At First Sight – Part 8

Jon and Vikki fell in love the day before Vikki returned permanently to Australia, leaving Jon in London. He books a flight to visit her. Meanwhile, Vikki’s abusive former partner, Guy, has tracked her down. Vikki disappears. Jon, and her childhood sweetheart, Dan, pursue Guy. There is a showdown, in which Vikki is rescued, Guy is killed, and Jon and Dan both critically injured

At first sight 8 - Manor on High 170715

Jon’s head was aching. He couldn’t remember a worse pain, except for…his mind shied away from an explosion of agony that he couldn’t quite recall. Instead, he opened his eyes. The ceiling was white. The light hurt his eyes.

“Jonathan?”

“Dad?”

“Thank God. You’re back with us. Praise the Lord!”

“Where am I?”

“Hospital. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, to be precise.”

Jonathan closed his eyes again.

“Where’s Vikki? Is she…is she alright?”

“Yes, she’s fine. She just popped out for a bite of breakfast. She’ll be back.”

“Breakfast. I’ve been out overnight, then?”

“A bit longer than that, I’m afraid.”

Jon’s eyes opened abruptly.

“Dad! What the hell are you doing here?”

“I flew out last week when the hospital told us you might not pull through.”

Jon said nothing.

“I’ll be able to help you travel home, too.”

“I have something to do before coming home. In fact, I may not come back to the UK at all.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s your PhD to finish…” James Hall’s voice faded as he looked at his son’s pale face and the turban of dressings round his head. The doctors had warned him of possible brain damage; maybe Jon wouldn’t be capable of completing his studies.

The door opened quietly. Jon looked and smiled.

“Vikki!”

“Oh, Jon, I’m so glad!” Her tears welled up, and poured down her cheeks, even as she beamed with joy. She swabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “Drat this crying. Anybody would think I was sad!”

Jonathan stretched out his arms towards her. As she moved into his embrace, the door opened.

“Now then, Mr Hall. Lie still and don’t get excited. You’re still a very sick man.” But the nurse’s face was cheerful, and her manner light.

“I’ll… er… go and phone your mother, tell her that you’re back in the land of the living.”

“Yeah.”

Little fragments of memory were flashing before Jon. He held onto Vikki’s hands.

“You’re safe!” he said. “I was so afraid of what Guy might do to you.”

Vikki frowned. “Best leave that for the moment. Some other time?”

Jon went to nod, and realised that his head was restrained. Instead, he made a circle with his thumb and forefinger, and smiled. His eyes closed, and he drifted off to sleep. He looked happy, Vikki thought.

The nurse spoke quietly to Vikki. “I know I told him to keep still, but it’s an excellent sign that he was able to move his arms. There didn’t look to be any weakness. We have to wait for the consultant’s say-so, but it looks good. You’re a lucky girl, I think.”

Vikki coloured. She gazed at Jon. What was it about him that made her desire him so much? She stroked his arm with her fingertips. The muscles were relaxed in sleep, but she could feel their tight definition. The hair on his skin was downy and fair, hardly more than a fuzz.

She looked at his face and remembered the last ten days, and the tears came again. At first the doctors had thought he would die; you could tell from their faces, and from the nurses’ refrain, “He’s receiving the best possible care,” which so often becomes, “We did all we could.”

But now he was out of danger.

The door clicked as James Hall came back into the room.

“Ah, good. He’s asleep. That’s what he needs.” He looked at Vikki, who half-nodded. “I wonder if we could talk together for a few minutes?” he asked. He held open the door. Vikki stared at him, set her lips and walked into the corridor.

“Well?”

“I wanted to talk about Jon, and his future.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to talk about the weather.”

“Vikki. Please don’t be hostile. There’s no need. We’ve both got Jon’s best interests at heart.”

“Say what you want to say.”

“Jon’s a very bright young man, you know. He has a great future. He could become a professor.”

“Your point being?”

“He needs to come back to the UK to finish his PhD. His academic network is centred in the UK. It will set back his career unless he returns and stays in England.”

“Do you suppose he doesn’t know that?”

“I’m sure he does. But I want to be confident that you understand. I’m sure you want to act in his best interests.”

“Of course I do. But I think that Jon can perfectly well decide his best interests for himself. Don’t you?”

“I’m concerned that he may not see them clearly while he’s infatuated.”

“I’d prefer to say that he’s in love. Look, Mr Hall, Jon’s big enough to make his own decisions. If he asks me to marry him, I shall say yes like a shot. And – I’ll be blunt – that is none of your business. It’s about time you recognised that he’s a man, now, not a little boy.”

“I see. Thank you for making your feelings so clear. Perhaps you’d like to rejoin him? I shall go and find something to eat. Good day to you.”

Cheeks flaming, Vikki went back into Jon. She moved quietly across to the bed, and slipped her hand into his. He didn’t wake, but his fingers closed gently around hers. She sighed, and the hostility she’d felt for Jon’s father melted away. Sitting here, with Jon safe, was all she wanted. It was a moment of perfect calm and happiness.

*       *       *       *

It had been the first day Jon had tried walking since his injury. He’d been okay; the doctors were pleased, but he was exhausted. The door clicked. He looked up, hoping the nurse had come to adjust the bed so that he could sleep, but it was Dan. Jon sat up a little straighter and greeted him cheerfully.

Dan dropped into the chair by the bed.

“Glad we did it, eh?”

Jon nodded.

“Your doing mostly, Dan. I didn’t stop him; you did.”

“Team effort, mate”

“You’re too generous.”

Dan gave him a sideways look. “Only a Pom would say that!”

Jon grinned.

“Look, I’ve got something serious to say,” went on Dan. “It’s about Vikki. I’ve seen how she’s been with you the last couple weeks.”

He paused and thought a little.

“If you ask her to marry you, she’ll say ‘Yes’, you know. I just wanted to say there’ll be no hard feelings on my part. I love her, yeah, I have done as long as I can remember, but, well, she loves you and I want her to be happy. That’s what matters. I’m a big boy. I guess I’ll get over it.”

Jon was briefly silent, then he held out his hand. Dan grasped it.

“Thank you,” said Jon.

They sat like that for several minutes, then Jon said, “I shall ask Vikki this evening. If she says yes, would you be my best man at the wedding?”

“I’d be honoured. Provided I’m not in gaol on the day.”

“Gaol?”

“Yeah. They’ve charged me with manslaughter for killing Guy. My brief reckons with the extenuating circumstances I’ll probably get a couple years.”

“But – you saved my life!”

“Yeah. That’s the extenuating bit.”

“Dan, I’m so sorry.”

“The law’s the law, I guess. I tell you what, though. I’d do it again tomorrow. We got Vikki out. You’re still alive. And Guy’s dead. Good riddance. Vikki’s told me some of what he did. He was a piece of shit. I’m bloody glad I shot the bastard.”

He looked at Jon.

“Here, you’re looking a bit peaky, mate. Do you want me to call the nurse?”

“I’m OK. First day out of bed today, that’s all.”

The door clicked open.

“Out you go now!” The nurse was brisk. Dan winked at Jon, and loped out. Jon fell asleep even before the nurse had finished reclining the head of the bed.

*       *       *       *

Jonathan Hall, newly minted PhD, sat next to Dan in the Regency Room of the Manor on High in Melbourne. In his room in Vikki’s mum’s house was the letter offering him a post at Melbourne University, together with confirmation from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that he qualified for permanent residency.

Dan was quiet, self-controlled; calmly cheerful; on parole.

Carolyn Hall sat behind her son, but her husband, James, was absent, unable to reconcile himself to Jon wedding an atheist.

The string quartet drew their music to a close at the registrar’s signal, and then struck up Pachelbel’s Canon.

Vikki entered, on her mother Margaret’s arm. She was heartbreakingly beautiful. Her honey-coloured hair was put up in a French Pleat, emphasizing her classic features. Her amber eyes seemed to glow.

Jon and Vikki exchanged vows, and rings; the registrar pronounced them man and wife.

The reception afterwards was joyful and lively, but Margaret made a moment of seclusion to speak quietly to Jon. “Do you remember what I said at the yard gate? ‘Find my girl, Jon. Bring her back to me.’ You did that, Jon, and I am eternally grateful to you and Dan”. She hugged him close for several minutes, and then added, “She’s told me things, Jon, things she’ll probably never tell you. Be gentle with her, won’t you?”

And that is where this serial stops. It would be nice to say that ‘they all lived happily ever after’, but that never happens to real people, and it doesn’t in my tale either. But whether you ever hear of what happened later will depend entirely upon the caprice of the author!

 

 

The Bridefarer’s Choice – Part 1

Well, I’ve decided to try my hand at a serial once again. The genre is fantasy (a first for me – I’ve never tried this genre before). Episode 1 is complete and published below.  I know where the story is going, and I think it will take four episodes to complete it. I will publish successive episodes every Monday.

I very much hope you enjoy it!

The Bridefarer - Part 1 171127

The Bridefarer – Part 1

Diarmid was a big man. He stooped to enter my house, and his broad frame blocked the sunlight.

“Reverence, Oldest One.”

I inclined my head, acknowledging the respectful greeting.

“Enter, be seated and be welcome,” I responded, with the formal words of hospitality. “You come to tell me you go bridefaring?”

He grinned. “Not a difficult conundrum, Oldest.”

And, indeed, it was not. At nineteen, it was high time Diarmid was married and settled. Besides, he was dressed for travel and carried a sword. I pointed to it.

“Do not be too quick to draw your blade, Diarmid MacDiarmid. You go seeking favour, not conquest.”

“Blades tarnish if they are never drawn.” His voice and manner were light.

“Better a tarnished blade than a dead bearer.”

I busied myself brewing a herbal tea.

“Here, Diarmid MacDiarmid, drink this. Drink slowly, and leave the herbs in the bottom.”

He sniffed it, sipped it. It was a bitter brew. Little creases showed at the corners of his eyes, but he drained the cup. I took it from him and looked at the residue.

I felt the hairs on my neck prickle with anticipation. I have ‘the sight’. It’s often a blessing, when you can reassure someone that they will have a full life and die of old age. But sometimes it’s a curse.

“All I can tell you from this reading is that you will live out your fate. For some, the way is…malleable. Choices will make a difference for them. That is not so for you; your fate is fixed, as straight and cold and strong as the steel of your blade.”

I looked up at him.

“All men die,” he said; but his face was pale. “I do not fear death.”

“You must drink again before I can tell you how your bridefaring will prosper.”

In truth I knew already.

He grimaced but nodded assent, and slowly drank from a second cup. As he handed me the empty vessel, he looked me full in the eyes.

“Tell me the truth, now, whatever it is.”

“I would never do otherwise.”

I stared into the cup. The story was the same.

“Your bridefaring will be successful. In a town far from here you will win the heart of a beautiful young woman. Her hair is red-gold like the setting sun in October; her eyes are blue-grey like the ocean after a storm. She is a king’s daughter, but those among whom she dwells know this not.

You will wed her, and return to your home where she will bear you a son. But, Diarmid MacDiarmid, I say this to you. You need not fear blade or fire or hemp; but beware of water, beware of the sea.”

Diarmid laughed, colour restored to his cheeks. His dark eyes were smouldering at the thought of the beautiful woman who would share his bed.

“I am a fisherman, Oldest. I must always beware of the sea. I bid you farewell, with many thanks for the favourable reading.”

He fiddled in his purse, drawing out a gold coin.

“For your good words,” he said.

I took it silently, and he left.

When he had gone I sat many minutes, my mind wandering the paths of the future.

At first sight – part 2

While I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo I have no time to write fresh material for my blog, so I’m reposting a serial from 2017. In the first instalment Jon, a student in London, met Vikki and they fell in love. Unfortunately, Vikki has had to fly back to Australia leaving Jon in London. Will their love survive separation? Read on and find out!

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Despite the long flight from England to Australia, Vikki was up early on the morning after her return. She drank her coffee sitting in the kitchen so she could see the post arrive.

“You’re up early, Pet. Difficulty sleeping?”

Vikki gave her mum a hug.

“Body clock’s all wrong. I expect I’ll go back to bed after the post.”

Margaret Marsden gave her daughter a quizzical look.

“Post takes days from the UK,” she observed. “Would you like a croissant? I’ve been down to the bakery.”

“Mm, please.”

Vikki enjoyed having her mum all to herself over breakfast, but there was no letter in the post.

Daniel came to call on the third morning. His embrace wrapped Vikki in warmth and physical strength. His scent, the pleasant smell of a fit male body, almost overwhelmed her. “Am I allowed a kiss?” he asked.

Vikki proffered her cheek. Chastely, Daniel pecked it. He ran his hand through her honey-coloured hair. The look in his eyes spoke of everything other than chastity.

“We’re having a barbie out at Mothers’ Beach tonight. Do you fancy coming?”

Vikki moved away from him, and sat down on the other side of the sturdy wooden kitchen table.

“I’m a bit tired. Jet-lagged, I guess. I’ll give it a miss this time, if you don’t mind, Dan.” Dan shrugged.

“Jessica will be there.”

“Sorry, Dan, I’m going to have an early night. Maybe next time?”

She woke next morning feeling light-hearted and she was singing as she went downstairs.

“Postie was early this morning,” said her mum, gesturing at the envelope on the table.

The handwriting on the envelope was well formed and fluent. Vikki stared at it, turning it over and over, caressing it.

“Would you like a coffee to take to your room?”

“Gosh, thanks, Mum. That would be lovely.” She stroked her mum’s short, dark, curly hair. “You’re so good to me. It’s great to be back home.”

Dear Vikki

I hope your flight home went well and wasn’t too gruelling. And I hope you received the big family welcome you told me about, with lots of hugs and kisses from your sisters. (How jealous I am of your sisters…)”

Vikki frowned, then sighed. Maybe Jon was premature in writing a love letter, but she couldn’t pretend to herself that she didn’t feel the same powerful attraction. Those few kisses with him after the party had been different from any she’d ever experienced.

We had so little time together before you had to leave today, and yet I feel that in some way we know the essence of each other. I hope you don’t think I’m being too pushy, but – I love you. Is it ridiculous to feel that some people are made for each other? Reason tells me it is. And yet, how strongly I feel that we belong together.”

Vikki nodded, thoughtfully. She knew what it was to be roused by a man; Dan excited her intensely, for instance; but, yes, what she had felt with Jon was different.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to see my Professor, to ask if he can arrange some more paid work for me supervising undergraduates in practical classes. It shouldn’t be too long before I can afford to fly out for a few weeks and stay close to you in a B&B or somewhere. If you want me to, of course.”

Vikki’s face lit up. She read the short paragraph a second time, and a third. She could think of nothing she would like better than to have Jon visit.

Four days earlier, as he had written the lines, Jon had agonised over this last sentence. Still, now it was done; he must close.

And now I’d better seal the envelope and post the letter.

With all my love,

Jon”

He looked at the crumpled balls of paper on his desk, the discarded drafts. The letter had taken him the whole evening to write. Feeling foolish and infantile for doing so, he nevertheless touched his lips to the fair copy. He slipped it into the envelope, and tucked it into the inside pocket of his jacket. A great wave of exhilaration lifted him. He trotted down the stairs and out into the night.

Two strong arms seized him, one pinning his elbows against his ribs, the other pressing like an iron bar across his throat. There was a faint scent of expensive cologne.

“I think you know Vikki’s Australian address,” hissed Guy.

The next episode will be posted tomorrow, 21st Novemeber. Don’t miss it!