Mary met Johnny at the usual time and place on Sunday. They headed for the wood and the tree trunk that had become their secret place.
Johnny seemed quieter than usual as they sat talking about her new job as lady’s maid.
He seemed preoccupied. It began to worry Mary. “Is everything all right?”
Johnny nodded. “I don’t want to upset you or alarm you but. . .”
Mary’s tummy turned over. What was wrong? Would this be where he told her he couldn’t meet her again?”
“Mary. . .” He took hold of her hand. “Mary, please forgive me if this offends you
but may I kiss you?”
Mary blinked and felt a surge of relief that shyness troubled him not something more serious. This was their fifth meeting and they hadn’t even held hands though she had wanted
to from the first time they came into the wood.
He leaned forward. On her lips she felt his, at first as light as a feather and then a little stronger. With neither moving the kiss lasted for over two minutes. Mary pulled back only because she needed to take a breath though she didn’t want to stop. Her cheeks turned the colour of roses in the greenhouse. Johnny’s eyes fixed on hers, her beating heart and butterflies in her tummy told her she was in love. But it was a love that could never be. Not with her a lady’s maid and him an eligible bachelor, soldier, and heir to a fortune. Mary
would give up everything and happily live with him in penury but that could never be.
“What’s wrong? I’m sorry if I was too forward,” said Johnny taking hold of her hand.
“No, not at all. It’s just that it seems so unfair. We can never be together; our backgrounds are too different. You couldn’t be seen with me, a maid.”
“That’s how society works. We can still meet in secret if you don’t mind.”
“Johnny, of course I don’t mind but how long will this go on for? We can’t spend the rest of our lives seeing each other in the woods.”
“I have some leave coming up. Do you think you could persuade Lady Eleanor to let you take some time off and we could perhaps go somewhere and be together? Oh, I didn’t mean to shock you. I’m sorry if that offends. I would not make any improper advances towards you er. . .beyond what you found acceptable.”
Mary pondered for a moment. What is he suggesting? Are we to go to some sordid seaside hotel and book in as man and wife where he would make love to me? I hope that’s what he means.
“Lady Eleanor did say I could take some leave. I’ll ask. Where would we go?”
“I visited Lyme Regis as a child. It’s a pretty little town by the sea where nobody will know us.”