The digital clock reads 4:37am as he started the car. He could see the warm orange of the sun slowly colouring the sky as he takes the 30 minutes drive to her house. It is their first vacation together as a couple, and he has offered to pick her up so she does have to take the night bus. Such a small but sweet gesture.
The flight from London Luton to Ljubljana is only one and a half hour. It takes another half hour to reach Lake Bled, where it has been listed consistently as one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. With a population of 8,000, this small town sits at the foot of the Julian Alps. In the middle of the glacial blue lake rests a tiny island which is home to the Church of Assumption. From the shore of the lake, the scene looks like it has been snapped straight out of a fairy tale especially on that day which was slightly foggy and misty. Hand in hand, they walked around and explored the lake a bit.
Later, they rented bikes and cycled to Vintgar Gorge. It was a pleasant ride through quiet back roads and fields, ending with a slight incline for the last half mile which left her huffing and puffing. At one point, she had to push her bike along even though the road was only a 5 degree incline. How unfit I am, she thought. When they finally reached the destination, she scratched one of her ankles with the bike pedals.
He was quick to pull out a Band-Aid from his wallet. “Now you can never tease me for having Band-Aids in my wallet,” he said with a smile. She snatched the Band-Aid from his hand and knelt down in an awkward position to put it on her ankle.
“Here, let me help you,” he said as he moved forward. How sweet, she must have been five years old the last time someone put on a Band-Aid for her.
The physical pain of cycling uphill was quickly forgotten as they walked along the gorge. The emerald green water snakes its way through the ravine, sometimes through steep vertical rocks, other times through quiet riverbeds and occasionally converging in rapid whirlpools. The picturesque scene is completed with a waterfall near the end of the path. There were no large Chinese tour groups descending from buses but there were just enough visitors to make the place touristy especially considering how narrow the path was. Couples strolled and families pushed buggies.
A Chinese couple with a teenage son walked towards them from the opposite direction, surely having done their round of the path. Shortly after they passed the family, he said, “You know, that’s going to be us in 20 years.”
“Did you just say we will be a married couple with kids in 20 years?” She was shocked, half laughing but secretly pleased that such a thought even crossed his mind.
“No! Never mind,” he mumbled, seemingly embarrassed by his comment. She badgered him a bit more and he finally replied, “I was just saying that it will be much more strenuous to walk and travel when we are at their age.” She did not think much of it then but it came back to her as she reminisced about the trip afterwards.
They eat at the outdoor terrace of Okarina, a restaurant specialising in Slovenian food. Eager to try Slovenian wine, they ordered a bottle. She was not much of a drinker so she only consumed a glass while he consumed three quarters of the bottle. The food was delicious and they were quite full by the end as the wine was heavier than usual. As always, their dinners easily last three hours and before they knew it, they were the last customers in the restaurant. It was obvious the waitress was only too happy to see them off as they stepped out onto the pavement.
“You left your book behind,” the waitress calls back at them as she takes a few steps and hands him the Lonely Planet guide.
“You’re in love,” she declares. To Sharon’s surprise, he does not deny it. “You won’t believe how many times I have been careless because of her,” he replies. Watching from aside, Sharon thought: Unbelievable, when did he become so open with his feelings?
As he comes back down the steps and swings his arm around her shoulder, he says, “I can’t believe it. Such a careless mistake. I am an engineer! It’s all your fault, Sharon.”
Although this was not the first time he has made such careless mistakes, it continues to surprise her that she could be such a source of distraction for somebody, anybody for that matter. It wasn’t too long ago when she wondered if she would ever get over her broken heart yet here she was, with this guy standing in front of her who seems to love her just the way she is. It all feels so effortless. Is this what love is? And though he has never said “I love you”, she knows it in her heart. His actions speak louder than his words.