The kettle started to boil in the kitchen as Mary Duggan rubbed her hair furiously with a towel. She was wet through from doing her shopping in the pouring rain, lonely for company and totally sick of her present way of life.
After making herself a cup of coffee she sat in front of the gas fire in the lounge ostensibly to dry herself off, but mainly to consider her lifestyle.For three years now she had lived on the island of Jersey looking after her sick aunt who, eventually, had to be admitted to the local hospital for proper medical attention around the clock.Mary had stayed on to look after the house and keep it ready for when her aunt came home again.Her thoughts took her back some six years to the time she lived in Plymouth and had met a man called Stephen they had immediately fallen deeply in love with each other.They had had a rapturous nine months together when he proposed to her.
As an ‘Engagement Present’ to her he had taken Mary to Austria on a ski-ing holiday and it was there, one wonderful evening beside a huge log fire that she gave herself to him.
All too soon the holiday was over. They returned to Plymouth only to discover that Stephen had to move up to London with his job and Mary had to fly out to Jersey to look after her sick aunt.
Their parting was heartbreaking but Stephen had promised that he would visit her the following Easter and they would be together for the duration of his annual holidays.
For several months the letters flowed between them until, one month, Mary realised that she had posted two or three letters to him but had not received a reply.
A telephone call to Stephen’s employer only resulted in being told that he no longer worked for them but they could give her the telephone number of the house he apparently owned. Upon dialling this number she was told, quite ‘off-hand’ that “Mr Moore no longer lives here” and down went the phone!
Mary was devastated.
For days she would just sit in the lounge chair and simply cry herself to sleep.
“Why hasn’t he written” she asked herself time and time again. “Was he a married man who had simply ‘had her on?”
She even considered leaving the island and going up to London but, once there, where would she start looking? From a practical point though she knew that she couldn’t leave her aunt as she was relied on far too much even though her aunts condition got worse day by day.
It didn’t come as much of a shock therefore when she arrived at the hospital one evening to be taken on one side by the Nursing Sister to be told that her aunt hadn’t much longer to live. Sitting by the bed, Mary took the cold, frail hand and squeezed it gently. Her aunt opened her eyes but didn’t appear to actually see Mary.
“Is that you Grace?” she asked speaking as if to her dead sister.
“No, it’s me Mary”
“Why is it so dark Grace?” asked her aunt “Is it because of the Air Raids again?”
Mary held the frail hand a little tighter, her aunts memory was going back to the war years.
“Aunt Beth’ it’s me…Mary…l’ve come to see you”
“It’s so dark” said her aunt “I don’t like the dark, why don’t they……….? started her aunt before giving one last rattling breath in her throat, then passing away quite peacefully.
For several minutes Mary just sat there, holding her aunts small hand whilst tears rolled down her cheeks uncontrollably.
“Why hadn’t God taken her instead of her aunt ?” She herself had nothing more to live for.
Just then the Sister quietly entered the room and, without a word, separated their two hands and drew the sheet up, covering her aunts face completely. She then put her arm around Mary’s shoulder and led her out of the room, down a short corridor and into a small, empty office where she made Mary a cup of coffee, then left her to her thoughts.
The walk from the hospital seemed to go on forever and, when she arrived back at the cottage, she simply flopped onto the bed and cried, and cried. She had never, ever felt so useless or so unwanted in her entire life!
Mary shook herself from her thoughts as the now empty coffee cup fell from her fingers and smashed on the tiled floor.
Going into the kitchen once more for the pan and brush, she reminded herself that tomorrow she would make a fresh start as an assessor from a local estate agents would be calling round to give Mary an estimate of just how much the cottage would be worth on the open market. As it turned out Mary was left the cottage in her aunts will but she had nothing in Jersey to stay for so she would sell the property and look for somewhere else on the mainland.
The next day dawned sunny but quite cold. The valuer arrived at 10.30 and, after measuring all the rooms and the extensive gardens, he sat down to fill in all the relevant paperwork appertaining to his company’s business to find a buyer for just such a property.
When he asked for Mary’s full name he stopped writing, his pen held above the forms as if frozen in time.
“Did you say Mary Duggan ?” he asked, as if in disbelief.
“Yes” said Mary, wondering what had come over this apparently decent man.
“You’re not the Mary Duggan who was engaged to a Stephen Moore are you?”
“Yes” she whispered
“Why do you ask?”
The valuer put down his pen
“Because my dear Mary, if l can call you Mary, Stephen had a very bad car accident which left him with severe amnesia. He could remember very vaguely that he had a girl friend but he couldn’t remember either her name nor her address”
Mary sat there completely dumbfounded, her heart was beating so loudly in her chest she was sure that he would hear it!
“But how do you know all this” she whispered “Quite simple really” came the reply, “I’m Stephens brother!”
Mary by now was quite beside herself, she lept out of the chair and threw her arms his neck and tears began to flow once more, but this time with happiness.
Two cups of coffee later found her on her own once again. Peter, the valuer, had departed saying that he was sure that they had on their books a person who was looking for a property just like hers and said he would be in touch very shortly.
On the table in front of Mary was one of Peter’s business cards that had written on it, Stephens latest telephone number.
Dialling this number very slowly Mary held her breath as it began to ring at the other end. Eight or nine times it rang with no reply. Mary started to shake with nerves. What should she say to whoever answered the phone? What did one say in this situation?
She dialled once more her fingers quivering with nerves. It rang…and rang…and rang…And then nothing! It just stopped ringing!
“Hello” said a very quiet voice “is anybody there?”
“Stephen…is that you?”
For a few seconds there was total silence. Stephen realised that the one person missing from his life was there….at the end of a telephone line!
Through the tears they both spoke of their love for each other so tragically interrupted by fate.
Two days later the Hovercraft from Jersey beached on the concrete apron at Weymouth Harbour. Mary emerged into the sunlight anxiously looking for Stephen, but not seeing him anywhere. As she cleared Customs and entered the Lounge area there was still no sight of him! Anxiety began to well up inside her, had he had yet another accident? Could fate be so cruel as to part them once more?
“Mary” said a small voice behind her. She spun around dropping her handbag in excitement, to find Stephen standing there, a large bouquet of flowers in his arms.
“Stephen…Oh! my Stephen” she cried throwing herself into his arms.
For several minutes they clung tightly to each other, both tearful as they kissed passionately then, as they turned to walk away to a new life, a rather crushed bouquet of flowers fell silently to the floor, totally forgotten.
It was the only thing that came between them ever again!
Written by: Barrie Penhaligan ©
Dr Barrie Penhaligan
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