Published on September 24th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie0
Ann’s Story: Chapter Nineteen ‘The Long Night’
Ann could feel her face burning as she sat down opposite the Johnsons. She felt ridiculous, stupid and once again was fuming for allowing herself to be talked into going along with this charade.
Ian was chatting away to William Johnson about the family, ‘What is Fidelma doing these days?’ she heard him ask. Fidelma was the daughter of the Johnsons and was a doctor working in South Africa.
‘Oh she is doing fine. She is married now of course and has a baby daughter. We went out to see them last year and they are as happy as Larry.’
Ann could feel Ruth’s eyes watching her constantly and wondered was she going to blow her cover at any minute.
‘So what do you do Rebecca?’ she asked sneeringly. Ann could see that the questions made William Johnson uncomfortable.
‘I am a freelance writer and I also paint a little,’ said Ann, and before she could ask any more questions she added ‘I have had quite a number of short stories published and am in the process of writing a novel.’
Ann was warming to the subject and was amazed at how easily the lies were tripping off her tongue especially to someone who knew perfectly well who she was.
Ann had never liked Ruth Johnson believing she was a snob who loved to be seen at all the social occasions in Crowley and enjoyed getting her picture in the paper.
She was a skinny plain enough looking woman who spent a fortune on clothes and expensive jewellery. Her hair was always immaculate and her fingernails were consistently French manicured.
‘How did you two meet?’ she was almost laughing now as she addressed the question to Ian.
Ann could see Ian was feeling a bit flustered and embarrassed even though it was agreed in advance that if asked they would say they had met at a house party thrown by a mutual friend.
Ian began to explain haltingly when William Johnson interrupted; ‘That’s a very personal question Ruth leave them alone.’
Ann felt like reaching across the table and kissing him and knew that even though he didn’t know what Ann was up to he was going to mind his own business.
Thankfully they were later joined at the table by two other couples and the focus was off Ann for a while at least.
After the main meal Ann excused herself and went to the ladies, her head was pounding from the tension of the night and she wanted to cool down and take a couple of deep breaths.
She stood at the sink at the ladies and looked at herself in the mirror, ‘God, will this night ever be over and I safely back home?’ she thought.
Just then the door opened and in walked Ruth. ‘Bitch’ Ann said under her breath.
‘My my Ann we never thought we would see you here tonight and looking so glamorous and with a new name and a new man,’ she said sniggering. ‘Aren’t you the dark horse all the same and we all thinking you were so quiet and demure and all this time you were leading a double life.’
Ann summoned up a new strength from somewhere. Knowing she wasn’t working for William Johnson anymore gave her the confidence to feel that she didn’t owe Ruth or her husband any explanation, she smiled falsely and answered. ‘Well as William said these are very personal matters and really my own affair. Now if you don’t mind I really must get back to Ian, he will be wondering where I have got to.’
Ann walked out the door of the ladies leaving Ruth speechless as she watched her go. Once outside she took a deep breath and congratulated herself for being so assertive even though she knew Ruth could embarrass her at the table at any minute by telling everyone who she was.
Ian smiled at her as she returned and as Ann smiled back she felt genuine warmth towards him. He seemed so unsure of himself. She knew he was one of life’s outsiders who probably never felt comfortable in his own skin. She was only too aware of those feelings herself which made her feel quite protective towards him.
Ruth returned to the table and gave Ann an icy stare before whispering something in her husband’s ear. He glanced towards Ann but she turned her attention to Ian and began chatting to him instead, ‘after all that is what I am being paid to do,’ she told herself in a matter of fact manner.
After the meal there was music and Ian asked her if she would like to dance. It had been years since Ann danced but she loved music and had always enjoyed dancing.
The band were playing some lively tunes and the two of them took to the floor Ann was delighted to get away from the table and as the rhythm of the music got to her she swayed her hips and moved her feet in time.
She could see men admiring her and the women watching her jealously and she loved the attention. Ian too was staring at her laughing and smiling.
‘Good he is enjoying himself and I’m glad. Stuff the Johnsons it has nothing to do with them what I do.’
Afterwards they headed to the bar and stood there talking, Ian revealed more about himself telling her he hadn’t been on a date in years and his life was just about work mostly.
Ann felt sorry for him and genuinely hoped he would meet someone special and told him so.
‘You have so much to offer, I can see you are a kind, caring person and women love that more than anything. All you have to do is relax and be yourself, there are plenty of women out there,’ said Ann soothingly.
When they made their way back to the table the Johnsons were getting ready to leave thankfully. Ruth had a face like thunder and William looked hen-pecked.
‘We’re off ‘, he said, ‘early flight in the morning, great to see you again Ian and nice to meet you Rebecca,’ he said winking knowingly at Ann.
Ann smiled and held her hand out to shake his. Ruth just said a general goodbye and turned on her heel and marched off.
Ann was so relieved and delighted to see the back of them. She immediately relaxed which made her suddenly feel tired.
‘Would you like to go on somewhere else for a coffee?’ asked Ian hopefully. Ann had to decline, ‘I’m sorry Ian I am working and the agreement was just for this event.’ she said as gently and as kindly as she could.
‘Well could I see you on a non-professional basis?’ he asked. ‘Well I don’t live in London so it might be very difficult and in any case I don’t think the agency would approve. But it has been a wonderful night. I really enjoyed myself and you are great Ian, thank you for being so nice to me.’
They said goodnight at the door and Ian kissed her on the cheek and held the door open while she got into the taxi. She felt sorry that he was going to have to pay for the night and her heart went out to him as she waved goodbye.
She was also relieved that the evening was over and she was heading back to the hotel. She couldn’t wait to tell Thelma about the drama of the night.