‘Everyone on the campus wanted to sleep with him… students and lecturers, male or female. He was so handsome, brilliantly clever, excelled at all sports… I remember the first time I saw him across the refectory… he glowed with vitality.’
‘Do you think I will always remember the guy I was telling you about like that? In sixty years time will I be telling my grand-daughter about the day I first saw him?’
Zoe looked at her grandmother, waiting for an answer but she was engrossed in her crossword.
‘Five across, seven letters, don’t have any of them… Mixed dye tins control future?’ Hmm, there’s a question mark, too.’
There was a moment of companionable silence, only the crackling of the log fire and the persistent chirping of a lone bird outside the window.
‘That bird is getting too bossy!’ Zoe’s grandmother, Rosie Adams, looked out of the window. She resembled a small bird herself, her eyes bright and her head moving quickly as she returned to her paper.
‘Shall I break up the ice on the bird bath and give it some bird food?’ Zoe asked, watching the bird as it ruffled its feathers.
‘Already done.’ Rosie answered briefly. ‘It will just have to survive. Ah, that’s it! ‘destiny’, of course.’ She quickly filled the word into the grid.
‘How did you… oh yes, of course, an anagram of dye tins, an easy one really.’ Zoe nodded in agreement
‘Good girl, so much harder when you can’t see the word written. I always write the vowels and consonants separately. Hmm, destiny. I wonder if our future is ordained. Whether there is a grand plan and you will aways remember that boy for one reason or another? So, have you spoken to him yet?’
‘No, it’s crazy really. I can’t think why I keep thinking about him. He is cool, I mean really cool and I keep looking for him. When I do catch sight of him it seems he is looking at me. But that might be my imagination… the other day he was in the queue ahead of me in our campus supermarket. That’s the nearest I’ve been to him. I don’t even know which department he’s in.’ Zoe slumped back on the sofa and stared gloomily at the fire.
‘Now then, the ‘t’ in destiny is the third letter of two down, eight letters, ‘it may be taken at the wrist’. Obviously something like ‘pulse’… hmm.’
‘Vitality would fit, you know, like a paramedic finding vital signs of life?’ Zoe sat up straight and looked at her grandmother, waiting for her answer.
‘I suppose it could be.’ Rosie answered grudgingly. She made another darting birdlike movement, licking the end of her pencil and filling in the grid. ‘I’ll pencil it in for now… vitality. Yes, certainly a sign of life but with so much more meaning than pulse, surely. Now, that’s what you want to look for in your young man.’
‘Signs of life?’ Zoe laughed.
‘Vitality, to me it’s the essence of a good relationship. If you don’t have matching vitality then I don’t know what… you know, shared longing to enjoy life, get out there and find out what it’s all about, energy and vigour… not just in bed at night but all day long.’
‘I think I know what you mean. I certainly don’t get on with laziness. You know Brad, well, I had to give up on him because all he wanted to do was stay in and play computer games. Funnily enough one of his faves was called ‘Vitality’!’
‘Well, I suppose it’s no more a waste of time than doing the Times crossword.’
‘Yes, but even if we don’t finish it, we won’t spend hours and hours on it.’
‘Supposing you finally meet up with this cool young man… he may be a gaming addict, too.’
Zoe shook her head vigorously, her long, silky brown hair flying and shining in a shaft of winter sunlight. ‘I’m certain he isn’t, no, there’s something about him that is looking outward, looking for adventure. I know it sounds ridiculous.’ Zoe sighed.
‘Well, if your vitality is right, then we now have an ‘a’ for the first letter of 8 across, ‘a loop ending with love for the perfect youth’ . Now, that clue is made for you… if your vitality is correct.’ Rosie tapped the table with her pencil.
‘Apollo!’ Zoe almost shouted the word in excitement and Rosie rapped the table with her pencil.
‘Well done, you are a quick one. Clever girl. And I suppose I shall have to give you vitality, yes, must be right because the ‘y’ fits a three letter word ‘eye’
‘Hey, Nanna, you didn’t even read out the clue for eye, that’s cheating.’ Zoe reached out to snatch the newspaper from her grandmother, but Rosie was too quick for her and pulled it out of reach.
‘Behave yourself, Zoe, it was just too easy to bother with. Anyway, how do you plan to get to meet your personal vital Apollo?’
‘You’re just changing the subject and the only way you can make up for your cheating behaviour is to tell me more about the man at your uni… did you ever get to know him?’
Rosie smiled a sweet smile and leant back in her wing chair, throwing the newspaper aside. ‘Oh yes, we soon met. In fact, you have met him too. And here he is now, back with a muddy dog. Any minute now he’ll open the door, let in a draught of cold air and ask us if we’d like a pot of tea.’
‘Grandad!’ Zoe turned to the door as it opened.
‘Hello my two best girls, would you like a pot of tea?’ The tall elderly man looked puzzled as Zoe and Rosie laughed at him. ‘What have you two been gossiping about all afternoon. You should have come for a walk, it’s cold but wonderful out there.’ He turned on his heel and, leaving the door wide open, he went toward the kitchen.
‘That’s the only thing I have ever found annoying about him. He never closes a door.’ Rosie picked up her walking stick and deftly slammed the door with it.
‘Mum always calls out ‘born in a barn’ to Dad, he does just the same.’ laughed Zoe.
‘Hmm, genetic defect. Wait a moment, 2 down, 4,2,1,4… I love the long ones… yes, I do believe it’s born in a barn!’
‘Nanna, you rotten cheat! You didn’t read out the clue again. I’m going to help Grandad with the tray and ask him if he remembers the girl in the refectory.’
Zoe stood up and stretched, then went to the door.
‘And I’ll close the door on you!’