Chapter 6 : Second Calling

Wednesday 2.08 p.m.

Corina could sense the obvious change in Anabella. She did not walk with a slump today. Anabella had her head held up high all the time and greeted everyone in the manor with the sweetest smile. The glow on her face was apparent and Corina was deeply intrigued by her niece's swift transformation.

"Chéri?" Corina asked with a lifted eyebrow and hands akimbo.

"Oui? What is the matter, aunt?" asked Anabella innocently.

"Did you see pigs fly? Or maybe an angel walked passed?"

Anabella laughed heartily. Corina was surprised but smiled nonetheless. She had not heard Anabella laugh for the last three months.

"Non. Non. Oh aunt, it is nothing like that! But I think an angel will be coming back to me today," replied Anabella jovially.

A flash of the cheerful Anabella returned. Although Corina was still puzzled and confused, she pressed no further on the issue. It was rare indeed to see Anabella in such a happy state.

Whatever it is, I hope it lasts, Corina told herself.

Anabella politely asked the maids to tidy up the house as she skipped into the gardens to intoxicate the flowers with her blissful joy. The maids did as requested, seeing that they had little to do anyway. The sun shone brightly above. She looked up into the ether, imagining a handsome figure walking through the door of Aspen Manor and sweeping her off her feet and into his arms. Oh, how she missed those mystifying green eyes and that dashingly handsome smile that sent fluttering butterflies down her stomach.

With every passing minute, she became more and more convinced that he would be returning home that day and every painful moment would simply be a scar of the past, soon to be wiped away with their overwhelming love for each other. She walked to the patio once again and sat on her favourite bench. For the very first time in three months, the sight of the aspen trees made her smile.

Spring 1918

William was getting restless and would often pace back and forth within his study. He began receiving mails, telegrams, and visits from the government and military officers. He was, after all, a General on command. He was given an indefinite break after the disastrous battle of the Somme but now that he was healthy and well again, the military was in desperate need of more capable leaders. Thus, contacting William was not so much of a surprise. The surprise came from William himself.

Anabella still had fresh memories of William after the battle of Somme with the whole air of aloofness. Anabella did not expect William to agree in joining the battles for the army again, what more to see him actually feeling excited about it.

Corina was also disappointed in his decision. She had expected William to forget all he could about the whole business on war. To her, it only spelled trouble and death and she wanted neither to befall William.

On a contradicting state of mind, William was very eager to serve his country once again. Being the man that he was, Anabella knew William would not pass on the chance of doing what he does best – serving the military, serving his country, no matter how much he despised the deaths that came along with it. William assured her that the war was coming to an end and the Germans were on the verge of losing. He was adamant about his decision and having grown up in a military school and served them for most of his life; it would be hard to imagine him just relaxing in the manor without the constant thoughts of his battle camps, firearms, men and his own big fat pride of a General.

Anabella was desperate to spend every moment possible with him but he was often too caught up in plotting strategies or traveling miles away for some hush-hush top secret meeting. It was a dark day indeed when the order came, stating that William would officially return to their military base in summer. William experienced a weird and unexplainable combination of feelings. He had never felt more at home than the past nine months with Anabella and Corina by his side. Yet he anticipated being part of the team that will lead Great Britain to victory. He could almost taste the sweetness of victory on his lips. Spurred on by his motivation to win, his visions were fogged and he failed to see the desperate plea in Anabella's eyes.

One morning, when there were no officials visiting the manor, Anabella braved herself and knocked on William's study door.

"Come in," a deep voice said.

Anabella pushed the door open and stepped in quietly. William was busy at work on his table which was filled with stacks of books and piles of papers. Some scrolls were sprawled over the floor around the table. William unknowingly brushed his hand into his hair whilst staring deep into the paper within his grasp.

Anabella took silent steps towards him and stood there for a few moments. William did not look up; in fact, he showed no sign of acknowledging her presence. He seemed to have forgotten that he just allowed someone into his study. His long fingers started to tap rhythmically on the table. It was not until he heard a soft sniffle that he finally realized that he was not alone in the room. He looked up and a genuinely happy smile radiated from his wary face.

"Belle," he said as he stood up and took three long strides towards her.

He held her hands in one of his hands and used the other to gently brush her face. He bent down and gave her a peck on the cheek before continuing to stare lovingly into her large hazel eyes. For a short moment there, the sight of her momentarily distracted his mind… but only for a very short moment.

His expressions suddenly hardened and he asked, "Is there something important, Belle? I have things to attend to."

Belle looked at him, daring him to read her mind. It seemed like he did.

"Belle…" he started. "You know… I…I can't…"

"You can't what, Will? You can't leave me? Or you can't leave the army?"

"Both."

"Nonsense. You are leaving me now aren't you?"

"No, chéri. I am not. I will never leave you," William promised in a whisper.

Anabella freed her hands from his grasp and took two steps back.

"Then don't. Don't leave me."

A million different thoughts pounded the silence of the room. William was lost for words. He looked at her, never shifting his gaze from her eyes, begging her to somehow understand that this is his job, his responsibility, as a man, as a General.

Oh yes, she understood, but she shook her head as an indication of her refusal to accept it. Just as tears began to fill her innocent eyes, she turned away and strode dejectedly out of the room.