Will Annabelle feel more a part of the Grainger family during the holiday season with them? This part joins Stephen and Fiona Grainger and their guests on Christmas Day.
These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:
After the noise their Christmas Eve guests had brought to the house, Christmas Day seemed like a much more quiet affair. Fiona preferred the help of solely her sister Julia in preparing the Christmas dinner.
“Belle, Harriet wants to know if you would like to go for a walk. What do you think? Are you up to it?” asked Robin.
Annabelle hesitated, “Is she walking Rufus?”
“No my father has already taken Rufus. He and Uncle Mike set off about half an hour ago. Hazza wanted to walk up to Lower Green and back. That’s not far.”
Annabelle agreed to the walk. Robin and Chris strode on ahead while Annabelle and Harriet walked at a slower pace. Harriet brought up a subject Annabelle was not expecting. “Aunt Fiona said you had found the past year very hard-going.”
Annabelle was happy to acknowledge that was the case, and fell back on the official line that had been perpetuated, “I was very upset after the accident. It was a huge shock.”
Harriet nodded, “I just wanted to say that Aunt Fiona is very understanding. What I mean is, she helped me a great deal. None of the boys know about it, but I developed an eating disorder when I was at boarding school. There were some horrible bitchy girls in my year who called me fat and ugly repeatedly. It became quite an ordeal to me. My parents were away in Dubai a lot, but Aunty Fiona would often pick me up for the weekend and she realized I wasn’t eating properly.”
Annabelle was very surprised, “I had no idea.”
“No, I didn’t expect so. My parents know of course, but Aunt Fi has been very discreet. She was absolutely wonderful you know. She arranged for me to have some counselling at weekends. She would make a fuss of me every weekend she could, inviting me to go shopping and to concerts. I met some lovely friends at events with Aunt Fi and Uncle Stephen.”
Annabelle was warm in her praise of her in-laws, “They are so incredibly kind and generous.”
“Annabelle, you mustn’t worry about anyone knowing anything too personal. Aunt Fi is a very clever woman. She knows how to handle anyone asking too many questions. I can tell that you have some sort of battle in you. I know because you remind me of how I was. But Aunt Fi will not have let anyone suspect a thing.”
Annabelle was feeling uneasy about how much Harriet might know, “I do trust her Harriette.”
“Did you know that my grandmother was in an asylum up near Devizes years ago. Terrible place apparently. My mother doesn’t remember much about it, but Aunt Fi is a few years older and she was very close to Granny. Aunt Fi is extremely compassionate and well educated when it comes to anything to do with psychology or emotional illness. She is a special lady. She is the glue that keeps this family together.”
“Thank you Harriette,” stammered Annabelle, “It really means a lot.”
“Please don’t say anything to anyone else Annabelle, but I am still battle bulimia. My parents and Aunt Fi have kept it very discreet, so none of the boys are aware, including your Robbie. I have had a good few months though. Aunt Fi told me that you and I are sharing a vegetarian Christmas dinner later. I’m only going to take what I will enjoy. So please don’t be shy of eating as much as you want.”
When Chris and Robin had circled Upper Green and were walking back down the lane towards Inkpen, they caught up with Annabelle and Harriet who were sauntering along arm in arm. When they returned to the house, Michael Chandler offered sherry which was accepted by Robin and Chris. Before disappearing upstairs to change for dinner, Harriet embraced Annabelle fondly, something that did not escape Robin’s attention.
When he and Annabelle were in their room changing into more formal dress, he mentioned to Annabelle that his mother had always hoped she and Harriet would get on.
Annabelle didn’t say much at all. Annabelle was sitting on the edge of the bed when she put her arms around Robin and gazed up to him, “Well, that’s good because I really like Harriet.”
Annabelle whispered to Robin as quietly as she could, “Is there a reason your mom has placed Chris next to Harriet?”
Robin raised his eyebrow, “Not the the one you are thinking of. I’ll explain it to you later Belle.”
Compared to the previous day, Annabelle found herself much more comfortable with the smaller group. She enjoyed listening to the conversation which was mainly about business and travel. Michael and Julia spent most of their year abroad. They had many stories to share with the family. Harriet had heard many of the stories before, so she was fairly quiet. She did turn to Chris and ask him all the polite questions about where he had grown up and what he did for work. She was gracious, but she didn’t look remotely impressed by his replies. Annabelle could see from across the table that there was unlikely to be any significant spark between Chris and Harriet, even if that is what Fiona had hoped.
Robin asked as many questions of his Aunt and Uncle as his own father did. He was fascinated by his charismatic Uncle, whose business dictated extensive travel abroad. Not nearly as interested in hearing about Dubai, Hong Kong, and Seoul, Annabelle found Chris’ feet under the table and won his attention by gently kicking him, “Did you open your gift Chris?”
Chris, as always, had been trying not to rest his eyes on Annabelle who was sat opposite him at the dinner table. “I haven’t yet Annie.”
“It’s nothing special. I chose a gift for you, and Robin said that it was more of a birthday gift. He says Christmas gifts ought to be more generic. So you have a generic Christmas present I am afraid. But if you are disappointed, just wait until you see your birthday present in February.”
Chris smiled, “How is it that we keep missing each other’s birthdays?”
“I know. We don’t seem to ever be together in spring do we. I have had it in my phone for almost three years, 5th February.”
“March 21st for you. But you are always out of the country.”
“Well we will be in Blackwood this time. It’s my thirtieth Chris. Robin says we should do something special. But I don’t know how I feel about hitting thirty.”
“I have had an amazing couple of years since I hit thirty, some of the happiest days of my life. It’s all about the people that mean the most to you. By the time you have hit thirty, you know who counts, and what counts,” Chris hoped that Annabelle would understand his meaning.
By the warmth of her smile, she did appear to. Their quiet conversation was interrupted when Fiona Grainger invited Annabelle to join her in the kitchen. Stephen and Michael had been clearing away some of the dishes from the table. Robin was tasked with providing the dessert plates. Fiona took Annabelle through to the kitchen and asked her if she would like to carry the dessert she had made a couple of days before through to the table.
Annabelle did so, and then sat back down next to Robin without saying a word. Soon afterwards everyone had returned to the table. A large Christmas pudding had been placed in the centre of the table with Julia’s sherry trifle on one side and on the other, the White Forest Roulade that Annabelle had made up in London.
Robin discreetly asked his wife is she had made the Christmas pudding. Annabelle turned to him with genuine surprise, “Why would I make a Christmas pudding, when I know you don’t like it?”
Without hearing the whispers between her son and daughter-in-law, Fiona answered the question by telling everyone that Annabelle had made the chocolate and cherry roulade for Robin, but there was surely enough for all to have a slice.
Robin held Annabelle’s hand tightly under the table, “You are so sweet Belle. I feel as if you are trying to spoil me.”
Annabelle whispered to her husband, “I want to give to you. You’re my reason for breathing.”
Chris watched as Robin pressed his head against Annabelle’s. He felt annoyed with himself that there was still a twinge of envy whenever he saw how in love they were. Chris was enjoying his Christmas with the Graingers though. He loved the holidays with his own family, but he was glad to have an opportunity to share a Christmas with his best friends for a change. Seeing Annabelle happy meant a lot to Chris. Knowing that she Robin’s family were what she needed was helping him to let go.
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?