it's starting to get colder," Francis said as she pulled her jacket tighter
around herself. "I guess fall really is here." She turned
away from the crisp breeze that began to kick up off the river and found herself
looking into Fred's eyes.
alright?" He asked as he watched her closely.
"Of course! Why
wouldn't I be?" She tried to hide her eyes that had become filled
with sadness. "We saw my husband out with
his mistress and they
were making a torrid spectacle of themselves. Why wouldn't I be
alright?" Her sarcasm was not lost on Fred.
"Francis, dear, you are a
beautiful woman. You shouldn't let your husband treat you like
that." Fred reached out and pulled her closer. He carefully
placed his hand on her chin and lifted her head so that their eyes met.
"You have so much more going for you than that. I don't think you
even realize exactly how wonderful you are."
"Oh, Fred," Francis
muttered as she blushed slightly. She tried to look away but Fred fought
to hold her attention. "This is all just something I have to get used
to. No amount of crying on my part can change Charles' mind. He's
made his decision. He chose that vile Annabelle over me and all the years
we've spent together. The only choice I have now is a divorce. I'm
not letting him continue to make a fool of me. The only person he can make
a fool of now is himself!"
"And he's doing a fine
job of that! He's a damn fool not to appreciate you. I just don't
understand how he can merely cast you aside."
"Fred, you're just too
kind." Francis had grown to appreciate Fred's friendship over the
past few weeks. He always seemed to be right there when she needed someone
to give her a kind word and a show of support. He was making her realize
that maybe there was life after Charles.
Fred leaned in to Francis and
his lips brushed hers. Francis allowed them to linger there only for a
moment before she pushed him away.
"No, Fred, I
can't!" She quickly moved away from him and turned to avoid meeting
his determined gaze. "I-It's too soon. The hurt is too
fresh. I'm just not ready for something like that yet."
"Of course, I
understand." He reached out for her again and gently laid his hand on
her shoulder. "I don't want to push you into anything you're not
"I just want us to remain
friends. That is what I really need right now."
"Then friends we shall
Francis turned to face him
again. This time her eyes were filled with the evidence of a deep, inner
conflict that had begun to brew. "P-please, Fred, just take me
home. Take me back to the hotel."
"Anything you ask,
dear," he smiled as he slowly began to lead her away from the docks.
Secretly, Fred realized that Francis was closer to being his than even she
realized. Once that happened, he would have everything he needed.