I think this is one of my favourite parts to Annabelle’s story so far, and without giving anything away, I will tell you that it sets the scene for what is to come in the next few posts. These are previous posts in Annabelle’s story:
On the Saturday they were going to go over to Chris’ home, Burt and Pearl Jennings knocked on Annabelle’s door several times to ask if she was alright. Each time, she would open the door still wearing her pyjamas and explain she had to finish something important she was working on. They left her in peace, trusting that she would be alright.
But at three o’clock in the afternoon Burt tapped on Annie’s door asking if she was going to have time to go for her walk before they went over to Chris’s home. Annie opened the door dressed in her jeans and a blue shirt. She told Burt that she was heading out now and would go to the Post Office first, and asked if he wanted her to pick anything up. Burt indicated he didn’t, but he tapped his watch and told Annie she needed to be back at five o’clock.
Annie felt a huge sense of relief after she passed the letter with it’s Air Mail sticker over to the Post Office clerk. She had poured out her heart in that letter. Surely he would respond to her heartfelt pleadings. On leaving the Post Office she galloped up towards Blackwood Hill and once high up where she could see the whole of the district in the panoramic view, with all her heart she prayed that Robin would get in touch.
Annabelle seemed to be loosening up a bit, or so Chris thought, the evening the Jennings and their pretty lodger came over to his place. He had been worried that she would stay glued to the side of Pearl or Burt, but she seemed to be relaxed enough to chat directly with him.
Annabelle asked Chris lots of questions about where he had lived before he moved to Blackwood. She asked him about his family, his favourite music, books, films, sports. Chris enjoyed the informal interview. Although he wanted to ask Annie lots of questions himself, it felt great to be receiving her attention and he enjoyed making her laugh. He couldn’t get enough of her laugh.
“So do you want to know any more of my secrets Annie?”
“Am I being nosey Chris?”
“I am just suspicious. Do you intend to use any of what I have told you to steal my identity and set up fake credit card accounts or something?”
“Busted!” grinned Annabelle.
“That makes it my turn.” smiled Chris.
“Yup, my turn to grill you!”
“I’ll take that as a threat while you are holding the barbecue tongs,”
“So what are your darkest secrets Annabelle Riley?”
“Oh they are way too dark for you Chris. You would be shocked.”
“I don’t believe you. You are the picture of innocence. What would sweet Annie have to hide?”
“I don’t hide anything especially. I don’t have secrets. But I have had dark days, dark pages in my life, dark shadows in my heart, very dark thoughts. A lot of people wouldn’t understand, so I don’t go around broadcasting it.” Annabelle was suddenly very solemn and the smile had disappeared from her face.
“Annie. I had a dark time in my life. The doc had to keep me on drugs that made me numb. The bourbon diet didn’t help. I don’t go advertising that.” Chris realized he had Annie’s full attention.
“Wow Chris, you have have been there and got that T-shirt.”
“Pulled through though – the darkness cleared eventually. But it is always hovering in the background waiting for when I am too tired to fight it.”
“That’s great. Really great, it must have taken a lot of strength. It can be so hard to beat – and alcohol is a miserable friend. You should be so proud.”
“Not so proud. Just glad to be alive and have my health back. Glad the darkness lifted. Glad I know it when it tries to beat me up again. I feel more prepared for the next storm.”
“Yeah, I bet.” Annabelle smiled warmly at Chris.
“And the darkness must have lifted for you? With a smile of like that, there is no way you are having dark thoughts now.”
Annabelle hesitated to answer. Chris waited patiently for her to reply with his gaze fixed on the barbecue.
Painful memories of the strained relationship she had with Robin flashed through her mind. Annabelle’s voice quivered as she almost whispered “I am a lot better than I was. But I ended up causing so much damage and hurting someone very special to me. I can’t forgive myself for that.”
What to say next? Chris was anxious that whatever he said next would be the wrong thing. He waited for around a minute debating how he could possibly respond. He didn’t want to frighten Annie by telling her he knew about Robin. At first he wanted to say something profound and insightful like “we can’t undo the past, just look towards the future”, but he knew that would go down like a lead balloon. Maybe he should make some kind of joke, for a moment he was going to suggest that she turn to alcohol to forget the past, but, no that would be ridiculous. Could he just offer her a hug? If he wanted her to flee to the other side of the veranda perhaps.
He opened his mouth, and words came out, not the perfect words, but he had to be content, “sharing our darkest secrets – that means we are friends Annie – can’t back out now you know where I have been, and I am not going to back out on you.”
Annabelle sat staring into space. Chris wasn’t sure if she had heard him. After waiting awkwardly he gently touched her hand, she instantly squeezed his hand in return, and said “thank you.”
Chris sank into bed that night, feeling very content that the evening had gone well, and that Annie had seemed to warm to him so much. What next? he wondered. How could he get Annie talking more so that she would trust him? He was so hungry for more of her.
A tall handsome man was lifting himself up out of bed at the same time Chris was falling asleep. The smell of fresh bread wafting along the avenue from artisan bakeries was always a pleasant way to be woken. He headed to the kitchen to put a coffee pot on the stove. He checked his phone, two more missed calls from Annabelle. He sat down with a glum expression, a weight on his heart. He couldn’t face returning her calls and text messages. He was too afraid to check his e-mails because he could not bear her long emotional epistles to him. He knew he should get in touch. But he wasn’t ready yet. He couldn’t bear how hurt she would be when he told her what had happened. How could he, after all she had been through?
You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:
Kim, the creator of Writer Side of Life has given us some great writing prompts. Several of them appealed to me, but I have only chosen one to work on for now, because I am still playing catch up with blogging, after my trip to Australia:
I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?