|Bride sat on the window seat at the Quadrant and hummed happily to herself as she wrote her letter. Her sister Peggy was visiting for a short holiday just as Bride was, and she looked at her with a half smile on her face. |
"You look rather pleased with yourself!" she said to her younger sister. "What are you scribbling away at there, your life history?"
Bride looked up with a slight start. Then she smiled and replied.
"Oh it's only a letter to Tom Gay. I have been helping her with her boys club, it has been great fun. I was just describing some of our recent exploits here to her."
Peggy smiled, but if Bride had looked back up then, she would have seen that her sister looked slightly concerned. By the time Bride surfaced from her letter writing, Peggy had no sign of her thoughts visible, and merely suggested that they go in search of the rest of the family.
Back at the boys club, Tom was sitting to one side, trying not to get Bride's previous letter out of her pocket for the tenth time. Some of the boys were very sharp, and had already started to notice that she was slightly different when Bride was around.
The younger ones were just irritated not to have Miss Gay's full attention, but some of the the older one were perfectly capable of putting two and two together.
If Tom had but known it, her eldest boys were quite aware of her difference from a lot of women, and actually accepted her having occasional women "friends" as being part of how much like one of them she was. They hadn't had the time to pick up adult prejudices yet, and were quite approving of Bride, who mucked in with them all quite naturally.
Some of the boys who had joined more recently might be inclined to call her names behind her back, but those who had been helped by her for years were loyal and protective.
The newer boys soon learnt the hard way that Miss Gay was not to be treated without respect, being given the lesson most firmly by her self appointed bodyguards if they persisted.
"Got it bad this time" muttered one of the boys to his neighbour, as he planed a bit of wood smooth.
"Mmm." replied the other, timing his speech between hits of a carving chisel. "At least she's a decent sort. That wimpy writer woman was just a pain. Always fussing."
His companion nodded and that was all the notice they took of the situation, had Tom only have known. But she was oblivious, assuming it to be her secret and her secret only.
She set herself to making some small jointed boxes, as ever her mind being happier when her hands were occupied with a task. It was such familiar work to her she barely registered what she was doing, which gave plenty of time for day dreaming.
She hadn't really had any indication from Bride that she wanted anything other than friendship from Tom. But being around her friend was so comfortable, that Tom was prepared to have just that little bit of Bride if that was all that was possible.
She could day dream though, and did so, mentally running through the descriptions of the holiday at the Quadrant, and imagining herself there with Bride, an accepted part of the family.
Bride and Peggy sat out in the garden, watching Peggy's children playing together. Bride was sitting back with her eyes closed and face to the sun. Peggy looked over at her younger sister and looked thoughtful.
"Bride," she began. "How much do you know about Tom, her life, I mean?"
Bride opened her eyes in surprise and looked at Peggy. "What made you ask that?" she said.
Peggy considered her words carefully.
"Well, you have been writing to her and she to you pretty much daily while you have been here. I just wondered if you realised that ... That she ... Maybe is seeing more, thinking more of it than you are..."
Bride looked at Peggy, wondering where she was going with this conversation. Peggy wasn't someone to judge, two of her closest friends were interested in women. So why mention Tom's personal situation like this?
Bride didn't know if Tom was that way inclined, the subject hadn't come up. It didn't bother Bride, was Peggy saying that it ought to do so? She said as much, frowning at the difference in Peggy's attitudes from those she would have expected.
Peggy felt trapped, almost wished she hadn't asked. How could she say to Bride that she was acting like a young girl in love, when talking about a subject as secret and sensitive as this?
Bride was more animated talking about Tom than she had ever been about her ex husband. She kept referring almost every conversation back to the boys club and then to Tom.
Peggy had also wondered in the past about Tom and Bride. When Bride married she had been upset at Tom's attitude, and couldn't understand it after how close they had been before.
Peggy had mentioned it to her great friend Dickie Christie. Dickie had said at the time that she wouldn't be surprised if Tom at least had feelings for Bride. If you knew what to look for it was obvious apparently.
Dickie had gone on to say that she had in fact wondered if Bride might be better suited to women than men too, which had shocked Peggy to begin with, after all Brode was her little sister.
However, once Peggy had got over the initial shock of thinking of her sister as being interested romantically in anyone, it did make some sense to those that knew her well. Peggy had not noticed after that any sign of feelings for Tom. But she had noticed a very intense friendship with Elfie, on Bride's side particularly. Ever since, she had slightly wondered about her sister.
Peggy decided she was going to have to back away a bit in this conversation. She had started it with the idea of giving Bride a chance to tell her if she was interested in Tom. But Bride herself clearly wasn't taking that opportunity.
Peggy wondered suddenly whether Bride even realised herself that she might be taking more from this friendship than just reunion with an old friend.
Perhaps Bride considered herself interested in men? Peggy wished now that she had waited until her sister had come to her about this situation. This was awkward and embarrassing. Giles had warned her before about butting in like this, it always ended badly in his opinion.
But now she was in this mess, she may as well keep going.
"Bride, you know back at school, when there was that shipwreck near the island? Dickie was really upset?" she began. Bride nodded.
"Well, it was partly that, but just before that happened we, well we had had a ... a misunderstanding." Peggy continued slowly.
Bride was all ears at this, and nodded encouragement to go on.
"She thought from how close we had become that I understood, that I felt the same way. That I ... well that I loved her. And I did, I do love her. Just not... not in the way that she felt towards me. It nearly broke our friendship apart. She felt so embarrassed by the whole thing. Mortified really, that she had misread things."
Bride was beginning to understand where this was going, and why Peggy was worried. But after all, that was two school girls. She had been married, Tom knew that. They were just friends... weren't they?
Peggy continued. "You see, I was like you are, writing letters all the time, spending lots of time together. It was fun, but to Dickie it meant more. She was taking every word I wrote and analyzing it, trying to work out if anything had meaning more than the words on the page. I don't know if you realise ... Well Tom might be doing that. You might be sending a confusing signal with your letters "
Bride was all confused. She didn't know quite what to think or what to say to this whole concept. Peggy saw this, and changed the subject, using the children as an excuse.
They went in, and began searching out other family members, to see whether they wanted to go for a picnic. The conversation was shelved, but Bride was thinking furiously about everything Peggy had said.
Peggy wisely decided that she had said enough, possibly even a little too much. She made up her mind to wait for Bride to bring up the topic again. Perhaps Bride wasn't interested in women, despite her sister's suspicions. It wasn't worth the risk of embarrassing Bride still further to find out. Peggy decided to follow Giles's advice and leave well alone.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Thank you for comments ! Much appreciated.