* * * * *
Copyright jeanne_d_artois January 2007
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
* * * * *
However the main attraction of the former laundry room, which is my workroom as a potter, is Martha, the resident ghost. As a child I would sit on the scrubbed table and ask Martha to tell me a story. She always did. When I became an adult, she told me about incidents in her life at the Hall. Each time I became Martha and experienced the events exactly as she had. This is the third of those adult stories.
I was feeling miserable as Valentine's Day approached and I couldn't see any sign of romance in my life. When I heard Martha in my head offering to tell me another story, I couldn't refuse.
"This one is not about me," Martha started. "It couldn't be. I'd been dead for years when this happened."
"Then how...?" I asked.
"Like you, the main person in this story used to listen to my stories. I became part of her, as you become part of me, and I experienced her life as you have felt mine through involvement in my stories. How doesn't really matter. You know that it happens. It did for her too. Now just listen while I tell you about the Valentine's Day party of 1922.
She was the daughter of the neighbouring squire. She was several years younger than Hugh, the eldest son here, and she and her brothers used to play with Hugh and his siblings when they were all children. She, Eleanor, was particularly friendly with Hugh's only sister, Madeline. They went to university together and shared a set. They didn't get degrees of course, women didn't in those days, but they would have.
Hugh had been an officer on the Western Front during the War. Then we said it was The Great War. Now you call it the First World War. He had been slightly gassed and later he had been buried after a shell had burst near his trench. He still had nightmares about the War, especially when thunder at night reminded him of the artillery bombardments.
Eleanor wanted Hugh. She didn't care that he thought he was a wreck, unfit to be anyone's husband. As far as Eleanor was concerned, he was her man who had done his task during the War and had suffered for it. She wanted to make his life happy again. She tried to draw him out. She would invite him to parties, persuade him to be her partner at dances, and try everything she could to get him to see her as a woman and a potential wife.
Hugh went along with Eleanor's entertainments. Afterwards he would retreat back into his shell. She was getting frustrated. It wasn't that he didn't like her, or even love her. He just didn't feel he had anything left to offer to a woman.
Try to imagine Hugh as Eleanor saw him. He is tall with a slight stoop. His fair hair is always just not quite perfectly groomed. He walks his dogs for miles each day, sometimes returning with just a hint of a limp. He can dance better than most men Eleanor knows, but not all evening. Despite his own opinion that he is a wreck, she thinks he is a fitter man than many of the younger men who didn't go to war. He is certainly a better man than most of those left of his generation."
As Martha continued to talk, I could see Hugh as if I was Eleanor. I could feel my frustration that the man I want cannot see me as a potential partner. I would do anything to get Hugh to feel alive again, to be responsive.
I, as Eleanor, went to see his sister Madeline, not for the first time, to continue our work as co-conspirators against Hugh's studied indifference. Everything we had tried so far had failed. Madeline and I had engineered numerous occasions when Hugh and I had been left alone together. I had risked my good name so many times, and for what? A kiss on my hand? A friendly hand ruffling my hair as if I was a lap-dog? A slap on the rump as if I was a horse? His affection for me was plain. But it was the affection he would give to his dog, his horse or a friend. None of it showed any sign that I was a woman, nor that he saw me as being of the opposite sex. I could scream!
Valentine's Day was coming. Of course I would send a card to Hugh, even though etiquette ruled that I couldn't. He would probably send one to me but it would mean no more than a letter to an elderly aunt.
If only I could get Hugh to see my body, naked. Then he'd know I wasn't a horse, dog, or sexless friend. But how? He won't swim. Apart from his slight lack of breath, the smell of the municipal pool's chlorine gives him the horrors. Even if I could get him to the seaside, my swimming costume is designed to conceal, not to display. He wouldn't see anything except my legs peeping out beneath yards of material. He's seen my legs often enough.
Madeline could see that I was angry at my impotence.
"What might do it, Eleanor, is to show all of you to Hugh, just when he is most vulnerable."
"It might, Madeline. But how? If it went wrong I'd be disgraced, wouldn't I?"
"Hugh would try to protect your honour, no matter what. If he saw himself as your protector, that would be a start."
"OK. You're going to the Valentine Dance with Hugh, aren't you?"
"You know I am."
It had taken hours of work and days of planning to get Hugh to invite me to be his partner for that dance. I knew I'd get him to agree, but the effort...
"...and you are staying with us afterwards?"
I sighed. "Yes, Madeline. You invited me. It would have been better if HUGH had invited me, but yes, I'm staying."
"Then it'll work."
"The idea I've just had. We'll give you to Hugh as a Valentine's Day present."
"And if he rejects me?"
"He won't. Not without prejudicing your honour, and his own."
"OK, OK. What's the idea?"
Madeline outlined the idea. I thought that it was ridiculous at first but she persuaded me. As I had said, I was getting desperate. I wanted Hugh.
We went to the dance. While we were prancing around at the Assembly Rooms, Madeline's enlisted supporters were preparing the surprise for Hugh at The Hall.
Everything depended on timing. Madeline delayed Hugh downstairs while I, pleading the need to change into something comfortable, rushed upstairs. Madeline's maid, Hannah, let me into Hugh's bedroom. There, on the four-poster bed, was the massive Valentine's Day Cake we had made from cardboard and crepe paper. I shed my dance finery left and right, grabbing the three red cardboard hearts. Two hung over my nipples and one over my pussy. Hannah adjusted the tapes holding my hearts in place. They were almost cut through in several places. One tug and the hearts would be gone.
Carefully I crawled under the edge of the cake and into its hollow centre. I sat there waiting for Hugh to appear. There were carefully positioned cut-out holes in the cardboard sides. Through the crepe paper covering those holes I could see into the room.
I was shivering, not with cold, but with fright. If this didn't work I might jeopardise any chance I had with Hugh. Why didn't he come? Surely Madeline knew how short a time I needed.
Hugh came in but with Madeline. That was a shock.
"What's this?" Hugh asked. His voice was slightly slurred. I knew he'd drunk champagne, lots of champagne.
"It's a present for you on Valentine's Day," Madeline answered. "I think you are supposed to open it when you're alone."
"Am I? Oh well, I suppose I'd better comply with whatever tomfoolery you youngsters have dreamed up. Off you go, sister."
He slapped Madeline's rump, just as he used to slap mine. She squealed. Her dance dress was rather thin and Hugh has a heavy hand.
I heard her close the door as she left. Hugh approached the bed. He was trying to see what was inside. I couldn't wait any longer or he'd discover me.
I jumped up, ripping through the crepe topping of the cake. The hearts on my breasts caught as I rose, revealing my bouncing tits.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Hugh!" I squeaked.
I had intended to say that in a sultry voice but I hadn't expected my breasts to be suddenly exposed. I climbed over the edge of the cake. I tripped on part of the cake. Hugh caught me otherwise I would have landed flat on my face on the rug.
"Ouff!" He grunted. "You're quite a weight, Eleanor."
A weight! There I was, almost completely naked in his bedroom, and all he could say was that I was a weight! I could have hit him except that his arms were around me and I was crushed against his body. My erect nipples were boring holes in his shirt. I lifted my face towards his. I might have said something but his lips met mine.
The next few minutes proved that Madeline knew Hugh better than I did. He was satisfactorily adept at kissing me. He kicked the remains of the cardboard cake off the bed while still cradling me in his arms. Only then did he lay me on the bed. Somehow my last red cardboard heart had been lost and with it all my protection.
But I didn't need protection any more. I had Hugh. He soon joined me in that bed and made amends for refusing to treat me as a woman before. Early the next morning I crept away to my room, wrapped in a housecoat left in a convenient place by Hannah, knowing that I had become engaged to be married to Hugh.
He had accepted his Valentine's Day Cake and its contents.
NOTE: Jeanne D'Artois is an alternative name for oggbashan. Any comments about this story will be appreciated, thank you.