She was reading, when the doorbell rang. Who was it? she wondered irritably. It couldn’t be Iain. He wasn’t due home until this evening unless he had come home early and had forgotten his key. She put the book on the window ledge and got up.
When she peered through the keyhole and saw who her visitors were, she immediately opened the door. “Are you alone?” Darlene asked as she and the others filed into the loft.
“Yes. Iain is at work. What are you guys doing here?”
“We were on our way to the Mall and thought that we would stop by and see if you wanted to go with us.”
“You could have called.”
“Aren’t you glad to see us?” Wendy asked looking a little miffed.
Chloe sighed. “Sure I am but I don’t feel up to going anywhere. I would much rather stay here and read.”
“What’s that you’re reading?” Darlene asked.
“What’s it about?” Wendy asked.
“It’s about a young wizard who meets and falls in love with a princess when she runs away from the wicked prince who wants to marry her. The prince got a witch to turn his older brother, the rightful heir to the throne and his loyal servants into the flying horses and banished them to an underworld kingdom. The young wizard brought hem out of that horrible place and up to the windy slopes.”
Julie made a face. “That sounds like one of those fantasy tales.”
“Not my cup of tea,” Julie said. “I prefer Victorian romances.”
“I’m more partial to Science Fiction,” Patty said, as she looked around the loft.
Chloe shrugged. “To each his own.”
“You’ve got a really cool set up here,” Patty remarked.
“You lucked out when you met Iain. He’s loaded, isn’t he?” Wendy said.
Chloe’s mouth tightened. “I didn’t get involved with him because of his money,” she muttered.
“Why did you hook up with him then?” Wendy asked, looking and sounding skeptical.
“I was attracted to him.”
“But he’s old enough to be your father,” Patty interjected.
“No, he isn’t.”
“You’re twenty and he’s what–in his forties?” Wendy seemed repulsed by the idea.
“So? When it comes to love, age shouldn’t matter.”
“So, you’re saying that you love him?” Wendy pressed.
“And what about him? Does he love you?” Patty asked.
“Are you sure about that?” Wendy asked.
“Yes, I’m sure.” She wished they hadn’t come over. She had been having a quiet and pleasant day so far.
“Come on, guys, leave her alone,” Darlene said. “Her relationship with Iain isn’t any of our business.”
“Darlene’s right,” Julie said. “You have no right to be sticking your noses where they don’t belong.”
“Thanks, guys,” Chloe said to Darlene and Julie.
“Maybe we should leave,” Patty said.
“So, can we persuade you come to the Mall with us?” Julie asked Chloe.
“No, but thanks for dropping by.” She preceded them to the door. “Have fun at the Mall,” she said as she opened the door.
“Don’t worry, we will,” Wendy muttered as she walked past her.
“Goodbye,” Patty said.
“Goodbye,” was Chloe’s frosty reply.
“I’ll be in touch,” Darlene said to her before she walked out.
Chloe closed and locked the door. Peace and quiet again. She went back over to the chair and picked up her book. She sat and put her feet up on the window seat as before but instead of reading, she stared out of the window, her brow knitted. Why had Patty and Wendy questioned Iain’s feelings for her and why did it unsettle her so? Of course, he loved her. There was no doubt about that.
So, he never came right out and said, “I love you,” but that wasn’t an indication that he didn’t, was it? He had asked her to move with him, hadn’t he? That was a form of commitment, wasn’t it? They had been living together since she was eighteen which was three years ago. Her mother hadn’t approved, of course but she didn’t stop her. She figured that it was better that Chloe left because she didn’t get along with her step-father. They were always having heated arguments. Chloe’s father had died seven years ago. Her mother remarried three years ago to a younger man whom Chloe couldn’t stand. Her mother always took his side which angered and hurt Chloe. They became estranged.
It was just before Chloe graduated from high-school when she met Iain. It was at a friend’s barbecue. He was there alone and so was she. He approached her and struck up a conversation. They spent the entire time together and when he took her home, they made arrangements to see each other again. They began dating. He attended her graduation ceremony and treated her to dinner at a fancy restaurant. A couple of weeks later, he asked her to move in with him which she readily did. By then, she was madly in love with him. And all this time she assumed that her feelings were reciprocated. Had she been mistaken?
No! She closed the book, swung her feet to the ground and stood up. D Wendy and Patty for making her doubt Iain’s love for her. She hadn’t until they began to question her about it. They’re just jealous, she told herself. They were just jealous because she had a man and neither of them did.
At five, she closed her book and got busy preparing dinner. She wanted it to be piping hot when he got home at six. After she was done, she took a quick shower and changed into a sundress and pulled her hair back in a French knot. As usual, she wanted to look good for him.
While she got dinner ready, he went and took a quick shower. The table was set when he went into the dining-room. “Something smells very good,” he remarked as they sat down.
She smiled. “It’s a new recipe I decided to try today. I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure I will.”
As they had dinner, she told him about her friends’ visit but not what they said. He would probably tell her not to let their words upset her and that they were wrong. He was as madly in love with her as she was with him. He didn’t say much. She did most of the talking but she didn’t mind. He was probably tired after a busy day at the office.
After they had dessert, while he went into the living-room, she cleared the table and cleaned up. Some time later, she joined him. He was standing by the fireplace. She went over to him. “Are you all right?” she asked. “You’ve been very quiet this evening. Is something wrong?”
“Have a seat on the sofa.”
She went over to the sofa and sat down. Her eyes were glued to his face. His expression filled her with apprehension. Heart racing, she sat forward, hands clasped in lap. “Please tell me what’s troubling you, Iain.”
“Chloe, our relationship can’t continue as it is.”
Her heart sank and she could feel the color leave her face. “What-what do you mean?” she stammered.
“I think it’s time for a change.”
“What are you saying?” Oh, no, she groaned inwardly. Please don’t let him be breaking up with me.
“We’ve been living together for about three years now and–“
“And, we’ve been very happy together, haven’t we?”
“Yes, we have been but–“
“Why do you want to change things between us now?
“So, you just want us things to continue as they are now?”
“Yes, Iain, I do.”
“That’s a pity,” he said. “I was hoping to put an engagement ring on your finger.”
She stared at him. “What?”
“I was going to propose to you tonight after dinner and thought I’d be clever about it but it didn’t quite turn how I hoped.”
She burst into tears.
He watched her in alarm. “What’s the matter?” he asked, going over to her. He sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulder. “Tell me, what have I said or done to upset you like this?”
“I-I thought you were going to break up with me.”
“Why on earth would I do that?”
She told him what Wendy and Patsy had said. “They don’t believe that you love me.”
“It doesn’t matter what they think,” he told her, brushing his knuckles against her wet cheeks. “What matters is that you and I love each other.”
He reached into his pocket and took out a small red box. “Earlier when I said that it’s time for a change, I meant that I wanted to make an honest woman out of you. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry, Honey.”
“It’s all right,” she cried, her eyes widening when she saw the beautiful diamond ring. “This more than makes up for it.”
He got down on his knee, took her hand in his and asked, “Chloe, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
“Yes!” She cupped his face between her hands. “Yes.“
He put his arms around her waist as they kissed.
She couldn’t wait to call her friends and tell them the wonderful news. She couldn’t wait to see the expressions on Wendy’s and Patsy’s faces.