Chris has turned up to see Annabelle. What will he have to say to her after the scene he caused at her wedding?
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
When Annabelle arrived at the front door, Chris was standing out on the drive near his beloved little sports car.
Her face beamed a smile as she called out, “Chris!”
Chris opened the door of his pride and joy, the two door, bottle green, 1982 TVR Tasmin little sports car that he lavished with devoted attention each weekend. Annabelle loved that car. Chris cried out to her, “Are you coming for a drive?”
As she stepped out onto the porch, she was hesitant. “Robin’s not here at the moment Chris.”
“I know that Annie. I’ve just seen him in the hardware store with Burt. He said you’ve been wanting to speak with me. So I came straight over,” Chris waited patiently for Annabelle to respond, “Well, are you coming?”
Annabelle ran forward, “Chris, things can’t be the same as they used to be.”
He shook his head, “They’ve not been for a while Annie. I’m not expecting things to go back to the way they were.”
Annabelle slipped into the passenger seat, and waited for Chris as he closed her door and walked around to sit behind her in the driver’s seat. He turned the key and started the car, then slowly reversed back onto the street. Annabelle felt there was so much she wanted to say, but she couldn’t find any words all of a sudden. “Have you been ok Chris?”
“Yeah, fine. I’ve been busy,” he replied nonchalantly.
“I’m sorry about, well you know, I’m just sorry Chris. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Chris glanced at Annabelle, “You don’t need to be sorry about anything. I’m the one who owes you an apology for what I said to you at your wedding. I don’t even know how to make amends for what happened. But believe me I’ve been working on it.”
“Did you get my letter Chris?”
“I read your letter Annabelle. You don’t need to say anything more. You really don’t. I don’t think I’m ready for anything more right now.”
“I was worried when I didn’t hear anything back from you.”
“Like I said, I’ve been busy.”
“Ok,” Annabelle was slightly dissatisfied with the conversation between them. She had been hoping for more. Surprised that Chris had stopped the car outside of a house a few roads away from the Jennings, she asked “Why have you brought me here?”
“I couldn’t bring your wedding present over to England. It was too big. I was going to figure out a way to send it over to you somehow, but I’ve been storing it here in the meantime. Would you like to see it?”
“You’ve been storing a wedding present at Ralph’s house?”
“I’ve been working here the last few weeks Annie. Somebody from out of town bought it, but it needed a lot of repairs. They won’t be moving in for a while. So as the place was empty, I kept your gift here. All my work things are here. The place is still a bit of a building site, you’ll have to be careful.”
Annabelle stepped out of Chris’ car, “It seems strange that someone else will be living here.”
As Chris unlocked the door, Annabelle looked at the familiar shape of the house but saw that a lot of work was in progress. The old carpet had been removed and the wooden floors had been exposed. Most of the dark woodwork had been sanded down. “Watch your step Annie, I haven’t had time to clear up in here,” There was a stepladder laying on it’s side that Annabelle had almost walked into.
Annabelle looked around with curiosity. She looked into the kitchen which looked exactly the same as it had before. “Are they keeping the kitchen the same way?”
“I’ve been told they want to keep the Aga but they are going to have the cupboards ripped out and update everything.”
Annabelle paused, “Oh, I guess it could do with updating. It’s just, I always liked those oak cupboards. There is a kind of old cottage feel to the place.”
Chris gazed at Annabelle, “I think the buyer said it was a bit dark.”
Annabelle responded, “It is, but the windows face east, so you have the morning sunshine in here. So the room never felt dark until later on in the day. Well, it’s their house now, they can do what they like I suppose.”
“The other rooms, I’ve just been told to paint white, and they will decide later if they want to decorate with different colours.”
“That’s a good idea. It might help them to move in and get a feel for the place first.”
“Come on, I’ll show you your present,” Chris lead the way to the back of the house.
Just before he opened the door to a room, Annabelle touched his arm, “Chris, this is where Barbara slept. When I moved in with them, she was already so ill she couldn’t manage the stairs anymore. So they turned this room into a bedroom for her. After she died, Ralph never came in here. He left it just the way it had been. He didn’t want anyone to go in here.”
Chris gazed at Annabelle, “There was an inch of dust all over everything in here Annie. I always wondered why. Ralph told me when he was in hospital that were some things of Barbara’s in here that he wanted you to have. Some photos and Barbara’s Bible, and a few other things he thought might be special to you. He asked me to bring them up to the hospital so he could put them all together for you.”
Annabelle felt a swell of gratitude within her, “Thank you,” she murmured.
“Are you ready?”
Annabelle nodded, so Chris opened up the door to the room that was now empty except for one piece of furniture. The carpet had been taken up, the walls painted white. There stood the gift that Chris had made for Annabelle.
“Is that for me?”
Chris grinned, “I thought it would be easier to finish your business studies course if you had a desk to study out.”
“It’s beautiful,” cried Annabelle running her fingers along it and opening each drawer. There was coloured stationery and supplies in each drawer. “But I think I’ve officially flunked that course Chris.”
“You told me that your parents used to buy you stationery for Christmas.”
“Yeah, I know I sounded ungrateful, but to receive stationery when my nephews and nieces were being given the coolest toys. I was pretty miffed.”
“I think they had great hopes for you Annie. I know they didn’t always show it the best way. But your Dad told me that you used to read a lot, and they thought you would turn out to be an Ace student. He said something went wrong when you started middle school. They said you seemed to lose interest in school work and stop talking to them. They knew you were troubled but they thought it was just a phase you would grow out of.”
“What do you mean? My Dad told you that?”
“I met your parents Annie.”
Annabelle was bewildered, “What! How? Why did you meet my parents?”
“Your father-in-law asked me to go and collect the paperwork for your apartment in Manhattan. I spent some time with your parents and they talked a lot about you.”
“I don’t understand, Chris, I don’t understand.”
“They felt bad Annie. They said they are going to try harder with you from now on. I left with the impression they were going to try to make amends somehow.”
Annabelle felt a surge of pain, “What did you tell them about me?”
“I haven’t told them anything about your hurting yourself. I just told them how scared you were before you went up there at Christmas and how much effort you had put into planning what to buy as gifts for them all. I told them you’d been through some hard times and that it may have been harder for you not having their support.”
Annabelle looked away form Chris. She felt sick, “Is that why they agreed to have the reception in New York. Because you made them feel guilty?”
“I didn’t make them feel guilty Annie. I just told them they were missing out on a wonderful person. I told them what I thought of you. What an incredible woman you are and how loved you are by your friends. I told them you wanted to be closer to them but you don’t know how to undo the past.”
Annabelle was shaking with emotion, “You had no right Chris. You had no right to interfere.”
Chris stared at Annabelle, “You tried Annabelle. You tried but it didn’t work out. They were going to have to hear it from someone. I told them the truth, not to make them feel guilty. I just wanted them to know what an amazing person you are. I had every right to say that. I would shout it from the rooftops – I think you are a wonderful person. Annabelle Riley is the most beautiful woman I have ever known.”
“Annabelle Grainger,” she replied.
“Mrs Annabelle Grainger… is an amazing woman, who is incredibly loyal even when people let her down. I’d let you down at your wedding, and yet you wrote me that letter, that beautiful letter. Your family have let you down for a long time Annie, but I know you, I know you will be just as loyal, just as forgiving to them. Your Dad said they thought you had lost interest in your school work because you were going through a phase. Typical teenager rebellion. They were shocked when you wanted to leave home. They don’t have any idea of what was really going on. Perhaps that’s their fault. But after you left home, all they saw was you in the papers partying with rockstar friends. They thought you had turned your back on them. That you didn’t want to be a part of the family.”
“Please stop. Please, I can’t take it,” Annabelle began to grip her arms and dig her nails into her flesh.
Chris jumped to his feet and took hold of her arms, “Annie, don’t please don’t,” he held Annabelle’s head to his shoulder.
Tears were streaming down Annabelle’s face, “I want Robin.”
Chris pulled out his phone and scrolled through his contacts. Moments later, Annabelle heard him say, “Hey Rob, we’re over at the house. Annabelle’s upset… Can you head over?… Yeah now.”
Chris took Annabelle’s arm and guided her out of the house again and sat her down on the bench on the veranda. “Chris, I’m glad my family all came to meet Robin and his parents. But I’m not ready, I can’t. I just can’t. I cannot. I’m going to give my everything to my new family, Robin’s family. My family will be here in the US. I will be in England. I tried. I did try. But they turned me away ok. They turned me away, and I have been trying to give my all to my life with Robin and his family. I don’t need you to go interfering. What am I going to be able to do from so far away? I don’t want to worry about them. I don’t even want to think about them! I drew a line ok. I don’t want to go back. Not right now. And I don’t want to feel guilty about that.”
“I didn’t mean any harm Annie. I just couldn’t bear the thought of them not knowing who you really are.”
Annabelle rolled her eyes, “Stephen shouldn’t have sent you to meet my parents. He didn’t know what I had told you.”
Chris stared down at the wooden planks of the veranda, “I miss you Annie. I miss walking and talking with you.”
Annabelle turned her tear-stained face towards Chris, “You were never so direct. Robin is direct. He gets impatient with me. Sometimes I find it hard to talk with him about how I feel. He’s trying harder. But you used to be so easy to talk to. You seemed to understand everything I was trying to say.”
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Annabelle shook her head, “Maybe it’s because I hurt you. I know I did. I messed up. I was struggling and something came up that I was scared to tell even you. I needed Robin. It turns out that trusting him is the best decision I ever made. He knows I’m not perfect, but we are closer than ever. So much damage has been undone. I’m happy Chris.”
“That’s what I want for you Annie.”
“I’m sorry I shut you out. I was frightened. But Robin took the fear away somehow. He makes me feel strong Chris. He doesn’t understand the way I feel sometimes, but he makes me feel strong.”
“That’s great Annie. You are strong. I don’t think you realize how much strength you already have.”
“I would like to keep in touch Chris. But things will never be the same. You know why don’t you? I don’t want to hurt you, but we won’t be able to be as close as we were ever again. I don’t just mean the distance. England is a long way. I mean the openness. I can’t be turning to you for the kind of emotional support you have given me.”
Chris pondered what Annabelle had said, “I respect that. I was devastated when my parents split up Annie. I would never want to interfere with you and Robin. You deserve a happy loving marriage. I’m not going to stop caring about you. I understand that distance is a good thing. Emotional distance. I understand that it is right to let go of what we had. It’s not been easy to accept, but I do want what is best for you.”
A car pulled up on the road in front of them and Burt and Robin climbed out of the car. With a few large strides, Robin had crossed the front garden and had his hands upon Annabelle’s shoulders, “Alright Belle?”
Robin looked anxiously at Chris, “Everything alright Chris?”
Chris nodded. “I think so,” was his reply.
“Chris was telling me that someone has bought this place. He’s been working here, getting it ready for them. They seem to be completely gutting the place and updating everything.”
Robin looked down at Annabelle, “Did it need updating?”
“Probably a lot of it did. It was very dark. But I think it would be a shame if they take out the lovely oak in the kitchen.”
Robin looked over at Chris, “It was a quick sale then?”
Chris lifted his head, “First offer was accepted. Ralph’s great nephew lives in Seattle. He had no plans to live here. The new owner was keen to get the place up to scratch. They seemed eager to move in as soon as possible.”
“So I guess you’ve met the new owners Chris? What are they like?”
Chris stood up and put his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He glared at Robin and stated, “The guy is full of crap, but his wife is a knock-out. She’s as lovely as anything you could imagine.”
A smirk appeared on Robin’s face, “Careful, you still haven’t been paid yet!”
Annabelle hadn’t been listening to the exchange between the two men. She was too tired by the upset between her and Chris. She detected there was an understanding between them she was not part of. She knew they had been in touch over her before she had arrived in Switzerland, and even afterwards, so she dismissed the conversation between them as something that Robin had not mentioned to her.
But when she looked up Robin and Chris were both gazing down at her. Becoming self-conscious she asked Robin, “What’s the matter?”
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?