After the last few parts have focused on Annabell’s trip to Switzerland, this post is going to return to Blackwood momentarily to focus on Annabelle’s dearest friends in the town she has lived in for the past couple of years.
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
Chris woke up to find a message from Annabelle on his phone. He smiled to himself upon the realization that she was very happy. She had not been happy for weeks. She had made an effort to be cheerful, but he was painfully aware that something was eating away at her. In a moment of purely unselfish love, Chris was glad that Annabelle was with Robin, he must have been able to help her with whatever problem she was grappling with.
Sitting up in bed, Chris looked through the photographs Annabelle had sent him.
Having already planned to visit Ralph Crabbe over in the hospital that afternoon, Chris was pleased that Annabelle’s photographs had arrived on time for him to be able to share with Ralph.
As he arrived on the ward, he noticed Jenna standing at the nurses’ station and nodded to her. Jenna had clearly seen him, but indicated no acknowledgment. The last time they had spoken had been when Chris had called her to voice his feelings about her obnoxious text message to Annabelle. When Jenna had started laughing on the phone, Chris had lost his temper and called her a cold-hearted…well, perhaps that was why Jenna still had no desire to acknowledge him now.
Burt and Pearl Jennings were leaving the ward as Chris was arriving. Pearl looked tired and her eyes seemed red and swollen. On seeing Chris, Pearl looked relieved. She threw her arms and sobbed, “Oh Chris, I am so glad you are here. I hate having to leave him on his own.”
Chris was a little confused to see Pearl in such an emotional state. He looked at Burt who was smiling, but also seemed to have a sadness in his eyes. When he finally saw Ralph, Chris became more aware of why they must have been so saddened. Ralph seemed to have wasted away, since the last time Chris had seen him, just before he had been away for Christmas. There was a yellow tinge to his skin and all of his movements seemed laboured.
Ralph’s eyes alone indicated his delight to see his visitor. “Happy New Year Chris.”
Still unsure how to react to the obvious deterioration in Ralph, Chris answered automatically, “Happy New Year to you Ralph.
Ralph was quiet. After taking a sip of water, he stared at Chris searchingly, “Bone cancer Chris,” then after waiting for the words to register on Chris’ face, he added, “They say there is nothing they can do now. They didn’t find it before the surgery, or else they probably wouldn’t have operated at all.”
“I am so sorry Ralph. I didn’t know,” Chris was shocked as the last time he had seen Ralph there had been talk of him leaving hospital to go to a rehabilitation center.
“She doesn’t know anything about it Chris – your friend. I didn’t want it to ruin her time in Switzerland.”
Chris took a deep inhalation of air as it sank in that Annabelle had left unaware of Ralph’s cancer. “I had a message from her today Ralph, she sent some photos from Switzerland.” Ralph’s face lit up as he peered at the photographs Chris showed him. A few tears escaped from his eye-lids.
“Breath-taking. She’s a little angel sending those over. Thank you Chris, I needed that. So good for the soul.”
Chris sat down in the chair besides Ralph’s bed feeling lost for words, “I think she would want to know.”
It was clearly an effort for him, but Ralph shook his head, “You mustn’t say a word. This trip is very important to her. There is a great weight on her heart that needs to be lifted. She needs this time away Chris. We can’t take it away from her.”
Chris remained doubtful. “Annabelle cares for you so much. She has told me you have been her best friend in Blackwood.”
Ralph smiled, “And she mine. After the way she cared for my Barbara, we have been like family. She has been to see me almost every day, other than when you two took that trip to New York and her time away at Christmas.”
“She won’t forgive me if she realizes I haven’t told her. I am going to have to lie to her.”
Ralph revealed a slight frown, “There in the book on the table there, go on have a look at it.”
Chris picked up the Agatha Christie novel on the table and slipped out a letter written on a sheet of paper. He recognized Annabelle’s handwriting. He scanned over it, and then read it again to soak up how tender Annabelle’s words to Ralph were. He felt a swell of pride at the thought of Annabelle delivering a perfect farewell to Ralph without even knowing it might be her last chance to. He looked at Ralph, “She is an angel isn’t she?”
“So you see, we have had our goodbye Chris. Let her heart be free in Switzerland. She needs it so much, I can’t bear the thought of saddening her little heart.”
Chris felt more at ease with the thought of keeping the bone cancer a secret from Annabelle and not mentioning that Ralph had deteriorated so much. He didn’t know how much Ralph was aware of the kind of burdens Annabelle carried, but he appreciated the truth in his words. Annabelle did need this time away. She did need to unburden herself. Although he was afraid of her not wanting to return to Blackwood, it didn’t seem right to give her a reason to come back by alarming her about Ralph’s health. This was not Chris’ decision to make. Ralph Crabbe had expressed his will and it seemed wrong to consider disregarding his wishes.
So that evening when Chris sent a message to Annabelle, it simply stated: “RALPH LOVED SEEING YOUR PHOTOS. BREATHTAKING, GOOD FOR HIS SOUL, WERE HIS WORDS. HE SAID TO THANK HIS LITTLE ANGEL FOR SENDING THEM. HE IS THRILLED FOR YOU BEING THERE. SO AM I. WE ALL MISS YOU ANNIE.”
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?