As their wedding approaches, there is still so much to do and there are many decisions to be made.
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
The next few weeks were very busy for the Grainger family. Whenever they were at their West Berkshire estate, Stephen and Fiona Grainger made efforts to stir enthusiasm in Annabelle for country life. Annabelle was excited and delighted at everything they involved her in. She felt like a little girl who was being spoilt by rich benefactors. She told Robin that she had taken to thinking of his father as “Daddy Warbucks” trying to spoil orphan Annie.
They split their time between London, where Fiona had made appointments for Robin and his fiance. She had also set aside a whole day early on, for Annabelle to choose her wedding dress. Annabelle was grateful for Fiona’s company wherever they went. She confessed to her future mother-in-law, “I find making decisions overwhelming.”
Fiona was sensitive enough to look for clues as to what Annabelle prefered, and simplified the selection of choices in front of her again and again. She did steer Annabelle away from her curiosity over a knee-length wedding dress, but with patience she tried to make sure that Annabelle had a dress she genuinely liked.
Fiona had a little less patience when it came to flowers. When Annabelle kept saying the flowers she liked most were buttercups over and over, Fiona decided to place the orders with the florists herself. She did determine that Annabelle didn’t want anything to look too pristine and formal. She said she loved wildflowers and a romantic look. This was somewhat helpful to Fiona, and she did her best to accommodate Annabelle’s notions.
The Christmas pudding wedding cake was a compromise. The three tiered wedding cake would be a traditional rich fruit cake with fondant and icing. But Robin and Annabelle would have a small Christmas pudding soaked in brandy that was iced for the wedding.
Aware that decisions needed to be made, Fiona found that Annabelle’s lack of concentration and decisiveness was a challenge. When it came to the choices the caterers had offered and other matters such as tableware, decor, and seating plans, Annabelle offered no opinions at all. This meant that with such limited time, it was best for Fiona to just proceed with making arrangements and ask her son if there was anything he wanted to change.
Annabelle was in awe of Fiona Grainger. Especially after overhearing the telephone conversation Fiona had with her parents. George and Carol Riley had still not replied to the letter informing them of the engagement, nor the wedding invitation that had been sent over to them. On learning this, Fiona had phoned them directly. On finally ascertaining that they were not making plans to travel to England for the wedding, due to prior arrangements they had made with other family members, she had been very gracious. Fiona had said that they had already discussed a reception in New York after the wedding and would be in touch at a later date to make arrangements for a day that was convenient to the Riley family. Annabelle felt some relief after Fiona had ascertained her family’s intentions.
Fiona was especially kind to Annabelle after realizing none of her family would be at the wedding. Annabelle was very grateful for the affectionate way Fiona spoke to her and the tactile gestures designed to reassure Annabelle. The young woman was completely cooperative with everything Fiona suggested, including some purchases of clothing that would be more suitable to wear back in the countryside.
The only thing that Annabelle found intimidating, was how often Fiona spoke about how wonderful it would be to see Robin and Annabelle start a family. Annabelle would just smile and nod, out of pure fear of upsetting her future mother-in-law.
Back at Inkpen, Stephen Grainger had charged the caretaker of the estate, Nick, with dealing with appointments he had made. A local farmer brought his tractor down and helped level out part of the meadow at the side of the house so that it would be ready for the marquee. Nick built some solid timber steps into the bank so that guests would be able to make their way to the marquee on solid ground. Between them Stephen and Nick had drawn up a military like schedule that would go into operation the week before the wedding.
Nick and Anna were energetic in all the extra tasks asked of them. Anna seemed to especially enjoy working in the garden, planting new flowers in the beds. She was always pleased when Annabelle came to find her to ask if she had time to go for a walk. The two young women enjoyed each other’s company very much and it pleased Robin and his parents to see Annabelle spending time exploring the estate and the surrounding area.
A week before the wedding, Robin and Annabelle left London for the last time before the wedding and caught the train to Kintbury, where they were met by Nick at the station. Stephen and Fiona had commitments in London, but would join them a couple of days later. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, the sky was blue and England was experiencing the first warm weather of the year. Robin and Annabelle headed out to the woods hand in hand with Rufus, the family’s dog. After an hour they came to a bench that was dry enough to perch on and enjoy beholding the gentle rolling countryside before them.
“Are you happy Belle?”
Annabelle lent her head against Robin’s shoulder, “I am. Why do you ask?”
“You seem quiet these past few weeks. I just wondered if there is anything wrong?”
“No, there’s nothing wrong. So much has happened. I don’t think I am used to quite so much wonderful Robin. I’m just trying to let it sink in. It’s overwhelming. Everyone is being so lovely. It feels a bit like a dream, and I am afraid to wake up and find it isn’t real.”
Robin grinned, “It’s a good quiet then. I am glad you feel that way. Do you like it here in Inkpen?”
“Is this somewhere you could see yourself living?”
Annabelle sighed as she looked out at a newly born lamb nestling into the ewe that was resting on the grassy bank. She stood up and looked around at the scenery around them, “It feels like paradise here. Would it always be so perfect?”
Robin glanced at Annabelle who wore a dreamy expression in her eyes, “One day this place will belong to us Belle. I will inherit this estate from my Father,”
Annabelle was motionless. Her eyes locked onto the daffodils near her feet, “So we will live here after the wedding?”
“I’ve been talking to my father about it. He thinks we need time together somewhere else, before the hard work here begins.”
“He wants me to learn everything involved with running the estate. There is a lot of work to do here.”
“What will I do?”
“Help me, if you would enjoy that. You should ask my mother about everything she does. I know she is very busy. She loves it out here, much more than their life up in London.”
“So do you mean after our honeymoon we will come back here and start learning from your parents.”
“No, I think my father wants us to come when we are ready. He wants us to have time on our own without worrying about this place. He suggested a smaller home where we can settle into married life.”
“He offered us their cottage up in Wales. They let it out to holiday makers, but he has told me that if we want to start married life somewhere quieter, we are welcome to it. I wanted to find out first where you would like to be.”
Annabelle sighed, “You are my home Robin, not a location or a building.”
“I’m going to have to make this decision by myself aren’t I? You don’t have any preference about where we live?”
Annabelle shook her head, “Where you go I will go, where you spend the night, I will spend the night. Your people will be my people.”
Robin gazed at Belle in confusion before wrapping his arms around her and kissing her cheek, “You are such a romantic.”
“I read it this morning, it’s in a section called Ruth.”
“Oh you are still reading that Bible of yours? I thought you said you weren’t enjoying it?”
“Some of it is hard to read. but I like Ruth. It is about a woman who gets married to a kind man.”
“So is that what she says to her husband, “I’ll go wherever you go.”
“Oh no, she says that to her mother-in-law, before she ever meets the man she marries.”
Robin raised his eyes, “Oh so it’s the mother-in-law who makes her want to marry this kind man. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you are now dressing like my mother Belle. She is a gem, but you don’t have to be just like her.”
Annabelle looked a little frustrated, “Naomi, her mother-in-law, had a son who was married to Ruth but he died. When Naomi goes back to her own home, Ruth goes with her. She loves her and wants to support her. They don’t have anything, but Ruth goes out to work in the fields to gather what is left behind by the harvesters. That’s how she meets her husband. He is impressed by her hard work and the way she cares for Naomi. It’s a very nice story Robin. she had nothing but love, but that love moved her to action. It moved her to do things she might have thought she was unable to. She ended up very happy.”
“It sounds like a beautiful story Belle.”
“I found it very helpful. I know you think me reading the Bible is silly. But it’s helpful to me. I sometimes feel overwhelmed. I feel as if I have nothing to give you, except love. But I think Ruth may have felt that way too. but she kept working at it, because of love, and things turned out well.”
Robin looked at Annabelle with a softness in his eyes, “You have given me almost $100,000 for a start. That’s something I am never ever going to forget. You are beautiful Belle, especially in here,” his index finger tapped against Annabelle’s right breast, “You have a beautiful heart.”
“I want you to be happy Robin. I sometimes have to fight the feelings that I might let you down and be a burden to you. I want to try to be what you need me to be.”
“You worry far too much. You are wonderful. Together we will at some point need to learn more about looking after this place, but I think that is something we will find we enjoy. My father doesn’t want it to be a pressure. But Belle, we both have things to learn. We will help each other out. That’s what this is all about. You and I, we are a team now.”
“That’s what Anna said,” Anna smiled to herself, “I would like us to be like Nick and Anna. They are a great team. They work together, I hear them laughing together. He takes her out on the back of his motorbike.”
Robin raised an eye-brow, “Would you like me to have a motorbike?”
Annabelle laughed, “I am sure I was extremely close to losing my life a couple of times when I have been on the back of Dean’s motorbike,” she grasped Robin’s hand, “It’s the togetherness. I want to be that close always. With Dean, I was so often on my own while he was busy. All I could do was sit and watch and be ready for him when he had finished. When I was on my own, I didn’t feel I had much of a purpose. I want it to be different now.”
“I mentioned to my father Belle, that I enjoyed working at the hotels for Renard. I need work. I need it for my own sake more than anything. I want to be providing for us. But I need to have something to occupy my mind with. While I am at work, you would be on your own. I want us to live somewhere that you feel comfortable. Somewhere you have friends and can be busy with whatever you enjoy and find satisfying.”
“I like work too. I know sometimes people laugh, but I really enjoyed ironing for Blackwood folk. And I know I wasn’t very good at it, but I loved the cooking jobs I had. I was learning every week. I would love to learn more. I would love to be able to cook properly for you, and bake cakes.”
“Are you looking forward to seeing your friends?”
“Yes. I can’t wait to see Burt and Pearl.”
“It’s a shame you don’t have any adult bridesmaids. You could have found Chris a girlfriend.”
Ignoring his last comment, Annabelle turned to Robin and asked, “Could we go out for a drink with Nick and Anna? Anna asked me last time we were here, and I said I would mention it to you.”
“Of course we can. I’ll ask Nick if they are free tonight if you like.”
“I like them so much.”
“Good. I am glad you like them,” Robin gazed at Annabelle’s happy face, “But remember they are employed by my father.”
“What does that mean?” there was a curious expression on Annabelle’s face.
“Nothing. They are a great couple, and we want to be on good terms with them. They are invaluable here. But technically they are staff.”
Annabelle looked at Robin with disbelief, “Well, technically that’s what I was with Ralph and Barbara Crabbe. But I ended up with a best friend out of it. Ralph has been my rock for over a year. He introduced me to wonderful people like Burt and Pearl. Where would I have been without them?”
Robin shook his head,”Annabelle…sometimes I say stupid things. You are going to have to forgive me whenever I act or think like a posh rich kid. I think I spent too long in the bubble my parents may have unwittingly surrounded me with. I’m still learning about the real world.”
Annabelle squeezed Robin’s hand and stated in a low tone, “Robin, both of us have been given things we didn’t work for. Your parents and Dean have provided so much for us. Nick and Anna are better than us. They have worked for everything they enjoy. I think Anna is really good for me.”
“This is exactly why I am so glad you will be my wife. You are so different from all the Claudia-types I have grown up with. You get more and more beautiful everyday.”
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?