Short stories of feelings can create a romantic moment filled with a sense of wonder. An intimate journey of nostalgia, empathy, and, most of all, an emotion that allows you to reflect on life’s sensitivity. It is a romance with words, tentatively creating short stories of feelings, an imaginary plot of a world where true love often runs deep.
“Oh, where art thou tentative heart of whom I seek?”
“May you quench thy emotion, an allow me, to sleep.”
New Short Stories Of Feelings
The Embers Of A Lifetime by A I Moffat published in 2021
The embers of a lifetime lay burning at my feet, memories of those I had learned to love, fading slowly before me. They had given me so much strength a reason to fight. There was nobody to come home too, to hold my flesh and bone, to make me feel alive again. Only the calm waters of the brook could awaken my nightmare, for part of me still felt unsure of whether or not; I still lay on the battlefield, staring up into the abyss. Read more
To dream, a dream, on this perfect night for things to be wishfully, just right. A mystical awe of desire of which I might aspire. Alas! Out of reach until I sleep, I’ll keep wandering down this street, with hope in my heart for fortune to strike, you never know, it just might.
“Oh, how divine maybe one day, you’ll see just give it time.” Justanemotion
Exclusive Short Stories of Feelings & Affection
Short stories of feelings of the heart
An Inconstant Heart by A I Moffat, published in 2021
‘Oh — Mathew,’ she responded in a fading breath, her eyes fell then rose in a sudden heartbeat, ‘you know I will.’ Her inconstant heart seemed to fluctuate with joy and trepidation. The thrill of it taking her by surprise until she looked into his adoring, child-like eyes, ‘but,’ she hesitated, ‘what about mother?’ As his gaze slowly fell in a shallow gape, she tenderly whispered, ‘You know she would never allow it.’
Instantly the boy knelt on one knee in the subtle shades before her. His dark fringe lay exposed to a streak of direct sunlight, which made the depths of his eyes sparkle mischievously. ‘I’ve been thinking — we could elope — run away together.’ Read more
A quick note by the Author:
As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work; there is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.
The unscrupulous proposal of Richard Myers received the disdain it so rightly deserved. The father would have none of it and insisted he would not interfere in his daughter’s private affairs. It was a relief to Catherine, who did not consider it necessary to discuss such an imperious letter. Although her mother, Mrs Ashington, questioned her relationship with an acquaintance of Lord and Lady Haxley, who had been identified as an imposter. On the grounds, the letter amounted to nothing more than blackmail, hoping it would persuade them to accept his proposal, Catherine was not prepared to discuss the matter any further.
Mr Ashington agreed and insisted that the implications of such a letter implied he should in some way be indebted to Richard Myers. When Mrs Ashington inferred they were looking at it all the wrong way and that Richard was merely trying to protect Catherine, her father became infuriated.
“Nonsense!” Mr Ashington shouted, “If, he had any decency at all, he would have first discussed it with Catherine—personally.”
The matter then escalated until Mr Ashington bought his fist down, heavy on the drawing-room table, asking why Richard had not had the decency to discuss it with him first. Catherine found it all so upsetting and quickly ran to her room.
The following night they had agreed to attend a formal gathering to celebrate Richard Myers promotion. Mr Ashington decided he would take the opportunity to express his displeasure at receiving such an unscrupulous proposal.
The announcement of Lord and Lady Haxleys arrival was like the sound of a great wave breaking on the shore before receding in a gentle hum of disbelief.
Robert, the butler, looked horrified and continued a little perplexed, “Accompanied—by—”
With horror, Richard Myers frantically began to search for Catherine. He was in no doubt who had accompanied them. His father would attend to the Haxleys, but he would have to move fast to prevent Catherine from seeing the scoundrel.
Thomas Benton then tapped the base of his glass on the table several times.
“Hear—hear!” Thomas shouted. “Hear—hear!”
His sudden authoritative burst stole the announcement of Paul Watkins, who had accompanied the Haxleys.
“Good heavens!” He exclaimed, “You look as horrified as I was when I first heard of Richards promotion.”
Awkwardly Richard smiled, twisting his large frame through the small congregation.
Thomas continued to welcome the guests and congratulate Richard Myers on becoming a partner in the family’s long-established law firm.
After only a few minutes, Richard saw Catherine standing dutifully beside Mr and Mrs Ashington.
He hesitated for a moment to tidy himself up.
Instinctively he turned to find George Thurston, reaching for his hand.
“Congratulations, my boy.” Vigorously he shook Richards hand, who felt his entire—attire dishevel once more. “I’m sure you’ll make us all very proud, my boy.”
“Thank—you,” Richard replied in a restrained grimace of discomfort, “I’ll—try, to do my best.”
The Unscrupulous Proposal
His view of Catherine diminished behind Albert, who too wished to congratulate him. After a few more pleasantries, he managed to excuse himself on a matter of urgency, only to find she had gone. His heart sank in fear of her finding the wretched fellow.
Paul Watkins relationship with the Haxleys had allowed him the privilege to attend such occasions. Although he always remained unapproachable and seemed to prefer his own company. He had caused more than a few people to speculate that he was not of this world. On one such occasion, he did suffer and, it was Catherine who took pity on him. She led his pale, sunken image out into the cold dead of night.
It was nothing but mere superstition as far as Richard was concerned. The idea that this fellow was some unearthly creature who had somehow stolen her soul was ridiculous. Catherine had merely felt sorry for him and, it was in her nature to nurture something back to health.
“Are—you alright, Richard?”Aunt Geraldine inquired startled by his sudden need to support himself with the arm of her chair.
It was with an exhaustive slump of his shoulders and a harsh glare that he finally saw Catherine again. He looked down with an open mouth and shook his head in disbelief. Geraldine Myers lifted herself slightly in anticipation he was taking a turn for the worst, but he quickly tapped her on the shoulder and insisted he was fine.
He watched them standing there together; she seemed to laugh at almost every gesture he made. He cursed her child-like mannerism, although he did, however, concede it was a quality he found most endearing. After all, she was not yet aware of his feelings.
“Richard!” His Aunt called after him as he followed them out into the night.
They strolled over the large terrace and down onto the lawn. Richard carefully avoided the full ray of light emitted by the lanterns. She then hesitated a moment; she looked up as if in awe of the soft moonlight. It was a clear perfect sky. The stars seemed to enhance its magnificence, flickering harmoniously with the romantic sound of orchestral music his father had requested. If not for Paul Watkins, he would be enjoying such a night.
“What!—What!” he growled, “Are you doing now? Facing, each other like that.”
Paul was offering her his wine glass; she took it. Paul immediately moved around her, removing his dark brown cardigan. Richard watched very closely as he then proceeded to place it over her shoulders carefully.
Catherine looked so beautiful in the soft moonlight. An exchange of pleasant offerings appeared to follow. Oh, how he despised the fellow. Then Paul started to make his way back up towards the house. He felt a little unnerved at the idea of having to enter into any pleasantries with him.
Myers then turned in a squint to try and make out who it was meandering along the far side of the lawn. Harry—yes, it was, his old friend from university, he assured himself. Immediately he put up his hand and began waving, “Harry, old chap—over here.”
Harry continued slowly, with his hands clasped behind his back, and his pipe was hanging from one side of his mouth. Myers started to feel a little nervous when he realised Paul was almost upon him. Quickly he shouted again, but this time rushed down the steps, then with a sly glance over his shoulder at Paul, he rushed over to his friend.
“Harry! Old chap, been looking everywhere for you.”
Harry appeared somewhat perplexed by Richard’s, complete relief at seeing him.
“Oh, Harry, thank—God!”
“I say, is everything alright old chap?”
“Yes, actually—no, well—” Simultaneously, Richard lifted his finger then immediately bent over slightly to catch his breath. “I wasn’t sure whether—” he continued, “—or not, you’d turned up.”
“By Jove! You look in a frightful state, old chap?”
“I’m alright—just a little out of breath, that’s all.”
“I mean, anyone would think you were running for your life or something.”
Richard straightened himself up, chuckled weakly, then put out his hand, “good ter see you, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
Harry replied reflectively, “Well, yes. I suppose it has rather,” then, he popped his pipe back into the side of his mouth, only to withdraw it again and point it at Richard, “Now see here! Never mind all that. What the dickens! Is all this nonsense about?”
Myers glanced about them quickly, then drew close to Harry, “I think Catherine’s life is in danger. You remember Catherine, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course—go on,” he replied in a whisper spontaneously returning his pipe to the corner of his mouth.
A quick note by the Author:
As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.
She turned in a smile, 'I'd better be getting back to the library, you know how mother likes to get there, early.'
'Yes —' he replied sadly. . . . .
A feeling of uncertainty made her question her decision. Was it just her mother being overprotective. She knew deep down she wanted their blessing, no matter what. It had been nearly seven years; she began to ponder since she had started working at the library. Every Saturday, her mother would always make sure she was there to walk her home, even during the winter months when the night came early, to ensure she got home safely.
In the summer months, she enjoyed the freedom of walking home alone. However, the last few months had been fraught with her mother unexpectedly turning up after work. Occasionally when she was not outside waiting, she would appear rushing out of a shop in the high street, always with a pleasant smile of relief, followed by a mumbling of coincidence which lacked conviction.
She knew full well, it was never a coincidence and that due to her coming home later than usual, her mother had become suspicious. Mathew, who was a few years younger than her, would have to walk a few steps behind, and only when they were confident she was not going to appear would they join as one. At first, Mathew thought it was exciting, but she knew he had grown frustrated by not having the chance to say goodbye to her correctly. She was beginning to doubt her mother’s irrational behaviour.
A Feeling Of Uncertainty
They had become more daring in their desperate desire for one another, and in the evening, she would sneak out into the garden to meet him. Mary had become increasingly concerned about her mother’s inconstant behaviour and realised the risk they were taking.
His marriage proposal had somehow made her feel complete and more comfortable within herself. She was not afraid of her feelings anymore and wanted her parents to share in her enjoyment. Mathew was kind, understanding and very patient. However, it made her think carefully about whether or not she was doing the right thing, or if there was a selfish, very selfish side to her mother, she had not realised.
– A feeling of uncertainty –
‘Wait up!’ Mathew called after her.
‘Oh, sorry,’ she laughed, ‘I nearly forgot about you.’
‘What! So quickly? Well, that’s just nice, that is.’ He laughed sarcastically back.
‘You know, mother says boys are free to do as they like, but girls can’t because in the end they have children an end up living a life of servitude.’
‘Jee’s! — Sounds like I’ve got my work cut out then?’
Instantly, Mary put her arm around him, ‘You — most certainly have,’ she chuckled, ‘What time?’
‘It’s up to you — say around five?’
‘Make it about six-thirty, just to give us time to get in the door.’
The day was glorious; everywhere they looked, there were bright colours of contentment. Couples strolled arm in arm as children ran about them. It was something she always envied, the joy of having a little family and someone to share her every step.
‘What shall I do? — ring the doorbell and introduce myself? Mathew asked, a little less confident.
‘She’s doesn’t bite, you know.’ Mary insisted, ‘I shall come out and meet you at the gate. We’ll go in together.’
‘I’m not afraid, you know. I’m just a little uncertain of what to say.’ He paused reflectively, ‘I mean, it’s not like they know me or anything.
She drew him a little closer, ‘I know you’re not scared,’ she replied in a quiet, suppressed laugh. ‘It will be fine; we’ll have to tell them we knew each other at school.’
‘Come on hurry up! Otherwise, she’ll get there first.’
If only she could be sure that once her mother had met him, everything would be fine. Although it began to cross her mind that maybe it would be better to introduce him before announcing they wanted to get married. In time she would gradually come around to the idea and realise he was not like other men, and hopefully grow fond of him.
‘Let’s make it seven o’clock instead, shall we?’ She said in the spur of the moment.
They had walked over the lush green verge and were about to get onto the shingle path when a middle-aged couple pushing a little girl in a wheelchair came down the path towards them. He held her a moment, waited until they had passed, then whispered, ‘You, don’t think we’re rushing this a bit, do you?’
‘What makes you say that?’
‘Well, it’s just you seem a little — on edge.’
It was not long before they reached the gravel track leading up to the railway crossing, where she knew Mathew would take a keen look over at the boatyard, which runs up to the railway line, on one side. His dreams of owning a yacht one day always fascinated her, considering he could not even swim. She quietly waited until they had reached the turnstile at the railway crossing, allowing him the opportunity to fantasise about becoming a sailor, before she replied.
‘You might be right; maybe I should try and talk to mother first, soften her up a bit.’
A quick note by the Author:
A writers, greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always a feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.
An inconstant heart is thrown into an array of breath-taking joy and excitement, only to be quenched by a mother’s overprotective nature. A formidable twist of events slowly unfolds when she shares the news with her parents. Unsettled by her mother’s reaction, she soon realised all was not as it seemed—a short romantic story by A I Moffat, full of emotion.
When a whelm of emotion causes palpitations of one’s heart.
Together they stood under a willow tree in a glorious array of pale green; the heat of summer had caused them to seek shelter and, most of all, privacy. Mathew looked curiously at her smile, then up at her enchanting, almost bewildering gaze, he was thinking adoringly.
In a shallow subdued voice, Mary smiled at him, ‘It’s not fair that we should have to meet like this, in secret.’
With an attentive flicker, the boy replied, ‘I know.’ Then he pulled a small box from the pocket of his jeans and added, ‘That’s why I’ve bought you this.’
‘Oh, my God! — It isn’t? — Is it?
He watched her sudden, almost hysterical glow of excitement, ‘If you’ll have me?’
‘Oh — Mathew,’ she responded in a fading breath, her eyes fell then rose in a sudden heartbeat, ‘you know I will.’ Her inconstant heart seemed to fluctuate with joy and trepidation. The thrill of it taking her by surprise until she looked into his adoring, child-like eyes, ‘B—b, but,’ she stuttered, ‘what about mother?’ As his gaze slowly fell in a shallow gape, she tenderly whispered, ‘You know she would never allow it.’
Instantly the boy knelt on one knee in the subtle shades before her. His dark fringe lay exposed to a streak of direct sunlight, which made the depths of his eyes sparkle mischievously. ‘I’ve been thinking — we could elope — run away together.’
Mary was a little taken aback, then the boy offered up the ring, ‘A diamond!’ she gasped, ‘I never expected a diamond.’
An Inconstant Heart
Carefully her hands reached down and cupped his open hand; then, slowly, she eased herself down on one knee. Her eyes seem to purr in awe at his delicate desire, his wanting, ‘I can’t, Mathew, it’s not fair on you.’
The silent pause of emotion bound them in the same wanting desire, magnified by the glow of the weeping willow. Until the boy announced in defeat, ‘Then, I’ll ask your mother and father if you can marry me.’
As if accepting his staunch response, her eyes lightly closed before she drew herself up, drawing him gently with her, ‘You know, she won’t hear of my getting married.’
‘I know.’ Mathew whispered, ‘I just hope she will listen and realise how much I care about you.’
‘When — when will you ask them?’
‘Why not tonight.’ He said with a look of surprise.
Mary gently folded his fingers over the small blue box, ‘Until, tonight — then.’
He seemed transfixed by her delicate commands to his proposal. It felt as though she had, in some way, decided their fate. Never before had he felt this presence of belonging; it made him feel as though they were somehow already married.
She turned in a smile, ‘I’d better be getting back to the library, you know how mother likes to get there, early.’
Hannah is a short story by the exciting new author A I Moffat, who conjures up the worry and heartache of being a mother. Hannah Jones has a chance to rekindle the close relationship she once shared with her daughter by Charlotte’s arrival, her daughters closest friend. A short story of intrigue which captures the imagination.
By A I Moffat
Hannah Jones was kneeling in front of the fire when she heard the girls open the front door, her head tilted slightly to one side. A warm faint smile grew as she listened to them. She thought of how time had flown and, felt a sense of pride in having watched over them for so many years. They had reached an age to be more than capable of making their own decisions in life. However, she was finding it difficult to prevent herself from interfering in her daughter’s life.
Their once-close relationship had taken a turn for the worst, and she was now afraid of losing the ability to talk as friends rather than a mother to her child. This fear made her realise she had made a mistake in allowing her own feelings and possibly her own desire to influence her actions. She now strongly regretted ever interfering and feared she might never be able to restore the intimate relationship she once shared with her only child.
Charlotte was the first to transform the gloom into life, she went straight to her and instantly fell to her knees beside her, ‘Hello, mother oh — I’ve missed you.’ Instantly she threw her arm around her and kissed her cheek. ‘Gosh, it’s so cold out there tonight.’ She shivered into her.
‘Yes, well you can’t expect anything else at this time of year.’ Hannah Jones chuckled, whilst with a firm hand, she rubbed Charlotte’s arm. ‘How was your journey?’
‘Tiresome mother, you know I’m sure men only have one thing on their minds.’
‘Oh, Charlotte, you will wear such glamorous clothes, what else can you expect.’ She smiled and pulled her close to her. ‘You’re a sight for saw eyes anyway, that’s for sure.’
Emily leaned over and kissed her mother’s other cheek, ‘Sorry we’re a bit, late mum, we stopped at Potters for a coffee on the way up.’
‘I guessed you had, and how is Lara and Mrs Ramsey?’
‘Lara’s off with a stinking cold again, and Mrs Ramsey is still complaining about being quiet, but she said to send you her regards.’
It was strange, but a relief, that in the presence of Charlotte her daughter was behaving more like her usual self, unlike the previous two weeks where she seemed to distance herself from her, sneaking in and out like a church mouse. She saw it as an opportunity to rekindle that close intimate relationship with her daughter.
Emily had positioned herself on the edge of the fireside chair; she sat leaning against the arm toward the fire staring directly into the flames, when her mother asked, ‘How are you feeling today, Emily?’
It was not something her mother would normally ask, unless she had complained of feeling unwell in the first instance. Emily remained silent, unsure of where it might be leading.
‘Only, Trevor phoned today, he wanted to know how you were, and whether or not you would be going back to work on Monday.’ For a few seconds before she continued, she waited, ‘I told him you were feeling much better and was intending to start back again, on Monday.’
‘It’s not my business to interfere. What you do with your life now is up to you. I don’t even want to know why you haven’t been at work, for the past two weeks or even where you have been. I want you to know that— I am always here for you, Emily and, always will be.’ With compunction, Hannah Jones turned to Charlotte and smiled, ‘Well, I think its best that I go and see to your tea, before it spoils.’
Charlotte, managed to bring a small weak smile to her face, her attention was quick to return to Emily, as Hannah stood up.
After Emily’s mother had left the room, it was Charlotte who broke the silence between them in a quiet, discreet raised voice, ‘Holly Shit! Emily! What was that all about?’
‘Nothing, we just ain’t been getting on lately.’
‘I can see that, but what about this business at work. I didn’t even know you hadn’t been going into work.’
‘Oh, Charlotte, I’m sorry. I better go sort things out with her.’
Her mother was standing at the sink; she went over and stood at her side, a moment of silent unity passed before she said, ‘Mum . . . I’m really sorry.’
In that split second, Hannah Jones closed her eyes with relief and thanked God at the same time, but she maintained her composure, prevented herself from showing her weak and unconditional love that she had of late found so unbearable to live with.
‘Mum— please. I don’t understand what’s happened to me; I can’t do this on my own. Please— Mu—mum.’
‘Well, that’s what I’m here for—’ She was unable to suppress her innermost feeling, her wanting, any longer and took her daughter in her arms, tight to her chest.
Charlotte had replenished the fire and was sitting patiently in the fireside chair, when she heard a sudden tapping sound coming from the front door; she was a little hesitant and not completely sure, whether or not somebody was actually at the door, and rather than disturb Emily or her mother she went to check.
Nobody was there; when she was closing the door, she noticed a box on the doorstep. She took a look around to see if anybody was in the street, then lifted it and took it inside; it was an open box wrapped in rustic oak leaves and inside was a single red rose laid on a bed of pale blue forget-me-nots.
Hannah had heard the front door close and rushed out of the kitchen, she was a little startled to find Charlotte looking at her in amazement, ‘What is it, Charlotte?’
‘It’s just so beautiful mother.’ Her gaze instantly fell back to the box; she was now cradled in her arms. ‘They just left it on your doorstep.’
‘Oh, My God, it isn’t?’ On impulse she covered her face in her hands, with her eyes still fixed on Charlotte, she slowly allowed her line of sight to become clearer, ‘You have got to be joking Charlotte, it can’t be.’
Charlotte lifted her head, her expression puzzled, ‘It isn’t— what?’
With apprehension Mrs Jones forced herself to look inside the box, ‘It’s just a rose?
‘Yes, but isn’t it beautiful?’
Mrs Jones sighed with relief, ‘For goodness sakes, you frightened the life out of me for a minute— Yes, it’s lovely.’
Emily had rushed out to see what all the commotion was, ‘What is it, mum?’ She leaned over the side of her mother, ‘Oh— My God!’
Hannah then watched her closely as she offered to take the box from Charlotte; it was done with such delicacy that her mother could hardly believe her eyes, especially after the way she had fought so hard against any such notion, of her and Steve getting back together again. She was not going to be complacent this time and, bit her lip. She merely indicated to Charlotte to follow her into the kitchen.
Emily had taken the rose over to the fire, once again she sat on the edge of the fireside chair, but this time she gazed down into the box and felt its warmth growing inside her, it felt as if he were with her, as it had all day.
‘Oh, Charlotte I just can’t believe it, you know I was beginning to think that boy didn’t have a romantic bone in his body.’ She paused a second and turned the dial-up on the cooker. ‘And to think I had just about lost my patience with Stephen Maguire, who’d have believed it.’
‘It’s very romantic, that’s one thing for sure, but—’
‘You know all the trouble that boy caused in this family over the past month; I tell you Charlotte, I had really reached the end with him. I’ve done your favourite, steak and kidney pie. It shouldn’t be much longer. You wouldn’t mind just peeling the potatoes, there already in the sink. Oh Charlotte, I can’t tell you how pleased I am your finally— here.’
Hannah was unable to suppress the emotion that had been boiling up inside her for so long. She had missed Charlotte immensely, she had always considered her as being part of her family as if she were her own, this mixture of emotion and in the presence of someone, she was able to trust and cared so much about, had allowed her to feel a sense easement, allowing her to let go finally.
Charlotte instantly put her arm around her, ‘Oh mother, please, everything will be alright; you just wait and see.’
‘I’m not sure Charlotte, I can’t take much more, at times I can’t talk sense to her, it’s like she’s in a different world that— I can’t seem to reach. Oh, Charlotte, I only want, what’s best for her.’
‘I know, you do mother, she’ll be fine.’
‘It’s her father you know, him and me arguing all the time, that’s what’s made her like this. I know it. She doesn’t let things out like she use to, she bottles them all up inside. Hardly ever talks to me these days.’ She shook her head lightly in despair. ‘It’s the drink you know; it brings out the worst in a man; he never use to drink; he was always such a kind and caring man.’
‘I know mother. Come on let’s get those spuds scrubbed, and pick their blooming eyes out.’
Hannah smiled, ‘Your one in a million Charlotte, yes lets.’
‘Mmm, I can smell that steak and kidney pie.’ And I’m absolutely starving.’
‘It won’t be much longer, did you not have something on your way down?’
Charlotte shook her head, ‘Well, I’m trying to lose a few pounds.’
‘You’re always trying to lose them; I doubt you ever had them in the first place, just look at you. You know Brian will be absolutely furious if they get back together. He reckons he’s never liked the boy. And after he cancelled the engagement, well —. He’ll not have his name mentioned in the house. He reckons that’s why he took up drinking in the first place, because he couldn’t stand the sight of the boy, sitting there with his daughter like he owned the place. He did use a few stronger words mind.’
‘Oh, mother you mustn’t go worrying about it, he’s probably just looking for any excuse, to get down to the stupid pub. That’s what they like.’
‘Listen to you all grown up, Miss Charlotte Harrison.’ She flicked some water over her arm, and they both laughed. ‘Yes, your right, no use worrying we just got to get on with the hand we’re given.’
‘Well, I think we’ve just about blinded the lot of them Charlotte.’
‘Yes, I think your right. Ooh, you a get a certain sense of satisfaction from sticking it in and twisting it around.’ She smiled wickedly. ‘Come on; let’s show these little blighters what a ring fire really feels like.’
‘She-devils, that’s what we are,’ Charlotte cackled. ‘Doesn’t it feel just great?’
‘Yes.’ She cackled back, ‘Thank you, Charlotte. ‘You’d better go and see if Emily’s alright, and then get unpacked. I’ve put some fresh towels over the rail on the top of the landing.’
Charlotte cackled a thank you.
Charlotte knelt in front of Emily; her hand gently covered hers, she looked up into her gaze and smiled softly. ‘He must love you so much, and it must have taken him ages.’
A few seconds of silence passed between them, then Emily replied, ‘I know. And that’s what makes it, so difficult.’
‘Oh, shit! Em, Steve didn’t send you the rose, did he?
‘No, you see Charlotte some things are far too big, to fit inside their own little box.’
‘Oh, Emi, you’ve fallen in love with him, haven’t you?
‘I think so.’
Charlotte was suddenly lost in thought. She kept repeating to herself over and over again; mother doesn’t know. She looked up at Emily, her eyes waiting, but she could not find an immediate answer. No matter which way she turned things, nothing seemed to fit, and always the same answer sprang to mind. She needed more time, time to think, yes she thought, time must be the answer. ‘Well!’ She exclaimed, scratching her head. ‘Let’s get that thing in some water, before it dies.’
Emily’s eyes opened wide, ‘Yes, and I know just the vase to use.’ She smiled, bringing her shoulders up in a twitch of elation.
Instantly they both stood up, went into the kitchen. Emily turned to Charlotte and asked, ‘Will you take care of it? While I get the vase.’
Charlotte went to grab it, but after seeing the look in Emily’s eyes, it was with empathy; she allowed her to lower the rose gently into her hands.
‘Mum, where’s that vase that looks like a fruit dish?’
‘A fruit dish! Emily for goodness sakes, there’s a vase under the sink.’
‘No, I can’t find it; I need a tall dainty one.’
‘Right at the back there should be a small— flared vase, use that and you’d better hurry, because I’ll be ready to serve up in a minute.’
‘I’ve got it! Thanks, mum.’
Hannah Jones looked over at Charlotte and smiled, it was a mere glimpse, but somehow she felt life was finally returning to the house. In these few days, she was determined, to rekindle her bond with Emily. She would not let the rose or her desire to make Steve a permanent family member come between her and her daughter ever again. She had acted recklessly, had said things that she didn’t mean, purely out of disappointment for her own wanting and desire. If anyone could break the bitter stance her daughter had now adopted towards her, it was Charlotte, and this opportunity that had excited her before seemed to have been restored.
‘You two had better go and freshen up, ready for your tea before it gets spoilt.’
The conversation at the dinner table was mostly local gossip; it seemed no one wanted to approach the subject of Stephen Maguire, least of all Mrs Jones. If his name were to be mentioned, she had already made up her mind, and it would not be of her doing.
Charlotte had enjoyed hearing all about her old school friends, and the local individuals she had known throughout her childhood. She had also avoided his name, and it had seemed the meal would be bought to a conclusion, without even touching the subject.
Emily was fully aware they had acted with prudence, and was grateful for the respite, yet unfortunately made the mistake of comparing Steve with the exploits of a David Bates who had recently cheated on his wife, of sixteen years a Miss Susan Fraser.
At first, there was an unbearable silence. It seemed impenetrable but for the grace of Charlotte who was quick to reveal the character of her new boyfriend, and where he had taken her on their very first date, an ice skating rink.
Billy laughed as he cycled about her on his bike, ‘You look nice.’
Billy laughed, as he cycled about her on his bike, ‘You look nice.’
She smiled weakly from behind the collar of her coat.
‘You – gonna’ town?’
Emily just shook her head and gazed across the small village square where the sudden rush of excited school children had now evaporated into a sullen, still time of day.
‘Where is yer goin’ then?’
She remained silent, not wanting to encourage the boy.
‘Me Da’s takin’ me,’ the boy started, then did a complete circle on his bike before stopping right in front of her, ‘On, Monday.’
‘Yes— Monday,’ he replied, looking a little confused.
Emily, could not help feeling sorry for the boy; he was an unfortunate child whose father had fled the village long before he was born. She knew he was referring to Mr Richards, a large older man who had always lived on his own.
Suddenly the boy lifted his scruffy head of tangled brown hair and laughed, ‘You look nice.
She watched as he immediately twitched with some restless urge; his face tightened, then he was off, cutting across the village square with his mumblings.
Emily breathed a sigh of relief but then instantly cringed as the boy recklessly tore across the main road— without looking.
A few moments passed where her thoughts drifted to the enormity of her situation. Charlotte was her only hope; she was adamant her best friend would know what she should do for the best.
The old clock tower struggled to pass the half-hour mark; she still had fifteen more minutes to wait. Then, she noticed Laurel and Hardy, a name given to two older women by the children in the village.
She had never really noticed it until now, but there was an uncanny resemblance. They did not wear bowler hats; instead, they — wore black berets. One was taller than the other, who was, in fact, overweight. It seemed now to amuse her slightly. Each of them wore matching black overcoats, and from a distance, you could easily mistake them for men in their tightly wrapped long coats.
She watched as the two women hurried across the road, then began to make their way towards her. The tall woman was busy talking; the other just nodded now and then. Emily impatiently glanced up at the clock tower again. Only a mere four minutes had passed. Her gaze followed the ageing zig-zags of red bricks until the black wrought-iron fence ceiled in the columns. It was like a little square prison, she surmised.
‘It won’t be long now — dear.’
At first, Emily turned, thinking the woman was talking to her, but the taller woman was just attempting to console her friend.
After a few, almost hypnotic seconds of waiting, the taller woman turned to her friend and said, ‘You wouldn’t believe what little Davy Thomson did in the Co-op?’
Emily just caught her in the corner of her eye, glancing her over before she continued.
‘Well, I couldn’t believe it — with my own eye’s — I ask yer.’ she shook her head, ‘In the middle of the Co-op — of all places! Well, I just couldn’t believe it.’
‘Yes — ah-huh, ah-huh,’ nodded her friend, ‘— yes?’
‘You know where they keep the sugar and tins of plumbed tomatoes, right in the middle aisle — opposite the creamed rice on the middle shelf. Well, that’s where he stood. Screaming he was at his mother,’ she nodded. ‘Couldn’t get what he wanted, that’ll be it. Well — I ask yer? I couldn’t believe it. He just stood there and the next thing,’ she paused a second. ‘It must be running late then Dorothy.’
‘Yes, yes — ah-huh, ah-huh,’ her friend nodded again.
‘As I was saying — do you know what that little so and so did? He stood there right in front of her, and well — Oh Dorothy, I couldn’t believe it — with me’ own eyes an all. I’m tellin’ yer. He pulled down his trousers and — you’ll never guess what he did? That’s our bus now, Dorothy.’
‘Yes, yes — ah-huh, ah-huh,’ frantically her friend nodded until in the loud hiss of the bus she practically shouted, ‘Yes — s?’
Emily found herself on the brink of laughter; if not for her curiosity, she would not have been able to contain herself. She watched as each of them struggled with the first step onto the bus, both carefully assisting the other. It made her realise how much she had missed her closest friend, Charlotte.
Once the bus had pulled away, her attention flicked here and there, from one sound to another as she became more anxious. Then a sudden gust of oak leaves swirled up around her, only to settle at her side. That’s when it suddenly dawned on her; she already knew what she wanted, but — how could he forgive her?
Finally, a coach swung down onto the square. Emily found herself moving from one side to another, trying to anticipate precisely where it would stop. Her eyes narrowed as the driver brought the vehicle to an abrupt halt, in exactly the place she was standing in the first instance.
After an initial hiss of air, the door finally opened, and the driver turned to a sudden burst of repetitive clicking and clacking as Charlotte rushed down the aisle to greet her.
Emily’s face teetered on laughter when she saw her friend almost fall onto the bottom step; both her hands were full, one laden at her side with a small suitcase and the other held high with glamorous designer bags. Yet, she still managed to maintain some degree of elegance about her.
‘Emily!’ She gasped, ‘You just wouldn’t believe what sort of a journey I’ve had. Her eyes glanced back at the driver, disapprovingly, ‘to endure.’
She quickly helped her friend down off the bus with a smile, ‘You look amazing.’
‘Oh, do I — no thanks to my journey.’ Charlotte gave one final glance back at the driver, ‘that’s for sure.’ Immediately, she placed the small grey suitcase on the path and stretched out her arms; Emily embraced her friend without hesitation. Charlotte almost instantly took a step back. ‘My goodness, I’d swear there’s nothing left of you,’ she smiled.
Emily always felt a little embarrassed when her friend acted as a mother would to her child. Unlike Charlotte, she had always struggled to put weight on a much larger frame and often complained that she needed to lose a few extra pounds. Still, her size seemed to suit her maternal characteristics, which Emily found so endearing.
Charlotte took a deep breath, ‘Oh, just look at you, I just can’t believe he dropped you,’ she smiled sadly and pulled her close again, ‘How’s mother taken it?’
‘Oh, you know, mother, not very well.’ Emily replied, gently disentangling herself from the embrace, ‘It’s all she keeps going on about.’
‘Yes, I can imagine.’
Emily lifted the suitcase, ‘she’s looking forward to seeing you, though.’
‘It’s been a while, hasn’t it?’
‘Yes, but you’re here now, and that’s all that matters,’ Emily lifted the small suitcase,’ ‘How’s your family?’
‘All good, but never mind them. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I just can’t wait to tell you all about my latest penguin. Come on. I’m gasping for a coffee.’
In unison, they both laughed, ‘Let’s go— p-p-p- pick up a penguin.’ Charlotte offered Emily her arm, and together they began to walk across the square. ‘You’ve not forgotten then?’
‘No, how could I ever forget.’
The image of her friend’s first boyfriend, Ben, was one she would never forget.
Charlotte had described her first night with him in a way the image was etched in her mind forever. The very notion of the boy with a Mohawk haircut and the sides of his head dyed white was so vivid Charlotte didn’t need to mimic his begging beeps, as well.
‘I’m telling you, Emi — seriously, that’s what it sounded like — they’re all the same, never found one that didn’t make the same blinking noise.’
‘You’re just so cruel; I thought he was lovely — I wonder if he’s still a punk rocker or ever settled down.’
‘I know — actually, he was quite cute, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, and besides, it’s the only bit of enjoyment I ever got from him.’ She thought for a minute. ‘You know, I did hear he joined the navy. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wanted to get back home.’
‘Charlotte! — I’ll be wetting myself if you don’t stop it.’
‘Well, it’s certainly brought some colour back into your cheeks. I’ve never seen you so down; it’s like you’re carrying the whole world on your shoulders. They’re not worth it, Emi.’ She stopped and looked Emily straight in the eye, ‘Steve must either need his eyes testing or needs some serious medical attention; you’re stunning.’
When they reached the corner of Sydney Street, Emily hesitated before crossing the road, ‘I’m glad you’re here, Charlotte, there’s something I’ve been dying to tell you — which I couldn’t tell you on the phone.’
‘Well, that’s why I’ve travelled, all this way.’ She paused after noticing a tiny glint in Emily’s eye. ‘You’re joking . . . the wedding is back on again, after all?’
‘No — well, I don’t know — it’s all a bit complicated, that’s why I needed you here.’ She went to cross the road, but Charlotte held her back.
‘Hang on a minute. There’s something else, isn’t there? That you haven’t told me — ’
‘Oh, Charlotte, it’s much, much more than that — I’m pregnant.’
‘What! And that bastard called the engagement off? You wait till I get my hands on that stinking little penguin. I’m going to make him — ’
‘He doesn’t know.’ Emily was quick to cut in.
‘He soon will do, by the time — I’ve.’
‘Charlotte — Please,’ she pulled at her friend’s arm to follow, ‘I will explain everything later — but not in the street.’
Charlotte took a glance around her, ‘I’m sorry, Em, I just couldn’t help myself.’
Emily laughed. ‘It’s OK; they probably think you’ve just got a thing about stupid little penguins.’
When they reached Potters, an old fashioned tea shop, a little bell rang just above the door as they entered; directly in front of them was old Mr Taylor sitting in his wheelchair, who had a devilish look of excitement on his face. His wife behind him seemed a little agitated as she smiled lamely and continued to manipulate the wheelchair past the last two remaining tables. Mr Taylor grinned from ear to ear as the girls were forced back out into the street. Mrs Taylor smiled in gratitude once she got the wheelchair out through the narrow doorway, and the old- man just flicked the peak of his cap with his hand.
Charlotte instantly leaned over and whispered in Emily’s ear, ‘You know, I’m sure that little old git was sniggering,’ She tugged her arm, ‘come — on.’
They made their way over to a table in the corner, next to the window. Charlotte glanced over to the back of the shop, she had hoped to see Lara, but it was Mrs Ramsey, the proprietor who was making her way down the narrow aisle of empty tables, towards them.
Mrs Ramsey was a short and rather stout lady. However, she was a kind, caring individual who had offered Lara a place to stay after her parents had decided to move to London. At eighteen and her brother studying at Cambridge University. Lara chose to remain in the village close to all her friends. Mrs Ramsey had never married and, after caring for her mother until she died, at the ripe old age of ninety-five, had inherited the large detached house, which stood adjacent to the entrance leading down to the old rectory.
Mrs Ramsey could not hide her delight in seeing the girls and smiled warmly, ‘What a lovely surprise, and I was just thinking to myself — I might as well close early. Well, I haven’t seen you two for some time — how are you both?’
‘Yes, fine, thank you, Mrs Ramsey,’ Charlotte replied while taking off her coat. ‘And you?’
‘Can’t complain, dear, been a little bit quiet of late, but I’m sure things will pick up, now the weather is improving, we’ve had nothing but rain for the past week — never mind.’
‘Well, it’s most definitely feeling a lot colder.’ Charlotte replied and then inquired, ‘How’s Lara?’
‘Oh, she’s off at the moment, dear, with one of those frightful colds. I swear it’s the worst thing about this job; you seem to pick up everything that’s going — dear. I’m almost certain she picked it up off little Davy Thomson. His mother should be ashamed of herself — bringing him out in this weather without him having hardly a stitch to wear — I ask you!’
‘Well, I hope she feels better soon. It’s just her brother asked me to give her this.’ Charlotte pulled out a neatly wrapped, brown rectangular package from one of her bags and handed it to Mrs Ramsey.
‘Thank you — dear. I’ll give it to Lara as soon as I get home. I’m sure it will make her feel much better.’ She then pushed the package into the pouch of her apron, then lifted her head, and inquired, ‘Are you still enjoying university, dear?’
‘Sort of, I guess, just finding it a little hard with the amount of studying that’s involved,’ Charlotte smiled.
‘Yes, well, I’m sure it will be well worth it in the end — dear. How long will you be staying this time, dear?’
‘Oh, not long, just for the weekend, Mrs Ramsey.’
‘That’s nice, dear. Well, I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do. No doubt, you’ll want your usual coffee then?’
Emily smiled and pulled out her chair, ‘Yes, please, that would be lovely.’
Mrs Ramsey immediately leaned over and gathered the unwanted cutlery off the table. ‘There you are. I’ll be right back in just a few ticks — with your coffees.’
Once they had sat down, Charlotte immediately leaned across the table and asked, ‘Are you sure you’re pregnant?’
Emily closed her eyes before she answered with a heavy sigh, ‘Yes, I’m sure.’
‘Oh, Emi, why don’t you just get an abortion?
Emily’s face suddenly hardened as she snapped back, ‘No — It’s not the baby Charlotte.’ It caused Charlotte to sink back slightly into her chair. In an instant, her expression then seemed to soften as Emily stretched out her arm and offered her hand, ‘Oh, it’s all a bloody mess. I’ve made a mess of everything.’
Charlotte accepted her hand and leaned over the table, then gently she sealed the entwined promise with a kiss.
‘Well, I must say you can tell you two have certainly missed each other.’ Mrs Ramsey interrupted. ‘Come on — make some room.’ she smiled.
They turned, looked up at Mrs Ramsey, then almost at the same time began tittering as their eyes met again across the table.
Mrs Ramsey looked down at them fondly as she placed the coffee cups down, ‘I hope you two find the time to drink them.’ She smiled, ‘In-between all that catching up.’
Emily sighed and found herself relaxing into the shop’s ambience, which she had enjoyed so often in the past. With her old school friend for company, it began to make her feel as though all her innermost fears were gradually subsiding as she felt a sense of ease.
Charlotte quickly began to raid the sugar bowl, ‘You know I’ve missed these little sugar lumps, nowadays all I seem to get are those pathetic little sachets.’ She popped one into her mouth and then looked over at Emily and asked politely and correctly, ‘One lump or two — me, lady?’
‘Just one — please.’ Emily pulled herself up with a smile; her friend had not changed one little bit, she thought.
Charlotte held her cup with both hands and bought it up close to her mouth, allowing her elbows to rest on the table; she looked out of the window then back towards her friend, lightly blowing over the rim of the cup, ‘How’s mother, really?’
Emily had assumed the same posture at the table, ‘She’s fine, honestly. I’ve been avoiding her a bit, I guess — but you know, she just keeps going on and on about it. You know what she’s like.’
‘Is she excited — about being a grandmother?’
‘I’ve not told her yet — Charlotte, please don’t look at me like that; it’s because she will spoil any chance of Steve and me getting back together again, that’s why.’
‘Is . . . Steve, the father?’
‘Yes, of course, but you know what my mum’s like, with Steve, she treats him as though he was her son. She tells him everything before I get the chance.’ She turned, looked through the window and across the street, ‘I just couldn’t bear the thought of Steve wanting me back because he felt he had no choice, you know, doing what everyone expects of him. The right thing and all. I don’t want anyone’s pity and especially not his.’
‘Yes, I understand, but surely your mum would understand that too — how far gone are you now, anyway?’
‘Three months, but I only found out last week.’
‘Last week! Emily, what on earth have you been doing? You should have realised well before then.’ Charlotte shook her head in disbelief, ‘I just can’t understand this — so am I — the first person you’ve told?’
‘Yes — well — no — not exactly.’
‘Not exactly, well, who else knows? And what about Steve, is he still dating that floozy — what’s her name — Mary Lewis, Is he?’
‘I’m not sure — he keeps phoning me, but I haven’t spoken to him yet. Me’ mum said that he is missing me and is sorry. He admitted to her that he had made a big mistake and now really regrets it. And Lara told me she had heard that Mary had finished with him, but I don’t know if that’s true or whether he’s still seeing her.’
‘Crikey’s and I thought living in the country was dull. Why haven’t you spoken to him? Don’t you want him back?’
‘I suppose, but, I’m not sure anymore — I mean, well, you know, I don’t think I could ever trust him, ever again, and maybe if it weren’t for my baby, I wouldn’t. Oh, Charlotte, I just don’t know.’
‘The other week, you told me you would do anything to get him back, and now when you find out you’re carrying his child, you’re not sure? Emily, he has even been calling you and telling mother he wants you back.’ Her eyes opened wide in some way to emphasise the obvious. ‘Do you still love him?’
‘Yes, I think so. But, oh — Charlotte, I don’t know anymore. Maybe it’s because I have a part of him growing inside me now, which I know I love so very — very much. It’s just so hard to explain, but every time I think of him, I see her, the bitch laughing at me.
Charlotte smiled, took another sip of her coffee and placed the cup on the table. ‘You know, a few years back, I went through a similar thing Emi, and I understand entirely, except I wasn’t pregnant. You’ve got to think of the baby as well, and you’ll get over all that — in time, I’m sure of it, especially when the baby is born.
‘It’s not quite as straightforward as all that — and there’s something else —’
Charlotte cut in, ‘Oh, Emi, you take everything far too seriously. He probably just got cold feet being so close to the wedding and all. It will probably never happen again. But, you know it’s a big commitment, marriage.’
Emily drooped her head slightly, ‘Charlotte, please — there’s someone else.’
Charlotte stared at her in disbelief, her mouth opened to speak, but she remained silent. It was the first time she felt lost for words. A few seconds passed, and the only thing that came to mind was penguins. ‘It’s not Ben, is it?’
Emily instantly smiled and lifted her head, ‘No —’
Charlotte sighed and smiled warmly, ‘You know it’s not the end of the world, and just look at you, it’s not surprising; you’re beautiful Emi, and there’s bound to be thousands of those pesky little penguins, begging to get a date with you.’
‘Oh, Charlotte — I don’t know what I’d do without you; you always have a funny way of putting everything into its own, little box.’
‘Look, it’s getting late, and I’m sure Mrs Ramsey can lip-read,’ She glanced over at the shop counter, where Mrs Ramsey was standing, ‘See, she’s writing everything down as we speak. It’ll be all around town by morning. So come on, let’s drink up and see mother, she’ll be waiting, and then later, you can tell me all about this new — mysterious man.’ Charlotte pushed her chair back slightly and reached for her handbag. ‘It’s certainly been worth the train fare, that’s for sure.’
Emily lifted her cup, amused by her friend’s ability to make light of the situation and make her feel more optimistic that everything would eventually fall into place. Although even now, she found herself in some kind of trance, as though she somehow could not feel or hold onto anything her friend said. It was as if nothing seemed to matter, like floating through space and time. Suddenly it began to dawn on her that she had not stopped thinking about Joe, and funnily, it seemed as if he was always there — by her side.
Charlotte noticed the sudden glazed look in Emily’s eyes and muttered, ‘Aye, away with the fairies,’ She turned and looked over at Mrs Ramsey, who was putting the sweet delicacies from behind the glass shop display back into their boxes. Immediately Charlotte lifted herself and went over to the shop counter.
‘It’s been so lovely, dear, to have seen you both again,’ Mrs Ramsey smiled as she straightened herself up, ‘Oh, Charlotte, I’m sure I’m getting older by the minute.’ She wiped her brow, then sighed with slight exhaustion and smiled. ‘How is Emily? I couldn’t believe it when I heard — you know.’ She shook her head lightly and drew in a deep breath, ‘Well, if ever there was a wedding you could have been sure of, it was theirs. Shocked, I tell you, shocked. The poor girl must be beside herself.’ She paused for a few seconds. ‘That’s one pound and fifty pence, please, Charlotte.’
‘Thank you.’ Charlotte immediately handed her two crisp one-pound notes.
Over the ching of the cash register opening, Mrs Ramsey thanked her but then continued to say, ‘Heaven knows what he must have been thinking. I’m just so glad she has such a good friend like you to support her, dear. Lord knows what she’d have done otherwise.’ She handed Charlotte her change, pushed the cash register closed, then smiled.
Charlotte returned the smile, ‘Thank you, Mrs Ramsey, she seems to be coping very well, and I’m sure it will all sort itself out.’
‘Oh, I’m so glad to hear that, dear.’ She looked with pity at Emily sitting there all on her own. ‘She’s such a lovely young lady, and she deserves so much more — Oh — Charlotte, please forgive me. I just can’t help it. It brings tears to me’ eyes.’ She pulled her handkerchief out from her apron and then nodded with a straight smile.
Charlotte took a deep breath, smiled, and turned, ‘Please, don’t worry, Mrs Ramsey, everything will be just fine. She’s in good hands now. ’
‘Yes, yes — God bless you, dear.’
‘Emi, come on, let’s go — Em — Em.’ She persisted in a low, urgent tone, deliberately knocking the table as she pulled her coat up over the back of the chair.
It was as though Emily had not realised she had drifted off into a world of her own; she lifted herself out of the chair and immediately put on her coat.
Charlotte ushered her towards the door, ‘Goodbye, Mrs Ramsey.’ She waved and then held the door open for Emily, who said her goodbye in a more sedate manner. A cold evening breeze washed over them from the open doorway.
‘You’re both, more than welcome,’ Mrs Ramsey replied as she came up behind them. ‘Ooh, hasn’t it turned quite chilly all of a sudden? I’ll be locking up behind you, it’s a bit early, but I doubt there’ll be many folks out on a night like this.’
Charlotte smiled, watching Mrs Ramsey shake whilst rubbing her hands together in front of her. Then, after allowing her to take the weight of the door, she promptly replied, ‘Goodnight, Mrs Ramsey.’
“I hope you both have a lovely evening and don’t forget to give my regards to your parents.” She watched them with pride, as if they were her own, “Now mind how you go —”
Instantly they locked arms and continued down the street. ‘Well! Now I know why I prefer living in Cambridge,’ Charlotte was quick to declare. ‘Everyone knows everyone else’s business, down here. You can’t keep anything a secret, even if you tried.’
Emily turned and looked at her a little fearful, ‘I hope — you’re wrong about that, Charlotte.’
Charlotte looked across at Emily and laughed. ‘Sorry, Emi, I forgot.’
‘It’s not the fact I’m pregnant; I’m worried about.’
With intrigue, Charlotte looked at her friend with the cold autumn breeze against her face. The sudden need to seek shelter seemed to dampen her curiosity. She quickly pushed her head forward and encouraged Emily to quicken her pace.
A tentative touch of love has stolen all sense of reasoning and, Joe finds himself struggling to accept reality. Has the relationship born from a tentative indication of compassion reached the end? Can Emily ever make the boy understand, or will Joe’s utterance of love change everything? A mere tentative touch can evoke a sense of reasoning.
A Sense Of Reasoning
It wasn’t a mistake, she told herself. Things happen for a reason; he had given her so much, more than just his affections. She couldn’t allow him to think it had only been a mistake; without him, she would never have found herself. No – there was something about the boy, something so unusual it hurt. She couldn’t allow herself to weaken – not now. If only he could understand that it was hopeless, that they had no choice. It would be a living hell for both of them, and that was the last thing she ever wanted.
Joe lifted his head, ‘You still love him, don’t you?’
‘You know I do,’ she replied sharply.
‘I mean – you want him back.’
‘Joe, please – I want to be with you, but there isn’t any future for us. It just wouldn’t work.’
The boy turned and started to make his way back along the grass verge towards the small wooden bridge; they had crossed earlier.
Emily quickly jumped up and called after him, ‘Where are you going? – Joe!’
He continued carefully along the slippery bank. ‘Why should— she care anyway.’ He hissed to himself, ‘and anyway good riddance.’
She continued to yell after him to wait, but the boy had created an image of her that closely resembled Medusa, and he was eager to make his escape. Now, he could only hear the sound of serpents repeatedly lashing at his heels; it just won’t work.
When he reached the small incline leading up to the bridge, the repetitive crow of a pheasant fleeing suddenly caused the boy to stop. He hesitated, turned, and looked across the tenuous layer of mist floating a foot or so above the brook. He was almost sure he had heard her cry out, but not as before. Instinctively, the boy started to make his way back, and it was not long before he heard her cry out again.
Just where the brook turned towards the clearing, Emily had slipped and was struggling to remove bramble shoots stuck to her clothes.
‘Now look! – What you’ve made me do.’ She moaned angrily at him.
‘It’s a good job you’ve got yer woolly hat on.’ He smiled.
‘Ouch! Whatever were you thinking, rushing off like that?’
That’ll teach yer; he thought as he bent down and started to unhook the spines.
‘How am I ever going to explain – Ouch! – Careful – how I got a wet foot to me mum, when I’m supposed to be at work in a dry – bloody office?’
Quietly the boy went about assisting her up onto her feet, then began brushing off the bottom of her coat.
‘Just – leave it,’ she sighed heavily, ‘it’s my foot, I’m more concerned, about. Come on, help me get over to the bridge.’
Slowly the boy slid up around her waist, tucking his shoulder firmly under her right arm. Finding it all a little amusing took a deep breath and asked after a small cough if she was ready before taking the first step.
She felt ridiculous; it wasn’t as if she’d broken her foot or anything, but Joe being Joe, was making it into something more than it was. She sighed heavily in defeat.
The boy insisted he would go first when they reached the small incline, his earlier amusement had gradually worn off, and now he looked upon her as a young maiden in desperate need of being saved.
Emily noticed a slight glint in his eyes when he reached out to her, ‘Well!’ She exclaimed, ‘you’ve certainly found this quite amusing, haven’t you?’
In a crease of a smile, he insisted, ‘No! – Here – quick take my hand.’
‘Joe Johnson, I swear one of these days . . . ’
‘There – you’re safe now,’ he interrupted with a touch of bravado about him.
Emily hopped straight over to the handrail and immediately went about taking her shoe off. She called over to him for some help, and the boy was quick to wave his hand out in front of him as he bowed before her.
She rolled her eyes as he knelt, then tapped his head with her shoe, ‘Now arise Sir – Joe of Brooksfield and ring out my precious, bloody sock.’
He looked up in a smile as he removed her sock; he laid it to one side and then gently began to rub some warmth back into her foot.
‘You weren’t a mistake, Joe. It always was meant to happen, I’m sure of it. And – I’m only trying to protect you.’ She felt his firm but tender touch and thought of how attentive he was for a boy. ‘I’m sorry for being so horrid today, Joe.’
‘How is Charlotte going to know what you should do? He asked whilst tightly twisting her sock.
‘Well, she won’t – but she can help me sort things out, you know – with me mum,’ she paused a moment in thought, ‘I need to tell her I’m pregnant.’
Joe looked up with raised eyebrows, ‘Have you told Charlotte then?’
‘No – I need to tell her too.’
The boy smirked, ‘Well, rather you than me,’ he drew a deep breath. ‘There, all done now hand me your shoe.’
‘You know I can’t tell them the child is someone else’s. They need to know the truth.’
Joe looked up in dismay, ‘Push – then.’
‘Oh Joe, it’s hopeless they’ll never let us alone, ever.’
She placed her hand on his head to steady herself, then continued, ‘They’ll know it’s your brothers,’ she insisted, ‘so – where does that leave us?’
‘But you said . . . ’
‘I know!’ she was quick to stop him, ‘but – I just wasn’t thinking straight.’ Joe, I can’t risk losing my best friend, especially not now, don’t you see?’ She winced, ‘they’ll all blame me for making Steve run off with that tart,’ her tone sharpened at the notion, ‘Oh yes, he’ll love every minute of it. And what about me mum – Joe, I’m having a baby for Christ sake! I need her more now than ever before.’ Emily shook her head, ‘and what about you, he’s your brother – they’re going to go mental, especially now. Don’t you see it’s hopeless?’ She turned slightly as the boy rose to his feet, ‘I can’t let you go through all that, Joe, not now.’
‘Emily – please!’ he pleaded. ‘Not now? – What do you mean? – Not now?’
‘He’s finished with her, that’s what.’ She replied in a huff, then quietly added, ‘Steve phoned me last night — he wants me back.’
Joe suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders, ‘What – What did you say? Steve, phoned you?
‘Yes, but I didn’t speak to him. I was with you.’ She could see the fire in his eyes, ‘Me’ mum took the call,’ her eyes faded from him. ‘She told me this morning. Joe, you’re hurting me.’ A few moments elapsed, then in a more desperate tone, she shouted, ‘Joe ! . . . You’re hurting me!’
Almost instantly, the boy recoiled, turning away from her, his head shaking in disbelief.
Emily moved up behind him and wrapped her arms around the boy, ‘Oh, Joe . . . I’m so sorry.’ She allowed the weight of her to rest against his back, ‘you poor, poor fool.’
‘Emily . . . what’s happening to me?’
‘Nothing, darling . . . nothing.’ Her eyes slowly closed against his trembling frame.
After a few moments, the boy gradually turned to face her, ‘I’m so sorry – Emily.’
Tentatively she looked up at him, ‘Oh Joe, what are we going to do?’
It crazed him; he looked at her now wanting. She seemed different, fragile, delicate almost. It felt as though she were giving herself to him. No — No, he found himself repeating, he didn’t want this; he wanted the warmth of her, the woman. Then softly, she kissed him on the lips.
Emily was tired of the boy’s constant drain of affection but now caught sight of his inner strength, she so desperately craved. She watched his scrutiny fluctuate across his brow, her eyes flinching with every ripple begging almost in anticipation.
With a sense of reasoning, Joe looked down at her again. Instead of searching for her love, he pulled her close.
A touch of love Page 3
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By A Mere Accident – was first published in 1904 by the author E Nesbit, an English author and poet best known for her children’s books such as; The Railway Children, The Story Of The Treasure Seekers, and The Woodbegoods. A consequential utterance caused by a mere accident could change his life forever. Although a questionable chance encounter leads to a dramatic change of events, this short story has a definite twist. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few – slight – changes to enhance a more modern reading experience, we hope you enjoy this short but delightful tale.
By A Mere Accident
Her fresh, fair face glowed like a pink rose between the dark lustre of her sables and the frame of soft hair which repeated, with the softness of an echo, the sables’ colouring of mingled brown and black. The white, wintry sunshine struck through the railway carriage window and made jewels of her blue, Irish eyes. Railway rug and Gladstone, muff, and handbag were grouped about her. On the blue cushion at her side lay a sheaf of papers and reviews freshly reaped from the bookstall. On her green cloth lap lay a great bunch of violets.
“They will be companions,” said the man who stood at the carriage door. “Don’t let them talk too much, or they will bore you.”
“Could violets possibly bore one?”
“These might if they did their duty and spoke of me.”
She laughed, but she did not look at him.
“Your boxes are all right, and your bicycle’s in the van at the back, and here is your ticket. You are sure you prefer solitude? Your aunt will regret having allowed me to see you off, and your mother will tell me that I ought to have secured for you the travelling companionship of at least one tabby.”
“I prefer the violets.”
Here the guard locked the carriage door, the man stood leaning his arms on the window, and passengers passing along the crowded platform scowled at the possessive set of his shoulders.
A jar, a whistle, a flag waved, and the train began to shudder and to move. The man kissed the smoothly gloved hand that lay on the window and drew back. As he did so, another man came up the platform running with great strides, caught at the handle of the door, shook it, and as it resisted, leapt on the step of the carriage, amid the shouts of porters, and was borne out of the station clinging to the carriage door.
“The door’s locked,” she said from within.
The man on the step thrust a bag through the window on to the seat and felt in his pocket. Then he moved a couple of feet past the carriage door, unlocked it with a railway key, stepped into the carriage, and closed the door after him.
“That was a near thing!” he said. And now, for the first time, the fellow-travellers looked in each other’s face.
His mouth grew stern. The pink faded from her face, and a greenish pallor crept up to the blue eyes.
“You!” she said.
He looked at her critically — raised his hat without speaking, and busied himself with the straps of his bag. From this, he took a book and in it read sedulously, never raising his eyes.
She watched him by stolen glances, always met by the defence of his drooping lids. The lids were broad and white, and she knew well what manner of eyes they covered. Eyes mocking, disdainful, yet capable of a rare tenderness — besides which the consistent kindness, the open worship of other eyes seemed hardly worth the having. A handsome man for the rest — big and broad-shouldered, and with the masterful air beloved of dogs and servants and women.
Grown bolder, she watched him now no more by fleet, snatched instants, but steadily, as the train rattled and swung in its gathering speed. She looked at the firm hands that held the book. A year ago, those hands had held hers; she trembled at the memory of their touch. She looked at his lips — firm, smooth, pale lips, set in a thin line. A year ago those lips . . .
It was at this moment that he raised his eyes and looked at her. A hot blush covered her face and ears, and neck. He looked at her for one brief instant — a faint amusement in his half-closed eyes — and resumed his reading.
“Oh, don’t read!” she said desperately. “The train doesn’t stop for hours. Surely you won’t keep three hours’ silence with an old acquaintance just because . . .”
He laid down the book at once.
“I beg your pardon,” he said courteously. “You were so well provided with travelling companions that I feared to force the conversation of another on you.”
His glance rested on her papers for an instant and — for a longer instant — on the violets.
She laid the flowers on the cushion beside her.
“I am going to be married on Monday,” she said abruptly.
“Christmas Day,” he said, smiling. “A thousand congratulations. A curious day, though, to have chosen.”
“He chose it,” she said, “and I could not . . . “
“He chose it? He makes the most of his privileges. And so you are to be Mrs. . . . ?”
“I am to be Lady Leamington,” she said.
“You are going to marry him?” The scorn in his voice stung her like a whip.
She raised her head proudly.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate,” she said and took up the Nineteenth Century.
And now it was he who watched her, with a gaze so fixed that she felt it in every nerve. Suddenly he shrugged his shoulders and moved to the seat opposite hers. She drew back her skirt as if from contamination. Then he spoke.
“Of all the virtues, I have always supposed reticence to be the most admirable, as it is the rarest. I have striven to practice it. Therefore, when you broke off our engagement, I did not seek to justify myself. Pride may have been for something in my silence also — I scorn to deny it. I own that my pride suffered when I found that you could throw me away at the first word from a stranger.”
She made a movement to speak, but he went on: “It was foolish, I admit; but, you see, I thought you loved me. It would be best if you made allowance for the other delusions that followed on that. The point is that I was not going to defend myself since you — who ought to have defended me — if you had loved me, I mean, of course — set yourself as my accuser. But that’s all over, thank God! I can now feel a sincere, if slight, interest in your welfare — as an old friend, and I think I ought to tell you the unpleasant truth about Lord Leamington, your fortunate bridegroom.”
“I wish you wouldn’t talk like a book,” she said. “If you want to abuse my future husband, do it in plain English.”
“I will,” he said. “He told you that he found a girl in my rooms at midnight and that her arms were around my neck. You asked me if this were true. I admitted it. You asked for no explanation, and I gave none.”
“No explanation,” she began angrily, “could have . . . “
“No — I know, but now it is different. I can’t let an old friend marry that man in ignorance of the facts. He had arranged to call for me at twelve; I had an article to finish, and we were going on to the Somersets’ ball. At about a quarter to twelve, I opened the door to a knock. It was not Leamington, but this girl. I knew her very slightly. She had lost her last train to Putney, Peckham, or somewhere — would I help her? It was like a scene in a play, don’t you know. I was Discretion absolute — left the door open — gave her wine and biscuits and proposed to charter a homeward cab for her. Then came Leamington’s step on the stair, and at that, as at a signal, she flung her arms around my neck. I should feel like a hairdresser’s apprentice telling you this, but I know now why it was done. It was Leamington’s last cast for you, and he threw the double six, confound him!”
She looked at him with shining eyes.
“Is this true?” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“You never asked me.”
“It is only your word against his . . . “
“After a few years of married life, you will be better able to judge of their relative values,” he said, leaning back in his corner.
She lifted the violets to her face — the cool freshness of them was like a child’s kiss.
“Charles,” she said softly and threw the violets out at the open window.
He smiled. “So he did give you the violets? And you believe my word, and not his.”
“Charles,” she said again and reached out a timid hand towards him.
His face grew stiff and set.
“You understand my motives?” he said coldly. “I could not see any old friend married to a liar and a blackguard without a word of warning.”
“I was only — I wanted to shake hands with my old friend — to show that he forgives me.” She hardly knew what she was saying.
He touched her hand for a moment and let it drop.
“There is nothing to forgive,” he said. “I had almost forgotten the circumstance till your face reminded me of it.”
“You are cruel,” she said, “and not even polite. Why haven’t you punished him?”
“I punched his head,” he said coolly. “One does not go further on such slight quarrels.”
“You are positively insulting,” she said.
“I think I meant to be. I beg your pardon. You should be flattered. Correctly analyzed, my rudeness should show you that my vanity still suffers at the touch of a careless hand.”
She looked appealingly at him and presently spoke . . .
“Charles, couldn’t you forgive me? Don’t you love me at all now?”
He smiled kindly at her. “My dear lady, all is forgiven — and forgotten!”
She turned her head to the window so that he should not see her eyes. With a shriek and a rumble, the train passed into a tunnel. The roar of it rang in her ears, and the tears ran down her face on to the sables. Two shrieks from the engine — the train quivered and shook with the sudden stress of the brakes. Then came another shriek, a crash — and — the biggest accident of the year, as the Northern express ran full into the slow local rear lights.
The first-class carriage where pride and love had fought lay battered and overturned on the up-fine. The deafening noise of steam, the clamour of voices, the wailing of children, the cries of women rang out in the arch of the tunnel. But in the first-class carriage, there was silence and darkness, for, with the shock, all the lights had gone out.
Presently in the darkness, a match spurted. He raised himself on one elbow and tried to drag his other arm from under the wood that imprisoned it. The arm was tightly wedged, and he felt that it was broken. He lit another match, his teeth set in agony, and looked around for her. She was lying quite near him, yet not within reach, all twisted up, a heap of dark cloth and furs. Her eyes were closed, and there was blood on the ghastly white of her face.
“My darling! My darling!” he cried, and with that, he tore at his imprisoned arm to free it — that he might get to her — fought and tore till from sheer pain he went out of life.
When the sufferers were drawn out of the wreck one by one, he and she were among the last to be released. He regained his consciousness in the anguish of that release.
They bound up his arm and her head, and, clinging to each other, they tottered out of the tunnel by the light of the torches and climbed into the relief train. It was crowded with pale, bandaged faces and limbs swathed in white.
“I shall get out at the first station,” he said, and his voice was coldly polite. “By the way, I didn’t quite understand. Does your wedding take place on Christmas morning?”
She leaned a little against his uninjured shoulder, and so closely was the carriage packed that he could not draw away.
“If you wish it,” she said.
“I beg your pardon?” he questioned courteously.
“Oh, hush!” she whispered. “You cannot go on pretending any more now. When you thought I was dead, you called me your darling. Do you remember?”
“You are mistaken,” he said, but she answered with eyes that laughed at him from under the white bandage.
“Don’t scowl at me. I am not a bit afraid of you. Nothing matters now. I know that you love me. You will see — I shall have everything my own way. Dear, put the naughty, black dog up the chimney; I have no pride now — I am going to be your darling . . . “
Under the sables, her hand, in its torn, grimy glove, slipped into his. He clasped it and: “You have exorcised the devil,” he said softly, and her fingers clung to his.
“Say it, again — now you know that I am not dead.”
So he whispered in her ear in that crowded carriage the most banal of love’s banalities: “My darling!” and then, for a time, they spoke no more.
It was at the first stopping-place that he said: “I had better come home with you and explain to your people the immutable nature of our intentions.”
“Yes,” she said.
“And you must telegraph to Lord Leamington. Writing won’t do — a wire the moment the offices are open.”
“And — my darling — Christmas Day is a very – good day to be married on . . . “
The Kiss – was first published in 1907 by the author E Nesbit, an English author and poet who is best known for her children’s books such as; The Railway Children, The Story Of The Treasure SeekersThe Woodbegoods. This short story is ablaze with colour and intrigue – leaving you completely spellbound – deep in the heart of an English country garden. Although, The Kiss is not one of the authors’ better-known works, it can capture the pure essence of love in its purest of forms. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few – slight – changes to enhance a more modern reading experience, we hope you enjoy this short but delightful tale.
Their first meeting was in the long gallery among the Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities at the British Museum. Enthusiast though he was, he was tired, as human souls are tired, with the cold reserve of carved stone – the imperturbable mystery of these old kings and gods who had kept for thousands of years amid the shifting sands of the desert, their immemorial secrets. His eyes ached with the scrutiny of minute and delicate detail. Then suddenly, his eyes rested on her, fair and laughing and full of the joy of life, and his soul rejoiced because there was still a youth in the world and secrets that no kings and gods had the power to keep from the sons of men who walk the earth today.
She came along the gallery between two other girls, but he did not see these as living creatures – only as dark figures against the light of her presence. It was not till they three were close to him that he became aware of her and looked up. Their eyes met and stayed together in a look that lasted a very long time – almost half a minute. She came up quite close to him, always with those others that did not count, and then abruptly, the three turned to the right, and the swing doors of the refreshment room vibrated behind them.
Then he tried to analyse that look of hers – not bold or provocative, yet with no timidity, no bashfulness, no self-consciousness. It was the look of one who trusts the world and thinks well of it. Many girls nowadays have that frank, fearless look. The qualities that made them look worth analysing were two: its length and a quality of recognition.
Did she know him?
Had he ever met her before? No, he could not have forgotten her. He lingered in the gallery till she and her companions came back through the swing doors. This time she had no eyes for him. He strolled the way they went, noted all down the Roman gallery the grace of her free gait, saw her disappear into the reading-room, and went home.
His home was in Kent, and he was going to say good-bye to it for a while – for next week he started for the East, to watch, under cloudless skies, paid and uninterested workers scraping at the earth to bring to light such cold witnesses to old faith and loyalty and love as lined the gallery where he had met her.
The last days were full. His father, who stayed at home and wrote the books for which Neville gathered the materials, had many last words to say. Also, his type-writing girl had gone off ill, and there was a delay in getting another. So Neville spent a good many hours in the work secretaries are paid for. His aunt, who adored him, wanted his opinion on the new Dutch garden that was now a bit of meadow beyond the orchard and was to be a blaze of formal beauty when he came home again.
“You’ll think about that mass of yellow tulips and forget-me-nots when you are boiling your brains in Egypt,” she said.
“I’m not imaginative enough,” he told her. “I shall see the old garden as I always do, and the rose arches all red and pink and yellow, and my nice aunt snipping off the dead flowers with a pair of rusty scissors.”
“Aren’t there any flowers out there?” she asked.
“Oh, yes, cactus flowers, but they’re not pleasant to pick. It’s difficult to believe that spring really will come again, isn’t it? when one sees the bare brown trees and the heaps of dead leaves.”
“But all the flowers are there under the leaves,” said the aunt, “and spring really will come again.”
The aunt was right. Spring did come again. And with its coming came Neville Underwood from the dry East. He sent his luggage up from the station in the dog-cart that came to meet him, and he walked up through the woods in the splendour of one of those afternoons when May takes the rôle of July and plays the part perfectly.
The beeches were thick with bright light leaves. The elms were fully dressed; only the oaks stood almost bare. The undergrowth of hazel and sweet chestnut was dense and fresh. Through its moving green, the sun made a golden haze and the shadows of the leaves danced on a pathway that was all green grass and glad little thriving wild weeds.
“Dear God, but it’s good to see green woods again,” he said.
And it was here, among the woods, that he met her the second time. In the middle of that wood is a carrefour, an open space of bright fine grass, and from it, four broad green rides run, straight as arrows, dip and dwindle and grow invisible with distance. The ground is green, the undergrowth is green, and the new fronds of bracken and the trees overhead. And in all this green, a note of deep blue is likely to take the eye of the gazer.
It took him through a tangle of woodbine and wild rose trails. He went about and skirting the thicket came to a little clearing. A tree had been cut down, and its branches lopped. And here was the blue; it was a girl’s dress, and the girl herself lay on the ground, her head on a cushion of green leaves, one hand clenched on her breast and the other by her side; her body thrown there, with all the abandonment of a tired kitten that sleeps in the sun at flat full length. So still she lay he could hardly believe that she slept. He stood and gazed at her. It was still there, in the warm wood; not a hair of her loosely bound locks stirred. Was she asleep? Could she have fainted?
A keener question pierced him suddenly. There were crimes – even in England. One read about them in the newspapers. He came nearer – stooped beside her. His hand hesitated. Could one – dared one, lay one’s hand under the heart of a strange lady, no matter what mad fear suddenly caught one? And he did not know her. All he remembered of her was her eyes, and these were shut. Perhaps he would never have known her if she had kept them closed. But, as he, kneeling, stooped more nearly to listen for her breathing, her eyes opened, and he knew her. Her eyes opened, she smiled sleepily.
It was impossible. There he stood in the wood, and there she lay, eyes closed, motionless as ever. Could one have these momentary dreams? Were woods sometimes enchanted, as old tales would have one to believe? For it had certainly seemed to him that she had opened her eyes, smiled and then – that she had put up an arm, soft and firm through the sun-warmed linen of its sleeve, had caught him round the neck, drawn his face down to hers till he had kissed her on the lips. Incredible, impossible. And further, it had seemed to him that his kiss had only been given as a response, an unavoidable response.
So he stood, looking at her, and now he saw that whether he had dreamed this or not, she was not dead, nor fainting, but equably asleep. At any rate, the deep, soft breathing that stirred the blue linen over her bosom, the eyelids deep-drooped, and with never a flicker of awakening, the limp abandon of the hands told of nothing but sleep – deep sleep. Only now, the pallor of her face was flushed with rose-colour.
He stepped back through the quiet green and walked home through the part of the wood which was not enchanted. The warm touch of her mouth was on his all the way. But it vanished when the aunt’s soft faded cheek lay against his lips, and the brilliant patchwork of the Dutch garden shut out the green woods of magic happenings. The happy dance of the leaves in the greenwood paled before the father, full of glad questionings and comments, his trembling hands stirring deep drifts of rustling leaves – notes for the new book, on all sorts of odd scraps of paper – it was good to be at home where one was so loved, so desired. And he told himself that he must have fallen asleep in the wood. Most certainly, the girl from the Museum could never have fallen asleep there.
Tea was served under the copper-beech.
“Are you expecting anyone?” Neville asked, for the cups were four.
“Only Phil—your father’s secretary, I mean,” said the aunt. “Ah, here she comes. . . “
And of course, it was the girl from the Museum who came across the lawn in her blue dress, with a hat that hung from her arm by knotted strings.
Neville heard the aunt speak kindly to the girl, heard his name and another name, and found himself bowing to the girl whose lips – But he heard nothing distinctly because of the horrible new certainty that sprang at him. It was true. It was no vision. This girl whose eyes had haunted him among the Egyptian tombs more than once and more than twice – this demure girl who was his father’s secretary, this girl had really of her own free will drawn down the head of a perfect stranger with that arm now reached out for her teacup, had drawn it down till the stranger’s lips lay on hers. “It was beautiful in the woods,” she was saying.
She was sitting there – talking to his aunt and his father quietly, as if nothing had happened. She, who had kissed a stranger in a wood. Had she never thought to meet him again. Just the passing kiss, the moment of pale stolen fire, and now she had met him, what would she do? Nothing, she would brazen the whole thing out. Horrible. But she had not been able to help blushing. It was that deep a slow-fading blush that had enlightened him had shown him that it was no vision that she also remembered. A burning crimson blush, over face and ears and neck; and the aunt had said:
“I hope you haven’t hurried, dear, in this heat.”
And she had said: “I didn’t want to be late for tea.”
He handed bread and butter to her. She was not blushing now.
“Oh, bother,” said Neville to himself, “now all the peace and pleasure is gone. It won’t be like home with a wicked little cat like that about the place.”
She was pretty, he decided, much prettier than he had thought her at the Museum. Pretty and in an open-eyed, candid-looking way that did not rhyme with that girl’s disgraceful conduct in the wood.
She went away, presently, with the father to garner into sheaves those loose leaves of notes. Then Neville heard how she was the daughter of Grantham, the great Egyptologist, dead these three years, how she was very clever at her work, outstanding company, and altogether a dear child.
“But you mustn’t fall in love with her, Neville,” the aunt said, “and thank Heaven you’re not given to that sort of thing.”
“Thank Heaven I’m not! But why mustn’t I?”
“Because she’s got a sweetheart already.”
“She would have,” he told himself, “a sweetheart – half-a-dozen most likely.”
“How I know is that Mr Maulevere asked her to share his heart and vicarage – yes – before she’d been here a month. I thought it would be a perfect thing for her, for he’s really not bad, is he? And she is quite without means. However, she’s so well connected. But no. Then I got it out of her that there’s someone else.”
“I congratulate her,” said Neville lazily. “The jasmine’s late this year, isn’t it? “
“The jasmine flowers in July,” said the aunt severely, “and I congratulate him. For if ever there was a dear, good, kind, unselfish girl —“
“Then I congratulate you,” he said, “and no doubt it’s lucky for me that I’m not given to that sort of thing.'”
It was “that sort of thing” – an unworldly romance – that had in his teens caused Neville’s relations to send him, for change of scene, to Southern climes. In other words, he had gone with one of Cook’s tourist tickets to Egypt, and there, his father’s hobby, hitherto a sealed and dull-seeming book to him, had suddenly grown to be the most important thing in the world.
He had come back to England, cured of his passion for poor vulgar Annabel, with the red hair, flaxen at the roots, and the black eyelashes and brows that were white when the dye was off them. He came back cured, despising love and wearing round his neck a charm that a gipsy woman from the desert had given him when he had saved her life from the keen blade of one who had been her lover.
“Wear it always,” she had said; “it will keep you from unworthy loves.” And it, or something else – had kept him. “It has a further power,” the woman had added, “but that you will learn when the time comes.”
He was not a superstitious man, but he wore the amulet. It did not keep him from the remembrance of an arm around his neck, lips on his – the shameless effrontery of a worthless girl.
“I hope,” said the aunt anxiously when the father had gone to his study and Philomela to her bed, “I do hope you’re not going to dislike that girl. You hardly spoke to her all the evening.”
“Didn’t I?” he said. “I’ll do better tomorrow.”
So next morning when he saw her gown, it was mauve to-day – among the little orange trees, in tubs that had just been moved out of the greenhouse, on to the end of the terrace, he went across the grey crooked flag-stones to her.
“Good morning,” he said, and he could hardly have said less.
“What a beautiful old place it is,” she said pleasantly. “I wonder whether you know how lucky you are to have been born here.”
“It’s old certainly,” he said, “and extremely shabby.”
“That’s part of the charm,” she said; “wealthy people never have anything beautiful because they always pay someone to make it for them. But look at the new garden. Miss Underwood and I made that . . . oh, of course, Sam did the dull digging, but he’s as proud of it as we are. We put in all the bulbs, made plans and everything.”
She was talking without a trace of embarrassment.
“That’s true,” said he.
“And having the drawing-room re-papered. That was an event. It took us a week to choose the paper. Now Really Rich People who can have their rooms papered whenever they like! And the orange trees, you don’t know how we’ve nursed them all winter. If Miss Underwood could buy new ones when these died, why they’d be nothing.”
He liked her voice, the turn of her head and her eyes – he had always liked her eyes.
“I do not like you at all,” he said inwardly -“oh, not at all. You shall not make me like you.”
But he stayed talking with her in the little wood of orange-trees till the aunt had laid away the jingling housekeeping keys and joined them on the terrace. Then she went to her work in the library. He strolled in presently to talk over the book with his father.
“You won’t mind Miss Grantham staying with us?” said the father. “She can take down everything you say in shorthand – and as she’ll have the whole transcribing of the book to do . . .“
“Of course – of course,” said Neville. In that morning, he found out that Miss Grantham was not only pretty but clever. That she knew more about his special subject than any woman he had ever met.
“Curious,” he said to himself as he strolled into lunch. “Curious how I dislike that girl.”
Dislike her, he might, but it was impossible not to talk to her, as it is not to answer an amiable and intelligent child. She was not childish or even childlike, but she seemed so unconscious of any reason why she should not talk to him. And there were so many things to talk about. The book, the garden, the old house: the growing glory of spring putting on the vestments of summer, the brasses in the old church, the new green of the aspens in the churchyard.
It was one day when the haze of great heat turned the woods blue and the far hills violet that they stood by the broken balustrade of the terrace and looked out over the fields of flowering grass dimpled by the wind.
Her eyes were fixed on the wood: the wood.
“I wonder,” he said suddenly and quite without meaning to say it, “why you blushed so when my aunt introduced me to you.”
She blushed again now and turned her face away to gaze down the uneven line of the grey parapet.
“Why was it?” he urged.
“I did hope you hadn’t noticed,” she said.
“Noticed? My dear Miss Grantham, it was like a regiment of soldiers in the sunlight. No one could have helped noticing it. Was it surprise at seeing someone else there having tea?”
He gave her that loop-hole because suddenly he found that he was sorry for her. After all, she had done him no harm. Save for that one shocking incident in the wood she had been to him; a girl should be to a man in whose father’s house she is a well-paid servant and an honoured guest. She had been courteous, dignified, useful, amusing . . .
“No,” she said, avoiding the loop-hole, “it wasn’t surprising, because of course, I knew you were coming. But I didn’t know it would be you.”
He wished then very earnestly that he had not begun to ask questions.
“Oh, never mind,” he said quickly, “it doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“It was an impertinent question.”
“No, no,” she said eagerly. “I’ve often wanted to tell you. I knew you’d noticed me blushing in that insane way. It was because I met you once at the British Museum – of course, you don’t remember it.”
“But of course I do,” he interrupted.
“I hoped you wouldn’t,” she said, “because I stared at you. Honestly, I didn’t know I’d done it till afterwards, and I stared at you for quite a long time – and then. When I saw you at tea on the lawn here – I remembered, and I hoped you wouldn’t.”
“But why did you stare at me, as you call it – in the Museum, I mean?”
“I don’t know,” she said very earnestly. “I can’t think. It was as if I’d seen you before and been looking for you. Then suddenly, there you were. I believe I expected you to shake hands. It was as if we were old friends. It does sound most ludicrous. Do you think one ever has moments when one is quite mad?”
“I do,” he said earnestly. “I do indeed; I’ve had moments when I’ve fancied the most extraordinary things. But they’ve not been true,” he added stoutly, “any more than it was true that we’d met before that day at the Museum.”
“Are you sure we never met before – at a dance or anywhere? Oh, yes, I used to go to heaps of dances before father – when father was here. Are you sure that we never met before?”
“Quite,” he said. “I should never have forgotten it if we had.” His tone was one she had never heard.
And now he was quite certain that the hollow in the wood and the sleeping blue figure and the round arm and all the rest of it had been only a vision, queer and unaccountable, but still a vision. The certitude made a new heaven and a new earth for him. How could he ever have thought that she, she who was all that a man’s ideal lady should be, could ever have put an arm around the neck of a stranger and – but why go over the silly tale again?
However, the silly tale sang itself to him day and night like a song of the joy of all the world. He had felt her lips, though it had been but in a vision, and all his visions now, sleeping and waking, were of a time when he should touch those lips again.
He and she and the father worked hard at the book, often late into the night, but there were golden mornings and silver evenings when the garden was grey in starlight, and the white moon fell into the river and lay there looking up at her reflection in the deep calm sky.
The aunt and the father looked on and saw that more and more, in all the hours that the book did not claim, the two were together. And they were glad.
“If only he can make her forget the other one,” said the aunt, “he’ll never find such another – kind, gentle, sweet. . . “
“And clever!” said the father, “and patient. And pretty, too.”
“That doesn’t matter so much,” said the aunt, “but she’s so modest and sweet and – she has a perfect genius for gardening.”
“And for our sort of work,” the father said. “I don’t suppose there’s another girl alive with eyes like hers who knows shorthand, and the Egyptian and Assyrian script, and how to be always handy and never in the way.”
“I must make her forget the other man, confound him,” said Neville, and wondered savagely whether the other man had ever had wild, extraordinary visions in woodland places.
Then came the wet day, the last of three, when the river was grey and lashed with rain, and the garden lay drenched and the roses, bowed, mud-splashed, drooped and dripped. Philomela covered her head with the aunt’s waterproof and ran through the rain and the wild west wind to the stone summer house at the end of the terrace. There was an unglazed window that looked eastward; from it, one could look out, sheltered and safe, at the green seething wetness of meadow and wood.
Here he found her. He came behind her as she sat on the stone seat, and she did not turn her head.
“Philomela,” he said; his voice was low.
“Yes,” she said.
Standing at her shoulder, he put his hand under her chin and turned her face up till he could see it.
“Philomela,” he said again, “Is there anyone else?”
“No,” said she.
Then he touched her lips and knew, at the touch, that it was not for the first time. That – is the wood – it had not been a vision. It had been real – real as this, real as his despair.
Yet he would be sure.
“Philomela,” he said her name for the third time, “have you ever fallen asleep in a wood?”
“Yes,” said she, and once more, the crimson flush covered neck and brow and ears.
“In that wood?” It lay below them drenched in misty desolation.
“The day I came home?”
“God forgive you,” he said, turned, and left her.
He went for a long walk in the rain.
That night at dinner, the aunt and the father were surprised to learn that Neville was going to town by the early train in the morning; it was uncertain when he would return. He ate little and spoke of business too long neglected and thought he should go by the 6.15 before any of them were up.
He stayed up late that night, packing everything in a raging fury of energy. O — how he had loved her – he did love her – and she was – that. There was no room in his brain for fatigue. There was only room for this furious anger against the woman who had made him love her – and she, herself unworthy of the love of any man.
It must have been two in the morning when the fire of resentment began to burn lower, and he suddenly found he was hungry. There would be less chance of sleep than ever if he were hungry. He was not young enough to spite his stomach to be revenged on his heart. Then down he went into the dining-room where the sideboard was, with the sherry and the biscuits and the cake. He lit the candles in the silver candlesticks on the mantelpiece. Something moved close to him.
“Who’s there?” he said. The candles turned clear, and Philomela rose from the big chair that was his father’s. She wore the grey dress she had worn at dinner, and her face seemed grey, too.
“What on earth are you doing here?” he asked roughly.
“I’m waiting to see you off,” she said. “You know I’ve got to speak to you. It can’t end like this. People don’t do such things.”
“Leave women as you left me – after – Oh, how I hate you! How dare you kiss me?”
“I might ask the same question,” he sneered.
“You might . . ?”
“Yes,” he said brutally. “And I will ask it. How dare you kiss me? Down there in the wood. How dared you put your arm around a stranger’s neck and draw his head down till he kissed you?”
“I – you think I did that?”
“I know it.”
“But how – when?”
“You know well enough – the day I came home.”
“But,” she said slowly, and her eyes did not flinch from his as the two stood in the darkened room with the candles’ steady light on their confronted faces, “if you know this, you’ve always known it. Then why – all this time . . ?”
“I couldn’t believe it. I thought afterwards; it must have been a vision, a dream, a hallucination of the senses. How could I believe that you – you seemed so different – you – a stranger – shameless.”
“Then if you couldn’t believe it then, why believe it now?” Her voice was cold and toneless.
“Because I kissed you again – fool that I was. When I felt your lips, I knew it was not the first time – I knew, and you confirmed it; you owned that you’d been asleep in the wood that day, and you blushed – good God, girl, did you expect me to go on with it after that?”
She picked up one of the candlesticks, looked at it attentively, set it down very carefully in its place. Then she turned to him.
“Listen to me,” she said. “First of all, I’ll never see you, speak to you again as long as I live. If you could think that I – oh – how could anyone think it!”
The anger in her voice was fuel to the anger in his heart.
“But – great God in heaven, you can’t mean to try to brazen it out! I didn’t think – you did it.”
“I’m going to tell you the truth,” she said, facing him. “I don’t care whether you believe me or not. I was asleep in the wood that day, and I dreamed that you were there – and, and that it all happened as you say. And then I woke, and you were standing there. And I pretended to be asleep.”
“But why – why did you pretend that?“
“How could I look you in the face after dreaming that?“
“And you never thought that perhaps it wasn’t a dream?”
“How should I? Why! – Oh, you shall have the whole truth. That day I saw you at the Museum, I knew you, though I’d never seen you and never dreamed of you. And ever since that, I’ve dreamed of you almost always. That – is the wood was only a dream-like another.”
“Always of me? Never of anyone else?”
“No,” she retorted scornfully, “never of anyone else – goodbye.”
She turned to go, but he caught her arm roughly.
“Let me go – you hurt,” she said, but he said, “No, not yet. You shall tell me everything. Did you kiss me in your other dreams?”
“Yes,” she said defiantly, throwing back her head, “but in my other dreams, I loved you – and you loved me. No – no – I will never forgive you, never. Let me go. It’s no good. I hate you. I wish I’d never seen you. No, no, no.”
He had not spoken, but his eyes had implored.
“No,” she cried, “no, I will never forgive you, never. Oh, how could you, how could you – “
“Don’t cry – ah, don’t,” he whispered with his arms around her.
“Here,” she said presently, lifting her head from his shoulder and feeling among the laces of her bodice, “my father told me to wear this always and to give it to the man I loved when I was certain he loved me. He said it would keep me from unworthy loves.”
He took it from her hand. It was an amulet. “Oh, but – ” he said and showed her the one he wore – its counterpart.
“Yes,” she said, “I knew you had that. Your aunt told me. So then I knew that nothing could part us.”
“But you said you’d never speak to me again—you’d never forgive me.”
“Ah,” she said, “yes – I said that,”
The pink flush of sunrise was over the drenched garden as they opened the French window and stepped out onto the terrace. She stopped and faced him.
“Now I’m quite, quite sure,” she said. “I want to tell you one thing. Then there won’t be even a shadow between us.”
“There is none now,” he said.
“That day – in the wood – sometimes I have wondered, whether it was a dream. And yet, I thought it couldn’t be true. But I did wonder if it could— really be only another dream like the others.”
“Come, let’s go and walk in the rose garden,” she said, pulling at his hand.
“But why,” he persisted, “shouldn’t it have been a dream, like the others?”
“I – you – the kisses in the dreams were quite different,” she said.
A Touch Of Love is a short story by A I Moffat, who conjures up the innocence of a young boy who struggles to understand why reality should come in the way of his affections. Emily soon becomes increasingly concerned that she has made a dreadful mistake yet finds herself drawn to his innocence time and time again. Just a touch of love has awoken a child who lived in an imaginary world of his own, afraid of allowing his real depth to be exposed. An illustrated short story of intrigue which captures the imagination. We hope you enjoy a touch of love.
‘I’m not sure -’ she hesitated.
The boy lay at her side with his back to her, plucking the long blades of grass in front of him, then flicking them to one side. Not one thing, he pondered had he said or done all day had pleased her, now he just wanted to be free of her constant; what-ifs and his apparent inability to understand.
‘Joe!’ She insisted.
Childish, he thought, must be her favourite word. ‘Yes! I heard you,’ he sighed, flicking the next blade of grass straight up into the air, ‘sure about what?’
‘Well, you know— ’ she glanced over him, ‘about us!’
Us! – He repeated to himself whilst shaking his head, ‘you mean – me!’ he mumbled.
As if she had not made that perfectly obvious, the boy frowned. Now it just seemed like the only thing that mattered to her was what everyone else thought; how could Charlotte know what to do for the best? His eyes slowly fell into her imaginary embrace, the absolute warmth of her he so desperately yearned.
Again the girl persisted, ‘Joe!’
His eyes half opened, then fell heavily before bursting into a vacant stare as he pondered what she expected him to say. In frustration, he grabbed a large tuft of grass and pulled it straight from the sodden earth.
Emily sat quietly, staring in patience at her thoughts closely entwined within her clasp; with each unfolding finger came another uncertain notion.
Suddenly the boy rose to his feet, clutching the sodden clump in his hand until he was standing directly over her.
‘What are you doing?’ She asked in a disapproving tone.
The boy just smiled menacingly down at her.
Emily’s eyes tightened, ‘I’m— being serious.’
‘Nothing!’ The boy snapped, allowing himself to collapse at her feet.
Emily leaned forward and reached out to him; at first, he resisted, then his head turned slightly into her palm, and he kissed it gently. ‘I’m sorry— Joe, but I’m just so— tired and frightened.’
‘Me too,’ he murmured, leaning into her, ‘of losing you.’ Instantly he allowed his head to slip from her palm onto her lap.
‘Oh – Joe, you’re not losing me . . . ’
He felt her pity drop into an ever-increasing void, where once her words gave so much meaning. Again his eyes tightened to deafen the pain of reality and become submerged in the warmth of her embrace.
Again and again, he heard her distant torment of reason until finally, it shattered his delusion of any hope. Now only a sorceress maintained some degree of resistance as he lay craving her affection.
‘. . . And what about your poor mum?’ Emily insisted, ‘She will be devastated to find out – you had kept it a secret – from her,’
The beautiful sky blue eyes of the sorceress had suddenly faded into that of his mother, who now wielded a sword: Just – Do It! he screamed from within.
At times it was true. He felt it was wrong and was afraid of what she might do if ever she found out; he didn’t care about his dad, sister, or even brother, especially not Steve. Anyway, it was all over, and there was nothing he could do. He was going to die right there in her lap. Finally! He thought he would be free from the torment of his forbidden desire.
‘Steve might accuse you of abduction or trying to steal his child.’
Abduction! He found himself repeating over and over again.
‘Joe! Did you hear what I said?’
It was hopeless; she just wouldn’t let him be, all day he thought and not once had she allowed him to search the comfort of her. She was throwing him to the wolves, and he didn’t need to be twenty-one to understand that. His eyes lifted slowly, burdened by reality and her constant infliction. ‘Yes!’ He exclaimed, lifting his head, ‘You’re worried about my family,’ he smiled briefly in defeat.
‘Oh . . . Joe,’ her eyes flickered. ‘But – what if Steve was to find out?’
What was it that had changed from one day to the next? He thought as he stared straight into her eyes. He shrugged, ‘Doesn’t matter, and besides, he finished with you – remember.’
Her eyes slightly fell from him, ‘But are you sure – this is what you want, Joe?’
The boy leaned slightly in towards her, ‘Abduction, for goodness sakes,’ he tittered, pushing down hard against the tree stump until he was back on his feet. He looked down at her with a vague smile; it was no use for her to expect him to make it any easier; he just couldn’t; it would be like cutting his own throat.
Emily looked up as he turned and pushed his hands deep into the pockets of his trench coat. She smiled lightly as he stubbornly kicked out at the long blades of grass in front of him until he reached the edge of the brook. It was just the boys wanting Emily was sure of it, which made him so stubborn, so blind. She loved him with all of her heart, but there could never be a future for them, especially not now. Her smile faded with a nagging necessity to at least try and make him understand.
‘What a complete mess I’ve made of things,’ she called over to him.
‘I know – but – I,’ he stammered, ‘Well I thought you said . . . ’
‘I do, Joe, but – I’m frightened,’ she paused in thought. ‘So frightened, and it’s just so complicated. I do love you more than I ever loved him, but he’s the father and
‘And – ’ Joe cut in, ‘I’m just a silly mistake that should never have happened.’ He turned to face her, ‘But it did, and I – ’ his head fell, ‘love – you.’
As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.