“I think Joshua is a bit hesitant because you are really outspoken Maggie. He may fear rejection” I said as I helped her put up the Christmas decorations. The tree was already done and all it needed was the Star of David to complete it.
“Hmmm…how do I know what he feels exactly? I mean…there is Julian to think about…” she said as she hung mistletoe in front of her room.
“Are you confused about your feelings?”
“No…it’s just that I am not sure on where both the men in my life stand…”
“Why don’t you ask Julian about Joshua?”
“What if he does not like him?”
“Well, then there is nothing to go forward on…you need Julian to love him, right?”
“Jenny, I think… no I mean I know that…..”
I waited with baited breath. Maggie spent five years putting her life back on track. She resisted every guy who tried to woo her, offer help or even propose marriage. She was pretty but not stupid. She wanted to be completely independent. This was the first thing people saw in her. I guess that was what Joshua saw in her, too. The curious part of this story was that, she did not refuse his help and loved to be with him. I had to see if she could say the three magic words.
And she did. “I love him….”
I clapped my hands in glee.
“How do I tell him?”
“No! Joshua! I think I can count on Julian being in sync with me.”
“Ok…here is the plan. I help you and you help me”
“Help you in what?”
Maggie looked at me for a moment. She was surprised.
“I know I said that it didn’t matter…but it does now. I want to find him. “
Maggie hugged me….” Let’s get our Prince Charming! It’s a deal!”
* * * *
“What if he does not notice me?” she asked nervously.
“If he doesn’t look at you like you are a scrumptious apple…. I will ask Ian to kiss you!” I blurted to reassure her. Jealousy strikes quick emotions.
Maggie blushed. Ian’s ears reddened. Maggie’s declaration of love helped me to accept Ian as a good friend. He seemed genuine from everything that she spoke of. I guess I began to trust his instincts. Ian knew that Joshua hated people interfering in his affairs. Maggie would have to be subtle in get him to confess his feelings for her. The party after caroling was ideal for encouraging him come to his senses. Other men vying for her attention without her intending it to be so, was definitely the way forward, according to Ian.
The party had lots of couple activities and promised to be a fun affair. Joshua and Ian were our escorts for the night. It was good PR for our business and hence Joshua had to stick by Maggie to navigate through sticky offers. Ian and I kept our fingers crossed, hoping to bring them close. We had to wait for the magic to happen.
Julian sang heartily along with his friends while all of us watched and applauded. It felt lovely to sit under the gay little bulbs and star filled night. I loved the Christmas celebrations.
“What is your best memory of Christmas?” Ian asked out of the blue.
We were sitting knee to knee as the bench was jam packed.” Nothing particular” I said as I shyly tucked a rebel strand of hair behind my ear.
Ian stole a glance at my face. The scar was visible, but I didn’t mind him seeing it. He never seemed to judge it. It was comfortable to just sit with him.” Come on…there has got to be at least one memory!” he exclaimed playfully.
I sighed in mock defeat. “Well, I guess it’s a lot of small things…The Christmas dance…my parents dancing on certain occasions. My dad was always travelling. He came home for Christmas and they would always find time to have a tango or a slow dance. I loved watching them.”
“My Grandpa loved to regale me with his Christmas memories with Grandma Stella and I loved that part too in every Christmas.”
Ian’s smile broadened. “ I loved to hear my mum talk of how she met my Dad.” He volunteered.
“Is that your best Christmas memory?”
“Yes…she met him at a Christmas ball in Paris. She would show me pictures of them at the ball and it was really special to have her share it since Dad passing away long back. Christmas was a painful period for her. I loved to hear about Dad and his charming ways.”
“Do you miss your Dad?”
“Yes…my world was grey for sometime without him. He died when I was young. “
I touched his hand as a gesture of comfort. I knew the feeling of loss.
He covered my hand with his. The warm touch felt nice.
“How old where you when you made your first cake?”
“Ten..” I answered as I laughed at the memory.
“You are laughing. I have never seen you laugh.”
“Well, there is a reason for it…the cake was a disaster for all who shared it!” I could not control my mirth. “I put salt instead of sugar when I made it. My folk were quite sensitive to my moods and did not tell me of the faux pas. I ended up sharing a batch of my experiment with ….” I was stopped by the standing ovation and clapping.
The crowds around us were involved in cheering and the choir was not the recipient of the wonderful reaction. “Say yes!” someone near me yelled. A wolf whistle followed. Ian and I stood up to look. There was something happening at the far end of the park. We pushed through the crowd to get there and observe.
Joshua was down on one knee and Maggie was flushing red with embarrassment.
“I have to think about it…” Maggie said as she tried to pull her hand back.
The crowd booed. Joshua was obviously enjoying the scene and refused to back out.
“What’s going on?”I asked Ian as he seemed amused.
“Isn’t it obvious? He is proposing.” Ian replied as he watched.
“Think about what? “ Joshua persisted.
“Well, for starters you chose to tell me who you are only after I discovered it….” Maggie said with a pout.
“True…” Joshua conceded, “But that’s because I was not sure if I would be jilted again!”
“Don’t be silly, whatever does that means?!”
“Maggie, my knee is hurting, so I am going to stand up for the explanation. I will go back on the other knee to propose when I finish.”
Maggie’s face showed a small smile. She was not immune to his charms. With a raised eyebrow, she listened. The crowd cheered as the Joshua stood up.
“I know I took Jac’s cake to impress you …but you were really a spoilt brat back then. You ditched me on the basis of the horrible cake that Jenny sent him. I was hurt.”
“Serves you right for lying! You didn’t stop there did you? You kept me in the dark about who you are! I never thought skinny Peter would came back, especially after that incident”
“ Well Jac did tell me, countless times, that I was too good for you…and then you dumped me over a small matter…what was I to think?”
“Stop right there Peter boy!” Ian said as he stepped forward. “You were 12 years old at that time! Maggie is a gem of a Lady now. She is the reason, we are here.”
“Hey! Whose side are you on anyway? You are supposed to convince her to marry me! You promised!! ” Joshua said as he glared at Ian.
“Well, it’s the truth. She was too posh at that time. Who else would hit you with a designer bag in that time and age? And it’s not like you are innocent either….you managed to get her to think you are unapproachable with my help. She took my help to change your mind. I would say that settles the score on who is too good for whom”
“So there” Joshua declared as he proceeded, “ Ian Jackson George or Jac as we all know, is the reason I waited to reveal myself. He wanted to convince Jenny that he was a genuine guy but as we both know…both are taking their time at this process!”
“Shut up Joshua!” Maggie said as she looked horrified. Joshua had just let the cat out of the bag in his desire to justify himself.
Joshua looked a bit miffed. Ian turned to look at me with a sheepish expression. All of them had forgotten that I was there. So this game plan was not to help Joshua woo Maggie, but to help Ian/Jac to woo me???? I did not know whether to feel elated or angry. The crowd began to whisper around me.
I had to run away. It was too much to digest. My dreams were actually telling me of Jac. How could I be so stupid? I turned and ran. I heard Ian call me, but my distress was too great for me to heed.
I stopped once I reached my home. I had to think quietly. I sat down by the mango tree in the centre of our garden. It was a calm place to sit in. Maggie and I had put in a few potted anthurium flowers around the old tree along with a lamp post so that we could sit there to watch the stars in the evening. It was a beautiful spot. I sat there many evenings, reading Jac’s letters. Why did they hide it from me? And Jac…no Ian…how did he find me?
The questions swirled in my head.
“Can I join you?” Ian asked as he stood in front of me. He had apparently followed me. It was dark in the garden except for the lamp which cast a soft glow around me. I nodded. He sat down beside me and leaned back on his arms.
“Why?” I asked as I looked at his silhouette.
“Why?” he paused to think and then replied, “Because you refused to fade away from my mind. I thought of you, everyday. Your letters were a lifeline for me in my time of need and you cared even when you were unaware of Jac’s complete identity. You refused to meet me … I was hooked by the stamps that brought me such an interesting pen pal….do you need more reasons?”
I was not sure on how to respond. “How did you find me? I was careful not to leave anything that could trace me.”
“You underestimate the power of Love Jenny. Maggie is a wonderful person. Her letter is what brought me here. “
Ian smiled. “By the way, she has accepted the proposal…or shall I say the proposal of Joshua Peter Gomes … and Julian beat her to the Yes, I do! part”
I burst out laughing. Julian was fond of Joshua and it was not a surprise that he didn’t wait for his mother to object to the one thing he wanted the most…a father. Ian laughed with me.
I felt better. The burden had been lifted. Jac knew me for what I am. There was no pretense. I didn’t have to hide from him.
“How would you feel if I told you that you are exactly how I imagined you to be?” Ian asked.
“I don’t know…did you imagine the scar?” I asked as my hand unconsciously touched it when I looked down. My hair would curtain it off as usual from anyone’s view.
“No” he said as he gently lifted my chin to have my eyes meet his. “But it did not change my image of you. Actually, it was what added to your charm, Jenny. When Maggie wrote to me about the details, I was horrified. I felt helpless. When I met you for the first time, I realized that you were all that I imagined and much more. Maggie filled me in on the gaps but meeting you in person was a-dream-come-true.” His hand dropped to the space behind me and his eyes searched my face for a reaction.
“ What about Joshua?” I asked. I felt shy.
“I kept Joshua’s identity a secret as he wanted to woo Maggie. “
“When did she find out?”
“At the last exhibition for my collection. “
“Oh! She is really brave. Sometimes I wish I was like her…”
“You surprise me! You fought off a lunatic welding a knife and you think she is brave?!”
“It was self defense…not bravery! The attack before was just….” The very thought horrified me.
“I know ..It was horrifying. But the Jenny I see has no flaws…even if she thinks otherwise”
I smiled. The one thing I noticed about him from Day 1 was his acceptance of things that were different. He never questioned me on the scar.
“The Jenny I see… is also grounded and loyal, that’s the reason why I love her.”
Did he say love?!
“I came half way across the world to ask her if she will be mine forever…”
“Yes… forever… and this time I won’t take NO for an answer” He said as he put an arm around my waist and pulled me close.
“That sound interesting…but…I have to demand for a stamp that says ‘FOREVER’ to agree “
“Lady! You drive a tough bargain for a simple yes!”
I chuckled. “Is that a deal?”
“How can I say no? I am stamped for life! ” he groaned as he hugged me tight.
Stamped forever… Romance shall live in the hearts forever. Hope you all liked the 7 part story.