She had always wanted a knight in shining armour. So with her fiftieth birthday fast approaching, Meg decided that the time had come to run the gauntlet.
“And just where are you thinking of looking?” asked Janet, her friend, as she munched contentedly on Meg’s homemade Mary Berry flapjacks.
“On what!” asked the matronly honey blonde à la Clairol.
“I mean to go on the internet, Janet. They sell everything on line these days.”
“Your computer just conked out. You said you wouldn’t be replacing it ‘til next year.” Janet stopped munching on the flapjack. “And do you mean to say you’d date a total stranger? Don’t you think that’s taking things a bit too far? I mean he could be a serial killer!” Janet stared bleakly at her friend.
“I don’t intend to date anyone, Janet. I intend to purchase.”
Whiterock’s one and only internet café was tucked away in a courtyard off
Main Street. Meg
had to walk through the cobbled yard and descend several stone steps before she
could enter the ill lit den. She almost whacked her head on the painted
crossbeam that announced Charlie’s
“It’s like an Aladdin’s cave,” she said to the middle aged man perched on a high stool behind a desk that acted as a serving counter for Charlie’s fresh brew coffee.
“I hope you’re not looking for treasure!” retorted the rotund man with the big smile.
“That’s exactly what I’m looking for!” quipped Meg, looking around the small room that contained about ten computers back to back, all of them occupied by whey faced young men. Not a head lifted as she watched them; each one intensely focused on the screen in front of him.
“They look like they live here!”
Beyond Charlie’s desk a small waiting room doubled as a salesroom for antique clothes that hung on hangers and pegs from the rafters. Leather bound books and china bric-a-brac bedecked old mahogany bookcases. A large shabby leather sofa dominated the room whose walls were hung with rich coloured red and burgundy tapestries. A thread worn Afghan carpet covered black painted floorboards.
“Do I need to book a computer?” she asked him, tilting her head to adjust her vari-focals as she gazed between the zombie youths and Charlie’s round jovial face.
“For special customers I have the VIP corner,” he announced pointing to an alcove behind her where three computers were set up in a semi circle.
“Oh! They’re well hidden. And do I qualify as a VIP?”
“I may need your help,” she admitted. “You see I want to purchase a knight in shining armour.”
“I think we may need a cup of caffeine to sort that one out.” And he reached for the coffee pot and poured a thick mixture into two glazed coffee mugs. Then he directed her towards the sofa where she sank into a well worn hollow and told him about her mission.
“Well, I’ve heard worse,” he admitted when she had revealed all. “There was a woman who wanted to buy a ghost in a jar. Then there was the chap who wanted the vote in the American election. Although, to be honest, it’s usually old diaries, love letters, luggage labels, theatre programmes and that sort of stuff.”
“What do you reckon my chances are?”
“Let’s go and find out,” and Charlie with a chivalrous gesture helped to prise Meg out of the deep sofa and escorted her to the VIP corner. He explained the process of e-bidding, the registration, the log in and password and then they set off on a browse around the site.
The trip was a lot more exciting than Meg had imagined. Charlie did the clicking while Meg scanned for knights. He found a section called Weird Stuff, which Meg declared was a likely location for any dragon slaying knight worth his salt, but no knight to the rescue appeared.
“They’re all off saving damsels in distress!” joked Charlie. “Will we take a turn about another site anyway?” he asked coaxingly,” At my expense,” he added.
Meg said she’d be delighted and so they set off on an expedition that set them chasing original 1972 Olympic Games Posters, letters written by criminals on death row and Russian submarines. Meg, who rarely ventured beyond her own gatepost, was enchanted. Charlie explained that she should come back for follow up bouts, as it was always possible that a knight might stray within their gambit.
The following week saw them venture into Paper and Ephemera. This was, in fact, one of Charlie’s favourite territories. Two cups of steaming black coffee later and Meg had put in a bid for a five year Pre World War One Diary- fully written up.
“You’ll have to come back in a day or two and see if anyone has out bid you,” announced Charlie. “Maybe we could have lunch while you are here?”
Meg agreed, and that Thursday saw them taking a detour through Stamps while Charlie served up Chicken Caesar on a bed of lettuce and rocket. On this trip he managed to inform Meg that he was a widower in search of a close friend with whom he could share friendship and possibly romance.
“You could look on E-bay,” she suggested. “For a damsel in need!”
And so it continued for several weeks. Meg was outbid for the diary and tried her luck at an old leather bound notepad dated 1946. The knight still evaded Meg’s mating call, but in the meantime, she and Charlie had a weekly date.
“You don’t think that maybe you’ve already found him, the knight?” suggested Janet to a surprised raise of the eyebrow from Meg.
“Charlie! You can’t be serious! I mean we’re just friends. He doesn’t see it at all like that!”
“And what about you? How do you see it?”
Two months later on a jaunt through Weird Stuff both Charlie and Meg were stalled mid click to see it.
Knight in full armour, with shield, sword and lance, mounted on life sized white horse. The installation set on wheels for easy movement. 1000 sterling. No bids yet.
“I guess this is it!” declared Charlie, hovering on unchartered territory.
“Do you think?” Meg felt suddenly tentative. Now that the possibility had arrived, the knight within reach, her heart faltered.
“It’s just what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“I’m not sure if it would fit into the workshop.”
“But you told me you measured the space and…”
“I wouldn’t see you anymore!” she blurted out, Janet’s words ringing in her head.
“I’m sure we could get around that, Meg. In fact, I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time.” He was avoiding eye contact and twiddling a pencil in his hand.
“Ask me what, Charlie?”
“About that damsel, Meg… do you think she could be you?”
“About that Knight, Charlie… do you think you could be him?”
His eyes followed the description again.
“Well, I don’t know about that sword and lance bit, but I could have a go at the horse riding.”
“Then I think I’ve found the knight I’ve been searching for!”
“And I think I’ve found my close friend….”