Well Christmas is over, and it is not long before Annabelle will be heading to Switzerland to visit Robin. After all the ups and downs she has had these past few weeks, is she ready to be reunited with Robin?
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
The week after Christmas was better than Annabelle could have expected. She bought some clothes in the sales, dresses she planned to wear on her trip to Switzerland, and lingerie, which she picked out thinking of Robin.
She was surprised to receive a response to one of the e-mails she had sent following her previous trip to New York. A former colleague from Sony sent an enthusiastic reply to Annabelle’s message, wishing her seasons greetings, and saying that they would love to see Annabelle whenever she was next in New York. After thinking about it, Annabelle decided to send another message to Janine, her former colleague, explaining she would be in New York up until the new year. That had led to an unexpectedly lively few days for her.
It was somehow gratifying that people still remembered her. She realized that they were also interested to hear of the current status of her relationship with the lead guitarist and songwriter for Mildew, Dean Mathers. But she was not going to let anything discourage her. She eagerly responded to the flurry of invitations that Janine’s account of Annabelle triggered from other former acquaintance in Manhattan.
By the end of the week, she had formulated in her head a legitimate reason for none of her former colleagues or contacts having made any previous effort to keep in touch. The excuse she made for them was New Yorkers know that those who part from New York will come back. People come to and through New York, it is a hub, a mecca. So if you stay in New York and just wait, they will be back and they will let you know when they are coming.
Annabelle had parted from New York. New Yorkers can’t be expected to worry about the rest of the world. It is the same in London, it is probably the same in Paris or any large city which in itself is a universe. In New York, the rest of America is almost irrelevant, just the same as in London, people are barely aware of the rest of England or the United Kingdom, New York, London…they are entire worlds in their own right. She accepted that she was one of those who had left New York behind, had parted company. She could not ask them to think of her when they were immersed in the non-stop lifestyle of New York.
It brought a measure of peace to Annabelle to think that way. They hadn’t been glad to see the back of her when she left. Neither had they rejected her. But she had parted from them. Their world was New York, a world that never stopped spinning. Now she was passing through, they were more than ready to meet her for drinks and reel off all sorts of inconsequential news and gossip to her.
That was pretty much what her life in Manhattan had been, a whirlwind of socialising and chatter within the setting of the music industry. Yet it was exhilarating to celebrate the turn of the new year in New York. For the first time in years she felt a sense of optimism and excitement at the thought of what was ahead of her. Robin was waiting for her arrival in Switzerland. She had wonderful news to share with him about the money that belonged to her. She couldn’t remember ever having enjoyed the New Year celebrations as much.
By 2nd January, Annabelle felt happy to be flying back to Appleton Airport and climbing into a taxi to take her to Blackwood. In her mind she compared New York to Blackwood, Wisconsin. How strikingly different they seemed. She asked the taxi to stop a ten minute walk away from the Turner Avenue. She wanted those last few minutes to soak up as much of Blackwood as she could, and retune her thoughts to the sleepier, but friendlier, pace of the town she had been living in for two years.
She was so glad of the warm greeting she received from Burt and Pearl. It felt so good to be embraced by people she knew were genuinely fond of her. They wanted to know all about her trip away, so Annabelle related everything about it that would make them smile, and told them nothing that would disquieten them. She eagerly asked them their Christmas with Pearl’s family.
Annabelle started to pack for her trip to Switzerland. It could not come quickly enough she felt. She also made sure she spent some time each day at the hospital visiting Ralph. She was concerned at how pale and drawn he seemed to be, compared to her last visit. Ralph seemed very weary, hardly sitting up in bed. Annabelle, felt anxious looking at him and sat quietly holding his hand when he gave into sleep.
During the few days she was with him, Ralph seemed to want to ask Annabelle some personal questions that she tried to give an honest reply to.
“I wish I could say that I missed her, but I don’t. I don’t think about her. I know that sounds terrible, but I can’t think about her without becoming distressed. It’s not that I miss her, but I become so angry. It wasn’t fair for her to die when she was so young. People said the most stupid things, stupid stupid things, like “the lord picked her to be a flower in his garden”, or that she would make a perfect angel. It made me so angry.”
Ralph sighed on hearing Annabelle’s candid outburst, “Even though Barbara was in her seventies, I still felt she was too young to die Annie. Honestly, I don’t believe death is fair. It’s indiscriminate. It takes good and bad, rich and poor, young and old and it makes no sense. The only thing that helps me is being convinced that death is not the end, it’s just a comma.”
“Do you mean an after-life Ralph?” Annabelle’s face showed her puzzlement.
“I don’t know exactly Annie, but I am sure I will be with Barbara again. I have never let go of that hope. I am sure you will be with your daughter again. I don’t know where and how, but you’ll hold her in your arms again.”
Annabelle shook her head, “I sometimes think that it may have been the best thing for her. I was a terrible mother Ralph. I was not ready to have a child. I dread to think that I would have made her life unhappy.”
“But you will be ready Annie. Next time you see her, you will be ready,” there was such a delightful twinkle in Ralph’s eyes and a warmth in his voice, Annabelle could not possibly take umbrage at his comments.
Annabelle could only smile and squeeze Ralph’s hand, not really understanding what he was talking about. “I wish I had known Barbara before she was ill.”
A broad smile appeared on Ralph’s face, “What a gal! I am the luckiest man in the world you know.”
Annabelle felt emotion rise into her throat at seeing Ralph’s pride when he thought of his wife. “Barbara was religious wasn’t she?”
“She was a faithful woman Annie. She attended church every Sunday for decades, enduring all manner of gossiping meddlers in the congregation. She only stopped going because of a scandal involving the pastor. But she was as devout a Christian as ever, with her prayers and she helped everyone she knew was in need. The most generous and kind woman in this town. You ask Burt and Pearl or any other folk about Barbara, they’ll all tell you the same.”
“I read some of the Bible when I was in New York Ralph. The part called Luke. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I’ve never read anything in the Bible before, I thought it would be kind of boring.”
Ralph gazed at Annabelle, “Barbara would have told you that the Bible is a letter written personally to you. It is your heavenly Father eager to reach out to you. Read the Psalms Annie. You will love them. When you pick up God’s Word and read it, He is watching out for your reaction. The way you feel about the people you read, the things they said and did, it exposes all sorts of hidden thoughts and feelings inside of you and will help you to know yourself better.”
Annabelle hesitated to reply. Ralph’s expressions seemed mysterious but inviting. There was a question in her mind, but she didn’t know how to phrase it, “I wish that God would be a bit more direct, and not so mysterious. It would be kind of helpful if He would just say clearly what He wants me to do or not do, and tell me what I have been doing wrong all this time.”
“Annie, do you think you are listening carefully enough?” asked Ralph. Annabelle was not sure how to answer. She felt so ignorant at that moment. Ralph continued, “Barbara used to ask this question that would really get your mind thinking. She would say this, “when did Adam first feel his conscience?” What do you think Annie?”
Annabelle felt slightly perplexed at being asked a question on a subject she had no knowledge of. She recalled her vague awareness of the Adam and Eve story of eating forbidden fruit and getting into trouble. It was something that had never made any sense to her. But feeling secure with Ralph being the one who prompted the question, Annabelle suggested, “When he ate the fruit?”
“That’s what everyone says Annie,” Ralph had a twinkle in his eye as he spoke, “But actually everyday before then, Adam would have felt his conscience, only it would have felt good. For most of us, when we think of our conscience, we think of how it feels when we have done something wrong and we feel guilty. Our conscience condemns us, we feel bad, ashamed, we hurt inside. Hopefully we do what we can to put things right so that our conscience eases off. Have you ever felt guilty?”
“Yes, of course,” Annabelle cast her eyes downwards and started to relate to Ralph that she seemed to grapple with guilt, that it tormented her long after she had made mistakes and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
“But the conscience is not just a judge waiting to condemn us and punish us. Barbara used to always say that it was like God’s own voice talking to us the way a parent does with a young child. When we do something beautiful, something kind, something self-sacrificing, we should feel happy inside. That happiness is also our conscience extolling us.”
“When I think of a conscience I think of those cartoons with the little devil on one side telling you to do bad things and the little angel on the other telling you to do what’s right.”
“The way Barbara described it I will never forget. She said the conscience is as if our heavenly father is whispering to us. When you do what is pleasing to Him Annie, He will be whispering to you “good girl, well done! I am so proud of you.” You start to love the elation of knowing that God is seeing your efforts and is smiling down on you, cheering you on. You will want to live your life in a way that makes you feel close to Him. There are many millions of people Annie who feel as if God talks to them directly every single day. They are good at listening to Him. They have read his letter, the Bible, and they know Him and how He feels, and their conscience is shaped by what they have read. So everyday they hope to receive a “well done, I am so proud of you” from God.”
A tear streamed down Annabelle’s cheek, “That’s beautiful Ralph, so beautiful. I never thought about it like that before.”
“There are a lot of people who have never experienced genuine love from their parents. It is hard for them to comprehend the way God feels because they have have nothing to compare it with. I think you missed out Annie. Otherwise you would be closer to your family now. Barbara and I noticed you never spoke about your family. When we asked you any questions about them, it was clear you had pain. Even if you did not have a warm loving family life, don’t let it keep you from getting to know your heavenly Father.”
“I don’t understand why I sometimes feel so sad.”
“You have had some painful challenges Annie. You didn’t deserve those challenges. But never think they are punishment from God. He doesn’t do that. If you keep condemning yourself for no good reason, then He will keep whispering to you that you are wrong. Condemning yourself only makes you hurt and it can cause you to doubt that others love you. You need to listen to Him and see the way He sees you.”
Ralph’s words had given Annabelle so much to think about. She didn’t really understand everything he had said, but it made her feel settled and somehow stronger within herself. Ralph’s words would stay with Annabelle for years. After the ups and downs in her emotions in recent weeks, it felt good to be preparing to see Robin with a calmer, quieter heart.
On her last visit to see Ralph on the 7th January, he was exhausted. He slept almost the whole time. Annabelle wrote a letter for him while he was asleep, afraid what she wouldn’t be able to talk to him before visiting hours were over.
She expressed how privileged she felt to have lived with him and Barbara. She thanked Ralph for all his encouragement and kindness, and expressed how much his friendship had meant to her. She wrote that Ralph and Barbara had made her understand what family really meant. She told him she don’t know how she would have endured Robin’s parting if it wasn’t for being with such a loving and warm-hearted couple. Signing the letter, Your friend Annabelle, she ended with a quote she had vaguely recalled, but had to Google search for on her phone to find out where it was from. ‘To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.’ – Thomas Campbell.
When she was leaving the ward, Annabelle noticed Jenna sitting at the nurses’ station. Annabelle saw her glance followed by a contemptuous expression upon her face. Leaning over the counter, Annabelle whispered, “Happy New Year Jenna,” she continued, “I hope you had a great Christmas.”
Jenna looked up at Annabelle regarding her suspiciously, “It was dandy – thanks Annabelle.”
“I’m sorry Jenna, about any misunderstandings when Robin was over here. The past few months have been challenging at times. Robin and I had a lot of things we needed to sort out. He and I were both rather stressed out at times. Chris Ward has been a great friend to us both, he has been very kind. And as for Dean Mathers…well, he and I met as kids, and later caused each other a lot of stress. Recently, we made our peace. I am sorry if I seemed a bit unfriendly about things at times. It was all kind of personal and difficult to deal with. But things are much better now. There’s not much else to it.”
Jenna raised her eyebrow, “Annabelle I have far more interesting things going on in my life. Why on earth you think I would be interested in all of your pathetic dramas I have no idea.”
Annabelle smiled, “Silly of me. Anyway I just wanted to thank you and everyone who works here for looking after Ralph, it means so much to know he’s had great care.”
“It’s what we do in a hospital Annie.”
“Well thank you. I’m going away to see Robin tomorrow, so I won’t see Ralph for over a week. He was very tired tonight, so I have left him a note. I wonder if you would make sure he sees it please.”
Jenna nodded and carried on with the paperwork she was attending to. Annabelle strolled out of the ward and she thought she felt a happy glow inside her. She may have been mistaken but it almost felt like a voice whispering to her “Well done Annie, good girl! I am proud of you.”
Despite stepping back out into the cold January air, Annabelle felt a warm glow inside. The following day she was going to be flying to Geneva. Now that it was so close, she let the excitement build within her.
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?