After the shock of the serious car crash that occurred outside his parent’s home (due to sheep escaping the meadow when Annabelle forgot to close the gate behind her), Robin saw something else that upset him. He witnessed Chris and Annabelle embracing within the stables. Overwhelmed, Robin climbed into his car and drove up to his parent’s London home.
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
Robin found it hard to sleep that cold January night. He paced around the guest room in his parent’s London home. He’d taken a bottle of gin out of the cabinet in the dining room. But after one glass, he found it made him sick to his stomach. He had not touched a cigarette in over a year because he knew Annabelle hated tobacco, but he found himself craving one. When he tried to sleep he tossed and turned with images of Annabelle and Chris together haunting him.
Robin’s phone was on silent setting, but he kept on seeing it glow. Glancing over he would see it was either Chris or Annabelle trying to call. Then just Chris, every hour or so throughout the night. Chris was the last person Robin wanted to speak to. He was determined to ignore his phone.
It was a surprise to see a couple of missed calls from Dean Mathers at around four o’clock in the morning. Robin could see that a number of voice messages had been left on his phone, but he had no desire to listen to them.
Robin had not slept at all when the morning light started to seep through the gap in heavy curtains. There was a knock at the door and Robin heard his name called out by his mother.
Robin dressed hastily so he could open the door to his mother who had a china mug of strong black coffee for him. “I have just had a phone-call Robin, from that young American man. He’s been trying to contact you all night. You must have slept through his calls. He took Annabelle to hospital last night. She has been asking for you.”
“They are in Reading. He said he took her to Accident and Emergency, but that after she was treated there, she was moved to an observation ward.”
“What kind of observation ward?”
“Robin, there seems to be a question over her mental health. Your American friend seemed very anxious that you head to the hospital immediately. I will come with you. Your father has meetings today. But I will cancel my engagements for today.”
“Happy Anniversary Annabelle.”
Annabelle smiled sleepily, “A whole year Robin. It’s gone so quickly.”
“28th April. It’s been quite a year though hey.”
A slight frown appeared on Annabelle’s face, “We’ve had more than a few challenges.”
Robin gently kissed the scars on Annabelle’s left arm, “You are so precious to me.”
Tears trickled from Annabelle’s eyes, “I don’t deserve you. I feel like such a let down sometimes.”
“You are a treasure, more precious than you know. It’s me that has sometimes forgotten that you have a delicate side. You are perfectly lovely. I am the brute. I’ve let you down when you were most vulnerable.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that. You’ve never been a brute. Robin. You’ve been so kind,” Annabelle shivered, “I still feel terrible about what happened back in January.”
“Shhh, we’ve talked about this a hundred times Belle. We have all done it. Every member of my family, I swear, and friends and visitors. That’s why everyone goes on about that gate all the time. We have all forgotten about that gate. The sheep have escaped before. It could have been any of us it happened to. It was a huge shock I know, but it was an accident. It was a horrible coincidence that that driver was taking the bend at such speed. The roads were icy, he should not have been taking the bend so quickly. But everyone is fine now, and that couple seem more than satisfied with the settlement. And everyone is glad the speed limit has been lowered.”
“I am so scared to go back there, that day was so awful.”
Robin sighed, “It’s been over three months Belle. Everyone is looking forward to seeing you tonight.”
Annabelle pulled a face, “But I like Wales Robin. It’s good for the heart.”
“Snowdonia is beautiful. I think it was a good idea of Dad’s to bring you up here after you left hospital. But it’s time to be brave.”
“Everyone knows don’t they?”
“Most of the family know you had a kind of breakdown after that accident on the lane. Everyone is hugely sympathetic. It’s only my parents and Nick and Anna who know why Chris took you to hospital. But you agreed that you wanted them to know. They understand that you are very sensitive about it.”
“It’s good that they know. It’s too much for you to deal with on your own. I’m just scared of what they really think of me. What about all the neighbours? What must they think of me?”
“The line has been that you were very upset after the accident, which you were. Nobody knows anything Belle. My parents are very good at deflecting interest in anything personal. Everyone is just empathetic that something happened when you were trying so hard to settle into country life. Believe me, all of our neighbours realize that not closing a gate is so easily done. Nobody is going to judge you.”
Annabelle nodded as more tears trickled from her eyes, “I was trying so hard Robin. I wanted to learn all about the estate and how to cook properly and how to do everything right.”
“You were doing wonderfully Belle. You really were. I don’t think we told you enough how well you were doing. I was so proud of you. I am proud of you. The estate isn’t going anywhere. In the future we can start afresh. We’ll come back again for Christmas with my parents and stay a little while afterwards. Maybe not as long this time.”
“Thank you for being so wonderful Robin.”
“We have a responsibility to look after each other. Nothing is more important to me than you. And I have enjoyed learning to cook. It’s been good for me.”
“You’re a better cook than I am.”
Robin grinned, “All the best chefs are men Belle.”
Annabelle played with a tuft of Robin’s hair, “Thank you for sticking with me even though I caused so much stress.”
“You didn’t cause stress. My only regret is that I wasn’t with you that night. You were so brave. I should have been there with you.”
“I kept asking Chris where you were,” Annabelle murmured, “I wanted you so much.”
“Chris told me everything that happened Belle. Everything. I will be forever indebted to him. He was amazing. Are you looking forward to seeing him again?”
“His letters are so beautiful, aren’t they? You know I have never been close to my older brothers, but Chris feels like my brother. We are two peas in a pod. I think we understand each other so well.”
“Chris is family Belle. No doubt about that.”
“He was so perfect that night. Maybe it was good that he found me. I think it would have upset you even more Robin if you saw what I was doing. You had already had such an awful day. Chris hadn’t had to deal with any of the stress from the crash. Maybe it was better he was the one who found me.”
Robin planted his lips onto Annabelle’s left arm again, “Come on Belle. Let’s get ready. We want to beat the rush hour traffic.”
Robin and Annabelle had a long journey ahead of them. After leaving the cottage near Betws-Y-Coed that his father owned, and their home for the over two months, Robin drove down to Berkshire.
That evening many of the Grainger family were gathered at the Inkpen home of Stephen and Fiona, Robin’s parents. Fiona had arranged a very pleasant but low key anniversary party to celebrate the first wedding anniversary of their son. Most of the family had not seen Annabelle since Christmas. She was very nervous. She had chosen a long sleeved dress that hid the scars on her left arm.
Annabelle struggled to make eye contact with any of Robin’s family. But she was deeply appreciative of the hugs and squeezes of her hand from Robin’s relatives. Nobody mentioned the accident. Nobody asked Annabelle anything too personal. They all commented on how well she looked and asked her what she thought of Snowdonia. Anna made it very clear how delighted she was to see Annabelle again. The evening passed smoothly.
“That was nice wasn’t it?” asked Robin as he embraced Annabelle later that night.
“It was lovely.”
“You are lovely,” Robin kissed his wife.
“I love you so much gorgeous man!” she cried.
“I have an anniversary card for you.”
“I didn’t get you a card,” sulked Annabelle.
“That’s ok, you can make up for that by putting on that little red number I bought you for Valentine’s. But first you should read my card. Well, it’s not a card, it’s a boat, a paper boat. I’ve been very romantic you know. I’m going to go and grab some of the leftover wine from tonight and thank mum and dad. You read my message over there on the pillow,” Robin kissed Annabelle’s forehead and then left her to read his card on her own.
Annabelle picked up the paper boat that was resting on a pillow on the bed. She unfolded it and read the message Robin had written:
TO MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE ANNABELLE
THANK YOU FOR AN INCREDIBLE YEAR, THE BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE. I AM LIVING THE DREAM BELLE. FOR A LONG TIME, I WAS WORRIED THAT IT WAS MY DREAM THAT WE WERE LIVING. MY DREAM OF MARRYING A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WHO WOULD MAKE EVERYTHING SEEM LIKE AN ADVENTURE. BUT I THINK WE MIGHT BE LIVING THAT OLD DREAM OF YOURS AFTERALL.
IT TURNS OUT WE HAVE ALREADY BUILT SOMETHING SPECIAL TOGETHER. WE ARE STILL LEARNING HOW TO LOVE. I LOVE SAILING THROUGH LIFE WITH YOU. WE HAVE HAD SOME CALM SEAS TO ENJOY AND STORMS TO FACE. BUT WITH YOU, LIFE IS AN ADVENTURE. WE WILL GET STRONGER AND STRONGER. WE WILL SURVIVE STORMS.
YOU HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLY BRAVE THESE PAST FEW MONTHS AND I AM DEEPLY PROUD OF YOU. MY PRAYER IS THAT WE WILL GO ON LIVING THIS DREAM, THIS ADVENTURE, FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.
I LOVE YOU DEAR WIFE OF MINE. YOU ARE IMMENSELY PRECIOUS TO ME.
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?