Anne was pleasantly surprised when she received a basket of fruit and a note from Miss Ann Walker of Crow Nest. She was hoping it was something to brighten up her rather dull day. She had been working on the estate with the men uprooting all the hedges. She was sick of the places looking like an old farm. She preferred to make it more like a park land. Yet, her sister, Marian, constantly reminded her it was an old farm.
She stood up and went to her study. Place the basket of fruit on the table and opened up the note. It read:
Dearest, So sorry, to have disturbed you while you are busy. I just want to say that your love is the best gift anyone has given me in this life. I only hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive me for what I am going to do. Take care and go on fearlessly. Yours affectionately & faithfully, Ann. Walker.
Anne’s mouth dropped open. She felt tears welling in the corners of her eyes. She had to find Ann. To stop her from doing what she planned. She didn’t know where she was and couldn’t slow her mind down so she could think where Ann could be so she could go to find her.
She raced down the stairs and was out the front door before anyone could ask where she was going. It was going to be hard to find her. She knew it only took her 25 minutes to walk to Crow Nest but that could be 25 minutes too long. She may have done the deed already and Anne knew she couldn’t live without the woman who held her heart in her hands. Why should she have to do that?
As she rushed to get over to Crow Nest she called Catherine Rawson. Maybe her cousin would know what was happening. Catherine answered on the first ring. Hi Anne, what’s up?’ Catherine said. Anne Lister rarely called her and when she did it had always something to do with Ann. ‘Ann sent me a basket of fruit with a note that implies she is going to….well…you know.’
‘No, I don’t know, Anne. Spit it out. Tell me.’
‘I don’t’ want to say it lest it comes true. I want to know if you have seen Ann today or yesterday.’ Anne said with panic in her voice. ‘I was at Crow Nest yesterday morning. She seemed fine then. She was happy. Although, she did say Eliza and William Priestley were going to be visiting that afternoon. Darn! I should have stayed.’
‘You think they said something to her about her and me.’
‘I think they might have. Where are you?’
‘About ten minutes from Crow Nest. I am walking. I needed to think. Will you meet me there?’ Anne said as she looked up and saw Crow Nest in the distance. ‘I’m on my way. See you there, Anne.’
Anne rapped on the door so hard she thought she would put her fist through it. James answered. ‘Do you know where Miss Walker is?’
‘She said she was going into town to get some more paints and brushes. She said she had planned to meet you at the local cafe for lunch. So, why are you here?’
‘We made no such plans, James. She sent me a note with a basket of fruit this morning.’
‘Yes, I delivered it to you. She said it was a present. That’s what I told Cordingley when she took it from me. Is that what she told you?’
‘Yes, then I read the note. It’s not the kind of gift I would like to get from anyone.’
‘Do you have the note with you? Can I read it?’ She handed it to James and he read it. He was shocked. Then he remembered what Eliza had said to Ann yesterday. He just happened to be passing the sitting room. ‘Mrs Priestley told Miss Walker that she would go to hell if she continued seeing you and that you would too. It seems she didn’t want to break up with you. So, she thought this was her best option.’
‘Not for me it isn’t. We need to find her as quickly as we can. Who knows what she has done to herself.’ Then Catherine appeared. ‘What’s happening?’
‘We need to find Miss Walker.’ James handed Catherine the note and she read it. ‘Shit. This isn’t right. Why should Ann be forced to suffer because of our relatives? I don’t understand why they continually harass her because she loves you, Anne.’
‘James said she went to get paints and brushes and then we were going to meet at the cafe for lunch. It is 10.45 now. What time did she leave?’
‘Around 10AM Miss Lister.’
‘Come on, Catherine. Let’s see if we can track her down. I want her to know that no matter what your relatives have said to her I still want to be with her and that God loves us and we won’t go to hell.’
‘Okay! Let’s go!’ They climbed into Catherine’s car and drove into town. Catherine parked her car outside Whitley’s. Anne thought she saw her but when she turned around it was someone else with blond hair.
They walked to the arts and crafts store which was next to Whitley’s and asked the manager if she had seen Ann. ‘Yes, she was in here ten minutes ago. She bought paints and brushes. She seemed sad. I asked her if she was okay. She only muttered something under her breath which I didn’t understand. She paid for her paints and brushes but left them behind.’
‘Can I take them?’ Anne asked. Catherine looked on in shock. Ann never buys something and leaves it behind. ‘Yes!’ She handed the package to Anne who looked in the bag. There were four tubes of paint and five brushes of various sizes. ‘Did she say where she was going?’ Catherine asked. She was hoping she said the cafe. ‘No, she walked out and went down the street towards the park. She seemed as though she was contemplating something. She kept fiddling with a ring she had on her finger.’
‘Goodness. Isn’t that the park with the duck pond?’
‘Yes, it is!’ Anne and Catherine raced out the door. They jumped into Catherine’s car and Catherine drove them to the park. They couldn’t see Ann anywhere. They searched the park. Anne looked into the duck pond. Nothing! She was nowhere to be seen. Anne called Marian. She answered on the first ring. ‘Hi! Is Ann there?’
‘Well, she is but she isn’t.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ Anne said angrily.
‘Don’t shoot the messenger. I am just telling you what she told me. She is sobbing so hard. She said her family don’t think she and you should be together. She came here to talk to someone. Only I think she really wanted to see you but you raced out before we had a chance to ask you where you were going.’
‘Sorry, Marian. I didn’t think. I was hoping to catch Ann at Crow Nest but I missed her there and at the art supplies store and the park. We are on our way back home now.’
‘Who’s with you?’ Marian asked. ’She doesn’t want anyone to see her like this.’
‘Just a minute.’ Marian relayed the message to Ann. ’Come home now. She needs you here, please.’ Then Marian heard a car door slam then another. Anne raced into the hall. She found Ann sobbing with her head in her hands.
‘What’s the matter, Adney? Why did you send me this note this morning?” Anne handed the note to Ann.’ Why are you here?’ Ann read the note. She could remember writing it but she didn’t know what she wrote. She didn’t have the courage to speak. She couldn’t. it wasn’t possible. Anne knelt down in front of her. Catherine sat next to her and wrapped her arms around Ann. ‘Adney, speak to me. We can deal with this together. You don’t need to face your tribe alone. James told me what Eliza said. He couldn’t help but hear her words.’ When Ann heard that Anne knew what Eliza had said she spoke. ’Anne, I didn’t want you to think I don’t want to be with you. I just wanted. I don’t know now what I wanted it. I didn’t want you to be hurt.’
‘Well, I am hurting, Adney. I am in so much pain it is unbearable to think that you didn’t call me. All I got from you was this note. Tell me you weren’t going to end your life.’ Aunt Anne was in shock. ‘Why, Little Ann, would you do that? We would miss you so much. You are an important member of our family now. We are looking forward to the day you move into Shibden to live with us.’
Ann held Anne for a moment then she stood up. She walked over to where Aunt Anne was sitting. She gave her a hug. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, Aunt.’ Aunt Anne looked at her and wondered how often her tribe had treated her so badly that she wanted to end her life. ’That’s okay. Promise me if this happens again you will call Anne and talk to her.’
‘I will!’ Then she walked back over to Anne and Catherine, who had been crying. She didn’t want to lose her cousin because of the stupid actions of their tribe. Ann hugged Catherine. ‘Thanks for helping Anne search for me. I really do appreciate that you care about me. I wish other family members did.’
‘That’s okay. I think it is about time we did something about Eliza. She is an interfering busy body.’ Catherine said.
‘I think I know the one person who can do that. Do you want to call your granny, Catherine?’ Catherine called mother Rawson. ‘Hi Catherine, what’s up?’
‘Can you come to Shibden Hall now? We have a family situation we know only you can deal with. There will be a night out on the town with Anne, Ann and me if you come now.’ Even though Nelly Rawson was rich she loved being treated to a night out that she didn’t have to pay for. ‘On my way right now.’
Twenty minutes later there was a loud knock on the front door. Cordingley answered. It was Nelly. Cordningley showed her into the sitting room where everyone was waiting. She looked at Ann and Catherine. She could see they had been crying. ‘What’s the matter with you, Ann? Why the tears?’ Nelly said as she sat beside her. Ann didn’t know how to tell her what Eliza had said. So Anne told Nelly. ‘That’s why we need you to help them. Ann is fed up with Eliza sticking her nose into their life and trying to keep them apart.’ Catherine said. ‘She should realise how vulnerable Ann is. Only she doesn’t seem to care. We would like you to fix it so Eliza keeps her nose out of our business and stops telling Ann she is going to hell when she dies. We both know who is if she keeps this up.’ Anne said.
Nelly reached into her handbag for her phone and she promptly called Eliza who didn’t answer because she knew why she was calling and didn’t want to hear about it. So, Nelly called William who answered on the first ring. He also knew why Nelly was calling but thought if he didn’t answer she would pester him until he did.
‘Hi Mrs Rawson. What’s up?’
‘Put me on speaker phone. If she won’t answer her phone I will talk to her through your phone, William.’ Eliza left the room. ‘She left the room and probably won’t return until I hang up.’
‘I thought she would do that. We need to go to plan b. Are you going anywhere today?’ Nelly asked. William knew what she was going to say. ’Not that I know of! I won’t tell her you are coming. Only that will probably put me in the dog house for a week.’
‘Can you deal with that because Anne is fed up with her putting crazy ideas into Ann’s head to the point that she has no option but to end her life?’
‘I didn’t know it was that bad. I will make sure she is here when you get here. Okay!! Are you coming now?’
‘Yes and I am bringing Anne, Ann and Catherine, Aunt Anne and Marian. They all want to hear her apologise to Ann for her nasty vile comments. See you in a few.’ Nelly disconnected the call. ‘We are all going to New House then out for lunch on me.’ Everyone nodded. They all climbed into Nelly’s limo and they were taken over to New House. Harry answered the door and let them in. William was in the sitting room waiting for them. Eliza wasn’t there. ‘Where is your wife, William?’ Nelly said as she looked around the room. She could see someone had left in a hurry. There was knitting on the sofa with a half completed row and a ball of yarn at the door where it had finally been dropped by Eliza. ‘Someone left in a hurry. Where do you think she could be, William?’
‘She might be in the garden. That’s where she likes to go when she wants to escape from me.’
‘Do you know where she goes?’
‘No!’ William said. ‘But I always find her on the porch when she is ready to be with me again.’
‘What should we do?’ Anne asked. She didn’t understand why it had come to this. ‘Look for her.’ Nelly said. I will wait her with your Aunt. They searched the garden and found Eliza sitting on a bench near the fence her head in her hands and tears streaming down her face. She hadn’t realised how much her comments from yesterday had affected Ann. Ann sat next to her and held her that was all she could do. Eliza tried so hard to say sorry but her tears wouldn’t allow her to do that. Catherine handed her a hankie and she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. ‘I’m so sorry, Ann. I didn’t imagine you would try to end your life so you wouldn’t hurt Anne. Only we both know she would be hurt so badly she would probably end her life.’ Eliza said.
‘Well, Nelly wants to see you right now. Come on. You need to hear what she has to say.’ Anne said. They walked back up to the house and found Nelly and Aunt Anne chatting in the sitting room. ‘Yeah, I know what you are going to say to me, Mrs Rawson but do tell me.’
‘Eliza, we all know you care about Ann but you go about it the wrong way. Anne Lister loves your cousin and wants to marry her soon. They would both like you to be there. It would be a blessing to them and in future remember love is love no matter who loves who.’ Eliza turned to Anne and Ann who were hugging. Anne kissed her wife on the cheek then pulled Eliza in for a hug. Eliza had spouted words yesterday which she was regretting today. She turned to Ann who was watching her wondering what Eliza would do next. Eliza reached out and hugged Ann. She felt bad about what she did and if Anne and Ann still wanted her to be there she would come to their wedding. ‘Yes, please do.’ Ann said. ‘After all you are family and family is important to Anne and me.’ Ann’s words made Eliza cry again. She didn’t know Anne and Ann felt that way about her after what she had said about Anne. ‘Forgiveness is soul healing. We need to forgive you so we can move on. Life is too short to hold grudges. So, we try not to do that,’ Anne and Ann said. Eliza smiled again. ‘You forgive me for all I have done to try and keep you two apart. Thank you. I will never forget this.’
‘Well, let’s go out and celebrate. Come on, we will pick up Mr Lister on our way.’ Nelly said.
‘Will there be enough room in your limo for all of us?’
‘I am sure we can make room. I guess someone will need to sit on her wife’s lap.’ Nelly said as she smiled at Anne and Ann. Ann was heard to say when they returned home to Shibden. ‘I can’t remember when I’ve spent so pleasant an evening. Everyone agreed. Ann decided to stay at Shibden. As she crawled into bed next to Anne that night she felt she could finally relax. They smiled. Soon they would be married and Shibden would be Ann’s new home. .