I don’t know why I let myself be talked into internet dating. Here I was on a Saturday morning driving up the highway toward Bowral to meet a girl that I had only swapped a few online messages with. The sun was warm through the car windows on this early autumn day. I was for from feeling relaxed but the beautiful scenery had a calming effect. I let my wander to my early memories of visiting Bowral in my first year out of high school. I was with Rose then and life seemed so much simpler.
Bowral is a fashionable town on the Southern Highlands, surrounded by grazing farms and stud cattle properties. The town had grown up on land granted to the Surveyor General, John Oxley, in 1825, but it was the coming of the railway in 1867 that really kicked Bowral growth along. Because of its mild climate and varied scenery it became a favourite holiday destination for the gentry of Sydney. To outsiders, Bowral is most famous as being the home of Sir Donald Bradman, Australia’s greatest ever cricketer.
I find somewhere to park in the main street and nervously check my phone for messages. Nothing. I hope she is still coming but there is part of me that wishes she wasn’t. I make my to the Bowral Cafe and Pattisserie – handmade chocolate, gelato and pattisserie the signs says – and find a table toward the back. I’m a little early but I hold off ordering until she gets here. The clock on the wall ticks and customers come in and out.
A poster on the wall advertises the Bowral Tulip Festival in September. I remember going to it a few years ago. The flowers were pretty and crowds had gathered to celebrate the arrival of springtime.
I looked up and a slender young woman with blonde hair had entered the shop. It was her. She looked around until she caught sight of me sitting at the back and smiled. I stood and awkwardly offered my hand when she leant forward and kissed me on the cheek. We ordered coffees and then tried to make conversation. I’m not very good in these sort of situations but she was friendly and I began to relax a little.
We finished our coffees and Julie suggests we wander the shops. That sounded like a better option than sitting uncomfortably so I slipped on my coat and slung my bag over my shoulder. Her hand slipped into mine as we crossed the road and entered the bookshop. Now I was in my element, but we seemed to have widely different tastes in books. I look young adult and fantasy and she wanted to look at crime novels.
We wandered in and out of other shops – Country Accept, Mic Mac Boutique, Barbara’s Storehouse. Our fashion tastes were as different as our book choices.
Next stop was a stroll around the Bradman Oval. What a gorgeous place this is! White picket fence surrounding the cricket ground, pavilion and shady trees. There was no cricket on today so all was quiet.
Eventually we arrive back at my car. Julie thanks me for the morning and says she will message. She presses her lips against mine and my heart rate flips. We both know she isn’t going to message. I could tell from her kiss.
I follow the railway line out of town and lose myself in the verdant paddocks of the Southern Highlands. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I suppose.