Spider - My Darling Love

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

This story is set in a quiet rural village in the New Forest, Hampshire, England; where every girl who left school had to work in the mill until a boy picked her off the singles pew in church. As WWII raged and all the men returned with bits missing, Margaret's dreams of escaping her mother's clutches diminished. However, a handsome stranger came to visit his uncle next door, but he was a shameless divorcee in a village filled with gossiping women. For the first time ever, as their eyes met, a volcano erupted within Margaret's soul. It's lava needed water, maybe water from the mill; or maybe a secret drink down the pub, or his lips over hers or maybe ............................................

Spider – My Darling Love

It had been my sixteenth birthday in May 1949 and the village gossip was flying because I hadn’t dreamed of and wouldn’t work in their rickety old Mill. I wanted to be a dancer, an actress; one that travelled the world, met stars at parties and lived an elegant lifestyle.  So, they nicknamed me Spider, to bring my flailing arms and legs back down to earth.  However, all it did was make me create bigger plans to escape the single’s pew and Sway forever.

‘You need to grow up and stop dreaming Margaret Webb’ Mother nagged, but I liked dreaming and the thought of being unforgettable.  It excited my innards like only Clark Gable could.  Anyhow, there were no real men in our village.  The war had finished and most of the returned men had bits missing, and couldn’t even grow moustaches.  I was old enough to decide what I wanted, and old enough to know that if I didn’t fold the laundry before taking it back indoors, Mum would make me scrub the front step and dream of stardom from there.

Mother never seemed to leave the house.  She lived in fear of rain, housewife’s knee and webbed feet because I’d always kick and splash in the step’s water.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved every inch of her, but her constant worrying would make me recoil like a garden snail.

‘You’ll be good at sliding on lettuces,’ she’d say ‘when you’ve finished sulking.’ 

Other mothers told me that militant suffragette still coursed through her veins so I got good at holding my lip and counting to ten whilst she spat out words village girls like me, shouldn’t ever have learned.

Mr Bishop lived next door.  He was an elderly gentleman who side-stepped village gossip.  He always had a pipe hanging out of his mouth and a newspaper under his arm.

“Busy man,” he’d mutter as he passed “gotta pick the winners,” meaning the horses.  Mother would pull me close and warn me off from talking to older men, but as I replaced my school uniform with sequins old Bishop began tipping his hat.  He asked once if I was going to work at the mill with my friends.

“Don’t you know, I’m going to leave this village and never look back Mr Bishop.”

“Maybe Not!”  He smirked confidently.  “Once you’ve seen my handsome nephew whose coming to live with me. He has looks of a movie star and he’s coming in a few weeks time.  Frank Gibson is his name.”

“If he looks like you, he’s got no chance.”  I muttered under my breath. Three weeks later Frank Gibson arrived. He marched down our street, swinging a well-used brown leather suitcase.  Ferocious bubbles of excitement sparked within, and then our eyes met, not for a second but for ages.  He was tall and oh so handsome, so available, so kissable.

 He even had a Clark Gable moustache; but how could I?  He was divorced.

If mother got a sniff of this she’d bind me in her chastity belt, send me off to the circus, and march me to the Mill.  Frank Gibson was a divorced man.  And however many times this replayed in my head the facts never changed.

I’d always known that divorced people were ugly, saggy, wrinkled beings wearing saggy trench coats; I couldn’t have been more wrong.  He was over 6 foot tall and spectacularly gorgeous.  Ok, he was a bit older than me but he had no war wounds like our men.

For weeks I watched him and studied him hard.  He always left Mr Bishops at 6.45am, noisily closing the gate and would wait for my net curtain to twitch, then a spring would bounce into his step as he walked up the road.  I needed a plan; I’d invite him for tea with mother and I.

Sunrises got earlier so I didn’t look stupid carrying the washing basket at 6.45am when I bumped into him at his front gate.

“Good morning Miss Webb.”

“Good morning Mr Gibson.”

“Are you taking the long way to your washing line?”

“I might be.” Flicking my hair like Marilyn Munroe I nervously asked him if he’d like to come for a cup of tea with mother and I after work.

“I’d rather take you for a drink at the pub.”Mother would explode.

“I’ve never actually been to a pub Mr Gibson.!  I confessed.

“You’ll be fine; I’ll take good care of you.”

“But what will the neighbours say?  Maybe it’d be best to come and have tea and a giggle with me here instead.”

“No Spider, I want to be alone with you.  I swear I will look after you.”  Crikey, alone with a man.A man wants me! 

 

In the pub my darkest fears were confirmed.  He wasn’t a divorced man, he was a married man.  His wife had left him and he couldn’t live with the shame in Surrey.  She kept everything he’d worked for, including their marriage certificate.  With shadowed eyes I felt his pain.  Then he recovered himself and sat up tall, he smiled and puffed out his chest and announced he was ready to love again. Sated, I couldn’t remember anymore about that night, all I saw was his beautiful sky blue eyes.

“Do you think people will talk?”  I asked as our pinkie fingers brushed on the star-lit walk home. He laughed as he scooped me off the ground and into his arms.

“Let’s give them the chance to talk themselves silly.” His lips hovered over mine and I never slept that night, nor the next.  Too dizzy to study, mother constantly groaned.

“Margaret, you’re sickening for something. Practise, practise or for God’s sake go and work at the mill!  Stop pacing.”  But how could I?  We’d been seen kissing under the railway bridge.  It was only a matter of time before mother found out.

A week after our pub rendezvous I was convinced we were being followed.  Frank made a decision not to ruin my reputation and future.  He would move over to his mothers in Poole.  We would write to each other for three months.  After that we would see how we felt.

The next day he walked up our street with his brown leather suitcase rigid by his side.  He tipped his hat at mother and I by the gate.  Tears and ink rolled down my face onto paper for three of the longest months of my life.  Three months to the day he promised I received my final letter.

“Let’s run away. I’ll be watching the postman give you this, I’ll meet you at the station.”

I looked up the road and saw him walking away.  I wrote mother a note, a loving note, for all the family to read.

“I know you will be horrified at what I have to do, but Mother I will write often, then you will know that every day I’ve asked God to bless you all.”

I crept down the creaky stair and hid the note in her knitting bag as I watched her roll clothes through the mangle with her back turned.  I tiptoed out of our family cottage without looking back.  I ran towards Sway railway station.

Frank was there, stood on platform 1 with his arms outstretched.  At 11.20am the train to Bournemouth rolled in.  He took hold of my left hand and slid a gold ring on my third finger.  At Bournemouth a bus took us to Torquay where three years later our eyes still matched the stars. 

After returning from work and leaving his boots outside, I jumped into his arms like I’d done at the train station that day.

“What about my kiss.”  He joked.

“I’ve got something better than a kiss Frank.  We’re going to have a baby.”

“My darling love, this is fantastic.  Let’s get married.”

“But Frank, you’re already married.”

 

Two weeks later Frank asked two strangers to support us as we walked hand in hand into the registry office.

April Rose was born, healthy and screaming, followed two years later by Mark Anthony.  Our life together was a whir of abundant love.  After five years in Torquay one night Frank came home early.  He took off his hat and coat outside the flat before he entered.He looked like a Cheshire cat.

“What?  What Frank?  Tell me.”  I squealed expecting he’d been promoted, or won a bet.

“Sit down Spider- come kids.  We’re moving – Back to Sway.”  I was aghast. “I know you have always missed your family so terribly.”  I jumped into his arms and we all began twirling, dancing around the room.

“Where?”

“In a caravan, on a permanent site, it’ll be like being on holiday, a big adventure.”

“Oh Frank, it’s the most wonderful thing ever.”

A few weeks later we were back with the forest’s nature, my mother, brother and sister- all married.  Family life couldn’t have been more perfect.  Eventually April married and Mark Anthony graduated.  Home alone our days revolved around grandchildren and learning how to text but bad news came.

Frank started to shrivel before my eyes.  The doctor sent him for tests and the results couldn’t have been worse.  Cancer had come to feast on our love.  He was diagnosed as terminal.

“Let’s go back to Torquay.”  He began to whistle.  “To the bed and breakfast, from all those years ago.”

In shock, I packed the same leather worn, brown suitcase.  Then the following year I bought a lightweight case with wheels.  Frank quietly died two weeks before our third visit.

 

Today I’m 83 years old and no one knows me as Spider.  Every morning before my feet touch the floor, I kiss my gold wedding ring, the one he slid onto my finger at the railway station.  I thank God for our blessed webbed lives.  And as the sun sets, I look up to the sky, to my Frank, and sense his lips searching mine.

 

 

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Submitted: January 29, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Annie Anderson. All rights reserved.

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