Reluctant Bride, Chapter 1

Illona Ivanovitch was an understated beauty. She was tall and slim, dressed in a gold-flecked top that melted onto a delightful figure. She swirled a full beige skirt whenever she moved. Her hair was a tousled blond, with reddish tints. She had an arresting oval face with a darkened finish that looked more genetic than tanned. She had deep searching brown eyes.
Lorne Hudson at 45 was obviously a shade older than Illona. He was the ruggedly handsome type, casually showing it off with 5’11” of harnessed energy. He appeared to be vaguely uncomfortable in tuxedo. It was not that it was ill-fitting, just that he looked to be more the shirt and jeans type.
Lorne would not normally have “signed up” for gala dinner for anything, let alone the Euronian Refugees, whoever they were. But he had been persuaded by Jack and Betty that he could afford a thousand bucks and it was bloody well his duty to show the flag. Just which flag he wasn’t sure, but he had written out his cheque and here he was, reluctant and unwilling, though he attempted to hide this. He did not want to spoil others’ fun. He was searching for a quiet corner.
Illona, on the other hand, was new in town and her friend, Jane, had persuaded her that this could be a sort of “coming out” party, an introduction to the local society. Jane had added a bit of bait, “You might even meet THE man!” Illona didn’t really care about meeting THE man. She had tried that before with indifferent results. In fact, surprise surprise, there was a man in her life at this very time, Bill. He had followed her to her new abode. She was flattered but not pleased. She didn’t really think he was her type.
The party was for a good cause (or so Jane had said) and it would be a divergence, so what the hell, she wasn’t planning anything except the TV and a lonely bed. Illona and Lorne had never met, nor even heard of one another—but keep tuned.
The cocktail part of the gala was in full swing. Which meant it was crowded and noisy and punctuated by burst of nervous, forced laughter. The wine flowed freely or as freely as the waiters, with loaded trays of drinks, could thread their way through the crush. Lorne had already consumed two martinis but it hadn’t helped him escape the feeling that this was a terrible mistake. On the other hand, Illona was more curious than overwhelmed. She daintily sipped her specially created, blue “Euronian cocktail” and tried to look interested and interesting.
Illona and Lorne had still not met, but keep tuned.
Betty was shoving Lorne around, showing off her prize bull as if at an agricultural fair. Jack had disappeared somewhere—lucky man.
“Lorne I want you to meet Sydney Jasper. He is a liberal member of parliament representing… who do you represent, Syd?”
“Antigonish south.”
“Yes Antigonish…south.”
Lorne found his hand entrapped in a political embrace. They both murmured a few meaningless words and parted.
Lorne had to hand it to Betty. She seemed to know everyone and introduced him to them all, with always a biographical ornament to hang on each. He longed for a quiet corner but here was one more. She was dragging him across the floor. “Lorne, I’ve found her. This is my good friend, Jane. We’ve known each other since childhood.” Again Lorne took the proffered hand and the glanced at Jane’s companion and froze. It was Illona.
Betty flustered. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you were with Jane. What is your name, dear?”
“Illona Ivanovich.”
“Oh yes, indeed. So Lorne this is Illona.” She wasn’t going to even try the last name.
Illona said, “I’m pleased to meet you. How are you?”
A sudden surge in the crowd took away their two “escorts” and Lorne and Illona stood in a little sudden oasis, eye to eye.
He took her hand, and held it, a good deal longer than was necessary. He smiled disarmingly. “We’ve never met before. Why are you interested in how I am?”
She was shocked by the question, but not knocked over. She gave as good as good as she got. She smiled wickedly. “Why did I ask, ‘How are you?’ Well, you see I’m a doctor. I noticed you have brown eyes and an assertive manner and I wondered if you had closterosis.”
It was his turn to be shocked. “Closterosis? Is it serious?”
“It may well be… but I’m not.”
He looked at her for a long moment and then burst out with a guffaw. “Touché. A perfect come back. Frankly I wasn’t prepared for brains along with beauty.” He bowed over her hand and kissed it. She blushed.
She asked. “So who are you and what are you doing here?”
“Who am I? Well, I’m a roving bachelor and a lawyer as well. I prefer the former occupation but I have to live. And you Madam? Mam’selle?”
“Ms. at the moment. I’m just new in town so I’m sort of finding myself, at this party.”
“I’m glad we found each other and…”
She interrupted him. “Oh, they’re calling dinner. I understand we have assigned seating. I guess I supposed to say something like ‘It was nice meeting you,’ and then we go our separate ways. Good night, uh, Lorne wasn’t it?”
“Good night, Illona. ‘Till we meet again.” They parted.
It was a bit of a shambles discovering the seating arrangements. First there was a board with names and table assignments. Place cards would indicate seating at the tables. Illona found hers readily and was seated. She looked at the place card to her left. “Brian Whitechapel.” It meant nothing. She looked to the right. “Lorne Hudson.” She gasped. Wasn’t that the man she had just met? Was someone playing cupid? She waited demurely.
Lorne walked up, checking the table numbers. When he found the match, he examined the place cards without even looking at the guests. He found his own name and prepared to sit down. He looked at his neighbour and did a double take. “Oh my God! Did someone arrange this? Don’t tell me that this is pure chance. I’m never that lucky.” He sat down at his allotted place with a deep satisfied smile.
There were a few introductory remarks from the chairman, extolling the great need of the Euronian refugees. No one really listened. Then the meal began with the usual hubble-bubble of conversation, which diminished as each new course was presented. Illona and Lorne, having dutifully engaged their other seat mates, found that more and more they were attracted to each other. The conversation started off reasonably formally then dived in for more intimate details. They discovered their mutual interest in art. Both had visited the Chagall show at the AGO.
“Which one moved you most?”
“I’m not sure. I suppose most people would say the one on the cover of the programme. But I really was uplifted by all his colourful, flying animals. I mean what animals fly? And yet his did!”
“What about the nude man and the clothed woman at his feet with her arms grasping his body? I found that most provocative.”
“In what way?”
“I read it as she, fully clothed, was more interested in intimacy than her naked companion. There’s dichotomy for you.”
And so the evening feast sped away with one subject after another. Their growing interest in each other was only broken when one or the other noted the other seat mate staring into space. When that happened, they would break for a few moments to do their social duties.
Then the orchestra filed on stage and after tuning up struck up a lively piece from the 60s. He looked at her and raised an eyebrow. She nodded immediately. On the dance floor they melded into each other as if they had done this all their lives. He was a gracious but firm leader: She was a willing and flexible partner. He increased the challenge: She followed naturally. Their harmony was a pleasure to watch: It was even more pleasure to be part of. They came back to the table a little breathless, but both with a strongly beating heart.
He smiled at her as he pushed in her chair. “You know, you’re really quite exceptional.”
She returned his warm smile. “Well, you’re not exactly chopped liver yourself.”
After a short rest the band returned and somewhere about the middle of this period of performance they hit the floor again. They had only taken a few steps when much to the couple’s surprise, a very large, aggressive male cut in and danced off with Illona in his arms. All Lorne heard was “You!!!” and her voice didn’t seem entirely happy. Lorne returned to his table and when the music ended the “usurper” returned Illona to her seat, bowed his thanks and left. He didn’t even wait to be introduced to other guests. She seemed somewhat upset.
“Well THAT was a surprise. Bill has been pursuing me for a couple of months but I had no idea he followed me to this gala! I’m sorry but he is very persistent… and it looks like he stole the last dance.” She pointed to the band who seemed to be packing it in.
They arose leisurely, said their good byes to their table guests and strolled by the band platform. Without thinking, Illona jumped up on stage and ran off a rag-time riff of about eight bars on the piano. Caught by the spirit, Lorne took over the bass. Illona sat down and fingered a melody. Lorne sat beside her and responded to her cues. Occasionally he reached for a high note by leaning against her and crossing over her hands. For a couple of minutes they improvised a musical partnership as if they had been doing it all their lives. Both of them could feel a charge of adrenalin as their moods swam together. They concluded with a flourish They locked eyes and laughed together. It was a good laugh. They were both surprised when the exiting crowd applauded them and asked for more—but more was not forthcoming this time.
“May I drive you home?” asked Lorne.
“Oh I don’t think that would be a good idea. I think I should return with my hosts who brought me.”
He put his hand on hers. “Wait a moment. I’ll be frank. I don’t want to lose you. Will you have lunch or dinner with me tomorrow?”
She paused only a moment or two. She pursed her lips in a manner that sent chills down his back. “You do move quickly! Do you really want more time with me?… I guess I could make it for dinner.”
“Let me have your phone number and I’ll be in touch tomorrow morning.” She gave him her host’s number and he wrote it on the back of a business card and put it in his breast pocket. He noted that she did not ask for his number and he didn’t push his luck.
Illona located Jane in the crowded room and Lorne squired her over to that location. He said goodnight and leaned over to kiss her check, but somehow ended up on her lips. Neither one pulled back in dismay.
“MY, MY,” said Jane and chuckled.
Lorne went and retrieved his coat from the check room. He turned and was about to leave when a strong hand caught his shoulder and squeezed hard. It hurt. It was Bill, the larger-than-life chap who had cut in when they were dancing.
Lorne turned to face him and found himself looking up into two angry eyes. Bill spoke. “Look, I don’t know who you are but keep off my grass! You understand?” He gave Lorne’s shoulder a mighty shove which staggered him and then strode off.

6 Responses to “Reluctant Bride, Chapter 1”

  1. charles Kirby says:

    Sooo… we go ! Next ?

  2. John Crossley says:

    Oh Lyman, this looks like a good one !!


  3. Jack Long says:

    Good start. We will patiently await further developments.

  4. Silvana Ness says:

    That’s a very good beginning!

  5. Joy MacFadyen says:

    I had a visceral reaction to Bill’s intervention until I realized that he is simply one of your devious ploys set to spoil the course of true love…..


  6. Rose says:

    AHHH. Lyman, Mystery, love, a natural match. Can’t wait for part two and three.


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