Hope you enjoy this one. I did.
by Lily Luchesi
Raven Maltese looked up from her desk, where she hadn’t written a word for over an hour. Her PA, Meg, was screaming her name from the hallway, for crying out loud.
“Someone better be dead for you to be caterwauling like that,” she joked. She’d lived in New York since she was eighteen, and she was now forty-three, but her London accent was as thick as ever.
“Oh, Raven! You’ll never believe what I received today!” Meg shoved a white piece of stationery with an official-looking heading: “From the desk of P. Jamison.” Raven’s fingers went numb with shock. Six months ago, her publisher had submitted her new novel to a few studios to see if they’d consider making a movie of it. Paul Jamison was a legendary director, and he had just said he’d be willing to direct it, and even had a cast picked out!
Raven jumped up and down like a child. Could this be real?
“And did you see whom they’ve already gotten to play your lead?” Meg sounded as if she was in awe. “Henry Dobson! The Henry Dobson!” Meg looked up st her employer, wondering why she looked so stricken. “Raven? Are you all right?”
“Yes. Of course…it’s just…”
“Just what? I thought you were a fan of Henry?”
“I am. …I never told you about the time I was exiled to my great aunt Carolyn’s house in Whetstone, Leiscestershire?” she asked, walking over to her massive bookshelves.
“No, you didn’t. Where’s that? And why were you in exile?” Meg asked.
Raven pulled out an old, leather-bound photo album and returned to her desk. “I was a bit of a wild teen, so it was a last-ditch effort from my parents to help me settle down before I came to America for University.” She turned the pages of the photo album, looking for the photos from that summer. She found the pages easily, as she looked them over often. Her favorite was taken on her great aunt’s porch swing. She was clad in torn denim shorts and a black Metallica shirt. Her hair had been dyed black then, and her head rested on the shoulder of a handsome teenage boy with long, wavy black hair and bright blue eyes, dressed conservatively in dark-washed denim trousers and a lightweight white button-down shirt. Meg would’ve needed to be blind not to recognize the award-winning British actor she had just been swooning over.”They exiled me, never knowing that that summer was the best one of my life.” She smiled fondly at the photos.
“Will you tell me about it?” Meg asked. Raven nodded. For her, that summer was as clear as if it had happened last week.
Raven arrived at Aunt Carolyn’s on a cool, rainy day in June 1989. She was surly, Goth and angry. Why was she in Whetstone instead of partying in London before she got to America? She had gotten caught skinny-dipping with her friends in her neighbors’ pool while they weren’t home. The fact that she’d had a bit too much wine had contributed, she supposed, to her poor decision making. Her only consolation was that she’d had fun.
Now the fun was over, and she was to remain in Whetstone until late August. What a way to spend the summer!
Next door lived the Dobson family. They were respectable people, with two children: Henry and Lila. Lila was away at summer camp, and Henry was working that summer, saving spending money before he left for college in London that autumn.
Henry was polite and quiet, never rebelling against his parents like other kids. He had a lifelong fascination with the theatre, and he was going to drama school to fulfill his dreams. He had, for three years, been employed by his neighbors, Carolyn Berkshire included, as a handyman, doing what he could to make living in the city easier on him. He had been going over to Carolyn’s to paint a door when he saw a vision of desire sitting on the porch swing, reading a book.
“Mum?” he called. “Who is that?”
His mother gave the young girl a condescending glare. “Her great niece, from London. She’s here as a punishment. I advise you not to have anything to do with her, if you want your reputation intact.”
Henry barely heard her. A girl who read The Taming of The Shrew for pleasure couldn’t be all bad. For the first time in his life, he knew he was going to disobey his mother.
He gathered his painting supplies and went across the manicured lawns to the Berkshire house. “Hello,” he called.
Raven jumped, startled. Her mouth dropped at the extremely sexy man that had appeared in front of her. “Hello. And who might you be?”
“I’m Henry. I live next door. Your great aunt employs me as a sort of Mr. Fix-It. I’m supposed to paint a door today.” His smile was brighter than any sun.
“Oh, yes, she told me you were coming. Follow me.” She got up and Henry watched her behind as he followed her into the familiar home. “She said a nice boy was coming over to do some work. Are you a nice boy, Henry?” Her eyes sparkled as she teased him.
“I suppose you’ll have to decide that for yourself. What’s your name, anyway?” He was glad he wasn’t blushing.
She told him her name and then pointed out the door that had been peeling, the entrance to the dining room. She sat back on a plush chair to watch him paint. Truth be told, she couldn’t have looked away if she wanted to: he was positively stunning. “How old are you?” she asked.
“Eighteen.” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “Going to drama school in the fall. You?”
“Eighteen. Going to study literature at NYU. You look older.” She disappeared into the kitchen and called, “Ale or iced tea?”
“Tea, please. Thanks.” He finished his work and took the drink gratefully. Carolyn didn’t have central air in her home. “You were reading Shakespeare. What’s your favorite work?”
“Macbeth. I love the dark beauty.”
“‘Who could refrain/That had a heart to love, and in that heart/Courage to make love known?’” He smiled at her. He’d played Macbeth, Hamlet and Romeo in high school and planned to take to those roles again professionally.
Her dark eyes softened beneath her black eyeliner. “You know what, Henry? I don’t think that this summer is going to be that bad.”
It didn’t take a full twenty-four hours for Henry to ask Raven out. The next morning he spotted her in the same place, much further into the play than before.
“My Lady, care to take refreshments with thee at thine yonder eating establishment?” His smile was so cheeky it was adorable.
“Coming from anyone else, that would’ve sounded so trite. However, you’ve convinced me. Lead the way, good sir.” She tossed the book onto the chair and took his warm, strong hand.
Over chips and tea, they became quick confidants, discussing childhood, school and interests. They both loved classic literature, rock music, the theatre and were both repressed by overly proper parents.
After lunch, she asked, “What is there to do in this place?”
“Nothing,” he said. And that was how they wound up taking his car to the nearest city, wasting the day away with junk food, wine and a party they happened to come by.
When they finally got home, he knew he was in deep trouble with his parents, but he didn’t care. He’d only known Raven for a day, but he had already fallen for her. When he kissed her goodnight, they both saw and felt those fabled fireworks in their minds. Neither of them had been in love before, and the sudden, unbidden emotion had them both feeling breathless.
That summer, despite his mother’s misgivings, Henry never left her side. Every moment when they weren’t working (Carolyn had forced Raven to get a job as part of her punishment) was spent together. When his parents were away for a weekend to attend a wedding, she stayed in his room with him.
But the summer only lasts so long, and this one quickly drew to a close.
“I never imagined love like this was real,” she said to him.
“Neither did I. But what are we to do now that summer is ending?” he asked. They were in his bed in the middle of the afternoon.
“I don’t know. I wish now I’d taken the Oxford scholarship instead of one all the way in America,” she said.
“No, don’t regret that,” he said. “This is your dream. You can’t sacrifice that for me. Maybe I can transfer to a school on Broadway after my first semester.”
She looked away, knowing full well that there was no drama school better than the one he was attending. “Look, we’re just kids, Henry. As much as I love you, we can’t uproot our futures for romance. This isn’t a novel; it’s real life. Rarely does one get a happy ending.”
That hurt, but he understood where she was coming from. He took her hand in his, gently caressing her skin. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
The day she left she cried on his shoulder as he held her close, ignoring their respective relatives. “No matter what, I’ll always love you, more than anyone,” he whispered to her. “No one can ever compare to you.”
“I love you. Maybe one day, when our careers are solidified, we can pick up where we left off,” she whispered, kissing him one last time before fate wrenched them apart for what they thought was forever.
In New York, Henry Dobson sat in his loft overlooking Broadway, reading the novel that the movie he was cast in was based off of. He’d heard of the author (Raven used a pseudonym), but had never had the time to read her books. This character felt as if it were written just for him to portray. He was tall, British, with black hair and blue eyes. He was also quiet, plus he loved Shakespeare and Tolkien.
The heroine in the story reminded him of his first love, Raven Maltese. They’d been apart for twenty-five years, yet he never stopped loving her. He found it difficult to date anyone because they all fell short compared to her. Not a day went by that he didn’t think of her, and wonder if she ever thought of him. Now it looked like this role would make him think of her even more.
Paul was an old friend who had given him his push in America in 2012, so he trusted his judgment on the strength of this book. He checked his watch. It was almost time to go to the cast meeting, where they’d talk with the author about her vision for the film.
He put on his favorite leather jacket and left, choosing to walk rather than drive. It was only a mile away. When he was almost at the studio, he received a text from Paul, saying that he and the others were unfortunately stuck in taxis in traffic, to just start without them. He was the star, and needed to speak with the author more than the others.
Henry waited in the empty room, still reading. He was at a particularly interesting place when he heard someone walk in. Turning to see who had come in, he stopped short. She was a beautiful woman about his age or maybe younger, with dark hair in a fashionable bob, clad all in black.
“Hello Henry,” she said in a light British accent.
Do I know her?
“It’s been quite a long time, Henry. I’m afraid you did forget me after all.” She smiled and then it clicked who she was.
“Raven?” He stood up and walked closer to her. Yes, it was her, his first and only love. She’d lost the gleam of youth, but was still as beautiful as ever. In fact, she’d hardly changed at all. “It can’t be.”
“It certainly can.”
Without thinking, without considering his actions, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. She could’ve been married, a nun or even sworn off men. He didn’t care. She was there, for the first time in years. He’d be damned if he’d ever let her go again.
“Is it really you?” he whispered. “After all this time?”
She couldn’t speak, so she kissed him again, and that kiss said everything her words couldn’t. “Ready to pick up where we left off?”