Love Letters #49

Let me set the scene for you.

A candid evening. Why candid? I don’t know. Candles around the drawing room. Laura in her peach dress, flowing gently from her shoulders. Golden curls pinned up; it was the evening, she would unpin them soon. Aunt Abigail had rung the bell for supper. She would join Laura after seeing to her roses in the conservatory.

Laura gently arranged the pillows, setting the tables straight. She was purposeful in every movement, as though she wanted time to tick by slowly.

They had left in a hurry; John had a patient to see to and Mary wanted to go in the carriage so she could bundle the little puddings into their own beds. Hugs and kisses, sloppy ones from the darling angels, a sweet one from Mary, a squeeze on the arm, a murmur that she would see her soon. A hug for her brother, tall and grim, lips taut. He had a patient to get to.

Laura straightened up, sighed. There was a soft knock on the drawing room door. Supper.

‘Come in,’ she said, turning to the window to pull the drapes against the darkness outside.

She heard the door open so she turned around with a smile on her face – which then froze, lips halfway there, dimples just beginning to form. A painful drop in her heart. A throb in her chest. Tightening so she caught her breath. Then she composed herself quickly, one hand on her hair, the other to her neck. Her eyes didn’t meet his, they rested somewhere on his collar.

‘Hello, Tom.’ She smiled properly, moving towards the settee. Something else to look at.

‘Miss Smith.’

Another painful throb. She could die. In fact she would. Right there. That would show him.

‘Miss Smith? Come now!’ she smiled again, ‘How could you?’ a teasing lilt in her voice. She kept her smile, dimples dancing, and sat down, arranging her skirts around her as she did so.

‘Laura, then. I.. how are you?’

‘Oh, very well thank you. John and Mary left only moments ago. Did you not see them?’

‘I did. John was in a hurry to get to old Mrs Pettiforte.’

‘Yes, indeed.’

‘And my sister frazzled, as always.’

She heard, rather than saw, the smile on his face.

‘As is Mary’s way,’ Laura agreed. ‘We were not expecting you for another year,’ she said then, abruptly. Her eyes lifted to his face. He was looking directly at her, into her soul, even. Piercing, green. His face, so familiar, so different. Older, more tired. Drawn. Something in his look compelled her to look away again.

‘I know.’ He opened his mouth to say more. She saw him swallow, hard, search her face until she flushed. She waited for him to give her more information. She didn’t know what to ask. How to ask. She could not ask. So she looked at her sleeve and picked at it.

‘Aunt Abigail and I will have a light supper here by the fire,’ she said, after a short pause. ‘Please join us.’

‘With pleasure,’ he said. She felt the settee bend as he sat down next to her.

Supper arrived, as did Aunt Abigail. Larger than life, sailing into the room and immediately taking command. Fawning over Tom as though he were her own nephew, she took control of the conversation. She enquired after his studies and his work abroad. She lamented on the Medical profession, in turns berating it for taking Tom away from them all for such a long time, and praising him for his medical feats, saving lives and relieving discomfort. Laura was quiet through supper. She kept her eyes on the bread; thick slices with a beautiful golden crust. The butter spread generously on top. Beautifully cut slices of cheese, rich and deliciously fresh tomatoes from the vegetable garden. Her tea was milky and sweet. A nice meal.

It tasted like cardboard in her mouth though. There was a pain in her chest, a lump in her throat. Her eyes glittered brightly in the firelight, her cheeks flushed from the heat of the flames. She took her tea in gulps, but the lump in her throat would not budge. It grew larger as the evening lengthened, as she watched Tom become more comfortable, as she felt his eyes look her way a few times, questioning her silence.

Finally he stood up to leave.

‘A wonderful meal,’ he said, as he bid them goodnight.

‘Laura, see the boy out,’ her aunt said.

She dragged her feet. Smiled at him, followed him out the room and down the hall. He opened the front door and stepped out into the moonlight. A gust of cold air around her, and she shivered.

‘You’d best close that door,’ he warned, ‘no use getting a chill.’

‘It was good of you to come by,’ she told him. She still did not know what he was doing home a year early.

He didn’t say anything, forcing her to look up at him. Tall, dark with the light of the moon behind him. Crisp wintry air, stars alight in the heavens. She couldn’t see his eyes, nor the expression on his face. Yet she knew he was about to say something, for there was dread in his stance. His shoulders sank with heaviness, the joy he had displayed that evening around Aunt Abigail had left him completely.

‘Laura I…’ he began.

He cleared his throat. Then, abrupt, ‘Goodnight. Be warm.’

He turned and walked down the path. She felt as though a pack of wolves ought to have been chasing him, he should race away from her, she should throw her fury at him and shock the calmness out of him. Oh she could scream! His walk was a meander. He even paused to look at the sky, then back at her. Then he raised an arm in salute.

Fingers trembling, she shut the door upon his wave and stalked upstairs to bed. Not a word to her aunt, who Laura heard humming to herself as she marched past the drawing room.

Goodnight, indeed!

Love Letters #42

A basket of strawberries, over a slender brown arm, gleaming in the heady sun of July.

A basket of strawberries, and fields rolling away with greenery and promise. Insects buzzing in the thickets nearby, birds chirruping, as a soft breeze swooping through the very tips of the trees, a gentle swooshing sound, bringing a coolness that prickled the tiniest hairs on her skin.

Perhaps now she would turn, and would see a tall, handsome figure walking up the hill towards her. Perhaps he would call on her to wait for him. She would stand, alright, and wait for him, and when he joined her he would whisk her away somewhere. He would have his motorcar waiting, and they would sail into the horizon. Where would they go? She wasn’t entirely sure, but it would be somewhere great. She would look upon his face and a thread of understanding would pass from his eyes to hers. She stood, now, in the long, almost still, summer afternoon, at the crest of the hill, with the scenery rolling away from her, far into the distance, and shadows of clouds drifting lazily across the sunny landscape.

And so, so still, almost like a picture.

‘Hi! Laura! Hiiii!’

She whipped around, her basket almost slipping from her arm. A tall figure, marching up the hill towards her. He was waving his hat madly, certainly not her mysterious handsome stranger. He was handsome, there was no denying that. Handsome, but so… so … familiar. For it was only Tom.

‘Oh. It’s you.’ she said, when he had reached her, and she continued to pick her way across the field. She lifted her skirts a little, the meadow grass rising high above her hem.

‘You say that like you are disappointed,’ he said, there was a small twinkle in his eye, so slight, and it irritated her.

‘Am I not the handsome stranger you so anticipated?’

She looked sharply at him, but there was only amusement in his eyes. Bright, mirthful eyes, as blue as the deep sky all around them.

‘No, not disappointed,’ she said lightly, shifting the basket to her other arm. He glanced inside. Strawberries of all kinds and colours tumbled over each other, small ones, big ones, shaped like tomatoes and hearts, bright red, gentle pink, red tinged with white and green.

‘I’ve come to drag you back for supper.’

‘Much ado about supper,’ she picked a wild strawberry from her basket and popped it into her mouth, ‘I’m not hungry’.

‘Your sister sent me after you,’ he said, ‘I’m to bring you home immediately.’

‘Well you needn’t always do as you’re told,’ she scolded, severely, ‘I was rather enjoying my solitude and expecting to have an adventure, until you came along and dis-enthralled the occasion.’

‘Oh, I dis-enthralled the occasion, did I. And what occasion was this, that it commanded you to trail your muddy skirts in solitude through the fields?’

‘Never you mind!’ she snapped.

‘My, but you are sour today.’

She sighed, and then glanced at him. He was looking expectantly at her, and his face was so youthful, so carefree, and his eyes danced just so, in that boyish way of his, that she relented a little.

‘I was longing for an adventure,’ she said, finally, stooping a little to pick a wild stalk from by her feet, ‘and I supposed, when I saw your figure in the distance, that you might be it.’

He contemplated her for a few moments, and his face was blank, and then he erupted into loud laughter, and she laughed with him, because it was frivolous and silly, and he made it seem so carefree, and it made her happy.

‘Ah, hence the disappointment’, he said, wiping his eyes, ‘come now, Laura, your adventure shall not forsake you, but it is time to go back for supper, else they’ll all be mad, and we shall have a merry time of it.’

Irritation set in again, and made her square her shoulders, ‘need they be so .. so.. rigid!?’

‘They are worried,’ he smiled gently, ‘John isn’t here, so I expect I am your company for the evening, and your mother wanted to make sure that you were available for it, and behaved like the lady that you are.’

‘Lady, indeed!’

‘Well, is the promise of my being company not enough to entice your stubborn spirit?’

Laura threw her head back and laughed heartily, ‘Oh, Tom. Company, really?! You aren’t company anymore. You don’t need me there to entertain you, when all the others are there. You’re simply — why, you’re part of the furniture!’

He regarded her silently, and the laughter vanished from his eyes. She didn’t notice, for her back was to him, as she sailed along ahead of him.

The breeze rustled through the tall meadow grass, the buttercups and wild daises rippling in wonderful waves across the sloping hills, the wind pushing clouds along in the sky, the leaves gently conversing with each other in the distant thicket. A loud motorcar announced itself on the road just beyond the field, whizzing past in a flash of silver and red, and then silence once more. Silence and the earthly sounds of nature, and the two of them, picking their way through the field and on to the road, her ahead, him behind.

 

Love Letters #3

 

Dear Laura,

It has been five months. I haven’t had not a single reply from you. I can’t take this anymore, I feel a fool. I go daily to the post office to see if there is a letter from you. John receives weekly volumes from you detailing the lives of everybody including the cat, and I receive nothing. It disheartens a fellow, I tell you. Mary tells me you write to me. Perhaps she is wrong. The only letters I look out for are yours, Laura. 

Tom

****

Dear Laura,

I love you, I have always loved you, since the day I saw you wearing your blue dress and knocking Adam out with a great punch to his stomach, your golden curls askew. Your Mama was livid, I recall, and John was mighty embarrassed of his rogue little sister, disrupting the choir so. I fell in love with you and your passion, Laura. I couldn’t help myself. I loved you when you pushed me into the lake because I told you your dress was pretty, I loved you when you put a fish in my shoes because I gave Mary such a scolding. You made me laugh, you made me happy. I loved you when we all grew up and you pretended you were such a lady but really you were swinging on the barn swing while everybody was enjoying a demure dance at the party, your dress tied high around your waist. I am positively mad for you I can’t even begin to tell you. You bring laughter into my heart and you are so feisty and passionate and untameable but I want to tame you. I want to marry you, Laura, I want to be yours alone, and do away with the Williams and the Roberts and the Georges who spill all over the pages of your small novellas to John. To hell with them all. I want you.

****

Laura,

Please see the books I promised you in this parcel. 

Tom

****

Dear Laura,

I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know why I keep writing to you. You’re so changed when I see you, and promise me you’ll write, and laugh and jest with me just like old times, but when I’m gone its as though I don’t exist, and Johnny gets all his letters while I look on with burning jealousy. He is your brother, I know, but we are friends, are we not? Life here is hectic and busy. We dissected a human yesterday. It was mighty tough stuff, and some fellows of faint heart were quite overcome and had to be hauled out by the rest of us so we could carry on with our bloody work. You would have loved to be here, I know, and I thought of you as we examined the lungs. You will probably not reply to this, but know that John and I both miss you and Mary and the babies and everybody else, and look forward to seeing you all come the glorious long days of summer.

Tom

****

 

Dear Tom,

I miss you

I have been keeping busy here. It hasn’t been too cold this winter, and the crops have been kind to us. I’ve been fishing a few times with Mary, but she is really tired out by the twins. They are crawling everywhere now on their chubby hands and knees, gurgling at us like precious little angels with peachy cheeks. I am constantly popping over to Mary’s, I think her and Edmund must be quite sick of me! But oh I only go to drop my kisses on those babies and give them a nice little cuddle, soon they’ll be all grown up and flying off to their own little nests and oh how old I shall feel. Joyce Poole at the post office has had quite a spell, and has had to take some leave. Mr Poole’s sent her off to the seaside, and we waved her off at the train station. She’s been awfully cold with me lately and I couldn’t fathom why, until her Mama came over with a box containing all these letters addressed to me in your hand. Underneath my letters, were the ones (dozens and dozens of them!) that I’d written to you. Mrs Poole was beside herself and told me she didn’t quite know what to say and that Joyce really wasn’t herself. Oh Tom, I know what it’s all about. You took her to Margery’s coming out ball before you left, and left her quite heartbroken. Not a single letter, I’m told, and not even a proper goodbye. She was jealous, thinking, poor soul, that there was something going on between us, and so she thought she would put a stop to it by waylaying our correspondence, being in charge of the post, as she was. And there I would be, asking her for my post, rifling through the envelopes to see if there was anything from you! Anyway. That’s over now. I do blame you, though, you heartbreaker. I haven’t opened any of your letters, and shan’t until you get here. We can read them together and have a right old laugh, I think! Oh do hurry up and come back with Johnny in tow, we haven’t had any fun for a long time and Aunt Meg’s house needs brightening up.

Love,

Laura.

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