Undying, page 1
Published by Eden Publications
First published 2012
© 2012 Bernadette Azizi
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
Author: Azizi, Bernadette.
Title: Undying : Book one / Bernadette Azizi.
Subjects: Romance fiction.
Dewey Number: A823.4
Printed and distributed by Palmer Higgs
FOR MY PARENTS
George Jued Saad & Susan Saad
Raymond Boutros Azizi & Najibe Azizi
For all your love and support
By Catherine White
“Victoria! Please, your father has been kept waiting long enough, and by no means will I excuse you if we are the last to arrive at the Campbell’s,” my mother cried from the hallway.
Of Mr and Mrs Campbell’s five daughters, four are bothersome and unsightly. Hence, I dreaded the thought of a whole day spent in their company, knowing that this entire charade was purely to observe the new occupants of Hayworth house, Mr and Mrs Barton. Their arrival had caused quite an unnecessary enthusiasm due solely to the fact that Mr and Mrs Barton has brought with them their eligible son, Charles Barton.
The Campbell girls need not have worried about me attempting to seek Charles Barton’s interest; I have no desire to marry.
I would never demean myself to compete for any man’s attention; my thoughts on marriage are quite grim: a man-made institution, of a life sentence in thrall to another person’s needs and wants. I have seen all too well the repercussions of a tedious match and would be content to squander my days unaccompanied than to bear that existence.
Against my better judgement and aware of my mother’s fragile state, I decided to leave my room.
To my mother’s distress we were the last to arrive.
“Victoria, I do not know why you wish for me to constantly endure this humiliation,” she whispered her disappointment as she smiled and nodded to the other guests.
“Humiliation mother? We are simply late, not unclothed,” I replied.
“Ahh!” she exclaimed in horror.
I kissed my father on his cheek and set off to find refuge with Charlotte, the youngest of the Campbell girls.
My journey would be short for I knew where Charlotte would surely be … in her room.
“Charlotte! There you are, as predicted.”
“Victoria, I am so pleased you came,” she declared in relief.
“What friend would I be if I permitted you to bear this all on your own?”
Charlotte immediately came and embraced me. She was 16 years old, two years younger than I. She was plain in appearance, but what she lacked in beauty she made up for in character. Charlotte spent most of her time hidden away in her room, avoiding her domineering sisters; it is incredible how different she is to them. Her soft timid voice was rarely heard upon leaving her bedroom.
“What is your impression of Charles Barton?” she eagerly enquiry.
“We have not yet been introduced,” I replied.
“You cannot be serious; everyone has assembled today solely to steal a glimpse of him. Surely, our town’s most desired daughter, ‘Victoria’, is not somewhat curious to know what all the excitement is about?”
“Charlotte, I assure you that Charles Barton will be conceited and unintelligent. It would do him the world of good if we did not provide him with any additional attention.”
“What about his companion, Jonathon Bates, or will you harshly judge him also without any evidence to support your claims?” she said as she played with the hem of her cream lace sleeve, a clear indication that she was uncomfortable with her tone towards me.
“Charlotte, forgive me if I have displeased you. Come, introduce me to Charles Barton and his companion and I pledge to set aside my opinion until I have met them,” I joked, placing my hand out for her to take.
Unlike her older sisters, Charlotte could in no way be upset with any person for more than a moment; it was not in her nature and neither was considering ill of anyone. On the other hand, I would judge and would judge hastily. Sometimes I feel unworthy of her friendship, but she is all I have. With no brothers or sisters and a mother that is unapproachable, I needed Charlotte and I know she also needed me.
As we started to make our way to the garden, we found our path blocked by Charlotte’s eldest sister, Emma. She was too tall, too skinny and unpleasing to the eye. At 23, with no prospect of a proposal in sight, she was struggling to conceal her extreme anxiety.
“Good morning, Victoria.”
“Good morning, Emma.”
“It’s dreadfully chilly outside, Charlotte; I fear you may catch a cold. Maybe you should stay inside with Victoria,” she announced in her dull tone.
“No … Victoria has not yet been introduced to Charles Barton and Jonathon Bates,” Charlotte mumbled, slightly uncertain.
“Oh Emma, you agonise over too many things. Charlotte and I will be perfectly fine. However, if you believe the temperature is too cold, maybe you ought to settle indoors for awhile,” I smiled naively, holding on to Charlotte’s arm as we continued our way to the garden.
As we enjoyed our drinks in the cool breeze, I noticed Charlotte scouting for the new additions to our town. I was curious to see what she planned to do when she found them; surely she couldn’t possibly do the introductions herself.
“I am going to go ahead and see if I can find Charles Barton and his companion,” Charlotte excitedly announced.
“Charlotte, please. Can it not wait?” I protested. But to no avail; she had set off in her search. That was out of character for Charlotte.
While I continued to leisurely stroll through the garden, admiring the beautifully coloured spring flowers, my eyes accidently caught my mother’s, who was still clearly quite wounded about my causing her to arrive late and, I am certain, was still struggling to settle in with the crowd. So, in my cowardly attempt to avoid her unwanted attention, I turned away swiftly. Swiftly was a dreadful idea, as my glass of red punch, which I might add had been immensely enjoyable, was now travelling out of the glass in my hand. I closed my eyes like a child, not wanting to know the outcome of my poor actions.
“Will you not open your eyes to see where your drink has found itself?” A gentleman’s voice whispered close to my ear; so close that an unexpected shiver moved through my body.
His voice was foreign to me. Intrigued I slowly opened my eyes in an attempt to reclaim my dignity. Discomfited by my poor actions I did what any fine English woman would do, I shifted the blame.
“Oh my! What have you done?” I asked.
He did not react instantly. He quietly looked into my eyes for a few moments, then, ever so slowly, his lips curved up with a culpable smile. He was no
“My apologies, please forgive me,” he replied with a grin.
“Of course,” I replied in a childlike manner.
“There you are,” Charlotte interrupted, looking strangely awkward and uncomfortable.
A strange looking man came up beside her. For him my initial judgement still stood, he was ill at ease, unpleasing to the eye and seemed to be suffering from some kind of illness. He stood, holding his handkerchief, constantly sneezing and blowing his reddened nose, with a rough cough that could be heard some distance away. His eyes were dark and disturbing.
“Have I missed the introduction?” he said with a deep, congested voice.
My primary concern now was not to catch what he had!
“No, not at all,” the handsome man replied, turning away from me, clearly against his will.
Both gentlemen stood patiently while Charlotte summoned the courage to complete the introductions. Ever so quietly she let out:
“My dearest friend, Miss Victoria Knight, I would like to introduce you to Mr Jonathon Bates and Mr Charles Barton,” Charlotte declared. Both gentlemen nodded.
“Victoria, thank you,” Jonathon Bates announced as he raised my hand to his lips. I nodded, unsure what to make of his comment.
“Why … are you thanking me?” I asked curiously.
“For giving me a reason to visit again.” With a warm smile and a gesture he excused himself, strangely leaving behind Mr Barton, who seemed awkward and perplexed.
“It’s my pleasure to meet you also,” Charles said, wanting to kiss my hand. I did not indulge him, nodding with a forged grin as an alternative, hoping that would suffice. Fortunately it did, and he left in a hurry, following Jonathon.
“Victoria, if I had heard it from anyone’s lips I would never have believed it, but to have seen with my own eyes,” Charlotte whispered.
“Charlotte, please stop speaking in riddles.”
“Jonathon Bates has made an impression on you, and more importantly you seem to have made an impression on him.”
“Charlotte Campbell, I implore you, please refrain from expressing your silly notions regarding matters of the heart.”
“Catherine, we’re here!” Annie yelled, interrupting my story.
I looked up to see a sign saying “International Terminal”.
“What – No! Drive around; I’m working on my story! Please?” I pleaded. I seemed to always be begging for one thing or another these days. Annie continued to make her way to the international drop-off with her eyebrows creased, a gesture she often used when she was making things seem more complicated then what they really were. When she found where she wanted to drop me off, she turned off the car engine and turned her body towards me.
“You could not have been serious. No! I have just driven through two red lights to get you here, now get out and catch your flight, before you lose your new job!” she cried.
I closed my little white laptop and turned to her, pausing for a moment. Was that the last order that I would be getting from her for an entire year? I hope so! Even though Annie was only a few years older than me, she seemed to think I was 10 years old and she treated me as such. She had always acted so much more maturely than me. Never spoiling or putting herself before other people’s needs, especially mine. I wondered if there would be any goodbye tears.
“Now look here Catherine, you are a great teacher… the best I know. You need to remember that no matter what happens at the college, don’t ever lose faith in that.”
Oh no, maybe I will cry.
“Catherine, you will be back before you know it. We are both going to be so busy this whole year; we are not even going to have a chance to miss each other or even communicate.”
I nodded, agreeing. I had felt so guilty knowing that I had probably kept Annie from her missionary work in Africa, but now that I am leaving, she can too.
“You’ll be OK, won’t you?” I asked, unexpectedly.
“I will be more than OK, however, I will miss your intriguing dreams and your story. Promise me that when you finish writing Victoria, you will find a way to send me a copy to read! To be truthful, I don’t know how you will cope at that college with all those old English teachers,” she joked.
“Thanks for the encouragement – and now that you mention it, and only since you mentioned it, my story is starting to take shape. Would you like me to read what I have just added?” I sneakily asked.
“No! Get out,” she yelled as she leaned over me and opened my door herself, all the while laughing.
We were now both laughing, not that anything was all that amusing.
“OK, OK, I’m leaving,” I stated. When I finally got my bags from the car, I stuck my head in through the passenger-side window.
“I’m going to miss you,” I said, before walking quickly away from the car. I could feel a lump in my throat start to form and my eyes start to well with tears. Not wanting Annie to see, I didn’t look back.
The queue for check-in was stretched and congested. I felt awful that just like that, Annie was gone. Was it that easy to have someone, so involved in your day-to-day life, suddenly not be a part of it?
I was 25 and this would be my first trip overseas. Pathetic really. My parents always wanted me to travel. The thought of them wasn’t going to make this easier for me now; so I shook their image out of my head. I know they would have been proud of me for following my dream.
Finally, I heard a voice call out, “Next!”
It was my turn, my bags got weighed in and my boarding pass was in hand. I felt a little unexpected excitement come over me. I began to make my way to the passenger departure to get my hand luggage security checked. Once all the formalities were completed, it was ‘duty free heaven’. I’m sure that the lighting in this section was twice as bright as what it was in the rest of the airport.
I continued to make my way to gate ten, knowing that I didn’t have long for boarding.
Unluckily for me, gate ten was on the other side of the airport. As I finally joined the other passengers I stopped to catch my breath. Once it was caught, I noticed an elderly man in front of me. He was quite well dressed and looked to be in his nineties, and I immediately wondered whether he was fit to fly. Was there not an age cut-off for flying? I guess not. Strangely, he kept peering back towards me, over his wire-framed glasses. I hoped that what I just thought about him couldn’t be read on my face.
Looking away, I noticed an elderly woman behind me. Goodness me, I hope there will be some kind of medical staff on board. It was then that I realised that he wasn’t looking at me, but rather, he was trying to signal to the older woman behind me, who must be his wife.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise that I had split the two of you. Please go ahead of me,” I insisted to the man’s wife. As I stepped to allow her through, her arm brushed mine by accident. I felt a sudden and unusual chill from her touch.
“Thank you, dear. That is very kind of you,” she uttered, in a beautiful English accent.
“You’re welcome,” I answered, instantly forced to forget about the chills. The lady smiled at me and it was so warming. She then turned towards her husband who seemed very pleased to have her back by his side.
As the queue slowly moved forward, I continued to be preoccupied by this older couple. They were so polite and charming. They also seemed to take a lot of care in their presentation. She was casually dressed, but things seemed to match effortlessly. Her neat navy pants and blue and white striped silk shirt, and I loved her little brown leather handbag that she had across her chest. It all seemed so practical.
Once on the plane, I made my way down the aisle to seat D65, toward the back of the plane. I had made a conscious decision to stay away from the window and get a centre aisle seat so that I wouldn’t
“We meet again,” the Englishwoman said with a warm smile of approval.
“Are you travelling alone?” she politely asked, as her husband tried to pack away the bags in their overhead compartment.
“Yes… I have taken a teaching job for a year at Wimborne Minster Boys’ College.”
“How lovely, that is quite courageous of you.”
“Have you travelled to England before?”
“No, no but I’ve always wanted to.”
She lightly touched my arm and introduced herself as Elizabeth Hutting. Again, the unusual chills crept up my arm, but her warm smile instantly melted them away. She looked over to her husband, who was finally seated, and introduced him as Edward.
“It’s my pleasure to meet you, I’m Catherine.”
“It is our pleasure to meet you, Catherine,” Edward replied.
Edward was surprisingly very tall, despite my thinking that he should have shrunk in size given his age. He seemed to fidget a lot, continually looking around, touching and patting everything in front of him. If I didn’t know better I would say he was afraid to fly. On the other hand, Elizabeth sat quietly, her posture relaxed, with little movement.
Minutes later the captain recited his welcome announcements. Once all the formalities were over with, I nestled back into my seat ready for takeoff. I sat quietly for a while, lost in thoughts of my story, Annie and my parents. When I was younger, I had this ridiculous theory that after my parents died, if I got on a plane and was high enough in the sky, I would be closer to them. I smiled at my silly theory and at myself. At the age of 14, it was such a stupid idea that gave me comfort, but now, sadly, I couldn’t have that same reassurance. As I looked down the narrow aisle, I could see the stewardess slowly heading towards me with her silver trolley. Knowing what foods were being offered this evening, I had opted for the crusted beef and ale pie with mash rather than the fish – I didn’t want to risk irritating my stomach.