After becoming engaged to be married while out in Switzerland, Robin has worked his notice period at the hotels that his ex-father-in-law owned. Now he and Annabelle prepare to fly to England, where he will see his parents for the first time in almost a year and make preparations for their wedding.
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
The journey from Interlaken to Zurich was longer than the flight from Zurich to Heathrow. When Robin and Annabelle flew to England in the middle of February, they were met at the airport by Nick, who took from Robin a large hold-all which he swung over his shoulder and took Annabelle’s case, which he wheeled behind him, as he lead the way out to the car-park.
Instinctively, Robin climbed into the back of the Range Rover to sit next to Annabelle. Nick started the engine and made his way out of the short-stay car park and onto the road that led away from the airport. “Who is Nick?” she whispered to him.
Robin very quietly replied that Nick lived on his parent’s country estate and helped to run the estate in his father’s absence. It wasn’t long before Nick had driven away from the airport and onto the motorway heading West. Annabelle rested her head against Robin’s shoulder. After a few minutes Robin lifted her hand which was clutching his, “You’re tense?”
Annabelle’s face revealed her dismay and she saw what she had done to Robin’s hand, “I’ve hurt you.”
“I was just starting to lose all feeling Belle. I tried to stretch my hand out just now, but your grip is like a vice. Are you ok?”
Annabelle took a deep breath, “My heart is racing Robin. I am trying not to look out of the window but I keep imagining a car is going to plough into the side of us.”
Robin brought his right hand over to stroke Annabelle’s hair and he kissed her forehead, “It won’t happen again.”
“It’s been a while since I was on an English highway.”
“Motorway,” Robin corrected her.
Annabelle’s face was white and grave, “How far do we have to go?”
“Inkpen is about an hour away. Try and rest.”
Speaking about the traffic accident brought memories of seeing Annabelle in an Intensive Care Unit in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital three years before.
Images of the her arrival in England three years earlier flooded Annabelle’s mind. It was hard to feel restful with the noises from the cars whizzing past and the scenes of grey English roads reminding her so much of the traffic accident that she had been involved in during her journey from the airport to Robin’s home. As soon as Nick turned off the motorway, Annabelle started to feel a little bit more relaxed. But full relief came when they turned into the driveway of the countryside home that Stephen and Fiona Grainger had raised Robin in.
Annabelle had been out to the house a couple of times during her year-long residence in England. It was a house that she liked so much. It had always been helpful to leave London and head out into the countryside with Robin to stay at his parent’s country home. But Annabelle had been too ill to enjoy it fully.
It saddened her to think that her time in England had been the worst period of her life emotionally. She had completely lost all control of her impulse to self-harm. Despite being with the man she loved, and seeing that she had made him happy by giving birth to his child, and living in a beautiful home in London, the crippling cycle of guilt and grief and relief, followed by more guilt, more grief and a need for more relief had enslaved her.
Yet, here she was again. This time, rather than arriving in England alone, not sure of what to expect when she told Robin she was pregnant, she was arriving with him, and was about to marry him. Surely things would be different this time round. That’s what she hoped.
But a sense of self-doubt crept into her. It was two whole months since the last time she had hurt herself. But what was two months? She was hardly cured. In those two months, the feelings had been there at times, the guilt, the grief – but she had somehow been stronger than the impulse to harm her own body.
Especially during the last month, she had felt a great deal of happiness and joy. Robin had helped. He seemed to want her to know how precious she was to him. That was something she could never be fully convinced of, yet every gesture he made was appreciated. She would not want to have been without his tenderness. Even if he was grossly deceiving himself about her value, she was so glad to have his love.
As Robin and Annabelle were climbing out of the Range Rover and Nick was unloading their luggage from the back, an excited bark was heard. Robin smiled as he saw his parents and their dog Rufus walking towards them, from the direction of the woodland besides their house.
Stephen and Fiona Grainger greeted their son and future daughter-in-law very warmly. While Stephen excused himself and went to speak with Nick, Fiona ushered the couple into the side door of their property, so she could remove her wellington boots and outer clothing.
“Rufus, down boy!” cried Fiona as Rufus jumped excitedly up at Annabelle smearing muddy paw prints all over her sweater. Annabelle smiled as Robin began to wrestle with Rufus who was wagging his tail and licking Robin’s arms. Fiona apologised to Annabelle and suggested that she remove her knitted jumper, so they could attend to the dirt stains immediately. Annabelle obeyed.
Fiona took her sweater and walked away, before turning back to invite Annabelle to follow her. Fiona related to Annabelle, “Since you were here last, Nick and Anna have moved into the old game-keeper’s cottage. While Nick is helping run the estate, Anna helps out with some house-work for a couple of days a week. She’s a real saint.”
Fiona led the way to the enormous kitchen at the back of the house and headed towards a cream door. She opened the door to and warmly greeted the young woman who was ironing inside the utility room.
“Hello Anna, oh thank you for steaming that dress, it looks so much better. That’s marvellous.”
In response, Anna’s face beamed a smile at Mrs Grainger and replied “You are welcome.”
Fiona then introduced her companion, “Anna, I would like you to meet Annabelle, Robin’s fiance.”
Anna settled the iron down and then approached Annabelle with her hand outstretched, “It’s so lovely to meet you at last. We are all so excited about the wedding.”
Annabelle blinked a little finding that she was finding everything slightly surreal after the long journey. She eagerly thanked Anna. Fiona then spoke again, “Anna, look what Rufus has done to Annabelle’s lovely jumper.”
Anna pulled a face at the dirt stains, “Naughty Rufus. I will soak it before the dirt becomes embedded.”
“Thank you Anna,” Fiona smiled, “there’s been a change of plan for this evening. We won’t be having dinner at home after all. Stephen thought it would be jolly fun to take Annabelle down to the boat while the weather is so good. We’ll stop by somewhere where we can have a bite to eat on the way back.”
“Of course,” replied Anna, “is there anything else you would like me to do this afternoon then Mrs Grainger?”
“I did wonder if after lunch you could help Annabelle unpack her luggage for an hour or so. But then take the rest of the day off. We will see you on Thursday as usual if that’s alright with you.”
After agreeing that Anna would return after her lunch break to help Annabelle, Fiona led Annabelle back through the house to find Robin.
Robin had gone straight into the snug and turned on the television. He was laid out on a sofa when mother walked into the room. He muted the volume immediately, and looked up expectantly, “I couldn’t decide between Bargain Hunt and Loose Women.”
Fiona raised an eyebrow, “Darling, will you please go and tell your father that I am going to heat some soup for lunch. We will have lunch in half an hour.” Robin promptly stood up in obedience, pausing to squeeze Annabelle’s arm and kiss her cheek.
Annabelle had hardly spoken since she had arrived. Fiona turned to her and put her hands on Annabelle’s arms, “Annabelle, I am so pleased that you are going to be part of our family. You always were, but now it’s official.”
A lump came up into Annabelle’s throat. She felt rather overwhelmed by the warmth from Robin’s mother, “Thank you for letting me be here.”
“Thank you Annabelle for bringing our son home to us. He looks so much better than when we last saw him. I am sure that is mostly your doing.” Fiona drew Annabelle close and embraced her.
“I think it’s been Claudia that has helped him the most.”
Fiona looked surprised at Annabelle’s statement. She laughed a little before adding, “You are a tease. Claudia has been very strict with him about his finances. But she is certainly not the one who produced this change in him.”
Annabelle knew better than to argue with her future mother-in-law. “I know he feels very bad about what happened when he was in London.”
“We won’t worry about that today. Would you like to help me put some lunch together dear?”
Annabelle’s face lit up, “Of course.”
Half an hour later, Stephen and Fiona Grainger ,along with Annabelle and Robin, were sat around the huge farmhouse kitchen table in their kitchen. They all tucked into the warm soup and crusty bread, which Annabelle had paid attention to carving and buttering neatly.
Stephen Grainger was animated about his plan to spend the evening down at their canal boat as it was such a sunny day and they were unlikely to have spare time over the next week or so. Fiona outlined the busy week ahead explaining some of the appointments she had made for the next few days, including tea with the vicar of West Woodhay Church the next day.
Robin’s hand rested on Annabelle’s right leg, squeezing it whenever she seemed hesitant to answer a question directed to her. Inside Annabelle had a wrestling she tried to contain. Nerves and feelings of inadequacy were contending with sheer happiness and gratitude. One thing she truly wanted to believe and tried to beat back any doubts, was that they really did want want her to be there, despite everything that had happened in the past.
Another part coming soon…
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?