When Tom was set to leave for three years to study the first years of his Medical degree under the renowned Master Jeffman, he went to find Laura.
She was sitting with her mother in the garden, swinging her foot beneath her, a laugh seemingly frozen on her face. He paused for a few moments; the roses grew up and about the trellis surrounding her stone bench, clustered together, so numerous and nodding in the soft breeze.
He approached them with a smile, and Laura looked towards him, eyes dancing.
‘Come and sit with us, Tom,’ she said gaily, ‘we are just enjoying the roses and the sunshine. What little of it we shall have before autumn sets in.’
‘I don’t know,’ Tom looked at the sky, ‘it looks like we shall have much of this sunshine yet,’
Mrs Smith stood up, ‘I have my calls to make, dears. I’ll see you for supper, Tom?’
‘Oh no. I sha’n’t stay that long,’ he said, ‘my train leaves in an hour. I only came to say goodbye.’
‘Goodbye?! I thought… John said… he mentioned you would be travelling together?!’
‘Ah yes. I will wait for him at the Halfway Point. I have some clouds to catch.’
Twinkle in his eye.
Laura’s mother shook her head, turning back towards the house, ‘My boy,’ she laughed, ‘Don’t let those young men at Jeffman’s take your joy.’
When she had gone, Laura patted the seat beside her.
‘Sit awhile,’ she said.
‘I don’t have much time,’ he scanned the garden, hands in pockets, then paced in front of her.
‘Laura,’ he began, then stopped abruptly.
‘Go on,’ she said gently.
‘As you know, I will be gone for three years. Four, maybe, if it goes as well as I hope,’ he looked earnestly at her then.
Her eyes were downcast, and he saw how tightly she gripped the edge of the stone seat.
He went on, ‘And I was hoping – well, it would be my greatest honour if… if you would wait for me.’
Her eyes met the brilliance of his. A sudden wind surged through the garden, and her shoulders rose up to he ears. Her eyes, usually dancing with light and laughter, brimmed with something he could not describe.
‘Tom, I..’ she began, and her voice was like a knife through his chest.
‘Just say yes,’ he whispered, defeat written all over his face.
‘I can’t promise you that, Tom,’ she said sadly.
He didn’t wait for an explanation. He could not. He did not know how he would react, whether his heart would write itself on his face, whether she would scorn him, or hold him in disdain.
‘Very well. Goodbye, Laura,’ he said, in as calm a voice as he could muster.
The he turned on his heel and walked down the path. She did not watch him go. She let the wind follow after him, she heard the wind whisper in his ears, and she strained to listen to what it said.
He asked her, and she said no.