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Authors: Marjorie Moore

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BOOK: Gone Away
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Kay found himself staring incredibly, unbelievingly, at a sparkling tear on Patricia’s fringed lashes. Scarcely aware of his action, he took her roughly in his arms and, before she had time to realize his intention, he had pressed a long
burning kiss upon her mouth. And then before Patricia was aware of what had happened, Kay had pushed her gently away, and she stood dazed an
d
astounded, watching his tall figure pass through the doorway out of her sight.

 

CHAPTER THREE

Patricia awoke the next morning conscious of a sense of unreality and a feeling of utter bewilderment. It was a few moments before she could place this strange bedroom, so different from her simple room at home, with its wallpaper of climbing roses and its chintz-curtained windows, in which, except for brief periods of holiday, she had awakened every morning for as many years as she could remember. Gradually this strange hotel bedroom, with its austere furnishings, recalled her to her new existence, and like a shaft of blinding light through the darkness, memory returned.

For a second Patricia’s fingers trembled on her lips, and it was as if she could feel again the pressure of Kay’s mouth against hers, feel anew his arms crushing her to him, and a tremor of pain ran through her body at
the memory. It had been wrong, an indignity she would never forget, an episode that must forever sear her memory; and yet
...
Patricia felt the sting of tears; she had wanted it, loved it. Just a fleeting second, but a moment of perfect joy, such heights to which she had never believed it possible to reach.

Perhaps that was where the greatest hurt lay. She longed to feel indignation and wrath, yet nothing but despair filled her heart. Despair at the knowledge of what could be, and would of necessity never be again. To have loved, to have been loved for just one fleeting_ moment, to begin and end all in one passionate kiss. For it must be the end; that Patricia knew just as surely as she knew she loved this passing stranger. That he was to blame for his thoughtless action never entered her head. There was only one thing clear in her mind: whatever suffering such a decision must cost, she could never see him again. There was the other girl to consider, the girl he intended to make his wife, the girl whom he had temporarily forgotten. For her sake—yes, and for Kay’s too—she must go.

Patricia slipped from her bed and began to dress. Although her actions were unhurried, her gestures were purely mechanical as she went through the usual routine of washing and dressing. With a disinterested glance in the mirror, she combed through her hair and dabbed powder on her nose and beneath her suspiciously reddened eyes. She looked awful, she mused, but it couldn’t be helped; perhaps the fresh air would bring some color into her cheeks and help to blow away the traces of tears. With scant care, she bundled her belongings into her suitcase and pressed down the lid.

Ten minutes later Patricia was confronting the rather supercilious young woman behind the reception desk and preparing to settle her bill.

“We usually expect a day’s notice.” The young woman’s carmined lips curled disdainfully as she eyed Patricia’s shabby costume and bulging suitcase. “It’s all very out of order; we might have missed a let.” She pushed the account towards Patricia with obvious reluctance.

“I’m sorry. I only decided this morning. I really must leave immediately,” Patricia faltered while she fumbled with the fastening of her bag and, opening it, took out her note-case.

“Thanks
...
Just a moment and I’ll give you a receipt,” the cashier added as Patricia stooped to pick up her suitcase. “And will you leave an address? For forwarding mail, you know.”

Patricia flushed. “Address? No, it doesn’t matter; there won’t be any letters. Good morning and thank you.” She hurried towards the door.

“Shall I call a taxi, miss?” The porter took the bag from Patricia’s hand and preceded her down the steps.

“No ... I mean yes
...
yes, please do,” Patricia stammered. She supposed she’d better have a taxi; but what should she tell the driver? Where should she ask him to go? A momentary feeling of panic assailed her. She hadn’t any idea; she knew nothing about London, had no notion in which district one might hope to find
rooms, a difficulty which in her troubled state had enti
r
ely escaped her notice. A taxi drew up at the curb and the porter lifted her bag inside; for a moment his questioning stare and broad figure clad so elegantly in the grey uniform with brass buttons terrified her, and, although she opened her lips to speak, no words came. Then, suddenly taking a hold on herself, she addressed the driver of the taxi; somehow
h
is weather-beaten and kindly face inspired her with confidence.

“Drive toward the park. I’m not quite certain of my destination for the moment.” Patricia slipped a coin into the waiting porter’s hand, then, tilting her chin in the air, stepped quickly into the taxi.

They were scarcely round the corner and out of sight of the hotel before Patricia leaned forward and tapped on the glass partition.

“Please, I don’t really want to go to the park. I want to find a room
...
apartments you know. I ... I don’t know London very well; perhaps you’d take me to the right district for that sort of thing, she suggested timidly. A broad smile lighted the chauffeur s face. So that was the trouble; they’d been rooking her at the hotel, like most of those places did, and she’d walked out on them. Quite right too in his opinion.

“Well, miss, let’s have a think. There’s places and places, as they say, some good and some bad. Now it’s respectable you want, that’s what I say; never mind the place nor yet the rooms, but respectable they must be.”

“But not too expensive,” Patricia broke in hurriedly.

“Now if I haven’t thought of the very place!” His mouth broadened into a smile, “My aunt, she takes in lodgers—only nice people, mind.” He added firmly, “Mrs. Jutson is very respectable and reasonable, and I’m sure she’d be glad to oblige.”

“Then please take me there. I’m sure, if you say so, it will be just what I want,” Patricia said gratefully.

Patricia sank back against the shabby upholstery of the taxi with a sigh of relief. This was independence, true independence. Never again would she act with the thoughtlessness o
f
the past two days. From this moment her freedom would commence. Kay must be put right out of her mind; she had a job, and a good chance of room and shelter from the respectable Mrs. Jutson.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

The branches of the wind-swept trees swayed rhythmically in the gale, bending their stems against its force. Waves of yellowed leaves billowed across the roadway, and swirled around in circles before piling themselves into hillocks in the gutter. Patricia, trying somewhat unsuccessfully to keep her coat closed and clasping her beret firmly to her head, struggled along the rain-washed pavement. With a sigh of relief she pushed against the rusty iron gate of a tall, somewhat decrepit house, which only differed from the others in the crescent in being a little more shabby, and possessing a little less recognizable paintwork. This evening Patricia was spared her usual pang of irritation at the unprepossessing appearance of her lodgings; she was far too glad to reach the sheltering stone porch and, for the first time during her hurried walk from the bus stop, to breathe with any degree of comfort. The customary odor of cooking assailed her as she crossed the hall and made her way up the stairs. She crinkled her nose distastefully. It didn’t seem to matter what time she came home, there was always the same unsavory smell to greet her. Oh well, she mused, it might be a nuisance having an attic room, but, once she reached it, she was certainly spared not only Mrs. Jutson’s penetrating voice, but also the odors of her landlady’s doubtful culinary efforts.

Patricia closed the door of her room behind her and, before removing her outdoor clothes, crossed quickly to the gasfire and applied a match. Burning at its brightest the fire gave out an inadequate heat, but during her months of sojourn
in
this little room, Patricia had become quite used to that. With all its faults, she had grown strangely fond of her quarters. Although cramped and somewhat poverty stricken, the room was, as the taxi driver had said, “respectable,” and the perfect Mrs. Jutson had proved, despite some irritating habits, a very kind landlady. After the strangeness of her new existence had worn off, Patricia had found herself settling down quite happily to her life. The fascination of living in a city had never been dispelled, and even after months of familiarity, the crowded streets, s
h
ops, and theaters still held her enthralled. For weeks the memory of Kay had troubled her; it had been easy enough to run away from him but not nearly so easy to escape from her troubling memories. A hundred times she had wanted to rush out and seek him; a thousand times she had longed to recapture that short-lived happiness.

Patricia could have found a measure of both contentment and happiness in her new life but for one distressing factor. Her job, so eagerly accepted and started with such high hopes, had proved definitely disappointing. She did not dislike the work, but the unwelcome attentions of the senior partner were becoming increasingly disturbing. She was fully aware of the danger of giving up a fairly remunerative job before finding another post, but with the added self-confidence of a few months’ work, she was now determined to make a change.

Patricia proceeded to scan the advertisement columns of the newspaper she had brought in with her.

A sharp knock at the door, followed by the entry of Mrs. Jutson carrying a loaded tray, roused Patricia from her search.

“Here’s your supper, Miss Dare, and nice and savory, too, although I says it myself.” The landlady dropped the tray on the table with a clatter.

My word, I’m out of breath; these stairs fair get me.” She pressed a work-worn hand to her heaving chest.

Now, mind you eat it up. I said to Mr. Jutson,

That young lady don’t eat enough to feed a sparrow.’ If it wasn’t for the other lodgers I’m sure I wouldn’t take the trouble to cook for you at all.” She removed the dishcover with a flourish. “Liver and bacon! Now isn’t that enough to tempt anyone?”

Patricia smiled. “Very nice. Thanks awfully.” She hoped her voice sounded convincing. “I’m quite hungry. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.” She drew her chair toward the table as if in preparation for her meal, but Mrs. Jutson was not to be so easily dismissed.

“Any news about changing your job, Miss Dare? I see you’ve been after the adverts again. What’s this here? ‘Personal Column.’ Don’t one sometimes find jobs there?”

“Long lost relations, even fortunes, but never jobs!” Patricia laughed. “That’s the romantic column; it’s the more practical ones that I search.”

Mrs. Jutson, her eyes still glued to the paper, seemed unaware of her lodger’s remark. Stooping over the table, she read it more closely, as if something had suddenly attracted her interest.

“What have you found, a lost relation or a legacy?” Patricia inquired laughingly.

Unfettered by her lodger’s mockery, Mrs. Jutson picked up the paper and somewhat slowly and laboriously read:

“ ‘Wanted. Young lady travelling to Straits Settlements early New Year to chaperon another. Fare will be paid. Apply Box 60.’

She looked up inquiringly at Patricia. “What about that?”

“But I’m not travelling anywhere, certainly not to the Straits Settlements,” Patricia laughed. “How on earth would that help me?”

“I’m sure I don’t know where the place is”—the landlady looked doubtful—“but there seems to be someone ready to pay your fare there and maybe not so many secretaries knocking about in that part of the world,” she ended practically.

“You mean go out there
...
just take a chance?” Patricia raised her eyebrows in amazement at the suggestion. “Do you realize that the Straits Settlements are the other end of the world?”

“Well, I must say I never knew that; the name sounds English enough too.” There was slight disappointment in Mrs. Jutson’s voice. “Still, you’ve always said as how you’d love to trave
l
,” she added, with a return to her former cheerfulness.

“The name’s English because it’s a British possession.” Patricia sighed. “No, I’m afraid it’s not feasible. If it were a real job offered there, I’d jump at it quickly enough,” she concluded a trifle wistfully.

“But with your fair paid and all, it’s well worth going to have a look—at least, that’s, what I say,” Mrs. Jutson affirmed stubbornly.

“Let me see.” Patricia stretched out her hand for the paper, and scanned the close print. “They are just trying to find someone who is sailing at that time; you sometimes see advertisements like that. They pay your fare and you help with children or chaperon another girl, or act as a sort of companion. I’m
n
ot actually going out; I’m not really a genuine applicant—that is, if I ever got an interview.”

“Who

s to know you

re not really going out? They pay your fare, don’t they? That’s all that matters. You do the travelling and someone else pays for it. Fine, I calls it.”

“Yes, that’s all very well, but they don’t pay my fare back,” Patricia gently reminded Mrs. Jutson.

“Not pay your fare home?” Mrs. Jutson was taken aback, but only for a moment. “You’ll get a job and soon save enough to get back—that is, if you don’t like foreign parts,” she ended complacently.

“I wonder.
.
.

Patricia spoke to herself, almost unaware of the other’s watching eyes. “I wonder
...
dare I?” She picked up the paper and again read the printed words. “Straits Settlements. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur
...
Just names that I have only dreamed of,” she said aloud.

“Take no chances and get nowhere, that’s what I always says to Mr. Jutson.” As Patricia made no reply, Mrs. Jutson continued speaking. “Well, I’d better be getting along.

Just before disappearing through the door, she turned around for a final word. “You think over what I’ve said. I reckon that’s a job worth going after.”

Patricia watched the door close behind the portly figure of her landlady before turning her attention again to the folded paper before her. For a few moments she stared at the printed words in wondering contemplation. Could she consider such a thing? Of course not! Surely she wasn’t allowing herself to be influenced by an entirely ignorant if well-meaning woman. Imagine finding herself stranded in a strange country, without a job, without a friend. Patricia pushed back her tray and, rising from her chair, took a cigarette from a packet on the mantelpiece. She stared unseeingly into the blue flame of the fire while she drew meditatively at her cigarette. Of course, she mused, if one
never
took a chance. If one was never prepared to risk anything
...
? There might, of course, be jobs in plenty abroad, well-paid jobs too; she’d met girls who had found wonderful opportunities. Patricia tapped her foot impatiently and then with a deliberate gesture stubbed out the end of her cigarette in an ashtray. Crossing the room, she seated herself at the desk. For a second she sat irresolute, then began to write, fluently and without hesitation. With a quick reference to the newspaper she addressed the envelope; then, putting on her coat, hurried down to the post.

BOOK: Gone Away
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