Old Fashioned Love Story Ch. 01bypaper_miracle©
Note: This chapter has no sexual content.
She was a familiar and well-loved figure around town. Word was she'd been quite the cold-hearted belle down back where she came from, often stealing another girl's beau just for the fun of it. Here, walking down the street, neighbors would interrupt their daily toil to chat with her, exchange friendly comments, gossip. Women were charmed by her warm character, and men drawn in by the wicked, sparkling green eyes which masked the sorrow that the older, more sagacious widows recognized. She had come at a time when people were just rebuilding their lives and had become a backbone in society; everyone took strength from her unwavering courage and vivacity, her love of life no matter the twists and turns it threw her.
The old matrons who recognized the sad note in her unlined face respected her too much to distress her with their curiosity. They figured it would come out when she was ready, and they would wait.
Elizabeth Hampton. Her once great family reduced to poverty, herself ostracized in her hometown because of her selfish and cunning behaviour. She was broken by one man: Jack Dreale. He had loved her fiercely with all he possessed, but it had ended with both heartbroken.
Jack had been on his way home in the rain when he was hailed by a woman laden with packages on the street. He hesitated before stopping but his courtesy took over and he helped the woman into the buggy and out of the rain. Jeanne Wills was not a nice person.
"Evenin' Miss Wills, I say, this isn't the best of weather to be out in"
Jeanne replied in her rather whiny voice "I'm much obliged Mr. Dreale...indeed it was not raining earlier when I started out, and it started after I had left the store and it was too late to turn back."
"Not meaning any disrespect ma'am, but there were plenty of other buggies...after all, let's be frank; neither of us likes the other" Jack remarked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Jeanne was unperturbed "You are quite observant Mr. Dreale. Yes, I do have a specific reason to talk to you. You mentioned that we don't like each other, but nevertheless I feel obligated to...notify you of something."
Jack nodded for her continue,
"I know you are an indulgent husband, but you give Elizabeth too much credit, and you turn a blind eye to the obvious..."
Jack stiffened and the twinkle left his eyes, replaced by a proud and stoic look. Jeanne continued,
"...I will put it bluntly Mr. Dreale: Elizabeth has been entertaining a man at your house for the past few weeks or so. He does not go every day, but at least once a week. I am certain she is having an affair because when I did see her, she avoided my questions, and in her confusion said more than she should have."
Jeanne was interested to note that Jack's face had gone a pale white under his tan, and his eyes had gone cold, empty of any compassion. His expression frightened her enough that she stopped and did not say a word more.
The rest of the ride was passed in complete silence. Jack dropped Jeanne off at her house, but did not give the polite goodnight that was expected, driving off as soon as Jeanne had opened her gate.
When Jack entered his house, he did not expect to find a beaming Elizabeth awaiting his arrival.
"Darling, you're back! I've missed you so... Everyone is acting perfectly hateful, as if I've committed some sort of crime, but nevermind, I have something to tell you." Elizabeth was bubbling with happiness, but when Jack did not reply, she frowned at him and finally noticed his white face and the anger in his eyes.
"Is everything alright? Do you want a brandy? You look rather sick..." Elizabeth trailed off.
"How can you look so innocent and untouched when you've committed the worst possible crime you could have!"
Elizabeth looked at him with disbelieving eyes, "So you've been listening to what everyone else has been saying. Are you going to listen to my side of the story? Or are you going to take the word of people who hardly know me, people who have not even noticed the change in me...oh Jack, don't look at me like that, as if I've deceived you so badly. I swear, I've done nothing wrong..."
Jack interrupted his tone making Elizabeth pause, "Elizabeth, I loved you. Do you realize this? I loved you so much that I married you even though I knew that you agreed only because I treated you like a person despite your unwomanly behaviour. We have been married five years, and my love--love that should never die--was burned up; I loved you with all I had, and it was not enough and I still loved you. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
He continued, not giving her a chance to respond, "And now, I learn that you allow a man into the house, with you alone at night. No, Elizabeth, we were at least friends before, but not after something like this. Do you really hate me so much that you could humiliate me like this? I cannot believe you were so cowardly as to not tell me outright. It's not like you Elizabeth. But I suppose I don't really know you. You're not the woman I fell in love with. The woman I loved was courageous, daring, smart. She was cunning, ruthless sometimes, but always direct. Not a lying, cheating whore who wants money."
Elizabeth was mad, but she tried to stay calm for her piece, "Jack, why do you believe them? Will you listen to my side of the story? What makes you suddenly lose faith in me so easily? You say you love me, but this is not the way lovers treat each other."
"We are not lovers. We never were. I loved you. No more, you've passed the limits Elizabeth and there's no going back. And lovers love each other. You never loved me."
Elizabeth was fed up, with sparks of anger in her narrowed green eyes. "I loved you. I still do. Oh it took a while, but you've been gone, and....and things have happened and I realized how much. Don't you dare claim that I never loved you. You're right, you don't know anything about me. You won't even listen to me."
She paused taking deep calming breaths, a panicked look crossing over her face, and then it was gone. Jack noticed but continued with his tirade without thinking about it.
"You heartless bitch, what happened is that you slept with another man. You're not worth listening to."
Elizabeth now had a desperate note in her voice, although her face was white with anger, "at least listen to me for the sake of our child."
There, she had dropped the bomb. She hadn't wanted him to find out this way, but it was her last card and she had nothing to lose if what he said was true.
Jack stopped, and opened his mouth, looking startled for a moment. Elizabeth, watching for any signs of forgiveness, saw the love surge back to his eyes, and then almost as quickly all light was gone and his mouth tightened into a thin line, and an emotion she couldn't explain.
"Oh really? Not you and your midnight visitor's offspring?"
Elizabeth was horrified. And then she realized. The emotion she saw in Jack's eyes was hate. Cold, hard hatred.