Chapter Fourteen – Taking Stock
Around three in the morning, John, Margaret and Jowan finally returned to Betty’s cottage, all of them weary to the bone. Yet, all pressing and disturbing issues had been brought to a satisfactory end.
Jowan’s father was recuperating from his stroke which in the end, was not that severe. The doctors had every confidence of him leaving the hospital as soon as his vitals were back to normal. Mrs Thorn was back in her home and her sister, living nearby in a Leicestershire village had come to keep her company, whilst Mr Thorn was still in hospital.
Jowan now faced the problem of his father’s pub and he wasn’t happy about it.
“How am I going to do this?” he asked John when they all sat in the cottage’s kitchen where Betty, roused from a fitful dose on the settee, had provided them with tea and cookies to set them straight again.
John, who had problems of his own to deal with, hazarded a proposition.
“Well, you saw what I did in the pub, didn’t you? What would you say if I was to return there in the morning and in the days to follow and run it for you? I like Robert Duvalier. He deserves to be supported and therefore needs hands. The pub is seriously understaffed, Jowan. I gathered that there’s a large clientele at noon, and on Sundays, and also, on nights when they show sports on television. If you could hire an extra kitchen help and a man behind the counter, I could set them to work efficiently.”
“You would do that for me? That would be … well, splendid! I can’t get away from my duties at the hospital, and nor can Marjorie. Thanks, John! I agree on the staff issue and will see to it first thing tomorrow.”
The two men toasted their tea cups when a quiet voice interrupted them.
“And what about me? What am I to do with my time?”
Two pair of astonished male eyes turned in Margaret’s direction.
“I think I have the answer to that, dear,” Betty’s calm voice came. “You must accompany me when I do my voluntary work at the old people’s home in Leicester. There’s a great need of helping hands in every aspect of the caring for them, especially feeding them, an activity for which there’s a serious understaffing.”
“I would be allowed to do that?” Margaret asked, with bright eyes.
“Yes, of course. No financial compensation, I’m afraid. The home is in serious need of funds, although the National Health Service is doing what they can. But you, my dear, have the right skills and temperament for such a task, being compassionate and patient as you are.”
Margaret blushed at Betty’s appraisal and met John’s fond gaze when she raised her eyes again.
“I would like that very much, Betty. Thank you for your kindness.”
“Well,” Jowan said, rising and yawning, “I don’t know about you, guys, but I’m turning in. I’m absolutely knackered! Goodnight!”
They all stood and went for their rooms. Margaret laid a hesitating hand on John’s arm.
“John, we must talk,” she said softly because she didn’t want the others to hear.
“What is it, my love?”
“Come with me to my room,” she urged and then coloured a fierce red as she realised what she just said and implied but John did not seem to notice. He nodded, curled an arm around her waist and steered her to the room she was using as her bed chamber.
Once inside, John could not contain himself any longer and did what he had wanted to do all day long, and a blasted eternally long day it had been! He drew his Margaret into his arms and kissed her as hard as he could.
Welcoming the violent stir of desire deep inside him, he deepened their kiss as soon as he registered Margaret’s own, fierce reaction. She hugged her body close to his and, through the thin fabric of the cotton blouse she was wearing, he suddenly felt the peaks of her breasts against his chest. Dear Lord in heaven …
While he was plundering her lush mouth with his tongue, his body was screaming with need as a reaction to the little, needy moans Margaret was uttering between gasps of breath. He tore himself away from her before his own need would drive him to act upon it.
“My dearest love,” he breathed, “are we not so lost in this madness that we do not know anymore what is right and what to do? I know I am. Without you, my Margaret, I should go insane out of sheer confusion. Thank God that I can at least hold you in my arms and restore my inner peace.”
Margaret raised her face upwards and suddenly his heart stopped at the sight of her beautiful eyes overflowing with tears. The desolation in her look tugged at him with violent sorrow.
“Margaret, sweetest, what is the matter? You are weeping! Is it my doing? Tell me, for heaven’s sake!”
Margaret freed herself from his anxious grasp and wiped her cheeks clean with hasty hands.
“Forgive me, John, it is nothing. Only my stupid weakness of character that turns me into a puddle every time something arises that I cannot handle. It will not happen again, my love.”
She laid her hand against John’s cheek and peered into his eyes, shyly smiling.
“And, John, I too am immensely happy that you are with me. I too would not have born the strength to endure all this. But, meanwhile, we are indeed caught in the middle of it and must deal with it.”
She drew him with her to the bed and made him sit down beside her.
“Now, tell me. Something is worrying you, John. I saw it all too clear, during this long, long day.”
“You are right, sweetest. When I walked through the countryside, last night, I noticed the train carriage had disappeared. We no longer have a portal to go back to our own time.”
Margaret raised startled eyes to him.
“Oh, John! What will we do? How is this even possible?”
“I don’t know, my darling, but I do know we are trapped here, in this century. We have to make the best of it, which means I have to make a living. We cannot keep living off Jowan, Marjorie and Betty forever.”
Margaret nodded in agreement and asked, “What profession will you take on, John? And I, should I also try and earn some money? In this century, women stand on their own two feet. I like that, John, and I would welcome an income of my own. Do you suppose we could still make use of the money I inherited from Mr Bell?”
“No, Margaret, that is impossible. We even have no real identity any more. I spoke with Jowan, earlier, and it seems that you must have a way to prove who you are, if asked for by the authorities. Jowan uses his driver’s license, which is needed if you want to drive the motored vehicles of this era, or his British passport, which is needed if you want to go abroad.”
“Can we get one of these, John? We must if we want to blend in with the rest.”
John chuckled and shook his head.
“For the driver’s license, you have to pass a test, and I must learn to drive a motor car first. Jowan tells me it needs a lot of practicing. To obtain a passport, I must prove myself a British citizen, which I could do by proving that I was born in England or have lived in England for ten years.”
“Oh! That is fine, then!” Margaret exclaimed. “We have lived in England all our lives!”
“Yes, but how are we going to prove that, darling? I was under the assumption that I was living in Milton and now, Jowan tells me Milton does not really exists! That Milton and Helstone are products of a writer’s imagination, that we are characters in a novel. It is utterly confusing and inexplicable, Margaret. Yet, we have to make the best of it, so I am going to run “The Green Huntsman” for a living. Jowan and I will work out a suitable compensation.”
He drew her closer and kissed her brow.
“We will weather this, Margaret. It is a promise I make to you, here and now.”