The glass pane in the door rattled as it slammed shut as yet another poor intern exited the office looking like they were on the verge of tears. Ann glanced up from her nearby desk just in time to see the back of Anne Lister, Editor-in-Chief, disappear back inside. Like the rest of the staff she was no longer shocked by the noise but she had a bet with herself on how long it would take for the latest glass pane to shatter. That was number five, she didn’t expect to reach double figures. It made no sense for there still to be a separate office. The floor was open plan and the sides of the office were glass so it didn’t offer any additional privacy. Ann was fairly certain the only reason it hadn’t been converted like the rest of the space was so that the door could be slammed.
She had been working at The Halifax Herald for a few months now, having moved back after she finished her Art History degree a few years ago. She had been unable to find much work in her field after an unsuccessful attempt at opening her own gallery. Her cousin Eliza Priestley was a prominent member of the local Council and to hear her tell the story, she had begged and pleaded for someone to take pity on her invalid unemployed cousin. The newspaper was the only one that had answered her plea.
She had agreed to step in as the Arts & Culture correspondent until she could find something more suitable, although she wasn’t sure what exactly that could be in Halifax. The options were rather limited but at least she was home. The job itself wasn’t terrible, she’d taken one Introduction to Journalism module as part of her degree, more to fill up her timetable rather than an actual interest, but it seemed to be enough to have helped her get by so far.
It meant she covered anything from local art exhibits, of which there had been exactly one, sheepdog trials - four of those, and amateur theatre performances. There had unfortunately been two of those, including an almost three hour long version of Cats with a rather rotund Rum Tum Tugger and not the most graceful Mr Mistoffelees.
She was sure theatre reviews should be part of the Entertainment section but Marian had insisted that her sole remit was film and TV reviews, with an occasional book thrown in if the subject matter was deemed suitable. That meant she got to spend most of her time binge watching any new shows and called it worked. Ann didn’t mind, she liked Marian, the little she saw of her. She would pop into the office at least once a week for the staff meeting but would promptly leave again. One of the perks and drawbacks of being the Chief’s younger sister. She knew better than anyone to stay out of her way.
As her thoughts started to wander she heard the office door open, a hush fell upon the entire office as they waited for the booming voice of their Chief to bark the latest orders. They all knew the drill by now, stay out of the firing line and you’d survive. They kept their heads down but after a while when there was nothing but silence Ann looked up tentatively, silence was usually a bad sign. As soon as she did she realised her mistake, their eyes locked and she knew that she was trapped.
They stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, Ann frozen by the intense gaze fixed upon her. It wasn’t that she was afraid of her, well she was a little, but mostly she feared if she stared too long into those deep brown eyes, she may never surface again. She could feel her heart starting to pound in her chest and was grateful that the general din of the newsroom had risen enough to mask what she was sure was a sound akin to a military marching band.
She tried to avoid these moments. Always submitting her work via email after meticulously checking it. She wasn’t trying to avoid Anne, she wanted so much to learn from her - not just about the newspaper but about travel, and politics, and business, and any number of the other things she’d heard her speak about. Only, whenever she was in her immediate vicinity she turned into an inarticulate oaf. That was the phrase she’d coined when she’d spoken to her cousin Catherine about the very small problem of having a very large crush on her boss. That same boss who had whipped off her glasses in a flourish and was making her way towards her desk right now.
Ann felt her throat go dry, she was so commanding. As ever she was dressed impeccably in a black three piece suit, the only colour deviation would be the dress shirt. Today it was a crisp white that only seemed to get brighter as she drew closer. “Walker, I’ve got an assignment for you!” Anne said excitedly as she came to a halt by her desk. She had no idea what the assignment could be, she was largely left to her own devices to find newsworthy events to cover and she appreciated the autonomy. As she looked up at her she thought she’d do anything she said. “What do you know about architecture?”
Ann’s brow furrowed, she didn’t really know much about it. She could recognise the basic styles - Victorian, Georgian, classic, Art Deco, Brutalist, modern, but no more than that. “Um, I - well -” Anne’s eyes started to narrow as she watched her trip over her words as she tried to form at least one coherent sentence.
“Doesn’t matter,” she declared as she clapped her hands together. Ann let out of a sigh of relief that she immediately had to withdraw as Anne perched on the edge of her desk. She felt a shiver as the bottom of her trouser leg brushed against her bare skin. She knew that Anne was athletic, she’d often seen her on her morning runs when she was just awake enough to make a cup of coffee, but she’d never been close enough to fully appreciate what all those miles of running apparently did. Ann licked her lips slowly as she noticed how her trousers clung to her muscular thighs in a way that shouldn’t be allowed if she expected her to listen to a word she was saying.
The loud sound of someone clearing her throat caught her attention, her head shot up as Anne placed her glasses back on. She stared at her curiously, “Are you feeling okay?” Ann hoped that the colour of her cheeks wouldn’t give away her embarrassment as she nodded politely. “Hmm,” Anne reached out and placed the back of her hand against her forehead causing Ann’s heart to momentarily stop. “You’re a little warm but nothing a good brisk walk won’t fix.” Once again Ann found that all she could do was nod as Anne took her hand back.
“I want you to do a series on the great buildings of Halifax. The Piece Hall, the Minster, the Town Hall, Dean Clough.” Anne’s hands waved animatedly through the air as she spoke. Ann looked at the notebook on her desk and thought that perhaps she should be taking notes but she didn’t want to ask her to stop. She loved seeing her like this, so full of passion for the subject she was talking about, it was utterly enthralling. “And of course, Shibden!” Anne beamed. Everyone knew how proud Anne was of her ancestral home. It was now a museum, set in the grounds of Shibden Park, and even if it wasn’t the grandest building in Halifax it was still full of history.
“I’ve spoken to Eliza, the council is going to run a series of events celebrating Halifax’s cultural heritage, which Sam can cover.” Anne scanned the room, probably looking for Sam but as usual he was out following the lead on some story. “James! You can help.” Ann turned her head and gave a small smile at him as he scribbled away at his desk behind her. She liked James, he was a little quiet, newly moved to Halifax from Scotland. He had been one of the few interns to have survived past the usual two-week danger period.
“I’ll get Marian to write something about all those TV shows they’re forever closing roads down for.” Ann turned her attention back to her Editor who was scanning the room for more people she could order about. “Ainsworth!” She bellowed. Across the room Ann saw a head pop up from behind his monitor, a sandwich stuffed in his mouth. She tried not to laugh when Anne hadn’t even tried to hide her groan of disapproval. “Write something about the football team. Halifax...Halifax…”
“FC Halifax Town,” she heard him mumble, his mouth still filled with food. Anne’s nose scrunched up at the sight, “Yes. Them.” She replied curtly.
“So, not about a game?” Ann saw her ball her fist in the corner of her eye. It hadn’t taken her long to learn that Thomas was her least favourite member of the team. She was always finding fault with his work, from what Ann had seen it was a little sloppy. He seemed to be clinging onto his job by virtue of another favour to someone. Since her return he had tried to invite her out for drinks after work but she had always managed to find an excuse not to go, but still he persisted. She remembered him from school, even back then he seemed to rely heavily on his school-boy charm, one that was completely lost on Anne. “No Ainsworth. It’s a series on culture.”
He looked back at them blankly. “Write something about the contribution they make. Creating a sense of community that sort of thing. You can at least manage that can’t you?” There was a pained smile on his face before he disappeared back behind his monitor. Anne huffed loudly, Ann was sure she’d heard her mutter the word idiot under her breath. She straightened when she turned her attention back to her, the scowl on her face disappearing completely, “What do you think?” She looked at her eagerly as she waited for a response.
If she was going to stay working at the newspaper, at least for now, she really had to learn how to not be so dazzled by that smile. “It sounds wonderful,” she finally managed.
“Excellent. So you’ll do it?” She was still no closer to understanding what it was she had been asked to do but she found herself nodding regardless. Her eyes were so bright, whatever she’d asked it was impossible to refuse. She reached into her waistcoat and pulled out her pocket watch attached to its chain, she flicked it open and shut with a snap of her wrist. This was one of the details Ann loved. She’d noticed that she also wore a fitness tracker, but whenever she needed the time - she always checked her watch.
“You’ll need to go down to the Archives.” Anne hopped off her desk and was already walking back to her office as she called back, “Look up the old deeds.” Anne spun around, “Of course I’ll give you a tour of Shibden myself. But first, research.” Turning once again she threw her arm up in the air, “I expect great things from you Walker!”
With that final flourish she was gone. Ann slumped into her chair. What had just happened? James walked over to her desk and placed a notebook in front of her covered in notes. He had written down everything that Anne had said about her assignment. She looked up at him, a big smile of relief on her face, “Thank you James.”
“Nae bother,” he replied in his heavy Scottish accent as he went back to his desk. She looked over his notes, at least now she had something to work with. But how on earth was she going to write a series on the architecture of Halifax?
“Come!” The order barked as Anne heard the knuckles rap against her closed door. A familiar face appeared, “At least let me close the door before you’re giving me those sorts of demands.” There was a hint of mischief to her tone as she smiled slyly as Anne stood from her chair. She leaned over her desk as the brunette placed a kiss on either side of her face, “Mary, thank you for coming.”
“There you go again Freddy,” she said with a smirk. Anne shook her head wearily as she sat back down behind her desk. “Don’t look at me like that, you’re the one who invited me.”
Anne tilted her head in concession, “I did. Did you bring the books?” Mariana huffed, she had enjoyed having a little fun with her, it had been a while since they had seen each other, but as always Anne wanted to get straight down to business. She reached into her bag and took out the two large books and placed them on the desk.
Anne picked them up straight away, placing her glasses back on as she began to leaf through the pages. Mariana had noticed that she was wearing them more now, she had always hated seeing them on her. Coupled with the grey highlights that were becoming more prominent along her temple she thought they aged her. She had told her it made her look like an old college professor, especially behind the large oak desk which was a relic from when the Herald was founded. It was no wonder she needed her glasses though if she insisted on reading ancient books with small print, “What did you need these for anyway? I thought you knew everything about Shibden.”
“I do,” she replied without looking up. “These are for Ann.”
“And how is the Walker girl doing?” She had missed the grimace that accompanied the question but Anne raised her eyes and caught Mariana staring out onto the office. “She’s in the Archive doing research for the Halifax Heritage series I told you about.” There was an apathetic hum in response. Anne smiled to herself, she couldn’t understand why Mariana seemed to have such a dislike for Ann. She had been less than pleased when she had found out that Ann had taken over her role at the paper, which Anne reminded her had been her choice to leave.
Their parting had been for the best really. They had managed to work together, mostly amicably, over the last decade, through their relationship, Mariana’s marriage, their subsequent affair, and eventual breakup. The job had always been a way of them seeing each other without arousing too much suspicion, and now their affair was over there was no need for them to continue that charade. Anne’s dedication to the Herald had been one of the reasons for their inevitable breakup as it took more of her focus and made her less willing to ever leave Halifax. Neither of which were things Mariana was too tolerant of.
She had never loved working there anyway, not the way Anne did. She was incredibly proud of the paper, and rightly so. In the years since she had taken over as Editor after her father had taken early retirement she had turned the newspaper from something that was used only to line the cat litter trays into the main source of news for the local community. Though Ann had only been there a few months she was fast becoming an integral part of her team.
“She’s very good. Keeps her head down. I’ve had quite a few people tell me how knowledgeable she seems.” There was another hum of vague interest, “They like that she shows a genuine interest in the stories she’s covering.” Mariana turned her head sharply, she knew that last part was a deliberate dig at her and the indifference she had always shown towards Halifax. She raised her nose haughtily, “You’ll want to keep an eye on that one.”
Anne let out another exasperated sigh, “And why is that Mary?”
She let out a derisive giggle at Anne’s apparent ignorance, “Haven’t you noticed how flustered she gets around you?”
“Don’t be absurd,” she waved her hand dismissively.
“I had to fend off many of your admirers in my time Freddy. If you’re not careful, that girl’s going to fall in love with you.” Mariana added warningly, “And you’ll fall right back.” Anne shook her head, this unfounded jealousy was another thing that had led to her deciding to end their relationship. Mariana never trusted her, whilst conveniently ignoring that technically she was the one having the affair.
“She hands her stories in on time and actually reads them through before she sends them to me. That’s all I ask of my staff. Apparently even that’s too much for some of them.” There was another mocking laugh, Anne was becoming increasingly less subtle as the years advanced.
“I heard there was lots of shouting this morning.” Anne shut the open book with a heavy thud and threw her glasses down next to them as she sat back in her chair.
“Is that what Ainsworth reported to you this morning?”
Mariana leaned forward, pouting slightly, “You really should be nicer to him.”
“And why is that Mary? He’s only here because you asked me to take him. He can still barely string a sentence together.”
“Because he’s popular.” That had been the reasoning Mariana had used to hire him initially when they were looking for someone to cover the sports section of the paper. Popularity was hardly something she would look for on a resume but there had been no other candidates. “He’s a local sporting hero.”
Anne scoffed, “He played in one League Final before he fell down Old Bank after a drunken night out and ended his less than magnificent career. I’d hardly call that heroic.”
“It’s all in how the story’s told Freddy, you should know that better than anyone.” They both glared at each other across the large desk as Anne thought to herself it was definitely good that she no longer worked there.
The next day had not gotten off to a good start. Anne had stayed late at the office writing. It had been some time since she had felt the desire to write, and though she was sure what she had written would come of nothing she could not deny that it had felt good. That was not the reason she felt tired though. She still felt the tension from yesterday’s conversation with Mariana, this always happened after one of her visits. She rubbed her temple as she tried to make the headache that was threatening to take hold disappear. If she had known she would still be smarting 24 hours later she would have gone to collect the books herself, or send one of the interns - if there were any left. That always ran the risk that she would recruit another spy to her fold to keep an eye on her, she could always be very persuasive when she wanted to be.
Speaking of her spies she thought she had better check to see if Ainsworth had come up with anything for his story. Why couldn’t he be more like Ann? She had listened attentively when she had spoken to her and hadn’t even needed to take notes before she’d readily agreed to writing a whole series of articles. She was sure that her head was teaming with ideas. She looked up and over at where her desk was, it was empty again. She must still be downstairs in the Archives doing her research. It had been no exaggeration when she had told her she expected great things from her, it was no less than she was capable of.
She had noticed that Ann had gotten back to her desk late last night, again after being in the Archives. She had been the only one left in the office as usual and had thought everyone had gone home until there had been a gentle knocking on her office door when she had come to say goodnight. It wasn’t her usual practice, but since she was the only one there she made a point of letting her know she was going and told her not to work too late. Her dedication to the role that had been somewhat thrust upon her was not the only difference she had noticed with Mariana.
Anne had considered asking her if she wanted to have dinner with her since she was sure she hadn’t eaten, but Mariana’s warning words flooded her brain. She worried that if there was any foundation to her prediction, inviting her to dinner may not be the best idea. When Eliza had first suggested her for the job at the newspaper she could vaguely recall that she had heard some rumour that the young Miss Walker was quite taken with her. Of course this was when both of them had been considerably younger and she and Mariana had been very much together. It was probably just a foolish crush on her part, hardly one she could expect to have persisted all these years. Particularly as Mariana had pointed out, the signs of all those long nights and deadlines were starting to show. Instead she had bid her goodnight and let her go.
The two books that Mariana had brought over were still on her desk. She considered going down to the Archive herself to deliver them and to check on her progress but then thought she may be able to achieve two things at once. She picked up her phone and punched one of the buttons. This had been one of Marian’s few helpful suggestions to improve morale in the office instead of just yelling out someone’s name when she wanted to summon them as she had remembered their father doing when he was still in charge. She supposed she had a point, plus it meant they couldn’t make the excuse of having been away from their desk or not hearing her. The line rang once before she heard someone fumbling on the other end, “My office. Now.” It was curt but she didn’t see the need for superfluous words in this case.
Moments later Aisnworth barged into her office without knocking, “Anne, you wanted to see me.” She bristled not only at his lack of manners but also the overly familiar way with which he greeted her. She noted the half-eaten chocolate bar in his hand, why was this man always eating? She folded her arms across her chest as she glared at him, “How’s that article? Have you figured out your angle yet?”
“Well no, I -” he sputtered. Just as she had suspected, he had probably hoped she had told him to write it. She wasn’t going to let him off easily.
“Go down to the Archive. Look at the history.” She thought she caught him rolling his eyes, he really was the petulant schoolboy that needed to be spoon fed instructions or else nothing would be done. She picked up the books about Shibden and held them up for him, “Whilst you’re down there do something useful and bring these books to Ann.” She sneered at the smirk that started to spread across his face, “You’re not to disturb her,” she admonished. “Just give her the books, she should hopefully find something useful in them.”
He stepped forward and reached out for the books but as soon as she saw the state of his hands she pulled them back. After a moment he looked down and realised what the problem was. He dipped his head apologetically and wiped his hand across his trousers leaving a clear stain on them. She let out a huff as she reluctantly handed them to him. He really was an idiot.
Ann dropped her overstuffed bag onto the sofa before she collapsed next to it after yet another long day. At least she thought she had managed to make some progress today and hopefully wouldn’t have to spend another day in the Archives for a while. As interesting as it was to delve into the history of the town and the comprehensive records the Herald kept, it was a little claustrophobic and lonely down there. She had even been pleased to see Thomas on an apparent similar research mission.
She had taken a break to try and help him find something that he could use for the story he had been tasked with. He hadn’t even known the Archive existed let alone how to search it. On top of that he didn’t have any ideas on what he could write about. He knew about football, present tense, and had little interest in anything other than the team’s current position in the League, which unfortunately didn’t appear to be very high. It was almost endearing how hopeful he was that they would be able to improve their standing, loyal to the very end even if he was no longer part of the team.
She remembered how all he had talked about in school was being the captain of the team when he was older and how he would lead them all the way to Wembley. Football and girls were all he had cared about back then, it seemed little had changed as he continued to attempt to flirt with her as he regaled her with stories about his sporting career. She had heard about his accident whilst she was away at Art School, and though she had no real interest in football it had saddened her that his dream had been snatched away. Beneath all his bravado she still saw the eager school boy on the playground challenging anyone to a game of football.
With her help they had managed to find a few interesting stories on the team’s history and how it had been one of the founder members of Football League Third Division North almost 100 years ago. She wasn’t quite sure how he’d be able to fashion that into an article, but it was a start and he didn’t seem too worried. He had offered to buy her dinner as a way of thanking her for her help but she had insisted that she had far too much work to get on with. Since he had found her surrounded by masses of books and boxes it was clearly not an exaggeration but he made her promise that one day she would say yes.
Ann peered into her bag and saw the two large books about Shibden that she hadn’t had a chance to look at yet. Before he Thomas had handed them to her and said they were from Anne’s private collection. That made things worse, she was sure to ask about them if she saw her and she didn’t want to be caught unaware. He had flashed her that confident grin of his as he left saying that she was sure to find something in there that she’d find helpful. She wished she had his nonchalance, especially when it came to Anne. Not constantly being distracted by her dashing Editor was one of the benefits of working away from the desk that happened to have the best view of her office.
She rotated her head a few times as she tried to work out the cricks in her neck. This job was almost as bad for her back as the hours she used to spend leant over an easel. As soon as she managed to find some time she would have to have it seen to. For now it was a lot of heat patches and epsom salt baths.
She pulled out the larger of the two books - A Comprehensive History of Halifax. Judging from the weight of it, it was definitely comprehensive. She opened the front cover and in the top right-hand corner of the first page she saw in her own unmistakable handwriting, Anne’s name. She traced the letters a few times before placing the book on the coffee table in front of her. The sound of the grandfather clock in the hallway started to chime, she counted eight before it stopped. She supposed she should get dinner started before she started to read otherwise it would be ten o’clock before she knew it.
As she pushed herself up off the sofa she noticed the book had naturally fallen open. There was nothing strange about that, but she expected it had something to do with a pale blue envelope nestling between the pages. She sat back down on the edge of the sofa and pulled it out from where it had been. A small crease formed across her brow as she wondered where it had come from. The edges had not been sealed down so she opened it up and unfolded the solitary piece of paper inside and saw the evenly spaced typed text. She glanced to her side before she shook her head. She didn’t understand who she expected to see since she lived alone, but she wasn’t sure that the note was intended for her. There was only one way to find out.
Some chances you lose by your inability to cross the street. Some you lose because you make the choice to stay where you stand. You know that is where each of you belong and that neither of you would be able to survive on the side.
Then there are those chances you know you should take, where you stand on opposite sides of the street. Catching the briefest glimpse of someone waiting on the other side. Stolen glances where you see the other staring across. Both waiting for the other to cross. Each waiting for the other to take that step. Both unsure. Scared that as soon as you step out onto the road something will knock you down. You'd get hit - the way you always have. Only this time you know that you wouldn't be able to get up and dust yourself off.
So you stay on your bit of pavement, staring across the street. Sometimes a few steps are taken forward, you think you're ready to move on. But then you pause, you stop to check they're still there with you, their steps mirroring yours on the opposite side. Each of you checking to make sure that one doesn't wander too far ahead or fall too far behind. Waiting for the other to have the bravery you lack. Your self-preservation instinct not allowing you to move. Praying that they'll take that step, and praying even harder that they're not praying for the same thing you are.
This is me, taking the step. Making sure I look both ways. Not knowing whether I'm going to get hit, or by what. But hoping that I can make it across the street, and that you'll be there if I survive the crossing.
Ann let the note fall to the side as a dozen questions started to fill her head. Who was the note for? Was it her? If not, then whose note was it? If so, how did they get it into the book? Had Thomas put it in there for them? She gasped as another question came to mind - had Thomas written it? That was ridiculous, wasn’t it? She’d read his work before and she wasn’t sure he was capable of this. Still, there had been many writers throughout history who had tried their hands at different mediums - poets who tried to become novelists, novelists who tried to become playwrights, who had different levels of success. Maybe he had written it.
She stared down at the blue piece of paper next to her. Still crisp so she didn’t think it was particularly old. She picked it up to smell the page, it had that comforting familiar smell of old books so no clue there, except maybe it had been in the book a while. She didn’t think it would take long for it to take on that scent though, she was sure she smelt like old books after her day in the Archives. There was nothing about the language used that dated the document. Her mind kept returning to two burning questions, who was this note for? And who had written it?
The cup of coffee that was placed in front of her startled her, but less so than the person she saw when she looked up, “Miss Walker, you looked like you could do with a coffee.” Ann immediately straightened, suddenly very aware of how she must have looked hunched over the table in the small coffee shop staring at the pale blue piece of paper in her hand. “Mrs Lawton, I-”
“Please, call me Mariana.” She grimaced slightly at the impertinence of her implied age by the use of such a formal greeting. “May I sit?” Ann was momentarily stunned as she looked at the imposing figure standing before her. She had always remarked how effortlessly smart she always looked, the perfectly tailored dresses she wore and the balanced makeup. Ann always felt that it looked like she had rushed to put her ensembles together, and mostly they consisted of a simple dress and a light dab of makeup just to bring some colour to her cheeks. Mariana Lawton always looked like she had been put together by a team of stylists, no wonder she and Anne had been together for so long.
“Of course, yes.” She finally managed after she had stopped staring. She tried to make space on the small table as she folded up her notebook and closed the open books in front of her, placing the note back where she had found it last night. Mariana spied the blue envelope poking out from between the pages immediately, “That looks-” there was a distinct pause as she eyed it more carefully. Ann waited for her to finish her sentence, she flicked her head up with a smile, “Interesting.” Her shoulders slumped a little, she wasn’t sure what she had expected her to say but she hoped it might be a little helpful although she didn’t know why it should be. She gave a dismissive wave of her hand, “It’s nothing, really. Just something I found, I’m not sure if it’s even for me or someone else.”
She hated how ridiculous she must have sounded. She had already spent most of last night and today reading and re-reading the note with no progress on knowing who the intended recipient or writer was. “It looks like something to me,” Mariana replied as she took a sip of her drink. “Your coffee’s getting cold.” She nodded towards the small cup in front of Ann. “It’s a Piccolo, I hope that’s alright.” Ann couldn’t help look a little puzzled, she had only recently started drinking coffee to help her stay awake during the morning briefings and her knowledge stretched as far as knowing she liked the gold capsule in her machine.
Mariana caught the look of confusion, how did Anne put up with this girl? “It’s a small flat white,” she offered. Ann nodded and picked the coffee up, although that didn’t really help much in her understanding. She made sure she smiled and made all the right noises when she took her first taste. She didn’t have to pretend too much, it tasted delicious, but she was sure she would have trouble sleeping tonight given how much caffeine she’d already consumed. “Maybe I can help?”
Ann looked up at Mariana who was still showing interest in the note. She thought for a moment, she didn’t think it could hurt. She was no nearer to knowing any more about it. She wasn’t sure why it was bothering her so much, only the person who wrote it sounded so vulnerable. They were putting their feelings out there in the hope that they would be reciprocated. Even if the words weren’t for her she wanted to make sure they got to the intended person. It couldn’t hurt to have someone else’s opinion on it so she pulled the envelope out and handed it carefully to Mariana.
She watched as her eyes moved across the page. Her expression gave nothing away. Ann felt that if anyone had watched her when she’d first read the letter all of her emotions would have been on display. That was probably another reason why she and Anne had been together for so long, she was sensible. She didn’t let her emotions overwhelm her and there was no way Mariana Lawton would have spent the last 24 hours worrying about some random note she’d found in an old book. “It’s silly I know. I just hate thinking that the person it’s meant to be for is somewhere out there, and they’ve never read it. What if they don’t know that there’s this person waiting for them? What if they want to cross the street too?” Mariana’s eyes lifted briefly at the sound of longing in her voice.
Unless she was a very slow reader Ann thought she must have read the note at least three times before she finally looked up. “You’re quite the romantic aren’t you Miss Walker?” She placed the note back down on the table. Ann shrank a little, she felt even more foolish now that she’d actually told someone else about the letter, and Mariana Lawton of all people. If Anne ever heard about this she’d die of embarrassment. Her gaze fell to the floor, she wanted Mariana to make her excuses and leave and forget she’d even bothered to waste her time on something so frivolous.
“I think you’re right.” Ann’s head shot up. “Somewhere out there someone is falling for someone and they probably have no idea.” Her eyes lit up, this is exactly what she thought too, only how was she ever going to find out who? “Whomever it is has some very strong feelings.” Ann nodded eagerly. “If only it wasn’t typed, there could have at least been some clue in that, although I don’t know how you’d ever get samples of someone’s handwriting. Where did you find this?”
“In a book, about Halifax’s history. Thomas gave it to me.”
“Thomas?” Mariana asked in surprise.
“Yes, he said it came from Anne’s collection.” A tight smile formed across Mariana’s lips as she saw how her whole demeanour brightened at the mention of Anne. She nodded pensively, “That doesn’t really narrow it down.” Mariana turned her gaze away in apparent thought but truly she couldn’t stand the hopeful optimism sat opposite her as Ann practically bounced on her seat with excitement. “Perhaps there’s another note somewhere.” Ann’s mouth dropped open, she hadn’t thought about there being another note. “If this was one of Anne’s books then maybe there’ll be more in the office. Do you think you could look?”
Ann thought for a moment, she didn’t really have the time to search for a letter that didn’t exist since she had set herself on a crash course in Architecture. She wanted to find out who the letter belonged to and whether there was a happy ending. She supposed she was a romantic at heart. If she got James to help her she might be able to do it without her work suffering too much. She found herself nodding vigorously. “I’ll take that as a yes then?”