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Charity Begins at Home, Chapter 12

Lorna sat in stunned amazement, looking at Richard sitting opposite her.

He had just asked her to marry him! She was still suffering from the after effects of her humiliation at Alan’s behaviour, plus the after effects of too much alcohol and too much crying, and Richard was smiling at her and obviously thinking that his offer of marriage would make everything all right with the world. Did the man have no sense or feeling at all?!

Richard was watching Lorna’s face and realised very quickly that he had done completely the wrong thing, yet again. He had done it from the purest of intentions but perhaps his enthusiasm had overcome common sense and his timing was all wrong.

“Look Lorna, I’ve obviously taken you by surprise and it’s not the right moment for this, but I just want to assure you that recent events have shown me that I love you and want what is best for you, even if that best isn’t me. I would love to share my life with you and be your best friend. I’ll leave it for now but I won’t withdraw my offer and I hope that we can continue to meet up as friends.”

Lorna almost slammed the door after him but managed to contain herself. How could he be so insensitive, coming in here like a puppy, wagging its tail and expecting to be cuddled because it was so cute? She paced around the sitting room, too agitated to sit down, then put on her coat and walking shoes and took her temper out on a fast walk along the cliff path. By the time she had gone a few miles, she was warm and out of puff and feeling a bit sorry for Richard, although he had taken her refusal very well.

She sat down on a grassy mound close to the cliff edge and wrapped her arms around her knees, gazing out to sea. Why was life so complicated? She liked Richard very much, he was a good man with a delightful sense of humour and she would have a sheltered life with him, with quiet enjoyment of their walks, cinema visits, meals out and little holidays. But was it enough, was she being selfish and unrealistic? Was it ridiculous at her age to want a little excitement in her life? Or had she just had too much excitement and should buckle down and face the real world?

There was really no answer to the tumult going on in her mind, so she stood up a bit creakily, dusted down her coat and trousers and turned to walk back home. It was time for a nice cup of coffee and a piece of her lemon drizzle cake; that would comfort her while she recovered from the hangover, her temper and her thoughts. The next thing she knew she was hanging on to brambles on the cliff face, with one of her shoes disappearing into the sea and part of the cliff path crumbling around her.

She hung on with her heart racing and her arms and legs screaming with the pain of the many cuts and scratches from the brambles which had, it seemed, saved her from falling straight down onto the rocks and into the sea. Her mind was racing, trying to think of what to do next. She couldn’t let go with one hand to reach her mobile phone in her pocket, she didn’t know if she had the strength to climb up the brambles to safety on the cliff edge. She waited until her heart rate had decreased a little, then very gingerly moved one leg and tried to get a purchase amongst the brambles. It worked and seemed to be holding so, despite the pain, she did the same with the other leg.

It took twenty very painful minutes to climb up the cliff edge across the many years growth of intertwined and very prickly brambles, adding to her cuts and scratches as she climbed and, at one stage, ripping her trousers across her right knee. She collapsed on to the cliff path, breathing heavily and almost crying in a combination of relief and pain. Inching along on her bottom, she moved away from the cliff edge and the crumbling path to make sure she didn’t go down again. Then she examined the damage – both arms and legs were cut, scratched and bleeding and were extremely painful but the worst damage seemed to be her right knee, which was at a strange angle and very inflamed. She tried to get up but the pain in that knee was excruciating and she collapsed on to the grass again.

It was no use trying to walk home like that and it was unlikely that any other walkers would be on the cliff path, so she took out her mobile phone and called the only person she knew would help her. After that, she must have passed out, as her next waking moment was on a stretcher, wrapped up warmly and tightly bound as she was carried to an ambulance. She sighed with relief and passed out again!

Richard sat next to Lorna’s bed in Scarborough hospital, watching her as she slowly awoke. She saw his concerned face and smiled faintly. “Thank you so much for coming to my rescue”, she whispered, “you were the only person I could think of who would know what to do and who would help me. I’m so sorry we parted on angry words and it’s my own fault for going off in a temper”.

“Nonsense, Lorna, it could have happened at any time you were walking along there and I’m only too pleased that you did call me. Who knows how long you would have been out there? I called the ambulance service then drove to your house to meet them there so that I could show them the walk and help them to find you. Anyway, how do you feel?”

“Everything seems to hurt, especially my right knee. What did I do to it?” “You’ve wrenched it badly but it’s not dislocated or broken, so painkillers, warmth and gentle exercises will soon put it right, according to the 12 year old doctor who popped in this morning!” Lorna smiled and pressed his hand. “When can I go home?” “As soon as they’ve done ward rounds, which should be shortly. They’ve dressed all of your wounds, strapped up your knee and I’ve taken the liberty of getting you some clean, warm, clothing from your home, so as soon as you get the all clear, you can get dressed and I will take you either to your house or to mine. I’ll leave that up to you but you will need someone with you for a short while until you can hop around on your own.”

Lorna smiled at him and asked if he would mind staying with her for a few days, until she got back on her feet properly. She did love her open fire and would be much happier stretched out on the settee in front of the fire in her own home. Richard was happy to agree to that and they sat chatting for a while longer until the nurses asked him to leave for ward rounds. He kissed her goodbye and went to pack a small bag for a few days stay in her cottage. He was really sorry that she was so badly hurt but it had done him a huge favour.

Christmas Eve was cold and crisp and Lorna snuggled into her arm chair next to the lovely open fire and sipped on her hot chocolate. All of the prep had been done for lunch tomorrow, gifts to be given out were beautifully wrapped and under her small tree, so nothing else to be done this evening but wait for her Christmas guest to arrive. Her knee was nearly back to normal now, although she had needed some physiotherapy to help it along and it occasionally gave way on her when she least expected it. The cuts and scratches had healed, with just one deep cut on her right thigh still scabby but she had been really lucky and it could have been much worse. It had helped her to realise how much she liked and depended upon Richard and she was really looking forward to them spending Christmas together.

Richard drove carefully towards Lorna’s cottage and hoped that she would like one of the Christmas presents he had planned for her. He had learnt his lesson in assuming anything with Lorna and had not booked the holiday in the sun but just brought along the brochures for her to help him choose their destination, if she was happy to go with him. He had seen a two week holiday in St Lucia which looked good; all paid for up front, all you could eat and drink, couples only, with quite a few excursions included, but as long as it was warm and had some interesting places to visit, he didn’t mind where they went.

They had a lovely evening, eating their supper on trays on their laps, in front of the fire. The television was on in the background, although they weren’t really interested in the programmes being presented for their delectation. Now that Lorna was no longer taking the antibiotics and painkillers, they had indulged in a rather good bottle of Chablis, as well as Tia Maria with their coffee and were relaxed in a warm, well-fed, slightly alcoholic stupor. Lorna smiled sleepily and wondered why she had ever thought that she could have a life with Alan when this lovely man was here for her. Richard reached down and handed Lorna a long, flat, package wrapped in Christmas paper. “I know that we are going to exchange gifts tomorrow, but I just had to get this for you, as a reminder of how we met”. Intrigued, she opened it, to find a calendar produced by the charity she had worked for. They both laughed and said, almost in unison “Charity begins at home”.

 

To see previous Chapter 11 click here

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Laura Wickham

Retired and living in Hampshire, I read and write a lot, as well as doing the occasional work on-line, to try to keep me solvent.

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