park? No need to sit at home when it’s a gorgeous day out. Who needs Mark Darcy anyway!”
“That’s the spirit,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll pick you up shortly.”
On the ride to Primrose Hill, Bridget explained to Tom why she was so upset at Mark. “I don’t think he ever wanted to go on a picnic! I found this adorable dress, ordered the food, and had it all planned.” She was working herself into a lather. Tom wasn’t helping matters, egging her on with, “Bridgelene, he’s snobbish, rich,” as if that were the worst thing in the world, “and he obviously works too much! Just forget him. Who needs men anyway? Well, besides me, of course.”
After picking up the food, they drove past St. Mark’s Church as they approached the park. “Look, hon, they’ve even named a church after bloody Mark Darcy!” he laughed, trying to lighten her mood. “It’s Sunday but no one’s there. All at work, I’m sure!” he said gleefully.
Tom left his vehicle in the car park, leaving them a half-mile walk to the hill’s base. The weather was warm and dry, so he grabbed the basket and they started walking up the incline towards the top. From Bridget’s purse flung over her shoulder, she heard her mobile mutedly ringing. Digging for and finding it, she flipped it open, seeing that it was Mark. “Yes?”, she answered.
“Hi. Just seeing how you’re making out. Still mad at me?” his voice was all quiet solicitude, but she was having none of it.
“I’m not mad, I’m hurt. If you didn’t want to go for a picnic, you could have just told me so.” Her voice had a sharpness to it. She was now breathing heavily from the uphill trek, causing Mark to ask with concern, “Bridget, where are you? You sound winded.” Just then, Tom turned around, whispering for her to keep up, as she was falling behind.
“I’ll be right there,” she snapped. “Sorry, Mark. You were saying?”
Hearing a man’s voice, he asked her again, “Where on God’s green Earth are you?”
“I’m having a picnic. You know, the one you didn’t want to join me on!”
Up ahead, Tom had dropped the food basket, causing the bottle of wine to tumble out and roll down the grass a few feet. “Mark, I have to go, I have a situation on my hands at the moment.” She didn’t wait for his reply but disconnected her mobile, running over to grab the wine before it could get too far.
Securing the basket, Tom ran for the bottle too; they both began laughing as they lightly smacked heads, reaching for it at the same time. “Bridge, we can lose the sandwiches, but NOT the wine!”
“I’ve got it!” she yelled triumphantly as she picked up the bottle and dusted off the dirt it had collected from the ground.
Continuing, they finally made it to the crest. Turning around to take in the view of the city, they both let out a large sigh. “It’s beautiful up here. I’m glad you made me trudge all the way up the damn hill for this,” said Tom, throwing his free arm around her shoulders. “Now, where can we sit and open this blooming bottle?”
They found a bench to sit on and Tom put the basket down at their feet, then reached for the corkscrew and proceeded to open the wine. Pulling out two plastic cups, Bridget held them steady while he poured.
“To Mark Darcy!” Tom said, holding his cup up in a toast.
Holding hers aloft, she raised her eyebrows to Tom with a questioning look, saying, “And just why are we toasting him??”
“Because, if he hadn’t canceled on you, I wouldn’t be enjoying this fabulous view with my best friend!”
Smiling, she touched Tom’s cup with her own, leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for that. And for being a true friend.” She then finished her wine in one chug, exclaiming, “To Mark bloody Darcy! Hurrah!”
They sat in a comfortable silence, finishing off the bottle of wine and occasionally talking, never having reached in the basket for any of the food. Bridget then let out a loud yawn, the two glasses of wine on an empty stomach causing her to be a little squiffy, and sleepy to boot.
“I’m going in search of the loo. When I get back, let’s see what delectables they have packed in that basket,” and took his arm from around her and proceeded to stroll off in the direction of a building.
After Bridget had disconnected from Mark, he returned to the room they were all working in and sat for a moment, wondering where she was and what was this infernal picnic she kept referring to. She had mentioned Primrose Hill. He could be there in a half-hour with the light Sunday traffic. But who was she with? There was only one way to find out. He looked up at the three faces sitting at the table with him, all deep in their thoughts. “Would you mind terribly if I call it a day? I completely forgot about a prior engagement I had.” At Mark’s comment, his co-workers smiled and nodded. He was always the first to volunteer to come in early, work late and on weekends. They knew that he was dating someone now and were honestly relieved to see that he was human.
“Sure, go and enjoy yourself. Hopefully it’s with your new friend, eh?” said Landon, the one directly across from Mark. Giving a perfunctory smile only, he thanked them and excusing himself, rose and quickly retreated from the room, his thoughts on Bridget and their seeming row.
He walked to his office before he left, hoping to find a shirt to wear, instead of the suit he had on. The only items he had in the small closet that was remotely suitable for climbing a hill were a pair of linen trousers and white shirt. He wasn’t even sure when he had last worn them, but at least they were clean, ironed and he wouldn't be in a park with a suit on.
Mark arrived at his destination in record time, even accounting for the light Sunday traffic and his cautious driving. There were several families along with lots of couples, but no Bridget. He came upon her from behind, having spent a good fifteen minutes searching the top of the hill, spotting her sitting with a dark-haired man, his arm around her shoulders, causing him to stop. Now what? He couldn’t very well go barging up to them, could he? But she was his girlfriend, after all. He had every right to confront them. At least it wasn’t Cleaver; if it had been, he might have been brought up on murder charges. When the man stood and moved away, coming toward him, he recognized the figure as Bridget’s friend Tom. Her very gay friend. Sighing in relief, he walked to greet him, slightly embarrassed that he thought her capable of seeing someone else within hours of disagreeing.
“Tom!” he called out, startling him.
Smiling disarmingly, he quickly explained that he was here because he and Bridget had a small fight earlier and he didn’t feel comfortable with the way he had left it with her.
Eyeing him up and down, Tom was silent for a beat, then said, “If you’re here to apologize, then by all means, there she is,” and he turned and pointed to the lone figure on the bench. “But if you’re here for anything other than that, then please, just go back to work. She doesn’t need your emotional fuckwittage.”
“Emotional what?” he asked. Then he remembered her using the word prior, definitely derogatorily and towards past boyfriends or current friend’s boyfriends that their “dating war council” had raked over the coals. “Tom, I’d like to talk to her, please. I truly think there’s been a misunderstanding.”
Tom would always take Bridget’s side, especially where men were concerned, but Mark looked very sincere and even upset. If it were the other man she had recently been involved with, Daniel, then he definitely would have told him to fuck off, but he sensed something different in Mark. Integrity, caring, even love? “Go ahead then,” and he nodded in her direction with a smile. “You will get her home? No need for me to stick around?”
“Yes, I’ll definitely get her back home. Thank you,” and he shook Tom’s hand, feeling he had somehow just passed a test that he hadn’t prepared for.
He sat down on the bench softly, not wanting to startle her. She looked over, expecting Tom, tears on her cheeks as she must have been recently crying.
“What are you doing here?!” she asked in astonishment. “How did you find me?” It wasn’t exactly the welcome he had hoped for.
Taking her hand, he said, “Bridget, I’ve upset you today. Please know that I had no intention of doing so. I should have at least discussed going in to work, before I sprung it on you. I didn’t realize you had plans for this,” he looked down at the food basket and waved his hand to take in the panoramic view. “It’s beautiful up here, by the way. Excellent spot for a picnic,” his smile was melting her heart, not to mention her resolve.
“Mark, I told you yesterday morning!”
“When?” he asked, with confusion in his voice.
“When you told me to let you sleep for another hour.” She then thought back to their conversation, saying, “May not have specifically mentioned a picnic but I did say I wanted to do so something special and you said yes...” she trailed off, not knowing how to continue her argument when all she wanted, so very much, was to snog him right there on the park bench, for all to see.
“I was asleep!” he replied. “Did you mention it again to me?“ She nodded no, managing to look very contrite as she did so.
“Come here,” and he pulled her to him. “Can we still have a picnic, or did you and Tom eat everything up?”
Her eyes brightened after he said this, replying to him by admitting, “We only drank a bottle of wine.” He pulled back from her slightly, looked down with eyes wide, as if to say, ‘I’m shocked!’ She laughed then, grabbing the basket handles and standing before walking over to a soft spot of grass, taking the blanket from the basket and laying it on the ground.
They proceeded to eat everything that was inside. The food was excellent and consisted of two small turkey sandwiches, some crisps, cheese, grapes and another bottle of wine. When Mark pulled it out, she let out a squeal of delight, not realizing that the deli had included a bottle with her order.
After they had polished off the food and wine, they were both very relaxed and full. Standing and brushing off her dress, Bridget stretched her arms over her head. “What do you say we move under the tree,” she said, pointing her head in the direction of an old oak that offered shade, only a few steps away. Grabbing his hand, she pulled him with her, settling her back against the trunk, telling him, “C’mon Mark. Sit down here and lean against me. We can both enjoy the view that way.”
They sat in silence, he leaning into her, back pressed against her chest. She had her arms crossed in front of his neck, chin resting on his head. He was as relaxed as he could remember being. It was nice to disconnect from the rigors of his work, and forget, even momentarily, the world’s issues, especially the ones he dealt with daily.
Their view included the new London Eye, Big Ben and St. Paul’s. Several green spaces were also visible, contrasting to the far away silver and glass of high rises. Mark started to point out some of the sites laid out in front of them.
“Mark, you’re smart as a whip,” she whispered into his ear. “Which is that?” as she pointed to a very tall structure.
“It’s the BT Tower. It started as a communications tower in 1965 but after a bombing in ‘71, it’s been closed to the public.” He stopped momentarily, then asked, “Do you really think me smart?”
“Of course! You’re a top barrister. I think you're quite brilliant!”
“What else do you think of me?” He couldn’t help asking. With other women he had dated, he knew what they wanted from him from the start; the status of his profession, his wealth, the things he could buy them. Bridget, to her credit, didn’t seem interested in material things that wealth and status could bring. It was a very different dynamic than he was accustomed to.
“That you’re kind, generous, moral and best of all, a great shag!” She said this while gently kissing the back of his neck, causing him to shut his eyes with the pleasure of it. “Oh...and beyond fit,” her voice had lowered to a sexy purr. She continued to ply him with soft, light kisses, whispering quietly into his ear, “Could be the reason your shagging is above reproach,” her hands now winding through his hair, massaging his scalp. He realized there was a fine line between being relaxed and becoming randy. He had the feeling she was close to getting him to cross it. In a public park of all places.
Perking up and laughing, hoping to take his mind off where it was now heading, he started regaling her with a little-known story about Primrose Hill. “Did you know that in 1686, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey was murdered up here? Three Catholic lads were found guilty and hung just over there,” he pointed to the crest of the hill. “They were later exonerated, but the true story was never found out.”
“Did you study that case in uni?” she asked. She was feeling the effects of her actions and being physically close to Mark; causing her to clear her throat as her voice cracked when she spoke.
“No. Not sure where I heard it now. Probably another barrister in Chambers.”
“Are you ready to head home?” he asked, turning to look into her eyes. The passion that she had stirred in him shone just as strongly on her countenance. She simply nodded her head up and down. They gathered their belongings and with Mark carrying the basket, walked down to his car. Once inside, she leaned over, pulling him by the back of the neck toward her for a long snog. After breaking from the kiss, Mark put the car in drive and pulled away. When he turned right onto Prince Albert Road instead of left toward Albany Street and her flat in Borough Market, she asked in surprise, “Where are you going?”
Looking over to her, he replied, “My house, it’s closer.”
Laughing, she said, “By three minutes, maybe!”