It wasn’t exactly a plan, but it was something that she had been thinking about for some time; and as the day got nearer, the more she wanted to do it before it was too late. From the day of her birth, and probably before, her whole life had been mapped out for her: a giant ‘to-do’ list of things to be ticked off as they had occurred. She knew that she had been sheltered from the harsh realities of the real world and she was not unappreciative or ungrateful, but she had grown up with the mantra ‘With privilege comes responsibility’, and now she was ready to do her duty But all she wanted first was a little freedom: her own little cache of memories to draw on in the years ahead of unceasing obeisance towards conformity.
At about three a.m. she got out of bed and quickly dressed, and from the place that she thought it most unlikely to be discovered, she took out the bag that she had ‘borrowed’ from the domestic staff when she came upon it, unattended, and into this she put a few basic items of clothing and toiletries. Then, going to her writing bureau, she sat down, took out a sheet of paper and an envelope, and wrote in her neat hand: I am safe. Please allow me some time to be myself, then I will contact you. Anna. Folding the paper, she placed it into the envelope and sealed it, before writing ‘Papa’ on the front and leaving it on her pillow where it would be easily found.
Having lived in the royal apartments for most of her twenty-one years, she knew that security was practically non-existent inside, so donning a long coat, a woollen hat that covered her head and a scarf her face, she slipped out of the building and into the night.
At 05:45, Sam Whelan walked down the stairs from his living quarters over the shop. He’d done this almost every morning for the last five years since his parents had retired early to a bungalow near the coast to see out their days in a place where there were no stairs to climb, no heavy boxes to lift, and no deliveries to oversee. Sam had moved into the apartment with his wife, Debbie, where they planned to spend several decades together until it was their turn to either pass on the shop to their children, or sell up and move to their own equivalent of a seaside bungalow. However, the hit-and-run driver who had knocked Debbie down and left her dying in the road had put an end to the dream.
He turned off the shop’s alarm and turned on the lights, and then walking through to the front he opened the door to collect the bundles of newspapers that were always left there. This morning, however, as well as the papers, he found a young woman huddled in the doorway. He placed a hand on her shoulder: “Are you all right, Miss?” Anna opened her eyes: “ ... I’m so c-cold!” He helped her up and supported her.
“ ... Come on! Let’s get you inside and into the warm!” He led her to the stairs at the back that he had only just descended. “If you can just sit here for a couple of minutes... ”
Leaving her, still shivering, he quickly dragged the newspaper bundles inside, shut and bolted the door, then turned off the shop lights. There weren’t usually many customers this early and anyone who did turn up, would ... well ... just be unlucky!
Once upstairs he took her straight through to his bedroom, where the bed he had so recently vacated would still be warm. Helping her out of her coat and her boots, he laid her down, otherwise fully-clothed, and covered her up. “Get some sleep, Miss!”
She smiled weakly at him and whispered “Thank you!” then closed her eyes. Sam went downstairs to get the shop ready for opening. He didn’t do newspaper deliveries any more, as there was not enough demand to warrant it, although a few were put aside for regular customers, so after setting the papers out in racks, it was business as usual.
At ten o’clock his assistant, Mary Elmsworth, arrived, so he took the opportunity to pop upstairs to see how his ‘guest’ was getting on. She was sleeping, but had obviously been awake, because a pile of women’s clothes now lay on the floor next to the bed. Sam picked them up and loosely folded them before placing them on a chair. He looked at the sleeping figure in the bed; she was certainly very pretty and there was something familiar about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He quietly returned downstairs to carry on with his shopkeeping chores.
“Can you manage for bit, Mary?” he asked, rhetorically, “I’m going to get some lunch.” Mary was more than capable: she’d worked for Sam for two years, ever since his wife ... He climbed the back stairs once more, stopping outside the bedroom and glancing in.
“Good morning! Please come in!”
“Well, you’re looking a lot better than you did earlier this morning!”
“Yes ... thank you! You were very kind to take me in like that; I hadn’t expected it to be that cold. My name is An ... Angela. What’s yours?”
“Sam ... Sam Whelan. Pleased to meet you, Angela!” He couldn’t help noticing her porcelain skin and the elegant curve of her neck: like one of those marble statues that you see in museums.
“Are you hungry, Angela ... I was just about to make myself some lunch?”
“Oh, gosh! I’m absolutely starving! I haven’t eaten since about eight o’clock last night.”
“Well, it shouldn’t take long to cobble something together. Would you like to take a bath or a shower first?”
“Ooh, yes please! I’d love a bath! Um ... do you have a robe or something that I can borrow, Sam?”
“Of course! Hanging on this door. The bathroom is just along the landing. Would you like me to run it for you?”
“If you wouldn’t mind!” she said, smiling. Sam left the room, pulling the door closed behind him. Anna wasn’t really sure that she wanted to get out of bed, it was so warm and snug, and there was a residual aroma that she actually found very attractive. But she pushed off the covers, then walked over to where the robe was hanging from the hook on the door. She put it on, luxuriating in the feel of soft cotton towelling against her skin, from her neck to mid-calf. She took a moment to really look around the room. She was unused to clutter: her rooms were tidied daily, and although familiar, they still had a sense of impersonality; unlike this room, which was full of evidence of real people living in it.
She had only seen Sam, but there were photographs of him and the pretty dark-haired woman; obviously his wife, judging from the clothing they were wearing. Anna wondered if she would be meeting her later. But then she saw the small photograph, not framed, but tucked into the corner of the mirror frame. It showed a simple, black marble headstone, with the inscription:
Cherished Wife and Daughter
Much Loved and Never Forgotten
Anna pushed the tears off of her cheeks with the back of her hand; she felt the guilt of intrusion into another person’s life. Sam had been so kind to her, but even now he must still be feeling his sense of loss. As she opened the bedroom door he was coming out of the bathroom. He smiled and the warmth of his affection pierced her heart.
“It’s all ready for you, Angela. Take your time, there’s plenty more hot water if you want it.”
It was a very simple meal, but Anna couldn’t remember one that tasted better.
“That was lovely, Sam! I’ve never learned to cook.”
“ ... Wha ... not even beans on toast!” he said, playfully.
“No ... not even that!” She omitted to say that she didn’t think that she’d ever even had it, let alone cooked it.
“I’m not really a cook, my wife ... my wife always used to do the cooking... ”
“I’m truly sorry, Sam; I saw your photographs in the bedroom.” His eyes betrayed his sadness, but he tried to smile.
“That’s life! These things happen, but life goes on.”
Anna had never really had to deal with such deep emotions, but some part of her consciousness made her reach out and squeeze his hand. In that moment she decided that he had to be told the truth.
“Sam, do you know who I am?” He looked intently at her face; there was something...
“My name isn’t Angela, it’s Anna Maria Louise. Does that sound familiar?” She recognised the shock of acknowledgement in his face.
“But you’re... ” She nodded.
“I suppose you could say that I ran away! You probably know what’s about to happen to me; it wasn’t my choice, but I accept the reasoning behind it. He’s a nice man and I’m sure that in time we will both grow into the relationship.”
“ ... But, in this day and age; I didn’t think that sort of thing still went on.” Anna smiled:
“It’s more common than you know, Sam. Some of my relatives are permitted to marry for love alone, but I’ve known ever since I was a little girl that my Prince Charming would be chosen for me. I’m 21 now and considered to be of the right age.”
“So are they looking for you? Will you ... will I ... get into trouble if you’re found here?”
“Goodness Gracious, no! I left my father a note, and you’ve been nothing but kind, Sam, and you helped me when I needed it most; if anything, you should get a reward.”
“I wouldn’t want that ... er, Ma’am. In fact, I’d rather no one ever knew.”
“Yes, I understand. I’ve put you in a very awkward position, so if you’d rather I went... ”
“No ... not at all! You’re welcome to stay for as long as you want, of course.”
“I’m glad about that, Sam. I’ll stay up here out of sight, but if I’m going to stay there’s to be none of that ‘Ma’am’ business; you must call me Anna, or Angela, if you prefer. And while I’m here, perhaps you can introduce me to beans on toast!”
Before he went back down to the shop, he gave her a quick tour of the flat:
“I generally close up around six in the evening, unless there’s any last-minute customers. Help yourself to anything that’s in the kitchen and I have books and DVD’s. And if my assistant asks, I’ll say I have a friend staying for a few days. She won’t come up here unless I ask her to.”
After making herself tea in a big mug, Anna went into the bedroom to find something comfortable to wear. She wondered if there were any of Sam’s wife’s clothes still in drawers or closets; but she decided that even if she found something, it would definitely not be a good idea to borrow anything without permission; and even with, he might find the reminder too painful. So instead she had a prudent look through Sam’s clothes. He had obviously played sports at some time, because she came upon several pairs of football or rugby shorts, some probably too big, but one pair which she put aside.
In another drawer she found T-shirts, another one of which was added to her temporary wardrobe. She then removed her own rather formal clothing and put on his, quite unlike anything that she’d usually wear, but rather comfortable all the same. Thus dressed in her borrowed attire, and with bare feet and bare legs, she carried her tea through to Sam’s living room and turned on the television. She was particularly interested to see if there was anything about herself on the news. There was not. Thank you, Papa, she said to herself; he had obviously got her note and was giving her the limited freedom that she’d asked for.
So with the knowledge that, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, nothing extraordinary had happened, she looked through Sam’s film collection. A few she had seen before, but most she hadn’t. Then with her bare legs tucked up under her while sitting on Sam’s sofa, her big mug of tea and the DVD’s, she was really relaxed and enjoying herself.
At about 6:30 she heard someone coming up the stairs. “Hello, have you had a good afternoon?” Sam asked her.
“Mmm, very much so! I hope you don’t mind me borrowing a few things?”
“No, of course not!” he said, with his usual good grace and generosity. “There are a few things of Debbie’s, if you’d like to borrow them.”
“No, that’s very generous of you to offer, but these are fine. One thing I was going to ask you, Sam: do you sell mobile phones in your shop? I really ought to let somebody know that I’m all right, but I left mine behind and I wouldn’t want the call traced back to here.”
“No, I don’t sell phones, but I do have the SIM cards that go in them, and I still have my wife’s phone; suppose we charge that up and put a new card in it.”
“Yes, we could do that. I’m afraid I don’t have any money on me, but I’ll make sure you’re reimbursed.” Sam smiled.
“We’ll see! I’ll go and get it and put it on charge ... if I can find it. Incidentally, Anna, what shall we have to eat: I thought perhaps I could order something in; Chinese or Indian takeaway, or a pizza, perhaps?”
“Do you know, ” she said, somewhat incredulously, “ ... I’m afraid I’ve never had any of those.”
“Well, in that case, Indian might be a bit too much if you’re not used to it, and pizza might be a bit bland; shall we go for Chinese? I’ve got a take-away menu that you can look at.”
“Would you like a cup of tea, Sam ... I know that I can do that!” He laughed.
“I’m sure that there’s lot of things that you can do, Anna ... if you get the chance.”
Sam went into his bedroom to look for Debbie’s phone and charger. He knew that it should work, because she’d not had it long before she was knocked down, and she hadn’t had it on her at the time. They could have left the original SIM in it, but he couldn’t remember whether she’d registered it at the shop’s address, so he went down to the shop and got a new card and a prepay voucher, so that she could use it as soon as the phone was ready.
“Here’s that menu. I quite like Chinese food, and you get lots of variety. Have a look and then I’ll phone the order through.”
“There’s such a lot of choice!” Anna exclaimed, “How do you ever decide?”
“Well, most Chinese food is cooked quickly at high heat, so it’s not heavy food. Shall I just order some basic chicken and rice dishes, with a few extras thrown in for good measure?”
“All right! I’m all for trying new things. I’ll trust your judgement, Sam.”
The phone was still charging when the food arrived. Sam opened all the containers in the kitchen, then handed Anna a fork.
“Try a little of everything and anything you like put on a plate. I like all of it, so don’t worry about any of it going to waste. Would you like some wine to go with it? I have red from Chile or white from Australia, although it’s probably not as good as you’re used to.”
“White, please ... and it will be fine, ” she said, putting her soft hand on his arm.
When she did this, Sam felt stirrings in parts of his body that he hadn’t felt since Debbie; he quickly tried to push them out of his mind, but he couldn’t deny that she was a beautiful woman, They even ate their meal off of their laps, on trays, rather than sit at the table. But once more Anna loved the informality.
Despite her upbringing, Anna could never be accused of being a snob. As little children she and her siblings had not been coddled and they played freely and mixed with the other estate children: only later were the demands of protocol tightened and they were expected to act and behave in accordance with the social constraints of their status and position. The phone was now fully charged and Sam changed the SIM card and then added the credit.
“Why don’t you make your call in the bedroom, ” he suggested. Anna gave him a smile that curled his toes! When she returned she sat next to him on the sofa and he topped up her wine glass.
“I have two more days, if that’s all right with you, Sam. I told my father that I’m in safe hands and enjoying myself, but not where I am, because, in truth, I’m not sure. I walked in the dark for several hours before I saw your shop, and I was cold and couldn’t walk any more, ”
“You know that you’re very welcome, Anna, and I’d like you to keep the phone, if you want it.”
“Yes, I want it! And I shall always keep it as a reminder of you and your kindness and generosity.”
She went to use the bathroom and when she came back she sat even closer to Sam. They sat talking for a little longer and then he said:
“I’m sorry, Anna, I have to be up quite early, I really need to go to bed now. Our spare bedroom is full of stock now, but I’ll fetch a pillow and a blanket and sleep on the sofa.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort, Sam! The bed is big enough for both of us; but if you’d rather not share, I’ll be the one sleeping on the sofa.”
“Okay! If you don’t mind. But I ... er ... I don’t have pyjamas.”
“Well, I have no objections, ” she said, smiling. “Do you need to use the bathroom?”
Sam stood in front of the bathroom mirror brushing his teeth, and not quite believing what was happening. Of course, things like this only happened in stories, not in real life; but here he was, about to get into bed with a beautiful woman, who happened to be incredibly sexy and also very good company. And he could probably never, ever, tell another person about it ... not that he ever would, of course.
“Just give me a few minutes, Sam, ” Anna said, then she walked across his bedroom floor wearing only his T-shirt. He groaned to himself as he watched her perfect bottom cross the room. He quickly undressed; the stirrings were much stronger now. No, please! Not now ... not that! All he could do was get into bed and use his hands to cover his embarrassment, really hoping that she wouldn’t return and get the wrong idea.
Just before Anna got into bed she pulled the T-shirt over her head, then pulled back the cover so that she could slip between the sheets. She looked at Sam and giggled.
“I’m so sorry!” he said, “ ... I’m afraid it’s been a while ... I haven’t... ”
“First of all, stop apologising, Sam! Second thing ... show me.” Sam tried not to think, he just lifted his hands off of his manhood. By the soft glow of the bedside lamp he could see Anna’s facial expression clearly.
“Well, you’ve certainly have nothing to apologise about, and I have no intention of letting it go to waste!”
Anna slumped forward onto Sam’s chest, her insides palpitating from the orgasm that had just ripped through her body. Still sitting astride him, her wet vagina still gripped him like a limp handshake, the sticky liquid sliding down his flaccid penis and oozing out of her. He held her tight.
“That was your first time, wasn’t it?” he asked her, quietly. Her head was resting on his shoulder. “Yes!” That was enough conversation.
“Good Night, Anna!”
“Good Night, Sam!”
Leaving her gently snoring on the pillow, Sam kissed her lightly on the brow then dressed and went downstairs to open up the shop. Although he’d got a lot less sleep than usual, he probably felt more vital and alive than he had for a long time. While the shop was empty he picked up several packets of condoms and slipped them into his pocket.
Despite how embarrassed some people felt about buying their contraceptives from the place where they shopped regularly for newspapers, tobacco and milk, they sold a lot more of them than he thought they would when he’d introduced them. They were kept on view but behind the counter, and as he’d expected, he’d observed that some men seemed a bit uncomfortable asking for them when Mrs Elmsworth was serving behind the counter, but women seemed to have no such inhibitions ... whoever stood behind the counter.
Once again he excused himself at ten o’clock, and then climbed the stairs to see how Anna was. Ruffled, but still beautiful he thought, she lay in the middle of the bed, on her front, clutching a pillow to her chest. Despite walking softly, she must have heard him, because she opened her eyes and smiled.
“Good Morning, lovely Sam! Are you coming to bed?” He knelt on the floor so that his head was level with hers.
“I wish I could!” he said, stroking her hair, “But I can’t leave the shop. Why don’t you sleep and I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” Anna closed her eyes. “Beans on toast, ” she said, already half asleep. Sam chuckled, then kissed his finger tips, which he then briefly held against her brow.
The singing was coming from the bathroom. Well, not so much singing as ‘La-La-La-ing’. He knocked gently.
“It’s open, Sam! I’m getting out now, Poppet. I’ve been waiting for you.” She stood up ... like a soapy Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Sam held out a towel, which she wrapped around herself before she stepped out, with Sam holding her hand to steady her.
In the bedroom they chatted naturally as she stood naked drying herself, before putting on briefs and Sam’s T-shirt. They went into the kitchen and while Anna made tea, Sam cut thick slices of bread, which he put into the four-slice toaster, then opened a can of baked beans; the contents of which were transferred to a basin and then into the microwave oven.
“Mmmm! It’s really good!” Anna said, as she tucked into her lunch.
“There are a few side-effects! What do your family think about flatulence?” he asked, smiling.
“Oh, we do ... everyone does! Although not in public, of course!”
“ ... About last night, ” Sam said, “Aren’t there rules about virgin brides?” She smiled.
“Not any more, Darling! They won’t inspect the Royal bed-sheets, or anything like that. And I know for a fact that my husband-to-be is I believe what they call ‘a player’, and he has bedded quite a few women already.”
“And we didn’t use any contraception.”
“I suppose that could present more of a problem; but it’s really not your problem, Sam. What matters is that you were my first; nothing can ever change that and I will certainly never forget it ... or tonight, I hope!”
“And when exactly is your wedding, Anna?”
“Six weeks tomorrow, Darling Sam. That’s when the dream ends and the reality begins. But you know what, Sam: I’m not dreading it any more, because you’ve given me enough happiness during the last few days to last a lifetime!”
“But I still wish that... ” Anna pressed her fingers against his lips.
“Hush, Darling! Don’t waste your wishes on things that can never be. Some people live together for almost their whole lives and are never content and never satisfied. But every day I will be thankful that I stopped outside your shop and that you found me there.”
“Okay! I suppose I should be getting back to Mrs E, now. I’ll see you later.”
Anna would have loved to go down to the shop to help Sam, but the risk of being recognised was too great. She didn’t care about her lifestyle, she was used to it, but there was no way that she was going to let it interfere with Sam’s. So for the next few hours until he shut up shop for the day, she kept herself occupied.
When she heard him coming up the stairs later, when he’d closed up downstairs, she went into the kitchen to make them both tea. He was carrying a couple of frozen pizzas, which he put into the refrigerator for later. Anna put her arms around his waist and pulled him close: “Kiss me, Sam!”
They had kissed briefly last night, but they were both exhausted from their exertions. This time, however, he put all of his pent-up emotions into the action. Needless to say, Anna had never been kissed like that before, and as her orgasm had been last night, it was another magical awakening of sensual experience. She drank it up, swallowing deeply, intoxicated by the taste of his lips and tongue. Then she took his hand and guided it onto the wetness between her legs. “Is this normal, Sam?”
“Yes, it means you’re nearly ready.”
“Then you had better do something about it, Darling!”
“What ... here!”
“Yes ... here ... now!”
Sam still had the condoms in his back pocket, and in a few, short actions, he had backed her against the kitchen table, removed the wet knickers, and lowered his own trousers and underwear to his knees. It didn’t take much longer for his erection to fully form. He took her hand and placed it on his hardness. Ripping the condom packet open with his teeth, he handed her the rubber disc: “Put it on me!”
Anna’s hand trembled but she rolled it down his more than generous length. He lifted her onto the table. With her back flat against the hard surface, he raised her legs. She shuddered as his thumb gently caressed her clitoris and she gasped loudly as he slowly pushed himself inside her.
The next few minutes were filled with the agony and the ecstasy of complete fulfilment, as wave after wave of orgasmic pleasure saturated Anna’s senses. Sam stood there, barely able to support his weight on his shaking, muscular legs, while holding on to her quivering limbs. When he had regained his composure enough to think again, he pulled out of her, allowing her legs to hang over the table’s edge.
“Give me your hands, ” he said. Uncovering her face, she gazed with almost frightened eyes into his, reaching out towards him. Sam pulled her body up off of the table and placed her arms around his neck, holding her sweat-soaked, T-shirt-covered torso tightly against his own. It was a real wrench to let go of her again, but eventually he said:
“Come on, we’d better get you into some dry clothes.”
After hiking up his own clothes, he carried her into the bedroom. While she found a pair of fresh knickers in the clothing that she had brought with her, he searched through his bureau drawers for another shirt for her, then one for himself.
“Sam ... I love you! Can’t we go away somewhere, where nobody knows me? I don’t want to marry someone else, I don’t want that lifestyle any more ... I only want you!” He sat next to her on the edge of the bed, with his arm around her.
“You know why we can’t do that, Anna. Do you remember what you said to me: don’t waste your wishes on things that can never be. Well, it can never be that simple for us, there isn’t anywhere that we’d like to go where you wouldn’t be recognised eventually. And while your family are allowing you these few days, I’m afraid that any longer would be out of the question.”
And as much as Anna wanted it to be otherwise, she knew in her heart and her head that what Sam had said was true. She sighed.