In fact, Felix wouldn’t have cared where they lived just so long as they were together. He was standing outside the real estate agent’s office. It was just five o’clock and a sudden downpour had just swept through and passed on, as rain always seemed to do in Santiago.
Felix liked rain. He especially liked the smell of the streets after a storm and he was inhaling deeply and thinking deep delighted thoughts. When Laura appeared with their cases—few enough: the Camino had taught them to travel light—he couldn’t quite suppress a smile of complete besottedness just at the sight of her.
“What?” Laura said, seeing his face.
“Nothing,” said Felix knowing that his giddiness in love gave him away.The paperwork was easy, the fees were handed over, and Felix suddenly found a key in his hand, a big key, an old-fashioned key. He expressed his concerns.
“Oh don’t worry about that. We are an old city. We have old values. Crime is minimal. You two will be safe inside your four walls.
Had he said “lovenest” Felix wouldn’t have been surprised. Romanticism was imbedded in the fabric of Compostela.
* * *“So you don’t actually have a CELTA certificate?”
The woman on the other side of the desk loaded with CV’s was looking like she had no intention of offering Felix the teaching job.
“No, as I told you, I have a Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. It sort of trumps a CELTA.”
“Trumps” was not a word in the señora’s vocabulary. That much was evident. “We are looking for someone with either a CELTA or a DELTA certificate.”
Felix was at a loss to explain that a CELTA certificate took six weeks whereas his own degree was a full year’s enterprise. It was the second time that day. The third time that week. He thought, not for the first time, about private teaching.
“We’ll be . . . in touch,” she ended.
Outside at the restaurant next door, Felix looked into his café sombra.
“Shit!” he said.
Once he had been under qualified. Now he was “Over Qualified”. If I had known when I was qualified I would have quit school, he thought.
* * *
Laura, however had good news.
“Guess what!” she said as he threw his portfolio and rain jacket on the rickety (and unsitable on) chair by the door.
He put his arms around her. He felt her littleness against himself. She was of average height but to his six foot two always seemed small when her head met his chest.
“Tell me,” he said.
“Well, and this won’t mean much to you . . .”
Try me . . .
“Peter Callaghan is going to be one of my thesis advisors!”
Um, yes . . . ?
“Felix! He’s a genius. A medieval scholar from Trinity College . . . that’s Dublin!”
Yes, I’ve heard of Trinity College.
“He’s here on Sabbatical, and when he heard I was writing about feudal Galicia he offered to tutor me. Isn’t that great? What’s wrong?”
Felix wondered when exactly after he met Laura his poker face had vanished.
“Of course it is. That’s fantastic,” he said. “The job interview: Don’t mind me. Another ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you.’”
Laura smothered his response with kisses. “Don’t worry. They just don’t appreciate your greatness,” she said.
Yep, Felix the Great, he thought with some regret for the past. But not much.
“We have to celebrate! Come on, the best meal Casa Manolo has to offer is on me.” He said and for a moment he reminded himself that nothing could go wrong with this incredible life he had found, or his relationship with this incredible woman he had married.
* * *
“Do you love me?” Laura asked, after they had finished lovemaking in the narrow bed that night.
If I could ever love anything or anyone again, I love you, he thought.
“Don’t be daft,” he said.
* * *
Dear Mr. Stephenson: (The letter said . . .)
We are pleased to be able to offer you the position of English teacher. Your classes will be predominantly First Certificate and Proficiency although we are hoping you will be able to fill in one period weekly for the children’s English teacher who is on Maternity Leave until September.
“Laura! I’m in!”
* * *
Felix didn’t look forward to the dinner party. It wasn’t that he was shy (far from it). It wasn’t even that he doubted his abilities in Spanish (he did). It was more the fact that all six invited were Laura’s fellow graduate students and professors from the university and here he felt a bit at a loss. A lot at a loss.
“What am I going to talk to them about?” he said.
“Oh Felix,” said Laura as she planted a kiss on his ginger beard (did she see the grey hairs appearing?) “No-one expects you to talk “medieval”. What would Miranda say? ‘Be Yourself!”
Miranda and Kieran had walked with them last year along the Camino.
When they started he had known Kieran for many years and he had seen their love grow (almost eclipsed by his own) in the last 100 or so kilometres. Now Miranda was about to give birth at any time and despite the remission of Kieran’s leukaemia, he knew that they must sometimes think of their time together as somewhat borrowed. He reminded himself of that now.
“You’re right. That old Felix charm. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.”
But the look on her face told him that both were really wondering at this point.
“Well, whatever,” Laura said vaguely. “Good food to be had though!”
That at least increased Felix’s spirits considerably.