Everyone was dressed in their Sunday finest. Panama hats, loafers, summers dresses and cardigans draped over shoulders filled the garden.
I was late for the engagement party and hadn’t had time to shower after my mountain bike race in the morning. I buzzed the intercom and walked in carrying a bicycle wheel. There was blood running down my shin from a crash, and fine sand covering all my exposed skin.
I flopped straight into the pool. Floating slowly to the surface, I saw Robyn. We’re married now, but it took some convincing at first.
After hours of chit-chat, laughs and shared connections, I thought I was in. The next morning I emailed our mutual friend, Leigh.
“Hi Leigh, congrats again on the engagement. By the way, enjoyed chatting to Robs. Would you mind asking her if you could share her contact details with me?”
A few days passed before Leigh replied. “Hi Dave, here is Robyn’s email address. Good luck.” Luck, pffft, where I’m going, we don’t need luck. But then I read further down Leigh’s email. She forwarded on the details and her conversation with Robyn. I would need luck.
“Hi Robs. Dave, who you were speaking to on Sunday at the engagement party, wants to get your details. Can I pass them on?” wrote Leigh.
Robyn’s reply was less than encouraging. “I don’t remember talking to any guy at the engagement party. But sure, pass them on. Who was this guy, again?”
Slighted, but more determined, I contacted Robyn –– “yes, sure, I had a great time chatting to you too,” she wrote back (fibber!) –– who suggested we meet at a mini adventure race in the Elgin region of the Western Cape.
Ha. This was it, I thought. I can show off my manly prowess over the 5km run, the 20km cycle and the few short dam crossings on inflated inner tubes from tractor tyres.
But I need a teammate. “Carlo!” I beckoned to my trusty sidekick and (at the time) housemate, I need you for this race, so I can give this woman something to remember me by. “Don’t worry, we’ll take it easy on her and go slowly, to give me time to chat her up.”
Carlo, having lived through enough of these hair-brained schemes to know better, rolled his eyes, sighed and reluctantly signed up for the mission.
“Right, we’ll just run slowly, at her pace, in the beginning, Carlo.” Carlo, having seen the outcome already, quietly “Hmmm-mmmed” to himself.
After three kilometres we were in trouble. I was seeing stars, having exerted myself to the maximum level trying to keep up with Robyn. Carlo was shaking his head somewhere in the apple orchard, cursing his loyalty.
No matter, I thought. We’ll catch her on the bike leg. “Ah ha, see Carlo, we’ve just caught up to her. But why is she putting her bike down?” Because she’s lapping us, said Carlo ruefully. She’s already done two legs on the bike. “Oh dear,” I recall thinking at the time.
We huffed and we puffed onwards, suffering through another run, then another ride and floundering in the middle of a dam when we couldn’t figure out how best to navigate the crossing on the surprisingly uncontrollable rubber tube.
As the finish neared, we came lumbering around the final corner, using every last ounce of energy we had to ensure we came in second-last – by beating a father and his 10-year-old son into last place.
On the lawn, we saw Robyn, showered, dressed in an elegant summer dress (the same one from the engagement party, I recalled) and holding her prize for second place. Carlo looked at me in that way that requires no words. I collapsed in the shade.
Robyn walked over. “That was fun, hey. We should go out some time.”