I am pleased to present the final part of Biding Her Time, my first winning short story which was published in Writing Magazine last year. Thank you for all your kind and positive words about Part One of the story posted yesterday. Again, enjoy and I look forward to your comments.
BIDING HER TIME – Part Two
“Sir, he’s the brightest of us all, well, nearly, apart from Queenie of course.”
Sympathetic eyes scanned in her direction then back to the front.
“Sir, he is going to university. To be a doctor. He always said so.”
“Well, that was true. Life has changed suddenly for him and as the eldest he is starting work on his uncle’s boat tomorrow. You will all understand, I know,” replied the teacher, staring into space, to the space usually occupied by Thomas.
Without warning Queenie stood up. The chair screeched against the floor and as silently as she arrived that morning, she left, heading out into the warm sunshine. A warmth that failed to reach the chill in her heart. She did understand. His sorrow, at the loss of his father and his dream. Queenie shook with the realisation of her own loss of Thomas. Their future. Thomas and his lively exuberant presence and his kindness. All gone.
She saw him later that day, on top of the highest outcrop of rocks on the island. Look Out Point they’d all called it, playing pirates, fighting off the invaders. Thomas stood still but she could see the battle within him.There was a new firmness in his stance and a grim determination set on his face. With a start he shook himself out of his reverie and finally spotted Queenie. He nodded briefly, his eyes black with grief, then turned for home.
The following months and years passed somberly for Queenie. Her joyful singing became the hushed hum of insects, her skipping metamorphosed into a considered mature step. She walked out with a couple of boys, respectable boys, in her father’s opinion. “Not like that Thomas,” he would add. “He doesn’t go to church anymore. He even drinks, I hear,” he would comment in disgust.
Queenie retreated to her studies, but the competitive excitement had long since evaporated. The classroom shrank in around her and her legs became numb, squashed under the small desk cubicle.
“You can’t let him go so easily, Queenie,” Betty reiterated. Betty, her friend at nursing school and who, since learning of her love for Thomas, had made it her personal mission to unite the two.
“You must fight for him. We’ll sort something out,” she said with conviction.
“My father. His disapproval…” said Queenie.
“You and Thomas will win that with time. You’ll see.”
Queenie was becoming colder by the minute. For over an hour the North Sea wind had whipped around her ankles, trying to raise her long marine blue skirt. Her new high heel boots caught unnervingly on the rough cobblestones of the quay and she tiptoed precariously between the minefield of trawls, which were strewn chaotically alongside.
Seeking shelter by a red fisherman’s hut, its paint peeling, she pulled her new tailored jacket around her.
“Ten more minutes,” Queenie muttered under her breath. She had already waited for nearly two hours and the bunch of wild flowers she had picked fondly that morning had started to wilt. She gave them a quick shake as if hoping to revive them then laughed at her own foolishness.
Had something happened to Thomas’s trawler? Why were they the last?
A sudden gust of wind lifted her new hat and its delicate blue feather fluttered in the breeze. She heard the soft ping of hat pins hitting the stones and scanning around she located them. Securing the hat again, she failed to notice the wooden vessel approaching the harbour. It lay low in the water, laden with herring, as the captain skilfully steered between the harbour walls.
All onboard gawped at the astonishing sight of the stylishly clad woman on the quay, standing incongruously amongst the lobster pots and wooden boxes. Shielding her eyes, Queenie looked up quickly and scoured the deck for Thomas. She could not find him. Thomas had no such difficulty and called out to her but his shout of “Queenie!” was lost amidst the raucous cheers from the crew.
Minutes later, Thomas was able to climb down onshore and quickly he dashed after the now retreating figure of Queenie.
“Queenie?” he whispered reverentially.
“Queenie!” This time he shouted louder. She turned and waved, tossing the flowers to the side.
God, he’d missed her. That smile.
Rushing up to her, he stopped breathlessly and stared.
“Queenie. You are so beautiful. You’re all grown up.”
She laughed. “Of course, so have you.”
“What are you doing down here? What a coincidence. A wonderful one, mind,” said Thomas in awe.
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” Again that smile
“Would you like to meet for coffee later?” asked Thomas boldly. “Once I’ve changed out of all this,” he added as he gestured to his bright orange oilskin clothes.
“I’d like to very much. Thank you,” said Queenie.
At that moment Thomas realised this woman was destined to be his wife. She just didn’t know it yet.
© Annika Perry