The Test

I hope you like this story as much as I did when I first read it a few years ago.

Not long after the Second World War, a sailor was back home between naval missions when he decided to stock up on some second-hand books for future trips.  He started on one novel and couldn’t help but be intrigued by the handwritten notes in the margin of many of its pages.  Noticing the name of the previous owner inside the cover, along with her address, he began to ‘fall in love’ with the woman behind the commentary.  Since she was too far from home, he sent her a letter and was delighted to receive a reply.  Fascinated by her writing, he sent another letter and this time asked for a photo.  He received a response, but it contained a denial of his request, with the woman suggesting that they didn’t need to base their friendship on appearance.  A little disappointed, he continued the correspondence until they finally agreed to meet.  The woman said that she would turn up at a certain platform of the train station nearby.  “You will recognise me”, she noted, “Because I will be wearing a pink carnation.”  The sailor was so excited, hoping the woman might be an attractive new love, that he could hardly wait for the big day. When he arrived at the agreed time and slowly walked toward the waiting people, though, he noticed the pink carnation in the distance, being worn by a woman who must have been some twenty years his senior. His sudden disappointment was momentarily forgotten when a stunningly beautiful woman started confidently striding toward him, winking as she went past.  He briefly thought about following her, but felt that he owed the moment to the older woman who might at least become a friend.  As he approached her, he offered a simple, “Hello”, to which she replied, “Mister, I don’t know what this is all about, but that lady that just walked past asked me if I would wear this pink carnation for you.  If you were to approach me and start to talk, I was to say to you that, if you were interested, she would be waiting in the cafe across the street.  I think she said it was some kind of test.”

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