Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 30

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Eleanor’s head ached from the moment she opened her eyes. The pillows had become hot and matted, and she turned her face from the sliver of blinding sunlight that shone through a gap in the curtains.  

Thank heavens she’d told Jenny not to disturb her. The sight of that perky, smiling girl would have been too much to bear. 

What a humiliating disaster it had all been. Oh, yes, her guests had enjoyed themselves – there was no question about that.  

But she might as well have been invisible. She’d tried to talk to each of them, but somehow she’d been unable to think of a thing to say.  

After being asked if she’d read this book or that, or been to this play or that poetry reading, and having to answer no to every question, she’d finally given up.  

She remembered being taught at school that, if you couldn’t think of anything to say, then being a good listener was the best option.  

But she hadn’t understood anything that was being talked about, and the long recitations and discussions had bored her. 

In between, it seemed that Jenny, along with her stepmother and that formidable cook – who seemed to have appeared at the door like magic – had been as happy as larks, laughing and chatting, filled with endless energy and delight with the proceedings.  

And the extraordinary couple who had swept in with them, uninvited, had stolen the whole show.  

What a beauty that African woman was. And her dashing husband seemed unable to take his eyes off her, his hand round her waist as he constantly admired her and sang her praises.  

How would it feel to be the object of such adoration?  

Tears welled up in Eleanor’s eyes, spilling over and wetting the sheet. 

Why had she done it – invited all those people she scarcely knew, and spent so much money entertaining them? She hadn’t thought how she would explain it all to Robert.  

And not one of them had come in order to spend time with her. Some barely had enough money to live on, and had simply come knowing they’d be well fed. 

Eleanor took a deep breath, trying to steady herself, wishing desperately for a cup of tea.  

She didn’t want to get up – her head ached too much – but she also didn’t want to ring downstairs.  

She eased herself upright, wrapped herself in her dressing-gown and, so as not to be heard, tiptoed barefoot to the landing.  

Earlier she’d heard the ladies upstairs chattering, and Jenny was doubtless busying herself tidying up.  

All seemed quiet now, and with luck, she might be able to get to the kitchen without being discovered. In any case, she had to take the chance. 

Taking hold of the rail, she gingerly made her way downstairs.  

Now she heard voices from the drawing-room – it sounded like Jenny and her stepmother.  

She stopped, her heart pounding. 

“Poor Eleanor Bracken didn’t seem to enjoy herself very much.” 

Eleanor gripped the bannister, then slid slowly to a sitting position on the stair.   

“Poor Eleanor Bracken.” 

She’d been poor Eleanor as a child, and then later on at school, when she seemed unable to achieve anything.  

Poor Eleanor was who she’d always be. 

“She seems, I don’t know – lost, I suppose.” 

“What does she do all day?” the other voice said. 

Their voices became muffled and Eleanor strained to listen. It was so painful hearing what they thought of her, and yet she couldn’t stop herself. 

“I keep thinking about what you said about finding ways round problems, Sarah. Do you remember, when you arrived?  

“You were talking about Dad and Ben, and how sometimes people need to think differently.” 


“Well, this weekend, I had an idea. Sarah, I just can’t stop thinking about it!  

“I think it could make everything better – for Ben, for me, and for Eleanor Bracken; for everyone, really.  

“I don’t know Eleanor, but there’s something about her.” 

“What’s that?”  

There was a silence, and Eleanor felt a single tear roll down her cheek. 

“There’s something about her. She reminds me, in a way, of myself.” 

“Of you?” 

“Yes. She seems so unsettled – like she’s searching inside herself for something. I wish I could get to know her.  

“There’s something about her that I really like, even though she doesn’t think much of me.  

“I wish I could help her. This idea I’ve had – oh, Sarah, I think it could change everything!” 

Eleanor became aware that the pounding in her head had stopped.  

She settled herself more comfortably on the stair, the fear of being discovered completely forgotten as she waited, and listened . . . 

To be continued…

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