TRUE LOVE IS CONSTANT
A Short Story by
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TRUE LOVE IS CONSTANT © Bronwyn Houldsworth 2017
Published by Bronwyn Houldsworth and Ocean Reeve Publishing
‘Down with love!’
‘That would be Ewan McGregor, Renée Zellweger. Two thousand and three.’
‘No, Babs, not the movie. We’re talking about my life. My depressing, miserable life. My stinker of an ex-husband and all those losers I’ve been dating.’
‘Shame, I was hoping you’d perhaps care to celebrate love. Help organise the wedding anniversary dinner for Mum and Dad. You knowcommemorate their loving partnership.’
‘What, me the man-hater? Not likely. I hereby delegate the arranging of the celebrations to you. I’ll put in an appearance at the dinner. I owe that, at least, to Mum and Dad. That will be quite sufficient. You’ll know what’s requiredyou believe in love, for heaven’s sake! You’re the one with the perfect marriage, pigeon pair kiddies, ideal husband.’
‘An ideal husband. Oscar Wilde. First made as a movie in’
‘Shut up! Good grief, how James puts up with you I do not know! It must be like being married to a quiz contestant. You always were a total know-all.’
‘Yes, and I can tell you that this year’s anniversary is called the blue sapphire anniversary.’
‘Sixty-five years! How do they do it? I couldn’t even manage eight years, could I? And then the so and so takes off with his sodding secretary. And I don’t even have any kids to show for all those wasted years. Or a healthy bank balance, for that matter.’
‘Aw, somewhere out in the dating jungle there’s a man for you, Eva. After all, you’re a very good looking blonde, almost as attractive as me. You’ve just gotta give it time.’
‘Time? It’s been eleven years since he bolted! My biological clock’s well and truly wound down, and I’ve just about given up on finding anyone. The losers I’ve dated… How does anyone stay married for sixty-five years? Or you and James for that matternearly thirty years, isn’t it? How do you do it?’
‘Well, with James and me it’s based on pure animal lust.’ Barbara wiggled her eyebrows at her sister. ‘Eva, come on, it’ll be fun. We’ll share the work. Think of the looks on Mum and Dad’s faces. We’ll make it a really big deal. Their original attendants. The female ones, anyway. I think the men are all dead.’
‘And on that cheerful note, ladies and gentlemen… Gee, it’s going to be a barrel of laughs on the night.’
‘So you will help?’
Eva sighed. ‘What choice do I have? You’ve always steamrollered me into things. Okay. You win.’
‘See,’ said Barbara, ‘it’s the perfect place for a celebratory dinner. The river, the big trees, and the beautiful old mansion.’
‘But it’s a wedding venue. Not wedding anniversary‘
‘Look, kiddo, it’s ideal. Just made for a blue sapphire wedding anniversary celebration. This brochure says they can seat up to two hundred people.’
‘Two hundred? Who’s paying for this shindig?’
‘We are. You and me.’
‘Are you crazy? Two hundred guests? It’ll cost a fortune!’
‘Not necessarily. See, we could whittle it down to seventy or eighty. It can’t hurt to check it out, anyway.’
Reluctantly Eva accompanied Barbara to the front door of the converted stately old home. She had to admit it looked beautiful. The foyer, too, was decorated with taste and flair. If the rest of the property…
They rang the bell on the reception desk.
‘Just a mo-ment!’
‘That’s a very gay-sounding voice,’ Eva muttered.
Barbara stared threateningly at her sister, as a handsome man of fifty or so burst through the swing door behind the counter. Grey hairrather like George Clooney’s. Tanned and athletic looking, and clad in a very flamboyant flowered shirt and tight blue jeans. Abs of steel, too, Eva noticed, but that shirt and the gold link bracelet rather marred the total effect. Bright pink and orange flowers on the shirt. What was he thinking? Yes, definitely gay.
‘What can I do for you ladies?’
Barbara smiled at the man. ‘We’re in the early stages of organising a blue sapphire wedding anniversary dinner for our parents. Could you give us a price list and show us around? I’m Barbara Roberts. This is my sister Eva. Eva Watson.’ She held out her hand and he shook it, then he moved on to Eva.
‘Tim Cotterell.’ His handshake was surprisingly firmnot what Eva had expected. And what beautiful brown eyes he had. What a waste. Why were the good ones always…
‘This way. I’ll show you the rooms first. How many would you want to cater for? I presume a sit-down dinner?’
‘Ah,’ said Barbara. ‘We haven’t compiled the guest list as yet, but I’d imagine about seventy or eighty. Hopefully we could hold it right on the actual date of their sixty-fifth anniversary, which is Wednesday the fourth of September.’
‘That’s eight months away. Booking this early for a mid-week dinner, you qualify for a discount. This is the first of two rooms that might suit.’ Tim opened double doors with a dramatic flourish. ‘What do you think, Eva?’
‘It’s a beautiful room.’
‘Look at the view!’ Barbara exclaimed.
‘Now let me show you the other room.’
It was equally beautiful, with almost the same outlook.
‘Now, ladies, we’ll look at the gardens. You could have your guests gather there before dinner for cocktails and canapés, as the sun goes down.’
Barbara sighed. ‘You go ahead, Eva. My ankle is still giving me trouble. I’ll sit here quietly. I can see through the windows that the grounds are just perfect. So romantic. If you’d just fetch me the price list, Tim, and perhaps check the availability of either room for the fourth?’
‘Certainly, Babs.’ Tim rushed off to do Barbara’s bidding.
Eva turned to her sister. ‘Ankle? What ankle trouble would that be? Babs!’
Barbara had the grace to blush. ‘Just go out there with Tim, will you? All will be revealed.’
Tim was back, brandishing a leather-bound book, and handing Barbara a printed sheet of prices. ‘Both rooms are free on the fourth of September.’
He twirled an imaginary handlebar moustache, and smiled at Eva. ‘Come into the garden, Maud.’
Eva rolled her eyes. ‘Very well.’
Tim held out a hand to escort her through one of the french doors and out onto the wide verandah. ‘You like?’
She nodded. ‘I like.’
It truly was lovely. The photographs in the brochure gave only an indication of the garden’s beauty. Emerald green lawns, adorned with flowering trees and shrubs, swept down to the river’s edge, whose slow-flowing waters glinted in the afternoon sun.
He drew her down to a wooden bench, underneath a flaming poinciana. She took the opportunity to remove her hand from his arm.
‘All right,’ Eva said. ‘Now what’s going on? Really?’
Tim cleared his throat. ‘I know your sister. That is, I know James, because he sometimes plays in a band here, when one or other of the guitarists can’t make it for some reason. And through James I met Barbara, and discovered that she’s your sister.
‘I’ve admired you from afar for some time now. I’ve seen you aboutat the library, mostly. Usually I use the Peterborough library, as it’s closer, but one day I happened to call in at Greenslade, and there you were.’
He cleared his throat again, and seemed suddenly fascinated by the toes of his boots. ‘I…ah…have been calling in ever since, but you always seemed so busy and never looked up when I was around. I didn’t have the nerve to speak to you. Stupid, eh?’ He raised his dark brown eyes until his gaze met hers.
Willie Nelson eyes. That’s who they reminded her of.
‘But you’re gay, aren’t you? The way you dressand you’re a wedding organiser.’
‘Gosh, do I look that much of a cliché? I think you’ve seen too many movies.’
Eva shook her head. ‘No, Barbara’s the movie buff.’
‘I assure you, I’m not gay. Just so we’re clear. I dressed like this today because I wanted you to notice me. You never did at the library. My fault. I should have approached you, but I was scared to bits. Me! I’m the owner of this setupI have an apartment in the attic, by the wayI’m master of ceremonies, comforter of brides with panic attacks, mediator between deranged relatives. All that, and yet I lost my nerve whenever I thought I might try to talk to you.
‘I promise you that despite the c.v. just quoted, I’m a red-blooded heterosexual male who would love to get to know you. I’m clean in my habits, been widowed for nearly ten years, have two adults sons and one tiny granddaughter, and I just know we’d get along‘
‘How on earth can you possibly believe that? You don’t know me‘
‘Your sister has told me all about you.’
‘Yes, all about you! Warts and all.’
Eva chuckled. She realised, she was actually laughing. ‘I don’t have any warts!’
‘Well, that’s a relief! Neither do I, by the way.’ He winked.
Barbara rose unsteadily to her feet. ‘I give you, ladies and gentlemen, my parents John and Phyllis Picard. They have been wonderful parents to Eva and me, and have had a long and happy marriage. To their sixty-five years of wedded bliss. Their blue sapphire anniversary. I’m led to believe that the blue sapphire signifies constancy. Their sixty-five years together is the embodiment of that definition.’ She raised her glass.
‘And to Tim and Eva. May this, the first evening of their marriage, herald many years of wedded bliss for them as well. May their love for one another prove just as constant.’ She raised her glass once more. ‘To Tim and Eva.’
MORE IN THE SHORT STORY COLLECTION FROM
SPRING HAS SPRUNG
TRUE LOVE IS CONSTANT
IN THE SOUTHERN WILD
LOVE NEVER DIES
THERE’S NONE SO BLIND
I hope you enjoy these eight stories. They are all romances, with the exception of the dramatic In the Southern Wild which, nonetheless, has an upbeat ending.
Spring Has Sprung was a finalist in a national short story competition.
Falling Stars and Love Never Dies are fantasy. One day I hope to publish the medieval fantasy novel that is languishing in a bottom drawer.
Threading Pearls uses as its background some of the experiences of my maternal grandmother, who migrated to Australia from Argentina, as did my grandfather.
I’m a great believer in using family history as a springboard for my stories. It is amazing what you can find when you research your ancestors!
The last story, There’s None So Blind, appeared in the Romance Writers of Australia 2009 short story anthology, and was inspired by a court case in the late 18th century. It involved an ancestor. I discovered a detailed contemporary account of the proceedings in a legal book store in San Francisco. I’ve since undertaken a lot more research on this ancestor. Now there’s a novel of 111,000 words inspired by his story. It’s entitled “The Heart Has Its Reasons”.
“Bronwyn Houldsworth – Author”.
Historical romance novel
THE HEART HAS ITS REASONS
available soon at