Romance Fiction posted April 26, 2019

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
(When ignorance led to bliss)

Dad's Favourite

by LisaMay

Soulmate. Twin soul Contest Winner 

Catherine (not Cat, not even Cathy) lives in the small city of Matakerua. It nestles between forest-clad hills with glimpses through to the crest of Humpback Ridge, which is snow-capped in winter. A lazy river meanders through the rural area. The city is mainly a farming service one, while the surrounding region is noted for outdoor activities. 

Catherine has secured work at Sportzone, the local sports and outdoors store, and is feeling rather pleased with herself. While some of her friends will be goofing around at the swimming hole down by the river or hanging out at the Mall before they all start their courses at the Polytechnic, she’ll be making money over summer. Yay! Some time soon she’ll be able to buy those sexy boots she’s had her eye on – maybe even afford that red blouse with the slinky texture, if she adds her birthday money from Grandma. 

It is a quiet mid-week afternoon, allowing Catherine time to daydream, but just now the beeper has gone off and a customer is entering the store. She hasn’t seen this guy around her part of town before. Or has she? It's possible that he's a tourist, but there's something familiar about him. Catherine is not a flirt, in fact she's rather shy, but she has the urge to make an impression on him. A good one, obviously.

Catherine watches him out of the corner of her eye, peeping through her ginger fringe, as he wanders the aisles of the sports store. How to provide a good customer experience is uppermost in her mind. She doesn’t want to hassle him by pouncing on him too soon, so she lets him get his bearings in the shop first. 

She is enjoying observing him. He does seem to be taking a while to come to the counter, though. Maybe she should go and speak to him, see how she can help with a purchase. Her shyness is fighting with her resolve to do her job attentively.  

He is such appealing eye-candy! Ruggedly handsome in an outdoorsy way, nicely tanned,  dressed casually – but not scruffy. Catherine notes that he's wearing quality hiking boots. The same brand that she owns. She fantasizes that he might be possible boyfriend material, if he lives locally. Picturing herself standing beside him, she decides they look good together.

Her friends are pairing up, but Catherine hasn’t met anyone she really fancies. Yet.

Of course, her dad won’t approve; he’ll think this young man is too old for Catherine, but that in itself is half of the appeal. She is into daydream mode again but suddenly realises he's right under her nose, speaking to her.

In a smiley voice that quickens her pulse, he says, ”I’d like a pair of woolly buggers, please.”

Taken aback by this odd request and the language, Catherine’s mind clicks into gear, trying to process what he means. He is obviously being clever, but she's clever too. Surely she can work it out. He must mean socks. Yes, that must be it. A pair of woolly socks for hiking the local hills.

Catherine scurries off to prowl the unfamiliar shelves, trying to remember where everything is. She returns with a selection of woollen socks, and lays them out on the counter for his perusal. She's somewhat disconcerted when he says, “I don’t think I’ll catch much with any of them!

She replies, “Well you won’t catch a cold. Especially with these red ones here. The wool is mixed with possum fur for added warmth.”

The stranger starts laughing, such a lovely sound to Catherine’s ears, which are flushed a not-unattractive shade of red with embarrassment because, clearly, buying a pair of socks isn't what he came to Sportzone for.

His lovely brown eyes glance into her green ones and he says, “You’re a good saleswoman but I don’t need socks. What would you bring me if I asked for one of Dad’s Favourites?”

Her blush spreads. Favourite whats???  She thinks he’s making fun of her ignorance. Catherine replies primly in a halting voice, her confidence slipping, “As I’ve never met your father… um, I would need to know what his favourite item is.” 

At this, the young man starts chuckling, his pleasant face crinkling with delight. 

“Are you new here? Is this your first job?” 

Now Catherine really does think he’s being mean to her, and yet…

She summons her courage and replies, “Yes, and it’s also my very first day in the shop.”

“That’s something to celebrate, then!” he responds enthusiastically. “If you like, would you… could we… what if…. how about… " His voice trails away. 

He’s blushing! They both stare at each other across the counter. In the still space of uncertainty and possibility, the seconds elongate. Catherine can feel every cell, every corpuscle, every capillary and network of nerves in her body. Tingling, she suddenly feels brave, confident, a woman.

The young man lowers his eyes and starts fumbling with the socks on the counter. “I’ll take these red ones, then,” he mumbles, reaching a hand into the pocket of his grey moleskins for his wallet.

The moment has passed. Catherine is sharply aware she has come within sniffing distance of something wonderful, but doesn’t know what to do about it. She reaches for the socks to wrap them. 

Their hands touch. There is another electric moment. Then they both start talking at once. And stop.

They are both staring at each other again, innocent twin souls yearning. He blurts, “Will you come fishing with me tomorrow?”

His question is so unexpected that Catherine starts giggling. It’s nerves, but also – she hates fishing! She’s been with her dad a couple of times and that was quite enough. With concern, she senses that the young man thinks she's laughing at him.

“Gosh. Um… well. Sure, I’d love to! Thanks for asking. It’ll have to be after work because it will only be my second day working here so I can’t get any time off yet and I wouldn’t want to ask my boss for time off even though he’s very generous and also I’ll have to ask my dad and then…” 

Catherine checks her flow of words, aware that she's babbling. The young man is standing with one of the red socks in his hand, a tentative smile twitching the corners of his kissable mouth. 

Catherine has a desperate need to know his name, so she asks.

“Oh, I’m sorry… so sorry, I should've said. Robert. I’m Robert. Not Bob. Robert. Not even Robbie. No. It’s Robert… I’m new here. I start work tomorrow… my first job… isn’t that a coincidence? And about the fishing… yes, it will have to be after work, tomorrow evening, the daylight-saving time thing means it’ll be light for ages and I wouldn’t be able to get time off work anyway because I’m new and I haven’t gotten to know my boss much yet and I don’t really know where to go on the river and I don’t know if the nymphs will…” Robert shuts himself up, realising that he has been rattling on almost incoherently.

“Pleased to meet you, Robert,” says Catherine, rather formally, but with a twinkle to her tone.

“And may I have the pleasure of knowing your name, lovely lady?”

“I’m Catherine. Not Cat. Not even Cathy. Yes, I’m Catherine.”

They regard each other in a more relaxed manner, the ice broken by their mutual awkwardness. Empathy hangs sweetly in the air.

Then Catherine says mischievously, “So when are you going to tell me what a woolly bugger really is, and what your father’s favourite thing is?”

Robert smacks his forehead for dramatic effect and exclaims, “Good grief, I’d forgotten all about them. I’ll need them for our date tomorrow. A Woolly Bugger and a Dad’s Favourite are flies. You know, fishing flies. For fishing. For catching fish.”

Catherine doesn’t care what they are. She’d stopped listening, to linger on his words, “our date tomorrow.”

The Sportzone store manager, Mr Cooper, who'd been helping another customer choose a down-filled sleeping bag, is now hovering in the background. He takes charge. “I’ll help you with those trout flies, sir.” 

Mr Cooper goes to a display cabinet, picks out the two types of flies, and returns to the counter. Catherine rings up the amount for all items on the till and finishes wrapping the socks. Satisfied, Mr Cooper moves off to see to another customer.

After paying, Robert asks Catherine where they should meet tomorrow evening. “Will it be all right if I come to your place and pick you up there?”

“I’m sure my father would really appreciate that. Then he can check you out and decide for himself if you can be trusted with his very valuable only daughter!” Catherine laughs.

So, with arrangements made for the following evening, Robert leaves the store. Catherine notes that he has a spring in his step, a jaunty swagger almost. And a nice bum! 

At the door, he turns to look back and catches her staring at him. She is embarrassed to realise she probably looks like the village idiot, her mouth hanging open, possibly even drooling. She quickly recovers her poise and waves goodbye.

Pinch, pinch!  Catherine can barely believe what has just happened. She resists the urge to call all her friends to tell them. Let it be her delicious secret for a while, at least until she sees how the fishing trip goes. She’ll have to get her dad on-side before it even happens.

Her father runs a charter company flying tourists around in his Cessna, and is also involved with the local Search and Rescue team. The tourism business has really picked up and Catherine knows he's wanting to expand his operation.

They’ve always been close, but tonight he’s in a particularly good mood and the conversation flows easily between them. Catherine has prepared their meal of pasta carbonara; she hopes her father won’t mind having to fix his own dinner tomorrow night. She enjoys cooking and is good at it now, having had to step up after the adored woman in their lives was killed in a car accident several years ago.  

“Mmmm… this's delicious, Catherine,” says her dad, licking his fork clean. “You’ll make some lucky young man happy one day.”

“Gosh, Dad, I hope it’ll last longer than a day!”

Her father is interested to hear how her first day at work has gone. Amongst other things, she tells him about selling some red socks to a customer, then she listens to his reciprocal stories of tourists doing silly things. Casually, Catherine drops into the conversation that she's hoping to go fishing tomorrow evening. Her father immediately throws his head back, guffawing with disbelief.

“But you can’t stand fishing! You told me you felt sorry for the fish when you caught your first one with me. You wouldn’t even touch it. You dropped the rod on purpose. You even chucked a rock in to scare the others off. Who are you going with? Must be someone pretty special.”

“He might be. We’ll see. Anyway, I love being beside the river. I’ll take my camera.”

Catherine explains to her father that he’ll get a chance to meet her new friend tomorrow evening, when he calls to collect her for their outing.

The next day at work, time drags by with painful slowness; the hours creep, the minutes crawl, the seconds dawdle. Then at long last it is 5.00pm and Catherine scoots out the door, calling goodbye to Mr Cooper. She races home to get ready, changing into her cargo shorts and favourite checked shirt.

Her dad arrives half an hour or so afterwards, and she barely has time to greet him on the steps, where she is waiting eagerly, before a red Nissan Pathfinder 4WD pulls into their driveway and out steps Robert. Her father is astonished.

“You! You’re the one! You’re going to convert my girl to fishing?” he says with a welcoming grin, extending his hand to Robert, who grips it and says, “Hello again, Mr Wilson.” Robert also has a surprised expression.

Catherine looks from one to the other, wondering how Robert knows her father’s name. All is revealed. Today was Robert’s first day as the new pilot with Wilson Charters. 

He's standing there beside Catherine, dressed in cargo shorts and a checked shirt. Cheerily adorning his well-muscled lower legs are the red socks. 

Her father is thinking to himself that these two youngsters look good together, like twin souls if you believe that sort of stuff. Partnership has been on his mind lately. He comments dryly, “Nice socks, Robert.”

“Thanks, Mr Wilson. They’re a mixture of wool and possum fur for added warmth. I won’t be catching a cold in these beauties. Red’s my favourite colour.” He winks at Catherine and smiles that gorgeous dimpled smile.

Mr Wilson has the last word. “Some advice, Robert – don’t let her pick up any rocks down by the river!” 

Catherine, grinning, looks radiant with the late sun haloing her auburn hair.


Soulmate. Twin soul
Contest Winner

Author's Notes:

1.) The setting is from my imagination. 'Matakerua' and 'Humpback Ridge' are not actual places, but the story is definitely situated in New Zealand.

2.) My use of 'Pinch, pinch!' refers to the idea 'I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming', when you don't believe something good that is happening to you is real.

3.) Look what love can do! She starts out ginger and ends up auburn. It's in the eye of the beholder.

Fishing Notes:

The "Woolly Bugger" in New Zealand is a very versatile fly that has accounted for an enormous number of fish. In many ways it is similar to a "Dog Nobbler" from the UK, though seldom has the bead head. It is usually fished deep and slow with a gentle retrieve interspersed by a short pause. It is hard to say exactly what it is meant to imitate but it works. There are many colours but the original olive green seems to remain the most popular and productive. This fly seems to work best on large rivers or in still waters. there is no reason however why it won't take fish anywhere. Sizes from 6 - 10

"Dad's Favourite" is a great little dry fly, a must for every NZ fly box. It represents our common small Mayfly (Deleatitium Vernale) in it's smaller sizes and could represent the Oniscigaster, Coloburiscusas or Nesameletus as well in the larger sizes. Best sizes: 12 - 18.
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