Although the sun was shining and the Dorset countryside was as beautiful as ever - Hattie felt very sad and no matter how she tried, she could not pull herself out of this depression. It was six months ago that Josh had left for his new life in America and she should be getting used to him not being around, but instead, she was missing hm more than ever.
Josh had been her best friend since they both moved into the Village - she was then 7 years old and he was 9. They were both new at the Infant School on the same day and when Josh found her crying in the playground, at lunchtime, he had taken care of her and they had remained firm friends ever since. That was over 15 years ago.
Hattie thought that life would be perfect forever, and, although she didn't let Josh know - she had fallen madly in love with him the very first time they met and she hoped that he would feel the same, one day, and would ask her to marry him and they would live happily ever after. However, to Josh, Hattie was his special friend, more like a sister, and although he was very fond of her he never ever had romance in mind. Hattie thought she could live with that, for now, as long as he was always around when she needed him. He was someone she knew she could always rely on and just to see him pass by made her day special. When one day, very unexpectedly, Josh invited her out for a meal, saying that he had something very special to tell her, Hattie thought all her dreams had come true at last. She went to the hairdressers and had her hair cut into a trendy bob - bought the lovliest dress she could find and when she looked at herself in the long mirror, in her bedroom, she was very pleased with what she saw looking back at her. Josh had said he would pick her up at 7.00pm and, in his usual reliable way, he was there on the dot. "You look lovely Hat" he said, using his pet name for her. She blushed, but was so pleased he had noticed. As they drove along the country lanes in his open top sports car - she thought she was going to burst with happiness, and she couldn't wait to hear what Josh had to say.
The Restaurant was very busy, but Josh had reserved a table for two in a cosy little corner - which Hattie thought looked really romantic, with fresh flowers and candles on the table. He had arranged everything perfectly and now all she waited for was to hear the words she had longed to hear for so many years. Josh was quiet during dinner and Hattie smiled to herself. Now he had her here he was struggling with the right words - "Will you marry me?" or "will you do me the honour?" or "Will you take me for your husband?" - Hattie didn't care how he worded it, as long as they were going to be together forever, madly in love!! Suddenly, after what seemed hours of silence Josh spoke. "Hat" he said "I brought you here for a special reason tonight" - she felt her heart leap - this was the moment she had longed for. "Oh?" she said calmly "and what is it Josh?". As he proceeded to speak, Hattie could feel herself feeling faint - she heard the words "leaving for America in one month" - "promotion in his job" all the words she had never wanted to hear and no mention of the words, she desperately wanted him to say. "Are you OK Hat?" said Josh in a concerned voice -"Yes" said Hattie "I just came over hot" , but she wasn't alright and she couldn't imagine she would ever be alright again. She pulled herself together and told Josh how pleased she was for him and wished him lots of luck. He had wanted her to be the first to know he told her, as they had always been good friends. "Good friends" said Hat - "yes we have and thanks for sharing your good news with me". She thought her heart was going to break and now all she wanted to do was get out of the restaurant and go home - to be alone and cry all the tears that had welled up inside her. "I will be giving a leaving party before I go" Josh told her "but I wanted us to have this special meal together for all the good times". "Can we go now Josh?" asked Hattie "I don't feel very well - I think I must have drunk a little too much wine" she joked - trying to make out nothing else was wrong. "Of course Hat" said Josh "I'll fetch the car to the door - you wait there". It was an uncomfortable journey home, neither of them spoke. Josh just assumed that Hattie felt unwell - but little did he know how devastating his "good news" had been for her.
As Hattie cried into her pillow that night, she thought she would never stop. The thought of Josh going all those thousands of miles away and the possibility that she might never see him again was unbearable.
Soon it was the talk of the Village. Josh the quiet boy, who teachers said would struggle, when he said that he wanted to take up 'Law', had now made the "big time" and was heading for America. Why couldn't she just be pleased for him, like everyone else- Hattie thought, but she couldn't - she loved Josh more than anything and she just wanted him to be with her forever. She had made up her mind that she just couln't go to his farewell party. That would be too hard to take. Pretending to be happy for him when all the time she would just want to run and hide.
When the day of the party arrived - two days before Josh was due to leave - Hattie took herself into town, just to get out of the Village. Josh's promotion and move to America was all everyone seemed to talk about and she just couldn't take anymore. She switched off her mobile phone and after walking in what seemed every shop in town - she went on to the cinema "anywhere" she thought rather than go home. She sat through a 2 hour film and didn't even take in what the story was about. At 8.00pm she caught the bus for home. It was a good hour's journey and as the party was due to start at 7.00pm she knew that everyone would be in the hall and she could creep in the house without being noticed. As she collapsed on her bed , the tears began again. She cried and cried until she fell asleep exhausted. Something woke her with a jolt - she sat up and listened - it was the doorbell - as she glanced at the clock it was 10.00pm. She would ignore it, she thought, whoever it was would soon go away. However, they did not go away and the bell kept ringing - she went to the window and as she did she heard Josh's voice "Hat, what aren't you at my party"? - he sounded upset and Hattie felt bad about that. "I felt really tired and decided to have an early night" she said. When she had said the words she realised how mean it sounded. Her best friend of 15 years was going away forever, and she hadn't even bothered to attend his farewell party. She looked down at Josh - he looked so handsome, but also quite sad. "I'll throw something on" she told him "wait for me". She dressed in a hurry suddenly realising that this could be the last time she could have a happy time with him. He would be busy the next couple of days and then he would be gone - gone out of her life - maybe forever! As she opened the door Josh smiled "come on Hat" he said " lets have a dance together". As they walked into the hall the band was playing a gentle number and as Josh held her in his arms she wished this moment would last forever.
At the end of the evning Josh handed her an envelope and told her not to open in until he had gone away. Although she was tempted - she had promised Josh she wouldn't open it and so she put it into her drawer to be opened after he left. She didn't go to see him off - that would have been unbearable - so she stayed in her room and cried and cried and as she did she heard the taxi come to take him to the Airport. After he had gone she went to the drawer and took out the envelope - she was still hopeful if would be good news about his feelings for her. She opened it slowly and began to read its contents.:-
"My Dearest Hat
I want to thank you for 15 years of a wonderful friendship. You have been a very
special person in my life and I will never forget you. When we went for dinner on Saturday I sensed
that your feelings for me had reached a higher level, something I had never realised before and that
is why I didn't tell you all my news that night. I didn't want to upset you anymore. However, I think
it only fair that you should know that whilst I was doing my studies - I met and fell in love with an
American girl, named Samantha. She went back home recently and when the opportunity arose for
me to join her I felt I had no choice as I wanted to be with her. I proposed to Sam before she left
and she accepted and we are to become engaged as soon as I reach America.
I am not telling you this to hurt you, but so that you can go on with your life. As I will not be around
you will soon remember me as nothing more than a great friend.
I had planned to give you my address but in the circumstances I think it best if I dont.
I hope you have a very happy and fulfilled life Hat and that you meet someone kind and loving, just as you deserve,
fall in love and live happily forever. Please don't hate me for this.
Your loving friend Josh"
Hattie was too shocked even to cry. Not only was Josh going away, but he was going to marry someone else and was never going to contact her again. The pain was almost too much to bear but she knew she could do nothing about it and had to try to get one with her life.
That was six months ago and now as she stood at the big wooden gate that enclosed the cattle belonging to the local farmer - she realised that she hadn't moved forward at all. Josh was always on her mind, despite the fact that she hadn't heard a word from him and he was probably already married to someone else. If he was a true friend surely he would have sent an occasional letter, even if he didn't put his address. "Hattie" a voice called, and as she looked around she saw it was Mary, her good friend who had been very supportive to Hattie especially since Josh had left. "Coming to the dance tonight?" she asked. "No" said Hattie, dancing was the last thing she fancied. "Pleeease" begged Mary "Harry West is going to be there and I can't go on my own". Harry West was Mary's dream man and although he had many different girlfriends and didn't treat them very well - Mary was besotted. "OK then" said Hattie- she knew what it was like to be in love and wanted to help her friend as much as she could.
To her surprise Hattie had enjoyed the dance and when Ben Watson offered her a lift home she accepted. Mary had already told her, very excitedly that Harry was taking her home, so Ben's offer was better than having to walk alone in the dark. Ben was nice enough, but when he asked if he could take her out in the week, Hattie politely refused. "Here's my number anyway" he said "and if you change your mind give me a ring". "Thanks Ben" said Hattie, but she had no intention of calling him.
Mary and Harry were still an item and Hattie felt quite isolated and alone. A couple of weeks after the dance she felt in her coat pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and on it was Ben's number. After hours of wondering whether she hould ring him or not - she decided that she would. When Ben answered the phone she wasn't sure what to say. "Hello Ben" she said. "Is that you Hattie?" said Ben " I am so glad you rang, I have been thinking about you but didn't think you were interested in me". She didn't like to say that she wasn't really, but was lonely and needed some company, so she just told him that if the offer was still open she would love to go out with him one evening. "How about tonight" said Ben eagerly and Hattie agreed. They had a great evening, much to Hattie's surprise. They went for a meal and then to the cinema - it was a really funny film and they both laughed and laughed - it was obvious they both had the same sense of humour and really enjoyed each others company.As she lay in bed that night, Hattie realised that for the first time since Josh had left - she hadn't thought about him - and had had a really great evening with Ben.
The next day a lovely bunch of roses were delivered by the florist and written on a card were the words "Thanks for a great evening - hope we can do it again very soon" Ben. "How sweet" thought Hattie - she had never ever received flowers before and it made her feel very special. Over the next few months Hattie and Ben had been seeing each regularly and during that time she had told him all about Josh and how she was heart-broken when he left. "I know I am a poor substitute" he said "but I would be honoured if you would be my girlfriend". Hattie was a bit taken aback - they hadn't even held hands and she hadn't really thought of them as a couple, despite their months of going out together. "I er" said Hattie but before she could say anymore - Ben said "Don't answer straight away - think about it". "I am very fond of you Hattie and want us to be more than just good friends". Hattie was flattered but was that enough to make her agree? It would be unfair to Ben to use him, unless she could return his feelings and , at the moment, she felt she couldn't. She told Ben how she felt and suggested perhaps it would be better if they had a break from each other so she could think things over. Although she knew that she could never have Josh - it wouldn't be fair to Ben to have him as second best - he was too nice for that. So it was agreed and they went their separate ways.
After several weeks, Mary told Hattie that Ben had been seen with another girl at the cinema - Mary didn't know who she was but only that she was very pretty and they seemed to be enjoying each others company. Much to Hattie's surprise a pang of jealousy went through her. She realised that she hadn't been thinking about Josh much these days, but Ben had been there in her mind. "What's wrong Hattie?" said Mary "you look upset - I thought you didin't care about Ben and that's why you broke up"? "I do like him" said Hattie "but I didn't realise how much until now and now he has someone else". "Give him a ring" said Mary "she may not have been anyone special".
As Hattie waited for Ben to answer the phone he wondered what she would say, and what his answer to her would be - but she needn't have worried, Ben sounded delighted to hear her voice and asked if they could meet up again soon. "What about your girlfriend?" "Girlfriend?" said Ben puzzled. "The one you were seen with at the cinema" said Hattie. "Oh" laughed Ben "that was my sister Ann - she is at University and came home for the first time in months - so we had an evening out" - "were you jealous Hat?" He had called her Hat, only Josh ever called her that - but it sounded great coming from Ben and she realised that she was very fond of him. "I think I may have been - just a bit" she laughed. They arranged to meet at 8.00 o'clock just to go for a nice long drive. As she got ready she felt excited and couldn't wait to see Ben again. As they drove along the coast, in the moonlight , Ben stopped the car and as they looked at each other, they fell into each others arms and as he kissed her gently all thoughts of Josh disappeared.
It was almost Christmas and Josh had been gone for almost a year and Hattie hadn't heard a word from him, but now rumour had it that he was coming home. Nobody seemed to know the details but he was coming very soon, it was said. Ben had heard the rumour too and was worried what affect this would have on his relationship with Hattie- he had planned to propose on Christmas Eve and now Josh was coming back and perhaps Hattie's feelings for him would still be strong. Nevertheless, on Christmas Eve, he asked Hattie if she would marry him and to his delight she accepted.
It was New Year's Eve when there was a knock on Hattie's door and she thought it was Ben "Doors unlocked" she called out "come in". As the door opened she looked around and had the shock of her life - standing there was Josh, as large as life. "Hello Hat" he said "I hope you don't mind me coming in, but I have just arrived home and wanted to see you". She was lost for words, at first, but then she asked him why he hadn't contacted her at all in over a year. "We were supposed to be special friends and you just dismissed me when you found someone you wanted to marry" she said "You didn't even have the courage to tell me - just left a note and left me to cope with the hurt all alone" she said. He apologised and said he realised now it was the cowardly thing to do, but he wouldn't have been able to cope if she had started crying and begging him not to go. As she stood there, the door opened again and Ben came rushing in - "Hurry up Hat" but he stopped in his tracks "Oh! I didn't realise that you had company" he said looking shocked. "I'm going anyway" said Josh - I just wanted you to know I was home". "Before you leave" said Hattie "let me introduce you to my fiance Ben Watson. We are getting married in June" she said. For the second time, Ben looked shocked. Although Hattie had agreed to marry him, no date had been fixed until now! "Congratulations" said Josh "I am very happy for you both, I hope you will be as happy as Sam and I are". "Is she with you?" asked Hattie. "No, she had to stay home as her Mother is ill, but she insisted I came home to see my family and friends after so long away. I am only here for two weeks - but I wanted to say hello". "Thanks for popping round, it was lovely to see you" said Hattie. He kissed her on the cheek and to her surprise, she didn't feel a thing. He shook hands with Ben and told him what a lucky man he was, but Ben didn't need him to tell him that. "Well?" he said Ben to Hattie, after Josh had gone "Well what?" she said. "Are you still in love with him?" "No Ben I'm not - I love you and no one else" and the nicest part was that she truly meant it.
When Josh left he gave Hattie his address and told her he would like her to keep him up to date with all her news, but she realised that Josh was now part of her past life and Ben was the only man that would ever matter to her, and as she walked down the aisle on that beautiful June day she was sure she was the happiest woman alive.