So I would be his muse in these times just as I had been in times past. I did not yet know of his other love but I felt her presence. There was a sadness in him that I couldn’t understand. A look in his eyes that only lasted a brief instant and then was gone. He would gaze at me with a tenderness that made me feel like a protected child safe and secure in the strength of his arms. As I had never particularly wanted to grow up this suited me just fine. Perhaps this other being that I felt was purely a case of my imagination running away with me. Perhaps the sadness in his eyes was merely a yearning for his home and family in Turkey. The painting had confirmed my belief that ours would be a lasting love no matter what the world decided to throw our way Mr Foy had in his collection in ‘ The Long Hall’ quite a few paintings by Lord Leighton. Among them being a painting entitled ‘ Light of The Harem’ which was the painting professor Humphries had come so far to aquire. A romantic view of life in the East where beautiful women were kept from the eyes of men within the walls of great palaces. This was a painting of a woman unveiling.
She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. A goddess in the glow of an etherial light that seemed to consume her. She was attended by a young girl holding up a mirror to her face. The young girl looked again remarkably like myself as a child. Then my eyes fell upon a painting that left me breathless. Three figures on a cliff face who appeared to be running from something. Set in ancient times and in a Grecian setting these three belonged only to each other. The blonde girl below with her arms outstretched waits with her young man for the other woman to leap from her cliff top pedestal and embrace them with her glory. Who was this beauty that I had never met,never heard of and never even seen before? Why was it that I felt her life force? With Gurel involved in meetings and structural surveys on the Belgravia wing for most of the day I had been left to my own devices and had created quite a story in my head after having spent so much time in the hotel gallery. I talked incessantly about my theories with Gurel but he would laugh and chide my antics with good humoured mockery. “And does the dark prince rescue them both and ride off into the sunset on his winged white horse Pegasus? Two would be quite a burden don’t you think? I had to agree with him it was pretty fantastical and we had been so happy there in our mountain paradise that it would have been a shame to allow me to escape from the reality of it all away into my head where I could not be reached. My parents were extremely impressed with professor Humphries and spent alot of time with him over the duration of our stay which meant that Gurel and I were for the most part left to ourselves , although , I was always keenly aware , that my parents were keeping a strict eye on my comings and goings. I had the most wonderful dreams of his leading me down into the valley on a great white horse. In this dream I was naked like lady Godiva.
How I longed for him to take full advantage of my innocence but he was way too respectable for that and I had decided to wait patiently for the truly spectacular wedding night that I knew would come very soon. When my father told me that it was time to return to England I was stunned. It was as if my life had only begun right there at The Hydro Majestic and all memory of Cumberland and Greylin castle had seemed to have been erased from my mind. The return voyage home had been a long one and try as they might my parents could not make me smile. It would be months before I would be reunited with Gurel who had promised to come to England the following Christmas when his contract was finished. There were the usual on board activities and stop overs with day trips on arrival to various ports but I was not interested. Oh how I longed for the day when we could be married and finally consumate our love. Was I a wanton wench with the morals of a scullian maid? Maybe so but I was in love and I was obsessed with dreams of the future. So when Gurel arrived on the doorstep that day with his dark hair shining in the afternoon sun I was ready to give all of myself. We had wandered through the gardens of Greylin where I had so often wandered alone and had traced the river hamlets whilst waiting for my parents to arrive home from the village.
We came to rest under my favourite elm tree. The hammock I had attached to a lower branch still swung back and forth in the breeze. I manouvered myself into it but when Gurel tried to join me it turned upside down and sent us rolling down the river bank. Saturated and covered in mud but dileriously happy we were oblivious to everything around us. Aware only of each others shape and form suddenly exposed we found ourselves without restraint. By the time we made it back to the main hall where my parents, anxious to share the happy news of wedding plans waited, we were quite overcome with embarrassment. Still flush with the rapture of abandoned principles we stood before them and broke the news of our engagement. I think my parents had guessed at our antics but had chosen to turn a blind eye. How idyllic it all was back then and how completely ominous all at once. For despite the blissful union of our hearts and minds there was still that feeling that something or someone was not there and should be.
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 15/12/2014