A SIN FOR A SON – Chapter 1 – The Proposal part 4 of 4

This is the final installment of the first chapter of “A SIN FOR A SON”. It is available in hard copy and Kindle on Amazon. I hope that I have not bored you with this printing of the first chapter. I am now back in the US and hope to be blogging again in force. See you, and thank you for your interest!

She closed the door, letting her hand linger on the cold metal handle as she tried to coax it to latch without a sound, allowing her to slip, unnoticed, upstairs. But it wasn’t quiet and gave its usual clank when the latch engaged. As she turned, she noticed a golden tulip petal which had fallen to the floor. She bent down and picked it up. It was soft and smooth, so gentle, that as she rose she held it to her cheek to fully enjoy its sweet softness against her skin. While she was lingering nostalgically, her father, who had been watching, came into the hall from his library. In his haste to catch her, his foot caught on a Persian rug at the transition from carpet to stone to carpet. He wobbled and regained his balance. He held a slender wartime British daily newspaper in his right hand and tapped it on his left. His kindly face looked anxious and expectant while his presence seemed to fill the large hall. Walter’s hasty departure could mean only one thing, and yet her pensive pose with the tulip petal at her cheek seemed to convey something else.
“Well, Luisa, that was fast. So, do you have some good news for us?” He spoke kindly in his expectant response to her stance.

She sized up his tweeds and worn sweater and looked into his face. “No, Father, no ‘good news’, as you put it. I’m sorry. I can’t marry Walter. I’ve got to wait for the right man.”

The old frustration with his pretty daughter came back to Thomas; he even wondered why she should have been so well endowed when she didn’t seem to want to share herself with anyone. He raised his voice, “Wait, how could you say that, Luisa? You have waited long enough.” He looked at the newspaper in his hand. The date, April 15, 1942, reminded him that she was thirty-two today and still unmarried.

“Thirty-two is too old, much too old, for a young woman to be unmarried. And love, Luisa, at your age, my girl, love is a moot point. You listen to me; I know about men and I know that this one is a good man.” He beat the paper into his broad open hand, remembering the top story which featured the new plane touted to be a harbinger of victory. “He is a war hero who will be flying one of those new Lancaster heavy bombers. After the war he will be a good provider. He is constant and he adores you. What more could you ask?”

“Well, I was hoping for love on my part.” Luisa fidgeted slightly and dropped the petal on the table next to the vase of flowers. She dusted her fingertips over it almost as though this action symbolized her rejection of Walter.

He noticed that she spoke more meekly than usual and responded by stopping banging the paper on his hand. He tried to make his voice persuasive.

“You could learn to love him.”

“I’ve tried to, Father, but it is not something you just turn on.” Her voice was resolute as she went on. “I like him, I like him a lot. I like him as a friend, and that is where it ends.”

“I repeat, he is a good man. Married to him, you would learn to love him. If you tried you could learn. If you don’t get some sense you are going to end as a barren, bitter, bickering old biddy like your great aunt Bertha.” By now Thomas was pounding his newspaper into his cupped hand in time with his words. His face reddened.

Luisa knew his patter so well that she hardly listened to his tirade. Her right hand trailed on the hall table, touching the vase of yellow tulips. They were Walter’s tulips, their spring beauty harbingering a new year, while their stark color reminded her of his blond hair. For a moment, she might have swept them onto the floor; instead, she faced her father.

“I know, Father. Yes, I know that he is a good man and he will make a good husband and father, but how many times do I have to say it? He is not the right man for me. It wouldn’t be fair to him if I married him.”

“Not ‘fair to him’? Oh, really, Luisa, did you ask him? I bet he’d risk it. Love would follow, you know.” Thomas was pleased with himself. He thought that he might have found a chink in her armor. He watched her clench her hands as she dropped them to her side. She turned her head slightly to adjust her view of him.

“Yes, Father, love might follow, but, no, no, no. I am not about to commit myself based on that nebulous assumption.” As she spoke, her emotion made her raise her voice. In a crescendo she shouted her response. The word “assumption, -tion, -tion” echoed off the high ceiling of the hall.

Luisa brushed past him and rushed dramatically away. She vaulted the stairs two at a time and slammed her bedroom door behind her to make sure that no one attempted to follow. Thomas watched her go. He marveled at her speed and agility which seemed spirited and youthful and quite inappropriate for a thirty-two-year-old spinster. As the sounds of her departure dissipated he grunted, turned, and gave the Persian rug a hefty kick. Then he walked back into his library to finish reading his newspaper.

© Copyright, Jane Stansfeld, February 2014
‘A SIN FOR A SON’ is available on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=1495204537

A SIN FOR A SON – chapter 1 – The Proposal part 2 of 4

Walter took off his coat, and Thomas draped it on one of the carved Chippendale hall chairs. Then, while the women retired to the kitchen – Luisa to put the flowers in water, and her mother to brew a pot of tea – the two men withdrew into the drawing room. It was a large, well-furnished room, a little too elegant for comfort, so without sitting, Walter turned to face the man he wished to have as a father-in-law. As he looked at Thomas he saw much of himself, the same strong figure, the same fair complexion, but in Thomas he saw graying light brown hair and creases of old age around the eyes. Thomas was wearing old tweed trousers and a navy blue sweater almost the same color as Walter’s suit. Walter knew from Thomas’s look that he didn’t need to explain his mission, but, out of courtesy, according to age-old protocol, he spoke.

“Mr. Chapman, I’ve come to ask for Luisa’s hand in marriage.” He fumbled with the contents of his pocket. Thomas winced at the sound, remembering how much Luisa hated this habit. He wanted to advise Walter to desist, but good manners prohibited such a personal comment, even to his daughter’s suitor.

Instead he gave a sad smile and said, “Mr. Radcliffe, Walter, my dear fellow, you have Mrs. Chapman’s and my full blessing. We couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law.” He looked into Walter’s anxious face and nodded as he reached out his hand to shake Walter’s. Walter let go of the change and they shook as Thomas went on.

“The trouble is that she is headstrong. I still don’t think that she is ready. You have been so patient. How Mrs. Chapman and I wish that she would come around. We’ve tried to influence her, but since she became a nurse she hasn’t listened to our counsel.”

Walter‘s disappointment showed in the slump of his pose as he dropped his hand and said, “It has to be her decision, doesn’t it? That’s the only way for a happy union.” He looked wistfully unconvinced as he turned toward the window to conceal his emotion and went on with a sigh, “So wish me luck.”

Thomas moved beside him and the two men stood side by side, looking out of the window over the low white garden wall to the expansive village green beyond. They indulged themselves in musing. Thomas thought about his difficult daughter, wondering if there was something, anything, which he or Isabelle could do or say to sway her decision. Walter thought about Thomas’s reminder that Luisa had a headstrong character and allowed himself to fantasize about what it would be like to be married to this vibrant woman. He admired her spunk and the very fact that she resisted his advances. Somehow her rejections and passionate independence made her more desirable. He thought of her on the stage acting Lady Macbeth, and fondly recalled her rendition of Lady Macbeth’s words as though they were directed to him personally.

…….Hie thee hither,

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear

And chastise with the valor of my tongue,

All that impedes thee from ……..

He thought fondly about how her sprits would be an inspiration to his architecture, how she would be able to goad him to heights of creativity which he might not otherwise attain. He categorized her depiction of the evil aspects of Lady Macbeth as magnificent acting. His contact with her to date had convinced him that, unlike Lady Macbeth, she had the right mix of courage and independence without a lust for power. The right ingredients needed to be able to maintain high principles and morals.

Their mutual silence was becoming onerous, but just as Thomas was about to speak again he heard the women coming across the hall. Isabelle entered first, her graceful figure clad in a pale mauve dress with high collar and long sleeves. She glanced quickly at her husband, immediately understanding his almost imperceptible nod and gave him one in acknowledgment. Then she turned and gave Walter one of her radiant smiles as she motioned to everyone to sit so that she could serve tea. She poured the precious beverage from a silver teapot into bone china cups decorated with pink roses and yellow daisies. The cups clinked as they were set onto their matching saucers. The four exchanged pleasantries about the weather and the latest war news as they savored the warmth and flavor of their tea. Walter was impatient and unable to focus and soon suggested that Luisa show him the rose garden.

© Copyright, Jane Stansfeld, February 2014

‘A SIN FOR A SON’ is available on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=1495204537

A SIN FOR A SON – Chapter 1 – The Proposal – part 1 of 4

Yipee, my novel ‘A SIN FOR A SON’ is now available on Amazon either printed or electronic (Kindle) The short synopsis on the back cover reads:

“A SIN FOR A SON spans two continents and thirty-eight years starting in 1942 in England in the midst of World War 11. It is the story of a woman who takes unusual measures to secure a son for her husband thereby thwarting curses from an African Juju man and from her demanding father-in-law.”

Over the next few days I am going to post the first chapter on this blog. It is just short of 4,000 words so I’ll truncate it into three more blog sized pieces, although this chapter reads a little like a romance I don’t classify the novel as such it is more about a moral dilemma.

Luisa Chapman dreaded the month of her birthday, not because of passing years, but because she knew that Walter would pay a proposal visit. She liked Walter as a friend and enjoyed his company but she didn’t like the thought that, for her birthday, he’d arrive with flowers in his hands, a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his lips. England was at war that spring of 1942, and this would be his fourth time.

She reminded herself that he was a delightful young man and was good company. As she thought about him she couldn’t help but numerate his qualifications, starting with his best-friend status with her brother, Robert. She knew that he would be a reliable husband and provider, and liked his athletic body, blond hair and blue eyes. She wondered if his genealogy might go back to the time when a group of fair-haired Anglican children in the Roman marketplace inspired Pope Gregory I to make the pun “Non Angli, sed Angeli” or “Not Angles, but Angels.” She even thought of his personality as angelic. It was exciting to recall that before 1939 he was starting an architectural practice in London and that after the war he planned to return to architecture and contribute to rebuilding the devastation wrought by the conflict. For now, she admired his contribution and the fact that as soon as war was declared he had put architecture temporarily aside and signed on with the Royal Air Force to become a fighter pilot.

Luisa didn’t understand the depth of Walter’s devotion, for he never showed her his vulnerability. She didn’t know that when colleagues and friends asked him how he managed to keep his fearless façade throughout The Battle of Britain when so many were shot down, he pointed to his treasured possession, a stage photograph of her which he kept in the cockpit beside him. He had obtained the image from Robert. It contrasted with the pin-up girls carried by the other pilots, as it showed a mature young woman with a dreamy look, gazing slightly to the side. He loved her straight nose, her high cheek bones, her luxuriant symmetrical lips, and the curls of her upswept brown hair which nestled around her face in gentle waves and wound round into a soft chignon at the nape of her neck. It was the look which he loved and studied when he flew. Over time the photograph was becoming dog-eared, and his fondest dream was that one day he would be able to replace it with their wedding portrait.

Luisa prepared for Walter’s visit with care even though she knew that she didn’t need to impress him. She wore brown heels, a slim pencil-line tan skirt and complementary pale green blouse with accent collar and bow. The green was just the right hue to show off her skin and hair and accentuate the green tint of her eyes. She waited for his arrival standing next to a window overlooking the approach road in an upstairs room of her parents’ commodious house. While she waited she continued to assess her complex emotions and concluded, as always, that she did not love him. On this occasion she knew that she should be delighted to see him, confirming that he was still alive. Instead, she thought about the purpose of his visit and his annoying habit of jangling the change in his pocket. She thought of his faint masculine odor, and she dreaded the inevitable walk in her parents’ garden. She didn’t like the thought that she would have to look into his eyes and reject his offer. She knew, from past experience, that she would see pain and disappointment as he glanced away to avoid further eye contact. She also knew that, after the ordeal of rejecting him, she would have an additional trial when she faced her father.

Both her parents loved Walter, and considered him an ideal candidate for a son-in-law. By now they seriously doubted that their daughter would ever marry and have children, and surmised that it was not a lack of suitors. They could see that she was intelligent, well-spoken and physically attractive, and they knew that she had had no shortage of admirers. Over the years they watched her friends get married and came to the sad conclusion that the problem lay with her image of what she wanted in a husband. They couldn’t understand where Walter fell short. Her father even hoped that if he added his arguments to Walter’s and continued persistently and emphatically enough, one of them, or perhaps the two of them together, would eventually change her mind.

Walter arrived on schedule, with his flowers and his ring. This time he carried a magnificent bunch of yellow tulips which he had deftly wrapped and carried behind him on his bicycle. They were only two hours old. He had picked them himself in the barracks’ nursery. He rode quickly through the quiet Sussex village to the Chapmans’ home, and joyfully peddled faster when he saw his destination, her parents’ house, basking in the late afternoon sun. It stood immutable and imposing, facing the very center of the village green. This spring its embracing Virginia creepers were already sprouting green to contrast with its white brick walls, which gave it its imposing name of The White House. He got off his bicycle, opened the wrought iron gate, and gently pushed the bike through. He parked it discretely in the front garden against the white garden wall. Then he unloaded his flowers. He knelt down and carefully unwrapped and re-arranged them so that they looked spectacular in his arms. Their gold emphasized his blond hair and contrasted with his dark suit.

Luisa saw all this from her hidden stance behind upstairs curtains. She thought that he made a striking figure and privately wondered if the gold carried any symbolism or whether the color was a result of expedience in this time of war shortages. She quickly concluded that Walter did not espouse to hidden meanings and so intended no subliminal message other than his love. When he mounted the steps to the regal front door, she slipped away from the window and quietly descended the stairs, ready to respond when the doorbell gave its distinctive ring. She opened the door and found him in an optimistic, friendly mood. He breathed in the sweet smell of beeswax from the gracious hall, which blended with the faint aroma of her distinctive Fleurs de Rocaille perfume. He greeted her with an attempted hug as he presented his garland of spring. When her parents, Thomas and Isabelle, came into the hall he greeted them warmly, pulling a small bag of tea from his coat pocket as a gift for Isabelle. She was delighted and offered profuse thanks as this would help them eke out their weekly war rations of two ounces per person.

© Copyright, Jane Stansfeld, February 2014
‘A SIN FOR A SON’ is available on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=1495204537