Life’s unpredictable. It’s unpredictable what will happen when you just go grocery shopping. You never know who you’ll see there. There she was in the cereal aisle procuring boxes of her fav when she spied a tall,sexy brunette walking towards her. She soon sped off without what she wanted. She’d go back later to get it.
There she was at the check out. There was that brunette again. This time she was determined to chat with her. So she followed her to another checkout. People were staring. That didn’t perturb her. She wanted to know who the hell she was.
Only when they were finally in line there was someone between them. Bloody bitch she thought. She was tempted to yell out, who are you? Only She kept quiet.
Sh had almost forgotten about her until a few days later she was getting her hair cut. She happened to look in the mirror for a split second. There she was standing outside chatting with another brunette. They seemed to be arguing. She saw the interesting one’s hands wave around in frustration then she walked away. She needed to find out who she was. So she willed the hairdresser to hurry. ‘Two more snips’ the hairdresser said as if she was reading her mind.
She paid and walked outside. Just glimpsing her walking into a book store. Following her was easy. Being seen and asked as to why she was following her was going to be impossible to explain.
She picked up a magazine to read. Well, to have a reason for being there. Then she felt a tap on her shoulder.
‘Why is it that everywhere I am you seem to be?’ The brunette said. ‘Are you stalking me.’
‘No.’ The blonde said blushing. ‘It’s just coincidence.’
‘Is it now? I recall you chasing after me in the grocery store. We were in line and someone was between us. You looked as though you were going to speak to me but you didn’t.’
‘That must have been someone else.’
‘No it was you. I never forget a face. Especially one as sweet as yours.’ The blonde blushed. ‘You’re going a dark shade of pink, young lady. You could tell me your name then we could go somewhere for a snack. I can hear your stomach from here.’
‘Ann and yes, I would like that.’
‘How do know my name?’
‘I don’t. Is Ann your name?’
‘With an E.’
So, Ann without an E what is your last name? It’s not Lister by any chance because that would be utterly weird.’
‘No, it’s Walker. Is your last name Lister?’
‘Yes,’ Ann looks at Anne and frowns. She has heard that name before but can’t remember when and as if Anne is reading her mind she answers her.
‘Listers of Shibden Hall and you must be of the tribe of Walkers from Crow Nest.’
Yeah, I guess you could say so.’ Ann was surprised Anne knew who she was. Had it been coincidence that they met or fate.
‘Where would you like to eat?’ Anne said. Ann’s smile turned into a frown when she remembered her cousins were visiting for lunch and she needed to return home.
‘What’s up?’ Anne asked feeling as though she had overstepped the mark.’Have I presumed too much? Have I pushed you too far? Is it too soon for a date?’
‘No, no, no!!! I just remembered I had a previous engagement that I can’t get out of. My cousins, Catherine and Delia are coming for lunch. I would ask you too but my aunt will be there and it could get awkward.’ Anne looked at Ann unsure of what to say next.
‘That’s okay. We can do this another time if you like. Hey, why would it be awkward?’
‘Between the three of them they have tried to match me up with every eligible man in town. Yes, they have all been disastrous attempts to marry me off.’ How vulgar and rude thought Anne.
‘Would you like me to rescue you if things get too heat and you want a break. I will give you my phone number.’ Ann reached into her pocket for her phone and passed it to Anne. Anne found her address book and added her number. She call her phone to make sure it was right. Anne’s phone buzzed in her back pocket.
‘Would you like me to walk you home. I wasn’t doing anything much just searching for a book I need for my studies.’ Anne said.
Yes, that would be lovely. What are you studying?’
‘Anatomy. I have always been fascinated by the human body. How it works. Especially the brain. The brain is the most extraordinary organ, and when you see one, it’s just meat, offal -like the rest of our corporeal form- and yet what the brain does in one day, in one hour, in one second, right now! Everything you see, hear, think, feel, desire - in any one moment - is all processed and retained by this one lump of stuff inside the skull - your
skull, my skull - you think about it! Isn’t it exciting that we can think at all? The brain of even the smallest animal is ridiculously sophisticated, but the human brain! We have language, we invent, we analyse, we build cathedrals and cities, and society, we write music and poetry, we fall in love. Aren’t we lucky? To be alive. To have life. Isn’t every tiny moment an inexplicable delight, packed with
‘Is that so.’ Ann squeaks out. ‘You are interested in anatomy while all I do is paint and sketch all day.’ Ann says feel less than what she should.
‘Why do you have such a poor opinion of yourself., Ann?’
‘I don’t know.’ She says with a hint of sadness.
‘Now, I know where you live I can walk you home then go home. My aunt and father will be wondering where I am. I didn’t expect to bump into you.’
‘Don’t you live with your sister? What’s her name? Marian.’ Anne frowns she doesn’t like being reminded about Marian but there it is.
‘Yes. Do you know her?’ I hope not Anne thinks.
‘Yes, as a matter of fact I do. We are in the same craft group at the local CWA.’
‘You go there too. I never took you for a CWA person.’
‘I’m not.’ Ann said. ‘it’s where my aunt goes and so cajoled me into going. I was happy when I met your sister there.’
They had been walking for sometime. ‘Is that Crow Nest up ahead?’
‘Yes.’ Ann said feeling forlorn. They would part soon and Ann didn’t want this bubble they were in to burst.
‘Hey, don’t forget to call me if you want to chat or send a message if you need rescuing. I will do that.’ Anne said as she walked away from Ann at the front gate. Ann walked inside expecting to get reprimanded for being late. Only it was quiet for a moment. Then she heard Catherine call out her name.
‘Annie, is that you?’ Ann thought who else would it be the man in the moon.
‘Yes,’ she yelled back with more anger than she intended.
‘We have someone here we would like you to meet. Can you come into the sitting room?’
As she walked through the door she only needed to see the back of his head to realise who it was.
‘I need to get a drink. I won’t be long.’ She walked to the kitchen and filled a glass with water, gulped it down before she sent a text message to Anne.
AW Come back please. I need you now.
AL Are you okay?
AW No, they have a Reverend Ainsworth here to introduce me to. Only I already know him.
AL How? . Anne sent as she began her walk back faster than when she had left.
.AW I will explain when you get here. Can you meet me at the gate again.
AL Yes. I am there already.
Ann sneaks out the front door. She races down the footpath. Anne looks surprised when she sees the look of fear on her face.
‘Can we go to your place? I need space from them.’ As Ann speaks two people appear at the door. A blonde who is Ann’s age and a brunette who seems to be slightly younger.
‘Annie come back. He is a nice man and only wants to get to know you.’ the blonde yells.
‘He isn’t.’ Ann yells back. ‘I will come back when he’s gone which if my aunt has her way will be never.’
’There’s nothing wrong with him.’ the brunette screams.
‘You have only just met him.’ Ann whispers so only Anne can hear as they walk swiftly towards Shibden Hall.
‘Are you sure you want to do this. Ann?’ Anne says.’They seem determined to match you will some nitwit or another.’
‘Yes, I do. I think they will realise who you are now they can see where we are heading.’
‘Why is that?’ Anne says puzzled.
‘I thought my name would have had you running a mile from me. Don’t you remember me from years ago?’ Ann Walker. Anne mulls over in her head. Ann Walker. Then she sees her in her mind’s eye. Little Annie Walker chasing her down Lightcliffe Road. She was so out of breath when she finally caught up with Anne. She had invited her for tea but then Anne had other fish to fry that day. So, she didn’t go. Anne blushed at the memory. She felt like a heel.
‘You do remember me because why did you blush, if you didn’t?’
‘I do. I feel bad about what I did to you that day and everyday after that when we saw each other.’
‘Oh that’s okay. I was just a foolish teenager with a silly crush on you. I never thought I would see you again once you went on your travels and you were with Mar….what was her name? Anne begins to squirm. They are close enough to Shibden to see the front door.
‘That was Mariana Belcombe who married Charles Lawton after she and I had been together for about three years.’
‘Why did she do that?’
‘Money, prestige, I guess. A better standing in society. Things I couldn’t give her at the time and she kept promising me she would leave him. Only here we are. She is still married to the buffoon and I am still waiting for her.’
‘Why, Anne?’ Ann said. ‘Why wait for something that may never happen? It seems like she will never leave him.’
‘She won’t.’ Anne said as they walked into the hall. Her aunt was there to greet them.
‘I saw you two coming up the road. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Miss Walker, so nice to see you again.’
‘See you again. When did you see her last?’ Anne asked.
‘A few days ago when she came up to the hall to borrow some sugar. She said she saw you in the grocery store. You were at that book store again buying books for your studies.’
‘She was doing that today.’ Ann said. ‘What a coincidence!!’
‘She’s always there. She says it’s her favourite place in the world besides here.’ Aunt Anne said.’Come along. Come into the sitting room and I will get Cordingley to make you a cup of tea. Would you like that?’
‘Yes please, that would be lovely.’ Ann said. ‘only we could get a visit from my cousins. I was home now I am not.’
‘What happened?’ Marian asked.’Of course, you don’t need to answer if you don’t want to.’
Anne answered for her.’They have brought home someone she doesn’t wish to see. Ann hasn’t told me why but I get the feeling it’s not good.’ Ann nods in agreement but she would prefer if no one knew what happened. They talk for quite sometime. Then there is a loud knock at the door. Ann assumed it was her cousins. Anne told her to stay put and she answered the door. There was a man with a dog collar on.
‘I am Reverend Ainsworth. I would like to see, Ann Walker.’ What a scoundrel Anne thinks.
‘I don’t know who you are talking about. There’s no one here by that name. Only my aunt, my sister and my father. You must have to wrong address.’
‘This is Shibden Hall and you are the infamous Anne Lister.’
‘Yes.’ Anne said
‘Her cousins saw her walking with you and you were heading this way.’
‘I was alone. Now, I wish you would leave before I call the constable on you.’ Anne said forceful. Ann could hear what was happening. She wanted to go out and talk to Ainsworth. Then maybe he would leave them alone. Only no one would let her. They said Anne was good at dealing with scoundrels like Ainsworth.
‘He’s gone. I told him if he came back I would set the hounds onto him.’
‘We don’t have hounds just Argus and he wouldn’t hurt a flea.’ aunt said.
‘i just don’t want him coming back here, ever.’ Anne said. ‘I think he has done enough damage already.’ She looked at Ann curled on the couch when she said that. Ann tried to smile but all she could do was hide her face as tears streamed down her cheeks. What a bothersome brute thought Anne.
‘I can’t stay here forever. I need to go home.soon.’ Ann said. ‘Or they will come looking for me. I am sure he has gone back to Crow Nest to tell them he was told I wasn’t here.’
‘What if he did that? It’s none of their business where you go and what you do.’ Anne says.
‘You are your own person.Ann. Is that right?’ Marian chimes in. ‘You should stay for dinner since we will be eating soon. I doubt if Anne will send you back to the vulture.’
‘No, I won’t. Ann, please say you will stay. It would be nice to have your company for a few more hours. I can walk you home later and maybe deal with this brute of a man.’
‘Yes, I would like that but you don’t need to confront him. I expect he will be gone by then and I can walk home alone.’
‘No!!’ Aunt Anne says.’We can’t have you doing that. Anne will walk you home tonight.’
‘Okay!!!’ They chatted until dinner was served. It had been a most pleasant afternoon as Anne was to recall later in her journal. She never expected to see Ann Walker as often as she had.
When it began to get dark outside Ann thought it was time she went home. It was chilly outside so Anne lent her a coat to wear. She only had on a summery dress and was feeling the chill.
They walked slowly back to Crow Nest hoping Ainsworth wasn’t there. Ann unlocked the door and asked Anne in. They could hear voices in the sitting room. It sounded like Ainsworth was still there with her aunt. Her cousins must have gone home earlier.
‘Just wait here.’ Anne said. ‘I don’t want you to have to deal with him.’
She walked into the sitting room just as Ainsworth turned around. He was expecting to see Ann Walker only he got a face full of Anne Lister.
‘Where is she?’ He said with a look of frustration on his face.
‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’ Anne said.
‘How did you get in if Ann isn’t with you?’ Ann’s aunt said.
‘She let me in.’
‘Where is she?’ Ainsworth spluttered. ‘I need to see her now.’
‘No you don’t. She doesn’t want anything to do with you, ever.’
‘Why?’ Ann’s aunt asked.
‘Ask Ann. If you listen to her that is.’ Anne was raising her voice a little higher than what she wanted to. That was when Ann walked into the room and stood next to Anne. Of course, Anne wanted to protect her. So, she wrapped her arms around Ann’s body.
‘You’re trembling.’ Anne said softly.
‘I’m scared, Anne.’ Ann whispered. ‘I don’t want him here but here he is.’
It’s then that Ann finds the courage to speak up. To tell the truth. Only she isn’t sure if anyone will believe her but she has to do this before the truth eats her alive.
‘He.’ She points to Ainsworth.’He has taken liberties with me whether I wanted him to or not. He has been intimate with me even when I told him I wasn’t interested.’ Anne and Ann’s aunt are in shock. Ainsworth tries to deny it.
‘Oh you can try to deny it all you want, sir. But I have to scares to prove it. You might not see them but they are there.’ Anne pulls her in closer. She could feel Ann’s heart racing and her body trembling. What has he done to this poor girl/woman.
‘I find that hard to believe.’ Aunt says, ‘He is a man of God. And no man of God would do that.’
‘Oh you don’t have to believe me. You only need to know that he did.’ Ann said angrily.
‘Ann, I believe you. I thought he must have done something horrid. I can see it in your eyes. He has really scared you. Hasn’t he?’
‘Yes!! Now, he wants to marry me just to get his hands on my money.’
‘Leave now before I call the cops.’ Anne said. ‘We can take you to court on this one.’
‘You have no proof.’ Ainsworth said.
‘Her word, her actions are proof enough for me.’ Anne said. ‘So leave now and never return.’ Ann’s aunt was surprised by Anne’s authoritativeness. Ainsworth left but he said he would return.
‘You show your face here again and I will personally call the cops.’Ann’s aunt said.
He stormed off and slammed the door on his way out.
‘Thank you, Miss Lister. I think you saved Ann from a fate worse than death.’
‘I hope I have. She is such a sweet girl. A bit of a stalker but still very sweet.’
‘What do you mean stalker?’
‘Oh nothing just a joke between Ann and me.’
‘Would you mind if I stayed here for the night? I will call home and tell them what I am doing.’
‘Yes, in case he should return. You seem to be able to handle fools like him.’ Ann’s Aunt said.
Anne called her family and relayed what happened. Aunt Anne told her to be careful. If he should turn up not to hesitate and call the cops. She was hoping he wouldn’t. At the demands of her aunt Ann showed Anne the guest bedroom. Without her aunt knowing she also showed Anne the door between the guest bedroom and hers.
‘Should you wish to join me for warmth on these cool nights.’ Ann said.’My bedroom is on the other side of that door.’
‘Oh isn’t it now.’ Anne said with a big grin. ‘I will certainly consider it. I don’t want you to freeze during the night.’
It was two hours after they had gone to bed that Ann felt Anne curl up beside her. She was feeling a bit sad but then a smile engulfed her face. She turned to face Anne who was wear only her boxer briefs.
‘Is that all you wear to bed?’ Ann asked.
‘No, this is more than what I normally wear to bed.’
‘You go to bed in your birthdays suit.’
‘Why wear clothes when you have bed clothes to cover you?’ Anne said.
‘I had never thought of that. Can you take them off please? I want to see you naked.’
Anne slipped her boxer briefs down, grabbed them from her feet and threw them on the floor.
‘What will happen if your aunt catches me naked in your bed?’
‘She won’t because I locked the door.’ Ann said.
‘Good thinking 99.’
‘Why did you call me 99?’
‘Just a show from the 70s I have watched the reruns on tv just lately.’ Anne said. ‘99 is the brains of show.’
‘She is. Is she?’
‘Yes.’ Anne replied.
‘Then you are 99. Who will I be?’
‘86. But he’s a fool and you’re not a fool, Ann.’
‘Anne, I want you to kiss me.’
‘Oh in one hundred years time. When do you think? Now, silly girl.’
Anne’s lips hit Ann’s with a force she didn’t think was possible. They were entangled in each others’ bodies before they realised what had happened. Ann felt Anne’s hand between her legs. She was gently stroking her clit. It was all too much in the moment.
‘Anne, please stop. I’m not quite ready for this. We have only just met.’
‘I am sorry. Was I too fast? Was it too soon? Did I hurt you?’
‘No, Anne. I would prefer just to hug and kiss for a while. Can we do that?’
‘Yes!!’ Anne said. ‘But you did ask me to take my boxer briefs off. So I thought that was the next step. Sorry.’
‘That’s okay. I thought that was what I wanted. Now, it doesn’t feel right her with my aunt so close.’
‘Why does she live with you?’
‘Everyone thinks I can’t take care of myself. They say I am an invalid and even when I don’t see them they think they can tell me what to do with my life.’
‘Have some courage, Ann. Do what you did tonight. Tell them this is your life and you will do what you want when you want.’
‘I can’t possibly do that. They will get upset and angry.’
‘They can get upset and angry but it is your life and you seem upset because they control you daily. Don’t let them do that, Ann.’ Anne said.’You need to be independent from them and their clutches.’
‘How do I do that?’
‘With courage, Ann. Have some courage. Show them you aren’t as weak as they say you are. I think you are very strong but you are too afraid to show your strength.’
‘Okay!! Hey, I have a question for you.’
‘Yes! What is it?’ Anne said. She didn’t know what Ann was going to ask her.’I will do my best to answer it.’
‘Who was that brunette you were arguing with outside the hairdressers?’
‘How do you know that?’
‘I happened to look in the mirror and saw most of it. Who was she?’
‘That was Mariana. When she sees me she always tries to tell me how I should look in public even though we haven’t been together for a long time.’ Ann was puzzled. Why would anyone do that.
‘What’s it to do with her?’ Ann asked concerned.
‘Nothing! She just likes to make me feel less. She constantly tells me that no one else would want to be with me only her.’
‘She’s just like my family. She’s playing mind games with you, Anne. She doesn’t like the idea that you could be with someone else, like me.’
‘Do you want to be with me?’ Anne said shyly.
‘I would like to be with you but that is not my decision to make. It has to be something you want too, Anne.’
‘i think I would like to give it a go, Ann. I am sure we would do well together.’
‘Thanks for rescuing me from Ainsworth today. I didn’t think my cousins would bring him to my home and my aunt would let him in. Only they really don’t know what he is like. Well, aunt didn’t until we told her. Did she?’
‘No, she didn’t.I was happy to help you. You seemed so stressed when I returned. I wonder who else has been duped by him in the past. What an arsehole.’ Anne said.’Anyway, l think we need to sleep unless….’
‘I think I need to wait, dearest. Is that okay?’
‘Yes, let’s sleep.’
They snuggled together. Ann put her back into Anne’s front. It was going to be the first time but not the last time they would sleep like this. Anne was beginning to have feelings for this petite, blonde woman. Was it possible that she loved her?
Ann laid awake for hours wondering the same thing. Was it possible that someone like Anne would love her?
‘Do you remember the look your aunt gave us when we told her we were getting married?’ Anne purred into Ann’s ear as they sat in bed in the early morning. ‘She was so against me until we told her that my past was my past and it would never be revisited.’
‘Yes, I remember that moment as if it was yesterday. Happy tenth anniversary, dearest. I was going to ask you to marry me but you beat me to it.’ Anne looked at her with wide eyes. ‘Were you?’
‘Yes!!’ Ann said earnestly. ‘I had a ring picked out for such an occasion but I never did get around to giving it to you. Well, when you gave me this French onyx cabochon ring I thought the one I had for you would never be as good.’
‘Do you still have it?’ Anne asks. She is curious to see what it looks like.
‘Yes, I brought it with me when I moved in here all those years ago.’
‘Can I see it? If I like it , can I wear it?’
‘Yes and yes.’ Ann gets up and moves to where her easel sits. She places her hand behind the front and pulls the tape that holds the ring in place. She sits back on the bed and with shaky hands opens it to reveal a small cut diamond on a gold band.
Anne removes it from the box and places it on her ring finger of her left hand above her wedding band.
‘It’s a perfect fit, Ann.’ Anne said.’How did you know my size?’ Ann points to the ring on her right ring finger. ‘Okay! When.’
‘I tried it on that time when you broke a bone in your hand and couldn’t wear it and guessed your size.
‘Hey, I have made reservations for us at our favourite restaurant for six tonight. I would like you to wear the pink dress you were wearing when we met in the book store that day. Do you still have it?’
‘I do and I will wear it if it still fits. You do remember having babies has changed my body. Although I don’t feel any bigger than what I did back then. Ann said.’Who’s look after Jeremy and Analise tonight?’
‘I think Aunt Marian volunteered. I think they dote over her as much as she dotes over them.’
‘Yes, I think you are right there. What time is it now?’
‘Twenty two minutes past ten. Why do you ask, Adney?’ Ann says a thankful prayer because Marian has collected their children from the nursery and fed them breakfast. That’s her usual morning ritual.
They move closer and kiss passionately. They have been together for eleven and a half years now and while it hasn’t been easy Anne knows seeing Ann in the grocery store and then in the book store and watching her getting her haircut as she sat looking at her from the chair made her realise that little Annie Walker was meant to be her wife and now she was.
‘What are you think about, Miss Lister?’
‘Just remembering how we met.’
‘Remind me please, dearest.’