Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 10

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Eleanor walked along the leafy London street and turned into the square of smart houses where she and Robert had lived since their wedding three years earlier.

It was a hot afternoon and she felt tired and disagreeable after lunching with an old school friend.

The private garden in the centre of the square was cool and inviting, with flower-beds dotted here and there between the trees.

How she would love to unbuckle the tight shoes that had tortured her all day, feel the grass beneath her feet and let the gentle breeze soothe her worries and confusion.

But it was late, and she had to bathe and dress for the evening.

She climbed the steps and let herself in, making her way to the pretty drawing-room.

Her mother had organised the decoration of the house as a surprise while she and Robert had gone on honeymoon, choosing beautiful, tasteful fabrics and furniture, and arranging it all impeccably.

Eleanor had been grateful as she wouldn’t have known the first thing about how to go about such a task.

But somehow, the pleasure she derived from the lovely surroundings had always been laced with confusing twinges of disappointment and inadequacy.

“Ah, darling.” Robert looked up from his newspaper. “Have you had a pleasant afternoon?”

“Hardly!” Eleanor carefully removed her tall, narrow toque and shook out her cropped hair.

She saw the now familiar twitch in his face as she did this, knowing that he still had not got used to her new style. It had shocked everyone, but then, that had been part of the thrill it had given her.

“Claridges was lovely, as always. But I’d forgotten what a bore Isabella is. Her reminiscences of our morning gallops round the gymnasium, and swinging hockey sticks while mired in mud, are hardly riveting topics for a hot afternoon.”

She sank into a chintz sofa, smiling with relief across at him, loving the sight of his handsome face.

“Where are you taking me this evening?”

“Well, my love. I wondered if, perhaps . . .” He seemed to be measuring each word as he spoke.

She looked at him, his unease worrying her.

“You don’t want to dine in, I hope? There’s nothing to eat in any case, as I gave Barrett the day off. She’s gone to visit a relative. Besides, it’s our last evening in town for who knows how long.”

He ran a hand nervously over his hair.

“The thing is, darling, I’d hoped to spend this evening at my club. It’s my last chance for a while to see the chaps, and –”

“Your club? What about me, Robert?”

“Well, I thought you might like to pay a visit to your aunt Harriet.”

She stared at him.

“How could you! It’s our last evening before we’re stuck in the back of beyond in that dreadful, dreary house, with nothing to do and no-one to see.

“Oh, how could your mother have done this – forcing us to live there whether we want to or not? It’s like some sort of penance in return for what is rightfully yours.”

“Her will requires us to live there fourteen days a month, only for one year.”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Eleanor, you know it’s a proper, binding contract. Your father looked into it.”

A silence fell between them and then he spoke in a gentler tone.

“I would have thought you might enjoy spending time in the country. Some chaps I know have country houses, and their wives seem happy enough.”

“It’s easy for you to say, Robert. I’m the one who has to be there for the entire fourteen days while you’re here, having a high old time at the club.”

“Eleanor, you know it’s essential that I tie up loose ends before I come down. I can’t just leave the office at the drop of a hat.”

She opened her mouth to speak, and then closed it again, swallowing her frustration. Would it even be noticed if Robert were absent from his job in the bank that her father managed?

It was thanks to Daddy that the position had been created for him, and it was, as far as she could make out, completely expendable.

She hoped Robert didn’t realise it. Or, if he did, that he didn’t suspect she’d always known.

To be continued…

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