Well…I did not expect that Annabelle’s story would occupy so much of my attention! All of last week I was thinking about my fictional character, whose life bears some similarities to Caramel’s. These are previous posts:
Annie had forgotten about Chris’ unexpected invasion of her walk within moments of continuing her trek up to the Blackwood Hill. Although she had been horrified at the time, she didn’t dwell on Chris kissing her. All she wanted to do was read the letter she clutched. She was more distressed by the fact Chris had slowed her down. She felt anxiety coming up into her throat and an urgency to be on her own up on Blackwood Hill where she had said her goodbyes to Robin. It was a special place to them, that provoked treasured memories.
Annabelle read Robin’s letter and wept. She lay down on the dry grassy brow of the hill and curled up into a ball. She held her knees close. It was around that spot that he had last made love to her, underneath the stars.
Then the following morning he had ordered a taxi to take them both over to the home of Ralph and Barbara Crabbe. Barbara’s health was declining rapidly, and Ralph had advertised in the local newspaper for a live-in carer. Robin had made all the phone-calls and arranged everything for Annabelle. It had been hard to persuade her that he needed her to let him go for a while. He had kissed her forehead tenderly and left her with his parting utterance, “everything is going to be alright.” She had not argued when he said those words. Rather, she had buried her face into his chest and sobbed, “ok Robin.”
Then Robin climbed back into the taxi, which took her to the airport. Watching him disappear in a cab had brought back to her mind what she could recall of the horrendous crash she had been involved in. That awful day she had arrived in England, and climbed into a taxi to take her from Heathrow Terminal 5 into the center of London. A lorry and a horsebox had collided. The cars nearest to the collision were pretty much pulverised and there had been no hope for those within the vehicles. The driver of the taxi she was in tried to steer into the hard shoulder but another car behind them had already done the same. That car was moving at such speed, he had driven right into the side of the taxi. Annabelle’s memories of the shock and the confusion and the sirens all merged into one huge wave of distress as she watched the taxi Robin was in disappear.
Ralph and Barbara were a relative haven of peace for Annabelle. She became devoted to Barbara those next few months before cancer took her last breaths. Annabelle’s emotions churned, the memories of caring for a baby, who was so dependant on her, became vivid in her mind. Which provoked more grief at the loss of her daughter. The huge sense of inadequacy and failure that had lead to self-condemning guilt and anger against herself were still so rife. But somehow caring for Barbara helped to appease the bitter cocktail of damning thoughts she had about herself. All her thoughts were on making Barbara comfortable and preserving her dignity. She rose above her own grief and made it her mission to brighten each day for both Ralph and Barbara. It slowly healed gaping wounds in her heart and bolstered her self-esteem.
Since Barbara’s funeral, Annabelle had lodged with Burt and Pearl Jennings, but she had remained a loyal and invaluable friend to Ralph Crabbe. She would drop by regularly and offer to go shopping with Ralph. She realized quickly that shopping for him might not be in his best interests. She wanted him out of the house, and with people. She would take him out fishing, to have tea and cake in Penny’s Pantry, she helped him research his family history at the local library and then finally convinced him to join the rambling group. Ralph had presumed that the walkers would be young and fit. He was pleasantly surprised that there were so many golden-oldies like him. The rambling group soon provided a constant source of social events for Ralph and Annie alike. She was especially popular amongst the mature walkers. They all doted on her like a daughter.
Robin had called and e-mailed regularly for a year. At first he spoke to Annabelle every day, but gradually their contact had become less frequent. He had explained to Annabelle that he was becoming more and more busy. But then suddenly he had seemed to vanish. She had felt frantically distressed. The terrifying thought that something tragic had happened overwhelmed her. She had written to his parents as she did not have a phone number for them. It was only when Robin’s father had called Annabelle and told her that Robin was safe but “he really needed space and time to sort out his head”. Yet Robin’s father, Stephen Grainger, had assured her that if anything was seriously wrong he would contact her immediately.
Reading Robin’s letter provoked a huge sense of relief that she had finally heard from him after a silence of four whole months. There were phrases that made her anxious, but it was as if a huge dam suppressing her worst fears had lifted, and for now, Annabelle felt nothing but exhausted. She fell fast asleep up there on the hill, only waking in the bright light of sunrise. She immediately realized that Burt and Pearl could be worried. Annabelle strolled down the hill back towards the town centre, and then turned onto Mason Street which led up to Turner Avenue.
When she arrived back at the Jennings’ home, she was greeted by a huge embrace from Pearl. “We were so worried Annie!” Good heavens you are freezing. Where have you been?”
Pearl called to Burt to put the kettle on, ushering Annabelle into the warm sun room at the back of the house, and then sat down opposite her. “You look tired dear. Have you been awake all night?”
Annabelle admitted she had been asleep up on Blackwood Hill, but she felt very tired. Pearl was very concerned that Annabelle had been outdoors all night, but she expressed her relief that Annabelle was safe. Before Burt came in with a tray, carrying a pot of tea and cups and saucers for all three of them, Annabelle assured Pearl that the letter from Robin had brought her much relief. She asked Pearl if she could think over it a bit longer and perhaps talk to her later that day. Pearl smiled warmly at Annabelle and agreed that she should take her time.
Annabelle managed to dampen down any fuss, explaining that she was just very tired. She promised Burt and Pearl she would speak further to them, but needed some time to think about the contents of Robin’s letter. She excused herself, and went up to the bedroom she slept in at the Jennings’ home. Laying within her bed wrapped up under soft blankets, she read Robin’s letter again.
Certain phrases played on her mind. In the first half of the letter, Robin had written beautiful words assuring her that he loved her and missed her. Re-reading his tender words cajoled tears in her eyes and stabs of emotion in her chest. He apologised for his silence, he knew it would have been hard for her to bear. But he had also confessed there had come a point when he could no longer face reading her e-mails or answering her calls. He explained she was too intense. He found he had started to dread her pleading or read her emotional outpourings. That stung Annabelle. Robin indicated that he had been deeply concerned with Annabelle’s well-being. He had felt like a failure having to walk away from her after all she had been through. He still felt he had more progress to make in his own recovery, but that he was doing much better than he had been. He felt stronger.
Then he had written about his intention to travel over to the States and visit her in Blackwood. He promised to e-mail the exact date and times of his flight. He asked Annabelle if she might be able to ask the couple she was lodging with, if they would be happy to have him join Annie for a few days. Robin stated that it was only a short visit he was planning. He had booked one week off work. He promised to tell her about his job when he arrived. Robin wrote that there was a lot he needed to talk to Annabelle about, things he couldn’t say in a letter. He said there were things that she might not be happy about, things that would make her angry, but he felt it would be best if he told her in person. He closed the letter saying he was looking forward to seeing his beautiful Belle.
What concerned Annabelle the most were sentences towards the end of his letter, “Claudia has been helping me get back on my feet. She has been tremendous. I never expected Claudia to be the one who would come through for me at my lowest point.” That was hard for Annabelle to read. It confirmed what she had assumed when she had seen the Switzerland stamp and post mark on the outside of the envelope. Robin was with his ex-wife Claudia. Robin and Claudia had been married and lived in Switzerland. But they had divorced around four years before Robin had met Annabelle in New York.
It was the thought of Robin returning to Claudia that produced streams of tears from Annie’s eyes. It was wonderful that Robin was feeling better. He was working. He seemed positive. Had he got back with Claudia? Was that what he wanted to come out to America to tell her in person? Was he trying to prepare her? It would make sense. Yet his opening words had been so warm and affectionate, it was hard to understand.
Perhaps she should show the letter to Pearl and ask her to read it. Maybe someone else would be able to make sense of the letter and not read in between the lines so much. But for now Annie just wanted to sleep. She was overwhelmed.
Robin read the e-mail from Annabelle in his inbox. She seemed to have understood his letter. There was no intense flurry of emotion. She wrote simply and factually. He appreciated her changing her style of writing for him. She wrote that The Jennings were not comfortable him staying overnight in their home as he and Annabelle were never wed. But that they looked forward to meeting him and having him as a guest for meals. They had pledged to make other arrangements for accommodation for Robin. Burt Jennings had offered to drive Annabelle to the airport, and would bring Robin back to Blackwood. Annabelle closed by saying how pleased she was that Robin seemed to be doing so well and that she was looking forward to seeing him. She also made it clear she understood that he had indicated to her to be prepared for some difficult conversations. Robin sighed. Yes, it would be awful. It was going to break her heart he was sure. But it was better to do so face to face and not in a letter or over the phone.
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?