This is my second foray into the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (known as #MWWC to those who participate), which (rather unsurprisingly) is a monthly creative writing challenge to write a piece on a topic chosen by last month’s winner. Last month’s winner, Dracaena Wines, chose the theme “friend”, a somewhat challenging topic; so I decided to go for a spot of creative story and wrote a short story. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….
Through Wine and Friendship
John looked at his watch, he was late; he was always late. He reflected momentarily that it was a good thing that Walter knew him so well and would be expecting him to be late. He rang the door-bell in his customary manner, three short blasts. After a couple of seconds Walter came to the door and opened it briskly.
“You’re late. Luckily I thought you would be or else I could have opened the wine too early!”
“My, that would have been a catastrophe,” replied John with an undertone of sarcasm that he made deliberately apparent.
Walter ushered John in to his sitting room which was, as he expected, immaculately turned out. It was John’s first visit to his friend’s new house and he was already a little intimidated, the place just reeked of wealth. Not the brash, vulgar trappings of the nouveau riche but the stuffy, staid grandeur of the semi-aristocratic.
“I thought we’d start with a little champagne” Walter announced with a note of formality that struck John as rather unnecessary.
“Splendid idea” replied John, thinking that Walter was in his element here; he had always had a penchant for showmanship. John reflected that he supposed that this was one of the things that he liked about Walter. What other people mistook for arrogance or pomposity was actually his enthusiasm and passion; the trouble was that he just didn’t express it very well. They sat in a pair of comfortable leather armchairs and reminisced about people they had known, re-telling the same stories from their school days that they had discussed the last time they met.
A short while later a small bell rang from another room announcing that dinner was ready. They moved into Walter’s dining room where the food arrived promptly, brought in on silver platters by a serving maid. John felt again that familiar pang of inadequacy; he knew that Walter’s family had always had money and that Walter had gone on to have a very successful career which had brought him even more money. What must he make of John’s relatively lowly standing in society? He felt slightly embarrassed that he hadn’t achieved more with his life or that he hadn’t made as much money as his friend and this began to weigh on his mind. The gnawing feeling of inadequacy transported John back to his prep school days, where he was certainly the boy from the poorest background, only afforded his place through a benevolent grant he’d been given by a local charitable organisation.
“What’s the matter old chap? Not enjoying the venison?”
“Not at all, the venison is fabulous”, replied John briskly; he thought that he should quickly turn this conversation around to a subject that Walter would like. “What is this wine we’re drinking? It’s very nice.”
“That my dear fellow is something rather special indeed”. John knew that Walter liked his wine and had always taken great pride in providing something impressive; he had always assumed that this is just another method that people of Walter’s ilk used to show off and make people like him feel insignificant. In truth John liked wine and had always enjoyed drinking it with Walter, but he found the vast array of indecipherable names, regions and varietals exceedingly confusing.
“What is it?” asked John, sticking his nose deep into the glass and inhaling, just as he had seen Walter do many times. The wine certainly had a powerful and heady aroma, it reminded him of a Christmas pudding; sweet and fruity.
“This is a bottle of 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion”, replied Walter the pride evident in his voice.
“1961?” John enquired, his interest immediately piqued; after all he didn’t know much about wine, but he did know that older wines tended to be more expensive. The year too was particularly interesting to him as he knew that 1961 was the year of both of their births.
“Indeed. I thought it was appropriate, after all it is your birthday next week isn’t it? And you’ll be fifty. I thought, what better way to celebrate such an auspicious birthday then with a bottle of wine from the year of your birth.”
John was slightly taken aback, he and Walter had been friends for a long time but recently they hadn’t seen so much of each other. For Walter to remember his birthday was both pleasing and a little surprising.
“Why yes it is. How nice of you to have remembered.”
“Think nothing of it old chap. We’ve known each other for many years and I’d been looking for a suitable excuse to open this bottle. It all seemed to make sense to me.”
John looked over at Walter. He knew that this bottle must have been very expensive and he immediately started to worry; Walter’s birthday was in a few months’ time – how ever was he going to reciprocate this kind gesture?
“Walter, whilst that is very kind of you and I really do appreciate this, I can’t possibly hope to do something like this for you.”
Walter put down his cutlery and looked intently at John. He held is gaze for a few seconds, as if he were thinking carefully how to phrase his response. He spoke softly, but firmly;
“John, I’ve not invited you here tonight because I want something in return. I’ve invited you here because I want to spend time with my friend and enjoy a bottle of wine that I’ve been saving for a special occasion, and what more special occasion can there be then the fiftieth birthday of a good friend? I am very lucky in that I have the means to afford some of life’s luxuries, but what use is there in enjoying them on my own? I take great delight in sharing this wonderful evening and beautiful wine with you as I know that you will appreciate it. Please take this as a token of the value that I attach to our years of friendship and not something that I expect repayment for. You have been a good friend to me for nearly forty years and I can think of no better way for us to celebrate this.”
John sat in stunned silence as he took in these words, reeling at the thought that for all of these years Walter hadn’t seen him as some charity case or a poor relation to be felt sorry for, he had merely seen him as a friend. He sipped his wine once more and this time savoured both the complex flavours of the wine and the warm glow of friendship.
– fin –