‘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’?
A chat with Lucy
On the Monday following her talk with Jamie, Mel was getting ready for work when Lucy phoned her.
‘Hi, Mel,’ she said, ‘Do we have time for a chat?’
‘Well, I have to be at the shop for eight-thirty,’ she said, ‘Is it urgent?’
Mel wasn’t looking forward to this chat, given the events of the weekend.
‘Don’t worry about that, love,’ Lucy said, ‘I’ve told Tony to expect you when he sees you. Do you fancy coming round for a coffee?’
Mel knew that this wasn’t really a request so much as a summons, so she agreed and said that she’d be there in half-an-hour or so. She wondered whether Jamie would be there and whether she was in for a lecture from an angry Lucy.
When Lucy opened the door and beckoned her inside, she hugged Mel and led her to the kitchen.
Once Lucy had finished sorting some refreshments, they went into the living room where Elaine was sat on a rug colouring-in pages of a children’s book. There was no sign of anyone else being in the house.
When they were seated, beside each other on the sofa, Lucy opened the conversation.
‘Oh, my God, Mel,’ she said, ‘You must tell me what happened at the cottage. When Jamie came home last night, he looked shell-shocked. We could hardly get a word out of him. We’d expected him to be grinning all over his face – he usually is after he’s been with you. Have you two had a row?’
Mel gave Jamie’s mum chapter and verse.
‘He proposed?’ Lucy asked, eyebrows raised almost to her hairline. ‘I didn’t know he had it in him.’
‘It wasn’t the first time, ‘she said, ‘Didn’t he tell you? The first time was that weekend we had in the Lakes three years ago. You didn’t know?’ she asked.
‘No, not a word,’ Lucy said.
Mel told Lucy what she’d told Jamie on that occasion.’
Lucy touched Mel’s knee.
‘Anyway, good for you, girl,’ she said, ‘You’ve put my mind at rest. I’ve often thought a lot along those lines myself, but I didn’t say anything to him, for fear of upsetting him. As you say, he gets very defensive and easily upset.’
Mel told Lucy that she’d half expected her to be angry.
‘Not at all, Mel,’ she said, ‘you did right to tell him. He won’t be able to turn round later and say that he hadn’t been warned.’
She asked Mel if she wanted her cup refilling. Mel chose to take this as a sign that Lucy wanted to say more, so she agreed.
‘When you said, “not yet” to his proposal, what did you really mean?’ Lucy asked next.
‘Well, I wasn’t just rejecting him outright. You know, don’t you that we’ve been saving up to be able to live together. I didn’t say no to that, but I didn’t want to give him false hope about actual marriage,’ she said.
‘Yes, Mel,’ Lucy said, ‘but did you really mean it when you told him that you might say “yes” sometime soon – provided that he agrees to your conditions? I suppose that I’m asking whether you really love him enough to marry him anyway – even then?’
‘Listen, Lucy’ she said, ‘I love him to bits, I really do, and yes, if we can agree on basics, I’d marry him like a shot, but he needs to think about what I’ve said and wake up. This isn’t a fairy tale.’
Lucy reached across to put her arm around Mel and hugged her.
‘Oh, Mel, I understand what you said about church weddings, but it is my dearest wish to see you two married,’ she said. ‘so I really hope that he takes notice of you and does some serious thinking. I won’t say anything to Jamie, about what you’ve said, but would you mind if I tell Tony? I’ll certainly have a word with Jamie to push him in the right direction.’
Mel agreed, feeling relieved that Lucy had been so supportive.
‘You know, Mel,’ Lucy said, ‘You’ve made me truly happy and given me some hope. I’d love to have you as a daughter-in-law – you’re like a daughter already.’
‘And you’ve been like a second mum to me,’ Mel said.
‘So, will you and Jamie be okay staying together whatever you decide?’ Lucy asked.
‘For my part, certainly,’ Mel said, ‘I can’t speak for Jamie. Maybe he’ll think that I’m too much like hard work and start looking elsewhere for love, but if he wants to show me that he’s man enough to accept my conditions, he’d better act like a grown-up too and not sulk about it.’
‘You’ll still always come to see us won’t you?’ Lucy asked. ‘You know how Tracy loves to see you – to have another woman about the same age to talk to? And little Elaine sees you now as Auntie Mel.’
They both laughed and Lucy told Mel that she’d better get off to work so that Jamie didn’t get too suspicious.
Later at the shop
‘What’s going on?’ Jamie asked when Mel arrived later than usual. ‘Dad said that you’d rung to explain that you’d be late in and that he’d help out until you got here.’
Mel hadn’t been sure what Jamie would have known, so she had to think on her feet and said that it was stuff that needed doing as part of getting ready for the New Zealand trip. He didn’t enquire further, and she didn’t elaborate – she just got on with the day’s work.
They sat in the park at lunchtime. She noticed that Jamie was even quieter than his usual self.
‘Hey,’ she said, ‘What’s up with you? Penny for them.’
He smiled. ‘I’m sorry. You gave me a lot to think about the other day. I hardly slept last night, worrying. Am I really such hard work?’
‘No, my love. You’re not hard work but getting our relationship right will take some effort on both our parts. There’s a lot to think about if we are ever to get married. Don’t you agree?’
‘Oh, absolutely,’ he said, ‘I don’t disagree with anything you said. I feel stupid for not thinking things through as clearly as you have. Do you forgive me?’
‘Of course I do,’ she said, ‘but the more we can talk about things and sort out our differences by talking, the easier the effort will be. I just want you to see that you need to start thinking and talking now, not leaving it all to me. We can’t just leave our future together completely to chance.’
She put her arm around his shoulders.
‘Do you still love bossy me?’
‘With all my heart, boss,’ he said.
They laughed and continued their lunch – both of them feeling lighter at heart.
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. Narrowboats and other vessels are moored at the canalside. The chimney of a former factory dominates the foreground and gaily painted windows brighten more distant buildings. A man, walking a dog, approaches along the canal path.
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 35 mm, and ISO 400.