Word count: 16,827 Readability: 88.4
Published by Avon House Happy Endings Press
BETH HUBBARD (HEROINE .A VERY BRAVE DRIVER)
Dr. RAY HARRIS (HERO. RETIRED G. P.)
IAN (BETH'S SON.(HEAD FAMILY FIRM) IN LOVE WITH
JANET (COMPANY SECRETARY) IN LOVE WITH IAN
GLADYS (HARRIS'S RETIRED PRACTICE NURSE)
PETER (A GOOD SAMARITAN)
JOHN (MANAGER IAN'S CAR HIRE FIRM)
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BETH AND SUNSHINE
The announcement of the end of the Ten o'clock News was
his signal to start getting ready to go to bed.
Slowly and stiffly, his joints had served him well for 83 years,
he tossed the morning paper into the waste bin beside him and
pushing down on the arms of the chair, got to his feet.
As he did, the doorbell rang. He frowned, no one came to his
house at that time of night. Assuming it was a taxi driver looking for
a fare at the wrong address, he opened the door saying.
'No Taxi wanted - - - '
He stopped as he saw a tall, broad shouldered, man on the
front step with an elderly woman, cradled in his arms.
In a soft Scottish accent, he asked.
'May I bring this lady in please ?'
'Certainly not. '
Nodding towards the brass plate beside the door
'It says Doctor Harris on the plate. '
'I retired years ago, I don't see patients any more. I'll phone
for an ambulance and tell them there's has been an accident.'
The bundle in the man's arms stirred and in a voice so low,
he could hardly hear it said.
'Please let me in Sunshine'
His jaw dropped, he had not heard himself addressed as
Sunshine since he was a teenager and he cried.
'Beth! Is it Beth ?'
The tall man nodded.
'But it can’t be she is dead. She is dead '
is voice broke and in anguished tones said.
'It can't be. This is a cruel hoax. '
'It is me darling,' said the woman in a faint voice.
He leaned forward, peered at her, took off her glasses and
gazed into her eyes.
'It is you ! It is you ! '
His knees buckled and he fell forward, nearly dislodging the
woman from the arms of her bearer and cried.
'Bring her in. Be quick. It's my darling, my darling Beth, after
all these years.'
His words, gave way to a series of great sobbing gulping
cries as the high point of his life, which had long thought would
never happen, was suddenly a reality.
He sank back onto a chair, as the man moved into the house
'Is there somewhere where my mother can lie down ? She
Harris struggled to his feet, opened the door of the room he
had just left and said.
'There is a sofa in here, do be careful with her, she is so
As the man laid his burden on the settee, the old man
opened a cupboard and brought out a duvet, laid it lovingly over
her and sank on his knees beside the settee, with his head on her
thighs and sobbed relentlessly.
The woman signalled to her son to bring him nearer. Gently
he moved him sideways until he was able to lay his head on her
chest. He saw his mother's arms convulsively grasp him to her.
Gradually his sobs died away. Realising where he was, he
shuffled sideways, until he could put his lips to hers, and gave her
the most gentle and loving kiss imaginable.
He gazed down at his beloved and she smiled up at him with
a look of utter peace and love in her eyes.
Her son's eyes were wet with tears as he saw the two of
them so deeply in love. He knew for certain their journey had
At loss at what to say, he asked.
' Would it help if I made a cup of tea ?'
'That's a good idea. Have you come far ?'
'From Dunkeld, we left at four o'clock.'
'You have been on the road for six hours ?'
'It's a comfortable enough car, a Bentley, I just drove slowly
'Well if you have come so far you must both stay the night.
While you make us a cup of tea, help yourself to whisky. I keep it
in the cupboard in the corner.'
The old man remained kneeling with his head on her cheek
for what seemed hours to her son, holding out a cup of cooling tea
to his mother.
Then her son shook his head, put down the cup and said.
'I'll help you up, she's fast asleep. '
'No. I won't leave her. Don' t make me.' Harris pleaded
' Not so soon.'
The son fetched a chair, helped the old man onto it and
placed it so that the first thing his mother would see when she
woke, would be his face.
Not moving his eyes from her, the old man asked.
'Why have you come now. Why did she not come years
'She has been like this for the last six months getting weaker
and weaker. She just seemed to give up on life. The doctors can
find no reason or it.
When he learned I was bringing her here and that you were
a doctor, her g.p. gave me this letter for you.'
The old man said. 'By the way, my name is Ray. '
'So that's where the name 'Sunshine' comes from ?'
'Yes. I was her ray of sunshine. You say things when you are
young that sound odd years later.'
He read the letter, then looking down at Beth and said.
'See she sleeping like a babe and the colour is coming back
into her face. He took her pulse and said.
'That's nice and steady, with a good strong beat.
I understand why she would want you to bring her here.
We met as teenagers. It was love at first sight for both of us.
We lost touch in the war, I could never find her, and I have never
There has never been a day, when I've not seen her as she
She had, and still has lovely eyes. When she feels better,
you'll see her smile. She was so lively and fun loving.
Why did she come now, why not years ago ? '
The son's face became grim.
'Yesterday the specialist told her she only had a short time to
live and she insisted I bring her down today.' He choked as he said.
'So that she could die in your arms.'
'Die ! She's not going to die. There's nothing wrong with her.
She has had ten pages of tests. Every one is perfectly
'But she is so ill and so frail she's as light as a feather.'
Ray picked up the skin on her forearm and when it stayed
'Well she is dehydrated, and it looks as though she hasn't
eaten a square meal for months.
'She hasn’t, she is just wasting away.'
I know the answer.
You are not going to believe this young man. I've seen it
once before, many years ago when I was a medical student
I was dresser to the senior Physician to the hospital.
Brandsbury was his name. He was a tall, dignified figure, always
immaculately dressed in a black coat, sponge bag trousers and a
He was a withdrawn, austere man, who had never been
known to show any emotion. We were round the bed of a young
woman who had lain in bed, inert and motionless for over ten days.
He turned to us and said.
'Gentlemen. This young lady has had every test known to
medical science and we can find nothing wrong. That leaves us
with one diagnosis. 'Which is ?'
Having no idea, what he expected us to say we were
Then this great man and he was a great man, did something
I have never forgotten.
He hitched up the knees of trousers, got down on his knees
beside the bed so that his eyes were looking straight into hers.
Then in a voice, I could only just hear asked.
'Mary my dear, tell me who is the man you are longing for,
the man you love, who does not come to you ?'
I can still see the look of relief that spread across her face as
she smiled up at him, realising he understood and whispered.
'It's Jamie, Jamie Prior, Sir.'
'Well we must find him as soon as we can.'
He gave her a gentle kiss and said.
'Now you must sleep Mary, while these young gentlemen
scour the streets until they find him and bring him to your side.'
He stood up, turned to Sister and said.
'May we use your room please Sister and could someone
ask Matron to join us ?'
We followed him and Sister into her room, and as we waited,
'Gentlemen. As a doctor, when you are at the end of your
tether and you can find no reason for the patient dying, in front of
your eyes and can think of no remedy to help them.' He paused
'Then remember the power of love to heal, and how people
can die from lack of it.'
As Matron arrived, he said.
'Thank you for coming Matron.
'I am afraid our Mary is lovelorn and yearning for her young
I am entrusting these young men with the task of finding him.
His name is Jamie Prior and I am sure they will not stop looking
until they find her. Love is the only thing that can save her.
It is the cure she needs.'
He turned to us and said. 'Gentlemen. Mary's life is now in
your hands. Fail and she will turn her face to the wall and die.
Matron will tell you how to set about finding the man you
He opened his wallet, took out five Ten Pound notes, the
enormous crisp white ones they had in those days, and handed
them to me saying.
'Harris I want you to work as a team and if you need money
to convince the young man to come, here it is. May God be with
He bowed to Matron and Sister, and left.
Matron took charge and outlined the way we were to search.
I won't bore you with the details but twelve and half hours
later, James Prior was led through the hospital gates.
A messenger was sent to fetch Brandsbury and when he
arrived, he took Jamie on one side and asked him.
'Jamie do you love Mary ?'
'I do Sir.'
'Well I want you to come with me to her bedside and tell her
so and when you do she will come back to life.
She is not ill, she is just longing for the man she loves. The
sight of you and you telling her you love her is all the medicine she
needs. Will you help us Jamie ?'
Jamie nodded and said. 'I will sir. I do love her. '
Brandsbury signalled me to follow and I saw the miracle
Jamie approached the bed, fumbling with his cap, looked
down at her and I could see the love in his face as he said.
'Mary I love you, please get better.'
As God is my witness, she sat up, put her arms about him
and kissed him. She never looked back. Ten days later they
walked out of the ward, arm in arm, with the other patients wishing
Unknown to either of them, Beth was awake though she kept
her eyes shut as Ray was speaking. Surprised they whipped round
as she said.
'Ian thank you for bringing me to the one man who can cure
me, I knew he would understand.'
Ray, an excited rejuvenated man, bent down kissed her and
'Well my darling its time we started feeding you up. You and I
know exactly what you need, don't we ?'
She smiled, squeezed his hand and said.
'You have not forgotten either ?'
Harris nodded and said. 'Never my darling.'
He turned to Ian.
'You passed an all night shop as you came here. It's a five
minute walk. Can you go and fetch a pint of fresh milk and large
block of vanilla ice cream. '
He turned to Beth and smiling asked.
'And shall we add two bananas my darling ?'
Her eyes crinkled with delight as she said. 'Yes please.'
'And two bananas. The biggest pair you can find.'
Ten minutes later, Ian was back and sat beside his mother,
while Ray went into the kitchen, and a few moments later returned
with a foaming milk shake.
They propped her up with pillows. He kissed the glass and
gave it to her. She turned it round so she could drink from the part
of the glass he had kissed, and put it to her lips
He raised a hand.
'Be careful my darling, just sips. If you drink it, down as you
used to, it will all come back again. '
Five minutes later, he took the empty glass from her, and
gave her a tissue to wipe her lips. To Ian he said.
IAN AGREES TO STAY
'It's time to get her to bed. I will go up and get it ready. She
doesn’t need to get undressed.
When I call will you carry her upstairs for me please.'
Ian nodded and Ray said to Beth.
'Then my darling. We will lie together side by side, so that
when we wake, we can put our hands out to one another and know
the dream we have had for so long, has at last come true.'
The next morning Ray went downstairs made three cups of
tea, gave one to Ian and took the other two into his bedroom.
He asked her
'I see you are not wearing a wedding ring. Are you a
'Yes. Ian's father died two years ago. I took it and his
engagement ring off before I came.'
He said. 'Lie still.'
He got off the bed, went round to her side, knelt beside her
and looked into her eyes saying.
'Beth my darling will you marry me ?
I know it is far too early to talk about the wedding itself. I just
want to be sure that is what you want to do when you are fit.'
She was too weak to sit up in bed and embrace him but she
turned towards him holding out her arms and holding his face in
her hands said.
'Yes please. Of course, I will marry you, but that is not
What is, is that we are together.
The doctors said they could find no cause for my illness and
told me there was nothing they could. I asked Ian to bring me to
you, so I could see you for the last time and feel your arms around
me before I died.
'But you are not going to die.'
He got off his knees, kissed her, went round to his side of the
bed and gently got in beside her.
He took her hand in his and told her what he had told Ian the
night before. At first, it did not sink in.
Then gradually she digested his words. He rejoiced at the
light in her eyes and the colour coming back into her cheeks as
'You mean it's like Mary.
I was lovelorn too, and now I have found you. I'm going to
get better ?'
'Yes my darling. I was never so sure of anything in my life.
Now I am going to get dressed and bring you up some
breakfast. What would like ?' A little scrambled egg on toast.
You will have to be careful not too eat too quickly while your
stomach gets used to be filled up again.
I also want you to drink as much as you can in little sips.
My darling Beth you are not strong enough to look after
yourself yet. It's a job for a nurse and I want you to let me ask
good friends of mine to come and help us out until you are back on
'If you say so Sunshine.'
He took her breakfast up to her, told her the nurse would
come round that morning.
Then he went and sat down to the breakfast Ian had ready.
Gladys, who had been Ray's practice nurse was an ideal
She looked like a nurse, had a motherly protective way with
her, a good sense of humour and had been trained in the days
when nurses had individual care of their own patients. .
She arrived before lunch and promptly took charge. She and
Beth took to each other straight away..
After lunch, Ian said.
'I think I had better be getting off. I'm in the way here.
'There's no hurry.'
'I don't belong here.'
'You do. Or if you don't, you soon will.
I proposed to your mother this morning and she and I will be
married when she is fit enough. That will mean you will be my
stepson - - ″
' You Golden oldies are quick movers aren't you ?'
'What is the point in wasting any more time ?
If things had gone differently, you would have been my son.
We are not likely to give you any siblings,'
They laughed and he went on. 'But you will be part of the
Now won't you stay a bit longer ?'
There was a faint cry from upstairs and they hurried up to
Beth who said.
I can't hear what you are saying. 'What's going on ?'
'Ian wanted to go. He felt he didn't belong here. I told him
you and I are going to be married.'
She broke into a wonderful smile
'I told you she had a lovely smile didn't I.'
'I've never seen her like this before. I suspect she has never
smiled like this for any one else.'
'I also told him when we are married, he will be my stepson,
and therefore part of the family, so he can come and go as and
when it pleases him.'
Ian straightened up and said.
'I'll stay. I didn't want to be in the way.
'Mum I am so glad for both of you. I am sure you will get
better now and of course I will be proud to have him as my
She said. 'Kiss me Ian.'
When he had done so she turned to Ray and opened her
arms to him and they kissed. As Ray straightened up, she said.
'Please stay Ian for a day or two. It's so lovely to have the
two men I love most in the world beside me.'
'That's settled then. So you see Ian and I weren’t talking
behind your back.' and they smiled at one another. He went on.
'Ian will be able to carry you up and downstairs so you can
join us for meals and won't feel left out of things.'
RAY LEARNS WHAT HAPPENED
The next day Ray felt free to ask Ian the question that had
tortured him over so many years.
They had finished their evening meal and Ian had carried
Beth back up to bed, they had tucked her, and returned downstairs
for a nightcap
Sitting opposite one another in armchairs on either side of
the fire Ray asked.
'What happened to your mother. We met in 1938, she was a
Girl Guide and I was a Scout. We saw each other for the first time
at an Armistice Day parade at the Croydon War memorial,
After the parade we walked home together and soon realised,
we loved one another. Of course, we were too young to think of
marriage but we planned to marry when I qualified.
When war broke out, I enlisted in my father's old regiment
and found myself in France as a Second Lieutenant, just before
the German advance to Dunkirk.
My platoon and I were one of those left behind and I spent
the next five years as a prisoner of war.
I wrote to Beth almost daily and then one day, one of my
letters turned up in a Red Cross parcel.
There was a letter with it saying it could not be delivered, as
there was no trace of the house or anyone living in it.
It had been destroyed by a bomb.
That and the fact I had no letters from Beth, convinced me
she must be dead. I stopped writing after that.
Ours was a love we believed to be eternal.
Faith in God was much stronger and young people were far
more romantic in those days, and I was sure we would meet in
I had no interest in any other woman. I think I wanted to be
faithful to her and she would know that I was.
After the war, I went to medical school with a Government
grant and qualified.
I worked as an assistant to a doctor in Croydon and lived
with my parents.
Almost daily, I was passing the street where she lived and
after a year, I moved to Hull to get a way from the place.
I was in general practice. I liked and respected the people
there, they were good patients, and I was happy enough. I retired
eighteen years ago and came to live here in this village.
Can you tell me what happened to Beth during the war ?'
'She never told me much. All I know is that soon after the
start of the war, my grandmother moved back to Scotland and she
went with her.
I suppose that is why she got no letters from you.
My father owned a haulage business. He was a decent man,
he and Beth met when she got a job in his office as his secretary.
There were no flies on her and my father didn't have much of
a head for business.
She took over and put the business on its feet. A after a year
or two, they married.
They got on well enough together but looking back I realise it
was not so much a marriage of love, as one of convenience. It
suited both of them.
When I was born, something went wrong. I was delivered by
Caesarean section. She could never have another child.
I was very much closer to her than I was to my father and
looking back, I think a lot of the love I got, was a substitute for her
love for you.
We had many contracts with the fish merchants in East
Beth had Heavy Goods licence and drove lorries alongside
my father in an emergency. It was hard life for both of them.
Lorries were much harder to drive then they are today and
the roads were not too good and she and my father had some
pretty rugged trips in winter.
She stopped driving while I was growing up, and went back
to it while I did my National Service. When I was demobbed, I
joined what was then the family firm.
When the cod war broke out and the fish trade slumped, we
bought a franchise for a car hire and van rental firm based in
Dunkeld. Eventually we became the firm we now run.
'So that's how you come to have a Bentley ?'
'You could say that.
When my father died about two years ago, I was going
through his papers and I came across a bundle of letters from Beth
I suspect she sent them out in the office mail and he
intercepted them. Why he never destroyed them, I don't know.'
'I can't say I altogether blame him. Beth was a beauty and he
probably had his eye on her from the day she started in the office
and didn't want any competition.'
'I showed her the letters and she began thinking you might
still be alive. We set about trying to find if you were.
We had the Dickens of a job trying to trace you and when we
could not find a death certificate assumed and she certainly hoped,
you were still alive.
We didn't know what you did for a living. Then she
remembered you had always wanted to be a doctor.
We got a copy of the Medical Directory, and that was where
the problems started. There were ninety-six doctors named Harris,
and none of them had the first name Ray. She didn't know if you
had another name.
We got a private detective to try to trace any Dr. Harris who
might be you and six months ago he reported he had no luck. That
is when Beth began to go downhill.
Just before we came down, we got the break we needed.
After she had all her tests, in a conversation with my
mother's doctor in the clubhouse I mentioned we were looking for a
chap of that name and he said.
' I knew a Ray Harris once.' He said he was at medical
school with him and that he was older than he was and had been a
POW during the war.
I told him what we were after and he said he thought you
must be still alive. He found your name and address from your old
That night, I brought mother back from the consultant who
told us she only had a few days to live.
Beth said she must come here to die in your arms. I went
back to the g.p. and told him. He said.
'There is just one chance.'
I heard him say Brandsbury to himself. By next morning, he
had the letter written to you and asked me to give it to you.
We were in such a tizz wazz, it wasn't until we were driving
through Newcastle, I realised we could have rung you to tell you
we were coming but Beth said it might upset you.
Neither of us wanted to waste time parking and trying to get
your number and just pushed on.' Anxiously he asked.
'It was the right thing to do wasn’t it ?'
'Absolutely right, it was the most wonderful moment of my life
when I looked in her eyes and knew she was still alive.
'I think it was just as well I didn't know you were coming I
could easily have given myself a heart attack waiting.
I didn't tell you but George Peterson her g.p. in his covering
letter told me he was sure I would know what it meant when he
thought she was a Brandsbury case and wished us both all the
Of course, I knew what he meant. Yesterday I rang him and
told him Beth was on the mend. We had an interesting chat about
old times. He is delighted for all of us.'
They poured out another dram, congratulating themselves on
Beth not realising they were talking so long and crept up to bed.
JANET COMES TO VISIT
About two weeks later Ray asked Ian
'Who is running the business while you’re here ?'
He said her name in such warm tones, that Ray sensing how
the land lay wasted no time in asking.
'Is Janet the woman you love ?'
Flabbergasted Ian asked. 'How did you know that ?'
'I can hear it in your voice.' How long have you been in
'And you have been in love with her all that time ?'
'Why haven't you married ?'
'She had an invalid father and felt she ought to look after
'And you felt the same about Beth ?'
'But Beth doesn't know ?'
'But she does she know Janet.
'Oh yes they get on very well together. She is our Company
'You and Beth own the business ?'
'It’s a limited company Father left it to us jointly.'
'And is Janet's father still alive ?'
'No, he died a year ago.'
'And you have never told Beth you love Janet ?'
'No. If I had, she would have insisted on going into a home,
to be out of the way so we could be married and live in her house.'
Ian paused before he said
'When Beth and I are married, she will be my responsibility
not yours. I shall be head of the family and that will include Janet.
You two will be free to marry.'
'I suppose so.'
'Have you asked her yet ?'
'Yes, we have been secretly engaged for three years. I gave
her an engagement ring, but she only wears it when we are alone
Then I will do all I have a duty to do all I can to make the
family happy. The first thing I shall do, is to tell you to marry Janet.'
'What do you mean ?'
'You have wasted three good years apart from the woman
I know what it means, and it gets harder, not easier each day
and it's not fair on either of you.
Beth would be horrified to know what a sacrifice you have
made for her.'
'She must never know.'
'That is not your decision, it's hers.
Now that she is about to become my responsibility, there is
no reason why you should not tell her you and Janet are engaged
to be married.
I think. No I am sure, it would please her immensely, and
help her get better more quickly.'
'What are you suggesting ?'
'I think you and Janet should tell her about the engagement.
You don't need to tell how long it has lasted..
Let her assume you only asked her to marry you recently,
and you didn't like to tell her until she was better.
Now she is, you want her to know. That way she need never
learn the truth and be upset. I don't want that to happen.'
' What should I do ?'
'You go to that phone, ring up Janet tell her what's happened
and what I think and you will be coming up to Scotland to bring her
down at the weekend and spend a week here.
While she is here find the moment to tell Beth.'
Ian went a little red in the face and asked.
'Where will she stay. In a hotel ?'
'Of course not, she will stay here.'
'Well it’s a bit awkward, you only have a single bed and - - -
'Well all we have to do is to buy a double bed.'
'But - - -″
'Grow up you've been engaged for three years.
Don't try to tell me you haven't slept together.'
Ian' went even redder and said. 'Yes we have.'
'So there is no reason why you shouldn't sleep together
when she is here.
Your mother and I aren't yet married but we share the same
bed. Don't be so old fashioned.'
Ian thought for a minute or two.
'I think you are right she may well agree.'
'She is entitled to be asked so she can make her own
Tell what we have in mind and I bet if she really loves you
she will say 'yes' Nothing would please her more. Now get on that
Half an hour later, he came back to Ray who asked.
'What's happened . You look as though you've been pole
axed. Isn't she coming ?'
Ian could hardly speak he was so shaken.
'She's not waiting for me to go and fetch her. She leaving the
business in the hands of our manager and is taking the train down
this afternoon, she will be here tonight.'
'You lucky devil. I'm looking forward to meeting her.'
'But what about the bed ?'
'We must get into Hull. I will come with you to make sure it
gets here today.
Gladys will look after Beth while we are out.'
Forty minutes later, they were in the shop and while Ian was
making a decision, Ray went to the manager and asked how
quickly the bed could be delivered.
'We could have it with you tomorrow morning Doctor.'
Ray took out his wallet, put five ten pound notes on the
counter and said.
'There's fifty for you and there will another fifty waiting for the
driver and his mate if it's in my house and installed by five o'clock.
I have two unexpected guests coming, and I am too old to
sleep on the settee in my own house.'
The manager laughed and said.
'Give me five minutes, I'll get I touch with the driver.'
The manager and Ian reached the counter together. Ian
pointing to one bed said. 'That one please.'
The manager smiled at Ray and said.
″It should be with you about three o'clock, if that is all right.
As they left the shop, Ian said.
'Thank you. You pulled some strings didn't you to get it
delivered today ?'
'Well Janet didn't leave me much choice did she.
I couldn't let her down, not before I have even met her, could
Now it's back to the house It is time to put Beth in the picture.
On the way we'll drop into the supermarket and pick up
something for tonight's meal and buy a bottle of champagne at the
When they got home, Ray had a word with Gladys and she
'Right I'll get the room and the bed ready for them when it
arrives.' and added.
'That is the nurse's job. making beds,' and winked at him.
'You get up to Beth. I'll get a bit of lunch while you do.'
'You are a good sport Gladys.'
He went up to Beth, and told her that Janet was coming
down to see them, but did not tell her about the engagement.
Beth, who was a shrewd as he was, having been reassured
that there was no problem with the business, had a fair idea of
what was going on, and said.
'Ask Gladys if she will come and help me tidy up before she
He said with love in his voice.
'You women are all the same .You'll be telling me to tidy
myself up before Janet arrives next.'
'I would not think of doing that before we are married, but it
might occur to me when we are.'
They were having a long loving kiss as Gladys arrived with
Beth's lunch and said to Ray
.' You're lunch is ready downstairs. Help yourselves. I'll get
Beth get ready.'
While Ian went to fetch Janet from the station, Ray went
upstairs and into their room, opened a drawer, took something out
of it and went to her side and said.
'Beth my darling you have said you will marry me. I have just
remembered I have not given you an engagement ring.
He held a ring out to her and said.
'Will you accept this one, it was my mother's. I know she
would have wanted you to have it.'
She held her left hand out to him and said.
'Yes but only if you put it on for me.'
He did so and as they embraced, the front door bell rang and
'Damn that's the second time today I've been interrupted
when we were having a kiss.'
'I'll try and put things right when you come to bed.
Thank you my darling, I know you wanted me to be wearing
it when Janet arrived and found me in your bed.
You are a very thoughtful man and I love you so much. Now
get down and bring her up.'
He went downstairs shouting.
'Hang on I'm coming,' and opened the door.
Ian said. 'Dad may I introduce Janet. To her he said.
'Janet, may I introduce you to the man who is going to marry
Ray's sharp eyes had instantly spotted the engagement ring
Janet was wearing and said.
'I can see why he bought that ring.
He wanted to make sure someone else didn't get you first.'
He turned to Ian and said.
'Well done lad you've struck gold there, you are a very lucky
Ray took Janet's hand and drew her across the threshold
opened his arms to her and asked.
'May I kiss my daughter in law to be ?'
His request was willingly granted and he led the way up to
Beth's room knocked on the door and said.
'Beth my darling you have a visitor.'
THE FAMILY MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME
As soon as they entered the room Beth, seeing Janet's ring
raised her left hand and said.
'Snap. We are a lucky pair you and I.'
Janet said. 'Oh Beth you are looking so much better.'
She turned to Ray and said.
'It's all due to you and I can see why.'
She looked fondly at Ian and said.
'Your mother is right, we are two very lucky women. Thank
Janet bent down and kissed Beth saying.
'It's wonderful to see you looking much better.'
When she straightened up Beth said.
'Ian Please carry me downstairs. I want to hear all about it.'
She turned to Ray who was about to remonstrate, and said.
'My nurse said it would do me good.'
Pleading she added.
'You wouldn't leave me up here, not knowing what was
going on downstairs would you. You wouldn't be so cruel.'
'No my precious I would not dare to try to disagree with
Gladys. I am sure it will best for everyone if we start being a family
as soon as possible.'
THINGS START TO MOVE
That night there was pillow talk in both rooms, as each
couple lay in the arms of their loved ones.
Janet said. 'It is so lovely now that is out in the open.
It's Ray who's responsible. He's a gem. He will make a
Ian, without thinking, said.
'If that's what you have in mind the sooner we get on with it
'Don't waste time talking then,' was the response.
It was an answer they would live to regret.
In the other room, the conversation lasted rather longer.
After Beth had redeemed her promise and given him the long
loving kiss they both yearned for she said.
'You’re a crafty devil, you worked this all out. You knew they
had been sleeping together. It was pretty obvious, they could
hardly keep their hands off one another all through the evening.
That's why you went out and bought that double bed.'
'My lips are sealed.'
'Oh no they're not.' and started tickling him until he begged
her to stop and said.
'I give in . I had the idea.'
He told her how they had planned to bring Janet down at the
weekend to tell her about the engagement and how she had
jumped the gun.
'That's when you remembered about your mother's
engagement ring. You knew I would be embarrassed if she was
wearing one and I wasn't.'
'That's only part of it. I wanted them both to know how proud
I was you had agreed to marry me.'
'It's been so long my darling and I love you so much.'
'It was so wonderful when I bent down to look in your eyes
when Ian was holding you in his arms and found you were still
It was the happiest moment of my life.
Each night in bed I live it all over again. I will never forget it.'
'Neither will I.'
A week or so later, while he sat reading in the living room, he
heard Gladys go to the front door and heard her say.
'If you wait here a minute I'll tell him.'
She knocked on the door opened it and said.
'There is a woman wants to speak to you. She says she was
one of your old patients.'
'Show her in.'
Gladys stepped back, and opened the door to reveal Beth
was the visitor.
His mouth open he jumped up and rushed towards her
'Oh my Darling you wonderful woman.'
'Go back a bit dear, I got down the stairs myself. Let me
walk across the room to show you I can come to you at last.'
Slowly, steadily without any wobbling, she walked across the
room put her head on his chest and her arms around him and said.
'I've dreamed of the moment for so long Sunshine.
Let me at last, listen to the heart that is mine. '
He led her to an armchair, gently lowered her into it and said.
'I am so pleased for you, I shall have to get on to the vicar
and see when we can get a booking for the wedding.'
'You always were the impetuous one. The sooner the better.'
Gladys entered pushing a tea trolley.
He got up, went to her put his arms abut her and kissed he
gently on the cheek saying.
'Thank you so much Gladys. you've done a magnificent job.'
Gladys said. 'I thought it would take far longer. '
With a smile, she added.
'But she wouldn't stop trying. She seemed quite eager to get
down to see you. I wonder why.'
'Hey you two, no nonsense, I know what you nurses and
doctors get up to together. He's mine, send him back. '
They laughed together happily.
Now that Beth was able to get downstairs on her own and up
with a bit of help from Ray, Ian and Janet were able to return to
Scotland, promising to return for the wedding.
DISCUSSING THE WEDDING.
Beth made steady progress and Ray was able to take her on
trips into the surrounding countryside, which in many respects
resembled her native Perthshire.
At first, these were short journeys that included a picnic or
pub lunch, ending with a return home by mid afternoon so they
could enjoy their customary afternoon snooze.
The distance covered and time away from home, gradually
increased with trips to the coast at Hornsea and into North
Soon they were able to make day trips to Scarborough, York
and over the Humber Bridge to Lincoln without ill effect.
He felt the time had come when he could safely broach the
matter of the wedding.
One night after the evening meal, as they sat drinking coffee
and Dunkeld liqueur Athol Brose, brought down by Ian and Janet
during a weekend visit, he asked.'
'Do you want to live here with me or in your house in
Dunkeld when we are married ?
Her reply was forthright.
'I have not come 400 miles to find a husband to drag him up
to Scotland. I am more happy than I have ever been, in your little
house in this village.
Then with a twinkle, she added.
'Thank you for asking, Sir she said.'
'What do you feel about a wedding ?
We haven't talked about it. I am not bothered either way.
Though of course I have asked you to marry me and you did me
the honour of saying, 'Yes.'
,Actually, I said. 'Yes please.'
'So you would like one ?'
'Yes I would rather be called Mrs. Harris than Mrs. Hubbard.
'That's agreed then.
Next item. In a Church ? Here or in Dunkeld ?'
'I am not to keen on a full church wedding and if we had one
I would prefer it to be here not Dunkeld.
Apart from the journey, I have many friends I'd have to ask. I
don't really feel up to it.'
'How about a registry office?'
'A bit dreary.'
'What about a hotel ?'
'That sounds exciting. Where had you in mind, the
'If it's there, who is paying ?
I'm the bridegroom, not the bride's father.'
'I could afford it
Rubbing his hands together, he said.
'That's different,. The more expensive the better.'
Sadly, she said.
'And I thought you just wanted to get inside my knickers.
Now I realise it is only my pocket.'
'All the better if you have pockets in your knickers.'
They laughed, and he asked.
'Who is going to come ? I have no living relatives. Most of
my contemporaries are dead. I haven't the vaguest idea where I
could even find a best man.'
'I'm not much better off. There's Ian and Janet and it would
be nice if we asked her parents, and I would like to ask Gladys, to
be matron of honour.'
'That's a good idea, she's been a real friend to both of us.'
Ruefully she added. 'That makes seven. I can't see the
Dorchester welcoming u with open arms.
Wait a minute. I've thought o something.
There is a hotel about ten miles from here. They do
weddings. I usually spend a week or two there every six months. I
think you would like it. Hang on.'
He went to the bureau, delved in a drawer and pulled out a
photo album, and said.
'I've taken some photographs of the place. '
She took the album, turned over the pages and said.
'This looks very nice. Oh ! That's a lovely view.'
'I took that from the self catering cottage I usually stay in.'
'Tell you what. Tomorrow morning I'll give them a ring and
book in for the weekend.
'That's sounds exciting. I'm game and as I'm paying for the
wedding I'll pay.'
'You will not. If we are going to flaunt that we are living in sin,
I want people to look at me and say.
'There's a guy that knows how to pick them. Mistresses like
you obviously come expensive. It would do my ego a power of
It's only fair that I should pay for the privilege.'
'You are a great big silly but it sounds fun. Come on let's go
'That's my baby. Get up them stairs.'
Laughing they locked up for the night and went up the stairs,
arm in arm. As they reached the bedroom, she gave him a loving
kiss and said.
'Life with you is always fun. I fancy having a naughty
weekend with you.'
The naughty weekend stretched to over a week. Partly
because of the accommodation and friendly service but mainly
because the move away from Ray's home, gave them their first
real chance to relax and get to know one another.
After their good morning kiss on the second morning,
laughing she said.
'That was an excellent meal last night. I'm beginning to think
living in sin, is a better idea than being married. '
He did not respond but looked concerned. She looked at him
'What's wrong my darling? What's upset you ?'
She waited anxiously until eventually he said in a low
unhappy voice. 'I suppose I've got to come clean.'
'What do you mean ?' She put her cup down and her arms
about him and asked.
'Have I said something wrong ?'
'No. Its not you, it's me.'
He took a deep breath and said.
'Beth I could not help noticing you weren't wearing knickers
'That was only a bit of fun. We are living in sin.'
'I know, but it brings up something I have been dreading.
BETH MAKES A PLEDGE
'Beth. I've never had sex with anyone. I am terrified if I try, I'll
let you down.'
She flung herself into his arms crying.
' Don't be so silly.! Making love isn't important. It can be fun
but if we don't, it won't matter a jot.'
She pulled herself away, held him at arms length saying.
'Ray look into my eyes.'
He raised his eyes, in which tears were welling and looked
With every fibre of sincerity, she could muster, she said.
'Ray my darling. I love you. I love you so much. Sex isn't
important. We are together at last and nothing, nothing can or
must ever come between us.'
She put her head on his chest and sobbed.
By now, his tears fully formed, were falling. He gently stroked
her hair to comfort her and said.
' I love you too. Don't cry my darling.'
She looked up at him. As she did, one of his tears fell
straight onto the tip of her nose. She cried.
'Look who is talking.'
It was such a ludicrous moment that it swept away all their
tension and fear.
Their eyes crinkled, each gave a sly grin and then came a
giggle from her, which set them both laughing uproariously, until
their sides ached.
When they had calmed down, she got off the bed, went to a
suitcase and returned with two clean handkerchiefs, one for him
and one for her.
She did not have time to dry her own eyes. Holding her
head still, with one hand under her chin, he dried the tip of her
nose, kissed it and then put his lips to hers.
The episode ushered in a long hour of silly loving fun and
He dragged her unresisting to the bathroom, turned on the
shower pushed her under it clothes and all, then stepped in with
They hugged and kissed and laughed together, took off each
other's clothes, soaped and towelled themselves down and
scrambled back into bed and snuggled up close.
Strange as it may seem, there was nothing remotely sexual
about what they were doing. They were two people in their eighties
liberating themselves from what had gone before, behaving like
young innocent children.
It was a long drawn out exuberant hour in which each did all
they could to make each other laugh and giggle with childish little
antics, tickling, pulling faces, uttering sweet nothings,
Anything they could think off to express the glorious joy of
their togetherness. Fortunately, they were not observed, or men in
white coats might well have been summoned.
All their anxieties and tensions behind them, worn out with
their exertions, they fell fast asleep, blissfully happy.
She was the first to wake. She slipped out of bed without
waking him, went to the kitchen to prepare his favourite breakfast,
haddock cooked in milk, and laid a tray ready to take it to him.
She had dished the haddock, and was about to sprinkle it
with a garnish of chopped crispy bacon.
Silently, attracted by the smell, he tiptoed up to her, put his
hands around her waist, and softly kissed the exposed back of her
Startled she jerked back, launching a serving spoon of
chopped bacon up into the air.
She whipped round about to say. 'Now look what you've
The words never came..
The look of love in his eyes, the naughty little boy look on his
face, and his lips puckered ready for a kiss, melted her heart.
She dropped the empty spoon, threw her arms about him
and pressed her lips to his.
The embrace ended, she said in aggrieved tones.
'I was trying to give you your breakfast in bed as a surprise.'
'And what were you going to have ?'
'I was going to poach myself an egg, while you had your
He picked up his plate, spooned up the spilled bacon, added
it to the haddock and put the plate into the oven to keep warm.
Then he put a saucepan of water on to boil saying.
'I want you and I to have breakfast together. Either lay the
table for both of us in here, or another tray and we will go back to
She laid the table and poured out two cups of coffee. As she
did, she was lost in admiration as she saw him poach her egg in
the traditional way in an open saucepan.
He placed the trimmed egg on a piece of buttered toast,
kissed the plate and bowing slightly, put it in front of her. Then he
fetched his own breakfast and sat down beside her.
'You are clever. I've never been able to poach an egg that
way properly, but this is perfect.'
'I've never tasted a better cooked piece of haddock in my
He winked at her and added.
'Your idea of tossing the bacon up in the air before serving it
adds just the right finishing touch. Yum. Yum.'
'You cheeky devil.' She sighed. 'How can I scold a man who
cooks so well ? You might leave me if I do.'
She got the answer she was angling for.
'I shall never leave you.' 'Then with a twinkle he added.
'Not while I get a breakfast as good as this every morning.'
'I despair. People are right when they say. 'The way to a
man's heart is through his stomach'
She had not yet got used to the way he could switch a
conversation round without warning, and his next remark took her
completely by surprise.
'You found your way into my heart, the moment I first saw
you across the church on Armistice Day 1938.'
'Oh Ray - - - Oh Sunshine.'
Silently they washed, dressed and because it was a fine
sunny morning went for a short walk in the grounds. Then they sat
down on the verandah outside their room.
Not looking at him, she said.
'I want to talk to you about this sex thing. Please hear me out.
'Ever since Ian told me you had been faithful to me
throughout your life, I have felt so guilty that I had let you down, by
not being so faithful myself.
My marriage to Ian's father, Daniel, was happy. We were not
tempestuous lovers, but we had a good sex life, almost to the end.
I was devastated by the thought, that by marrying Daniel, I
had enjoyed that side of my life, but denied it to you.
Even though I love you so much, ours is a generation that
did not talk about sex.
I could not bring myself to tell you how much I wanted to
make love to you, not because I lusted for it, but to try and make it
up to you for what you had missed.
She turned towards him, looked into his eyes and said.
'Now we know each other better I can tell you. If you want to
make love to me, and you don't know what to do, I will do
everything I can to help us get it right.
It will take time. It took Daniel and I several months. Neither
of us had any experience before we were married.
I so want to make it up to you for all you haven't had. I want
you to let me teach you what to do.
When it doesn't work, and there will be times when that
happens, whatever you do don't blame yourself.
It won't mean you are less of a man. It will be my fault or our
bad luck. What it means is I have to work out what went wrong and
try to put it right.
Yesterday was a turning point we were both happy even
though we were making fools of ourselves. If we make a mess of it,
we can laugh about it and not get upset.
Do you understand my darling I so want to make you as
happy as I possibly can. Let me do this for you. Please my
He smiled at her and said.
'Yes my dearest, but you got one thing wrong. There was
never any call for you to be faithful to me.
I was convinced we were made for each other. When I
believed you were dead, I had a choice. Either to find someone
else or not bother.
The truth is I was never tempted. I never met another woman
I wanted to live with, let alone love.
I consoled myself with the thought that we would eventually
be together in the next world. That was all I wanted.
Things were different for you. I went away, you got some
letters from me before I went to France.
Then you never heard from me again. What were you to
I had not been reported dead or missing, so the only other
possible explanation had to be that I had lost interest in you and
found someone else.
You must have felt I had jilted you. That our love had never
been what we thought it was.
What more natural that you should make a new life with
another man. There can be no possible reason for you to feel
There was a long pause before she said.
'You are a very clever man with a fine mind. You must have
been a very good doctor. You are absolutely right. That is exactly
'So you need not feel guilty any longer. It was a huge,
mistake. Neither of us were to blame.
God has brought us together so we can start again. We were
right. Ours was and always has been truly eternal love.
He got up went through the French windows into the cottage,
returned with his hand behind his back, and said.
'Close your eyes and hold out your hand.'
She did so and knew from it's feel what she was holding.
'It's an apple what am I supposed to do with that ?'
'Open your eyes.'
When she did, he looked into hers with a mischievous
twinkle and said.
'It's for my teacher who is going to show me how to make
love to her'
She proved a patient excellent tutor and he was a very
receptive pupil. They were to have no problems on their wedding
THE TALE OF TWO WEDDINGS
On their way home, as they were approaching his village
Beth asked him to stop the car. She turned to him and said.
'Until you reminded me I had forgotten we believed our love
would last into eternity.
Then you said. 'God has brought us together so we can start
She pointed to the village church. Would you mind if we had
the wedding here ?. 'In this little church, so we can say thank you
to God for bringing us together again.
I think it would be the right place. I don't think the hotel would
mean so much.
I hadn't thought about it but it will be the right thing to do.
We'll go and see the vicar tomorrow. He laughed as he
'That will please him, he's always complaining how poor his
stipend is. Well tell him we are marrying in his church so he gets
They did and the vicar, taking the jest as it was meant, raised
his eyes to Heaven and said.
Thank you God. It will pay for a new top for the christening
Then realising what he had said he hastily added.
'Present company excepted.'
It set the pattern for what would be a light hearted but very
The next morning she had a long telephone call with Ian and
Janet and confirmed they would be free to come to the wedding, in
four weeks time.
Then Ray rang Dr. Peterson and asked him to be best man
and he said he would be delighted.
They discussed the honeymoon, and decided a journey to
stay in a hotel, would be too much of a strain.
Both thought there could be no better way to start their new
life together than in their only little home and that was where they
should have their honeymoon.
As a widow, she did not feel it was right to wear white. This
ruled out a formal wedding and saved the groom from having to
hire a morning coat and top hat.
He did however, order a new suit for the occasion and she
had her dressmaker come down from Edinburgh to measure her
and help her choose a suitable outfit.
Her Matron of Honour, Gladys when asked, disclosed his
favourite colour was light blue, which dictated her choice of colour.
Fortunately, Gladys had married off two daughters and
proved a mine of information about the rituals, customs and
superstitions, to be followed to make sure the marriage succeeded.
This was a relief for a man who had never attended a
wedding ceremony in his life. It was also a boon to the bride,
whose first wedding had taken place some forty years earlier.
The ceremony itself took place in an otherwise empty village
church without music. On the day, there were just two men in the
front row to the right of the aisle and four on the distaff side, rising
to five when Ian had given his mother away.
The vicar, tactfully avoided references to fruitfulness, kept
his homily brief and to the point. Everything combined to centre
attention on the bride and groom, and they did justice to their role.
The bride as she entered the church on the arm of her son,
clung to him. Her heart had leapt at the sight of the man she was
Ray sneaked a furtive glance as his bride she entered the
She looked so beautiful his mouth dropped open and he
could not take his eyes off her.
The best man had to nudge him into facing the vicar, when
she arrived at his side.
The vicar had coached them well at the rehearsal the day
Their responses rang out loud and clear. No one who saw it
would forget the look of undying love that passed between them,
as he put the ring on her finger.
The register signed, the wedding party adjourned to the
beribboned Bentley, for a light hearted journey to the reception.
It was the right choice of vehicle, there was room for all.
The bride took pride of place on the lap of her husband, next
to her son who was driving.
In the back, Janet's mother sat on her husband's lap. Beside
them the vicar had Janet on one knee and Gladys on the other.
His wife perched on the edge of the seat between his legs,
was held firmly in place by his arms around her waist.
The best man having seen everyone in place scrambled into
the boot and gave Ian the signal to drive off.
Their destination was the private room of the village pub,
some two hundred yards down the road.
There the proprietor was waiting to welcome them with a tray
of champagne cocktails.
The tangle of arms and legs unwound itself, and the guests
followed Ray and Beth into the reception.
He paused on the threshold raised his glass to her and said.
'Good afternoon, Mrs, Ray Harris.'
She nearly dropped her glass in her excitement.
The greeting of guests did not take long and pre meal drinks
flowed freely until the best man asked them to take their place at
the circular table for the meal.
The vicar said grace and to use a hackneyed phrase.
'All went merrily as a wedding bell.'
The best man's pawky sense of Scottish humour went down
well. The groom's speech of thanks to the guests ended with a
toast to the bride so sincere one or two handkerchiefs came out of
The bride assisted by her husband cut the cake faultlessly.
Ian had brought a chauffeur down from Scotland. After the
reception, he drove Ray and Beth home then dropped Gladys off
before returning to the pub.
He picked up Janet's parents and Peterson to drive them to
York station to catch the train back to Scotland.
Ian and Janet having seen her parents and the best man off,
were then driven back to spend the night with Beth and Ray so
that they did not have any domestic chores to do on their wedding
A brunch cooked by Janet was planned for the next morning.
This was to be served to the newly weds in bed, before Ian took
Janet in the Bentley back to Dunkeld.
The first part of the plan worked perfectly. They got back to
find Beth and Ray had changed out of their wedding finery and had
celebratory drams waiting.
They had a leisurely natter and a light supper before well
wound down, they retired to their respective bedrooms and pillow
Beth and Ray snuggled down review the day and
congratulated themselves on its success. They relived the moment
that had both fallen in love again, as the saw one another in the
No attempt was made to consummate the union.
Beth saw Ray was looking serious and asked.
'Is something worrying you ?'
'I've got a problem. I don't think they know it yet, but I am
sure Janet is pregnant. I could see it in her eyes.'
A shaken Beth asked. 'Did you say anything to them ?'
'No. I waited until I could get you on my own. I thought you
might help me decide whether to tell her.'
'How far on is she ?'
'Five to six weeks.
'As early as that ! Can you be sure ?'
Beth asked when Janet was likely to notice anything.
He replied. 'Any day now.'
They decided to let nature take its course, put out the light
and fell happily asleep in each other's arms.
Ian and Janet were not so lucky. At four o'clock Janet woke
cold with fear. Clinging to Ian, she said.
'I've missed a period. Do you think I'm pregnant ?
The thought left them both wide awake, until two hours later,
exhausted they dozed off.
They overslept. Nature called for Ray to use the bathroom.
Then he went downstairs, made four cups of tea, put them on a
tray and took them upstairs.
He put two cups down outside the guest room door and said.
He had only gone a few steps before Ian opened the door.
He was in such a hurry he nearly kicked a cup over. He said.
'Could Mum come and have a word with Janet. She's in an
'Woman's talk ?'
'Take the tea in for Janet and bring your cup into my room. I'll
ask Beth to go to her.'
Ten minutes later a white faced Beth called out.
'Ray can you come.'
Ian followed him and as they entered the room. Beth said.
'It's what you thought. I've told her what you said.'
It was a measure of the man that he collected a chair and a
pack of tissues sat down beside her, wiped the tears from her eyes
and no one said a word.
He took Janet's hand and said.
'Well done Janet. Congratulations to both of you. Beth and I
His tones and words were so at odds with what she expected
that it brought hope into her eyes and she whimpered.
' Aren't you cross with me ?'
'Cross with you ! Of course not.
It is the most wonderful thing in the world for a woman to
give the man she loves their child. Ian is a lucky man.'
He turned to an astonished Ian and added.
'You've done a good job there my lad. I am proud of you.'
'But what's going to happen to us ?' Janet asked.
'Nothing. It's the best thing that you two could have possibly
Together Ian and Janet cried. I don’t understand.' Beth
added. 'Neither do I.'
He stood up looked at his watch and said.
'Family conference in the kitchen in half an hour. We'll sort
this out then,' and left the room.
Beth raised her eyebrows to an equally puzzled Janet and
'I don't know what he has got in mind either. But I'm sure he
knows what he is doing.' and hurried after him.
In their room, he outlined what he had in mind.
Infected by his confidence, an expectant trio sat down at the
kitchen table facing him as he said.
'The day after Ian brought Beth back to me I told him I was
going to marry her as soon as I could. When I did, I would be the
head of the family, and I would do my best to make it a happy
Two weeks later, I asked Ian who was running the business
while he was away.' He looked at Janet.
'He told me you were. He said it in tones that made it crystal
clear he was in love with you.
I wormed it out of him that you had been in love for eight
years and secretly engaged for three. I asked him why he had not
told Beth you were in love and got an answer I half expected.
He said, and I remember his words clearly.
'We won't tell her because if we do, Beth would insist on
going into a home to be out of the way, so we could be married
and live in her home.'
'Is that true ?' .
Tears came into Beth's eyes as Ian nodded.
'I told him when I married Beth, she would almost certainly
want to live with me.'
Beth nodded vigorously and blew him a kiss.
Yesterday Beth did me the honour to become my wife. I am
sure Beth agrees with me we want you to get married without any
Ian and Janet looked at Beth who said.
'I agree with every word my masterful husband has said.'
'Right. Now that is settled, let's get down to business.
I suggest you drive back to Dunkeld tonight and first thing in
the morning, nip round to the manse and ask to have the banns
read and book the wedding for a month from today.
There was consternation among his listeners.
'But what about the baby ?' Stuttered Janet.
'Your baby is only a month old. It will be at least two months
before anyone will know you are pregnant by looking at you.'
'How can you be so certain ?' Ian asked.
'Your child was conceived in that bed upstairs under this roof
just six weeks ago.'
'You can't know that.' said Beth.
'I think I can. You two had been using condoms hadn't you ?'
Janet said. ' Yes we were. I didn't fancy the pill.'
When Ian brought his mother down to me, he wouldn't have
bothered to bring any with him. Why should he ?
Janet dropped everything to get down to see you as fast as
she could. I bet she didn't think of bringing a condom with her.'
'No he bought them. I didn't have any.'
'That night you were so in love, you never gave a thought to
Janet went red. 'Any one would think you were there.'
Beth piped up.
'He wasn't. I wasn't going to let him out of my sight. I was too
in love with him.'
Janet asked. 'What am I to tell my parents ?'
'The truth. Now Beth and I are married, you are free to move
into her house any time and you want to be married before you do.'
'I meant about the baby. I wouldn't mind telling Mother. She
knows I love Ian, she will understand when I tell her.
My father is a different matter. He is very straight laced. If I
tell him I'm pregnant he'll throw me out of the house.'
'Well don't tell him then. He's a man, he won't begin to
suspect things until the baby is born. If he asks you, say the child
was a bit premature.'
'That won't be true.'
Are you telling me that child isn't a bit premature. The word
has two meanings remember.'
Beth and Ian laughed and so did Janet when she grasped
what Ray had said.
Janet said. 'It won't be easy for Ian.
He's got to ask my father's permission to marry me. He's
terrified of having to do so.'
Perhaps it was the example of his stepfather or his new role
as the father of a child, which made Ian say coolly and calmly.
'I am not going to ask his permission. I am going to tell him I
am going to marry you. If he refuses to pay for the wedding, we
can use the deposit we built up to buy a house, to pay for it
This was a side of Ian Janet had no idea existed.
She looked at him adoringly and said.
'You're as masterful as Ray is.'
Beth said. 'We are both so lucky to have two real men in love
The conference over, Janet rang her mother and told her of
their plans and after a long conversation put the phone down
looking as pole axed as Ian had been.
She came back into the kitchen shaking her head and saying.
'I can't believe it.'
Anxiously Beth asked. 'What's happened ?'
'I told her and she said.
"Father and I are delighted. Tell Ian from us how pleased we
are for both of you."
Then she went on to say they had been hoping we would
get married. When Father came on. He said.
'I'm so glad for you both. You're getting a good man there. I
am off to book us in for the reception at Dunkeld House this
'Dunkeld House ! 'He's pushing the boat out for you.
It's a lovely place for a wedding.'
And so it proved. The church was crowded, there were over
a hundred guests at the reception and Scottish dancing went on
into the wee small hours, long after the newly weds had departed
for their honeymoon in Bermuda.
The next morning Ray and Beth went back to her old house
for a quiet holiday before going home.
That night, before he turned the light out he said.
'I hadn't realised how popular you and Ian were. Most of the
guests came from your side.
I can see now why Janet's father was so pleased.
Ian was quite a catch. I didn't do so badly out of it myself.
Married to lady of the manor. I shall have to consider getting a kilt.
You looked wonderful in yours.'
She lifted the duvet cover and looked down into the bed.
'Well you've got the knees for it my darling. They are as
perfect as the rest of you.'
The gleeful push she gave him nearly toppled him out of bed.
As she pulled him back to safety, he asked.
' Is this another lesson in making love'
A dreamy look came over her face as she said. 'It might be.'
A NIGHTMARE JOURNEY
Beth was anxious to show Ray round the district. Two or
three weeks later, she asked John the manager of the office, to
lend her the Bentley for a trip to Aberfeldy, some twenty miles from
There had been a fair amount of snow the night before, but
the route up the A 9 to Pitlochery and their destination was clear
and they made good time. They had a good lunch and on their way
back, Beth nodded off.
Unfortunately, Ray, unfamiliar with the country, missed the
turning, which would have taken them back to the A9 and ended
up on an ungritted B road signposted to Dunkeld.
Though there was snow on the road, the Bentley made
driving easy. Though he realised there were spots where the road
was treacherous he was unperturbed and saw no reason to wake
He had already reached the point on the road where it was
too narrow to turn such a long vehicle round to go back the way he
had come, when a call of nature led him to stop the car and go
behind a hedge to relieve himself.
The stop woke Beth and she was about to call out to Ray
when she heard him call.
'Beth come quickly. I'm in trouble.'
She hurried behind the hedge and was greeted with a
horrifying sight. Ray was on his back, clutching his right thigh, in a
rapidly growing pool of blood, soaking into the snow. He said.
'I've fallen and cut my femoral artery. I've stopped the
bleeding with my thumb, but I need a tourniquet.'
She took the scarf from his neck and wrapped it over the
wound and as he took his thumb away, a jet of blood went all over
her clothes. She pulled the ends of the scarf tight, and the bleeding
stopped and she said.
'Keep it tight. I'll go back to the car. There will be a tommy
bar in the tool kit. That will do the job.'
Slipping and sliding she went back to the car and a minute or
two later between them they had converted the scarf into an
'How on earth did you do this ?'
Pointing to an upturned ploughshare on the ground with a
blood stained blade he said.
'I was having a pee when my foot slipped from under me and
I fell on that.'
Then they faced the task of getting him into the car. Though
there was no spare flesh on him, he was over six feet tall and she
was only five foot three.
Together they got him standing up on his good leg.
He held the tourniquet in place with his right hand, put his left
arm around her and set off, a hop step at a time.
Twice they came to grief on the snow, and he had to be
helped to be got up off the ground.
However, they made it, cold and exhausted thankfully
without starting the bleeding again.
She propped him up on the front seat and covered him with a
After more slipping and sliding, she made her way round to
the driver's door holding onto to the bodywork, to prevent herself
Getting Ray into the car had taken nearly thirty minutes.
It was time that would have been better spent on the road.
Every minute the light was failing and it was snowing again. The
car was covered in fallen snow and so was the road.
It was a journey that would normally have taken no more
than forty minutes.
They were not to know that ahead of them lay four hours of
pain for him and terror for her, dominated by her growing sense of
despair that their journey was in vain, that he would be dead
before it ended.
The car, as one would expect, started effortlessly at the
touch of the starter button and the headlights shone bravely,
promising good vision through the darkness.
It was not until she turned on the windscreen wipers that she
realised the reflection of the headlights against the falling snow
was almost blinding her with glare.
She experimented with sidelights. They were so covered in
snow as to be useless and she settled for the dipped heated fog
. This gave her a skewed view of about fifteen to twenty
yards of road ahead.
It did not help that she was sitting in a seat adjusted to take
her husband. Her lack of inches, meant she could not sit back to
She had to pull herself forward, gripping the steering wheel
to perch on the front edge of the seat, to be able to glimpse the
He smiled up at her and said.
'You'll make it my darling. I know I am in safe hands.'
Though she welcomed the compliment and his trust in her,
she did not share his confidence.
She had not driven on this road for at least thirty years.. She
was not aware that luxury cars with an automatic gearbox are
notoriously difficult to handle in ice and snow.
She found this out the hard way. When she pressed the
accelerator, the rear wheels began spinning. Instead of moving
forwards, the car began to glide sideways across the road.
Ray was alert enough to know what was happening and
better still knew how to deal with it. He said.
'You must switch the little lever on the fascia board to the
middle, to disconnect the automatic gearbox. Then you can drive it
like an ordinary car changing gears by hand.
She found the lever he was talking about, and switched it
It was the first break she had had. Though it was big and
heavy, the Bentley was no heavier than the laden fish lorries she
had driven years before.
They too had manual gears so that she now knew how to
drive the car on an icy road, using her old skills.
Slowly she engaged second gear, gently pressed the
accelerator and the car moved gently forward. The car was on a
slight downward slope and her first application of the brakes took
her by surprise.
Putting on the brakes of a lorry on ice, usually ended in a
skid, and a sideways slide. The Bentley was no different.
Then her old driving skills came to her aid. She remembered
that instead of using the brakes on an icy surface, if she took her
foot off the accelerator, the engine would slow the car down.
The trick was not to stall the engine. Luckily, that wouldn't
happen in a Bentley,
The journey could never have been made if she had not
known what to do. Drivers of vehicles built before the war and in
the early years of peace, drove heavy lumbering objects, which
had one real benefit.
They gave drivers a lot of feedback of the car wheels on the
road. It gave them a sense similar to the feeling of control, a
horseman, has when riding a horse
Modern cars make the driver far more isolated from what is
going on outside
Fortunately Beth had not lost this skill. She very quickly got
a very clear idea of how the car reacted to different road conditions.
Instinctively she drove in the middle of the road, sensing this
because the car felt level, this was due to its wheels straddling the
highest point of the road surface. This stopped her running into the
side of the road.
That feeling combined with using the engine as a brake, left
her free to concentrate, not on controlling the car itself, but coping
with the difficulty caused by her lack of useable vision.
This was a constantly changing hazard. One minute she
could not see anything beyond the front of the bonnet. The next,
the road ahead was clear for ten or twenty yards.
Then unexpected shadows cast by a fog light falling on a
roadside object such as a tree, suddenly loomed up at her out of
the gloom, causing her to swerve.
It all added uncertainty to the fear of suddenly meeting a car
coming in the opposite direction. This did much to fray her nerves.
Once on the move she faced her next problem.
Drivers of lorries, do so in a cab set high above the road,
almost vertically above the radiator. When a lorry runs into falling
snow this gets driven up and over the roof of the cab, leaving a
large area of clear windscreen.
The flow of snow-laden air over the Bentley, with its long
bonnet and backward slope of the front window was entirely
different. This deposited snow onto the windscreen, limiting her
vision to the only parts of the windscreen kept clear by the wipers.
She could only see what lay ahead through two small
It took her over fifteen minutes to cover the first quarter of a
mile. Then she stopped to help Ray loosen the tourniquet to let
blood flow into his lower leg.
The first two or three times this happened, arterial blood
continued to pump out. Then gradually as the clot formed, the
tourniquet could be loosened. This however did nothing to relieve
his pain and discomfort.
Manfully, he gritted his teeth and held back his cries of pain
in order not to distress her.
Things went reasonably well. In the first hour, they covered
four miles. In the second another seven and then disaster struck.
A flurry of snow obscured her view and she did not see the
dead sheep lying in the road. Before she could apply the brakes,
the front wheel hit it and the car veered sideways off the road onto
the grass verge.
It was just good luck or perhaps divine intervention that they
ended up with nose of the car against and not through, the wire
This stood just two feet away from a sheer drop of some six
hundred feet, to the valley below.
She sat petrified, her heart beating furiously, sweating fear
from every pore.
It took some time before she recovered enough to get out of
the car and plan her next move.
She concentrated on the back wheels and avoided looking
at those at the front, for fear that if she slipped while doing so, she
could end up on her back, sliding under the barbed wire into the
Shivering with cold and fear, she opened the boot, took out
the carpets and placed them behind the rear wheels to improve
. Then she got back into the car to find Ray had lapsed into
unconsciousness. She took out his false teeth, checked his
breathing was not obstructed, and turned on the engine.
This was by far the most dangerous moment. She had to
press the accelerator at the same moment as she released the
If she pressed the accelerator too hard, the wheels would
begin to spin and dig in deeper. If she did not turn off the brake
properly, the car might just roll forward and over the edge.
She took off her shoe, the better to feel her foot on the pedal,
bowed her head in earnest prayer, kissed her finger and put it to
Then she pulled herself forward by the steering wheel to
steady herself, and pressed down on the pedal and released the
Whether it was the work of their guardian angel, her skill as a
driver, the built in responsiveness of the car or a combination of all
three, the car moved very gently back, over the carpets and ended
up in the very centre of the road.
By now, the snow had stopped falling. Without a backward
glance, which would almost certainly have unnerved her, she set
off on their renewed journey.
Though the conditions had improved, Beth's ordeal was by
no means over.
They were now on the lower slopes of the descent, the land
was flattening out but the snow was deeper. Though there was a
pale moon, this was often obscured by clouds
This made it very difficult for her to distinguish between road
and its verges and time consuming to drive round bends.
Mostly the dividing mark was a wooden railed fence or less
commonly, a hedge, seen in the light of the now useable
headlamps. This at least gave her warning of the approach of a
curve, and its likely radius.
However, these aids to navigation were few and far between.
All too often, her first warning that she was coming to a bend, was
when the passenger side, front wheel, mounted the verge.
This called for a prompt halt, to avoid ending up in a ditch, a
reverse back, then cautiously moving forward on a different line,
until she hit the verge again.
On one very long curve, she had to do this eighteen times.
There were also many smaller curves, when she had to
tackle in the same way.
Each one called for considerable concentration and she was
becoming fatigued and could hardly keep here eyes open. She
dare not let the window down in case Ray got chilled.
On at least three occasions she actually nodded off, which
led to a terrifying wakening.
They had covered some five miles when she saw the faint
light from headlights reflected in the snow ahead. She had no
means of knowing whether it was coming towards her or stationary.
She sounded her horn continuously, rousing Ray from his
semi comatose state. As she drew nearer she saw the red lights of
a vehicle, and knew at least she was not about to run into an
She crept slowly forward and realised the lights were on the
back of a lorry stopped in the middle of the road. She saw its driver
walking towards her.
She stopped the car. Uncertain of his motives she
instinctively locked the car door and turned off the interior light. As
he knocked on the window, She let it down enough to speak to him.
His first words took her breath away as he said.
'What are you doing out on a night like this Ian ?'
Grasping the fact that the stranger recognised the car and its
likely driver, she lowered the window and turned the light back on.
As he recognised her, he cried.
'It's Beth. Beth Hubbard. How in God's name did you get up
Her pride in her new status led to her first reply
'Not Beth Hubbard. It's Beth Harris now. It's Peter Hayes
'It is.' He pointed at Ray and asked
. 'Is that your husband ? He looks about all in/
He's fallen on a ploughshare and cut the artery in his thigh.
We've stopped the bleeding but he's lost a lot of blood. I'm
trying to get him to the hospital.
'Where did it happen ?
'At the top of the pass.'
'You've driven fifteen miles on that downhill slope in this
weather. My God, you've got guts.
But of course you always were the best driver this side of
'Can you get your lorry out of the road and let me through.'
He shook his head.
'It won't help, the road ahead is blocked. I stopped rather
than risk it. You'll never get through in that car, good as it is. The
snow is about eight foot deep.'
Her worst fears were realised. Her dash for help for the man
she loved was over and she was about to lose him.
Peter went round to the passenger side and opened the door.
The cold air roused Ray who grunted. The fact that he was not yet
dead, helped Peter make up his mind. He shut the door and came
back to her.
'Get your car as close as you can to my lorry, slew her round
to the right so it ends up with the passenger door facing the back.
We'll get him out, lift him up into the cab and see if we can get
Hope returned. His offer to attempt to get through could give
Ray his last chance. She said.
'Peter you're a Trojan.'
He went back to the lorry. She followed his instructions and
stopped the car in exactly the right place.
She shook Ray to try and get him to wake. He did and she
told him they were going to move him into the lorry. He was able to
tell her to tighten the tourniquet first and she did so.
Ray was not too heavy for Peter to pick him up in his arms
and carry him to the lorry. She went ahead, got into the cab and
helped to hoist him into the passenger seat, then she loosened the
It was obvious there would be no room for her beside Ray.
Peter told her to climb the ladder and lie down on the bunk
bed, beneath the cab roof, on which he slept on overnight journeys.
As she did, Peter disconnected the cab from its trailer,
checked the emergency rear lights were working, moved the
Bentley to the side of the road and climbed back into the cab. He
'Hold on tight Beth. I don't want you landing on my head.'
The conditions had much improved, the snow had stopped
and dawn was breaking. He could see where he was on the road
and driving was straightforward.
His knowledge of the road told him exactly where the road
would be blocked. About a mile ahead, there was a dip in the road,
which would fill with some eight feet of fallen snow.
He explained to Beth he could not get through with his trailer,
but he reckoned if he used the cab as a snow plough, they might
just make it. He stopped the cab some yards short of the dip and
outlined what he had in mind.
'I don't see any point in trying to bash our way through, if we
do we could it damage the radiator and I would have to turn off the
'That makes sense.'
'What I am going to try is to move the cab forward, until it
starts to sink into the drift and move it slowly forward so that the
heat from the radiator melts the snow.
I have no idea whether it will work. Any better ideas ?'
He waited patiently for her answer, for he had a great
respect for her judgement.
She said 'I've got one.'
'Yes !' he said eagerly.
'We are only going to bring a small area of heat in contact
with the snow.
If we opened the cab windows and the windscreen and
turned the cab heater on full blast, we would have another source
of heat, as we get deeper into the drift.
No one knows we are here. There are risks, if the diesel runs
out or if we topple over, we could be trapped inside the drift and
freeze to death.'
He thought over her words and said.
'Let's call up the depot, tell them we have a sick man on
board and what we plan to do.
Then at least if things go wrong someone will know where
'That's sounds good to me.'
Peter rang the depot on his mobile and when it answered,
asked to speak to the manager.
The manager came on and said.
'Hullo Peter. We guessed you were holed up somewhere. It's
rough here. If you've run out of bacon and eggs, don't expect a
Peter explained where they were and their plans to which
John, the manager replied.
'Who thought up that wacky idea ?'
'You'll never guess. It's Beth.'
'Beth! Our Beth ! She isn't with you, is she ?'
Peter handed the phone to her and she said.
'Hullo John it's me alright, the old woman with wacky ideas
and a very sick husband.'
'If it's your idea, it might just work.
Give me ten minutes before you do anything.
I'll have a word with rescue services and see if they can give
us a hand.
Can't leave a couple of newly weds to peg out before the
honeymoon is over. '
'God bless you John '
Ten minutes later, she thought she heard the sound of an
aircraft approaching and at that moment, the phone rang.
She answered it and the caller said.
'It's John. There's a helicopter on its way. They’ll drop a
winch man with a stretcher, pick up Ray and you two and bring you
Tell Peter to abandon the lorry and the car and bring only
essentials. Good luck and God be with you.'
Two minutes later the helicopter was overhead and snow
was whirling round in the down draft.
Peter carrying Ray in his arms, stumbled through a gate into
a field and helped the winch man fasten him to the stretcher,
before he was lifted up into the helicopter.
Beth wishing she had been wearing slacks instead of a skirt,
was next to ascend, followed shortly afterwards by Peter and the
Ten minutes later Ray was carried into the Casualty
department and within an hour was on the operating table.
Outside in the waiting room John joined Beth and Peter. He
congratulated her on her courage and said.
'You were dead lucky. They were on the point of despatching
the 'copter to a multiple road crash when I called.
When they heard it was you and your husband who were in
trouble, they rang the ambulance officer at the site.
Like everyone else involved he knew you and wanted to help.
He did a recce and told me the first casualties were still trapped.
He gave the helicopter, a thirty minute window to get you out.
It arrived at the site with a minute to spare, so nobody
suffered because they were diverted to pick you up.
There were tears in Beth's eyes partly because she felt Ray
was in good hands but also at the affection people had for her.
Peter said. ' I'll fetch some tea.'
As he left, John put his arm round Beth's shoulders and said.
'Well done Beth. Getting the helicopter was no more than
you and Ray deserved.'
Beth sniffed and said.
'Thanks for everything you and Peter did. We shall never
'Do you want me to phone Ian and Janet and tell them what's
Shocked she said.
'Oh No ! They are on their honeymoon, it would spoil
everything for them.'
They drank the tea Peter had fetched. They put their cups
down as the surgeon came out to them and said,
'All fine and dandy. Everything went just as it should.
We'll keep him in overnight and he should be able to come
home with you, after I've seen him tomorrow afternoon. He'll need
to be in bed for a week, then he should be back to his old form.'
This time her tears were of relief. She asked.
'Can I go and see him ?'
'He's in recovery at the moment. He should be round from
the anaesthetic in an hour. He won't be sitting up, but he'll know
who you are.'
After she had thanked him and he had left, Peter said.
'You don't need me any more. I think I'll be getting off. I've
phoned home and my wife is getting a hot bath and meal ready.'
She got up, put her arms round him and said.
'Thank you Peter. 'We would never have made it without
Ruefully Peter said.
'Now we will never know if that wacky idea of yours would
have worked ?'
John said,' I reckon it would have had a fifty, fifty chance.'
John waited until she had seen Ray, who had only a hazy
idea of what had happened. They had had a loving and heartfelt
embrace, Then he took her home.
He came into the house with her and asked if there was
anything she wanted.
She told him that she and Ray had been on their way back
there after their outing, and had expected to spend a few days in
the house before going back to her new home in Yorkshire.
Satisfied she was safe to be left on her own, he said.
'Give me a ring when you want taking to the hospital to see
Closing the door behind him, she poured out a large dram
and raised her glass saying. 'Here's to us Ray.'
She downed it in one, poured out another and made a long
distance telephone call, then went upstairs.
She woke to find herself fully dressed, lying on top of the bed
in daylight. She looked at her watch and found, without knowing it
she had slept for over twelve hours.
She turned on the bath, made herself a cup of tea and took it
into the bathroom. She got into the now filled bath, reviewed the
events of the day before, sent up a little prayer for Ray, and
luxuriating in the hot water, planned her next moves.
Dressed, she rang the ward, spoke to the Sister and was told
Ray had had a good night and he had asked her to give Beth a
'He says he loves you very much. Thanks you for saving his
life and is looking forward to coming home tonight. Then she
'I am to send you six kisses.'
Beth revelling in the moment said.'
Please tell him I love him so much and give him six kisses
Surprised Sister asked.
'Six is a funny number. Has it some special meaning ?'
Giggling to herself Beth said.
'It's six weeks ago today, since we were married.'
Then she rang John, thanked him for all he had done and
asked him he could send a couple of men to get a bed downstairs
so Ray would not have to use the stairs.
Half an hour later, John and Peter carried a spare bed down
into the front room, and again congratulated her on her courage
and driving skills.
In the evening, she sat beside Ray holding his hand, in the
ambulance on their way home. There she insisted on pushing his
wheelchair up the garden path herself.
As she did so, Gladys opened the front door to them and told
'Beth asked me to come and look after you until you're fully
fit. She thinks you will be too much of a handful to cope with on her
A week later, the surgeon's words came true. Ray was on his
feet and raring to go.
It was a very happy ending to an episode that could so
easily have ended in tragedy.
RAY HUNSLEY WRITES
The story of Beth and Ray is not yet ended.
Last year they went back to Dunkeld, to attend the
christening of their third grandchild. Now both in their late eighties,
they have settled down to live together as long as the Lord will
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Contents and Page Numbers
THE ARRIVAL 1-10
IAN AGREES TO STAY 11-14
RAY LEARNS WHAT HAPPENED 15-20
JANET COMES TO VISIT 21-29
THINGS START TO MOVE 30-32
DISCUSSING THE WEDDING 33-37
BETH MAKES A PLEDGE 38-45
THE TALE OF TWO WEDDINGS 46-57
A NIGHTMARE JOURNEY 58-76
To me reading from a website is a task to be avoided, fonts are too
small, lines to close together, coloured back grounds destroy
contrast making words unreadable.
Transferring print direct from a book to a screen is easy, too
easy. It fills the screen with great slabs of uninviting, print, boring,
hard to grasp material rather than words, destroying the pleasure
of a leisurely read.
AIMING FOR AN EASY READ
This is a subject close to my heart. Reading should be a pleasure
not a chore. All my stories have been edited to make life easy for
the older reader. Print is in black against a white background to
improve contrast, letters are large, lines wide apart with short
sentences .set in generous margins.
Paragraphs are kept short, under thirty words to assist
concentration. Dialogue is given single lines to make it stand out
and ’said’ and ’says’ avoided where possible. Stories are broken
up into sections and an index of these added. This meets the
desire of many readers to just pick out familiar passages, before
turning out the light.
A readability index is added This is based on the Flesch Reader
Ease assessment. I interpret this to mean the percentage of the
population able to understand what I have written. Word and page
counts indicate length of stories and are for these days
unfashionably high. But my generation liked to get its
Punctuation is used in the same way as stage directions in a
play. It is very helpful for those who want to read the story aloud, to
make their own audio book for the visually or physically
Commas and stops indicate suitable places for taking a
breath. Like most authors I have my foibles. I have an almost
Freudian attitude to the use of full stops outside the narrative. I
suspect at my age that the term full stop carries unwelcome hints
of approaching mortality. I am a great fan of the apostrophe used,
as it should be, to indicate leaving out of individual letters.
It is an invaluable for writing dialogue. e.g. Jill coloured up and
said.’ It’s a lovely skirt,’ sounds normal and right. So does Jack’s
reply. Wanting to be emphatic, he uses the full version saying ‘It is
a lovely skirt.’ Inverted commas. Single ones indicate what the
person is saying at the time. Double commas are for words
actually said or written previously. I rarely use colons and semi
colons and use a dash mark – instead.
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