She was out of his league, no doubt about that. Beautiful, fair and expensively casual, she was reading a brochure when he arrived at the hotel. He thought she might be waiting for a husband or a lover. She wasn’t.
He was there by accident, the car he’d been road testing around Scotland having developed a gearbox problem a mile down the valley. His first thought had been to return to London, but it was Friday and the only thing waiting for him there was an empty flat. So, as the forecast predicted a fine weekend, and the German car company promised a replacement vehicle by Monday, he’d decided to take the weekend off.
They didn’t speak that first night, but at one moment, catching him looking at her across the virtually empty dining room, and it was impossible not to look at her, she smiled in such a friendly way that he had to stop himself glancing over his shoulder to make sure she hadn’t just seen somebody else.
Girls like her didn’t usually smile at him. Why would they? He was just an ordinary chap.
The following morning, having been to the local garage to make sure they were taking good care of his brand new, expensive, if non-functioning, test car, he was returning to the hotel along the loch when he spotted her. She was standing on a little wooden jetty.
‘You can’t row, can you?’ she asked as he reached her. Her slight accent was east European.
‘Er, well…’ he stammered in surprise.
‘Because I read last night that in the Middle Ages a Scottish village was located on the island in the loch out there.’ And she indicated a small island.
Already he was untying the hotel’s rowing boat from the jetty.
She didn’t thank him. Her smile said everything, and he realised it had probably never occurred to her that he might not want to accompany her to the island. Girls like her never had such doubts.
‘Are you just here for the weekend, too?’ he enquired at last as he began to row.
She nodded. ‘And you’re stranded here, I heard.’
That she was interested enough to have found out thrilled him. But, then, she seemed interested in everything about him. Where he came from, what he did for a living; even why, at 46, he was unmarried.
‘Maybe testing cars got in the way,’ he joked, but she just looked at him and he knew she didn’t believe him. There had been a few girls, but the truth was he’d always been awkward with women: yet, for some reason, less and less, with this one. ‘And you?’ he asked.
She was vague. Single, thirty, Estonian, brilliant English, she lived in Paris and travelled a lot.
‘All over…Dubai, Monaco, New York, Berlin.’
‘Whatever appeals.’ And she closed the conversation as they reached the island.
It was a pretty enough place, but the medieval remains there were little more than a pile of stones. ‘There’s a museum in the village which might be more interesting,’ she said. ‘Shall we take a look?’
She wanted him to be with her! She really did!
They visited the museum in the afternoon, where she gazed at a tableau of a family engaged in a primitive domestic life. Just being in her company gave him a confidence he’d never known when he wasn’t driving a car.
That night they had dinner together, laughing a lot, as she encouraged him to talk in a way no other woman had ever done. Afterwards he taught her how to play snooker.
I’m in love, he thought, as they shook hands at her bedroom door. But what could she see in him?
The next day was Sunday. They had breakfast together, and then hired bicycles and toured the valley. And, as she stood on a hilltop with the September sun backlighting her tumbling hair, he imagined making love to her. Of course he did.
It was dark when they arrived back at the hotel, and the evening had turned cool. Their dinner was quieter, more intimate, their silences longer, but always comfortable. They were both tired. Tomorrow they would say goodbye.
‘Well…’ she said, as they reached her door.
He plucked up his courage. ‘Actually I was wondering if you’d like to…well, you know, come into my room for…’
She stopped him. ‘Better not!’ She must have seen his disappointment. ‘I mean, I’d like to very much. But one thing might lead to another and…’
‘That’s what I was rather hoping.’
She smiled. ‘Thank you for the thought. You’re a very nice man. I knew that the moment I saw you.’
‘Nice. I see.’ He turned away, crippled with the rejection.
She pulled him back, touching his face. ‘Actually, you don’t see. The reason I can’t make love to you is because it wouldn’t mean the same to me as it would to you. And that would spoil it, perhaps not for you, but for me. I don’t want to ruin the memory of this weekend and the time we’ve spent together.’
‘You’ve really enjoyed being with me?’
‘Very much. And I want to remember you like this, not like…’ Her voice trailed away dismissively.
She was silent for a moment. Then she said. ‘You wanted to know what I do for a living. I’ll tell you. I entertain men. Not men like you. But that’s what I do.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘I think you do. I’m what some people might call a hooker. Expensive, but a hooker, nevertheless. Sex is my job. And right now I’m on holiday from my job. And, because of you, I’ve had a lovely holiday.’
Then she kissed him very gently on the mouth and closed her door before he’d quite realised what she’d said.
She’d already left for the airport when he went down for breakfast the following morning. So he sat on the jetty and stared at the loch. And as the hours passed he realised he was smiling at her memory. This beautiful woman, who knew about men, had made him feel good about himself. Maybe he wasn’t such an ordinary guy after all.