It was raining heavily when Rosie stepped out of the shop. Pulling her raincoat tight and putting the hood up, she hurried along the street. On her way there, it was the usual gentle rain. She did not bother with her umbrella as the wind tugged at her coat. Now it had turned into a bad-tempered storm. Sending drips under her hood, and running down her face, making her blink rapidly and leaving her with panda eyes from the touch of mascara. That’s why she did not notice the truck thunder past, sending a spray of muddy water high drenching her. She stopped and glared at the vehicle’s disappearing red lights.A cultured voice called out. “You caught that full-on. Can I offer you a lift?”
She was on the verge of declining when she realised even her feet were wet. The thought of squelching home did not appeal. Her mouth answered before her brain came on duty. “Thank you, that would be lovely.”
He leaned over and pushed the door open. “Come on in. Where do you need to go?”
Reaching her home, he hopped out and held the door open. “Thank you. Would you like to come in for a cuppa?”
He sat in the little lounge noting the tidiness and the tasteful decor as he waited while she ran upstairs to change.
They talked easily, and it was dark before they noticed the time. He exclaimed, “My goodness, I had not realised the time. It’s late! My landlady will have given me up. Now it will be a sandwich for supper in my room tonight. She is very strict and does not serve food after eight.”
She smiled, and her heart gave a little skip. “Does scrambled egg on toast sound more convivial?”
It was not long before he changed lodgings. That way, they had the long winter evenings to chat.
He made it clear from the start he was married and went home every Friday evening, returning Sunday evening. She was happy with the arrangement. It took a while before they took to sharing a bed, though. Although she was twenty-five, he discovered she was a virgin. However, he was a gentle, thoughtful lover. She was content to share him with another woman, especially when she learned his wife wanted nothing to do with a physical relationship.
In time, they left her rented house and bought a property together. He worked as a senior manager in the bank and saw to all the details, making sure the house was only in her name, as were all the utilities. To the outside world, he insisted he was only a lodger. Should anyone come from work to see him, she maintained a distance, proper for a landlady. Any visitors could see the room where he lived. Some folk wondered if anything was going on, but not by blinking an eye did either of them give anything away. In private he called her Rosie, to the outside world he referred to her as Miss O’Connor, my landlady.
Whenever there was a bank social gathering, he always asked if he could bring his landlady, as his wife did not like to travel. One of the young guys propping the bar at a “do” said, “I bet they are having an affair.”
His secretary quickly quashed his suggestion. “He can’t. He’s married. His wife lives in the same village as his father, who is the local vicar. Anyway, he is a bank manager. He wouldn’t behave like that.”
One morning, she felt nauseous. It carried on for a few days. She booked to see a doctor, not her usual one, as she had a suspicion. The doctor confirmed she was pregnant.
As they sat over their evening meal, she said, “Con, we have a problem. I’m about six weeks pregnant.”
Expecting him to yell at her instead, he smiled. “Rosie, that is wonderful news. But it is going to complicate our lives a bit.”
The pregnancy was uneventful. However, she booked into a hospital out of town under an assumed name for the delivery. He took a couple of days off and was with her when she went into labour. They brought their daughter home and agreed they would keep her and love her for two weeks.
He said, “We must leave her somewhere safe where she will be found quickly and cared for properly.” He continued, “Let’s find a safe place for her, where someone can quickly find her and provide proper care, with no connection to us.”
Rosie nodded in agreement and made sure they dressed their beloved daughter in soft, new clothing with a lovely pink blanket.
On the appointed day, Con took baby and Rosie near to the big parish church in a different town. He dropped them off and waited as Rosie, wearing a scarf pulled forward over her face, carried the red tartan bag with the baby into the porch of the church. She knew the priest would be there soon to take Mass. He could not miss the bag and as soon as they discovered a baby, there would be social workers all over the place. But by then she and Con would be far away, she at work in the house and he in the bank.
They bought the local papers and sure enough, there was a paragraph about an abandoned baby in the parish church of the nearby town.
Rosie was tearful. He held her tight and said, “We did the right thing, my beloved. They will care for her and put her up for adoption. We can only hope they will be good to her.”
Rosie bought a doll and dressed it. She made special outfits, especially for her daughter’s birthday. She did not tell Con about this quirk. He would think it a dangerous thing to do.
Their lives resumed as before, but she never forgot her little girl.
Three years later, she recognised the signs and went to a different doctor who confirmed her suspicions. She was pregnant.
Once again, Con showed his happiness and support for her during the pregnancy and waited outside during the delivery. The nurse came out smiling, “Mr Donalson, you have a beautiful baby daughter. We will keep your wife in overnight for observation. You can come back at visiting time.”
As he walked into the ward, tears sprung to his eyes. There was his beloved Rosie, cradling a little angel in her arms. His two weeks’ leave soon passed as the new parents were willing slaves to the whims of their daughter. They fed her, carried her in their arms, jiggled her when she could not sleep.
The chosen day came all too soon. They bathed their little angel. Rosie dressed her carefully in a new white gown and wrapped her in a pink blanket. Tears fell on the baby’s forehead like an anointing. Con gently took her as they headed out to the car. As she fell asleep, he placed her in the red tartan bag, and they drove through the driving rain to the hospital. He felt it fitting rain blessed his meeting with Rosie and the launching of their second beloved baby.
Their lives resumed the old pattern until a year later. He did not arrive on Sunday evening. The following day, someone from the bank phoned. “Is this Miss O’Connor? We have been informed Mr Donaldson died on Saturday night. A member of the family will come to collect his belongings. Could you pack them, please?”
Although the news shocked Rosie to her core, she could tell no one. She attended the funeral. She knew Con would like that, but saying she was his landlady.
His wife came to her at the wake. “I believe you are Con’s landlady. You are much younger than I expected. I’m glad I can thank you for all the jars of jam he brought home.”
Eyes cast down, Rosie said, “Mr Donaldson was a perfect lodger and appreciated whatever I made for him.”
The wife nodded. “Yes, I think we are all going to miss him. His passing was sudden and unexpected. Doctor said it was an aneurism. He was always so healthy.”
Rosie felt her life was over too, with no Con and losing her children. She sold their house and moved back to the village she had been so happy to leave all those years ago. She continued to make outfits for the two dolls on her girls’ birthdays.
© Felicity Edwards