You may remember that Annabelle had called her parents to ask them if she could join them for Christmas. Will there be a happy family reunion ahead for Annabelle Riley? This section joins Annabelle on Christmas Eve. I am sure that she would be very glad of our company this year.
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
Annabelle flew into New York on Christmas Eve. She headed straight to the hotel and checked in. She’d brought a small suitcase, and a holdall full of presents. There was something for each one of her family members. After giving considerable thought to the gifts she had bought for each of her family members, Annabelle had carefully wrapped each gift in her room in Blackwood. The messages she had written in each card were very personal. Annabelle Riley was trying. There was a sense of pessimism in her, but she still wanted to try.
She thought about her parents. Her mother said that they would be busy that evening with the boys, her oldest nephews who were back from college. She knew how proud of the boys everyone was. They had both worked hard at school and left with top grades.
Feeling restless, she flicked through the television channels in her room. Movies with happy families forging stronger bonds in festive scenes. Annabelle was consumed with an urge for fresh air. She grabbed her coat and scarf and decided she would head out for a walk.
It brought Annabelle a great deal of pleasure to see the lights. If there was one thing she had always loved about Christmas, it was the lights. She wished they could stay throughout the winter. They always lifted her spirits. Winters were dark and cold. For someone who does not have a warm family life, winter was especially lonely, Christmas even more so, for there were so many reminders of what Annabelle felt she didn’t have, and what she never had had.
But being out in the open, walking along bustling streets, enjoying the lights, snuggling her face into the folds of her soft scarf, sipping a gingerbread latte, they brought little stabs of pleasure. Robin always said that life is about pleasure, making every moment enjoyable. When she craved comfort and warmth, that made perfect sense, even if it didn’t really ring true at other times.
It was bitterly cold outside, so Annabelle was glad to find a coffee house where she could sit in a corner watching the snow fall onto the pavement outside, warming her hands around the glass mug of gingery sweet coffee.
Her phone started to jingle. Robin had only just finished work. It was past two o’clock in the morning for him. Annabelle was deeply comforted by hearing his voice. He sounded tired though.
Robin told Annabelle how much he was looking forward to seeing her, “Two weeks Belle! It can’t come soon enough. Everything is arranged for your stay. The room reserved for you has a fantastic view. Even Claudia’s Dad wants to meet you, which might be a bit weird. But he’s not that bad. I have a newfound appreciation for him.”
Robin clearly understood how much Annabelle was dreading the following day with her family. He promised he would be thinking of her all day and would call her as soon as he could.
Annabelle decided she would head back to the hotel. She lay on the bed staring at the ceiling. If there had been a decent view, like the one in the hotel Dean had paid for her to stay in, she would have stared at out of the window. But the hotel she had booked was more suitable to her budget. She had contemplated drawing money from the account she had recently discovered, but it seemed like such a waste. She didn’t want to spend too much money before she spoke to Robin.
After an hour of lying on the bed staring up at the white ceiling, she reached across for her mobile phone which had buzzed half an hour before. She read the text message from Chris wishing her a Happy Christmas. His greeting was very sweet. Annabelle had no idea how to reply. She sent a reply: xx and hoped that Chris would understand how empty she was feeling at that moment.
She’d felt pretty empty ever since that appointment at Leaston. She felt so angry about what the therapist and the doctor had said to her. Before then she finally seemed to be getting somewhere. She had begun to appreciate the CBT sessions. The therapist had provoked her thinking. His questions had helped her to probe within. That had motivated and galvanised her into doing things she would have never dreamed of before.
For the past few years, making contact with Dean had always seemed like a hopeless endeavour. But now that she had seen him and together they had resolved so much, peace and comfort were within her reach. Somehow she now had a relationship with Dean again, not the same as before, but the contact was firmly established again. Not just the contact, rather, the pledge to care for each other was there, and it was something she was so grateful for.
She decided to call Dean. He didn’t answer his phone. She didn’t want to leave a voice message, so she just hung up when the answer service began. Dean would be in Los Angeles in his home there. Annabelle had spent Christmas for three consecutive years in that house with Dean. That had been home, whenever they were not travelling with tours and promotions. Not always a happy home. But a place she belonged, next to Dean. Before he bought the house, they’d spent Christmas in other people’s homes, as guests, and once in a hotel in the Caribbean.
Following one of the fiercest exchanges between them, resulting in Dean’s striking her, Annabelle had split up with Dean. The argument had followed the the release of “Claws” their album, which was full of songs with lyrics she knew were about her self-harming. She had realized that the title of the album “Claws” was due the deep scratches she was inflicting on herself. Just less than three months after their relationship had ended, Annabelle had spent Christmas alone in New York, in the apartment Dean had bought for her. Dean had refused to answer his phone and her messages for weeks. It was a terrible time for her. She felt some relief by punishing her arms and legs. Just after New Years, she had been at that party, in that gold dress that hid all of her injuries. It was there that Robin had walked into her life.
The first weekend they spent together, he told her his contract would end in May and he was going back to England to start a job in the city. But as May approached, Annabelle had pleaded with and eventually persuaded Robin to find work that allowed him to stay on with her. What a year they had together. The time with him had healed her in more ways than she could ever have hoped for. Robin left New York to move back to England, He had decided he wanted to be back there to spend Christmas with his family. She had hidden from Robin that she had spent her second Christmas in a row all alone. In some ways she was happy that Robin had never had chance to discover that she hated Christmas and dreaded it because it exposed her loneliness and the lack of meaningful relationships in her life.
But that Christmas, she was still full of the afterglow of a wonderful year with him. Those feelings that welled up causing her to self-harm were not there. Although she was alone, her heart was merry with memories of him. Although, after his departure, she had no idea how long she would be sustained by the memory of his love. Annabelle could never have predicted the dramatic events that would occur over the next twelve months.
A year later, Christmas for Robin’s family was ruined. The death of a baby brings a heavy cloud on a family. Annabelle had always imagined that nothing could be worse that spending Christmas all alone. But experiencing the grief of their daughter dying had permanently tarnished the holiday season for her. Every December there would be that reminder, that Lucy had died a few days before Christmas. That following twelve months were so dreadful. Annabelle’s emotions tormented her as never before.
Robin’s family were completely alarmed at what they knew of her challenging behaviour. They didn’t know the half of it, but what they did know made them urge Robin to get professional help. His parents were adamant she should be in some kind of hospital or special ward for mental illness. When Robin tried to speak to Annabelle, she was horrified at the suggestion. Moving her to New York to be near her family and all that was familiar to her had seemed like the best thing to do for Annabelle.
Robin just had not counted on Annabelle’s family being so unsupportive. They seemed more concerned with blaming Dean and Robin, and Annabelle herself, for everything that had happened. They seemed slighted by not having had chance to meet their granddaughter and surprising cool in offering their condolences for the loss Robin and Annabelle had faced.
Robin had felt trapped. He couldn’t work, Annabelle couldn’t be on her own for long periods. She didn’t want to be with her family, and he started to find it too risky to expose her to the criticism and censure they directed to her whenever she was with them.
He had argued with her parents about the way they spoke to Annabelle. They twisted everything he said and accused him of being responsible for Annabelle’s depression. They started to try to persuade Annabelle she would be better off without him. Annabelle had recoiled from her parents even more. There had been a huge argument between her parents and Robin over Annabelle. Her parents wanted him gone, but it was starkly obvious that they were completely unprepared to support Annabelle. They said she was self-sufficient and that she could afford her own health care costs, but refused to explain to Robin the reason for their claim. Annabelle did not understand what they were saying and why they seemed to want Robin to leave her.
In desperation he had moved with Annabelle to the first accommodation he found that was immediately available. A small house just outside Blackwood. They didn’t have a Christmas tree or decorations. There were no gifts and cards that year. But they had each other. That seemed to be all that mattered. That was all that mattered to Annabelle. But that was the point when Robin had started to unravel. He needed his family. A few later he had left to go back to his parents so that he could recover his health, leaving Annabelle to live and work in the home of Ralph Crabbe and his terminally ill wife Barbara.
Robin had spent the following Christmas in London where he had been for almost ten months. Annabelle had spent Christmas with Burt and Pearl, who she was now lodging with, and the family of Pearl. She had been fascinated by witnessing the happy scenes amongst their family. They had invited recently bereaved Ralph to join their family too, which Annabelle was delighted about. That had been a real Christmas. That was love she had told herself.
Another eventful year had passed. And now here she was, alone in New York. Alone in a city of millions of people. Alone right then, in a cheap hotel, when half an hour away there was an apartment which had cost Dean millions, the deeds of which were in her name. The next day she would spend Christmas Day with her family for the first time since she was seventeen years of age. And it would be awful. But that’s what people do at Christmas. Annabelle knew she had some friends, friends who would have been happy for her to join them at their dinner table on Christmas Day. But she had chosen to make an effort with those who, biologically, she was closest to.
It helped her to know that she was not the only person on the planet who would be finding Christmas a provoking challenge. There would be others who would be feeling just as disillusioned, just as lost and empty, and having to fight a sense of despair that threatened to descend.
But if there was one thing that she always had liked about Christmas, it was the lights. During the coldest, darkest, loneliest times of year, the lights would cheer her up. So she was glad to be in New York, because the Christmas lights were always magnificent.
At least she had the hope of being with Robin soon. She thought about his words to her when he had called on the 21st December, exactly three years after Lucy had died. Annabelle was sure that he felt the loss more than she did. But he had been the one with the beautiful words. She had none. Three years after the loss of her daughter, Annabelle still had no words. It was a situation she could not comprehend, there were emotions buried within that she could not yet face.
Overwhelmed with emotion, she gave in to sleep.
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?