Sins of the FatherBy: Hannah Howe
To my family, with love
We were walking along the riverbank, Alan and yours truly, at the rear of Alan’s house. Soon, Alan would become my husband; soon, I would become Mrs Storey; soon, I would own a share of this splendid sixteenth century manor house; soon, I would wake up from this dream, for dream it surely was, like one of the fairy stories I’d habitually read as a child.
The August sun warmed our necks and arms, topped up three months of steadily accumulated suntan. As ever, Alan looked casual and smart, handsome and dignified. Through his looks and personality, he was a magnet for the majority of women; through his standing as a leading psychologist, he could fund a comfortable lifestyle; he had everything he could wish for and, incredibly, he wanted me.
“Are you sure you want to marry me?” I asked, pausing in mid-stride, leaning my head against his shoulder.
“I’m sure,” Alan said, smiling down at me, slipping an arm around my waist, kissing my hair.
The air was still, the breeze non-existent, so for once I didn’t have to battle with my long, auburn hair, didn’t have to tangle with my wayward tresses.
“You’ve come to terms with your past?” I asked, referring to Alan’s first wife, Elin, to the tragic accident that claimed her life.
“I have,” Alan said, releasing a poignant sigh. He turned to gaze at the river, which meandered by in lazy, somnolent fashion, its energy sapped by the long, hot summer, by the unusually dry weather; we hadn’t seen anything like it since 1976, so the locals said; I wouldn’t know, for in 1976 I wasn’t even a twinkle in my father’s eye. While staring at the sluggish brown water, Alan asked, “Are you sure you want to marry me?”
“Yes,” I nodded decisively. “I’m sure.”
“You’ve come to terms with your past?”
Again, I nodded, though with less confidence this time. “I have. My mother and Dan are nothing more than memories, painful memories, true. But you are my present and future. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“So,” Alan said, “in ten day’s time we’ll get married.”
A helicopter hovered overhead, diverted my attention to the sky, reminded me that within hours Alan would be travelling through that cloudless sky, on his way to a psychology conference.
With a heavy heart, I said, “But business comes before pleasure.”
“It’s the psychologists’ conference season,” he shrugged.
“In Australia,” I sighed.
Again, he shrugged, adding a playful smile. “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.”
“Very funny,” I said, the scowl on my face disguising my amusement. “Most men have a stag night or stag weekend,” I reasoned; “you have a stag week on the other side of the world.”
Alan laughed, a sound as harmonious as the sweetest melody. He slipped his hand into mine then led me into the shade, into a welcome shadow provided by a line of oak trees. There, he said, “Listening to Otto Stine drone on and on about his outdated Freudian theories hardly constitutes a stag week.”
“Will Pavlina be there?” I asked, referring to our Bulgarian friend.
“Give her my love.”
Alan nodded, “I will.”
“Shame she can’t make it to the wedding,” I said.
“We’ll catch up with her,” Alan said, “on honeymoon.”
After the wedding, we would honeymoon in Bulgaria. A recent trip to Hisarya had whetted my appetite for the country; on that occasion, I’d become embroiled in a local mystery, allowed my inquisitive nature to get the better of me. However, on honeymoon there would be no sleuthing. I’d resolved to put my deerstalker and magnifying glass away, to lock them firmly in a drawer.
First, I had to negotiate ten long days without Alan. I stood on tiptoe, gave him a passionate kiss then said, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too,” he said, his chin resting on the crown of my head, his gaze, at a guess, fixed on a point of no significance. “We’ll link up via videophone, as soon as I arrive in Perth.”
We kissed again then walked hand in hand, back to the house.