Boy-meets-girl is a typical starting point for a love story. From there romance unfolds – but as Lysander says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’
In my own writing, I’ve been interested in exploring what happens when two people meet, feel a spark of attraction, but are then sent on different paths. How does that brief romance change the course of their life from that point? What happens when their paths finally converge again – will they remember how they felt? Have they been holding a torch in the intervening years? Can the bud of romance finally blossom into more, into love?
In my novel Aphrodite’s Tears, the hero and heroine first meet one evening on a lonely beach. Their meeting has a dreamlike quality: Damian emerges from the ocean like a Greek god. The attraction between them is immediate, and immensely powerful. Damian says:
‘You feel the magic as I do, yes? Anything might be possible on a night such as this.’
Swept up in a moment of sweet insanity, Oriel throws caution to the wind, and the two make love right there on the beach. But the next morning Damian is gone, and while Oriel doesn’t regret their liaison, she is left vowing never to let a man abandon her again.
Six years later, Oriel takes a job working as an archaeologist on a Greek island, and is shocked to discover her new boss is none other than the Greek god of that moonlit night. She thinks:
How many times in the past had she wished that he would walk into her life again? How many nights had he haunted her dreams as she searched hungrily in the dark for his lips, his arms, craving his touch? And now he was here, standing in front of her after all these years, opening the floodgates to all those memories and dreams.
Of course, Oriel is not about to run to Damian with open arms. As the two get to know each other, she is wary of getting hurt. But Damian is sure that they have a future together. He tells her:
‘An unbreakable cord of love binds some people from birth, and a mysterious force exists to ensure that nothing, not time, distance nor anyone, can keep them from finding each other and uniting.’
There’s such serenity in that idea; a sense that to find love all we must do is surrender. Trust the universe, the gods, fate.
But fate is a less comfortable concept in my novel Concerto. For if it is fate that causes Umberto and Catriona to first meet, then it is also fate that makes Catriona lose out on a career as an opera singer and become a single mother, and makes Umberto lose his sight and his hope in a terrible car accident.
When they first meet, they are young and impetuous and naive of how difficult life can be. When Umberto moves into the house next door to Catriona, she is charmed by his charisma and his good looks and his unbelievable talent as a pianist composer, and he is taken by this eighteen-year-old girl on the cusp of womanhood who is herself an amazing singer. Their music brings them together, and their passion sends them into the stratosphere – for just one night, before Umberto’s ambition drives him to end the relationship so that he can further his career.
Catriona is crushed, but she rebuilds her life, forging a career in music therapy and raising her son. Alone. But a decade later, she learns of Umberto’s accident from his mother, who wants to hire Catriona to work with her son. The thought of seeing Umberto again is almost too much for Catriona to bear. Her brief time with him did a lot of damage:
She buried her face in the pillows, howling her despair into their softness. He was like a disease that had taken a terrible toll on her, one from which she had never recovered, judging by her inability to form relationships with other men.
Still, after much thought she feels the right thing to do is to go to him and try to help him out of his depression. But to protect her heart, she doesn’t tell Umberto who she is.
Soon, the flame of attraction in Catriona and Umberto is rekindled. Then Umberto hears Catriona sing one evening and realisation dawns: he knows who she is. And he knows, now, that she has always been the one. That in every woman he had dated or slept with after her, it was Catriona he was looking for. He feels such anger over lost opportunities and wasted lives, thoughts of what might have been; he feels a terrible longing. Catriona, too, is awash with emotions. Her heart, which has been closed since the night they were lovers, is opening once more.
For Catriona and Umberto, the interruption in their romance has been painful and arduous, taking a toll on them both. But they have grown too – grown up. For them, following the path of true love does not mean trusting fate but trusting each other. Then, finally, they can be entirely open with each other, and from that honesty can spring new hope. Love.
Will it matter, ultimately, that the romance was interrupted, that Oriel and Damian and Catriona and Umberto spent years apart when they could have been together? Not at all. After all, it’s the ‘ever after’ part that counts.