General Fiction posted November 26, 2017 Chapters:  ...21 22 -23- 24... 

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Joy and heartache

A chapter in the book This Time - That Time 2

The Wedding

by sandramitchell

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End of part 22
I must have been walking for well over an hour, when I saw someone sitting on the stile, his back to me.
     I noticed he had the whitest of hair, which hung in a ponytail down his back. I was so intrigued, I went over to say hello, but I think I must have startled him, because he jumped off the stile before turning to look at me. That was when I saw the most beautiful powder-blue eyes staring back at me ... which made my stomach flip in an unbelievable way….'

Part 23

     ‘I remember the moment I became aware of my rudeness … It was when I noticed an amused smile curl his lips and spread to his eyes as he watched the confusion flood my face. I’d never felt as uncomfortable as I had in that instant. I needed something to say, so I hastened to apologise for disturbing him.’

     I suppressed a smile as I watched Gwendolyn's expression scream out how much that memory still made her cringe. 

     ‘I introduced myself, and he told me his name was Jacob Argall, which suited him perfectly because he had a biblical look about him.’ As Gwendolyn tilted her head, a shadow of wistfulness fell over her. ‘I wasn’t at all surprised when he later told me he was a teacher at the local missionary church.’ 

     So, he was there! A surge of relief swept through me. ‘Jacob must be the albino my husband told me about.’
     When I saw the confusion on Gwendolyn's face, I explained the medical paper James had read, and what we’d hoped to achieve by getting Joe to explain her son’s condition to Sir John.

     ‘I don’t think that would be a good idea,’ she said. ‘Any mention of Jacob, and your friend will be in deeper trouble.’

     ‘Oh … why’s that?’

     ‘For a start, John already knows about Jacob … but—’ She raised her hand to stop me interrupting her. ‘but I’ll come to that in a minute. Let me tell you a bit about Jacob first. That way you will understand more fully.’

     I had so many questions I wanted to ask her, but I bit my tongue in the hope that what she was about to tell me would give me the answers.

     ‘Jacob was born with red eyes and a full head of white hair, just like Francis. This obviously frightened his parents, because apparently, they left him on the steps of the missionary church one night, shortly after his birth. At least, that’s what the preacher told him. In the weeks leading up to my wedding, I secretly met Jacob almost every day at a little-used barn where we stored the winter hay.’ 

     ‘I know that barn. Joe took me there the other day,' I told her. ‘He was so cold, and it offered some privacy so we could talk without him freezing to death.’

     Momentarily distracted by my revelation, Gwendolyn nodded. 'Yes, it is private in there,’ she said with a little smile. 'Especially in the upper level where the hay is fully dried.'
     Now I knew where they had met, I could visualise the scene more easily. It must have been a safe haven for both of them, knowing they couldn’t be seen. 
     Gwendolyn’s hand went to the back of her head and gently pulled her long hair to the side of her neck before she spoke again. ‘The more I learned about his life, the more I admired his tenacity … he was a very determined young man. He came through against all the odds to be the kind, warm man he turned out to be. He told me about his childhood, including his solitary and miserable upbringing. He had no friends to play with, because he was kept out of sight for obvious reasons. The only people he spoke to were the teachers at the missionary, and it made me realise how miserable it must have been for him.’

     ‘You said Jacob had pale blue eyes when you met him. Did he tell you when they changed?’

     ‘Yes. Apparently, it was a gradual happening, although his hair remained white.’ Gwendolyn frowned as she thought about it. ‘He was accepted by the locals by the time I met him, but they were still wary of him. When Jacob asked me about my childhood, I felt ashamed that mine had been so different to his.’

     ‘You had nothing to be ashamed of, Gwendolyn. Yours was a natural childhood, which most children enjoy. Jacob’s was hard due to the ignorance of people regarding his condition. I have to say that even I was taken aback when your son turned and looked at me, and I’m supposed to be from an enlightened age. It sounds as though your meetings gave you both comfort.’

     Gwendolyn smiled, the memory obviously giving her pleasure. ‘The days that I met Jacob became the highlight of my life, I’d never been so happy as I was in those days leading up to my wedding. I began to realise I enjoyed his company more than I should, and it was evident by his many convenient business trips that Randolph wasn’t missing me. Of course, he was very apologetic, but somehow, after I’d discovered the truth about the real reason he was marrying me, that didn’t come across as genuine anymore.’

     ‘I can understand that. I would have thought exactly the same. It must have been unbearable.’ 

     ‘It was … My wedding day was drawing closer, and my nerves were beginning to crumble because I couldn’t find a way out of it. Jacob said I must follow my heart, and not my brother’s instructions, but it wasn’t as simple as that. I knew by then where my heart belonged, and when I hinted that I loved him, Jacob admitted he was experiencing strong feelings towards me as well, feelings he’d never felt before. I was overjoyed that he recognised our friendship had blossomed into something else.’

     At last, a smile penetrated the melancholy that had been holding Gwendolyn’s emotions hostage. With glistening eyes, she'd revealed more in that moment than she had in the entire conversation. ‘I expect he’d never come across a lady in this way before. To really get to know her and—'

     ‘That’s right,’ she interrupted. ‘That’s the only thing that worried me. How could he possibly know how he felt when I was the only female he’d ever really known? We had become close ... but did that count as love?’

     ‘I don’t think you can define love. It either is, or it isn’t,’ I told her. ‘If you feel you want to spend the rest of your life with that person, then that’s all you need to know.’ 

     ‘Jacob said the same thing. It was after that our relationship took on a deeper meaning. I couldn’t bear being apart from him, because he filled my life with so much joy. But we had nowhere to go, and neither of us had the means to support a life together.’ 

     ‘Surely you told your brother about your feelings for another man when you realised?’

     Gwendolyn shook her head and sighed. ‘I daren’t. If I had, he would have made sure I never left the house again before my wedding day, and he’d make sure Jacob was dealt with as well. It was too big a risk. Our relationship became furtive, and I began to dislike my brother, and hate my husband-to-be. Neither cared about how I felt. The marriage was one of convenience. Money for one, prestige for the other.’

     ‘Is that when you called off the wedding?’ 

     ‘No, I didn’t call it off … it would have caused too much of a scandal, especially if my relationship with Jacob came to light. It wasn’t long before our feelings for each other got out of control. Neither of us planned it, but we became lovers. It was a wondrous feeling...'

     Gwendolyn looked like a young girl who had fallen in love for the first time, and my heart ached for her ‘So, what happened then?'

     ‘My wedding day arrived, and when I woke that morning, I made a dash downstairs and out into the garden before I was sick. John had seen me rush out, so he followed me. When he saw the state I was in, he naturally assumed it was wedding day nerves and tried to comfort me. As soon as we were back indoors, he instructed the kitchen maid to make me a cup of sweetened tea to calm me, but I knew it had nothing to do with my nerves. All I could hope was that when the baby arrived eight months after our wedding, Randolph would think it was premature.’ 

     ‘So, you decided to marry Randolph after all?’ 

     Her gaze dropped to her lap as she appeared to consider my question. ‘As I said before, I believed I had no choice at the time. With no means to support me, Jacob could never be my husband, nor would my brother have allowed it. I knew our time together would be limited to the few blissful weeks we had, but they would hopefully give me enough memories to see me through the years ahead with a man I didn’t want or love.’

     ‘But Joe told me you were unmarried. What happened?’

      Gwendolyn stared back out at the garden, a melancholy look on her face. ‘I got ready for the church with the help of one of our maids. She was cooing and exclaiming all the time as she helped me into my dress. It was lovely, but much too fussy for me. John beamed his pleasure when I walked down the stairs, and if he noticed how I was hating every moment of this pretence, he didn’t say anything. When we arrived at the church, there were so many of the villagers waiting to see me in my wedding dress, it made me freeze in my seat. Because of that, it took John a little while to persuade me to get out of the carriage.’

     She stopped and looked down at her hands again, interlacing her fingers as I watched numerous expressions flit across her face. ‘I heard the music coming from inside the church, and as we moved towards the open door, my stomach lurched. I truly thought I was going to be sick again. Once inside, I looked at all the people who had stood up to watch me walk down the aisle. It was then that Randolph turned to look at me. Instead of an encouraging smile, he pulled out his pocket watch and frowned! Was he in a hurry to get this farcical marriage over with? Was there somewhere else he’d rather be, perhaps with someone else?’ 

     Gwendolyn stared at the floor for a moment as I held my breath waiting for her to continue. When she did, her face was contorted with anger. ‘That’s when I lost control. I was furious that he’d checked the time at such an important moment, and it confirmed he didn’t care at all for me or my feelings. I looked at my brother in the hope he’d see the apology in my eyes, and then I turned and ran out of the church….'


Characters in: This Time – That Time 2
The Powers that be who are all watching Veronica:
Veronica Russell – time traveller.
Dr James Russell – married to Veronica.
Ann Russell –  Veronica and James’s five-year-old daughter with paranormal gifts.
Michael Russell – Veronica and James’s three-year-old son.
Mildred – Veronica’s closest friend and adopted grandmother to the children.
Daveth Hammett – ten-year-old boy from 1846.
Joe Hammett –  Daveth’s father who disappeared through a time portal
Rosie Hammett – Joe’s wife.
Sir John – Lord of the manor.
Gwendolyn – Sir John’s sister, now deceased.
Francis – Albino child of Gwendolyne.
Jacob Argall – Albino.
Meg – Francis’ nanny and carer.

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Sorry it was a long one, I just couldn't find a place to stop! This is written in UK English. Please don't hesitate to tell me of any spags you find, I do honestly appreciate it when you let me know. Thank you so much for your continued support! Picture from Google Images.
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