Thursday, 23 August 2012

RFW Challenge No 43 - August 24th 2012 Romantic Picnic

Welcome to Romantic Friday Writers Challenge No. 43 for Friday 24th August 2012. RFWers is a fortnightly challenge that is founded by and hosted by and Donna Hole. Challenge No 43 is the theme, 'Romantic Picnic'.

My text for 'Romantic Picnic' is a continuation and wrap-up of my story about Paul and his first wife, Jenny, his new girlfriend, Priscilla, and his children Colin and Sarah.

Before you read the text for challenge No. 43, you may want to read the beginning of the story. If not, just scroll down until you get to a larger size typeface again with this image:

Paul was waiting for his first wife, Jenny, to be declared legally dead. He could hardly wait to propose marriage to his new girl friend, Priscilla, a younger associate with whom he had been dating for three months. Paul's first wife went missing four years ago after her ship wrecked in a storm. There were lifeboats and survivors, but she was never found. Paul had asked his legal adviser about speeding things up. He did not want to wait seven years.
Paul invited Priscilla out to dinner at the new French restaurant, Victor Hugo. They had just finished their Lobster Thermidor, and were about to order dessert.
‘I'd like to have the Bavarian cream. What would you like, my love?’ inquired Paul as he returned the menu to the waiter.
‘Oh, that sounds good. I'll have that too,’ replied Priscilla, beaming with pride and expectation. This was no ordinary dinner. 
While they waited for their Bavarois au Chocolat, Paul dug into his jacket pocket and pull out a small gift-wrapped package and put on the table.
‘Oh, what have we here?’ asked Priscilla, lighting up like fire-fly.
‘A little present for you,’ said Paul smiling slyly as he slowly pushed the package on the white linen tablecloth over to Priscilla, ‘Please open it!’
Priscilla tore away the wrapping paper and found a small box. Inside was a beautiful emerald and gold ring with a hand-written note: Will you marry me?
‘Oh, Paul, you remembered my favourite colour! The answer is yes!’ replied Priscilla, in time before the waiter came with their desserts.
Paul smiled and was about to say something about their future together when the Bavarian cream arrived. Paul ordered coffee and surveyed all the well-dressed men and women sitting at white linen-covered tables, celebrating something, just as they were. It was then that Paul saw a woman who looked familiar. She was standing by the entrance, speaking with the head waiter.
‘What is it, Paul? Don't you feel well? You look as if you've seen a ghost.’
‘No, I'm fine. Couldn't be better!’ lied Paul as he was trying to think about what this meant. The woman he saw was Jenny, his first wife. He could see her clearly. Had she seen him? 
Paul paid the waiter and rose from the table, ‘Would you like to wait here while I get our wraps?’
 ‘No, dear, I'd like to use the ladies.’ I'll meet you at the door.’
As Paul approached the coat-check, a thin blond woman touched his sleeve.

‘Jenny! Is it you?’ whispered Paul.

‘Yes, Paul. Take this and call me. We need to talk,’ murmured Jenny as she shoved a note into Paul's hand. Paul unfolded the small paper as he saw Jenny march toward the exit.
‘Well, what happened last night?’ inquired Charlotte, Priscilla's roommate, ‘Did he propose?’
‘Yes!’ said Priscilla quietly showing her left hand with the emerald engagement ring.
‘So pretty! When's the wedding?’
‘I don't know yet. We didn't talk that much. He just drove me home and that was that.’
‘Maybe he was just tired.’
‘Yes, suppose so,’ replied Priscilla unconvinced.
There was a telephone number on the scrap of paper that Jenny had given Paul. He dialled and waited.
‘Hello Jenny, it's Paul.’
‘Thank you for calling. I have so much I would like to talk to you about. Would you be willing to meet me somewhere to talk?’
 ‘Yes. Where shall we meet?’
Jenny gave Paul directions to The Silver Spoon, a middling restaurant on the other side of town. Paul wasted no time. Is the magic still there? he thought as he took Jenny's hand and walked toward the entrance. 
‘Are you hungry, Jenny? I’ve already had dinner, but I can drink a cup of coffee while you eat something.’
Paul and Jenny sat down and placed their orders. Looking straight into Jenny’s face, Paul asked, ‘What happened? Why didn't you let me know?’
‘I couldn't. We were going to take the boat, which was why our names were on the passenger list, but we changed our minds at the last moment. Tom had got this idea to take an air-trip instead. Well, to make a long story short, we got off course and crashed on a tiny island. Tom was badly injured and we lost radio contact. I did what I could to help him, but Tom died a week after the crash. After that, I was alone.'

‘When did you get off the island?’
‘About a month ago. When I was found by the fishing boat, the embassy was notified and I was sent to hospital, where we started making inquiries as to who could help me.’
‘If I had only known. We all thought that you were dead.’
‘How are the children?’
‘Sarah was only two when you disappeared; Colin was four. My brother and sister-in-law have really been helpful with Sarah and Colin. They can't have any children of their own, so they want to adopt them.’
‘Please say that it has not yet been done.’
‘No, not yet. I have yet to get a final death certificate.’
‘So I am presumed dead?’
‘Surely, we can get this misunderstanding cleared when I show up alive?’
‘Yes, of course. I’ll get my legal adviser to help you.’
‘Do you still have any of my things, my clothes, books and such?’
‘There are still a few things left, that I could not part with, but I am afraid that we have already had an auction and sold most things.’
‘I see.’
‘To be fair and honest, I must tell you that I have been seeing someone.’
‘Oh? Is it serious?’
‘Well, I had thought that I might remarry. Four years is a long time.’
‘Yes it is. Try spending it alone on a deserted island. After Tom died, I only had one thought to sustain me: to stay alive, be rescued and reunited with you, Colin and Sarah. What do you think, Paul? Is it too late for us? I still love you, or at least, I still love the Paul I knew.’
‘I want to help you any way I can, Jenny. But I think the best thing would be for us to not be married again.’
Jenny put her hand to her mouth and tears rolled down her cheeks, ‘Four years. Think about it! Four wasted years. Please don’t throw the rest of my life away. Let's not decide today.  Let me see the children first at least.’

‘I’m engaged to be married. I gave her a ring. I need to speak with her. Your return  changes everything. I don’t know what to say.’
‘Do you still love me, Paul?’
‘Yes, Jenny, I do. I have grieved for you. I have wished and prayed for your return. But now that you are here, I am confused, bewildered and worried.’
‘Aren’t you glad to see me?’
‘Yes, Jenny, I am happy. Very, very happy that you are alive,’ said Paul and could say no more as tears flooded his eyes.
A Mrs Robinson Crusoe rescued after four years  [Fictitious newspaper article]

Jenny Holland, 32-year old journalist, is the sole survivor of a crash-landing on the tiny, isolated island of Derasepsy in the South Pacific. The pilot, Richard Smith, perished upon impact and Mrs Holland’s colleague, the well-known photographer Tom Norton, died of severe injuries one week after the crash.  

Miraculously, Mrs Holland survived the emergency landing unscathed and waited nearly four year alone before being rescued, by fishermen. Mrs Holland has stated that after the initial shock of the crash, the grief of losing her two friends, and the physical strain of building a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, that it was loneliness and fear that were hardest to bear.

‘I was constantly afraid of hurting myself or becoming ill by eating the wrong plant or fish. I wanted to be rescued, but not by criminals who would have murdered me. I kept thinking that I must survive to see my children and husband again. That kept me going.’

‘There are, however, three things that I could have done better: 

First of all, a mother of two small children, age two and four, has no business doing dangerous work. I should never have accepted the assignment.

Secondly, if you are making a risky voyage, you should have a ditch-kit with you. I had no tools with me, not even a pocket knife. It was thanks to Mr Smith’s toolbox that I had the means to survive as well as I did. I could make a shelter and kitchen utensils. I took whatever I could use. I used the airplane's stainless steel teapot to boil drinking-water. 

The third thing that I regret not doing properly is telling someone exactly where we were headed. We had booked passage on a ship, but changed our plans at the last minute and made our way by air. This contributed to the misunderstanding that we had drowned when that ship wrecked. It is sad to think that if we had been rescued sooner, perhaps Tom Norton would have survived. No one knew where we were. I could have spent the next ten years alone on that island and died there too without ever being found if I had not been lucky enough to be found by a fishing vessel that had sailed slightly off course.

Mrs Holland has received several offers from publishers to write about her time as a female ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

‘One good thing that I did do on the island was to keep a written diary. I also had a calendar with me which enabled me to keep track of the passing days. These brief daily notes have been invaluable in writing my book. Otherwise, I would have lost the ability to pinpoint when certain things happened.’

‘But what is more important than the book is getting back to being a mother to my children.’

Excerpts from Priscilla's diary:
Saturday April 7th, 2012

I can hardly believe what has happened. Earlier this evening, Paul invited me out to a fancy restaurant, the Victor Hugo, and proposed! He gave me a gold ring with an emerald!!!
I'm engaged. 

Tuesday April 10th, 2012

I am worried about Paul. He hasn't called. And as soon as he had given me the ring something happened to him top make him very quiet. We were leaving the restaurant and while I said I was going to the ladies room, I stopped and watched him go to the coat check to fetch our wraps. The lobby was so crowded, he probably did not notice me looking. He spoke to a blond woman and she put something in his hand. If she was working there, wouldn't he be the one to give her money? Why would she give him anything? Who is she? Does she have anything to do with Paul's change in mood?

Thursday April 12th, 1012

I could not stand the suspense anymore. I asked Paul if everything was alright. He said that the woman I saw at the restaurant was his first wife, Jenny, whom he thought was dead. This means that he is still legally married. We cannot get engaged. At least not right now.

Oh what to do? If he still loves Jenny he does not have to do anything. But if he says that he still wants to marry me, he'll have to divorce her first.

My roommate, Charlotte, thinks I should break it off and not promise to wait for his divorce. She had an aunt who waited for a man and then when he finally decided to marry her, she was too old to have children. They tried everything. Eventually she got tired of his lack of commitment to her and broke it off. Now she is really alone.
Something to think about. How much does Paul mean to me?  Charlotte thinks I could do better. Maybe she's right. It would be nice to be with someone who really loves me. And not have to compete with a ghost. Especially when that ghost turns out to be a woman of flesh and blood.

Saturday April 14th, 2012

What a week! 

I returned Paul's ring yesterday. I told him he has to choose between Jenny and me. We need a break. And I need a change!



And now for Challenge No 43:

Title: 'A Romantic Picnic?'

'Where are you taking us? What's the surprise?' asked Jenny as she sat in the front seat of Paul's car, 'Why are we going to your brother's house?'

'To fetch the children.'


'Thought we'd have a picnic. Do you mind?'

'No, dear. It's probably as good a place to start as any.' 

Paul leaped up the steps of the porch and rang the door bell. Jenny took her time and stood beside Paul as he knocked on the door. The door flew open and an eight-year-old boy with sandy hair like Jenny's ran out and threw himself into her arms.

'Mummy! Mummy! You came back! I knew you would.'

'Oh Colin! I'm so happy to see you! Where's your sister?' Colin held his arms around her waist.

'Sarah's still dressing. Have you heard? We're going on a picnic with Daddy?'

'Yes, I know dear. I'm so excited. Do you know where we are going?

'To a park where we can feed the ducks,' exclaimed Colin as his younger sister appeared at the door. 'Come and meet our real mother. Say hello to Mummy, Sarah.'

Sarah looked down at her feet as she warily approached Jenny. 'You're not our Mummy!'

'Yes she is, Sarah,' insisted Colin, 'You don't remember her. But I do. She is definitely Mummy!'

Sarah ran back into the house screaming, 'Mummy, Mummy!' as Paul's sister, Julia, appeared at the door.

'Mummy, tell her to go away!' Sarah demanded of Julia. Jenny's heart sank.

'Sarah dear, a miracle has happened,' Julia explained crouching to look into Sarah's face. We all thought Mummy was dead. But here she is, alive and well. I'll always love you, Sarah. But Jenny really is your true mother. Why don't you go on the picnic with her and give her a chance?'

Sarah continued to stare at her shoes, but nodded.

'Can you say "hello" to Jenny?' Paul asked.

'Hello, Jenny,' murmured Sarah without looking up.

'Hello, Sarah,' said Jenny shaking her daughter's hand as if she were a complete stranger, which unhappily, indeed, she was.

Paul, Jenny, Colin and even little Sarah, all piled unto the car with bread for the ducks and a special picnic basket that Paul had ordered from The Silver Spoon.


[Text Copyrght Christina Wigren 2012]
Word count for 'Romantic Picnic' is according to WordCalc: 394; FCA; Full Critique Acceptable

Best wishes,

The characters and events in this text are fictitious; any resemblance to persons, living or dead, places, events or firms, is purely coincidental. 

Unless the next theme offers the possibility of writing a new chapter, this story ends with the picnic as far as posts for RFW is concerned. I am trying to make this a longer story. I'll let you know if and when it turns into a finished novel.

Thank you all for your kind comments, encouragement and patience with this not very short piece of fiction.

Oops! I made Colin too old. He is not ten years old at this time, he's only eight.


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