University of life?
Ruby and I were happy. It had taken us 20 years to get back together again, but I really felt that it was meant to be. We had a beautiful home, some great friends, and wonderful neighbors. Ruby loved to spend her days looking after the house and garden, meeting her friends, and being part of the community. I had the garden and my workshop, and a well-paid job I liked and was good at. My job did mean I had to take the occasional trip to the stores around the country, but I kept these to a minimum, and always looked forward to coming home to my Ruby.
When Lucy graduated from University, with honors, Ruby started to talk about how she had never had the opportunity to go to college. She said she had always been intrigued by languages, and our trips to South Africa, with all the diverse languages and dialects, had really interested her. She wanted to look at courses in something to do with languages, and I encouraged her to pursue her dream; how could I do any less for the woman I loved?
In my head, I’d assumed that she would take a course at our local university, and I was surprised when prospectuses from universities around the country started to arrive in the mail. Ruby researched the requirements and possibilities for many weeks, then one night she dropped a bombshell into our comfortable life. She wanted to apply for a degree in linguistics at Edinburgh University.
I didn’t know what to say, or what to think. Edinburgh was so far away that I really could not comprehend how she could study there and still be at home. And then I realized that this was not even an option, she would stay in that city during term times, and only be home part of the year. I was speechless. Such an option had never occurred to me, I thought that now we were together we would stay here in Lynn forever.
We talked late into the night, and I could see the excitement in her eyes as she spoke of the course she had picked out, and the work involved. I didn’t understand the subject she was talking about, but just seeing her enthusiasm melted my heart, and I gave her my blessing. By the end of the conversation, I was even coming to see how much fun it could be to drive between home and Scotland, and I knew I’d be so proud when Ruby graduated.
Of course, we had a long way to go before then, and spent the next few weeks filling out application forms and waiting for replies. One morning I got a call at work from Ruby. “Tony,” I heard her voice quivering at the other end of the line “I’ve got a letter from Edinburgh.” “What does it say?” “I’ve not opened it yet,” She said, “I’m so nervous. OK, here goes.” I could hear the sound of paper being torn, then the rustle as she opened the letter. I heard her gasp and hold her breath, then “Tony! I did it! I’m in!”
“That’s great!” I said. “Listen, put on your best clothes, I’m taking the rest of the day off, and I’ll be home soon to take you out to lunch. Let’s celebrate!” I was pleased for her, of course I was. But at the same, I knew it meant change, and in my heart of hearts, I wanted nothing more than for change to never happen.
The next two months were frantic as we prepared and organized. I took time off work, and we drove up to Edinburgh to check out the place where she would be studying and also to look for accommodation. I thought the flats in the old town near to the University were vastly overpriced for what they were, but Ruby was set on being close by. We eventually found a tiny studio apartment in Tron Square, near enough to the University, and also close to the City center and rail station. Soon it was the start of term, and we drove once more up the Great North Road, only this time after spending the night in the apartment I drove home alone.
That trip back seemed like the longest ride I’d ever taken, and I stopped every hour or so to rest and drink coffee. Getting home late at night, I slumped into bed, the first time that I’d ever slept alone in our house. Ruby called me the next morning, and it was so good for my spirits to hear her cheerful voice. She assured me she was well and asked if I was looking after myself OK. It had only been a day, but I already missed her more than I could express. We said loving things to each other before she had to go, and I stared at my phone for a long time after we had hung up, just wondering how I was going to cope without her.
Harry called in the afternoon, asking if I wanted to go out for a drink after work. I started to say no but then remembered that I didn’t have anyone to go home for, so I accepted his invitation, and we agreed to meet in the Jolly Anchor at 5.30. At first, our conversation seemed very stilted, but eventually, Harry admitted that Jill had put him up to calling me because Ruby had asked her to make sure I was “looked after.” That made me smile, and I said how Ruby always did want to take care of me. I got another round of drinks in and started to tell Harry about my time living rough on the beach, and how Ruby had saved me then.
At home that night, I saw a missed call from Ruby. I called her back and told her how much I loved her, and how grateful I was that she had thought of getting me out of myself this evening. She said she was pleased I’d been out with Harry, and we talked about our days for over an hour. Eventually, I went to bed thinking that this whole situation could actually work out after all.