Chapter 14 - Their Future Together: Future and Past
Peter was helping April’s father with the chores on this final morning. He was only able to do limited things with his hand still bandaged. He thanked Mr. Treed again for accepting him and allowing him to stay this week.
"Peter, you have proven your worth to me this week as a man and as a suitor for my daughter."
Peter was shocked and surprised and managed to say, "Thank you sir."
“Speaking of suitors, I am assuming correctly that you are serious about my daughter…”
“Yes,” Peter replied. “Very much so, sir. In fact I wanted to ask your permission about a couple of things. My siblings and I always visit my parents’ mid-way through each school term. It is just a short train ride to the other side of London. They very much want to meet April. Can she go with us?”
Mr. Treed thought about that and asked a few questions about how long they would be there, who would be in the home, and sleeping arrangements. “Peter, I have trusted you thus far with my daughter, I will trust you again while she is at school and at your home. You must understand that part of being an adult in this world means responsibility. Your feelings for my daughter make you responsible for her well-being both physically, emotionally and in some respects spiritually.”
“Since the day I met her, I have felt responsible for her. It is sobering knowing that you and she trust me to care for her. But, feeling as I do, I could not do otherwise. I will do my best to keep that trust.”
Mr. Treed nodded then changed the subject. Peter was surprised by the turn of the conversation.
"What are planning to make of your life, Peter?"
Peter blinked, "I thought I would go into business sir, perhaps banking."
"Well, that might do, but I think your maturity and skills in working with 'difficult' people," he grinned at this, "Might be better served elsewhere."
At Peter's questioning look he said, "Have you thought about being a diplomat or working in parliament? I shouldn't suggest this, since it might mean you would have to travel and probably will take my daughter with you. But, I think that would suit you well.”
“Thank you sir, I will consider it. There is something I would wish you to consider, sir. May I make a request of you?”
April was in the kitchen silently helping her mother fix breakfast. She was indeed grumpy. She hated saying goodbye to her family and she felt the week with Peter ending like a weight on her chest. She sighed. Her mother looked at her strangely.
“April, there is something I have wanted to talk with you about this week, but never found the right moment. I am not sure this is that moment, but I have run out of time. I need you to be very careful around Peter.”
“Mother?” asked April, “Whatever do you mean?”
“You and I haven’t talked about this, but I know your grandmother did. You and he are very close and yet you are so young, I just don’t want you getting closer than you should and do something you might regret,” Miranda said haltingly.
“Mom,” April said, exasperated, “Grandmother covered all this, too much sometimes. And, Peter and I have already talked. You have nothing to worry about.” April started setting the table more forcefully than normal, her annoyance showing.
“You and Peter have discussed this? That is not appropriate!” scolded her mother.
April checked on Elisa, she was playing with her paper dolls in the living area. She lowered her voice and said pointedly, “If we are not supposed to be doing something, how do we not do it, by NOT talking about it?”
Miranda sighed, “My mother never talked with me about it and I got in trouble. I just want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake.”
“Mum, I don’t understand, how could Grandmother not have talked to you and what on earth are you talking about?”
Her mother called Elisa in and asked her to go to the gardens and pick some flowers for the table. She gave her a basket and then shooed her out the door to the back gardens. She asked April to sit down.
“I told you I trained as a nurse under Dr. Brown. What I didn’t tell you was that there was a young doctor just out of medical school that came to join his practice to take over when Dr. Brown retired. He was charming, and charismatic and so very handsome. Similar to Peter, but without his depth of character. He courted me and we spent countless hours together laughing and talking. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. It was the happiest time of my life. Not knowing what the physical relationship between us should be, he crossed small barrier after small barrier until…well, I knew we were getting married and thought it didn’t matter. He said he loved me and I wanted so badly to make him happy. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t right, but I ignored those inner warnings. A few weeks later I went to work and he was gone. He left me a note that said he was sorry but he had found someone more ‘his type' and that I would never see them again. He had run off with one of my good friends and he was right, I have never seen them since.”
“Oh, Mom, I’m sorry, I had no idea…were you…did you get...?”
“I’ve never told anyone April. And, no, thank goodness, I did not carry his child! Your father had always admired me and even in my shame offered me his love and protection. I married him and grew to love him over time. But, living with regret is something I do not wish for you. Not a day doesn’t go by when I wished I had said no. He would have left, I know that now, and I think I knew it then, but I wish I had been stronger.”
“Mom, Peter is not like that, you know he isn’t!”
“I do know that April, but I just want you to be careful…And, you also need to remember that Peter has the mind of a thirty year old man. He is going to think differently than you and is very ready for marriage. Just be sure that you are ready too and don’t let him push you into things you are not ready or prepared for. Nor, do I not want you to abandon the dream you have worked so hard for, just to be with him.
Peter was all smiles when he and her father walked into the kitchen. April wondered what they had been talking about. Peter met her eyes from across the room and they had promise and hope in them. She knew hers were full of doubt and sadness and she dropped his gaze quickly.
They ate mostly in silence then gathered their things. She hugged Elisa tight and promised to write her a letter. She hugged her father and whispered, “Thank you, Daddy” in his ear. She had a new found respect for him after what her mother had shared. She didn’t think poorly of her mother at all. She had tasted a small bit of temptation herself and could see how easy it would be to give in. She hugged her mom and said, "I love you Mom. Thanks for everything this week,” smiling at her.
Peter was very gracious in his farewells, even swinging Elisa above his head, which she thought was great fun. Then they were walking down the road towards the train station. He took her bag and smiled at her. She had a hard time meeting his eyes. If she had been looking, she would have seen his eyes narrow in concern.
They were a bit early for the train so Peter settled her in the station and said he had a quick errand to run. He was gone for awhile but she was so preoccupied with her thoughts, she didn’t think to ask where he went. In the next moment they boarded the train. It was more crowded this time, but they found two seats together.
Before the train could leave the station he turned to her, “Now, are you going to tell me what you are thinking about?”
She looked up in wonder, how did he know her so well? “I’m thinking about what my mother talked with me about this morning, while you were helping with the chores.”
At Peter’s prompting and encouraging, she finally very softly, so no one else would hear, got the entire story out. He whistled in surprise and amazement and seemed concerned but yet pleased that her mother did not think him capable of such duplicity.
“Peter?” April started hesitantly, “She also said that I might be a little ‘young’, mentally that is, for you. Do you notice that often?”
He looked at her in total shock, “April, you are not one of the silly giggly girls that I cannot abide. You are very intelligent and mature. I wouldn't be here if i didn't think we were compatible. Please don’t ever think that I want you to be different!”
Leaning closer he said softly putting the emphasis on each of his words, “I love you just the way you are!”
She smiled and sighed in relief, to her amazement he asked, “Now, this could go the other way. Do I act too old for you, maybe you would want someone younger, more fun?” he winked at her.
She laughed and said, “Never in a million years!” But, then she sobered again. “Mom thought I might need to give up my dream of dancing in order to be with you.”
“Do you want to give up your dream? Does it have to be one or the other?” She shook her head no while he was asking the questions. “Good!” he said, taking her hand and kissing her fingers, “Because I am planning on your doing both!”
“Now that we have that settled,” said Peter. “Let me tell you what I talked with your father about…”
He proceeded to tell her about the planned trip into London with his brother and sisters to meet his parents. She became very excited and nervous all at the same time. He laughed aside her concerns and mentioned the ballet.
“Do you think? Could you take me by the Royal Opera House, so I could see it?”
“Of course, I was even wondering if you might like to go and see a performance…”
She got excited again. She was just settling down when the train began to slow and then halted suddenly. They and the rest of the passengers began looking around nervously. They were not at a station and there were not many stops on this route. The conductor came through and explained about a breakdown at the junction up ahead. They would be delayed for a while. He gave them permission to get off the train as long as they didn’t wander far. The train would whistle when it was ready to leave.
Peter gathered their bags and they stepped off the train. They were in a large meadow with trees around. The sun was getting lower in the sky. They sat on their bags and ate the lunch that Miranda had packed for them. It was nice being outside with him, she was happy about the delay. It meant they had more time to spend together. They had two or three more hours in fact. The other passengers were restless and began pacing. Peter and April spent the time talking over the week trying to decide what their favorite parts were.
By the time the train whistle sounded it was dark and the passengers rushed to get back to their seats. Peter held April back until they were last in line. Right before they boarded he drew her into the shadows whispering, “I don’t know if I will get the chance to do this later,” and he kissed for the briefest of moments.