Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 11

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

She sighed. Her darling Robert had barely scraped through Eton and then never finished his university degree. But through one of her school friends, he’d been invited to her eighteenth birthday party.

The occasion had also marked the end of her days at the boarding school where her parents had sent her, in hopes of gaining “a sound and thorough education, designed to excite a thirst for learning”.

But the elegant Tudor mansion, with its spacious grounds and playing fields, remarkable range of subjects, visiting lecturers and trips to the opera had all been lost on Eleanor.

She had been hopelessly unacademic, had detested games, never felt comfortable singing, much less playing the piano, and cookery had been one disaster after another. She had longed for escape.

Just when she’d thought her party was feeling as dull as school had been, Robert had appeared, tall, with a devastating grin, his hair a little dishevelled and his tie askew.

He’d looked like a school boy who had a mischievous prank in mind. He’d made her laugh and taught her to dance the Turkey-trot.

They’d slipped outside and, looking up at the starlit sky, they’d argued about what the constellations were called and made up their own silly names for them. She’d fallen instantly and hopelessly in love with him.

She’d had no idea that his widowed mother barely had enough to live on, as the family money had been badly invested. His education had been paid for by a trust, set up by his parents when he was born.

But if Eleanor had known any of these things, it wouldn’t have mattered.

He came and sat beside her, reaching for her hand.

“Darling. This silly arrangement is only for a year, then the house will be rightfully ours to do with as we please.

“Just think – we can sell it and travel, or move to a mansion here in London, with an army of servants to look after you and bring you champagne and chocolates at any hour of the day or night.”

She turned to him with a wistful smile and he kissed her, ruffling her short hair as he would a puppy.

“A year feels like for ever,” she said softly.

“We’ll tick off the days, one by one.”

“What about this evening?”

He bit his lip.

“I’ll only be at the club for a little while. How about you dine with Aunt Harriet just this once.

“You’ve been saying you should pay her a call. You’d probably feel guilty if you didn’t see her.

“You can call her on the telephone and give her a lovely surprise. And then the next time we’re here together again, I’ll take you to the Ritz. We can celebrate the first fourteen days being finished with!”

He kissed her again and then stood up, adjusting his tie.

“I won’t be late. I promise.”

He stood and briskly crossed to the door and Eleanor gazed after him, too tired to protest. Then he blew her another kiss and was gone.

Her shoulders sank as she thought of Aunt Harriet. She always had been her favourite relative and was kind and non-judgemental, especially in personal matters, such as Eleanor starting a family – and her new haircut!

She would understand and ask Eleanor all the right questions. And she wouldn’t give her advice unless she asked for it.

Yet, somehow, Eleanor felt she couldn’t face an evening that had any element of predictability about it, even of the nicest kind.

She paused, reached for her handbag and opened the clasp. She reached in and furtively took out a piece of paper.

It was a flier that had been sitting on a table in the hairdresser’s. She’d picked it up and had tucked it away, to read when she was alone.

But she hadn’t read it yet, not properly, and it still sat there in the bottom of her handbag.

She unfolded it.

Free your mind, body and spirit.

The banner was printed across the top of the page, and below it was a bold, abstract drawing of a woman, who looked like she had done just that.

Join us for an evening of artistic creation and open discussion, and discover your inner power.

She stared at the paper, wondering what it all meant. It all sounded fascinating, and tantalising.

There was an address of a private house in Bloomsbury printed at the bottom, and below that was the date and time.

Eleanor felt her heart quicken, and a surge of energy seemed to course through her like an electric current. The meeting was this evening, and it was to begin in almost exactly an hour’s time.

To be continued…

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