My nephew, Sam and I were on a double date with a mother and her daughter. It has been a long while since I have even thought about dating again. Eight years ago I lost my fiancee, Brenda. She was killed by a drunk driver just weeks before our wedding. It took a long, long time to get over her death.
We were having dinner at The Ledbury in Notting Hill. That was Sam’s idea. He googled the best restaurants in London and picked this one because a co-worker had raved about it and the reviews were great. And he wanted to impress our dates.
I could tell by the way they were interacting with each other that Sam and Meghan liked each other. Meghan’s Mom, Nancy was a very attractive and easy going woman. I liked her a lot but I wasn’t attracted to her. And it didn’t help that I was trying hard not to stare at our waitress. She was very pretty–and young. On more than one occasion, our eyes met. And when I placed my order, her gaze seemed to linger on me before she turned away to get the other orders.
“I think she’s sweet on you,” Sam remarked when Nancy left the table to go to the washroom.
“He’s right,” Meghan agreed.
“She’s too young,” I replied.
“She doesn’t think that you’re too old,” was Sam’s quick rejoinder.
“Aren’t you the least bit interested?” Meghan asked.
“What about your mother?” I asked. “I’m supposed to be on a date with her, remember?”
“If you decide that you want to go out with the waitress, Mom may be disappointed but she’ll get over it in no time.”
“Let’s just enjoy our dinner and each other’s company,” I suggested, changing the subject. Just then, Nancy came back to the table.
We had a pleasant evening. Afterwards, we went to a nice, cozy bar for drinks and live music. It was after eleven when we left the bar. While Sam and Meghan went off to a nightclub, I took Nancy home. I was a Christian so going to a nightclub wasn’t an option for me and I could tell that Nancy wasn’t keen on going either. So, we went a walk along the boardwalk because it was such a beautiful night.
We talked about a lot of things. She told me about her husband, Jackson who was a cop. He died in the line of duty. Meghan was their only child. I told her about Brenda. And then we showed each other photos of our deceased ones.
As we walked back to the car, Nancy said to me, “I had a really, really great time tonight and I really, really like you, Thomas, but I don’t think I’m ready for another relationship right now. I still haven’t quite gotten over losing Jackson.”
“I understand. This is the first time I’ve been on a date since Brenda died.”
As I held the door open for her to get in, she looked up at me and said, “I think you’re ready for another relationship. I saw the way you looked at our waitress. You were attracted to her. And who can blame you? She’s a lovely girl, not just in looks but in personality. Don’t let her age stop you from asking her out.”
I smiled and reaching for her hand, I gently squeezed it. “Thank you.”
Outside of her flat, we said goodnight. She reached up and kissed me on the cheek. “Take care of yourself, Thomas.”
“Thanks, Nancy. You take care yourself too.”
“I hope things work out between Sam and Meghan. He’s a wonderful guy.”
“I hope so too because Meghan’s a terrific girl. Goodnight, Nancy.”
As I turned and walked towards the lift, I made up my mind that I would have dinner at the restaurant again tomorrow evening. Hopefully, I would get the same waitress and if not, I would make sure that I got a chance to talk to her. As soon as I got home, I took a quick shower and went to bed.
As Providence would have it, I got a table and the same waitress waited on me. I could tell that she remembered me. She smiled as she came over. “Good evening,” she said, “You’re dining alone this time.”
I nodded and smiled. “Yes, I am.”
“I guess you really liked the food.”
My eyes met hers directly when I said, “I came back because of the food and the service.”
She smiled shyly. “Thank you. Would you like Cranberry Juice?” It was what I had ordered the last time. I was flattered that she remembered.
“Yes, thank you. What’s your name?”
“I’ll be right back with your Cranberry Juice, Thomas.”
“Thank you, Tracey.” I watched her walk away. She was breathtaking. I found it hard to concentrate as I studied the menu. I didn’t want to order the same dish as last night. I decided that when she came back I would ask her what she recommended.”
She came back a few minutes later and set the glass of Cranberry juice on the table. “Have you decided what you would like to order or would you like a few minutes more?”
“Everything looks so good. I can’t decide. What would you recommend?”
“Do you eat fish?”
“Yes, though not as often as I should.”
“Try the Cornish Cod.”
“I will, thanks, Tracey.” I closed the menu and handed it to her. “What time do you stop working?”
“When you finish work, could I take you out for a cappuccino?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Good. I’ll wait for you at the entrance.”
“I’ll be right back with your order.”
After she left, I glanced at my watch. It was nine o’clock. I had an hour to finish my dinner. When it came it smelled and looked amazing. I couldn’t wait to tuck into it.
Tracey smiled that lovely smile of hers and said, “Enjoy your Cod.”
“I will,” I assured her and I did. It was the best fish dish I’d ever tasted. I savored every morsel. I skipped dessert and asked for the bill. I left her another big tip. When she came over to take it, I reminded her that I would be waiting at the entrance of the restaurant for her.
“I’ll be there in about five minutes,” she promised before she disappeared.
I got up from the table and left the restaurant which was almost empty. It was another pleasant night. I was a little nervous about going out with Tracey because she’s the first woman I can see myself in a relationship with since Brenda.
About five minutes later she came through the doors. She was wearing a red top and a knee length denim skirt. We walked to my car. On the drive over to the cafe, we talked about her. Her parents were Nigerian and they came to England when she was a baby. She’s an only child and is living with her parents until she graduates and gets a job. Next year is her last year at Cambridge. She’s working part-time as a waitress.
“I thought of volunteering at an orphanage this summer but I found out that most of the children in orphanages aren’t even orphans. Unsuspecting parents are sending their children to orphanages believing they will have better access to food, shelter and an education. That decision which was supposed to be temporary becomes a permanent. When they go to the orphanages they are turned away and sometimes, their children are at the windows seeing this. It makes me so mad that parents and their children are being kept apart so that those who run these orphanages can profit from their misery. Some of those children are sold into slavery, illegally adopted or remain in the orphanages where they are mistreated and abused. I have heard of cases of children being rented for a short stay and are used to tug at the heartstrings of tourists and volunteers, who feel compelled to open up their hearts and wallets to help.”
To say that I was shocked at what she was telling me is an understatement. “Isn’t there anything that can be done to help these poor children and their families?” I asked.
“I found out just recently that a task-force was launched to encourage well-meaning UK tourists and volunteers to stop visiting overseas orphanages. They know that tourists and volunteers mean well and that they want to help these children whom they believe are orphans but the task-force believe that by raising awareness they can safeguard the children’s futures. I have created a blog to speak out against Orphanage Tourism and to raise awareness. I’ve met students on campus who were in these orphanages and they have shared their stories with me which you will find on my blog.”
“What’s the name of your blog? I would like to check it out.”
“A Second Childhood. They were robbed of their first when they were taken away from their families and we want to make sure that they have a second childhood outside of orphanages and in their homes again.”
I made a mental note of the blog’s name. We arrived at the cafe. After we were seated and placed our orders, I asked her, “Would you or one of the students you mentioned be willing to come to my church one Sunday and speak to the members about Orphanage Tourism?”
“Sure. Just tell me when and I will be happy to come and bring one of the students with me.”
Over cappuccinos, she asked me questions about myself. When I told her about Brenda, she reached out and touched my hand. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I can’t imagine what you must have gone through. I know that this is a cliche thing to say but she’s in a better place now.”
“Yes, she is.”
“The one thing that comforted me when I lost my grandparents is that one day, I will see them again.”
“Are you a Christian?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
I was relieved although, I have a feeling that even if she weren’t, I would still want to date her. “How do you feel about dating a man much older than you?” I asked.
“I don’t have any problem with it.”
I smiled and covered her hand with my other one. “Tomorrow evening I would like to take you out for dinner.”
She smiled. “Sounds good.”
We spent the rest of the night talking about all sorts of things and by our third date, I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her.
While this story is fiction, orphanage tourism is not. It’s a real problem facing children in countries like Nepal, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, Uganda, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Kenya. Children are not for sale. They belong in loving homes. Tourists and volunteers mean well but they are perpetuating a nefarious industry which is profiting from the most vulnerable in our societies–children.
Join the fight against orphanage tourism by not volunteering at or visiting or giving donations to orphanages when you travel abroad. Australia linked the visiting and volunteering at orphanages overseas to modern slavery. Be aware that not all children in orphanages are really orphans.
Sources: The Telegraph; ABTA;