15 – PROPOSALS

15 – PROPOSALS

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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THE LIFE AND LOVES OF ANNIE GRABLE - 15

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Annie smiled at the thrush, puffing its chest out because the blackbird had seen sense and gone to find a territory of its own. It’s a good job she hadn’t done the same thing as she entered the gallery where Ralf was showing some of his paintings because. If she had she might have missed too much to list, too many good times and quite a lot of bad ones. But it had proved to be the central pivot of her adult life. That one moment, that one blinding flash.

It was from that moment, she mused, that my grown up world began…

As she entered the gallery, nervously, three things struck her almost simultaneously. The first was how large the space was, much bigger that the morning room at the big house which she’d always thought of as huge, how splendid the main canvas on a separate easel against the far wall looked, and mostly what a handsome man was greeting them.

First, though, she stared at the canvas and the message was plain to see. There was the garden, this time painted as it was towards the end of a year with autumn leaves piling up against a wall that was almost lost behind the fruit trees heavy with their apples and pears, and scudding clouds in a heavy sky. But there was light and a hope for rebirth, for the young woman moving as if towards another, brighter season in the centre of the picture was beyond doubt herself.

He first thought was what a lovely picture, and her second was am I really that pretty? For the woman reaching for tomorrow was both like and unlike her, she was the Annie of perfection with every blemish obliterated and every surface of her perfect skin reflecting the light from an unborn spring day. And she was wearing that pink dress. The one Gertrude had given her and she had painstakingly modified to make it both fit her and look fashionable and youthful

The young man moved up to her.

You are,” he said, suavely, well dressed, fragrant in the way any men she knew of rarely were.

Pardon?” she asked, puzzled.

You were asking yourself if you’re really that lovely, and I told you that you are,” he said.

I didn’t mean...”

You didn’t ask the question out loud! I saw it in your eyes, that’s all,” he murmured, “you are the future, that’s what the painting says, and it’s also what the reality says now that I’ve met you. Do your believe in long courtships, or are you more in favour of first decisions being the best?”

I don’t understand...”

Let me put it another way, Annie. Will you marry me?”

The doorbell broke into the wonderful memory of that first time, and it took her an age to get out of her chair and into the passage these days. Legs and arms used to be much more obedient and do what she wanted of them, but these days they always seemed to reluctant.

Who is it?” she called before opening the door. This need for what they called social distancing always seemed to make her feel ill-mannered. She wouldn’t normally have been so unwilling to expose herself to the big wide world beyond her door, not that she was actually exposing anything. Not in the explicit sense, anyway.

Post, madam,” same the reply, “small parcel, but it won’t fit through.”

Leave it, and I’ll open the door in a moment,” she said as loud as she could, and it must have been loud enough because the postman replied with a positive “thank you, madam,” and she could hear his feet as they trudged through the gravel that had spilled from somewhere, the road maybe, onto her short path.

It was a small parcel, just like he said, and she knew instantly who it was from because of the large sized handwriting that was scrawled across it in felt tipped pen. Only her sister wrote like that. Her half-sister, that was, Daphne.

Silly bugger,” she whispered, looking at it, and she closed the door.

Daphne had come late in mum’s child-bearing life and had it not been for Ralf she might never have made it to birth, but he had been the perfect man back then. But tush, more of that later. It’s jumping the gun, and guns should never be jumped.

She took the parcel to her chair and sat down as slowly as she could to give her old joints a fair chance at adopting a changed position. Then she opened it, and smiled.

Underneath no end of screwed up newspaper for protection was a ceramic thrush, perfect in every detail, and it might have been modelled from her feathered friend sitting on the garden fence bobbing up and down and winking at her

Where was I?

The smart young man in the gallery smiled warmly at her confusion.

Let me introduce myself,” he said, warmly, “my name is Klaus. Klaus Grable, and I fell in love with you the moment I saw this picture, which I suppose is really quite recently against the great backdrop of time. But that face, that lovely face with its sparkling eyes, it has been eating into my heart since I first glimpsed it.”

What do you say to someone who says something like that?

Why, you introduce yourself back…

I’m Annie,” she said quietly, “Annie Stoker, and I’m real rather than being a painting, and...”

...and?”

“… and I don’t usually rush into things blindly, I really don’t, but yes, of course I’ll marry you. When?”

The thrush was having a fit out there as it tried to thrash something unbreakable against the fence. She placed the ceramic thrush gently onto her mantel piece next to the old clock that had been her mothers and which she usually forgot to wind up until it had been stopped for days. Time didn’t seem so important when you were in enforced lock down.

The note with the thrush said it all. For you, dearest sister, and happy birthday next week. I hope to pop in and see you when this stupid lock down is over and done with. Stay well for me, won’t you…

She shook her mind back to that day in the art gallery.

Why had she said, that, out of the blue and from the back of her mind? Why had she agreed to marry a young man, not much more than a boy really, though boys became young men a great deal sooner in those days, why had she agreed to the proposal the very first time she met him? But she had, and time showed that it was proof, if proof were ever needed, that what goes on at the very back of a girl’s mind is probably more sensible than the obvious stuff that usually preoccupies her, like what colour frock will she wear and are her lips too red?

Did you say yes?” he asked, probably taken aback though he looked delighted.

I think so,” she nodded. “I hadn’t given it too much thought to be honest, but I do find that sometimes too much thought can muddy the waters, but yes, of course I’ll marry you. There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever. No doubt at all.”

What do you think of that picture, Annie?” asked her mother, moving almost excitedly up to her from where she’d been discussing something with Ralf at the far end of the gallery.

This one?” she asked, in a kind of euphoric daze.

Yes, that one … the autumn one with leaves and apples and you...” she replied, uncharacteristically dithering.

Are you all right, mum?” she asked.

Yes and no. That’s it: yes and no. Ralf’s asked me to be his wife and I’ve no idea what to say!”

Then, mother, say what I just said the Klaus,” smiled Annie, “say yes and get on with the future while you still can!”

The porcelain thrush looked just right next to the clock, which needed winding. Yes, that’s what they had said back in the good old, bad old days.

Good old because they were both so very happy. And that happiness was built on the solid foundation that somehow, she didn’t know how, they were both loved by the right men.

And bad, because grumbling out of Germany were the rumblings of another war. They’d said that last bloody fury had been the war to end all wars, and it looked very much as if they’d been wrong.

© Peter Rogerson 14.05.20





© 2020 Peter Rogerson


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Added on May 14, 2020
Last Updated on May 14, 2020
Tags: proposal, strangers, postman


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing