The last post was about how Annabelle has asked Chris if she can spend the day with him on 21st December. It was only Ralph (and Robin of course) who remembered that it would be three years since Annabelle’s baby daughter had died of meningitis. I split this section up because it was long…so here is the second part of their day together.

These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:

nyc x.jpg“Rob told me that you are going back to New York for Christmas.” mentioned Chris.

“Robin told you right.”

“So you’ll be with your family for the holidays. That’s great Annie.”

Annabelle shrugged her shoulders, “Yeah well, I have my eye on a Nobel Peace Prize – but, I’m not getting my hopes up yet.”

“Surely the Nobel Peace Prize would be better than a light saber!”

prize.jpg“Well, I flunked Annabelle-ology it seems. I never made it to Jedi, so, yeah I’ll have to see what else I might qualify for. If World War Three has not been declared by the end of Christmas Day, maybe I’ll be in the running.”

Chris paused before adding, “Rob said it will be pretty much hell for you.”

“Hell hath no fury like a family scorned…or something like that.” grinned Annabelle.

Chris raised his eye-brows, “First Dean, now the family hey?”

Annabelle shook her head, “No not at all, You cannot compare Dean to my family. It would make Dean look like a saint, and that would just be wrong.”

“What’s so bad about your family Annie?”

annie family.jpg“Aaaaagh! “Bad” is not the right word I guess. They are not bad people. I know that. They are decent people. They always made sure there was food on the table and I never went without what I needed physically. But a family reunion is always an opportunity to exalt certain members of the family and to punish the black sheep of the family.”

“The black sheep of the family?” Chris raised a skeptical eye-brow.

Annabelle raised her hand, “That would be me.”

“Why are you the black sheep?”

“I’ve been asking myself that since I was a little girl Chris. I think I was an inconvenience. I’ve heard my parents tell people I was an accident. But I don’t think they got over the surprise of me. They were more excited about my older sister and brothers getting married. Then they were all excited about having grandchildren. Added to the general not being part of their plan, I seemed to have a habit of breaking things, or knocking something over, or injuring one of my nephews and making them cry. I would be sent to my room in shame with no dessert.”

annie tub.jpg“So you have never forgiven them because they didn’t let you have dessert?”

Annabelle looked hurt, “As I got older, well, it was a different kind of punishment. The little ones in the family were praised and made out to be little angels. I was flunking math and science. I wasn’t on any of the sports teams. I couldn’t draw for toffee. I gave up trying to play the tuba, do you know how horrendous it is trying to drag a huge case with a tuba through the Bronx on the subway to and from school? Stupid music teacher should have given me something small to learn, like a flute.”

Chris laughed. “Annie, this is not why you are dreading seeing your family is it?”

“It’s not funny Chris. My parents were always arguing about money. But they would buy all sorts of expensive toys for the little ones at Christmas. They would give me stationary for school.”

“Stationary – very practical gift. More useful than toys.”

Teenage Problems, Social Issues and BullyingAnnabelle flashed her eyes at Chris, “I know you think I am stupid, but it was years Chris, years and years, my entire childhood, of being treated like I was the trouble maker, the runt of the pack, watching my nephews and nieces be spoilt and made a fuss over. Being compared to them, being sent to my room, shouted at in front of everyone, told I was clumsy, stupid, hopeless, selfish, never going to succeed if I didn’t try harder at school and it built up ok…it built up and then, before I knew it, I was googling how to go about killing myself – ok.

“Ok Annie, ok.” Chris reached for Annabelle but she pulled away.

“They are not bad people, my family are not bad people. It’s not their fault. I know I am the one with the problem. At thirteen I was so lonely and so miserable, but found I was too scared to try to kill myself, so I found a different way to deal with the way I felt, I started cutting myself.”

“And they never even knew?”

dean and annie5Annabelle shook her head, “Can you blame me for falling in love with Dean and leaving home to go with him? Does it make me a bad person? Does it explain why I hung around a group of jerks who were abusing alcohol and drugs and wetting themselves or being sick in the back of the tour-bus? Do you think there is anything that I can ever do to redeem myself in my family’s eyes for giving up the chance to go to college, to follow a rock band who made the kind of music my parents hate, and always looked as if they had only just got out of bed?”

“I’m sorry Annie.” Chris took a deep breath and rubbed the back of Anabelle’s back. “I think you are brave to be going back to somewhere you felt so unhappy..”

annabelle and lucy.jpg“What hurts the most is the thought that if our daughter had lived, that they would have compared her to their other grandkids. I can’t bear the thought that she would have felt like I did whenever we had a family get-together. I’m relieved she never had to face that kind of rejection. One last time Chris. One last time, and from now on I want to spend every Christmas with Robin, somewhere other than with my family, who never liked Dean, and never liked Robin, and hardly even acknowledged that they had a beautiful little granddaughter who died before they met her, other than suggesting it was something we had done wrong, or that we didn’t take her to hospital early enough.”

Chris was taken aback. He waited a few moments to let what she had said sink in, “Annabelle Riley – you are a strong woman. The more I get to know you, the more I feel you are quite extraordinary.”

“I’m so tired Chris. I just want to rest and not have all of this going on inside of me. I just want to be able to say goodbye to them and move on. One last effort and then I am just going to think of building a life with Robin.”

annabelle exhausted.jpg“You deserve some happiness.”

“We all deserve happiness. Well, ok not if you are a member of the mafia, or a serial killer. But the vast majority of people deserve happiness.” Annabelle smiled, “Why do I feel as if everytime we talk, I ruin your day up by dragging you through my tangled broken up world?”

“But I can’t get enough of you.”

“I’m afraid that I will drag you down Chris. I have already done it to Dean and Robin. I don’t want to do it to anyone else.”

chris and annie hug.jpg“Annie, I think you are an amazing person. But when I hear what you have been through, I see a broken hearted little girl, I see a teenager injuring herself, I see someone loyal, having to care for her boyfriend when he’s drunk or high, I see a woman whose partner abandoned her for over eighteen months to put himself first, and yet forgave him, I see a mother who lost her little baby. And I feel immensely for you. It just makes me proud of you. I feel proud to know you, proud to be your friend. It makes me sad to think of what you have been through, but it is inspiring. Your strength, it is inspiring. In no way are you someone I get tired of. It’s completely the opposite.”

“When you told me about how you battled depression after your parents divorce, I found that inspiring. It gave me hope that it is possible to get over heartbreak and possible to get better.”

“That feels really good to hear. You are freezing. Let’s warm up in the car.”

“Do you think you could put up with my croaning again?”

chris and annie carChris turned the radio on, “With pleasure Annie. You can sing your heart out!” So Annabelle did. She sang her heart out all the way back to Blackwood.

As they passed Cricklebrook, Annabelle sat up in her seat. A few miles down the road, she pointed to a lane “That’s where Robin and I were living when we first came here. There is a house at the bottom of that track, almost buried in the woods. The trees make it so dark and gloomy. That’s where Robin really fell apart.”

“I think Rob fell apart when he was in London, when he was without you. When he was with you he was holding it together. It was once he was on his own that he lost it.”


Annabelle let out a sigh, “You are very kind, but really he was truly exhausted by the time we got here. It had been a nightmare year. And all he had done was focus on helping me. He sacrificed his career, his home, and himself – all for me. When he came back to Blackwood to tell me what he had done in London, I should not have let myself get so angry with him. I should have remembered all that had gone before.”

“But all is good now though.”

“All is good now.” nodded Annabelle.

“And you can carry on making it up to him. You have a wonderful future ahead of you Annie, I am sure of it.” Chris put his hand over Annabelle’s.

“I intend to make it up to him Chris. I can’t wait to make it up to him. After all he has sacrificed, I am going to give him everything I have.” Annabelle smiled to herself with the knowledge she had not yet shared with anyone in Blackwood.

When Chris pulled up outside The Jennings’ home, Annabelle climbed out of the car and came around to speak to Chris through his window, “I have something for you Chris. Can you wait a moment and I will run in and get it for you?”

chris and annie mistletoe.jpgAnnabelle’s feet skidded in her rush to get to the front door, but she managed to steady herself. Within a couple of minutes she was back at the car window leaning over to Chris. “Thank you for today,” she leaned over while holding a sprig of mistletoe up to the roof of the car, “Merry Christmas Chris,” her lips touched Chris’s who raised his hands around her face. Before drawing away, Annabelle gently nibbled at Chris’ bottom lip. “I’ve been wanting to do that all day, ever since you told me about how what happened to your lip.”

“Annie, I..”

Annabelle shook her head and put her finger against Chris’ lips, “Have a great time with your family. “

Chris grimaced, “I’d love to say the same to you.”

gift for chris.JPG“This is for you Chris. I’m sorry I am not very good at the whole gift thing, but you know, it’s something,” she passed through the window the wrapped gift Chris had seen her carry from the house. “There is a receipt inside, you can exchange it if you don’t like it.” Her face crumpled with awkwardness.

“Thank you Annie. I truly wish you some happiness over Christmas, and even if it’s as awful as you’re expecting, I just really wish you could have happiness every day of your life.”

While Chris drove back home, he could not help remembering the first time he had picked up Annabelle in the came little sports car. She had been embarrassed in case the neighbours saw them sitting in a car together. Chris debated in his mind whether it was a good or bad thing that Annabelle clearly did not care anymore what any prying neighbours thought of her friendship with Chris.


Another part coming soon…

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:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels 




I have split the following part of Annabelle’s story into two posts (otherwise you would have been cursing me for a ridiculously long post). It’s not at all long until she goes away for Christmas, and you will see that certain memories are about to come flooding back into Annabelle’s mind.

These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:

ralph and annie.pngAnnabelle was faithful in her visits to hospital to see Ralph Crabbe. After the surgery on his hip, he very tired. Ralph found the physiotherapy challenging. Being in hospital for so many weeks was starting to take a toll on his spirits. Friends from the rambling group made sure to visit. Burt and Pearl came regularly. But Annabelle was the most frequent of all his visitors.

“It didn’t escape his notice that Annabelle seemed different. They would chat pleasantly. Annabelle always brought something that Ralph had requested. Sometimes it was a book, and he would ask her to read outloud to save his eyes. They played scrabble or chess. Annabelle found it hard to concentrate so invariably Ralph would end up announcing check mate long before the visiting times were over.

One day Ralph asked Annabelle a question which confused her, “It must be coming up to three years now Annie. Do you know who you are going to spend the day with? I don’t want to to be stuck here at the hospital. Make sure you do something to cheer yourself up with someone real special to you.”

ralphAnnabelle gazed at Ralph who was smiling softly, “You remembered? Thank you Ralph.”

“You kept me company on the anniversary of Barbara’s passing. It meant so much to me you know. You need to make sure that you are with someone who will help you on the anniversary of your wee daughter’s passing away. If I weren’t stuck here, I would volunteer. But as it is, you need to make sure someone is there for you. Someone to lighten your heart.”

Annabelle didn’t talk about her daughter Lucy. Robin had told Ralph and Barbara when he had made arrangements for Annabelle to move in as Barbara’s carer. On that dreadful 21st December, Robin had held her up to prevent her legs from giving way beneath her. She had been staring at the lifeless body of the daughter that she had not understood how to love. It was something that she did not see any point talking about with anyone in Blackwood. Nobody could say anything that would make a difference.

annie5Chris was pleased that Annabelle had called him to ask if he would still be in Blackwood on 21st December. He’d only seen Annabelle once that month, when he had been invited for dinner by Pearl. That night Annabelle had been much more subdued than he had ever known her, although she was clearly making an effort to join in the conversation. It was clear something was weighing on her heart.

Robin called Annabelle on the 21st December at six o’clock in the morning. He was having a lunch break at work. He was anxious to speak to her because he knew it would be a very busy day for him. He had thought about what to say to Annabelle carefully. He was also relieved to hear that she would spend the day with Chris. “Does he know Belle?”

“No Robin. Please don’t say anything.”

lean in for kissChris collected Annabelle at ten o’clock. “What’s the plan Annie? You seemed a bit sketchy on the phone.”

“How about a movie?”

“Sure. At the MegaPix?  Shall I check what is on?” Chris presented Annabelle with his phone with a list of the films showing at the multi-screen cinema situated at the retail park on the other side of Blackwood. She pulled a face at most of them.

“Maybe we could go for a walk instead?”

Chris turned the keys in the ignition of his beloved TVR Tasmin and listened to the engine purr. “Shall we go up to Navarino?”

Annabelle nodded. She stretched forward and turned on the radio. During the forty minute drive, she sang along to every song that was played, frequently crying out “Oh I love this song,” when the first few bars of a track would begin.

mildew1“Your voice is not bad Annie. I’m surprised you didn’t end up singing for Mildew.”

“Because my voice is exactly that Chris, it is “not bad”. But it’s not great either. Nick is an amazing singer when he’s not drunk, so is Liam actually, but you can’t really have a drummer on lead vocals can you. Did you know there first singer was called Greg? He thought he’d have a better chance of a career singing solo – he was oh so wrong!” Annabelle laughed to herself.

“I didn’t know they had another singer.” replied Chris. “I guess you could an encyclopedia about Mildew.”

dean3Annabelle pulled her tongue and laughed. “What I know about those boys Chris – I could blackmail the whole lot of them and live in luxury for the rest of my life!”

“No wonder they were all so sweet with you when we were in New York.”

Annabelle turned to Chris with a serious expression, “I wouldn’t do them any harm, you know I am joking don’t you?” after Chris nodded, she continued, “Rick and Dean are the worse though. They are very bad for each other. Rick used to really scare me. He’s solid. He can do a lot of damage when he’s stoned. Nick and Liam have their heads screwed on just a little bit more. That’s why they argue. Nick and Dean especially. If Dean is playing the wrong chords, it messes things up for Nick. He feels as if he is the one who gets criticised because his vocals are not in sync with the music. But it is Dean who messes up,” Annabelle let out a loud sigh.

band“Well Annie, they didn’t mess up in New York.”

A broad smile appeared on Annabelle’s face, “I do kind of wish I had seen Dean performing solo. I’ve watched him performing those two songs online. The new song is so beautiful. He is singing those words right at my heart. He would be so upset if he realized I wasn’t there on the night. That will have to be our secret Chris pretty much forever.”

“But Annabelle Riley doesn’t have secrets?” laughed Chris.

“Hey, Dean and me are on good terms now, I do not want to have to owe him anything like an apology for the rest of my life. Choose your loyalty Mr. Ward – me or Dean?”

Chris put his hand on Annabelle’s knee and squeezed it. “Ha! I thought so!” she grinned.

annie worryingOn reaching the wildlife area, Chris and Annabelle walked around. The sky was grey and the whole area was pretty dismal. As Annabelle beheld the bleak scenery, she found a profound sadness welling up within her.

“How is Annabelle these days? Holding it together?” asked Chris liking her arm.

Annabelle didn’t reply immediately, but she squeezed Chris arm, “Tell me more about you Chris.”

“What do you want to know Annie?”

“I want to know all about you and your family. What can you tell me from your childhood? Do you have any stories to share with me?”

young chirs.jpgChris pointed to his lip, “When I was kid I wanted to be a pro-baseball player when I grew up. One day I was out fielding and I tried to catch a the ball when a batter from the other team had knocked it in my direction. I ran towards the ball, sure I was going to catch it. But the sun was in my eyes. The baseball hit my face and bust my lip right open. There was so much blood Annie, it was like a scene from a horror movie. It took ages for my lip to heal properly. I kept knocking it and it would burst open again and start bleeding. Mom kept me supplied for a month with Dad’s handkerchiefs to carry around everyday so I could mop up the blood whenever I needed to.”

Annabelle was listening intently to Chris. There was a smile in her eyes. For the next couple of hours she encouraged Chris to go on sharing stories from his childhood. It was after one o’clock when Chris asked Annabelle where she wanted to go for lunch. “Somewhere warm Chris. I’m frozen.”

chris and annie eating.jpgChris pulled over at the first diner they passed. With Annabelle encouraging him, he continued to relate memories of Christmas with his family when he was growing up. “Christmas is never going to be what it was before my parents divorced. We are always split into two camps.”

“But at least you still have a good time with  half of your family.”

After lunch, Chris and Annie decided to head back out into the cold December air and continue their walk.


Another part coming soon…

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:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels 

The Song That Dean Wrote

dean playIn my recent posts, I referred a couple of times to a new song that Dean performed at Madison Square Gardens in a sold acoustic performance. He had dedicated another song “Her Dreams” and this new one to his Nan, which of course is his name for Annabelle Riley. If you scroll down, you will find that song!

Dean had met Annabelle when she was seventeen. She left home to be with him once the band he was in were given a record deal started to tour. Dean has spoken about how supportive Annabelle was to him, especially in pushing him with live performances which he found terrifying.

toxicIf you have been following the story, you will know that Annabelle struggled with some of what she saw Dean and the other band members becoming involved with the more successful they became. Exhaustion started to take a toll on her. Dean felt she was becoming jealous and insecure (it turned out she had good reason to be). On discovering that Annabelle was harming herself, arguments began. They had a rocky relationship for some time, which ended one night in a heated argument. Annabelle has already spoken about how she feels she provoked Dean until he snapped. A single act of violence when Dean lashed out at Annabelle was enough to make them realize that too much damage had occurred. Annabelle was twenty-four years of age when she found herself alone in life again. Three months later, she met Robin.

dean2I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Dean better during the trip Annabelle and Chris took to New York to see him. I just hope I have done justice to the character I had in my head. Dean is an important part of Annabelle’s story and I hope that what has happened with Dean will help you to understand Annabelle’s thoughts and feelings as she faces decisions in the last parts of her story…all scheduled to be published over the next week or so.

A few nights ago I found I could not sleep, my mind was wired. I turned the lamp which sits on my bedside table on and I wrote this song. I might ask the man you know as Jack for some help with writing the music and chords for it…at the moment the tune is all in my head. It’s not brilliant, but it felt so satisfying to write a song, which expresses a little of how Dean is now feeling towards Annabelle. At the moment the title of the song is “Only One Woman”…but I might re-think that title.




I took a child who became a woman

It turns out the woman is still a child

Who needs to be held and told she’s a good girl

I took her flower and she made me a man

I ‘m the man who forgot to buy her flowers

Though she needs love to make her petals unfurl


I did what she hated

Tanked up on booze and cocaine

She never stopped loving

Until I left her broken

Calling out “Darling can you hear me?

I don’t want you to ever fear me

You must know that I want you near me

So I told myself over again

Now it’s too late, she’s not coming back


Softer than the starlight and stronger than steel

She believed what was in my head could be real

She was the one pushing me to reach my dreams

Discovered too late I’d lost someone so rare

Why did I hurt her, deceive and betray her?

It’s no wonder I’m still haunted by her screams


I did what she hated

Tanked up on booze and cocaine

She never stopped loving

Until I left her broken

Calling out “Darling can you hear me?

I don’t want you to ever fear me

You must know that I want you near me

And I’ve been believing all this time

Now it’s too late, she’s not coming back


She came to see me one rainy afternoon

She gave me a reason to finish this tune

I needed to tell her all that I did wrong

I was bewildered staring into her eyes

On realizing she still stirs these same fires

Only one woman can make me feel this strong


She gives up her own dreams to make yours come true

Won’t believe in herself, she’ll believe in you


Only one woman can make me feel this strong

Only one woman can make me feel this strong

Only one woman

Only one woman



And hey…if you are a musician and wanted to put these lyrics to music…I would love to hear this song come to life! So go for it!




What is it that has upset Annabelle so much. How will she endure the next six weeks until she is with Robin again?

These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:

annie phone.pngAnnabelle did keep herself busy. Thanksgiving came and went. She started to think ahead to Christmas. She knew where she wanted to be for Christmas, but she felt extremely anxious about it. It was three weeks before Christmas when she finally plucked up the courage to ring her parents. Annabelle’s father answered the phone with a hello. As soon as she greeted him, he called out, “Annabelle’s on the phone Carol. I’ll pass you onto your mother Annabelle.”

“Hello Annabelle,” uttered her mother with a cool voice, “is something wrong?”

Annabelle maintained an upbeat tone, “No, everything is fine. I just called to see how you are?”

oliver“We’re all fine. Becky has won a prize at school for her artwork. It’s going to be featured in an exhibition. Little Oliver has chicken pox. Your Dad can’t go near him because he never had it as a child, We don’t want him to get shingles. How about you? No more problems since the accident?”

“Everything is fine mom. I was wondering if it would be ok to come and spend Christmas with you and Dad.”

“If you really want to. We can make space for one more around the table. I’m sure nobody will mind. Just try not to upset anyone Annabelle. There won’t be room for you to sleep here though, your nephews are flying in from college and they are going to share your old room.”

“I don’t mind sleeping on the sofa Mom.”

“Oh no, your Dad won’t like that. he likes to watch TV until late.”

hotel“Well then, I can stay in a hotel.” suggested Annabelle.

“That’s a good idea.”

“Ok, well, I’ll look at flights and hotels and book something. Shall I just come down on Christmas Eve, would that be alright?” asked Annabelle.

Her mother’s voice became high pitched, “That’s when we’re picking the boys up from the airport. It will be quite busy then. It might be better to come on Christmas Day. We’re having dinner at 2pm. Because of all the little ones everyone will have to left by around eight o’clock.”

“That sounds great Mom.”

“Ok, well we’ll see you then. Don’t come too early because it will be chaos in the kitchen and your Dad want you getting in his way. “Annabelle heard the phone disconnect before she’s even had chance to say goodbye. A lump of pain sat in her throat. She walked towards a bench nearby and sat down, staring into space for ten minutes feeling a dread at the thought of being back with her family for a whole day.

annabelle1It didn’t take much for her mind to suddenly revert back to it’s state when she had been a teenager at home. The profound loneliness was always lingering. Still she kept on reminding herself not to take it personally. That’s just the way they were, the way they had always been. She had not been with her family for Christmas for ten years. She suddenly realized that nothing would have changed. It was unlikely that there would be much reaction to her addition at the dinner table.

Annabelle scrolled through the contacts on her phone. Her finger hovered over Robin’s name, but she hesitated for a moment. She scrolled back up to another name and pressed call. After a few rings she heard a voice she was longing to hear, “Hey Dean, can you talk?”

After a half hour conversation with Dean who updated her on their plans to tour Europe she felt much better. It felt good to be on good terms with Dean again. She told him she had booked flights to Switzerland in January. Dean worked out they would be in Germany by the 8th of January. He reminded Annabelle of the first time the band had played in Hamburg. Annabelle could remember it, she could not laugh as much as Dean at the memory of the antics after their shows.

dean playShe also told him she was going to be with her family for Christmas. Dean laughed and told her she should ask the doctor for some kind of medication that would get her through the holiday season with them. Annabelle admitted that it might only be Christmas Day alone she would be with them. She asked if he had any plans to be in New York. Dean said that was unlikely until they came back from their European tour. He asked her what she thought of the new song that had just been released. Annabelle asked which one. Dean reminded her he has sung it at Madison Square Gardens. Annabelle realized she was likely to provoke Dean if she admitted she had not even heard it. So instead she told him how touched she was that he had dedicated it to her and how proud she was that he had performed solo.

annie listening2.jpgAfter their conversation, she started to check the internet for the new single from Mildew and finding it she played it on YouTube. It was very much a love song. In the very first verse she realized Dean had written the song about her. The words: “the woman is still a child, who needs to be held and told she’s a good girl” she felt wrap around her heart. As she listened to the words, tears trickled from her eyes. She had really needed that. It felt wonderful to be loved.

Within weeks of their break-up, which was over four years ago, she had abandoned all hope of Dean taking her back. He had made it quite clear he didn’t want to hear from her at the time. Seeing Dean in New York had helped her to recover from the huge sense of failure and rejection that had haunted her. After meeting Robin and sensing his adoration of her, she had become elated and re-energised. She never wanted to go back, long ago she’s accepted there would never be a future with Dean, but it felt wonderful to be loved all the same. He still loved her, but in a different way, maybe he loved the memory of the good times, or the loyal support she had given him, but that trip to New York had confirmed some kind of love.

platonic6She thought of Chris. She knew he cared, she was so grateful to him. But the attraction she had felt to him always made her feel guilty. At times he was extremely handsome, and the look in his eyes, he was hopeless at disguising his feelings for her. There were too many times that they had been so close to each other that something could easily have happened. She’d wanted it to. It was hard to accept his kindness without feeling ashamed of herself.

Still, he had provided a security net for her that she hoped she would be able to fall on if Robin ever let her down. Before he came to Blackwood, Annabelle had started to think Robin had abandoned her. But now, she felt convinced Robin had no intention of ever abandoning her. In telling her the truth, he had won her trust. She could forget all of his errors in London, because she regarded him as her rock.

Her thoughts started to dwell on Robin. How she longed to be with him. She had not told him anything about the money yet. When she came back from New York she had hesitated as to whether she should tell him on the phone or e-mail him. She had wanted to ask Chris first. She was sure Chris would be discreet. He’d been discreet about everything that had happened in New York.

robin and annie at doctorsBut then the appointment at Leaston had ruined everything. She’d walked out of the Doctor’s office feeling devastated. She was determined never to go back down that road again. She felt as if the therapist had completely betrayed her. At first he’s been positive. He’d told the Doctor about Annabelle’s exuberance and joy and described her personality as captivating. He had explained her qualities of loyalty and humility despite some of the challenges in her relationships. He had told the Doctor how much progress Annabelle had made with CBT.

peace1But then his tone had changed and he had used expressions like irritability, sensitivity, tendency to become distracted, impulsiveness, capriciousness, fear of abandonment, recklessness, disassociation, a distorted sense of herself, emotional isolation, intropunitive and emotionally vulnerable. He had repeated things that she had told him thinking they were in total confidence to the Doctor, who was a complete stranger. Annabelle had sat there in disbelief and full of rage. Then the Doctor had said something to Annabelle which had completely infuriated her. Annabelle had walked out insisting there was no way she was going to continue with CBT. She had turned her back on the idea of professional support. It had completely robbed her of all the joy and hope that her discovery in New York had created within her.

Still, it was still there, the money was still there. She couldn’t wait to tell Robin that she had more than enough money to cover all of his debt. Then they could be together. She needed that. It was becoming obvious to her that she couldn’t stay in Blackwood forever.

After she came back from New York, it was clear that the gossip instigated by that photograph Dean had posted was probably more damaging to her life in Blackwood than if she had lived in a busy city. Three of her clients had called that week and said they no longer needed her help with ironing. They were perfectly polite, but for all of them to make their decision at the same time was no coincidence. At first she had been grieved at the realization they were rejecting her because they thought she was a loose woman. Dean’s photograph, presented through the interpretation of the likes of Jenna, had led some townsfolk, who had liked her before, to drop her abruptly.

Annabelle had found it hard to go into town without noticing that some of the younger residents of Blackwood were staring at her. She’d passed Jenna, Amber and Margo and had received their snide comments and questions without batting an eyelid. Annabelle cared about Dean far more than the opinions of those who did not really know her. A sense of gratitude for all that Dean had given her buoyed her up, meaning she was not vulnerable to gossip.

burt and pearl1At times she wondered if Burt and Pearl had heard anything. Right from the start they seemed unsure of why Annabelle had needed to go all the way to New York with Christopher Ward. She had made sure Chris explained they were in different rooms. But it clearly was not something they were entirely comfortable with. And they had both questioned her repeatedly about the state of her arm which seemed to be taking a long time to heal. She no longer felt that Burt and Pearl were a source of unconditional love. She’d broken some of their ideals, she knew it. It felt as if she was tarnished in their eyes. It broke her heart dwelling on the thought that their fondness towards her seemed to have cooled.

Senior Woman Sitting OutsideIf Annabelle had not been so upset by what had happened in the office with her therapist and the doctor, perhaps she would have realized that Burt and Pearl were just very busy preparing for Christmas and winter. There was a lot of work to do.

They had been surprised that Annabelle had made other arrangements for Christmas. It was disappointing to them Annabelle wouldn’t be there. She was such a joyful presence and they had long regarded her as a member of their family. It was Pearl who felt it the most. She had always wanted children. Annabelle had been like the daughter she had always hoped for. But all these trips away that Annabelle was taking. Three trips in as many months. Pearl was starting to realize that Annabelle was going to leave them at some point, probably to be with Robin, and it stirred up a sense of grief at the imminent separation from the young woman who had won such a firm place in Pearl’s heart.

that was todayThings seemed to be falling apart from Annabelle’s perspective. She felt as if everything was spiralling out of control. It was not the first time she had experienced that feeling. She started to prepare herself for what she was convinced to come. She was going to have to leave them all behind. It was time to run away before they rejected her completely.

She already felt guilty because if the feelings she had for Chris at times. Now she found herself pushing him away. She wanted the friendship to cool. She was going to leave Blackwood behind. She was going to leave Chris behind. This was a place that been so good for her, but now the shine had vanished. She was ready to leave Blackwood and those she had been close to. She was going to abandon them. Abandon them before they rejected her completely. She couldn’t face the rejection of people she had grown to love. So it was better to leave before that happened.

robin and annie6She longed to be with Robin again. He would understand everything. And she’d be able to use the money lying dormant in the bank account she’d only just learnt about to pay off his debt. He might never leave her again after she was willing to hand over so much money to him. What was that money worth to her? So long as they could be together. She didn’t care where. Just so long as they were together. She needed his love so much.

The weeks passed slowly. She took her time over writing personal cards to each one of her family to give to them with the gifts she had bought. She sent a few e-mails to people she used to socialize with in New York wondering if any of them would reply. She bought a guide book on Switzerland and read it avidly. She asked Pearl to teach her as much as possible in the kitchen. She visited Ralph every day, her heart prodding her with the guilt at the thought of abandoning him.

The words of that Doctor in Leaston taunted Annabelle. She wished she had never seen that woman.


Another part coming soon…

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:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels 


Still Fighting

Chris has noticed that Annabelle has been different since they returned from New York. Will he be able to find out what is wrong?

These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:

Chris was persistent with Annabelle. Eventually she agreed to go for a coffee with him, three whole weeks after they had been in New York together. Despite it being late November, it was a very mild day. The cafe was crowded, so Annabelle pointed to the empty tables outside.


“I heard that you have been getting ahead with your Christmas shopping.” grinned Chris.

“It’s only five weeks away. I wanted to beat the crowds.” replied Annabelle nonchalantly.

“I buy everything online. I hate shopping.”

Annabelle shrugged her shoulders. She seemed cool in her manner. “Will you be in Chicago for Christmas as well as Thanksgiving?”

chris brother.jpg“I’m spending Christmas in Milwaukee. Mum will be staying with my oldest brother and his family. I’ll be crashing on the floor in the conservatory.”

“That’s nice,” replied Annabelle.

“How about you? What are your plans for Christmas?”

“I haven’t decided yet. Pearl’s sister and her family are coming over from Mapleton. And I think Burt’s younger brother is coming too.”

“And then you’re off to Switzerland not long after I belive.”

“I go on the 8th January.” stated Annabelle with the same matter-of-fact tone she seemed determined to maintain.



“That’s great. I am really pleased for you. I bet Rob can’t wait to see you.” Chris was trying communicate warm feelings to Annabelle, but so far she seemed impermeable.

chris and annie coffeeAt last a smile slowly appeared on Annabelle’s face at the mention of Robin, “He still rings you doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, he’s called a few times.”

“I don’t know why. I told him I don’t go to counselling any more so he doesn’t need to keep annoying you.”

“He’s not annoying me. I don’t know why, but I find it easier to get on with him being in a different continent. I don’t get quite so irritated by what he does.” Chris rolled his eyes.

“Still, I have told him he doesn’t need to be checking up on me.” Annabelle said with a stern tone, “Maybe you could tell him that too.”

“It’s hard for him being so far away from you. You know how much he cares. Anyway, there’s not much I can say these days, I haven’t seen you since New York.”

latteAnnabelle stared at her latte. “I’ve been busy.”

“So I believe. Still, I’ve missed you.”

“Well, I’m here now,” was Annabelle’s half-hearted reply.

“I was worried about the way I walked off on you the day we came back. I overreacted to that photo. I’ve been wanting to apologise ever since. You’re not still mad at me are you?”

Annabelle was still reluctant to make eye-contact with Chris, “I’m not mad at you” she muttered.

“You just seem different Annie. Ever since we came back. Are you sure it’s not because of what I said to you in the cab?”

“Chris, the whole world doesn’t revolve around you ok. I have just been busy like I told you.” snapped Annabelle.

chris drinking coffeeChris took a large gulp of his coffee, “Calm down ok. I’m not doubting you have been busy. I’ve heard about what you’ve been up to. It’s great that you are busy. But what is going on between you and me? I thought we were good friends. You seem to be shutting me out at the moment.”

Annabelle’s eyes finally fixed onto Chris’. “Friends trust each other Chris.”

“I’m sorry I doubted you Annie.”

Annabelle’s face was completely emotionless, “It doesn’t matter ok. I haven’t even thought about it. I’ve had so much going on. At least Robin believed me.”

“But that’s why you have been cool with me, because I didn’t believe you?”

Annabelle became frustrated, “Please just drop it. I have had other things keeping me busy. I don’t care about what happened.”

“I think you do.” stated Chris.

annie annoyed.jpgAnnabelle stood up from the table, “What’s your problem? You don’t believe anything I say anymore.”

“I’m worried Annie. Something’s different, I don’t know what it is, but something happened in New York or on the way back and you are not the same. I am worried about you and so is Robin.”

“There’s nothing wrong. I’m telling you the truth. You’re the one with the problem. And Robin can call me if he has anything he needs to ask.”

“Ok, so tell me truthfully, why aren’t you going to counselling anymore? What happened?”

“That’s none of your business.” Annabelle walked away from the table red-faced.

Chris was quickly out of his chair and pursuing her, “Yes it is.”

“No, it’s not. I don’t need to go anymore ok. We all agreed I wasn’t going to continue. The guy I’ve been seeing and the doctor he got me to see in Leaston both know I am not going any more. It’s official we all agreed, I even have a letter to prove it.”

“Leaston? Why did you have to go there?”

at docs.jpg“There was a letter ok, when I came back from New York telling me to attend an appointment with my therapist and some doctor I have never even met. The therapist came out with all sorts of rubbish he has never told me about. It was a complete waste of time. And that doctor was hopeless, she didn’t know what she was talking about. So we decided to end the CBT.”

“What did she say?” asked Chris.

“That’s completely confidential and it really really is none of your business.”

“So does that mean you’re not at risk of self-harming again? They don’t think you need any support any more?”

annie cross“Just stop it. What makes you think you can bully me into telling you things that you have no right to know about?” she was pointing at Chris in accusation and her voice was straining with emotion.

“I’m not bullying you. Annie. I’m just trying to understand why you are isolating yourself with this. All this time you’ve been opening up and sharing yourself and what you’ve been through and now it’s as if you’ve totally shut down. You’re not even being open with Robin about it.”

It was clear that Annabelle was livid at Chris, “That’s between Robin and me. I will talk to Robin when I am ready. There are things I want to talk to him about when I see him in January ok. Things than only concern him and me, and that have nothing to do with you.”

“That’s fine Annie, but something has upset you. You’re acting really strange. You need to trust the people that care about you and who know what you’ve been going through. If you only want to talk to Robin that’s fine. But I care about you and I know there is something you are hiding. I am your friend and I am not going to give up on you, you mean too much to me.”

Annabelle’s whole body slumped. She seemed defeated. “I don’t want to talk about it Chris.” She turned away feeling ashamed.

“But there is something you are struggling with isn’t there?”

chris holding annie.jpgAnnabelle’s face was blank, “I need Robin so much right now.”

“Just over six weeks Annie. Try to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas – hopefully it will fly by.”

Annabelle nodded tearfully, “I hope so.”

Chris put his arms around Annabelle and she instinctively took his hand. “Hey, don’t forget how much I care.”

“You’ve been great. I’m sorry, I just need Robin for this one.” she murmured.

“Alright Annie. Just don’t cut me out. I can’t stop worrying about you when you go silent.”

Annabelle replied, “I’m trying to keep busy. It helps.”

“Good, stay busy.” whispered Chris into her ear, “You seemed so happy in New York.”

“I think I was Chris.” Annabelle was trembling in Chris’ arms.

different“You’ll be happy again. Whatever it is, you can beat it Annie.”

“You don’t understand.” Annabelle croaked.

Chris sighed, “No, I don’t at the moment. But I believe in you. I saw how strong you really are when we were in New York. The way you looked after Dean. You are going to get through whatever it is that is hurting you now. Just tell me one thing truthfully, have you hurt yourself recently?”

Annabelle’s heart was heavy and she felt herself close to sobbing, “It’s still something I have to fight Chris. It’s not gone away completely.”

Chris wrapped his arms even tighter around Annabelle and kissed the back of her head, “I’m here ok, there is no way I am ever going to abandon you.”


Another part coming soon…

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:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels 










I don’t know if you read the ending of the last part of Annabelle’s story. I found myself sobbing while I was writing that. The little lady whose story I am telling is still struggling despite all the therapy and support she has had. But her story is about to deal with something Annabelle is going to find very hard to swallow.

These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:

chris not impressedChris called round at The Jennings’ home a couple of days after they had been back in Blackwood. He had calmed down. He knew Annabelle must be upset, because she wasn’t answering her phone or responding to his messages. The photograph Dean Mathers had posted on his Instagram account of Annabelle in bed had been removed. Chris guessed she must have called Dean.

Chris had called Jenna and told her to leave Annabelle alone. Jenna had seemed amused on the phone. Robin had called Chris, and had downplayed the photo that Dean had posted. Robin didn’t seem at all provoked by it. Robin was very warm in his thanks to Chris for travelling with Annabelle to New York.

Annabelle was not home when Chris arrived, but Pearl was eager to hear from Chris more about the trip to New York. He told her about the places they had visited and showed her photographs taken from Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Central Park and The Empire State Building.



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“Annabelle seems very tired. She has been very quiet since she came back.” mentioned Pearl.

“We packed a lot in Mrs J. Lots of rushing around the city from here to there.”

“And of course there was the accident too. She said she fell over?”

“Fell over?” Chris was puzzled.

“Yes, her arm is badly bruised. She seemed a bit evasive when I asked her exactly what had happened,” there was a very concerned tone in Pearl’s voice.

pearl4Realizing he could not tell Pearl the entire story of how a drunkard had stumbled and grabbed Annabelle’s arm to steady himself, Chris simply affirmed, “Oh yes, sorry yes, she did have an accident. We picked up some Arnica cream for her arm from a pharmacy.”

Pearl seemed satisfied, “It’s really good for bruises. Maybe that’s why she is so tired. Anyway she is at the Doctor’s today so she could always mention it at her appointment.”

That evening Annabelle called Chris. He was relieved to hear her voice, “I only called to say I am not going to be going to Tayford anymore. Thank you for taking me up there every week, but I don’t have to go anymore.”

“You are not going to CBT anymore? Ok Annie, well that’s good I guess.” Chris waited for Annabelle to reply, “Are you ok Annie?”

“I’m fine. Anyway, I have to go now.”

“Alright Annie, we’ll have to do something at the weekend. I’ll be in touch.” There was no reply, “Annie?”

“Bye Chris” preceded the call being disconnected by Annabelle.

chris texting.jpgChris didn’t hear from Annabelle again until a couple of days later when he texted her to ask if she wanted to go and see a movie at the cinema. Annabelle replied, stating that she already had plans for the weekend. He responded by asking her to keep some time free the following weekend. It seemed unusual, after they had shared so much together during their eventful trip to New York, that they’d barely spoken all week. Neither had Annabelle hadn’t been out with the rambling group that week.

He sent a couple of texts before the weekend. Annabelle would eventually reply with a smile emoji. Something was wrong. He presumed it was to do with his own reaction to the photograph Dean had posted of her on Instagram. Chris decided to call Annabelle to speak about it. She didn’t answer her phone all weekend, but she did text on the Sunday evening: “SORRY I MISSED YOUR CALLS, IT’S BEEN A BUSY WEEKEND.”

Chris texted back, “SO LONG AS YOU’RE NOT AVOIDING ME.”

nov.jpgThe following Friday Annabelle answered her phone when Chris called asking her if she was free. She told him she had a lot planned again. But she made an effort to chat, asking Chris what he had planned for Thanksgiving. Chris said he would be up in Chicago with Gina and one of their brothers. Their Dad was going to be there too. He asked Annabelle what her plans were. She said she would join Burt and Pearl who were going to go up to Mapleton to spend Thanksgiving with Gloria’s family.

“Well, we’ll have to do something before Thanksgiving Annie.”

“Yeah,” Annabelle paused before offering a suggestion, “Maybe we could go for a coffee or something.”

Around fifteen minutes after the conversation with Annabelle, Chris received a phone call from Robin, “How did she get on with her therapy this week?”

Chris was surprised at the question, “She isn’t going any more, hasn’t she told you?”

“She said that her appointment last week was rearranged. She went to it on Tuesday instead of Thursday. I thought it was all back to normal this week?”

cbt1“Well, I didn’t take her up to Tayford yesterday. She told me last week that she doesn’t need to go anymore.” replied Chris.

There was a pause from Robin, “That’s weird. She hasn’t said anything about it to me. Something’s not right. Does she seem ok to you?”

“I’ve not seen her Rob, we’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times. I was worried something was up, but all I can get out of her is that she’s busy at the moment.”

“I don’t know Chris, I’m getting mixed vibes from Belle. She is so excited about coming over here. She’s booked a flight to come out here in January, did she tell you? She’s been telling me how much she enjoyed her time in New York, she can’t say enough about how great Dean was. She told me she spent all of last weekend shopping for Christmas presents for her family, which is great! She seems quite positive about her parents at the moment and oh, she said Pearl is teaching her how to bake.”

dean's photo of annieChris was surprised at all he was hearing, “She hasn’t mentioned any of that. Although, it was kind of obvious she was pleased with Dean when we were in New York. That photo said it all.”

Robin ignored the comment about the photo, “Did you two get on alright in New York? I asked her about how you enjoyed the trip and she didn’t have much to say, which is odd, because she is raving on about everything else ten to the dozen. She seemed a little evasive.”

Chris hesitated, “I thought we did. She was a bit snappy the first evening after she’d spoken to Dean, but she kept saying she was tired.”

“She does get grumpy when she’s tired. She’s like a kid. She needs a lot of sleep. Staying up all late three nights in a row would have made her it tough for her.”

“Well, she had an early night the first night we were there. She slept for over twelve hours. I thought that must be keeping her going for the rest of the weekend.”

nothing happened“No, she didn’t Chris. She was up until after three o’clock in the morning. She told me the next day she’d been in Dean’s room most of the night talking. She said eventually they had both fallen asleep on his bed. Annabelle reckoned that’s when he must have taken that photo. She’s already given Dean an earful about taking photos of her when she was asleep.”

Chris felt shock at what Robin was telling him, “What!”

“She said it really helped her to have the chance to talk for so long. It turned out that Dean had a lot he needed to get off his chest too. I think they both felt they’ve left things on a better note than they did when they first broke up. She’s told you about that night hasn’t she, when he ended up hitting her?”

“She didn’t tell me she’d been in his room.” Chris was trying to work out in his head how that was even possible.

“At the time, she told me not to mention it, but after Dean posted that photo, I thought you’d figured it out she’d been with him,” Robin said nonchalantly, “You didn’t think she’d actually let something happen did you? Annabelle would never cheat on me, not for my sake, for her own.. She knows she would never be able to get over the guilt of it, it would drive her insane.”

annabelle listening (2)“I honestly thought the night he was in our room that something must have happened. I couldn’t understand it. I asked her about it on the way back here from the airport. She just said it was none of my business.”

“That’s Belle when she’s grumpy. Have you not talked to her about it since? I’m sure she’ll tell you what happened. It’s no big deal. I just don’t understand why she’s not mentioned to me that she’s not going to therapy anymore. Something’s wrong I’m sure. I don’t get it. On the phone it sounds like she’s super happy and excited, but she’s hiding something.”

Chris was very thoughtful, “I wonder if I upset her in the cab when we were came back from the airport. I was tired too. I thought she was lying about what had gone in between her and Dean. It was hard to see how close they were in New York. I don’t know, maybe I was jealous. When she told me to butt out, I was annoyed. I didn’t even bother saying goodbye to her. I just jumped out of the taxi and walked home.”

sadRobin sighed, “Chris, you should know her well enough by now. She’s like a child, or a little puppy. She’s so affectionate and sweet, she get’s all excited about everything and loves having fun. But she’s insecure. Even with people who are close to her. You have to be careful. If she thinks someone is angry with her, she takes it badly. She can’t handle it when she thinks she is being punished or criticised, especially if she doesn’t think it’s fair. If she does realize she has done something wrong, she feels terrible guilt, much more than is normal, literally it would tip her over the edge to do anything seriously wrong. She can’t take any kind of rejection or condemnation. It’s the kind of thing that sets her off harming herself.”

Chris found Robin’s words played on his mind all weekend. He was determined he had to see Annabelle to find out what was going on.

annie blackwood.jpgWhat was going on with Annabelle Riley? That was something she was not prepared to share with anyone yet. She kept herself very busy with tasks that seemed to take on an urgency in her mind. Alone in her room at night, her little child-like heart bled. The cycle that had held her captive since she was thirteen still controlled her. The wave of emotion, leading to her doing what brought her relief, followed by a sense of failure and guilt, which contributed to the next wave of emotion, provoking yet another act of injuring herself. It was a cold and lonely time for her, brutally disappointing after all that had transpired in New York.


You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:

Still Fighting

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:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels 



The trip to New York has already been quite eventful. How will everything that has happened effect Annabelle? What will it mean for her future?

These are the previous parts in Annabelle’s story:

mildew at msgAnnabelle made sure she was back before the end of the concert. Once she had returned to Madison Square Gardens, she made her way through to the room the band were using. She could hear the music as she walked along the corridors on the ground floor. The thought of more than $250,000 sitting in an account she had not even been aware of was playing on her mind and provoking a huge sense of gratitude towards Dean. How much would the value of the apartment be if she were to sell it? It had never sunk in before how generous Dean had been to her.  The thought of it brought a sensation that made her feel quite dizzy. Somehow the notion of abandonment and rejection from her former lover were easing away.

She lingered in the corridors near the rooms being used for the concert. She was careful to avoid the band when they returned to their dressing room. As soon as she saw Chris, she bounded up to him and squeezed his arm. “Everything went well didn’t it?”

Chris was dripping with sweat, “Annie they were awesome!”

dean play.jpgFeeling a huge sense of relief Annabelle asked, “Anything special I need to know about?”

Chris nodded catching his breath, “Dean sang a couple of songs instead of Nick. Just him and the guitar, “She Dreams” and another one, he said it’s new. He dedicated them to his nan. I think he meant you.”

Annabelle felt her neck and face flush crimson. “Wow, that’s new. I have never seen Dean perform solo on stage.”

Chris was still panting, “Honestly, I think it was the best part of the night. Everyone was completely gripped by him. The rest of the night the crowd was just nuts. The band were great Annie.”

“Your shirt is ripped Chris.”

mildew1Chris looked down to where Annabelle was pointing, “Oh, yeah, I’m not surprised, it was rough out there.”

Within a couple of hours Annabelle and Chris had escaped back to the hotel suite. The moment Annabelle started to notice things that made her feel uncomfortable, she made a hasty exit from the party that she knew she had to make an appearance at for Dean’s sake. By the time she had found Dean, he was already clearly intoxicated. She couldn’t get much sense out of him at all, which made her feel disappointed. When she let him clumsily hug her, she whispered into his ears, “Thank you so much for everything Dean, I am so grateful.” But it was clear her words were wasted on him.

She spoke to each member of the band, and to Jimmy and Ron and others she clearly knew very well. She introduced Chris as a good friend of hers to everyone, and tried to make sure he felt comfortable meeting people who were complete strangers to him. She told Jimmy and Ron that Chris and her would be leaving from LaGuardia at eleven o’clock the next morning. Annabelle had a trained eye for the things she hated to see. As a teenager, had been shocked the first time she had ever seen cocaine. It had become a familiar sight, but as soon as she spotted someone with it, she told Chris it was time to leave.

annie coffee1Annabelle really struggled to wake up the next morning. Sleep deprivation was taking it’s toll after those three nights in New York. But she pushed herself to respond to the alarm on her phone, because she felt an urgency to get back to Blackwood. Chris was already up and dressed. He could see her how tired she was, so he poured coffee for her. Annabelle sipped the dark brown liquid, waiting to feel it’s invigorating effect, before she hurried into the shower. “I’ll be so relieved to get out of this city. I can’t wait to be back in Blackwood Chris.”

Chris didn’t feel quite the same way. The trip to New York had been thrilling for him. Everything he had seen would occupy his mind for a long time to come. On the way to the airport, Annabelle chatted cheerfully and asked Chris for more details of the concert she had missed. She listened eagerly to Chris, delighted to hear his enthusiastic description of the night and plenty of praise for the band.

jennas message.jpgHer mood was only effected when she pulled out her phone to look at a text message in her inbox. She immediately pulled a face, “Ugh, I think Robin is right about her being a mean cow.”

“Who?” asked Chris. Annabelle passed her phone over to Chris, who read the message sent by Jenna to Annabelle: “YOU’RE FULL OF SURPRISES. HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR SLUTTY WEEKEND IN THE BIG APPLE.” His mouth gaped open, “What the hell?”

“It looks as if Jenna has heard about you and me being in New York together Chris. You better be prepared for some some odd comments when we get back.”

Still shocked by what he had read, Chris was adamant, “That’s out of order. I’ll call her when we are back. She can’t say things like that to you.”

gossiping“I wouldn’t waste your breath Chris. I am starting to think she is beyond remorse. I know you and her had a thing together. But just be thankful you are not female, if you were, I think she would be much harder to take. It makes me nervous about all of her friends too. I don’t think I’m being unfair saying they seem to live for gossip.”

“We never had a thing going Annie. When I first moved to Blackwood, it was nice to get some attention, but I figured she wasn’t my type when she didn’t hide that was pretty relaxed about casual hook-ups with half of the men in town. What happened between us was a complete one-off and it was a mistake.”

Annabelle frowned, “I don’t want to think about her right now. I’m not going to let her ruin what has been amazing weekend. Thank you so much Chris for coming with me. I hope that you don’t regret it if Jenna starts gossiping.”

nyc“No way, I don’t care what she thinks. I have loved this trip Annie. I’m going to be nagging you about when we can come back.”

Annabelle smiled warmly, “Actually Chris, maybe I’m going to need to be back in New York in the near future. If you really mean that, I’d love your company again.”

Chris beamed with delight, he wrapped his hand around Annabelle’s. When they sat on the plane taking them back to Appleton Airport, he felt a reluctance to return to the sedate life of Blackwood. He suddenly turned to Annabelle and asked her something he had meant to ask her earlier, “Why does Dean call you Nan?”

She smiled, “When we met, I told him my name was Annabelle and he told me that sounded like some uppercrust snob’s name. He said he didn’t want to call me that and asked what I was called for short. Well my parents have always called me Annabelle, and people at school called me Annie, but I didn’t feel like an Annie. Annie made me think of the musical.”

“Little girl with bright red locks.”

guilty“Full of sunshine and positivity. Well that wasn’t me at all. I told Dean that I had been reading a book called “The Buccaneers”, it’s a novel by Edith Wharton and the main character was called Annabelle. She is an American who ends up in an uppercrust snobby household in England, but ends up desperate to escape. In the book the name she is called right from the start is Nan. So Dean said he would call me Nan.”

“You are Nan to Dean and Belle to Robin.”

“Yup, two different names, two completely different versions of me.”

“But you don’t like anyone else calling you Belle?”

“It feels kind of intimate. I don’t really mind Chris. I identify that name with the way Robin makes me feel. So it feels odd when someone who does not really know me calls me Belle. Robin speaks a little Italian. He calls me Belle or Bellissima – they mean beautiful or gorgeous. In the morning he would wake me up saying “Buongiorno principessa!”, which means good morning Princess. He is so sweet.”

wake“Belle suits you Annabelle. Although you are better after a coffee. I didn’t recognize you this morning.”

“Thanks a lot!” Annabelle prodded Chris’ arm, “But I will say this, I feel so much more like an Annie these days. I do feel much more like I have sunshine and positivity within me, most days. It’s something I am aspiring to. I am perfectly content with Annabelle and Annie, but not Anne. I never felt like an Anne. That name is far too neat and tidy, which I don’t think I will ever be.”

“Alright, Miss Riley, I won’t call you Anne.”

chris voice mail.jpgOnce their plane had landed, Chris and Annabelle had to jump in a taxi back to Blackwood. Burt and Pearl were in Mapleton visiting Pearl’s sister Gloria. Just before they climbed into the taxi, Chris listened to a voice-mail on his mobile and recognised Robin’s voice, “Hey Chris, do me a favour, tell Annabelle to call Dean and ask him to remove the photo of her from his Instagram account, or change it to a different one. I will call her again when I have finished work.”

Sitting in the back of the car with Annabelle, who was completely exhausted, he selected the Instagram app on his phone. It didn’t take him long to find photos of Mildew on stage at Madison Square Gardens. He scrolled down through the photos. He saw what looked like an official account for Mildew. There was also an account belonging to Dean Mathers. Chris kept on scrolling down through the photos until he saw one that startled him. He read the comment Dean had added to the photo.

dean's photo of annie.jpg“LAST NIGHT WAS DEDICATED TO MY NAN. THIS  BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WAS THE REASON 20,000 PEOPLE CAME TO SEE US PLAY AT MSG. ALL MY THANKS TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE.” He also noticed the statistics for the photo displayed as 48K likes and hundreds of comments.

Chris turned to look at a sleepy Annabelle who had her head resting against his shoulder. “Annie, wake up. What the hell is this?”

Annabelle blinked her eyes in confusion and weariness. She looked at the photo Chris was showing her and then looked at him. Her face indicated she was baffled. She looked at the photo again and read the comment from Dean. A smile crept across her lips, “That’s so sweet of him.”

dean sleepingChris’ face darkened with anger, “I can’t believe you. No wonder you didn’t want me to sleep on the sofa!”

Annabelle raised her eyebrows, “No, you’re wrong, that’s not what happened. Dean was completely out for the count that night. He didn’t wake up once. I was on the sofa all night.”

Chris glared at Annabelle, it was obvious how much he was trying to restrain his feelings. He turned to look out of the window of the taxi. “Just tell the truth Annie.”

Annabelle felt hurt at the the way Chris was reacting. She sat back into the seat and folded her arms, “It’s none of your business Chris.”

Nothing else was said for the rest of the journey back to Blackwood. The taxi pulled over outside the Jennings’ residence and both of them alighted. Annabelle paid the fare. When she turned around Chris was already walking down the road. Her heart sank.

annie mirror.jpgShe let herself in to the house. She wished Burt and Pearl were home. She went up to her room to put her bag down. Then she walked in the bathroom. Becoming transfixed by the tired reflection in the mirror, strong feelings welled upside her. Annabelle screamed and before she even realized what she was doing her hand, clenched in a first, struck her head several times. The unusual sensations of relief and then failure and guilt came too. She stuck her head again and again as hard as she could. Once her hand hurt more than her head did, she gave up and returned to her room in tears. There, Annabelle collapsed on her bed and was soon fast asleep.


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:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels