‘Okay, Mel,’ he said, ‘You’ve obviously done a lot of thinking already. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve no problems about you taking your leave November – Decemberish. I quite understand why. I’m sure that Lucy can arrange baby-minding cover with either my mum or hers to look after Elaine so that she can give Marcus a hand at the shop if needs be.’
‘That’s a relief,’ she said, ‘I can start booking then.’
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but listen. Just take two weeks of your leave. We can donate two week’s pay to thank you for all the extra business you’ve been bringing into the shop.’
She threw her arms around him.
‘’Thank you so much, Tony. You’re a real love,’ she said.
May – another proposal and an ultimatum
Jamie had booked a cottage in Skipton that they’d used before. It was to be a Friday to Sunday weekend again. An Indian Summer welcomed them into its garden, though the thick stone walls kept the interior cool. They’d dropped their weekend bags in the living room, showered and changed, then drove to a nearby restaurant for a meal.
Mel was wearing a floaty, pastel-blue dress with white sandals and carried a white woollen cardigan in case there was an evening chill by the time they were ready to return after the meal. Jamie wore a navy-blue, single-breasted blazer over his white open-necked shirt and mid-grey trousers and black loafers. They walked into the place holding hands. As usual, Mel’s beauty turned heads – many of the male customers looking in frank appreciation, and the faces of their wives or girlfriends revealing a mixture of annoyance, impatience or both, at the direction of their companion’s’ gaze.
The menu hadn’t changed since a previous visit. They agreed to forgo a starter, instead selecting the roast beef with the vegetables of the day. They agreed on a bottle of Malbec to go with the food. Over the meal they talked about Mel’s planned itinerary for her forthcoming holiday. Mel described the locations that she most wanted to photograph and showed Jamie some stock images of the on her smartphone.
Everything was going fine at that point in the evening – the main course was excellent – as was the choice of desserts; the conversation had flowed nicely, and Mel was thinking how handsome Jamie looked. She looked forward to the remainder of their evening being in bed together.
Jon Lennon once famously said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’
They hadn’t been back at the cottage for long and had just finished unpacking their bags in the bedroom when Jamie walked across to Mel and knelt facing her.
‘Ooh!’ she said, laughing ‘What do you have in mind, Jamie? Shouldn’t we get undressed first?’
It was then that she noticed the small, black box that he was opening. Her hand went to her mouth as he spoke.
‘Mel, I don’t want to wait until you return from New Zealand, he said, looking up at her astonished face, ‘I know we’ve discussed this some time back, but before you leave, will you make me the happiest man on earth and marry me?’
She sat down, cross-legged on the floor, her hands across her knees, facing him as he knelt.
‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, Jamie,’ she said, ‘but no, I can’t accept your proposal – not yet at least. Thank you for asking though.’
She took his hand. ‘Let’s go downstairs, have a cup of tea and talk about this. I don’t want to hurt you – I love you too much for that.’
She couldn’t help but notice the disappointment written all over his face and his posture.
‘Jamie, I do love you,’ she said, ‘but, if you remember what I said the last time you asked, you must have known before you asked again that I still might not agree – as I said, not yet anyway. Come on, let’s talk downstairs. You deserve to hear my reasons.’
He switched on some lights while Mel was in the kitchen-diner pouring them some tea. She carried the cups through to the living room, where they sat side-by-side on the sofa, leaning forward, their drinks on the small table in front of them.
‘I said that I’ll explain – and I will, she said, ‘but please let me have my say without arguing or interrupting. Is that okay.’
He nodded his agreement, but his shoulders were slumped, and his expression was glum.
‘Jamie,’ she began, ‘I’ve been half expecting this. Perhaps, you may think that I was presumptuous, but anyway I did think that a proposal was on the cards, and I’ve been thinking about what to say. Most of it you’ve heard before.’
I told you my feelings about marriage four years ago,’ she said, ‘We agreed to wait a while at that time – and fair enough, you have waited ever since. But the essentials are still the same. Putting a ring on my finger won’t make me love you any more than I do already – and I do love you – more than you can imagine.’
She smiled at him to reassure him.
‘A wedding ring won’t make me better-tempered, more patient, or more pliable. With me, what you see is what you get.’
She looked at him for a reaction, but saw none, so she continued.
‘This is 2019, Jamie, not 1919, ‘she said, ‘With me, you’d have to be content with a partnership of equals – ring or no ring.’
‘I’m not just talking about money – though we do need to consider the financial implications. Let’s get that out of the way. Because I’ve been able to generate a private income, we’ve been able to save more towards a home together. We’re well on the way to our target – but, in the first place, that doesn’t necessarily imply marriage. Secondly, I can’t guarantee that my private work will always be there. I’ll come back to that in a minute.’
‘Moving on,’ she said, ‘When you look at me’ she asked, ‘is it infatuation that you feel or is it the kind of love that will survive ups and downs?’
‘Maybe you just want me because you think that I’m beautiful. That’s not arrogance – loads of boys and men have complimented me on my looks. But I won’t always be beautiful – my assets will droop South, my hair will become grey, and my face lined. I may get fat. Will you still want me then?’
‘Everything might seem amazing now, but as time passes, the more we’ll need to work on our relationship – to make time to talk to each other, to find time to rise above sweet-nothings and have meaningful conversations about things that really matter. We’ll need to build trust and to consult each other on major decisions about things such as children – will we want any? How will we raise them? A lasting relationship for us can’t be built on nothing but looks and sex. We both deserve more than that.’
‘How long do you think that it will be before you’d want children? I know that they say that marriage is for the raising of a family. Hell, everyone knows that babies can come with or without marriage. But suppose you did; If I agreed that a child of our own would be good for us, I’d have to give up work for a while – both in the shop and my private stuff. How long should that “while” be for? Would we still be able to pay the mortgage and so on – “while”? And we’ve talked about this before – who’d look after a child while we were at work – him, her – them? You’d have to do your fair share.’
‘We’d argue about how any children should be brought-up,’ she continued, ‘All parents do. I’d inevitably lose my figure and we’d both lose sleep and argue.’
She paused, squeezing his hand.
And here’s a biggie – we’ll need to work out how we resolve any conflicts – and you can guarantee that there will be differences of opinion. That doesn’t mean that one of us is always correct and always has to be deferred to. It definitely doesn’t mean that the loser shouts, sulks or gets violent. There has to be a better way.’
She stared at him, defying him to try to placate her with a glib assurance.
‘Jamie, I’ll quite understand if you don’t want anything to do with me after tonight. I’ll totally understand if you choose to try to find someone who’s more amenable. But, if we ever did get married and I were to suspect that you were looking elsewhere for beauty or sex or a quiet life, you’d be receiving a petition for divorce so quickly it would knock you for six. Do you understand?’
‘Well, I’m certainly getting the picture,’ he said.
‘Good, because we need to be honest with each other from the start. You speak of love, but unless you feel that you can be completely open with me – about everything – you’ll start trying to hide your feelings – like you did about Marcus – and I’ll be left trying to build a house on sand. If you start to have any doubts, I’ll need to know. I don’t have time to play guessing games.’
‘So, finally, could you really take me on knowing what I’m like and what I’d expect – because I will not be treated like something you want to shape to your fantasy – I refuse to be a wife like that. I am me – a woman. I don’t exist just to make you happy.’
‘Wow!’ he said, ‘I didn’t expect a tirade like that when you told me that we needed to talk.’
‘Right,’ she said, ‘Lecture over. I’m going soon to New Zealand for four weeks – think about what you really want, what you’re prepared to compromise on, and what you can tolerate by way of the things I’ve said. When I get back, if you still want me – if you’ve not found someone else – we can talk again, but when we do – if we do – I’ll expect you to do the talking. Do you still feel like sleeping with me tonight’?
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
This next shot is another scene from the canal that runs through the town. A narrowboat cruise glides at little more than walking pace, taking its passengers towards a bridge
For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/8, focal length 18 mm, and ISO 250.