Jon and Vikki fell for each other at a party in London – the day before Vikki returned home to Australia. They have been writing to each other, and Jon has arranged to visit Vikki in Melbourne within the next few months. But Vikki is settling back into her familiar life, and renewing old friendships. Meanwhile, her abusive ex-partner, Guy, is trying to trace her…
If you’ve missed the earlier chapters, you can read them here
It was the second morning in a row that the postie had let her down. There was no letter from Jon. It was windy, cold and raining. She shook herself. “Come on, woman! Pull yourself together!”
“Hi, Vikki! Fancy a movie this evening?”
“Dan! I didn’t hear you come in.”
Dan grinned. He and Vikki had been in and out of each other’s houses all the time as kids.
“Sorry! I should have knocked. Anyway, what about this movie? La La Land!”
“Sure, yeah, I’d like that.”
On the way home from the cinema, Dan stopped his car at the kerbside a few streets short of Vikki’s home. She turned to him, ready to tease him, ready to defuse any threat of intimacy with humour. His face, though, was too serious.
“What is it, Dan? What’s the matter?”
“Can we talk, Vikki? I mean talk properly, not joking.”
“Go ahead.” She still sounded flippant.
She saw the fine lines deepen on his forehead. There was pain in his grey-blue eyes. She had always liked his eyes. As a teenager she used to imagine him as a Viking, facing the terrors of land and sea without fear.
“I’ve got to say this, Vikki, or I won’t be able to live with myself. I love you. Will you…will you marry me?”
“Marry you, Dan?” There was a little quiver in her voice.
“Don’t bloody make fun of me, Vikki. You don’t owe me much, but you owe me the respect of taking me seriously.”
“I am taking you seriously, Dan. I’m just flabbergasted, I guess. I hadn’t expected this.”
They sat together in silence for a few minutes.
“You haven’t said no, at least.”
Vikki turned to him. She put one hand on his shoulder, and with the other, stroked his blond hair across his forehead.
“No, I haven’t. And I haven’t said yes either. Oh, Dan, this is just so difficult. Because I’ve loved you as a friend for years, and I find you sexy as hell, but…well, there’s somebody in England who’s special to me.”
“Not that Guy fellow, I hope?”
“As if!” Vikki stopped stroking Dan’s hair. She took hold of his right hand with both of hers, and squeezed it, as though to convince him of her earnestness. “He’s called Jon. I can’t explain it, Dan. It’s a mystery, but it’s very wonderful. I’m so sorry.”
Gently, Dan removed his hand from hers.
“I don’t want your pity, Vikki. If you won’t have me, I reckon I’ll have to go away.”
“I haven’t said no, Dan. But I’m not saying yes either, not yet.”
“So, what the hell are you saying then?”
“Don’t be angry, Dan. I know it must look like I want to have my cake and eat it, but it really isn’t that. Can you give me a minute just to think how to help you understand?”
Vikki gestured at the two of them sitting in the car.
“This is kind of reality, Dan. The two of us sitting here; you loving me; you asking me to marry you; and me sitting here wanting to say yes, because I love you too, Dan, I do truly. But then there’s this thing like magic that happened the day before I set off home; this – connection I suppose you’d call it – between me and Jon.
Look, he’s coming out here soon. Next letter I get, I’m expecting him to say when he’s coming. Suppose I said yes to you tonight? And then saw him, and this thing between us boils up and I change my mind about what I said? That wouldn’t be fair for either of us, would it?”
“I don’t think you’re being honest, Vikki, not with me, not with yourself.” There was an angry edge to Dan’s voice. “You want to keep me in reserve in case it falls through with this – Jon. Well, that’s not going to happen. What kind of basis would that be for a marriage?”
Vikki took both Dan’s hands in hers, and looked him full in the face. In the moonlight, her amber eyes were dark, almost black, and luminous with unshed tears.
“Dan. If you want me to – if you want me to – I’ll say yes to you now. I’ll say yes, and I’ll stick to it. I’m sure we could make it work, be happy together. I’ll write to Jon and tell him – it was just – it was just a… beautiful dream. And not to come.” A single tear escaped, glinting, and leaving a silvery track as it trickled down her cheek.
Dan shook his head gently.
“No, not now, not tonight, Vikki. But I will ask again, and then I’ll insist on an answer.”
He turned away from her, and started the engine. Neither of them spoke for the remainder of the short journey home.
I’m thrilled that you’re going to be here next week! I can’t wait! I’d thought it wasn’t going to be until September!
I know we’ve written before about this in our letters, but you’d be more than welcome to come and stay with us. My mum thinks you must be “A real, old-fashioned English gentleman” because you’re planning to stay in a hotel for at least the first few days!
Now, there’s something I must tell you.
When I was little, I was a bit of a tomboy, and my best friend was a boy called Dan. He’s still my best friend now, Jon, and he’s very dear to me. You’re the person I cleave to, but Dan is close too.
The problem is, he proposed marriage to me this evening. I didn’t say yes, but I couldn’t make myself say no.
I must be completely honest with you, Jonathan. It feels to me that the bond between you and me is so special that it demands honesty, perfect honesty, or at least as close to it as I can manage. So – if I hadn’t met you, Jon, I would have accepted Dan’s proposal, and been very happy.
There. I’ve said it. If that changes your mind about coming, then I accept that. Oh, but I so hope it doesn’t! I just want to be close to you!
With much love
Jon read the letter, frowned, and read it again. Then he picked up his pen and wrote.
Thank you for your honesty in telling me about Dan. I shall see you at Melbourne Airport at about 5 p.m. on July 10th. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. I love you more than I can say.
With my whole heart.
He took the letter to the post straightaway. It would, with luck, arrive before he did.
Jon was smiling as he tugged his suitcase into the Arrivals area. Where was she? He scanned the waiting faces, the family groups, husbands, wives; the people greeting men in suits who’d flown from England with only a briefcase and laptop; the taxi drivers displaying handwritten signs. There was no Vikki.
Jon frowned. Surely Vikki hadn’t stood him up? She must have been delayed. Perhaps her car had broken down?
He noticed a tall fair-haired man, who appeared to be waving to him. When Jon acknowledged the wave, the man beckoned to him. Stiff-legged, frozen-faced, Jon complied.
Jon nodded, curtly.
The tall man stuck out a hand.
“I’m Dan,” he said. “We have an emergency. Vikki’s disappeared.”