When Annabelle and Robin return from their honeymoon in the middle of May, there is surprising news waiting for her.
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
Annabelle was genuinely shocked when after arriving back in England, Robin’s parents told her the news. In amazement she declared, “I can’t believe that they have agreed to it.”
“It was their idea Annabelle. Stephen received a phone call from your father suggesting the date. He said that all of your siblings and their families would be able to attend. We were thrilled, so we have made the rest of the arrangements. We are looking forward to meeting them.”
Annabelle sat down, still trying to come to terms with the thought that so soon after they had made it apparent they had no interest in her marriage to Robin, her parents had made contact to say they were delighted with an idea of a reception in New York and would like to meet Robin’s parents. “I don’t understand Robin. What has made them change like this? Your mother must have said something to them.”
Other than George and Carol Riley, there was only one other person who might have been able to explain the change of heart in them.
A couple of days after travelling back from England to Wisconsin, Chris Ward was on another plane travelling to New York. As Stephen Grainger had commissioned him, Chris was to visit the home of Annabelle’s parents, George and Carol Riley to collect the files that they had in connection with the apartment Annabelle owned. Then he would visit the agency who had been coordinating the let and all of the checks and repairs that needed undertaking on Annabelle’s behalf.
Chris was expected by George Riley. Stephen Grainger had corresponded by email with Annabelle’s father, regarding the trip Chris was taking on their behalf to collect the files he had been faithfully keeping. Stephen had communicated Annabelle’s appreciation and their own for his keeping all of the paper work in such an organized manner. But he made it clear that Robin would now be administering the arrangements for the apartment at Annabelle’s request.
Stephen Grainger had invited the Rileys to contact Annabelle to confirm everything in his correspondence. George Riley declined to do so, but he made sure that he was home on the morning Chris Ward was due to arrive, and had everything waiting to be collected.
Chris was deeply curious to see the house Annabelle had grown up in and to meet her parents. He thought about her as he made his way up to the Bronx and walked along the street from the station to her parents’ home. When he knocked on the front door, it was Carol Riley who opened the door to him. Chris identified himself, and Carol invited him to step into the hallway, at the same time calling out to her husband to come to meet the visitor.
George Riley came into the hallway to meet Chris, “I have everything ready for you in bundles. Do you have anything to carry them with?”
Chris looked blank for a moment. He had told there would be a filing box to collect, so he hadn’t brought anything to carry it, believing he could just carry the box away. “I’m afraid I’m empty handed Sir. Forgive me, if I’d known I would have brought something.”
Carol Riley had overheard the brief exchange between her husband and the visitor. She declared, “I’ll find a bag for you.” She began to root around in the cupboard underneath the stairs pulling out the shopping bags and trying to find something large and strong enough to carry all of the paperwork George had stacked up. “What’s this? Is this yours George?” cried Carol pulling out a leather holdall.
“Never seen it before,” George shrugged his shoulders.
Carol began pulling out of the holdall parcels wrapped up in gift paper. “What is this doing down here?” her face was crumpled with bewilderment. “George it’s full of presents, with name tags on them. This one says Mum on it.”
Annabelle’s father beheld at his wife who was clearly confused at her find. “Empty it out Carol, that bag would be just the thing for all this paperwork.”
“But who are these from?”
Chris had been watching the scene before him intently. As Carol Riley brought the bag over and one of the gifts over to her husband, she asked him, “Have these been here since Christmas?”
George stared at his wife, “Here give us it here, I’ll put the paper work in.”
“You don’t think they were from Annabelle do you?” she cried.
“Carol, just leave it. We can have a proper look at them afterwards,” snapped George.
Chris spoke up, “Annabelle gave me a Christmas present with that same wrapping paper. I know she went to a lot of effort buying gifts for all of her family.”
George and Carol looked at Chris suspiciously, “Oh you are a friend of hers are you?” asked George.
“Yes Sir. I have known Annie since I moved to Blackwood.”
“Oh he didn’t say that in his messages. He said you were the representative for this chap she has married.”
Chris felt compelled to go on speaking about Annabelle, “She started her Christmas shopping at the start of November. She spent weeks planning for Christmas with her family. She was so nervous about it. She told me how scared she was about coming up here.”
George Riley let out an exasperated puff of air. Carol stared at Chris doubtfully as she stated, “She came up here and was very disrespectful. She upset our family Christmas.”
“With all due respect, I find that hard to imagine. She is the sweetest woman. She is loved by folk in Blackwood for her kindness and friendliness. She would never want to cause offense to anyone.”
“You don’t know our daughter like we do!” stated George with a hard stare at Chris.
“Forgive me Sir, but I don’t think you know Annabelle like I do. She told me left home almost ten years ago. She is such a beautiful soul. You are missing out on someone really special.”
George placed his hand on his hips and sternly responded, “Look son, I know she has no difficulty attracting male attention for herself. But she has made it clear she wants to be no part of our family. She’s left home to live with drug-abusers and whenever she has been here since she shows no sign of a change of heart.”
Chris shook his head, “She has talked about her past a lot with me. She’s changed a lot since she lived at home. You have no idea what she’s been through. She desperately wanted to give her all to spending Christmas with you. She put a lot of thought into those gifts.”
Carol Riley could no longer contain herself. She tore off the wrapping from the gift that was labelled, “MOM”. Inside was a box with an envelope attached to it. Carol opened up the box first and gasped, before she took the card out of the envelope and began reading Annabelle’s Christmas message to her.
I KNOW HOW IMPORTANT FAMILY IS TO YOU, AND HOW HARD YOU WORK TO MAKE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL TO EVERYONE. YOU ARE SO TALENTED AND CARING. I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN MORE USEFUL WHEN I WAS LIVING AT HOME. I AM SORRY IF I DIDN’T APPRECIATE YOU ENOUGH BACK THEN.
I HAD A TASTE OF HOW HARD IT CAN BE TO BE A MOTHER. I WAS EXHAUSTED ALL OF THE TIME, I HARDLY FELT HUMAN. I’VE BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT YOU. HOW FAITHFULLY YOU CARED FOR ALL OF US. ALWAYS PUTTING YOUR CHILDREN AND YOUR GRANDCHILDREN BEFORE YOURSELF.
I WANTED TO GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE THE SPECIAL LADY YOU ARE. I SAW THIS COCO QUOTE AND IT MADE ME SMILE. YOU DESERVE A LOT OF LOVE, A LOT OF HUGS AND KISSES FOR ALL OF YOUR HARD WORK.
I LOVE YOU MOM. I AM SORRY FOR NOT SHOWING YOU ENOUGH APPRECIATION IN THE PAST. I WANT TO TRY HARDER FROM NOW ON TO SHOW YOU HOW GRATEFUL I AM FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR ME. I UNDERSTAND NOW HOW HARD YOU HAVE WORKED ALL THESE YEARS.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Carol Riley’s face was flushed with emotion, “Oh George! George, she was trying to put these presents under the tree in the dining room. I told her there wasn’t enough room and to take them out of the way. She must have put them down under the stairs so we wouldn’t be tripping over them.”
Chris ended up spending another hour drinking tea with George and Carol Riley and answering their questions about Annabelle’s wedding. Although some of his memories of that day were vague, he was enthusiastic about what he could remember. He regretted having no photographs of the wedding to show them.
George and Carol began to talk more openly about how they regarded their daughter. It seemed apparent that in their minds, Annabelle had snubbed them, preferring her famous friends. They spoke of how independent she had been, going to live in England and having a baby without ever consulting them. Then appearing back in New York clearly distraught, but unwilling to listen to any of their advice.
There came a point in the conversation where Chris felt if he did not speak up while he had the chance, he would always regret it, “You need to change your view of Annabelle. You really are missing out on a wonderful woman. She has battled with depression for a long time. But she has learnt so much about herself. I know she wants you to be a part of her life. She just has no idea how to undo the past. But it would be so sad if you didn’t share in her future.”
After Chris had left with the leather holdall stuffed with paperwork, George and Carol discussed what he had said. During the next couple of days, they delivered Annabelle’s Christmas gifts to their three older children and their families and brought up the subject of Fiona Grainger’s suggestion of a reception for Robin and Annabelle in New York.
Each of Annabelle’s siblings was as surprised and moved by the gifts and personal messages Annabelle had carefully written to them as her parents had been. They were all softened by her words. The whole family, even Anabelle’s older sister Alicia, were unanimous in the feeling that they would like to be present to wish Annabelle and her new husband well.
So it was Chris speaking out when he had the chance, who had prompted the change of heart in the Riley family. Not that the Graingers had any idea when they received a phone call from George Riley suggesting a date in June as convenient for all of their family to welcome their daughter and Robin, along with his parents.
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?