It was a gloomy day with intermittent spurts of rain. It was as if nature itself was mourning the loss of a great woman. Tracy was not surprised at the large turnout. The church was packed as many came to pay their respects and pay homage to Mrs. Gladys Townsend, the dear lady whom she had nursed for over five years. She was a remarkable lady with a magnetic personality. Although her body had succumbed to the Parkinson’s, her mind was still alert. In the end, she had died in her sleep.
Tracy remembered how Mrs. Townsend had loved it when she read to her before she went to bed. She loved Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Tracy enjoyed reading to her and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next in the story. She had Aiden to thank for the position which had been a tremendous blessing for her. Aiden was Mrs. Townsend’s son. It was his idea to have his mother remain in the comforts of her home but be attended by a live-in nurse. He contacted the live-in care agency a friend had recommended.
Tracy was selected for the position because of her experience and qualifications. It also helped that she and Mrs. Townsend hit it off right away. Whatever misgivings Aiden might have had, they were squashed when he saw how his mother received her warmly, remarking, “What kind eyes you have.”
Aiden. Her gaze moved exactly where she knew he was standing. Tall and regal in the black coat, his expression somber as he watched the coffin being lowered into the ground. He seemed oblivious to the rain that was falling. His dark hair glistened in the pale light. She wanted to go over to him and shelter them both with the umbrella but she remained where she was, off to the side like an onlooker.
At the church, they hadn’t spoken to each other. He was flanked by family and friends and Caitlin Brown. Caitlin made no secret of the fact that she wanted to be more than friends with Aiden. Tracy saw her tuck her arm in his and rest her head against his shoulder. She looked away, feeling ashamed of the jealousy that stirred in her when she was supposed to be mourning the lost of a dearly departed one.
It was no use denying that she was in love with Aiden. It might have happened the first time she met him or during those visits to his mother’s home on the weekends. He lived in London close to his office and work kept him busy. So, visiting during the week was not feasible. She found herself looking forward to those weekends. Over the years, feelings developed between them but Tracy had to keep things on a professional level because of her job. She could get fired if she were to become romantically involved with a family member.
Mrs. Townsend was very fond of Tracy and knew that she and Aiden had feelings for each other but she understood Tracy’s reasons for not doing anything about it. So, to be on the safe side, Tracy avoided being alone with him as much as was possible. She had watched him throughout the funeral service and when she saw him and Caitlin get into his car, it stung. She got a ride with a friend.
Now, here she was watching him and Caitlin huddled together. The coffin was being covered with dirt as the priest said the final words. Then it was over. She turned and was walking back to where the cars were parked when she heard Aiden call her name. She stopped and turned. Her fingers gripped the handle of the umbrella tightly as she tried to appear untroubled at the sight of him and the beautiful redhead at his side. She noticed the look of disdain Caitlin gave her and how her long red nails curled into the sleeve of his coat.
Aiden was looking at Tracy who met his gaze, wondering if he could tell how much she wished that the two of them were alone. Her fingers itched to reach out and run themselves through the thick tresses of his hair. For his part, his expression was drawn. “How are you holding up, Tracy?” he asked.
“As well as expected,” she said, touched that he was concerned about her when he must be going through hell. He and his mother were close. Mrs. Townsend adored him and was always singing his praises. “How about you?”
“I’m coping,” he said. He gently disengaged his arm from Caitlin’s, removed his coat and draped it over his arm as he stepped closer to Tracy. “Will you let me take you back to the house?” he asked.
She nodded. It had stopped raining. She closed the umbrella.
He took her arm and was about to walk away when Caitlin, who looked rather put out, exclaimed, “What about me?”
“Jake will give you a ride home,” Aiden told her before he turned walked away, taking Tracy with him.
“I don’t think she likes me,” Tracy commented as they walked to his car. She had to almost run to keep up with him. It seemed like he wanted to get out of there and fast!
Aiden didn’t answer. In fact he said nothing all the way to the car or even when they were leaving the cemetery. It wasn’t until they were a good way from there, that he spoke. “Tracy, what Caitlin thinks is of no importance to me.”
She looked at him in surprise. “But, I thought that you and she—”
“How could you think that there is anything between Caitlin and me when I have waited for five years for you? I haven’t dated her or any woman since I met you. I know that your job prevented you from getting involved with me but now you are not longer employed by me. So, what is stopping us now from being together? I love you, Tracy. And I know that you love me.”
She nodded. “I do. You don’t know how hard it was for me to push my feelings aside all these years.”
“Let’s go away,” he said. They were at a stop light. He turned to look at her, his eyes intense as they met hers. “I want to be alone with you somewhere far away from here.”
“Where would you like to go?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter as long as we are together. Perhaps somewhere tropical. It would be good to get away from this dreary weather and the cold.”
“When would you like to go?”
“As soon as possible. Perhaps as early as Friday.” Friday was four days away. “No one will object, and even if they did, I really don’t care. It’s what Mother would have wanted. She was rather fond of you, you know. She knew how I felt about you and always encouraged me to hang on. I would have waited for you, Tracy, no matter how long it took. My only regret is that I couldn’t be with you while my mother was still alive.”
“I know. I also know that we have her blessing. Jamaica.”
“Jamaica?” he looked puzzled.
She smiled. “You said somewhere tropical.”
He laughed. “Jamaica, it is.” He reached over and kissed her before the light turned green.
It was on the Friday, their first evening in Montego Bay, as they stood on the beach, watching the setting sun as it hovered over the ocean when Aiden proposed to Tracy. As he got down on his knee, Tracy’s hand flew up to her face as the sound of a sob mingled with a gasp rose from her throat. Aiden took out the box and opened it, displaying the exquisite ring he had bought the year after they met and which he had shown his mother the night before she passed away. He had kept it hidden in a drawer just as he had kept hidden in his heart the hope of one day putting it on her finger.
And here they were, on a beautiful beach, bathed with the crimson glow of the sun and the sound of the waves as they rolled on to the sand. It couldn’t have been more romantic. As he looked at Tracy’s face which glistened with tears, he thought he had never seen her look more beautiful and his heart swelled with the love he felt for her.
He took the ring out of the box and reached for her hand. He slowly slipped the ring on, savoring the moment. It was a perfect fit. He stood up, his eyes held hers for a moment before he took her in his arms and kissed her just as the sun disappeared into the sea.
Sources: Christie’s Care; Hilary’s Agency