America - 31st December 1906
Florence waited patiently for her husband to return. They had been married for five years, and they already had a one-year-old son named Thomas Raymond. On Christmas Day, Joseph had said to her that he was taking her to America for the New Year. She was missing her baby, and her heart gave a longing lurch when she remembered his tearful face when they had left him. Florence's parents were looking after Thomas in France, and they would return to him on the 3rd January.
Florence stood on tiptoes, looking over the heads for her husband. He had told her that he gone to find the bathroom, but he had been gone for fifteen minutes. She tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach as she told herself that he had just been distracted.
"Hey pretty lady," a voice said from behind her.
Florence jumped and turned round to see a young man leant on the bar next to her. He was fairly attractive, with stylish brown hair, gorgeous green eyes and his shirt gave her hints at well-toned muscles.
"What is a young beauty like you doing stood at the bar?" He murmured, running his finger round the rim of his glass as he spoke.
"Waiting for my... friend."
"Is this a male friend?"
"What's it to you?" She asked. She didn't want to tell this man that she was already married. She wanted to have some fun tonight and that would be ruined if she let on that she had been taken by another man.
"Nothing." He took a swig of his drink. "It's my birthday. And it's new year's eve."
"Congratulations, and yes, you're not wrong." She said with a small smile. His voice was gorgeous and she was in love with the casual way he displayed himself.
"I was wondering whether you wanted to take a walk with me? It is my birthday and it would be a fantastic new year treat."
"Are you not here with anyone?" Florence asked, swiping her arm round, indicating the rest of the crowded club.
"Yeah, a few mates, but they're over there, chatting up girls." He pointed to a mixed group of males and females stood in the corner. "Like I'm trying to do." He added.
"I don't even know your name." Florence said, blushing slightly and feeling her blood pound in her head.
"My name's Carl, what's yours?"
"What a beautiful name for such a beautiful woman."
Florence stared out at the rest of the room, covering the blush that was probably making her look like a tomato. She spotted Joe, her husband, striding across the room and towards the bar where she was standing, talking to this strange man. Her heart hammered in her chest and she glanced round in fear. What could she do? Joe was caught by another gentleman halfway across the dance floor, so, feeling rebellious, Florence grabbed Carl's hand and pulled him away from the bar.
"Woah, pretty lady, why the sudden movement?" Carl asked in surprise, he had managed to grab his drink before she had pulled him away so he took a sip.
"I saw my hu- friend coming and I didn't want him to see me with another man. He gets very protective over me." She apologised, stealing his glass and taking a mouthful herself.
Florence swallowed the burning liquid and peered at the contents. What was she thinking? She had only drunk alcohol a few times in her life and here she was, standing in a dark corner with a man she didn't know, stealing his alcohol. And sharing a glass! She was confused at what was happening, but continued with it. All thoughts of her husband slipped away as she passed the glass back, brushing Carl's warm fingers as she did so.
"Hey!" Carl teased, grinning at her. "Oh, it's okay. Shall we go somewhere private then?"
"Where abouts?" Florence asked, biting her lip to suppress her smile. And to suppress the rebellious side of her.
"Maybe a B and B somewhere? I'm sure there's one close by. Or there are some rooms here?"
Florence thought for a moment, analysing her situation. "What about the Broken Wing? It's a small hotel just up the road."
"The Yellow Hawk is closer if you want a hotel."
"No!" She said quite suddenly. Carl reeled back in shock. "Sorry, that's the place where my friend is staying and I don't want to run into him."
"Okay, understandable. The Broken Wing it is!"
Florence rolled over in the double bed and her face hit a very firm, very warm human forearm. She blinked, rolled back over onto her back, and sat up in bed, blinking the sleep away from her eyes. Florence smiled at the warm sunshine that was entering the room through the gap in the curtain, dancing across the bed and creating warm patches on her legs.
"It's the 1st January 1905 and I've disgraced my husband already." Florence whispered to herself in horror, as everything came back to her like a slap in the face. Last night, she had slept with a man who she had barely known anything about, and ran away from her husband, who was probably concerned about her.
Her husband had told her on Christmas Day that he was taking her to America to celebrate new years. It was a wonderfully romantic Christmas present to her, and they had flown over on the 27th December, planning on the flight what they would do. They had planned to visit all the great sights in New York (which they had actually done most of them), visit the club on new year's eve, then spend the night at a fancy hotel and make love together.
Florence had ruined her husband's plans and spent the night in a fancy hotel and made love with another man, whom she knew hardly anything about. All she knew was that his name was Carl, he had one brother and two sisters, he lived in Spain and he had a pet Springer Spaniel named Sparkie.
Florence looked down at the man sprawled out on his front beside her, the sheets only covering his body below the waist line. He had strong muscles and, admittedly, she found him more attractive than her own husband. She didn't tell Carl that she was married and kept up with the friend story, claiming that she had refused his proposal to her. She had even kept Thomas a secret. She didn't really know why she had kept her small family a secret. It was probably to make herself feel better for, essentially, cheating on her husband.
She vaguely remembered making love to Carl before falling into the soft mattress and going to sleep without putting any clothes back on. Her memory was confirmed when she drew the covers back from herself and revealed that she was wearing nothing at all. Their clothing lay abandoned on the floor around the bed, left where they had thrown it off the night before.
Florence slid her legs out from under the covers and slipped out of bed, stretching as she stood up and surveyed the mess in the room. She gathered up her own clothing and put it in a pile on the writing desk situated by the window. She then piled all of Carl's clothing at the end of the bed, even positioning his shoes next to the clothes. Hurriedly, she pulled on her clothes, scribbled her contact details on a piece of paper, and left the room, taking one last glance at Carl before leaving.
Once Florence had entered the Yellow Hawk, she pressed the bell in the entrance hall and waited for someone to answer.
"What? How did you get in?" A half-asleep man asked her from one of the sofas in the entrance hall.
"I have a key. I was meant to be staying here last night, but I went somewhere else. Sorry. Can I ask which room my husband, Joseph, is in?" There was no point in her denying what she did.
The man managed to raise his eyebrows in his sleepy state, but gave her the room number all the same.
Florence made her way up the stairs, clutching her handbag in nervousness. She hesitated a moment, before she knocked on the door of room 23. The door opened to reveal her husband, dressed in blue stripy pyjamas.
"Oh my god, Florence!" He cried, pulling her into the room by her hand. "Where on earth have you been?!"
"I'm sorry, Joe, but a man took me away. I couldn't find my way here in the dark of the night. I'm so sorry I left you during the year's changeover." Florence told her husband, forcing herself to look into his eyes as she bit her tongue against the lies.
"Not to worry sweetheart, I'm just glad you're safe." He said softly, kick-starting the treacherous feeling of guilt.
Joseph wrapped her into a loving embrace and Florence rested her head against his chest. The great thing about a hug is that it can hide your expression from the other person.