The River Runs Deep – Episode 28

“He’s changed so much,” Laura murmured, gazing from the upstairs window into the front yard, where William and Gideon were repairing the gate of Bea’s soon-to-be home.

“Billy-Bob’s different, somehow,” she added.

“Of course he’s different,” Bea responded absently, running a rule down the window’s length. “We all are.”

Laura was overjoyed that Billy-Bob was home – in lots of ways it was almost like he’d never been away.

Yet something didn’t feel right between them.

“I’m glad William’s coming to the ball this evening. It’ll be grand for us to go out together,” Bea remarked.

“I was surprised when Walter said he’d come.”

“He’s sweet on a girl at school. I saw him at Miss Adelaide’s buying a Valentine’s card.”

“The card you received is a beauty! Writing Robert Burns’s ‘A Red, Red Rose’ inside was such a romantic thing for Paul to do,” Bea commented.

“If the card came from Paul, that is.”

“Of course it’s from Paul!” Laura cried. “Who else would send me a Valentine?”

“Valentine’s cards are anonymous, so you may have a secret admirer.”

“The only admirer I want is Paul,” Laura declared.

“Valentine’s is special for us because it was at last year’s ball that Paul first asked me to dance, and then we started courting.”

“You make a nice couple,” Bea responded, gathering up her rule, pencil and swatches.

“I’ll fix some hot drinks,” she went on. “The boys must be perished out there, and it’s not so warm up here.”

“Nothing for me.” Laura clattered down the stairs after her.

“I need to get back. Mrs Leasowe’s put me in charge of arranging the hall for tonight.”

“That’s generous of her.” Bea laughed.

“I don’t mind. Tyrell’s are providing refreshments, and Paul’s recommended some musicians he heard playing at one of the Ridgeways’ parties.”

Hurrying through town that afternoon, Laura was thinking over the list of things to be done before she and Paul opened the doors of Leasowe Hall for the Valentine’s ball.

Entering the hotel, the lobby was deserted save for Johan Kuiper at the desk, head bowed over a book.

“Hello, Laura.” Looking up, he rose and smiled at her. “Mr Paul’s out, but he shouldn’t be long.

“Mrs Tyrell’s in the family’s sitting-room, if you’d like to go through.”

“I’ll wait here.” Laura returned his smile.

She liked Johan. A few years older than herself, he was from Indiana and chad come to live with an aunt and her family in Deep River after losing his parents during the war.

Laura nodded at the weighty tome on the desk.

“That looks serious. What are you reading?”

“I shouldn’t be reading at all while I’m on duty,” he confided.

“I’ve an assessment coming up. I’m doing a correspondence course and want to do well.”

“A correspondence course? What is it you’re –”

Before Johan could reply, the hotel’s doors opened and Paul Tyrell strode inside, glancing at Johan.

“Are the musicians here?”

“Yes, sir. They’re up in their room.”

“Be sure to get to the hall early, Kuiper. You’re responsible for collecting ticket money,” Paul concluded, turning his attention to Laura.

“Sorry I’m late. I had business to attend to. Shall we go?”

Offering his arm, they stepped out into the twilight.

Paul closed the door behind them, frowning.

“Kuiper needs watching. Every chance he gets, his nose is stuck in a book.

“As if book-learning’s going to do him any good,” Paul remarked derisively.

The couple continued through town and Laura let them into Leasowe Hall, immediately lighting a lamp.

“Shall we put the ticket table over there?” she began, pointing.

At Miss Adelaide’s proposal, the Valentine’s ball was raising money for the town’s needy fund.

“Anywhere you like, but not so fast!” Paul laughed, catching her about the waist.

“This is a special night for us. Our first anniversary, isn’t it?”

“I know,” she murmured, gazing into his eyes. “And I haven’t even thanked you yet for –”

He silenced her with a kiss, finally releasing her from his embrace and taking a slim package from the pocket of his coat.

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

To be continued…

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