River­side by Glenda Young

Juan’s pro­posal to Carol isn’t go­ing the way he planned . . .

The People's Friend - - Contents -

JUAN!” Carol cried. “Get up from the floor, this in­stant!” Juan looked from Carol to Anna. “This is your sis­ter, no? She is beau­ti­ful, too, but it is you who I want, Carol. Please come back to Spain with me. I will give you ev­ery­thing your heart de­sires.”

“That’s what you said last time,” Carol huffed. “Then you stole most of my sav­ings and did a run­ner!”

Juan held the small vel­vet ring box closer to Carol, urg­ing her to take it and ac­cept his pro­posal.

“Get up off your knee!” she hissed.

Juan looked around him sheep­ishly. By now his ac­tions had at­tracted the at­ten­tion of most of the cus­tomers in the Old Engine Room, and all eyes were turned to­wards Carol and Anna’s ta­ble by the win­dow.

“No, Carol,” Juan in­sisted. “I will not get up or leave here un­til you give me your an­swer. Will you marry me?”

Carol rolled her eyes at Anna, but be­fore she could say any­thing more, a tall man in a smart black suit and grey silk tie ap­peared at the side of their ta­ble.

“Is this gen­tle­man both­er­ing you?” he asked Carol po­litely.

He pointed to­wards Juan, who was still on bended knee, hold­ing the box with the en­gage­ment ring in it.

“Yes, but there’s no need,” Carol be­gan. “Juan, get up!”

Juan slowly raised him­self to his full height, but he was no match for the man who tow­ered above him. “Carol?” Juan pleaded. Carol shook her head. “Never in a mil­lion years,” she said. “You had your chance and you blew it. Go – and never darken my door again.”

Anna gasped with shock. She had never heard her sis­ter sound so as­sertive.

Juan turned to­wards Anna and held out the en­gage­ment ring to­wards her.

“How about you, lady? Would you like to marry me?”

“Get out, Juan,” Carol said.

“You heard the lady,” the man in the suit said.

Then he took hold of Juan’s arm and firmly es­corted him to the exit.

When he re­turned to Carol and Anna’s ta­ble, Carol thanked him for his help.

“It wasn’t nec­es­sary, though,” she said. “He was just a lit­tle nui­sance.”

Anna gave her sis­ter a gen­tle kick un­der the ta­ble.

“But I’m very grate­ful for your help,” she added, shoot­ing Anna a look.

“Would you like to join us?” Anna asked.

“I’m with some friends,” the man said, look­ing into Carol’s eyes. “Maybe next time? Let me give you my num­ber. My name’s Joe.”

“And this is Carol,” Anna said quickly. “And she’s sin­gle.”

“Lovely to meet you, Carol,” he said, smil­ing.

He scrib­bled his num­ber on a servi­ette be­fore he headed back to his ta­ble.

“Well, I never.” Carol sighed. “All I wanted was a quiet lunch and it’s turned into quite the drama.”

“He’s dishy, too,” Anna de­clared. “Are you go­ing to ring him? Be­cause if you don’t, I might.”

Carol popped the servi­ette into her hand­bag be­fore Anna could say any more.

At Ge­orge and Mary’s house, the ket­tle was on the boil.

Mary was ar­rang­ing two mugs on the tray be­side the teapot. She took out the packet of choco­late di­ges­tives and popped one into her mouth while she was wait­ing for the wa­ter to boil, then put the packet on to the tray.

When the tea was made, she took the whole thing through to the liv­ing-room where Ge­orge was sit­ting on the sofa with his feet up.

He’d been fid­dling with his smart­phone most of the af­ter­noon, but as soon as Mary came in, Ge­orge fu­ri­ously pressed a few but­tons and the screen went dark.

“What are you up to?” she asked, cu­ri­ous to know what was keep­ing his at­ten­tion.

“Oh, noth­ing much,” he replied.

“You’ve been look­ing at it all day,” she said. “I thought you were go­ing to have a walk out to the al­lot­ment this af­ter­noon to check on things?”

Ge­orge looked out of the win­dow.

“I’ll go later,” he told her. “You haven’t for­got­ten about the fire­works dis­play this week­end?” Mary asked.

“Is it this week­end?” Ge­orge asked, scratch­ing his head.

“I thought you’d put it in the cal­en­dar on your phone there?” Mary said.

She reached out to pick up Ge­orge’s phone to check the cal­en­dar set­tings, but he beat her to it and snatched the phone out of her hand.

“Ge­orge! What are you do­ing?” Mary cried.

Both of them looked at the phone in Ge­orge’s hand where a text mes­sage sat, wait­ing to be read. The name of the sender was vis­i­ble to them both – Tiger Lil. Mary didn’t recog­nise it.

“It’s just a friend,” Ge­orge said de­fen­sively. “I’m go­ing up to the al­lot­ment.”

Ge­orge threw on his coat and scarf and stormed out of the house, bang­ing the door be­hind him.

Left alone with the teapot and bis­cuits, thoughts whirled in Mary’s mind.

It’s not like Ge­orge to be so se­cre­tive, she thought. What on earth is go­ing on?

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