~ Chapter Three ~
Henry and Rosie pulled away from the crowd and ran to somewhere more private so they could talk. They spent hours together; learning more about one another, laughing freely at jokes and genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
“Wow, Rosie” Henry said whilst Rosie was still laughing at his joke. He took her hand in his. “You’re remarkable.”
Rosie smiled back at Henry and blushed. “Well, sir. You aren’t too bad yourself.” She replied, before winking and laughing.
Henry stroked her cheek gently. “I mean it Rosie. You are remarkable. You’re not plastic like the other girls. You’re just yourself. And you, by being only yourself, are remarkable.” His eyes locked onto hers as he smiled.
Rosie looked down at her dress and blushed. She didn’t believe a word of it. They had only just met. Her first impression on him may be good, but he must surely be over-exaggerating. She patted down a crease on her dress in silent contemplation. “Thank you” she whispered. When she looked up into his eyes, she bit her lip and her eyes welled with tears as she realised he was being sincere. She wanted to say something to him. How much she liked being with him but she didn’t entirely trust her voice. She diverted her watery eyes from his hoping he hadn’t seen her emotion.
Henry’s face slowly changed to worry. “Rosie? Rosie, what’s the matter? Was it something I said?”
Rosie shook her head a little too violently, whilst brushing a lone fallen tear from her cheek. “Oh. Oh, no!” she released a muffled laugh. “No, what you said- was lovely. I-I-” she choked. “I’ve just never had someone say that to me. Ever. I mean, after my father died, my mother was so upset. For months. She’s only just recovered from losing him. But seeing her mourn like that, to lose the one she loved-” Rosie shook her head again. “I promised myself that I wouldn’t let myself get hurt like that. I told myself that to save myself the heartbreak, I wouldn’t fall in love. And then here you are, so amazingly brilliant and lovely and kind. I’m stuck. I’m at a loss as to what to do. I know that I wouldn’t be able to recover like she did. I know I couldn’t. She had to, for me; I was only young. But me, as I am, being older… I couldn’t. I just couldn’t pull through such a loss like she did… I simply couldn’t.”
Henry kissed her hand. “I understand. Rosie? I won’t hurt you.”
“But how do you know that? My father didn’t know he’d get killed. He didn’t know how much he’d hurt my mother…”
Henry thought for a moment. “I don’t know the future. Nobody does. All I can do is everything I can to make you happy.” He tucked a stray strand of hair behind Rosie’s ear and smiled. “For you, I’d do anything. Anything, Rosie.”
“You mean that?” she whispered as she placed her head on his shoulder.
“With all my heart.” He linked his fingers between hers. “I know we’ve just met, but it feels like I’ve known you for years. You remind me so much of-” Henry stopped midsentence as he realised how it would end.
“Of what?” Rosie asked, looking up at him question in her voice.
He bowed his head and looked at their hands. “My wife. Emily.” He said in little more than a whisper.
Rosie pulled herself away from him and sat up in an instant. “Your wife?!” she exclaimed incredulously. “Oh God. How could I be so stupid?! I’ve fallen in love with a married man! I was right. I was right.” She held her head gently in her hands as her voice quietened. “I was right. I shouldn’t fall in love. I’ll only get hurt.”
Henry waited for her to fall silent staring into space, remembering her. “She used to be.” He got up and walked slowly to the window, overlooking the gardens.
Guilt crept over Rosie. “What happened?” Rosie asked raising her head from her hands to watch his back.
“She died. A year and a half ago. In childbirth.”
“I am so sorry.” Rosie said gently. “Do you miss her?”
“For a while, every second of every minute of every day. I grieved for months after she died. I mourned her. I mourned my unborn son. My family. I was alone. I had no one. I turned to alcohol in a feeble attempt to find the solution at the bottom of every bottle. But then it hit me.” Henry spun on his heels to face Rosie. “The feeling of loss? It never fades. They say it does. ‘It’ll pass’” He mimed in a voice full of mockery. “But Rosie? It never does. The only thing that pulled me out of my misery, the one thing that kept me sane, was the realisation that I couldn’t have done anything to have prevented her fate. Just like your father, Rosie. You, your mother, no one could have prevented his unfortunate demise.”
“I could have stopped him from going.” Rosie stood up, angered. “He could have stayed. He could still be here. My father could still be alive.”
Henry grabbed her shoulders. “Rosie, you need to stop blaming yourself for his death. He saved us all. He fought, and he fought bravely. He fought for you, your mother, and for our country!” He tipped her chin so she looked at him. “Please don’t blame yourself. He wouldn’t want you to. He’d want you to be happy. He’d want you to be proud of him.”
Rosie’s eyes welled with tears. As soon as she wrapped her arms around Henry, she gently started sobbing. She knew he was right. Too right. She did blame herself and she knew he only wanted her to ever be happy.
He wound his arms around her and kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry.” He whispered.
“For what?” she whispered back, her voice furthered muffled from his shirt.
“For making you upset. For making you cry. I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t make me upset. You just- You’re the only one who knows how I feel. I can compare to you. I feel your pain and you know mine. I think that’s what hurts the most. We’re so alike.”
Henry sighed. “Tragedy lacks mercifulness. Let’s take a walk in the gardens.”
Outside it was pleasantly cool and refreshing. The sun had set hours ago and the garden was comparatively quiet to the party that was continuing inside the house.
Henry held Rosie’s hand as they walked through the gardens, filled with blooming flowers of every colour and variety. Henry dropped Rosie’s hand and ran ahead. He pulled something from the bush, turned back to Rosie and bowed whilst sniffing the deep red flower.
Henry outstretched the hand containing the flower whilst still bowing. “A rose for Rosie.” A smile stretched over his lips.
Rosie laughed, took it and inhaled its sweet scent. “My favourite. How’d you know?”
He laughed, taking her hand in his once again. “Lucky guess… Now, tell me. What was it you were saying earlier about how you’ve fallen in love with me?”
Rosie blushed and held the rose to her nose to hide her smile. “Oh you know… I just… You seem really nice and I think you’re amazing…” Rosie hesitated, blushing deeper and looked back at towards the house. “But it could have just been in just the heat of the moment…”
Henry looked at her. “Really? That’s a shame.”
“A shame? Why?” Rosie asked, spinning her head back to him in confusion.
“Yes” said Henry laughing and tilting her chin up gently. “Because I think I’m falling in love with you.”
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