Robin, Chris and Annabelle having dinner with Burt and Pearl Jennings. What will they talk about I wonder!
These are previous posts in Annabelle’s story:
Pearl Jennings had been in her kitchen all day. In between tasks she looked at photographs her sister had e-mailed of their day out at the county show. Gloria had two children, both of whom were married. Gloria was about to become a grandmother for the third time. Burt and Pearl had wanted to start a family, but had never been able to have children. So Pearl had found other ways to express her maternal instincts and had cultivated an extraordinarily hospitable and generous spirit. She loved to feed people.
When Annabelle had moved in with Burt and Pearl Jennings, just over a year before, the young woman had been skin and bones. But Pearl had managed to feed her up, and if it wasn’t for the daily walks and her being on her feet whenever she was at work, Annabelle would have gained a considerable amount of weight with all the food Pearl Jennings put in front of her. Annabelle looked so much more healthy now. Pearl felt quite proud of her young lodger who had become the blooming belle of Blackwood.
While they were waiting for Burt to carve the turkey, Pearl found herself noticing that this evening Annabelle seemed prettier than ever. The two young men who sat either side of Annabelle seemed very aware of how much Annabelle was sparkling. One of them was receiving a lot more attention than the other though. Pearl felt sorry for Christopher Ward. She would try to make a fuss of him instead. She repeatedly offered Chris more lamb, turkey or roast potatoes. Chris did not seem to have his usual appetite.
Burt and Robin chatted at length. Robin asked many questions, which Burt delighted in answering. Burt was able to share all sorts of information about the town of Blackwood and local industry and agriculture. He related his sole visit to England, where he had stayed in London, but made a day a trip to Oxford. Burt told all sorts of stories about his parents and his time in the army. In return he asked Robin the sort of questions that could not possibly embarrass him. Burt was aware that this young man might not be easy with sharing too much of himself, so he avoided anything too personal, but instead asked questions about England, soccer and the royal family.
Whenever Robin opened his mouth and answered in his warm voice with a very English accent, everyone listened to him carefully. Annabelle’s adoring eyes were almost glued to him throughout dinner. Pearl asked him an occasional question, but most of her conversation was with Chris. Surprising everybody, Chris sat up in his chair and turned to look at Robin, “So Rob, I’m hearing all about London, but I’m still not quite following how you’ve come to be living in Switzerland with your ex-wife.”
The look of horror and disbelief on Annabelle’s face at hearing these words made Chris regret his outburst immediately. Burt and Pearl looked anxious. It was only Robin that seemed to be amused. In fact he began to laugh, “what has my baby been telling you? Belle, what have you been saying?”
Annabelle’s face was still crumpled with dismay. She looked at Chris and in a low voice said “I don’t recall mentioning anything to you.”
Chris looked pleadingly at Pearl Jennings. That look didn’t escape the attention of Burt, who realized that Pearl had probably shared a little too much information yet again. Trying to dissipate any awkwardness, Burt commented that Switzerland seemed like a beautiful country.
“Oh it is. Really spectacular. So much cleaner than London. I was only there for a couple of days when I felt healthier. In fact, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. A turning point for me really. I had forgotten how beautiful it is in fact. The scenery is absolutely stunning, it’s inspirational seeing the views every day.”
Everybody was quiet. Nobody seemed to know quite what to say after the Chris had asked such a pointed question. Chris was mad at himself, but also longed to ask another question about Robin’s ex-wife. It was seeing the effect his question had on Annabelle that held his tongue. Robin was still grinning, he was clearly the only person around the table who was not remotely uncomfortable.
As soon as he noticed that everyone else was looking awkward, he turned to look carefully at Annabelle, whose head was bowed low. “Annabelle, you didn’t think…? Good grief, we really do need to talk.” Robin swallowed. He looked around the dinner table and remarked, “my ex-wife is, well, she’s exactly that – my ex-wife. I am not living with her. But she has been a great support recently. I have a new found appreciation for her.”
Belle’s face started to rise slightly. Robin grabbed her hand under the dinner table and squeezed it. Chris felt annoyance rise up into his throat again. Pearl broke the atmosphere by announcing, “time for dessert!”
There was a lot less conversation during dessert. Pearl had deliberately chosen to make a lighter pudding, thinking everyone would be full after the roast dinner, but when two of the group at the table said they couldn’t eat anything else, Pearl was a bit disappointed. At least Robin and Burt enjoyed it. Pearl cut a slice for Chris and made him promise to take it home with him.
Annabelle and Burt cleared the table together while Pearl was filling a coffee pot. She invited the two young men to seat themselves in the living room.
Both men were silent. Robin finally turned to Chris and said, “have you ever been married?”
“I was too young when I married. We both were. It was more to please our families. My folks never wanted me to get hitched to a fortune hunter. Dad’s made a packet out of the stock exchange. Her family own a chain of hotels. We were both pressured into it. It was obvious from day one that it was only the two of us who weren’t thrilled by the whole thing. She wanted to be with her friends all the time, so I did the same.”
“Right. So you split up.”
“After a few months we agreed that we would start the divorce. It takes ages to come through without proper grounds. We had to live apart so that legally we were separated. It was all weird. Trying to keep everyone around us happy. One of us had to have an affair to finally get it pushed through the courts. She obliged.”
“You’re back with her or near her though.”
“She’s been a rock lately. Surprised me actually,”
Not long afterwards Annabelle entered the room. Chris had sat on the only sofa in the room. Robin sat in an armchair. Annabelle decided to perch on the otterman. As soon as she sat down a creature that had been crouching nervously in the corner of the room leapt up onto the back of her shoulders. “Jeeves!” Robin and Chris both watched as the cat marched around Annabelle’s lap and then snuggled into stomach.
“That cat’s got some nerves trying to get it on with my girlfriend.” Robin shot a glance at Chris.
“It’s only because he is scared of you two.”
“Belle, you do remember the New Year’s party we went to in Manhattan – me as Sherlock Holmes, you as Cat Woman.” Robin started laughing, and then turning to Chris, he added, “I spent the night sweating in a wool suit, while this siren was attracting every male in the room in that outfit. They all wanted to pull your tail, didn’t they?”
Annabelle shook her head in response to Robin’s huge wink. “I remember what you did with that magnifying glass that night.”
“Oh Babe, that’s going to stay between us. Hey Belle, come here.”
Annabelle gently placed Jeeves onto the carpet and rose to her feet, in prompt obedience. As she approached she said quietly, “Hey Good-Looking.” Belle’s fingers welcomed Robin’s.
Trying to pull her by the hips, Robin whispered, “Sit here on my lap Babe.”
“I can’t. They won’t like it Robin,” replied Belle nudging her knee against Robin’s and grasping his hands tightly.
“When am I going to be alone with my girl?” Robin turned his head to look over at Chris again, but Chris was flicking through a television guide.
Burt and Pearl appeared with after dinner coffee. Chris and Annabelle sat sipping coffee and listening, as Robin chatted with Burt and Pearl. Chris couldn’t take his eyes off Annabelle. She sat, oblivious to Chris, looking happier than he had ever seen her, and with her eyes fixed on Robin the entire time.
When he finally reached the point when he couldn’t bear it any longer, he stood up and announced he was tired and ought to drive home before he fell asleep on the sofa. It was quickly discussed and decided that Robin ought to go too. Robin admitted he needed sleep after his long journey. Both of them thanked Burt and Pearl for their hospitality.
On the drive back to his place, Chris maintained his silence. Robin waited until Chris pulled into his drive before he said, “look mate, she’s been turning heads ever since I’ve known her. I can’t blame you for liking her.”
“So why the hell did you leave her for so long then?” Chris slammed his car door and waited for Robin to get out of his truck so he could lock it.
“I’ve been an idiot, but I need to tell that to her first.”
“Yeah, well get on with it and stop playing with her,” yelled Chris.
“That’s exactly what I am here to do, but we need some time alone.”
Chris didn’t reply. To him it was pretty obvious why Robin would want to be alone with Annabelle. He certainly wasn’t going to volunteer his home.
Annabelle was wide awake after the coffee and had so many excited thoughts swimming around her head. She kept on waiting for a reply to her text message to Robin telling him Pearl had suggested waffles for breakfast. It was around three o’clock in the morning when her phone finally buzzed.
“SORRY HUN, FELL ASLEEP AS SOON AS MY HEAD HIT THE PILLOW. LET’S GO OUT FOR BREAKFAST. CAN’T HAVE PEARL GOING TO SO MUCH TROUBLE. OR IF YOU WANT COME HERE INSTEAD, THE GUY HERE FANCIES THE PANTS OFF YOU, HE WON’T MIND YOU ROCKING UP.”
Annabelle smiled to herself. She liked Robin’s being direct. He hadn’t wasted any time the night he had met her, making it clear she was not going home alone. He’d lost a lot of that before he had left for England. The direct decisive man she had known, had become anxious, despondent and indifferent to everything. The Robin she had fallen in love with was the one who they had picked up at Appleton airport earlier that day. He seemed happy. That was really good.
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?