I have split the following part of Annabelle’s story into two posts (otherwise you would have been cursing me for a ridiculously long post). It’s not at all long until she goes away for Christmas, and you will see that certain memories are about to come flooding back into Annabelle’s mind.
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
Annabelle was faithful in her visits to hospital to see Ralph Crabbe. After the surgery on his hip, he very tired. Ralph found the physiotherapy challenging. Being in hospital for so many weeks was starting to take a toll on his spirits. Friends from the rambling group made sure to visit. Burt and Pearl came regularly. But Annabelle was the most frequent of all his visitors.
“It didn’t escape his notice that Annabelle seemed different. They would chat pleasantly. Annabelle always brought something that Ralph had requested. Sometimes it was a book, and he would ask her to read outloud to save his eyes. They played scrabble or chess. Annabelle found it hard to concentrate so invariably Ralph would end up announcing check mate long before the visiting times were over.
One day Ralph asked Annabelle a question which confused her, “It must be coming up to three years now Annie. Do you know who you are going to spend the day with? I don’t want to to be stuck here at the hospital. Make sure you do something to cheer yourself up with someone real special to you.”
Annabelle gazed at Ralph who was smiling softly, “You remembered? Thank you Ralph.”
“You kept me company on the anniversary of Barbara’s passing. It meant so much to me you know. You need to make sure that you are with someone who will help you on the anniversary of your wee daughter’s passing away. If I weren’t stuck here, I would volunteer. But as it is, you need to make sure someone is there for you. Someone to lighten your heart.”
Annabelle didn’t talk about her daughter Lucy. Robin had told Ralph and Barbara when he had made arrangements for Annabelle to move in as Barbara’s carer. On that dreadful 21st December, Robin had held her up to prevent her legs from giving way beneath her. She had been staring at the lifeless body of the daughter that she had not understood how to love. It was something that she did not see any point talking about with anyone in Blackwood. Nobody could say anything that would make a difference.
Chris was pleased that Annabelle had called him to ask if he would still be in Blackwood on 21st December. He’d only seen Annabelle once that month, when he had been invited for dinner by Pearl. That night Annabelle had been much more subdued than he had ever known her, although she was clearly making an effort to join in the conversation. It was clear something was weighing on her heart.
Robin called Annabelle on the 21st December at six o’clock in the morning. He was having a lunch break at work. He was anxious to speak to her because he knew it would be a very busy day for him. He had thought about what to say to Annabelle carefully. He was also relieved to hear that she would spend the day with Chris. “Does he know Belle?”
“No Robin. Please don’t say anything.”
Chris collected Annabelle at ten o’clock. “What’s the plan Annie? You seemed a bit sketchy on the phone.”
“How about a movie?”
“Sure. At the MegaPix? Shall I check what is on?” Chris presented Annabelle with his phone with a list of the films showing at the multi-screen cinema situated at the retail park on the other side of Blackwood. She pulled a face at most of them.
“Maybe we could go for a walk instead?”
Chris turned the keys in the ignition of his beloved TVR Tasmin and listened to the engine purr. “Shall we go up to Navarino?”
Annabelle nodded. She stretched forward and turned on the radio. During the forty minute drive, she sang along to every song that was played, frequently crying out “Oh I love this song,” when the first few bars of a track would begin.
“Your voice is not bad Annie. I’m surprised you didn’t end up singing for Mildew.”
“Because my voice is exactly that Chris, it is “not bad”. But it’s not great either. Nick is an amazing singer when he’s not drunk, so is Liam actually, but you can’t really have a drummer on lead vocals can you. Did you know there first singer was called Greg? He thought he’d have a better chance of a career singing solo – he was oh so wrong!” Annabelle laughed to herself.
“I didn’t know they had another singer.” replied Chris. “I guess you could an encyclopedia about Mildew.”
Annabelle pulled her tongue and laughed. “What I know about those boys Chris – I could blackmail the whole lot of them and live in luxury for the rest of my life!”
“No wonder they were all so sweet with you when we were in New York.”
Annabelle turned to Chris with a serious expression, “I wouldn’t do them any harm, you know I am joking don’t you?” after Chris nodded, she continued, “Rick and Dean are the worse though. They are very bad for each other. Rick used to really scare me. He’s solid. He can do a lot of damage when he’s stoned. Nick and Liam have their heads screwed on just a little bit more. That’s why they argue. Nick and Dean especially. If Dean is playing the wrong chords, it messes things up for Nick. He feels as if he is the one who gets criticised because his vocals are not in sync with the music. But it is Dean who messes up,” Annabelle let out a loud sigh.
“Well Annie, they didn’t mess up in New York.”
A broad smile appeared on Annabelle’s face, “I do kind of wish I had seen Dean performing solo. I’ve watched him performing those two songs online. The new song is so beautiful. He is singing those words right at my heart. He would be so upset if he realized I wasn’t there on the night. That will have to be our secret Chris pretty much forever.”
“But Annabelle Riley doesn’t have secrets?” laughed Chris.
“Hey, Dean and me are on good terms now, I do not want to have to owe him anything like an apology for the rest of my life. Choose your loyalty Mr. Ward – me or Dean?”
Chris put his hand on Annabelle’s knee and squeezed it. “Ha! I thought so!” she grinned.
On reaching the wildlife area, Chris and Annabelle walked around. The sky was grey and the whole area was pretty dismal. As Annabelle beheld the bleak scenery, she found a profound sadness welling up within her.
“How is Annabelle these days? Holding it together?” asked Chris liking her arm.
Annabelle didn’t reply immediately, but she squeezed Chris arm, “Tell me more about you Chris.”
“What do you want to know Annie?”
“I want to know all about you and your family. What can you tell me from your childhood? Do you have any stories to share with me?”
Chris pointed to his lip, “When I was kid I wanted to be a pro-baseball player when I grew up. One day I was out fielding and I tried to catch a the ball when a batter from the other team had knocked it in my direction. I ran towards the ball, sure I was going to catch it. But the sun was in my eyes. The baseball hit my face and bust my lip right open. There was so much blood Annie, it was like a scene from a horror movie. It took ages for my lip to heal properly. I kept knocking it and it would burst open again and start bleeding. Mom kept me supplied for a month with Dad’s handkerchiefs to carry around everyday so I could mop up the blood whenever I needed to.”
Annabelle was listening intently to Chris. There was a smile in her eyes. For the next couple of hours she encouraged Chris to go on sharing stories from his childhood. It was after one o’clock when Chris asked Annabelle where she wanted to go for lunch. “Somewhere warm Chris. I’m frozen.”
Chris pulled over at the first diner they passed. With Annabelle encouraging him, he continued to relate memories of Christmas with his family when he was growing up. “Christmas is never going to be what it was before my parents divorced. We are always split into two camps.”
“But at least you still have a good time with half of your family.”
After lunch, Chris and Annie decided to head back out into the cold December air and continue their walk.
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?