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Just Her Hand? A Short Story

Just Her Hand? is a short story inspired by events in my family history. My relations like a joke at important moments.

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“Today’s the day.” Sarah smiled. In spite of herself and the joy that she felt at the prospect of what was to come, she was also impishly eager to follow their family tradition and cause a little mayhem.

The cat looked expectantly at her. “You cat are spoiled and I suppose that my dear daughter will leave you with me when she goes off. Not that I mind.” She placed a full bowl of food in front of him and as he munched and slurped she let her mind wander back to twenty odd years ago.

1992: Her hands had been clammy. David, her now long since divorced husband, had repeatedly cleared his throat for the fifteen minutes drive to her parents house and he had almost sped through two sets of red lights because he was so distracted. At the sight of ivy covered 12 Yew Tree Close his rust and metalwork car was jerked to a stop. Eyes wide, he’d groaned.

“What if they don’t like me enough to say yes? What do we do then?”

He had yanked at his tie, wriggled, twitched.

“Be brave. For me.” She had smiled weakly, unable to quash her own nervousness. “There’s Dad.”

David had gripped her hand tightly as they’d walked purposefully towards the bearded figure on the ladder at the front of the house. “Good morning, it’s cold enough to freeze the brass ba…”

“..Off a monkey. We know. Dad, we have a guest. Behave please.”

“Still trying to make a good impression on the lad, I see.” Her father had let out a laugh bigger than his slight frame would have suggested possible. He had always loved to tease her.

“So what brings you here this chilly March morning to see me bundled up in my big jacket playing with my blocked up guttering? Your Mum’s out shopping at the moment.”

Sarah had jabbed David’s leg. “Well, you see, Mr Cole, the thing is, well...”

“Come on Dave, spit it out. I don’t bite.”

“Please may I have Sarah’s hand in marriage?” Her father had grinned.

“Her hand?”

“Sir, I will take good care of her. I promise.”

“Her hand, you say?”

David and Sarah had nodded hopefully in unison whilst gazing up at her father.

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“Dad, please can he marry me? Stop being a pain in the…”

“Ah, but he just wants your hand.”

“Pardon?”

“Well, that’s not really right is it?”

“Why? What?” Sarah had started to panic. David was staring open mouthed. An image of a rabbit in headlights had sprung to mind.

“I believe that you should have all of her and not just her hand. See what I did there?”

“Dad.” Sarah had hollered. Ever the one to play on words and bend meanings, why had he chosen that moment and scared her half to death? Again, that booming laugh of his.

“I’ll have all of her please, John.” David’s shoulders had become markedly less hunched.

“In that case, congratulations future son-in law.”

“Dad, you are a right royal pain.”

“You’re both most welcome. I suppose that I’ll have to foot the bill for this spectacle. Sons would have been far less of a drain on my pocket.”

“You’ll love every moment and you know it.”

Her father had jumped to the ground.

“Follow me into the kitchen. We should have a proper drink to celebrate your engagement. Who cares that it isn’t yet eleven o’ clock?”

He had washed his hands, fished out some wine glasses and poured some prosecco.

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“Do you want to know what happened to me over a palm sweating cup of tea in July 1971? I was sure I would faint before I got the courage up to ask your Granny if I could marry your Mum. I was in a suit, tie, the works. Melting. She kept offering more food, an ocean of tea and she gabbled on without pausing for breath.

Anyhow, after I had forced the fourth scone and second cup of tea down my throat, feeling all the while as if I’d choke, I reached my limit and spluttered. “Mrs. Ainsworth, I want to marry your daughter. I love her and she loves me. I think a November wedding day will be fine.””

“Granny obviously agreed.”

“Not until she had uttered this immortal line, my child. As calm as you like and with a wink, she said, “Oh, I thought you were going to ask if you could sleep with her or have you already been getting up to sneaky shenanigans?””

“I love it. Naughty Granny.”

“I turned a violent shade of red. Your Mum nearly dropped her coffee cup. Granny almost fell off her chair at our expressions. We had never thought that she’d allude to shenanigans. Your Grandmother is a wicked woman.”

“At least she didn’t ask if there was a baby on the way.”

“Thank goodness. So, was my teasing really so bad?”

“Par for the course.”

“Exactly. Drink up. There’s an idea, shall we tell your Mum that you’re pregnant, just to see her face go pale?”

“Daddy dear, don’t even think about it.”

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Now it was Sarah’s turn to tease mercilessly.

She could tell that the question was imminent from the way that her daughter had invited herself and Martin, the potential son-in-law to dinner with a great deal of fuss that morning. The champagne was already on ice. The dinner was ready to be served.

Their car pulled into the driveway. The doorbell rang. Sarah walked to the door, a sense of mischief washed over her.

Let the games commence.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle

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