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Safe Haven

by Gail Alston 5 months ago in Love
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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Safe Haven
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

It is my wedding day and I wanted to tell you all a little story. Needless to say, I’m utterly terrified, excited, nauseous and madly in love with the woman I’m about to share the rest of my life with. As I stand at this alter, my brother at my side as best man, my parents seated in the first pew, surrounded by friends and family, I can’t help but run through the road that brought me here. It has been quite the journey and I will share it with you in a moment. But, first a little background. I should introduce myself. I am William Jackson Chambers III. The son of William Jackson Chambers II Earl of Danwhith and Countess Anna Rosamond Wallis-Chambers and yes, I am British and yes, I am a part of the aristocracy England is so very famous for and yes, I do know Prince William and Harry. I am a doctor by trade and a damn good one if I say so myself and I do, say so that is. I am the eldest of three children. Other than my little brother who stands beside me, I have a little sister that was born between us. I suppose after me my mum needed a little break. She always said I was a handful and it hadn’t changed as I grew from a boy to a man. That is an entirely different story that I’ll save for another time. What I will tell you about that time is that I was always independent and extremely stubborn, like my father. My father and I have had our rough patches over the years. As first born, it was my birth right and my duty to take his place as Earl when the time came and I was groomed as such. I will admit that I was ready and willing to take my title as Earl of Danwhith, until ‘her’. Who is ‘her’ you ask? Well, ‘her’ walked into the hospital ER where I had taken on work in our sleepy little village with a sprain ankle, a fractured tibia in her left arm and a few scrapes and bruises on her right arm. She had taken a tumble on one of the walking trails near the river. Her name was Krysten and she was an American, visiting England. She was absolutely stunning, tall, athletic build, blonde hair, blue eyes and a smile that could stop a raging bull in its tracks. Needless to say, I was smitten at first sight. Six weeks later I had quit my job, packed my things, followed her to the States severing all ties to my title, my family. A rash decision I know but you see I was in love and you all well know love doesn’t allow you the comfort of carefully laid out plans for the future. So, with that being said I found myself in Texas of all places. I found a fellowship in a hospital. I moved into this quaint little farmhouse with the woman I loved and everything was absolutely perfect. Life was amazing for a whole six months until the day I came home earlier than usual from a double shift and found my stunning girlfriend in bed with the postman that lived three houses over with his mother and grandmother. Cliché I know but I swear to you it’s the God honest truth. I spent two nights in the county jail and the court hearing didn’t go very well for me. I ended up losing my fellowship and my home. How? Well, the hospital didn’t appreciate the negative press because of one of their doctors and well without a job I couldn’t afford the solicitor to defend me against the charges without selling my home. What charges? The charges for what I did to the postman the day I found him delivering a package to my girlfriend in our bedroom. Oh, you want to know exactly what happened when I caught them together? Yes, well there’s this partial wooden poll post in front of the house about three feet from the road. I dragged him by the hair out of the house butt naked as they say, tied him to the fence wearing only the hat from his uniform and wrote ‘honk if you see my package’ across his chest in permanent marker. The sheriff picked me up about two hours later as I finished eating a late lunch at my favorite diner in town.

Ultimately of course after everything that had happened not only was I heartbroken, angry at the world, unemployed and down to my last four hundred American dollars, I was alone. At that point I realized I missed my sleepy little village, the dull, tedious, regimented life of impending duties of being Earl and oddly enough, my father. The man whose last words to me were, ‘If you walk out those doors to follow that ridiculous woman who is blatantly of inferior stock to you, I will strip you of your title along with your inheritance and you will no longer be welcome here!’ Harsh words but my father is not a very warm person to start. But we all knew through his stuffed shirt was the heart of a man who loved us and my decision to follow my heart broke his. All I wanted was to go home. But I wasn’t sure I had one anymore. So, as I stood in that gas station filling up my truck, I spotted the pay phone a few feet away and thought of my mother. If there was anyone in the world who could help me, who could tell me what to do, it would be her. No matter how old we boys who grow into men become, we will always need our moms. I can still remember the sound of the phone ringing and my heart pounding in my chest. I was terrified my father would answer and decline the collect call. Then I heard her voice.

“Hello.” She said in that soft low tone of hers. The operator told her of the collect call from the states and asked me to state my name.

“William.” I replied. I heard her breath catch in her throat.

“Yes, yes!” She exclaimed as the operator asked if she’d accept the charges. “William! William is that you?” She asked hurriedly as if we’d be disconnected if she didn’t speak.

“Yes mother, it’s me.” I replied.

“Oh, thank heaven. I’ve been so worried. We haven’t heard from you in such a long time.” She said.

“I apologize. There have been some unfortunate events as of late.” I heard the dip of sadness so I was sure she did as well.

“What’s happened? Are you alright? You’re not alright.” She said answering her own question.

“I’m in trouble mum. I’ve worked most of it out but I can’t stay here. I want, I need to come home. I was wrong and I see that now. But the last we spoke father disinherited me. I’ve lost my job, my house. I have less than four hundred dollars to my name. I can’t afford a ticket to England.” I started to ramble on. Even I thought I needed to be sedated.

“Oh, my sweet, sweet boy. It’ll be fine. I can’t get the ticket or the money for a ticket to you. Your father won’t allow it. But if you can get the money, find work and get enough for a flight home, you come home. You’re my son and as long as I breathe you are welcome in my house. I’ll handle your father. You concentrate on getting that ticket. Do you understand, son?” She said with that authoritative tone she’d have when there was a task that needed hard fast decision making to be completed. I smiled because I missed it so much.

“I understand mother.” I answered.

“Good. Call every week, same day and time. Let me know your progress and most importantly that you’re safe.” She added softly.

“Yes mother. I promise.” I replied.

“Talk to you soon son.” She said.

“Mum!” I exclaimed.

“Yes.” She replied.

“I love you.” I said in nearly a whisper.

“And I you.” She said tearfully as she hung up the phone. It was like a knife in my chest when I heard the disconnect. I took a moment to collect myself. I had a task. I needed a job.

As I drove down the highway all I could think about was where I would find a job. I couldn’t get a job at another hospital in the state. So where did that leave me, you ask? Driving down a highway with zero options for doing what I was trained to do. I had to be driving for at least two hours. That’s when I saw the sign on the side of the road. It said, Hiring: Farm Hands (Seasonal). I drove right past it. I kept going even though I needed a job, any job. I heard my mother’s voice in my head. ‘Get enough for a flight home.’ I only needed enough for a flight home. So, yes, I turned my truck around and turned into the dirt road that opened up into a sprawling open space with wheat stalks dancing in the soft breeze and horses running back and forth in a pen that partially blocked cows just behind it. It was beautiful. It reminded me of home. As I drove, I saw signs directing me to the hiring office. The workers nearby stared awkwardly as I approached the door. I had to admit, I felt awkward. I hadn’t done farm work since I graduated from university. I was glad I didn’t think myself above it. As I walked through the door, I saw a man standing in the doorway of an adjacent room, speaking Spanish to whomever was inside. He was a tall man, dark hair and dark eyes. He turned to face me when he heard the door close behind me.

“Hello, can I help you?” He asked.

“I hope so. I saw the sign at the side of the road. You’re hiring farm hands?” I asked a little nervously.

“Yes, we are.” He replied curiously.

“I’d like to apply if that’s alright.” I answered.

“Are you serious?” He said trying to contain his laughter. “You’re looking for work as a farm hand? This is a joke, right?” He asked.

“No. Actually, it isn’t I’m afraid.” I replied. He stood there for a moment in complete silence then suddenly burst into a thunderous laughter. “I’m serious you realize. I am looking for work, here.”

“Oh my God.” He said as he realized I wasn’t joking. “You are serious. Where are you from?” He asked.,

“Great Britain, England. I grew up about five hours outside London. It’s pretty much all farmland there.” I offered.

“And do you have any experience working a farm?” He asked.

“Yes, I do actually. The Earl of Danwhith has ten thousand acres of land in which half is reserved for planting and animal housing and care. I’ve planted, sheered sheep, slopped pigs, built barns, mended fences, dug trenches. You name it, I’ve probably done it.” I explained.

“Really.” He replied as he looked at me like I was either a criminal or a liar.

“Listen, I know this all seems rather odd and I have no credentials and no one to speak on my behalf. But all I’m truly trying to do is earn enough money to buy a one-way ticket back to England and I’m hoping this is where I can do that. I hit a bad turn and all I want is to get back home to my family. I’m alone here and it’s the most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever experienced.” I poured my heart out into those few sentences, hoping, praying that it would be enough to get him to say yes.

“I’m sorry to hear about your troubles, but I don’t think we can use you. I hope things work out for you though. I know how rough it can be out there.” He replied flatly.

“Thank you for your time.” I said in disappointment. I turned and headed back to my truck. Suddenly I heard a woman’s voice calling for me to stop. I turned to see a woman maybe in her mid-forties walking towards me. She was a tiny little thing and quite beautiful actually. She walked with a cane and as she moved the abundance of reddish-brown curls atop her head bounced in the wind. As she came to stand before me, she smiled as she took stock of my size.

“What’s your name?” She asked.

“William Chambers.” I answered.

“It’s nice to meet you William Chambers. I’m Itathi Gomez. I own this place.” She said warmly. “You’re hired.”

“I’m sorry. What?” I replied in awe. I honestly couldn’t believe what she had said. “Did you just say I was hired?”

“Yes, I did.” She answered.

“Thank you so much!” I exclaimed grabbing her hand and shaking it so hard I thought I’d rip it right off.

“You’re welcome.” She said with a smile. “Do you have a place to stay?” She said warmly.

“I do not.” I answered.

“Well, we have cabins abit further back on the property you can stay in one of them if you like. You’ll have some privacy.” Ithati replied kindly. “Come back inside and we’ll get your paperwork done, get you settled in a cabin and you can start work tomorrow morning in the stables. How’s that sound?” She asked.

“Sounds fabulous.” I replied with a smile. Pretty much everything was a blur after that. At least up until I followed her up to the cabin. It was a beautiful space, near a pond. There were at least six more that I could see from the front porch. As she led me inside, I couldn’t believe how cozy and warm it felt. It reminded me of the house I had to sell because of what happened with Krystin. The high ceilings, the dark wood walls, the bedroom loft over the bathroom, it all felt safe. I was amazed by her kindness to me.

“Well, there’s linen in the closet, water in the fridge. Get me a grocery list and what I don’t have on the farm I’ll send someone to town to pick it up so you don’t go hungry out here.” She said looking up at me with that smile of hers. It captivated me quite a bit. Something happened in the air around her when she smiled. That’s when I realized she sick, very sick. I watched her move from room to room, relying heavily on her cane for balance. She had trouble lifting and opening doors. She paused often when she walked around. I wanted to ask but I had just met her, we weren’t friends. She was my employer. My employer with the big heart. The gentleman that I am, I walked her back to her golf cart and helped her into her seat behind the wheel. “You sleep well. Enjoy the rest of your night. If you need anything I stay in the cabin directly across the pond, number 10. Breakfast is from five am to six am, work starts at six thirty. Lunch is at noon and dinner is at six in the main building. Don’t be late. My brother will take you around after breakfast so you can get a feel of the place.” She said.

“Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.” I replied. “I do really appreciate it.” There was that smile again.

“You’re welcome. Welcome to Safe Haven Farms. Have a good night.” She said softly. I watched her drive away wondering why she was being so kind to a perfect stranger. If my mother had been there, she would’ve told me not to look a gift horse in the mouth. She’d be right of course. This woman was a God send and I should be grateful and thankful for her kindness. I was and am still.

The next morning, I got up, dressed and headed for the main building for breakfast. I decided to get there a little early and was once again greeted by that smile which was quickly follow by a stone-faced look from her brother, Marco. Ithati insisted I share their table at breakfast and spent the entire time asking me questions about England and my family. I answered the best I could without giving away my high-born status if you will. I didn’t want her or anyone else to know about all that. I just wanted to be William Chambers farmhand extraordinaire. After breakfast Marco showed me around the farm, introduced me to a few people. Everyone seemed really nice and welcomed me into the fold. I thought it could be a place I could call home if I chose to do so. However, much I liked it, I was still focused on going back to England, to my family.

It had been six weeks since I started working at Safe Haven. It truly lived up to its name. I did feel safe withing it’s one-thousand-acre perimeter. I think I had at least six stories to tell my mother during our weekly phone calls. I was safe and that’s all she cared about really. But I think she knew at that point I was quite smitten with Ithati. I was quite taken with her. Even though there was an eleven-year difference in our ages the more I got to know her, the more I wanted to be around her. Marco pulled me to the side to talk to me about how much time I was spending with his sister. I do believe his exact words were, ‘You do anything, any-thing, to hurt my sister, I’ll break your legs, your arms, your hands and your face.’ I wanted to ask exactly how he would do those things but I decided against it. I thought maybe it would cause a little more friction than I believe was necessary. It came from a place of love for his sister and well, I was falling in love with her as well. The last thing I wanted was to hurt her or be hurt by her. He was right though. We were spending all of our free time together, usually in my cabin, watching movies, playing board games, discussing the vast difference between American and British politics. I had more in common with Ithati than I ever had with Krysten and more importantly she seemed to want me always to be happy. I was happy. Her mere existence in my world made me happy. That reality came crashing down on my shoulders one rainy afternoon just before dinner. She had stopped by the stables for a quick chat. She seemed a little more fatigued than usual that day and it seemed to worsen as the day dragged on. I remember as she walked away, she stopped suddenly and raised her hand to her head.

“Are you alright, Ithati?” I asked.

“I’m a little light headed is all. I~” Her sentence trailed off as she turned around to face me. I watched her sway a little from side to side. She let go of her cane and her knees began to buckle as it fell to the ground. I ran to her, watching her body slowly slump further and further down, catching her at her shoulders before her head hit the ground.

“Ithati!” I screamed, shaking her lifeless body. She stirred a little, opening her eyes. Her eyes, they had begun to roll to the back of her head. I picked her up into my arms and rushed her to the main building. The rain had soaked us both by the time we arrived. I placed her on the sofa in her office. “Marcos!” I screamed. I needed his help. I knew about her medical conditions and I been charting her progress for a month and I didn’t see hypoglycemia as being an issue as long as she ate on schedule. Marcos had finally arrived, frantic upon seeing his sister unconscious on the sofa.

“What happened?!” Marcos began to yell over and over again. “Tati!! Can you hear me, Tati?! Answer me hermana!” he exclaimed.

“Her blood sugar has dropped severely low. She has a kit for hypoglycemia. Do you know where she keeps it?” I asked.

“Kit? No. What kit?” He replied.

“I know she has one. I got it for her in case of an emergency like the one we’re having right now! Think! It’s the size of large wallet, black. Where would she keep it?!” I asked urgently. She was running out of time. “She’ll go into a coma and die if we don’t find it.”

Marcos ran over to her desk, ripping the drawer open, nearly completely out of the desk. He immediately spotted the kit and tossed it over to me. I tore it open, grabbed the syringe, the glucose and pushed it into her arm. Then I started praying. Praying I got it to her in time and she’d be okay. I took her vitals and tested her blood sugar every five minutes as we waited for the ambulance. I don’t think I took a breath or blinked until I saw her open her eyes just as the EMS arrived. I told them what had happened, what I gave her, a list of her medications regurgitated from my memory like I prescribed them myself. I realized suddenly by the look on Marcos’ face that the cat was out of the bag and I had questions to answer. We were outside of her hospital room when he asked me the first and probably the most important question. “Who are you really and does my sister know?” I remember thinking I should be completely honest, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up all of my secrets. So, I looked over at him and said, ‘I’m William Chambers, farmhand extraordinaire. But I used to be William Chambers, Doctor of Emergency Medicine.’ Needless to say, he was a bit out of sorts at the sound of it. But I told him my story, about Krysten, the postman, the solicitor, the house. A part of me thinks she already knew my story and was just waiting for me to be brave enough to tell it. She had a way of making the worst parts of me disappear. She pulled them out and replaced them with parts of herself.

A month had gone by before I realized that the trees had lost their leaves and Christmas was two weeks away. Ithati was much better, healthier. It was a very cold winter morning when she joined me on the porch of her cabin. She wrapped her arms around me as we watched the sun rise. That’s when I knew I would spend the rest of my days at her side. I remember he whispering good morning to me as she pressed her head against my shoulder. I took her hand in mine and kissed her fingers and said, ‘You’ve shown me your world. Let me show you mine.’ She smiled that smile that captivated me from the first we met and without hesitation she ran off with me. A year later here I stand at the alter of the oldest church in my sleepy little English village waiting for her to walk through the doors. My father has reinstated my inheritance and my title after learning Ithati was a direct descendant of a cousin to Queen Isabella of Spain. My mother was simply happy I was home for good. I am nervous wreck and according to my father it’s a sure-fire way to know that I truly love her. And well, I do.

Love

About the author

Gail Alston

Single mother of one, doting aunt and sister. I have been writing since the age of thirteen. I consider myself more of a poet of which my favorite is Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I am in complete love with English prose...

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