(February 3rd, 1944)
When Fern looked into the mirror, she could hardly recognize the person staring back at her. Her long brown hair, which was usually held in place with a simple ribbon, was now swept up in an elegant bun, and her lips were painted a deep red colour. The satin white dress that she was wearing had only ever been worn once before- by her mother, on her wedding day.
There was a knock on her door which shook Fern out of her reverie. She cleared her throat and said “Come in”, hoping that it would not be evident that she had been close to tears.
The man who walked in was dishevelled, and he was gasping as though he had been running. Fern offered him a glass of water and a chair to sit on.
“Why are you here, Scott?” she asked calmly, even as her heart started beating in an increasingly fast pace.
“Fern, I’ve come to take you home. You don’t belong with anyone else but me and you know that.” His blue eyes were sparkling the same way they always did. He hadn’t changed a bit.
“I haven’t seen you in forever. I didn’t know you would ever come back.”
“I promised you I would, didn’t I? I asked you to wait, I told you I would never break my promise..”
“I did wait, Scott. I waited for the longest time, I wrote you every day, and you never wrote back, I tried to telephone you on that number you provided and there was no response. What else was I supposed to think other than that you were gone for good?”
“Explanations can wait, Fern, I will tell you everything. But right now, you have to come with me. We’ll run away together like we always planned.”
“Scott, I can’t simply run away on my wedding day.”
“Why not? Do you love that man at all? That widower you’re about to marry?”
“I..I’ve only met him once. He seems like a good enough man..mother and father are fond of him, and..”
“Do you love him, Fern? Will you ever love him the way I know you love me? I know you won’t, because I know you. You belong to me, and I, to you. I have a big house now, and cooks and servants, and you would never have to lift a finger. We can go for holidays wherever and whenever you like. Fern, I will give you absolutely everything. I can ensure that we live a good life, can he do that? The newspaper man? You’ll only always be the second wife to him. And he won’t be able to provide you half the things I do. Would you really be willing to live an unhappy life with someone that you know absolutely nothing about?”
Scott inched closer to Fern and placed his hands on her waist.
“Do you remember all the plans we made? How we would talk for hours and dream about how happy we would be? I know you remember all of it. I know that you want this as much as I do.”
“I..” began Fern, as there was another knock on the door. She began to panic but Scott calmly went to open the door. Much to her dismay, her bridegroom was standing there and asked to be allowed entry.
He turned to Scott with an unreadable expression on his face and said “May I have a word alone with the lady?”
Scott turned to Fern and said “I’ll wait for you outside” as he stepped out of the room.
“Thomas, I can explain..” began Fern. She could not fathom her feelings at the moment. Getting out of bed this morning had been hard enough, and now, she was facing a situation more difficult than she could have ever expected. All she had wanted was to get through the day; she would keep her fake smile plastered on her face, and dutifully do whatever she was asked. After today, she would be a married woman, and no-one would pester her about doing the deed anymore.
How could she have ever imagined that Scott would return, and that too, on this particular day? She had tried so hard to forget him and had finally succeeded at it too. And yet now, he was waiting outside her door, waiting for her to call off the wedding and run away with him.
Thomas fished out an old picture from his pocket and showed it to Fern. It was a picture of a little boy.
“I always carry this picture with me, but never show it to anyone. It’s not a story that I like to tell, but that is my son, Ezekiel. He was only 3 years old when he died of pneumonia. After he died, my wife no longer had the will to live; she would not speak or eat or even look at me. The only time that she did talk to me, she said that she had never loved me, and now that Ezekiel was gone, she had no reason to live. After both my son and wife passed away, I was filled with regret and self-hatred..”
He continued “I’m not sure why I felt the need to come in here and tell you that I once had a child that I loved and lost. All I know is that the very last thing I want is to be the cause for another person’s sorrow because I have felt sorrow of the worst kind. I don’t know who that man I just saw was, and I don’t know what your intentions are, but whatever it is that you decide, I will not get in your way. Even though we have only met once, I want you to have a life filled with happiness. I was filled with a rather fanciful idea that this was a new chance for me to make someone happy, but it was wrong of me to think that any two people’s idea of happiness may be the same. That is all I’ve come here to say.”
“What is your idea of happiness?” asked Fern.
“ A kindred soul” Thomas answered simply. He placed the picture back in his pocket and made to leave.
Fern looked at the tall man with sad eyes who had thus far been a stranger to her.
“Have you ever heard it being said that it’s bad luck for a groom to see a bride before the wedding?” Fern asked Thomas.
He replied “Yes, I’m awfully sorry about that..”
“Well, I’m not. I’ve always thought it was a ridiculous notion.”
There was a smile on Fern’s face, and for Thomas, it was the most beautiful thing he had seen in a long time.