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I was surprised when Garret invited me to his cottage on Snow Lake. For years I’d worked with him and not once did he mention his family owned a place in the Kawarthas. It was June and Toronto was in the middle of a heat wave.
“Are you sure I never mentioned the cottage?” Garret said.
“Well maybe you did. I must have forgotten. Anyway I’d be glad to come up next weekend. What can I bring?”
“Just bring your fishing gear.”
“Okay,” I said.
“It’s a big old place with lots of room.” His face beamed. Just the thought of it appeared to make him happy. “My mom and dad will be there. They spend most of the summer on the lake. Maybe my brother and his family will show up. Sometimes other relatives wander in. There’s space for everyone. You’ll have your own bedroom. It’ll be great.”
He straightened his necktie and stretched. “It’ll be nice to have someone new come up; just seeing a fresh face will make it more exciting, more interesting. You’re sure to have a good time.”
Getting out of the city even briefly seemed like a fine idea. I was feeling depressed. My love life had crashed. Nora, my girlfriend, dumped me. She did it nicely, in person at a coffee shop. Still, I wasn’t expecting it.
“You’re a fine guy, Pete, but I can’t see us having a future together,” she said. “I’m so sorry but I don’t think this is working out for me or for us.”
But it was working out for me, I wanted to say. You’re wonderful in bed and you don’t make a lot of demands. But I was in shock and like an idiot I nodded my head. She gave me a pleasant smile, stood up and walked out onto Bloor Street then headed west toward Spadina.
I assumed Nora had a better offer from some other guy. Perhaps he told her he was looking for a wife or perhaps he was better-looking or a rising corporate star. I didn’t want to believe she simply found me disappointing, not fun enough, not smart enough. Or maybe she understood I wasn’t interested in marrying her? At thirty-five I felt no reason to rush into a permanent relationship.
In the days that followed I spent long hours reconsidering that latter idea. I decided I had been wrong. Thirty-five was not twenty-five. I was lonely, emotionally at sea with no home port. It was time to look for a wife. Still I did nothing about it. I did not go bar-hopping, download dating apps or join a meet-up to improve my French and find a woman. I felt sorry for myself, deflated. Weekends I drove to Guelph and helped my parents with the garden.
Months passed before I went out on a date again. Ella was her name. My sister set it up. Ella and I had a supper together and the following week met for lunch. She was about thirty, with long legs and a wonderful laugh. Ella, however, came with baggage. Hers was heavier than mine. She was divorced and had a child. She made it plain that her son came first. Her spiteful former husband, she complained, was still very much involved with the boy. Although she was charming I didn’t want to get mixed up in a relationship that would always involve her previous partner. My sister said I was a fool not to pursue Ella.