Anne studied her reflection in the mirror. Would anyone be able to tell what had happened? She couldn't stop her lips curling into a smile when she saw how her eyes sparkled, and an entirely natural the pink blush bloomed on her cheeks. Finally, that talk she'd had with Aunt Fanny so long ago made perfect sense. There was no mistaking the quickening, now she'd actually experienced it. Today, she, Anne Kirrin, had met her soul mate.
Her insides had done more than feel gooey and hot, as she'd once described the feelings invoked by her first crush. Anne remembered; she'd been fifteen and Roger Casterton, the tall, dark and handsome older brother of the then Head Girl of the school, had been the magnificent age of twenty-one. Her younger self had plotted a dozen ways to get an introduction to her future husband, while planning the perfect wedding and furnishing imaginary houses. When Julian brought home a school friend to stay with them for a week of the Christmas holidays, Anne forgot about Roger and spent the week shyly stammering whenever Michael spoke to her. It had been fortunate the Famous Five didn't have a mystery to solve as she'd dreamed away the remainder of the holiday that they'd spent at Kirrin Cottage.
When Jack kissed her, she'd been sure it was the quickening. Later, as she'd arranged the flowers he'd given her, she'd mentally ticked off the items on list she'd made: heart beating faster, rapid pulse, pupils dilated, cheeks flushed, fingers trembling, practically breathless, and yes, hot, gooey insides. She'd felt them all. She wanted to share her delight with someone, and almost telephoned Aunt Fanny. Instead, she'd written everything in her diary and pressed a flower from the bouquet between its pages.
But Jack had also kissed Pauline, and Margery, and even tried to kiss George, who'd wasted no time informing Anne. Jack broke her heart, shattering it into a million pieces, she'd written in her diary, and she'd never love anyone again. It took barely two weeks for her heart to heal, and that was when Anne finally realised the quickening had to be a two-way thing. Her soul mate would reciprocate her feelings, would recognise Anne as his other half, and wouldn't want kiss Pauline, or Margery, or anyone else except Anne.
"You won't meet him visiting here every week," remarked Aunt Fanny slyly one Saturday afternoon. Anne's job as a private secretary to a local writer meant she was able to call in at Kirrin Cottage on her days off. "The Youth Club meets this afternoon. The guest speaker's topic is," she picked up the flyer and read out the details, "night blooming flowers. Why don't you go?"
"Night blooming flowers? That sounds interesting. Very well, Aunt Fanny, I'll go."
"I'd like to present Mister John Terry."
Anne joined in the round of applause as she stared at the young man being introduced by the President of the Youth Club. For a moment, she forgot to breathe and she completely missed what Kevin Bannister had to say about John Terry's antecedents. The sight of John pushing back a lock of dark hair hair that had flopped down over his eye held her completely transfixed. From her seat in the second row, she was close enough to see his eyes were almost the same shade of green as his jumper. She swallowed the sudden lump that appeared in her throat when his gaze caught hers. When he smiled in her direction, she summoned a shy smile in return.
"Zaluzianskya capensis, known as Night Phlox, makes an ideal border," explained John, holding up a pot of purple buds partially opened into white flowers. "These are annuals, so you will need to replant them every year. They smell delightful, a mix of honey, almond and vanilla."
John's mellifluous tones caused Anne to tingle all over as she listened to him explain that the Nottingham Catchfly once covered the walls of Nottingham Castle and its beautiful flowers were attractive to night-flying insects, and that was how it got its name.
When everyone's questions had been answered, the members of the catering committee served tea and cakes. Kevin introduced John to the members of the Youth Group.
"Have we met before?" asked John, carefully shaking Anne's hand as he balanced a cup of tea with the other.
"No, I don't believe so. My Aunt's garden has a hedge of Four O'Clocks," said Anne, wanting, needing to keep John talking.
"Her garden must smell divine in the evening."
"Oh, it does," agreed Anne fervently. "I was wanting to ask you--" something, anything, just to keep you talking to me a little longer.
Adroitly, Kevin directed John's attention to the group of three people standing close by. "Ah, here are some of our tennis champions. Do you play tennis, John? Come and be introduced."
John proffered a wry grin to Anne, and mouthed something she didn't quite catch as he turned away.
She quickly finished her tea and wandered over to the table holding the potted plants John had brought to illustrate his talk. A small pile of cards lay with them. She took one from the top and examined it more closely. John's garden business, the details about which she'd missed at the beginning of his talk, was only ten miles away. She tucked the card into her pocket.
Having learnt her lesson with Jack, Anne wasn't prepared to label what she'd just experienced as the quickening, but she had a very strong feeling she hadn't seen the last of John Terry.
A basket of violets, delivered a week later to Anne, care of Kirrin Cottage, put a smile on Aunt Fanny's face.
John conducted his courtship of Anne with what he knew best, telling her with flowers that he loved her, while she wooed him with jams, jellies and freshly baked cakes, and soon they were married at dusk, in the garden at Kirrin Cottage where the night-blooming flowers perfumed the air.