Old Mary had been called 'Old Mary' even before she qualified in age to be considered such. She had a quiet countenance about her and a whisper-like, timid stride. She, with the stoic politeness with which the upperclasses were normally trained, quite often commanded attention from those around her.
However, a woman earning the money to feed her family (2 brothers and 3 sisters, all younger than she), she often blushed with embarrassment when she was mistaken for being above her station, she was not particularly ashamed of being a working-class citizen, but was resigned to her designated position in society as a humble seamstress.
Though she was handsome, but not beautiful, she was never short of poetential suitors, however, in her young days, she quite often rebuffed the dashing attempts of her neighbours' sons, always citing that she was too preoccupied with the welfare of her younger siblings to have time for the frivolities associated with courting.
However, even her strong sense of responsibility toware the care of herself an her family was at one point placed second when the cousin of the young butcher from the market came to visit one summer. Robert was his name, and though he maintained the same lower class upbringing as she and the other inhabitants of their working classs neighbourhood, Robert was prone to acting as though he had been raised in a middle class environment. He carried a bemused smile which played on his lips and a charming way of speaking with familiarity to people he had only just met.
Of course, once Mary met him, she instantly felt carried away by his natural charm, and when he asked if he could walk with her one day, on the way home from her morning appointment, she felt the blood rise to her cheeks and a lift in her stomach which felt as though she were in a perpetual free-fall.
Robert came around to call on a somewhat regular basis, and each time their visits were chaperoned by Mr Harris from the house next door, who had acted as something of a guardian to Mary and the children as he'd done ever since the death of Mary's parents.
Mary's feelings for charming Robert only grew strong with each visit and finally tiring of being on the constant supervision of Mr Harris, she was delighted when Robert invited her to a picnic with him the following Sunday afternoon.
Though Mr Harris emitted grumbles and protestations at the suggestion of Mary venturing out with Robert sans chaperone he finally relented.
As Sunday approached, Mary's anticipation swelled and nervousness of being in Robert's company began to overcome her. But she was caled suddenly when Robert arrived promptly at her modest home on the sunny afternoon, sitting astride a beautiful bicycle which had on it a large wicker basket attached at its bow.
He sat her across his knees, and rode effortlessly through the streets to the park which sat on the outskirts of the city, the lunch that Mary had prepared for their picnice, nestled comfortably in the basket.
The whole of their picnic passed by Mary as if a blur of swirling colours and a thudding heartbeat. This cacophony of blood pumping through her ears only increased in volume when, much to her surprise at such an enquiry being rendered after so short a courtship, Mary found that when she opened her mouth to reply a squeaky 'Yes' was all that she could manage before her eyes flooded with a blur of salty tears of happiness.
For the first time in her life, she allowed herself to think of her own happiness, and, also to her surprise, felt no guilt at her own selfishness. For her entire life, she had always put thher younger brothers and sisters needs ahead of hers, but the proposal which Robert had made was perfect: after their wedding, Robert would move into her home, and assist her in caring for her young sibling until, one by one, they would each become old enough to work and take care of themselves.
Mary, elated, told Mr and Mrs Harris of her engagement immediately on her return, swearing that she required their strictest confidence until such time as Robert could travel home at the end of the summer to inform his family and collect his belongings.
Few short weeks passed by and finally, mid many tears and promises, Robert reluctantly said his goodbyes to her, kissing her damp cheeks before embarking on his journey home. Mary stood solmenly, and watched him disappear over the horizon; she was in the company of only her rolling tears and a heavy sandbag heart.
Wrote this as a part of a writing exercise. Think I might have been channelling Austen.
Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome and encouraged.
Created: Feb 12, 2011missamerica Document Media