A Short Story
By Lauren Jacobs
I tugged at the shoelace strings that held my shoulders. The humid air smudged my face as I walked the lazy, old streets of Bath in the British countryside. I shifted my weight as my mother, sister in law and I took another photo in front of the intimidating Abbey where tourists like us gathered in masses. I flipped through my own camera and smiled at the photos I had taken of my literature heroine Jane Austen’s, house, the very place where she had written some of her novels. The town captivated me. The winding small streets and the history that came to life everywhere. The beige stones that lay beneath my feet and the clear glass windows filled with fanciful things, enough to gnaw at your pockets. We finished with a final photo click of the Abbey and my mom ushered us over to the big red sight-seeing bus for the hourly tour. We took our seats right in front, at the top underneath the blue sky where the air could blow slightly. I fell silent as my mom buried her head in the map. I hated the heartache I still nursed and wished it would disappear, I hated the guilt I carried for the heartache. Months earlier I had split with my boyfriend, the relationship had ended painfully, and I was still healing from the throb of heart pain. Somehow the world was not as bright as it should have been, a hint of imperfection ruined what I should have enjoyed, that seemed to be the sunglasses called pain. My friends and family all told me it was for the better, and had expected my emotions to heal quickly, but somehow the ache seemed to stay.
I pushed the pain from my thoughts and enjoyed the small breeze that offered relief from the humidity as we drove passed by many heritage sites. Suddenly, the bus abruptly pulled over to the curb, alongside a set of stairs and a red telephone booth. The engine cut out and I peered out over to the booth, no passengers waited to board, and no one got off the bus. The speakers below our chairs crackled to life and the bus drivers calm voice came over the system, “this is the very spot where Captain Wentworth proposed to Anne Elliott in Jane’s Austen’s novel Persuasion.” I knew the story well, it had been my favourite set work book in University. I knew the characters, the themes, and the intentions but I had forgotten that it had all taken place in Bath. My eyes were glued to the staircase, everything faded away except the image of Anne and Wentworth. In my mind, they stood right there in front of me on those steps. I grabbed my camera and took a picture but as I lowered the lens I realised how much of Anne’s story suddenly felt like my own. A woman, broken, losing her bloom as love had failed her, that was the beginning of her story and how much it seemed to mirror my own. The bus started up again, diesel puffed in to the air and we jerked back on to the main road. I took one final look back, as the staircase disappeared behind us. My mind sung out, it’s about second chances, that was Anne’s story, maybe it will be yours. I pushed the thought away and decided with cynicism, that love had deserted me.
Six months later, I held his hand at the back of the car, butterflies in my stomach. This handsome stranger had come in to my life only a month earlier through a mutual friend and had taken me to England to meet his parents. His parents decided to take us to the countryside, and show us the sights, our surprise stop was Bath. We got out the car and agreed to meet his parents at a coffee shop in an hour. “Come on,” I said with excitement.
“Where to?” he huffed.
I pulled him down the mist-filled street until we reached a climbing staircase that sat next to a red telephone booth. He pulled me in to his arms and my forehead touched the furry hat that held his hair.
I rested there within his warm embrace and then I walked up the stairs, right to the top.
“This is where Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth got engaged, in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion.” He smiled without understanding what I had just said, but that smile was enough. I felt a warmth inside I had never felt before, the feeling of settled, knowing love. “I love you,” he whispered and we waited right there in loves embrace. I glanced up beneath his arm and breathed out, I had sat in that same spot just months earlier nursing a broken heart, convinced that I would never find love and now there I stood, truly loved. We walked over to the coffee shop and drank lattes as the soft rain fell and laughter filled the space between round wooden tables. I married that man who held my hand on those stairs, and he gave me the blessing of being loved, truly loved, not for the second time but for the first.