Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 18

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

“I’ve had the best news!”  

Thea’s smile dazzled in the light of the chandelier as she gazed across the table at Farrington House.  

“The builders will arrive tomorrow morning to start digging the racing track!”   

Runciman’s hand trembled as he served Lady Farrington, the silver luncheon platter less sumptuously laden than in times past.  

Mrs Wiggan had been doing her best, but cut-backs had caused more than one crisis in the kitchen.  

Bertrand cleared his throat.  

“So soon, darling? I thought –” 

“Yes! It was such a wonderful surprise – I didn’t think they’d be able to start until next week. I need to speak to them about the high-speed banks round the sides.” 

“Dearest, I did have a few details I wanted to discuss with you before –” 

“About the banking? Well, I think we need to go at least as high as the track at the Milwaukee Mile.  

“My stars, did you know that last year a driver claimed to have taken those corners with his hands off the wheel?” 

“What exactly is banking?” Lady Farrington’s voice quivered and her husband looked anxiously in her direction.  

“Never mind, Mother,” Bertrand said, his tone unnaturally cheerful. “I say, it would be jolly to have a game of bridge after lunch.”  

“Bridge?” Florence suppressed laughter. “Since when do you play that? Are you thinking of having a card game stall at your motor races, Thea?”  

“That will do, Florence.” Lord Farrington shot a look at his daughter and then turned to his son. “Bertrand, I need to have a word, if I may.” 

“Of course, Father. Thea, perhaps after lunch you can talk to Mother and Florence about the perambulator you saw when we went to London.” 

“Whatever is wrong with the one Nanny used for you and Florence?” Lady Farrington’s voice rose in dismay. “And really, Thea, you shouldn’t have been walking all over the city in your condition.” 

“We didn’t spend too long, Mother,” Bertrand said. “Thea wanted to look at a few things, didn’t you, dear?” 

“Yes. It was such fun being in the city again! When our baby grows up we’ll have the most glorious trips to the zoo and the theatre. I wonder if we’ll have a boy or a girl? Bert, you don’t mind, do you?  

“I certainly don’t, as long as it doesn’t come early. I want to have the grand opening of the races first. If we have to wait, it will be too cold, and I do want the carousel for the children and the big wheel!”  

She stopped talking as a faint banging sound echoed from downstairs. Lord Farrington frowned and cocked his head. 

“Are we expecting anyone?” Bertrand asked. 

“Certainly not.” His father frowned. 

Lady Farrington took a long breath as she turned to Thea, but the door opened and Runciman appeared, his face ashen. 

“My lord, my lady, I –” he stammered. “I beg your –”  

Runciman was cut off as a tall, striking man dressed in khaki shorts and a threadbare jacket strode past him and stood before the assembled company.  

The stunned silence that cut through the air was broken by a soft gasp from Lady Farrington.  

But her husband sat motionless, his hand seemingly paralysed as he gripped his wine glass and stared in utter astonishment into a face he hadn’t seen in over thirty years. 

“Hello, Reggie,” the man said. “How’s my little brother been all this time?” 

Lord Farrington swallowed, his voice barely audible.  

“Hugh?” Tears welled in his eyes as he watched a broad smile blossom across his brother’s tanned and leathery face, the shock of hair which had always fallen across his forehead now white. 

“I see I’m late for luncheon, as always,” Hugh said. “And I’ve brought a guest. Excuse me, Runciman.”   

He pushed past the butler and disappeared into the corridor for a moment, then emerged accompanied by a beautiful young black woman dressed in an embroidered robe.  

Her hair, pulled tightly back from her face, was meticulously plaited with strands of beads, and gold hoops hung from her ears.  

She looked scarcely any older than Florence as she stood beside him, her exquisite, high-cheek-boned face as impassive as a sculpture.  

“This is my wife, Malaika,” Hugh said proudly. “It means angel. And an angel she is.”  

He said something to her in another language, and a smile lit up her face, her dark eyes luminous as she turned to them all.  

“Hel-lo,” she said slowly. “We have . . . come home.” 

To be continued…

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