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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 26

...They wandered on to the tennis court the other side of the house and sat down. By now they'd calmed down, numbed by Rosemary's confession. They felt lost and held each other tight like frightened children.

"Johnnie, Johnnie, what are we going to do?" she said at length.

"God only knows," he answered. "But one thing's certain. We can't marry."...

John and Ann realise they must pay a terrible price for their father's sins.

John Waddington-Feather continues his epic tale.

He glanced over her at her mother and how he hated her then. She was like the slough of a snake, empty now she'd cast her rotten secret. To make things worse she began vomiting and Ann had to see to her, helped by John to carry her upstairs. While Ann attended her mother he went into the garden.

She joined him a few minutes later, and they stood for a long time simply looking across the valley to the hillside and moors opposite. Smoke and haze as heated and chaotic as their emotions drifted downstream with the river. But in the town, life went about its humdrum business, making and getting, buying and selling.

Traffic droned on the busy main road and a train rumbled distantly as they walked hand in hand to the end of the garden. The house, once a showpiece when it was built twenty years earlier, was deteriorating. Its flat roof was beginning to leak and the wrought-iron balcony in the Italian style had rusted. It looked brash and out of place when it was built and it was beginning to look neglected now.

They wandered on to the tennis court the other side of the house and sat down. By now they'd calmed down, numbed by Rosemary's confession. They felt lost and held each other tight like frightened children.

"Johnnie, Johnnie, what are we going to do?" she said at length.

"God only knows," he answered. "But one thing's certain. We can't marry."

She moaned softly and laid her head against his breast. He kissed her gently then looked away. "You'll meet someone else," he said brokenly. "You'll fall in love again. That will be best for both of us."

She said nothing only clung closer. She looked up and whispered, "But we can go on loving each other whatever happens. They can't take that away from us, Johnnie." Then they went silent again.

They'd have stayed there for ever, but he said, "Come on, Ann. I must go. It's just as well I'm leaving tomorrow. When we're apart we can think things over."

He felt her shiver as she let him go and they held hands tightly all the way back to the house, saying nothing until they reached the door. "You'd better take this back, Johnnie," she said holding out her engagement ring.

He shook his head. "Keep it for what it means, for what should have been."

She slipped it into her pocket and asked miserably, "What will you tell your aunt and uncle.. .Uncle Abe?"

"I'll simply tell them it's all off. We've changed our minds. Grandfather didn't even know we were courting," he said bleakly.

"David, Rebecca and Miriam, they'll have to know. We said we were going to marry."

"We'll tell them in time. They can handle it better than others and will keep it to themselves. Your father.. .I mean Harry Clemence and your brother must never know. It would be beyond them."

She nodded. Then there was an awkward silence before the inevitable break. "You'll write soon, Johnnie. Promise?" she whispered.

"Of course," he murmured. "Often. We can do that. We can always do that."

Then she said hurriedly. "Go, Johnnie, please. Go now. I can't bear it any more." and she brushed away the hot tears streaming down her face.

John leaned down and kissed her. "Goodbye, my darling," he whispered, choking back his own tears. Then he turned abruptly and strode down the drive. He didn't look back. He just kept walking. He'd have walked for ever he was so screwed up. Tied by blood they were for ever separated by the same bond, paying for their father's sins.

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