After one of her worst incidents of harming herself, Annabelle spent a couple of weeks in hospital before at the suggestion of his father, Robin took Annabelle up to the family’s holiday cottage in North Wales. Just over three months later Robin and Annabelle are returning to their home in Blackwood, Wisconsin.
These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:
Annabelle was glad to be back in Blackwood. It felt to good to step back into the house Robin and her had lived in happily for six months the previous year. The white walls and exposed floorboards she had enjoyed happy months at the start of her marriage, seemed so pleasant and soothing to her.
They had only intended to be in England until the middle of February. Twelve weeks later than planned, they arrived back at their home in their Wisconsin home. Annabelle was relieved to be far away from the memory of the car crash outside the Grainger’s estate in Berkshire. Despite what everyone had kindly said, and despite the helpful counselling she had benefited from both in Reading and up in North Wales, the memory of that day and the guilt that ensued were hard to battle with.
Burt and Pearl were thrilled to have Annabelle back in Blackwood. They had missed her. Chris and Robin had discussed Annabelle’s situation and had decided it was best for Chris to answer any questions from The Jennings by saying that Annabelle wasn’t well. Pearl became excited, jumping to the conclusion that perhaps Annabelle was pregnant. Chris didn’t add any information to what he had already shared.
But when Annabelle and Robin arrived at Burt and Pearl’s home, she was so much thinner than when they have last seen her, Peal abandoned the idea that she might be pregnant. “How are you feeling Annabelle?”
“I’m well thank you Pearl.”
“Christopher told us you had become ill when you were out in England. I’m glad you are better now,” Pearl hugged Annabelle, “But we need to fatten you up Annie. Would you like some cake?”
Annabelle felt a little self-conscious, “Thank you Pearl, I would love some cake.”
Robin answered a lot of the questions Burt and Pearl asked. He told them they would wait until Annabelle was feeling stronger before she responded to any requests to take up the ironing jobs she had before. He said he was eager to pick up gardening jobs again and was pleased when they said they would spread the word amongst their neighbours and friends. Robin encouraged Annabelle to tell Burt and Pearl about their anniversary party just before they had left England.
After the doorbell rang, Burt went to answer the door. He returned to the sunroom followed by Chris, who had just finished work. As soon as Annabelle realised he had entered the room, she leant forward to place her tea cup and saucer down and stood up, smoothing her hands over her dress to neaten it.
Robin had already bound over to Chris to shake his hand. Annabelle stepped forward and nervously looking at Chris, she raised her arms. He responded immediately and the two shared a warm hug. Annabelle returned to the sofa and Robin sat beside her with his arm place around her.
Pearl invited Chris to join them for some tea and cake. Chris eyed the cake hungrily. The five friends talked for another half hour. Annabelle remained the quietest of the party. But she felt happy. Pearl had already invited them to stay for dinner, but after repeating her invitation to try to persuade her guests to stay, Annabelle confessed she was weary after their flight the day before. Robin saw the tiredness that had crept over his wife, and began to thank The Jennings for their hospitality.
Chris also took his leave and followed Robin and Annabelle as they departed. Robin and Annabelle were walking home, but as they were on their way down the drive towards Chris’ truck, Robin and Chris quietly made a plan for the evening.
“You’re tired Belle.”
Annabelle nodded in agreement, “I am tired Robin. It just came over me suddenly.”
“Do you want to have a nap when we get back? Chris is going to go and clean up. He said he’ll pick up some pizza on the way over to our place.”
Annabelle smiled and linked Robin’s arm, “Yes, I think I should go and rest when we get back. I don’t want to be miserable company.”
“Your two biggest fans are never going to find you miserable company. But do have a rest.”
When Chris arrived over an hour later, Annabelle was still asleep. “I think I’m going to leave her a bit Chris. She’s been sleeping a lot since the accident. She normally naps in the afternoon. She’s not been herself ever since. But gradually she’s been building her strength back up. She set goals for how long she wanted to walk each day, when we were living in Snowdonia. She’s doing really well.”
“She said in her last letter that she had a great therapist over there.”
“Yes, Margo. They really clicked. Margo was amazing. She took Annabelle out to talk instead of keeping her indoors. Annabelle told her about how much easier she had found talking to you out in the open, so Margo said weather permitting they would do that. She saw her a couple of times a week.”
“How is she doing?”
“We’re working on building her appetite back up. She likes Greek food. She only seems interested in hummus and salad. She never did eat lamb anyway” Robin looked as if he wanted to laugh for a moment but restrained himself, “She liked Wales. It was good for her to get away from the estate and everyone’s questions. I know she’s very glad to be back here in Blackwood.”
“A lot of folk have been asking about her Rob. They adore Annie. She will find a lot are very pleased to see her.”
“That’s what she needs,” sighed Robin, “It was a huge knock to her though. She was so disappointed in herself. She has been really depressed about it. I think she’s just as bad as she was after Lucy died.”
“I was worried when I read her letters.”
“Thanks for the letters you sent. She has appreciated them so much. She’s turned into a total Luddite recently. In Snowdonia, she could never get signal on her phone and the broadband was really dodgy. But she loved buying her pretty writing paper and cards when she was out with Margo. She would come home and start writing. She’s sent letters to her parents and to Dean. She’s still going over things that happened in the past trying to understand why she reacts to feelings of guilt and failure so dramatically.”
“I think anyone would struggle to get over what happened in that car crash.”
“Exactly, I keep telling her,” Robin sighed, “It’s going to take time Chris. We are making an appointment to get her therapy up and running again. She wants to carry on with twice a week to begin with. She says a week is too long. But if you have any spare time, I know how much she appreciates being able to talk with you. If you’re up to it.”
“Of course, I mean Rob, you know how much I want to be there for her. I just, well, you tell me how it’s going to work.”
Robin looked at Chris, “She is so beautiful Chris, she’s so sweet. I can’t settle with the idea of the two of you alone. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. But she’s so easy to love.”
“I wouldn’t Rob, I wouldn’t take advantage. She trusts me. I know how scared she’s been in the past about hurting you. It makes her uneasy and guarded. I want her to talk, I don’t want her to feel she’s doing something wrong.”
Robin nodded, “She needs to talk. Maybe if we were out together, the three of us. Or even hanging out here. I could be in the next room or something. It’s not that I’m suspicious, but when she’s pouring her heart out and she’s weeping, like she does, I know what you are going to want to do. I get it, it’s natural, but I’m not ok with that.”
“I’ll make sure I’m never alone with her,” promised Chris.
“I think I need that Chris. I’m sorry mate, but I do.”
Chris nodded, “I need a beer Rob. It’s been a long day.”
Robin and Chris were sat on the sofa watching television when Annabelle walked into the lounge area of their home. She lent down and kissed the side of Robin’s head, “Did you save me some pizza?”
“There’s a slice of pepperoni, a slice of BBQ Chicken and a whole vegetarian feast,” replied Robin.
“You have the pepperoni. I think I will nuke some of the vegetarian pizza,” said Annabelle.
“No, you sit down, I’ll get it for you,” volunteered Robin.
Annabelle looked grateful, “Rob-in,” she said in a childish tone.
“Yes Belle, what do you want?”
“Would you put some of those olives we bought on my pizza please?”
“Sure – extra olives. Would you like a drink?” asked Robin.
“Could I have some lime and soda please?”
“Of course. Sit. Relax.” Robin headed off to the kitchen, while Annabelle sat down.
Chris muted the television and turned towards her, “Alright Annie?”
“I’m alright Chris. I didn’t mean to sleep for so long. But it feels good. You can’t hear the television from the bedroom at all. I noticed last night when I was reading in the bedroom and Robin was watching the news in here.”
“Must be the soundproofing we put in.”
Annabelle looked surprised, “What? Is that some kind of extra insulation or something?”
“Yeah, when I took all the paneling off, the plaster behind was is in such a bad shape. We ended up stripping everything back to the timbers and then we insulated and soundproofed the bedroom before we put up new plasterboard and fresh plaster.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize it was so complicated. You did a lot of work on this place.”
“I put a lot of love into this place Annie. I knew who was going to be living here.”
“Thank you Chris. I mean for everything. Everything.”
Robin returned with two bottles of beer and a lime soda for Annabelle. “Pizza’s on the way Belle,” he gave her a peck on the cheek, before dashing back towards the kitchen.
Chris took a swig of beer, “It was really hard to leave England with you still in that hospital.”
“I was glad to get out of there! I can’t think about it though Chris, that hospital was scary,” Annabelle wrung her hands together, “The cottage we went to is really nice. I could have stayed there forever. I wish you could have seen Wales. It was spectacular. Unlike anything I have seen over in England. Well, Wales is a whole separate country, but they are all part of the UK. Except that in Wales, we didn’t need to pay for prescriptions at all.”
Chris smiled, “I’m glad you are back in Blackwood Annie. Did you take photos when you were in Wales?”
“I think Robin did. I couldn’t be bothered with my phone. I couldn’t get any signal anywhere except Wrexham. We had to go up to the hospital there a couple of times so they could check up on my arm.”
Robin reappeared with the pizza for Belle, “There’s a little tub of herby mayonnaise from the pizzeria.”
Annabelle smiled, “Thank you Gorgeous, Robin did you take many photos up in Wales? I was just telling Chris how stunning it is.”
As Robin pulled out his phone and started to flick through the screen, Chris watched Annabelle. She bowed her head and kept her head bent forwards for about a minute before she started to eat her pizza. Chris found himself wanting to watch Annabelle eat pizza more than he wanted to look at photographs of Wales. But he politely looked at the scenes of forests, waterfalls, and hills in Snowdonia.
Without thinking before he spoke, he remarked, “What’s with all the sheep?”
Annabelle looked up in surprise. Robin glared at Chris. Annabelle finished the mouthful of pizza she had, and then began to laugh. “Do you know what the crazy thing is…Robin, how many times did we see sheep that had escaped out into the roads?”
Robin looked at Annabelle and started to laugh too. He rose up and sat on the arm of the chair Annabelle was seated in. He put his hands around her shoulders and lent his head against hers, “It’s bloody dangerous. Even I nearly hit one when we drove up to Bala Lake.”
Annabelle was still laughing “And Margo said there are accidents and near-misses all the time. It’s just an everyday hazard of life in that part of North Wales. There are so many bloody sheep, and some of the fencing is broken down. Bloody sheep are a nightmare. I refuse to wear wool and Robin has agreed not to eat lamb anymore. I’m starting the anti-sheep movement. They should stop farming them and then the roads wouldn’t be so bloody dangerous. Bloody sheep!”
Chris watched as Annabelle’s laughter turned to tears. Robin rubbed her arms. He knelt on the floor and pressed his forehead against Annabelle’s and placed his hands on the back of her head, “Breathe.”
Annabelle reached to take Robin’s hand in hers, she locked her fingers around his, “I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry,” Annabelle sobbed.
“Take it easy. Breathe. Just breathe,” Robin whispered to her.
A few minutes later Robin escorted Annabelle back to their bedroom. He returned to tell Chris they were going to call it a night. Chris put his jacket on said he would call the next day about a couple of gardening jobs he had lined up for Robin, “I hope she’s gonna be ok Rob.”
Robin sighed, “She’ll be ok. I forgot to mention we don’t talk about sheep at all now Chris.”
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?