Chapter Sixteen – Choices
Of course, things were not that simple. To get legally married, first and foremost, you needed an identity. One that you could prove with the required documents, to boot. There was no way John Thornton could prove himself an Englishman, even though he had lived in England all his life. Margaret was in the exact same situation. In 1852, people didn’t have passports or driver’s licences.
John and Margaret thought long and hard about it and discussed it with their friends. Jowan promised to ask around at the hospital’s legal department. These people sometimes had to deal with illegal immigrants. A situation similar to the one John and Margaret were in. The thought was bewildering!
After a few days of fretting, Margaret couldn’t stand it anymore and she went into Leicester after work to find John at “The Green Huntsman”.
There were only a few customers, she saw, and she was glad about it. John would be able to make time for her. In her quiet, sweet way, Margaret greeted Paul behind the bar.
“Hello, Paul,” she said, smiling, “where can I find John?”
Paul Burrows liked Margaret immensely. She was the kind of girl that reminded him of his own Dorothy when she had that age. Dorothy too had been shy but determined when she had something on her mind that she wanted to sort out. Oh, and he could see Margaret definitively had something to sort out! Her little, rounded chin stuck out in stubbornness and her eyes shone with resolution.
“He’ll be in the kitchen, love, discussing menus with Monsieur Robert. Shall I fetch him for you?”
“No, thank you. I will go find him myself.”
Paul watched Margaret as she disappeared through the door leading to the back of the restaurant. She was such an elegant little thing, he thought. Just look at the way she strode through the place. Margaret didn’t just walk, no, she strode, as if she were walking down the aisle of a church. Even in jeans and sneakers, Margaret managed to walk very elegantly.
Monsieur Robert and his new help Malik, a sixteen year old Pakistani boy who tried to scrape enough money to buy himself a motorbike, were busy preparing food for the evening meals. John was nowhere to be seen, and Margaret panicked just a little. She retreated to the pub again, suddenly scared as hell. John … where was he? For some unknown, absurd reason, Margaret had a sudden vision about John gone back to 1852, and she left behind in the twenty-first century. What if he had found a new portal, gone through it and was now unable to come back? The train carriage surely could not be the only way to travel between times, could it?
Like the flood of a river swollen by spring’s melted snow, Margaret felt panic overwhelm her and grab her by the throat. A life without John! She would perish from sheer sorrow! Abruptly she treaded back and bumped into the wall, her knees trembling and her heart thumping. Closing her eyes, she found her mind racing with terror. Sweat broke out all over her body, and she gave a little moan.
“Margaret! Sweetheart, what is wrong? Come here!”
John’s arms engulfed her, and her head came to rest against his hard chest, its top barely brushing his chin.
“John …” she breathed.
“Hey, hey, what has come over you, darling? You’re shaking! Have you hurt yourself? Are you unwell?”
“No … it’s nothing … I’m being silly …”
“Oh, yes? How so? Tell me.”
“I thought you had disappeared to 1852 again without taking me. I know it’s very silly but it looked so real!”
John’s heart turned into water, just at the implication of what she was saying. That he had gone, leaving her behind. Why would an absurd thing like that come into her head?
“My sweet darling little goose, would I ever do such a stupid thing? It would kill me, for sure! A life without you would mean the death of me, Margaret. Oh, you silly little adorable goose!”
He pressed her so close that she let out a small cry of protest.
“John, you will crush me if you continue in that way!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetheart. You had me in a panic, you know? Now, what brings you here, all of a sudden? It is unusual for you to venture into Leicester on your own.”
“I took the bus into town after work instead of returning to the cottage.”
“You … YOU … took the bus? The bus crowded with people, and you were not scared? I’m amazed, Margaret! There was a time when you were afraid of crowds.”
“I was a little afraid at first but I conquered it. After all, people take the bus all the time in 2013. If I am to live here and now, I want to do what other people do.”
She looked up into John’s face with determined gravity.
“If we are to live here, John, I want to be like other people. I want to have a real relationship with you.”
Reluctantly, John released her to rake a hand through his hair.
“Margaret, I am doing all I can to figure out what we can do to get married but those things take time and …”
“I do not want to wait, John. The longer we stay here, the harder it will become, just to be together and not …”
The fact that she hesitated, told John that she wasn’t yet completely sure herself and, more important, that she struggled with the whole blasted situation. So did he. It was so bloody confusing, damn it!
“Margaret, I know that, believe me! Yet, I refuse to let despair overwhelm me. We will weather this, I promise you. Just give me a couple of days, please? If the situation has not become clearer then, we will …”
In sudden passion John took Margaret by the shoulders and looked deep into her eyes.
“I will make you mine, my love. Don’t you know how much I want you, you must know how much it takes me to … just hold back? I am a man, Margaret, and I am deeply in love with the most beautiful woman on earth. Living with you, day after day, under the same roof and not be allowed to love you completely, is torture beyond bearing, Margaret!”
“John …” Margaret whispered, her lovely eyes filling with tears of compassion, “I am so sorry I only made it harder for you … for us, with my whining. Please, forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive, my love,” John said and kissed her softly on the mouth.
“Hum!” a voice sounded and the couple leapt with surprise to see Betty standing a few yards away.
“I’m sorry, my darlings,” she said and smiled at them, “but I couldn’t help overhearing. I think I have the solution for your problem, or at least, I know someone who might help. Can you come with me now or haven’t you finished with your work here tonight, John? In that case, I could …”
“No, Betty, no. I could stop right now and come with you. Margaret has finished work already, so she can come too.”
“Splendid! Let’s go then!”
Outside the pub they found Marjorie in her car, parked in front. As soon as they’d gotten in, she drove away and took them to one of the less finer neighbourhoods of town. She stopped in front of a terraced house which must have had better days a century before but was now in a rather shabby state. In fact, the whole street was shabby but it was also alive with the hustle and bustle of people, few of them English. There were shops where women were buying their groceries, bargaining aloud with the Indian or Pakistani shopkeepers, and children were playing and chasing each other in laughter and merriment. Men sat in front of coffee shops, drinking and smoking and arguing, most of them speaking in rapid Arabic and gesticulating ardently.
Margaret was overwhelmed with the liveliness of the place which reminded her of Milton’s Princeton district. It gave her a pang of home sickness, so vivid, that tears filled her eyes. Nicholas and Mary … how she missed them …
However, Betty didn’t give her time to reminiscence much. She told them to get out so that Marjorie could go and park the car.
“Here we are!” she said briskly and banged a fist on the front door, which was badly in need of paint.
It was opened a crack by a little girl in brightly coloured Oriental trousers and tunic.
“Hello, Sharia!,” Betty greeted her. “Is Father Patrick in?”
“Yes, Mrs Betty, come in, please?”
Margaret and John followed her inside a narrow corridor, also badly in need of paint but otherwise very clean and tidy. Sharia opened a door on the left side and gestured them in, announcing them loudly.
“Mrs Betty and visitors, Father!”
“Come in! Come in! Welcome!” a deep rumbling voice in an unmistakable Irish accent boomed. The next moment John and Margaret found themselves vigorously shaking hands with a large man in the black robes of a Catholic priest.
“I’m Father Patrick, pastor of this multicoloured parish. How can I help you, folks?”