From Friends to Lovers Ch. 10

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Beth stirred beside me, a hint of regret in her usual morning smile. “There’s no way around it, is there.”

I leaned over to kiss her. “We have a lot to look forward to, love.”

Beth brightened visibly, returning the kiss. “You’re right.”

She got out of bed, and I watched her moving around the room, still unclothed. “If we do most of our packing now, we can take our time over breakfast.”

“What about the pool?” I queried.

Beth shook her head. “It’s OK.”

She grinned. “Maybe one day when we have our own house, we can have a hot tub out back, or a sauna?”

She laid out her clothes for the day on the bed, panties, lacy bra, and her summer dress. Finally she zipped up her case, and glanced at me. “One last shower?”

I helped her wash, smiling at her quiet gasp as I brushed her nipples. “Don’t get me too excited just yet,” she murmured. “We don’t know when we’ll be alone again later, do we?”

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” I promised.

I watched as she dried her hair, brushing it out straight. “Lovely as always.”

She smiled softly, starting to dress. “You say the sweetest things.”

When we were ready, we made our way to the dining room, and Beth ate her bacon with a thoughtful expression. “We can take our time on the way back, can’t we.”

“Sure. Did you have a detour in mind?”

Beth’s eyes twinkled. “Maybe.”

“Fair enough,” I grinned. “I might have a surprise or two of my own up my sleeve, too.”

I fetched us second cups of coffee, and Beth leaned her elbows on the table. “How long is it till uni actually starts?”

I thought for a moment. “I think we can actually move in on the twenty-ninth.”

“Four weeks, then,” mused Beth. “I think I might cope.”

She grinned. “After all, Mum’ll be out at work a lot.”

We finished our coffee, smiling at the girl who’d served us as we left. A last few bits of packing, and I carried our luggage to the car.

We went to the desk to check out, and the manager smiled at us. “I hope you enjoyed your stay.”

I smiled softly at Beth. “Very much.”

She nodded. “I think I can safely say we’ll be visiting again.”

We made our way to the car, and I glanced at Beth. “Your detour – do I need to take a different route?”

She shook her head. “Not till we get back to the ring road.”

We headed out of town, Beth keeping her eyes on the bluff. “Maybe I’ll spot the kestrels again.”

Finally she settled back in her seat, and after a while we reached the next small town. I pulled up outside the jeweller’s we’d visited the previous week, and Beth smiled. “This surprise wasn’t too hard to guess.”

We went into the shop, and the jeweller looked up, his face showing recognition. “Lovely to see you again.”

He looked concerned for a moment. “I hope there isn’t a problem with the rings?”

I shook my head quickly. “Not at all. Our holiday’s over, sadly, but we thought we’d come back in and look for something else we definitely need. An engagement ring?”

The jeweller opened his mouth as if to speak, then shook his head slightly, smiling. “Of course. Did you have a particular style in mind?”

Beth hadn’t spoken, and I saw that her attention was absorbed by a small display case separate from the others, a single ring resting on dark velvet. “What’s this one? It’s lovely.”

The grey-haired jeweller smiled wistfully. “That one’s not new, it’s a vintage piece. A Belais, actually.”

He opened the case, sliding out the tray. “It was my great-aunt Elizabeth’s, but all that generation are gone now, sadly.”

Beth blinked back sudden tears as I’d known immediately she would. “I’m Elizabeth too,” she ventured, her eyes meeting his.

“Please, try it on.”

I took the ring from the tray, and Beth offered me her hand as she’d done before. “It’s perfect,” she illegal bahis managed, as I slid the ring to rest next to her gold band.

“Are you sure you can part with it?” I asked the jeweller.

He nodded, his own eyes seeming moist. “I don’t think some things happen by chance.”

I hesitated. “It doesn’t seem quite right to ask, but… how much?”

The jeweller gently turned the ring on Beth’s finger to show the tiny slip of paper, figures handwritten, and I blinked in surprise. “That doesn’t seem a lot for such a beautiful thing.”

He smiled wryly. “The style doesn’t appeal to many people these days, they want something with a big flashy stone. Not that there’s anything wrong with diamonds, of course.”

I took out my wallet, handing him my card. “Thank you.”

“Again, congratulations,” he wished us as we left, Beth still quiet. We got back into the car, and she held out her hand to me. “Tim? Can we put the gold ones away until… you know. And we’ll tell Mum as soon as we get home.”

I carefully slid both rings off, replacing the engagement ring on her finger, and slipped her gold band along with my own into a securely-fastened pocket. “There.”

We set off again, and when we reached the ring road Beth pointed. “Take that turn at the roundabout.”

She continued to give directions, and finally we drew up outside an unassuming semi-detached house with a neatly-kept garden. I followed Beth to the front door, and she rang the bell, then stepped back.

The door was opened by an elderly gentleman, slightly stooped and supporting himself on a stick. “Elizabeth!” he beamed.

“Hello, Grandad,” she smiled. “I’ve brought someone to see you. This is Tim.”

She smiled proudly. “We got engaged. And Tim, this is my grandfather.”

The old man held out his hand and I shook it, his grip firm. “Please, call me Jake,” he offered. “Of course Elizabeth talks about you all the time.”

He turned back to Beth. “Engaged now, you say? Well, come in and tell me all about it.”

We followed him into the living room, the walls covered in bookshelves. “Have a seat – I’ll make us some tea.”

Jake went out to the kitchen, and I gave Beth a puzzled smile. “You’ve not mentioned your grandad before? And I don’t think I’ve heard your Mum talk about him.”

Beth looked sad. “Something happened between Mum and her brother, before I was even born. Grandad supported Uncle Paul – from what I can gather, he was right – but Mum hasn’t talked to either of them since. I found out from my uncle, and I’ve been coming here whenever I could, since I was about fourteen. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you – I knew Mum would make a huge fuss if she caught wind of it, and I didn’t want you to be walking on eggshells when you were at our house.”

She stopped, looking at me anxiously, and I took her hand, squeezing her fingers. “It’s OK, darling.”

Jake returned with the tea tray, putting a heaped plate of chocolate biscuits on the table. “You probably have a sweet tooth if my granddaughter likes you,” he chuckled.

He lowered himself slowly into a chair. “So, Elizabeth, tell me everything.”

I sipped my tea as Beth talked, her eyes betraying her amusement as she tried to describe how we’d discovered our deeper feelings for one another without straying into embarrassing details.

Her grandfather shook his head, smiling. “I was your age once, you know. Shakespeare had it right, anyway – I doubt you two know Henry IV, do you.”

He looked thoughtful. “The bard had something to say about old men who keep a tight grasp on what’s of no use to them, as well as about young people who can’t be blamed for letting their feelings get the better of them.”

Jake started to get up again. “Have another biscuit.”

He walked over to an old-fashioned bureau, lowering the lid and searching through the pigeonholes. illegal bahis siteleri “Ah, got it.”

He seemed to be writing something, and when he returned to his chair he handed Beth an envelope. “This should help.”

She slipped the envelope into her handbag. “Thanks, Grandad.”

We talked for a while longer, and Jake looked carefully at Beth’s ring. “Beautiful, and more from my era than yours, I think.”

Finally Beth glanced at her grandfather. “We don’t want to tire you out too much, Grandad. But I promise we’ll be back again soon.”

He nodded. “Next time, Tim can read to me for a while – I hear a male voice better these days.”

“Of course I will,” I promised.

Beth kissed her grandad, then we made our way back out to the car. “Thanks,” she smiled. “I really wanted you to meet him.”

We retraced our route back to the ring road, and Beth pulled her grandfather’s envelope out of her bag. “Let’s take a look – we’ll definitely need a little help with the wedding, anyway.”

She opened the flap, sliding out the contents to read, and I saw her face suddenly go as white as a sheet of paper. “Tim,” her voice held a tone I’d never heard her use before, “can you stop the car at the next lay-by, please.”

I watched for a sign, pulling in. I turned the engine off, and Beth passed me the envelope. I looked at what it held, a handwritten cheque, and my vision swam at the words and figures inscribed in a careful hand in black ink and signed.

“Can he – does your grandfather have -” I managed.

Beth nodded firmly. “But -” I started, then stopped.

Beth reached for me, and I wrapped my arms around her. “Should we go back, thank him?”

She shook her head. “We can go next week, but he probably won’t want us to mention it. Keeping our promise to read to him will be what matters most.”

I took a deep breath. “We should definitely get this to the bank, anyway.”

Beth settled back in her seat and I started the engine, rejoined the traffic. I turned off at the next roundabout, making for the town centre, and finding a place to park just off the high street. We walked along the pedestrian precinct, and Beth fumbled in her bag for her bank card. “Come in with me?”

We queued, then Beth slid the cheque and her card across the counter. The cashier raised her eyebrows, but didn’t make any comment, tapping at keys on her terminal then sliding Beth’s card back with a receipt slip from the printer. “The cheque is on this bank, so funds will be available by tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you,” murmured Beth.

We returned to the car, and she took a deep breath. “We’ll have to talk about what we might plan to do,” she ventured.

“There’s no rush,” I reassured her. “Anyway, right now we have something else we need to do.”

We drove the few minutes to Beth’s house, and Beth used her key in the door. “Hi, Mum, we’re back.”

Her mother appeared from the kitchen. “Oh, hi, Tim.”

Beth glanced at me, then held out her hand to her mother. “Look, Mum, Tim and I got engaged.”

I watched, my anticipation suddenly turning sour in my stomach as her mother’s face changed, her expression twisting. “Really? At your age?”

She turned to me. “Don’t think I don’t know what you two have been doing up there, and I’m sure on this holiday of yours. I can tell when you wash the sheets, you know.”

Beth flinched as her mother continued. “Engaged – I don’t think so. You’ve got her pregnant, haven’t you, don’t even know enough to be careful, and you think bringing her back here with some cheap trinket on her finger will make it right. Well, you can forget it.”

She turned back to Beth. “You can do what you like when you’re out of this house – how are you going to get on at university with a brat – but while you’re still here I don’t want to see him.”

Beth’s canlı bahis siteleri face was as white as it had been in the car, but she took a deep breath. “No. Nothing is like you’ve said. Tim’s not like that, and -” her face screwed up, tears forcing past her eyelids – “it hurts so much that that’s what you think of me.”

She looked her mother straight in the eyes. “Either Tim’s welcome here, or I’m not.”

Her mother’s tone was uncompromising. “Go with him, then, I don’t care.”

Beth was shaking as she turned to me. “Tim?”

“I’ll work something out,” I promised. “Do you need to fetch anything?”

She shook her head. “I already have everything important.”

Beth turned back to her mother. “Call me if you change your mind. But you won’t, will you – I know that from Grandad.”

Her mother’s face showed unmasked rage. “You – he -“

I took Beth’s arm, and she turned her back on her mother, walking out of the front door. I pulled it closed, careful not to slam it, and guided Beth to the car, helping her with her seatbelt. I started the engine, driving just far enough to be out of sight of the house, and stopped the car.

Beth came into my outstretched arms, sobbing uncontrollably, her tears soaking through my shirt. “I – oh god, Tim…”

She broke down again, and I stroked her hair. Finally she looked up, face tear-streaked, eyes red. “How can I go to your house like this?”

I thought rapidly. “How about I take you to the burger place? We probably need something to eat, and you can splash your face.”

Beth nodded dumbly, and I started the car again. When we got to the McDonalds, I found a table for her to sit at, got us food. Beth was obviously forcing herself to eat, but she managed a smile as she sucked at her milkshake. “Thanks for looking after me.”

She put down her half-eaten burger – “That’s all I can manage -” and headed for the toilets, reappearing after a few minutes looking more like her normal self.

“Let’s get going,” I encouraged her, and we made our way back to the car. A few minutes later I pulled up outside my parents’ house, and Beth held my hand tightly as we walked up the path. Mum opened the door, looking at Beth with a concerned expression. “Are you two OK?”

“I’ll explain later, Mum,” I offered. “But would you mind making up the spare room for Beth?”

“That’s no problem.”

We went through to the kitchen, and Mum busied herself finding a pan, milk. “Whenever Tim had something bothering him, hot chocolate would always cheer him up a bit.”

She set steaming mugs in front of us and Beth sipped gratefully. “Where’s Dad?” I queried.

“In the garden as usual, I’ll get him.”

She returned with my father, and he sat down at the table without comment. Beth gave me an anxious look, then forced a smile. “Look – Tim and I got engaged while we were away.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Mum exclaimed. “Let me look.”

She enthused over the ring – “I love the style, such a classic -” while my father gave me an uncharacteristically warm hug. “Well done – no point in hanging about when you’re sure.”

Beth seemed to relax. “I’m sorry to impose on you, it’ll only be for a little while before Tim and I go away.”

My mother shook her head. “Whatever’s happened, it’ll be lovely to have you both until then.”

She turned to my father. “I’ll make the bed up – can you make a start on dinner? I think these two would enjoy sausage toad, plenty of gravy.”

“I’ll get our stuff from the car,” I offered. “Then I can do the washing.”

The rest of the day was filled with mundane tasks like laundry and cooking – “Come and tell me what you think of the roses, Beth,” Mum invited – and finally Beth suppressed a yawn. “Sorry…”

“It’s fine,” Mum reassured. “Why don’t you two go up? You don’t have to get up for anything in the morning, do you – I’ll make breakfast for you whenever you’re ready.”

She glanced at me, and again at Beth’s ring. “And if we happen to hear footsteps crossing the landing to the spare room, well, that’s not really any of our business, is it,” she smiled.

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