Authors: LeeAnn Whitaker
It was first light, and all the patients were fast asleep at the Manor. Nell had not managed to rest; not since that heated fallout with her father over a week ago. She was cross with herself. Cross for thinking that perhaps she did go a little too far, and maybe she should have given him the benefit of the doubt. He blamed his behaviour on his grief and did feel remorseful. Nell thought of her feelings for Jack, and that if she were to lose him forever, she like her father, could become plagued with bitterness, hurting those closest to her.
She wallowed in thought every night, evaluating her upbringing, Alistair, her disability, and her lost love, Jack. All she wanted to do was escape from it all. For all the worries to disappear. She needed to get away from that Manor, so she quickly tightened the clips on her leg, then threaded her arms through her long beige trench coat.
As she snuck down the stairs and out of the grand entrance, she kept an eye out for any staff that would try to stop her. She couldn’t move in great hurry. She had mastered the stairs, but still had to master the art of speed.
She had to get out of that place no matter how long it took her. The insomnia and tears she had shed every night, were slowly but surely sending her on the path to lunacy.
With her hands in her pockets feeling the crisp chill on her skin, she limped quietly between the avenue of oak trees, through the moist morning mist.
It was the furthest she had been from the Manor. She didn’t want to stop walking, but she had to rest when her leg began to rub, and hips started to throb. She flinched in discomfort, looking up to the leaves of the trees that were tinged with a hint of red, indicating autumn was on its way.
“Move you damn thing,” she uttered down to her foot.
The length it was taking to resemble something of her old-self was a long road, and she was struggling to reach the end of it all alone. She arched over, wanting to just give up. Give up on healing, and give up on life.
As she massaged the base of her knee, she heard the crunch of a footstep. She peered up into the fog, but saw nothing. Feeling tired and defeated, she decided to turn back before she caused herself anymore pain.
Having only took three steps, she was forced to a standstill as those strange footsteps upon the gravel became louder. She turned and gazed into the mist to see shadowy figure nearing: tall, wearing a hat, and now moving quicker.
Nell brought her hand to her mouth as her breath ceased for a moment. She wanted to fall down to the ground and cry. If it was a dream, it was a cruel one she thought.
Jack emerged from the haze and when his eyes met Nell’s, he dropped his bag onto the ground and ran to her. His heart leapt at the thought of her touch. He grabbed her weak body and lifted so her feet hovered above his boots. Breathlessly, he kissed every inch of her teary face.
“Nell,” he choked. “My sweet Nell.”
He gently placed her back onto the gravel, and took her cheeks into his hands. She wept and smiled simultaneously as he pressed his head against hers.
“God, I’ve missed you.”
“Jack,” Nell sobbed.
Jack held onto her elbows and positioned her a step back. He drew in a good amount of air, and dropped down onto one knee. Taking hold of her cool soft fingers, he smiled nervously, gazing into his future.
“Nell, I cannot even begin to tell you how much you mean to me. How much I’ve missed you. How much I need you. I’m going to spend every second of my life, knowing that we’ll never be parted again.” He coiled his fingers tighter around hers. “I swear, from this moment on, I will never let you go. I will love you beyond the end of time.” Jack held up the ring, swallowing down the nerves. “Marry me Nell.”
Tears of love seeped down Nell’s face as she nodded a big yes. Jack himself let out a tear as he slipped the ring onto her finger. The ring fit perfectly and Nell had a smile from ear to ear. It was her mother’s ring, and she knew to get it, her father had been trying to make some kind of peace.
Jack rose up to his feet and swept Nell up into his arms. He carried her through the dense mist, and never took his eyes off her once.
On the 25th of June, 1945, not only had the war come to an end, but Nell and Jack married in a small chapel in the village of Elham. The village their love story first began. The day was a momentous occasion, with old and new friends turning out in force to witness the happy couple tie the knot.
Jack even received two surprise visitors, his older Brothers, Jimmy and John. Nell wore her mother’s dress, a stunning silk and lace ivory gown, and her father gladly gave her away. She walked tall down that aisle, regardless of the obstacles in her way. And Jack watched every step she took toward him, full of pride. There wasn’t a dry eye in the chapel on that wonderful summer’s day.
It was not long after that the patter of four tiny feet arrived. First a Son: Nathaniel Jack Montgomery. Then, less the two years later, a Daughter: Sarah Anne, named after Nell’s mother. Jack stayed in the armed forces for several years, but remained stationed only a few miles away in Dover. He successfully won over the Brigadier, and worked his way up the ranks to make an outstanding Major. But even though he became such a prestigious officer, it did not for once second stop him from being an amazing Father. If not sometimes a big kid himself.
Nell made the perfect family home, and over the years learned to live with what happened to her. When her father died in 1950, after suffering a short respiratory illness, she was left with the entire Haughton Estate. And she knew exactly what she wanted to do with it. In the summer of 1952, and with full support from Jack, she opened a riding school, dedicated to helping women and children who had escaped domestic abuse.
At first such an idea was frowned upon. To some, she had no right to interfere in marital affairs of others. But that didn’t stop Nell. She knew what dark secrets these women kept, and that sometimes a distraction from the dark was needed. So, if riding out once a week gave some respite, she had no problem providing it.
Jack and Nell’s story is proof that true love has no boundaries. It cannot be influenced by class. Nor does it burn out in time. It only grows stronger. It is the most powerful force on earth, where two souls will fight to seek out each other. Sometimes even twice.