Holiday

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Jennifer P.O.V

After we had survived, with rueful amusement, Margaret's spectacular 'reception', I settled easily into my new life, probably, I thought, because it wasn't much different from my old one. Surrounded by my own belongings, hard at work on my drawings, even living in the same building, the Pattern of my days was much the same as it had always been.

Matthew, of course, was gone a great deal, and even when he was at home our lives were separate. Although we ate our meals together and attended social affairs as a couple, we lived almost like strangers who happened to share the same apartment. I considered Matthew's bedroom sacrosanct, as he did to mine, and for the first two weeks of our marriage, I didn't even glance inside as I passed by it. One day, however, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided it couldn't do any harm just to take a quick look. I knew Matthew wouldn't care, and nursed the faint hope that the room might reveal some clue as to my remote husband's inner life. I was quickly disabused of that notion. Except for a pair of cuff-links on the dresser and a tie hanging over a chair, the room was as impersonal as if it had been in a hotel. The double bed was neatly made, and only the large oak desk in the far corner showed any signs of personal use.

Then I saw the photograph on the bedside table and knew, of course, that it was Beth. Drawn by an overpowering curiosity I moved over to the side of the bed and looked down at the smiling face of a young, fair-haired woman. She was breathtakingly beautiful, I thought, with delicate features and a fragile air of mystery in the slight smile, the turn of the head. The overall impression was one of the eternal feminine elusive and serene.

I felt a sudden sharp stab of jealousy. recovering myself immediately and I quickly walked back out into the hall and almost ran to the sanctuary of my own bedroom, what had got into me? I picked Up Richard's photo and gazed into the warm dark eyes. It's you I love, hugging the picture, I haven't been unfaithful. I'm not really married, and I certainly feel nothing for the dark, cold-eyed stranger who happens to be my husband.

At the wedding dinner, Matthew had promised his brother that he & Jennifer would spend the Easter weekend in May with them at the farm in Maryland. It would also be a good opportunity for him to spend some time in his constituency.

'Mending fences', he said to me as we drove through the rolling hills of northern Virginia into southern Maryland on the Thursday afternoon before Easter.

The apple blossoms were in full bloom now, perfuming the warm spring air with their heady fragrance, acres, and acres of them as far as the eye could see on either side of the winding road.

We had been married a little over a month, and glancing at him now as he drove, I realized that I didn't know my husband any better now than I had before our wedding. Well, that was the bargain, the arrangement, I told myself, and I was generally content with it.

The Smith family home was set in a wide valley near the southern border of Pennsylvania. It was a sprawling white farmhouse with well-kept stables surrounded by acres of orchard and pasture.

I warmed immediately to Sara, my new sister-in-law, and while the two men rode out to inspect the horses, we sat outside on the wide flagstone terrace drinking iced tea.

'I'm so glad you could come', Sara said after we had settled at the round glass-topped table. 'I've been dying to get to know you better'.

I was amused at her frankness, she was a short, plump, friendly woman with untidy faded blonde hair and an infectious smile. All her movements were brisk and assured, and I found myself wondering how she and Margaret would get along. They were much alike.

'It's a lovely old place' I commented. 'Have you lived here all your married life'?

'Oh, yes. We even spent our honeymoon here. Mustn't leave the horses, you know. At least, that's Andrew's excuse, He hates to travel. We have a perfectly good stable manager and trainer, but', she shrugged, 'my husband is convinced the place would fall apart without his personal supervision'.

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