Chapter Nineteen – Forever Bound
Margaret woke to a sound she knew must be rather common but one she never actually heard before in her life; the steady, strong breathing of a man firmly surrendered to deep sleep. In the first light that seeped through a gap in the heavy curtains, she was fascinated by what she saw. The long, lean, bare form of her husband, stretched out on his back beside her, one arm upwards to support his head, the other flung out over the edge of the bed.
A stir of longing awoke deep inside her chest and belly, while her gaze travelled over the most beautiful sight she ever beheld.
John’s handsome face was in deep repose and slightly averted so that a lock of his raven-black hair had tumbled over his brow. His finely chiselled lips were curled in a smile, as if he were dreaming about something that brought him joy. She took in the breathtaking sight of his bare muscular chest with its fine sprinkle of dark curls, trailing down over his flat stomach and narrow hips to the seat of his manhood, now inert but still incredibly beautiful.
Margaret’s trembling hand reached out to stroke the skin of his thigh, rough with a growth of fine black hair. She marvelled when it quivered slightly under her fingers. She followed the long structure of thighbone and shin down to his strong foot with its firm ankle and long toes.
All this hard strength, all this power and grace combined, it fascinated her!
This man, John Thornton, was now her husband. Her. Husband. She was Mrs John Thornton, from now on until Death did do them part.
She lay down and huddled against him, instantly loving the warmth emanating from his smooth, silken skin. John’s arm went up to draw her close and suddenly, her bare breasts rippled over the rough patch of hair on his chest, as he pulled her on top of him. It was so incredibly arousing, and Margaret loved it!
“Hey, you …” the slightly husky voice of her husband sounded. “What is it that you want, Mrs Thornton? Tell me, or better, show me …”
The newlywed couple had five glorious days of enjoying each other at the hotel. They did not do anything else but be together in thrilling, joyous, infinitively satisfying lovemaking, only leaving the bed to fortify themselves with tasty bites and fine champagne.
John could not but marvel in the repeating pleasure he found in making love to Margaret. Every time he coaxed her between the sheets again, his beautiful bride found a new way of fuelling his arousal into new heights of incredible delight. Margaret would be alternatively shy or bold, languid or playful, sweet or passionate. He never knew what attitude she would adopt, and every time again, she managed to surprise him. It was immensely exhilarating and a way of showing herself to him that he could never have guessed before. She delighted him with every move and gesture she used.
Afterwards, they would lie in each other’s arms, exhausted, bruised but very replete. They would bathe together in the huge tub in the adjoining bathroom, each of them rinsing, soothing, cleansing the other, trying to ignore the nascent arousal for as long as it was bearable, when their fingers washed and caressed the intimate zones of their bodies. But, eventually, they would end up in bed again, unable to resist the pull of arousal any longer.
After their honeymoon, John and Margaret returned to Betty’s cottage where they found the other happy couple, Jowan and Marjorie, just come back from a short stay at Bristol. Jowan had promised Marjorie a holiday on Barbados when the baby was born. He hadn’t dared go too far away from England while Marjorie was almost eighteen weeks pregnant now.
They could still make short day trips, though, as they did regularly around the country, to show their friends all the new and unknown things that had been realized in one hundred and sixty years of progress.
John and Margaret were taken to London, a city they’d both known back in 1852, yet it hadn’t had anything familiar. Take the river, for instance. John had known the docksides pretty well, with all their grimy ugliness and their bustle and noise. Now it was all neat and tidy warehouses, riversides buildings with smart lofts, trendy disco bars. The real harbour activity was concentrated mainly at Purfleet, Thurdock, Tilbury and Coryton, further down the estuary. Canvey Island in Essex, Dartford and Northfleet in Kent, and Greenwich, Silvertown, Barking, Dagenham and Erith in Greater London were also important extensions.
Their friends took the Thorntons to see Heathrow Airport where they were stunned to see the bustle of airplanes land and lift off. The railway stations too had changed beyond recognition, as had the trains. Everywhere and always present were the motorcars and motorbikes, the busses and the cabs. London was still a city crowded with people, running and hastening about like ants. It was nearly impossible to take in.
One evening, after yet another busy day, the two couples and Betty were sitting in the kitchen, enjoying a light meal and a glass of wine.
“John,” Jowan asked, “do you think it possible that you might return to your own time, one day?”
“It certainly is my most fervent wish, Jowan, and I believe Margaret thinks the same.”
John’s wife nodded without speaking.
“But, how will that happen?” Marjorie asked. “Will you just disappear and we won’t know where you’ve gone to? I would hate that! It’s so horrible to know that, some day, you won’t be there anymore!”
Margaret smiled at Marjorie and laid her arm around her friend’s shoulders.
“I am sure I would hate it too, Marjorie. It’s the not knowing that is the worst. I confess I would like nothing more than to return to my own era but when I do, I will never see you again and that, I loathe.”
“I have an idea,” Betty intervened. “Let’s agree on something. Whenever you go somewhere other than to your work, you must tell us or leave us a message, so that we know where you went through the portal when you don’t return.”
“That is a splendid idea, Betty!” John exclaimed. “That is exactly what we will do!”
One beautiful Autumn Sunday, John and Margaret went to visit the large industrial town of Manchester, where they planned to visit several mill sites that remained from Manchester’s cotton mill days. They all had museums where one could see how the mills worked in the old days.
John attempted to find a resemblance or a familiar view from his own Milton. Maybe he would recognize a street, a building, a park, anything that would reassure him that Manchester indeed modeled for Milton in Mrs Gaskell’s novel. Yet, there was nothing familiar for him to see.
“Little wonder, darling,” Margaret tried to soothe him. “Marjorie told me most of the street scenes were taken in Edinburg instead of Manchester.”
John shook his head in bewilderment as they headed for the entrance of the Sedgewick Mill in Union Street. They paid their fee and began strolling through the sparsely visited rooms of the museum.
The walls were lined with glass cases containing a mass of small objects that were used back in the eighteen hundreds. In the middle of the room stood a large steel loom, and the sight of it lifted John’s heart. He had hundreds of such looms in his mill! Pulling his hand from Margaret’s, he strode towards it and touched the long warp beam with a longing hand.
In his mind, he could see himself in the busy hall of Marlborough Mills, overseeing his workers while they were manufacturing cotton. A longing, so fierce that it jolted through him like lightning, made him close his eyes in sudden despair of ever going back to Milton ever again. He sighed. What was he to do?
Margaret’s quiet touch on his cheek shook him out of his downcast mood. Thank God they were together!
A sign on the wall pointed toward a small set-aside construction with the name “Video of a working Manchester mill in 1852”.
“John, look! Let’s go see it!” Margaret enthused, dragging him along.
John followed her eagerly through the door. As soon as they were inside, a blinding light burned their eyes and Margaret was trusted back against John’s hard body. The pair was struck down with a violence that robbed them of their senses, and the world went black.