Len's knee's cracked and popped in the now all too familiar way as she knelt down. She pictured the space remaining in the packing case and nodded; the last dozen books on the lowest bookshelf in her old room, now a guest room, should fit nicely. The bookshelf and its contents had been left behind in Freudsheim when she went to Oxford and they'd there remained ever since.
She and Reg had begun married life in England. Leave those here for now, her mother had said, waving a hand at Len's crammed bookcases, and the carved animals lined up along the window sill when she'd been trying to decide what to take with with her to the tiny flat they'd be renting while Reg worked on one of the earliest chemotherapy trials for the treatment of tuberculosis. They'd needed a house when Julian had been born, Len remembered, but her books had remained in Switzerland.
A two-year stint in America at the Southeast Florida Tuberculosis Hospital had followed, along with the arrival of Christine. It hadn't been practical to ship her books overseas. However, those original chemotherapy trials had whetted Reg's appetite for a new speciality. Instead of going back to the San to take up the role of Jack Maynard's second in charge, when Len would finally be able to have her personal library under her own roof, the Entwhistle family returned to England where Reg had eventually become a respected oncologist. Len had returned to teaching once Christine turned ten and both children had gone to boarding school.
Over the years, Freudesheim and her parents had always been there. Julian and Christine loved the trips to visit their grandparents' home, never knowing which of their cousins or extended family members would be there at the time. Dr Benson's suite of rooms had become the Entwhistle's, their home away from home, as Len often referred to it, but now all that was changing. Her father had announced his retirement, something Reg had hinted at for the past year. Len was sensible enough to realise her father couldn't be expected to work forever; the thing she was having difficulty coming to terms with was the fact her mother had agreed to leave Freudesheim and move over an hour away into a smaller, easier to manage Chalet. Joey Maynard not living next door to the Chalet School was something nobody had ever imagined, the time the Maynards spent in Canada notwithstanding.
Now Freudesheim would become part of the Chalet School, allowing to to expand; something that made the decision easier for her mother, she was sure. She was pleased it hadn't been sold to strangers, but helping to completely empty the house to be ready for the necessary renovations was not how Len had planned to spend the Christmas holiday.
She picked up the beautifully bound copy of 'Pride and Prejudice' Auntie Madge has given her for her seventeenth birthday. The illustrations were gorgeous, she remembered, and flicked through the pages. The Bingley sisters solacing their wretchedness through duets was one of her favourites and she exclaimed anew over the delicate line work and colours when she reached it. A piece of folded tissue paper fluttered to the ground as she turned the pages. Laying the book aside for a moment, she picked it up and gently opened it. Warm pink tinged her cheeks when she saw the single faded flower, carefully pressed so many years before.
* & * & *
"I take it we're engaged. Like it, darling?" had been the most unromantic proposal in the history of marriage proposals. Reg blamed the drugs he'd been prescribed after bruising his spine and wrenching his shoulder during the fateful storm in Len's final term at school. It hadn't at all been how he'd planned it to happen, he'd eventually explained, so when the Chalet School had broken up for the holidays, and Reg had fully recovered from his injuries, he'd taken Len on a picnic, just the two of them. When they reached one of the prettiest groves, where the loveliest wildflowers bloomed and birds sang the sweetest songs, he dropped to one knee and taking a ring from his pocket, proposed in the most properly romantic fashion a girl of eighteen could wish.
They'd laughed, and spoken of day to day things before eating every crumb of the delicious lunch provided by Anna. Replete, they lay on the grass facing one another, and then, Len remembered, they'd talked quietly of more serious things, until Reg declared they'd talked enough. He traced her eyebrows, her cheeks, and then her lips with a flower, before taking her into his arms and kissing her.
When it was time to go home, she'd found the flower, miraculously unsquashed, beside her on the ground and she'd tucked it carefully into a pocket. Wanting to something to remember that special afternoon, she'd pressed it, and promptly forgotten it until now.
"Have you finished in there yet?" Her mother's voice interrupted Len's reminiscing.
"Almost," she responded as she folded the tissue paper over the flower and tucked it between the pages of her book once more.