By A. G. Dumas
She sat turned in the front seat facing the passenger window with
tears in her eyes. By mid-afternoon they reached Leeds, the departure
point from the highway for travelers venturing to Yorkshire.
When columns of light started to break through what had been
an endless gray sky, he opened the driver side window to take in
the emergence of a glorious spring day.
“The sun actually does come out in merry old England!” he
bellowed, breaking a long silence. Getting no reaction, he
said nothing more. The towns became smaller and farther apart
as they drove farther north. Soon, there were only tiny
hamlets. In time, even they disappeared. Then there were
only isolated stone farm houses and miles of stone walls.
The walls rose into the distant hillsides and
served to demarcate the lush green dales from the barren
highlands, brown from years of strip mining.
He rounded a blind corner and suddenly slammed the brakes. She put
her hands up to keep from hitting the windshield. The lonely, empty
road suddenly had become clogged with sheep. Hundreds of black
muzzles floating on a sea of white fleece.
They were being herded from an open field to a large, fenced area
across the road. One of the shepherds, who was holding a large
staff in his hand, walked over to the car.
“You’ll be here a good tharty minutes,” he said to Robert in his
broad accent. He touched the brim of his cap as his eyes shifted to
“That long, huh?” Robert said.
“Aye,” the shepherd replied. “Have to bring ‘em in every so often.
To protect the weak and young. Foxes, you know.”
“Christ!” Robert huffed. He reached in the backseat for the camera
and got out of the car. “Well, let’s make the best of it!” he said to
her through the driver’s window. “Why don’t you get out and look
around. Just don’t sit there feeling sorry for yourself.”
Galen began to sob. He turned and walked away.
The trip had started nicely enough. The flight from New York on
Friday was pleasant and relaxing. They had a good dinner
on the plane with lots of wine and talked until they fell asleep.
When they were awakened at dawn by the pilot’s announcement
that they were over the Irish coast, they became excited. Their
excitement grew when the plane passed over Bristol and made
its approach to Gatwick.
When it was discovered that one of their suitcases had been lost,
Robert Harvey reverted to old form. Galen had become used to it.
During their 12-year marriage, he had become an impatient
bastard. She had remained the sweet, good-hearted person she
had always been. He had grown tired of her youthful effusion and
naiveté, which had endeared her to him back in college. His abuse
and suspected infidelity had helped sink her into a depression.
The bag had been lost, he reasoned, because she had packed too
much. She always packed too much. The additional bag had been
unnecessary. His misogynic logic evolved into a weekend of
sniping in London: The high tea at Fortnum’s that she had
to go to was overpriced; she charged too much at Harrods; they
wasted too much time sightseeing at the Tower because she took
too many pictures. It went on like that.
After baiting her into an argument Sunday evening after she
spent an hour on the phone with the kids and her parents, he
walked out. When he came back several hours later, she refused to
get out of bed and let him in. He had to get a new key card from the
desk. That morning, before the drive north to Yorkshire, Robert
had acted even more miserably during breakfast in the hotel
“Do you want to leave right after breakfast, or should we wait until
after lunch?” Galen asked, trying to be pleasant and make
conversation. Her husband’s head stayed buried in the newspaper.
“Don’t treat me like somebody off the street!” she finally yelled,
swatting the paper.
Embarrassed, Robert put the paper down and stared at her with
his cold, green eyes. “Go fuck yourself!” he said with an angry hiss.
He got up in a huff, knocking the chair over. After righting the chair,
he walked out.
She looked straight ahead, mortified. It had all been so short-lived,
she thought. Her recovery, his promise to be better, their decision
to take a second honeymoon, the excitement and restoration of hope
that you get when you travel—and then the stupid lost bag.
It didn’t seem fair.
Galen suddenly felt her breakfast ascending. She closed her eyes
and inhaled deeply through her nose. She focused her
thoughts on calming down and making a graceful exit. When she
began feeling better, she sipped some coffee and signed the check.
The waitress promptly returned. Indignantly, she announced the
account had been closed. Galen fumbled for cash, but not being
very comfortable with the currency, handed the woman a credit card.
When she finally left the restaurant and the trail of stares behind,
she began to quickly walk through the hotel’s lobby. She
asked several people if they had seen a tall man with blond hair.
Finally, the concierge told her that Robert asked to have his car
pulled around and loaded. Frantically, she ran out the front
entrance into the drizzle and nearly slipped on the sidewalk.
He was sitting in the car, with the engine running and the wipers
going, at the curb.
The miserable London experience seemed like a bad dream as
Galen sat in the car, which was now engulfed by sheep. Robert
was standing on top of a stone wall alongside the road taking
The sun was rapidly burning through the clouds. A brisk
wind had picked up and was pushing the dreary weather out.
When the sheep were finally gone, they continued on their way in
silence. Robert pulled into the first filling station they came to.
“Fill it with two-star,” he told the attendant.
He leaned down on his arms and spoke through the open
driver’s window to Galen. “Let’s leave the weekend behind,” he
said. “The suitcase got me started and then the hassle with the
airline. Let’s make the best of the rest of our time here, okay?”
Galen didn’t answer.
He continued, “This is really god’s country up here. It’s where
we’ve wanted to go for so long. I wish now that we’d driven up
here directly from the airport. I don’t want to ruin it any longer.
She looked up and smiled. “I can’t believe we’re finally here
either,” she said, breaking her silence. “You’ve got to learn to live
and let live.”
“Yes,” he said, looking away.
“They’ll find the suitcase,” she assured.
“Promise me you’ll forget about it and become the new Robert this week?”
“Promise we won’t fight this week?”
At sunset, they were still driving. They decided to stop at the next
bed-and-breakfast that looked inviting. Several farms they had
passed had signs soliciting boarders, but the Harveys decided that
it would be better to find a place in a town, nearer restaurants and pubs.
At dusk, they drove into a town named Ashburn. They rode past a
townhouse with white clapboard siding and a prominent
“Vacancy” signs in the front window.
“A nice-looking place,” Robert noted, thumbing over
his shoulder. Houses and shops, a few with wooden exteriors but
mostly with mortar and stone facades, lined Ashburn’s main drag.
Further down was a town square, inlaid with cobblestones, where
cars and trucks were parked. Robert turned in and parked.
“It’s seven,” she said nervously, looking at her watch. “We
should find a place now for the night.”
“Relax,” he said. “I’m going to walk back to that place with the
sign and see what they have.”
“All right. But don’t be too long. It’s getting dark.”
The small inn was called Campbell House. The landlady was
pleasant enough, but spoke to Robert through a chained outer door.
It didn’t take long before she decided she liked his manner and
chiseled looks, and became rather excited at the prospect of
boarding an American couple from New York. She unlatched the
door and let Robert into the foyer. She was in her late 50s and
quite tiny, with ruddy cheeks and a prominent English nose. She
was bundled in a sweater jacket and wearing slippers.
“You caught me napping by fire!” she said in her lilt. She
closed the inner door behind her to keep a yapping
corgi from nosing through.
“I’m Mrs. Campbell,” she said, extending her hand. Robert took it
firmly and introduced himself.
“In this business, you must be careful who you open doors to at
night, especially when husband is out,” she explained. He smiled at
the highlands pronunciation of “hoos-bend,” and the non-use of
unnecessary words like “my.”
“I understand completely, ma’am,” Robert replied, politely.
“Rent, including morning meal, is fifty pounds per couple. If you
stay three nights or longer, it goes to forty. There’s a common bath,
but it’s large enough for two and it’s spotless and bright and up to
standards at home, I’m sure. As I said, there’s only one other
couple boarding this week, so you needn’t be waiting long in the
morning. Please bring missus in and I’ll show you both the room.”
Mrs. Campbell greeted Galen like a long, lost cousin from the
colonies. She hugged her and held her by the arm as they climbed
the stairway to the second floor.
“I think you’ll like the room, dearie,” she said to Galen. “It’s the
nicest we have.”
The room was indeed warm and homey: A thick, hand-knitted
Afghan lay stretched across the queen-sized bed. The walls were
pearly white and spotless, and the lace curtains that framed the
large window at the foot of the bed were crisp and clean as if they
had just been washed and ironed. An old-fashioned wash basin
stood in the corner for decoration. Above it, an antique mirror with
smoked glass hung.
Mrs. Campbell opened the large window and beckoned the
Harveys to take a look. They saw Wensleydale, a large
farming valley to the south of town. It was getting dark, and the
farmhouse lights flickered in the distance. It was picture book.
Galen was beaming from ear to ear. “It’s so lovely!” she said. “I
still can’t believe we’re here.”
“That means we’ll take it,” Robert said, smiling. He held out a 50-
pound note, but Mrs. Campbell refused it.
“Stay the night and see how you like it,” she said. “Ashburn is as
nice a spot as you’ll find in Yorkshire, or England for that matter.
After you rise tomorrow and have a proper breakfast, you go out
and sightsee and decide if you want to stay or move on. I’m sure
you’ll be back, and I’ll bill you when you decide to leave.”
She gave them a key to the front entrance. “Mister and I are in bed
by eleven, so you’ll have to let yourselves in. Breakfast is at eight.”
She suggested they walk to the center of town to a pub called The
Black Stallion for supper. “It’s the best of the lot,” she said. “The
other couple that’s boarding here has gone there three nights running.
You might catch up with them. Alan and Charlotte Burns. A nice couple.”
The Black Stallion was a simple, two-room establishment, with a
small bar with a half-dozen stools and a few tables in one and a
modest dining area in the other. The Burses weren’t hard to find
as they were the only couple seated in the dining room. They had
finished eating and were having after-dinner drinks..
They were a bit younger than the Harveys. Alan Burns was in his
early thirties, average-looking and skinny, with balding, sandy hair, a
long neck and a prominent Adam’s apple. He had a cheery,
run-at-the-mouth manner. Charlotte was about thirty and was rather
stunning, with long brown hair and piercing blue eyes. She had high
cheekbones and looked as though she could have been a model. Her
appearance was made more intriguing by her quietness.
Robert felt as if she were looking straight through him as they all
became acquainted at the table.
“You damn Yanks are truly amazing!” Alan said after they became
comfortable. “You seem to know more about our bloody country
than we do!”
Robert returned the compliment. “I suppose it’s because so many of us
can trace our roots here, but even if we can’t, we’re still enamored with you.
It must be the accent. Or perhaps were just eternally grateful for the Rolling
They all laughed. Robert had a smoothness and charm he could
turn on if the company suited him—a practice learned over 15
years as a successful public relations executive.
“What do you do, Galen?” Alan asked.
“Oh, I’m not working now,” Galen said, a bit sheepishly. “Just
being a mother. I guess that’s rare these days, but I’ve decided it’s
best for the boys. They’re 9 and 6 and keep me going all the
“That’s wonderful!” Alan exclaimed. “We don’t have any little
ones yet, but we keep trying, don’t we, Char?” Charlotte forced a
smile. The Burnses lived in a flat outside London. He was an architect
and she was an executive secretary. They were on their way to Scotland
to spend the upcoming Easter weekend with family.
Alan did most of the talking, while Charlotte smiled and nodded.
“Robert, what do American men think of women in the U.K?” Charlotte
asked, finally speaking up. ““I imagine that with all the glamorous
European women, we’re sort of considered Plain Janes by comparison.
Am I right?” Her large, full lips were polished with red rouge, and her words
flowed through them elegantly.
“Oh, don’t sell yourself short, poor girl!” Alan interrupted. Robert wondered
how she ended up with such a gangly fool.
“Alan, I’d like to hear Robert’s opinion,” she said, rather abruptly.
Robert picked up on it quickly. “Alan’s absolutely right, dear girl,”
he said. “By all means, Englishwomen shouldn’t sell themselves
short at all.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” Charlotte said, with a smile.
She eased back from the conversation. Her eyes met Robert’s as
Alan and Galen gabbed. They still sought his opinion, but of a
“May I?” he asked, touching her pack of cigarettes on the table.
“Oh, of course.”
“I left mine out in the car,” he joked. “It’s the great American
excuse.” He went outside for a cigarette and she joined him.
They chit-chatted as he held out his lighter for her. She took his
wrist and guided the lighter toward her cigarette.
Once back inside, they ordered another round of ales and the
Harveys ordered some fish and chips. When Robert and Galen
were finished, Alan suggested that they all go up the street to their
favorite pub in town.
“We only been in town for three nights, but we’re already regulars
there,” he said. “I’d venture that I’m already in the bar keep’s will.
It’s a helluva fun place where all the local pips gather.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Galen chirped.
“I’ll settle up here and meet you all over there,” Robert suggested.
Alan pulled some money from his pocket and held it out to Robert.
“Please take this, old man!” Alan said.
“Nonsense,” Robert said, pushing Alan’s hand away.
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. My pleasure.”
“Well, thanks very much. It’s very good of you. There’ll be a pint
waiting for you.”
Charlotte was waiting for Robert outside. The spring moon was
full and the air was cool and dry. There was a strong aroma of
burning coal. She was wearing a long, dark topcoat with the collar
turned up, and smoking. She immediately took his arm and
cuddled up to him in a playful manner.
“I said, `Poor Robert doesn’t really know where he’s going,’ so I
told them to go on ahead and I’d wait for you,” she said.
“I’m glad you did,” he replied.
“Yes. I’m very glad you did.”
As they walked up the street arm in arm, Charlotte touched her
head to his shoulder. She stopped them in front of a church.
“The pub is the next block over,” she said. “We can cut through
the church yard if you’d like, although it’s rather dark.”
“Let’s,” he agreed.
She pressed against him more urgently as they walked.
She stopped them in the shadow of the church. She turned and faced him.
“I’m chilly, Robert,” she said, nervously.
He took the upturned collar of her coat and pulled her face close to
his. He lightly kissed her lips, tasting her rouge, and when she
parted her lips, he pushed his tongue deeply into her mouth. He wet
the fingers on his right hand and he felt his way under her skirt and panties.
They stood in the shadows for several minutes. He rubbed her methodically
until she groaned and shuddered with pleasure.
“Don’t say anything now,” she said, breathing heavily,
when they stopped. “We’re being missed and must be on our way.”
She took hold of him by both shoulders and looked closely at him in the dim light.
She licked him with her warm tongue and he began kissing her again.
“Darling, we must stop for now,” she said, putting her hand to his face. She wiped
her long, elegant fingers across his wetted lips and chin to remove smudged lipstick.
She then took his wet fingers gently in her hand and sucked on them while looking deeply in his eyes.
“Wipe them clean and dry, darling. You mustn’t have me all over you,” she cautioned.
Mrs. Campbell was chipper and talkative the next morning in the
breakfast room at Campbell House. Robert and Galen had finished
eating and were having another cup of coffee when Alan and
Charlotte came downstairs.
“Top of the morning!” Alan announced in his cheery manner.
Everyone exchanged greetings.
“How’d you sleep?” Mrs. Campbell asked.
“Like royalty, mum,” Alan said. “Without a care in the world.
There must be something really good in the air up here.”
“Good boy!” the landlady replied. “And you, Charlotte?”
“Very well, thanks, mum,” she said, politely, but with none of
Alan’s effervescence. She put her hand over her mouth to cover a
“Oh deary, you look like you need your coffee!” Mrs. Campbell
said. “I’ll bring it straight-away.” She scurried back into the
“That was great fun last night, wasn’t it?” Alan said.
“Yes, it was great fun,” Galen replied.
“It really was, wasn’t it?” Alan said, while munching loudly on a
tea cracker from a basket on the table. “How are you feeling,
Robert old man? You and Char put on quite the bag last night!”
Robert looked at him for a moment with his piercing, green eyes,
and then broke into a smile. “I’m ready to do it again tonight.”
“That’s the spirit!” Alan chirped.
“Yes, let’s do it again tonight,” Charlotte agreed. She glanced at
Robert and smiled.
As the Burnses ate their breakfast, it was decided that they would
all dine together that evening and then go to the pub again. Robert
told Mrs. Campbell that he and Galen wanted to stay on until
Saturday, when the Burnses were planning to depart. She was very
pleased and invited them all back for tea that afternoon.
After breakfast, the couples went their separate ways to sightsee in
the dales. At noon, in a quaint village, they ran into each other on
“Fancy meeting you here!” Alan squawked. In less than 24 hours,
Robert had grown to dislike him intensely.
“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could use a drink,”
Charlotte said. “After all, I’m on holiday.”
“Sounds good to me,” Robert said. “There was a nice-looking pub
down the street that we passed.”
“Much too early for me,” Alan said. “I’d like to browse in some
more of these wonderful, old shops. There’s an old bookstore
down the way that caught my fancy.”
“I saw that one, too!” Galen said. “But old Robert here didn’t want
to go in, did you?”
“Well, I have a solution,” Alan offered. “Let’s leave Robert and
Charlotte to their pub-hopping, and we’ll go to the shops. Fair
They agreed to meet by one o’clock in the town square.
Several townspeople were sitting in the pub. Robert and Charlotte
found an empty sitting room off the main room and ordered two ales.
“Please close the door behind you,” he said to the bar maid when
she returned with the ales. He placed a ten-pound note on the tray.
“Please keep the extra.”
The women’s eyes grew wide. “No need for all that, sir!” she
“Please keep it. And please make sure we’re not disturbed.
“Aye, sir. I’ll make sure nobody enters.” She smiled and
closed the door behind her. Charlotte immediately lifted her skirt and
straddled Robert’s thighs.
“I want you,” she whispered while kissing his ear.
“Yes, darling.” .
Upon meeting up again, the couples spent the rest of the afternoon
driving around the Yorkshire countryside in Robert’s rented car.
He kept looking at Charlotte, who was sitting in the backseat with
Galen, in the mirror. Eventually they returned to the village where
they had met up so that the Burnses could pick up their car before
returning to Campbell House for tea.
Again, the couples agreed to split up—Galen driving back with
Alan and Charlotte with Robert. Back at Campbell House, Mrs.
Campbell had a large tray of fresh-baked scones waiting for them,
and had the dining room table set with her best linens, silver and
china for her guests.
Mr. Campbell, a retired London accountant, joined them. “Well,
kids, how’ve you been enjoying yourselves in our beautiful
countryside?” he asked.
“It’s been a true delight, sir,” Alan replied, in his syrupy way.
“Did you see the castle near Askrigg?”
“It was absolutely wonderful!” Galen replied.
“It was more than that. It was positively dank and gothic,” Alan
added. “No wonder Mary Queen of Scots was such a depressed
thing. Imagine living in that place for eight years. And with those
The Campbells and Galen howled. Robert forced a smile. As they
talked, Robert stole looks at Charlotte to pass the time. She was
sitting across from him. He sat back and admired her. She had
become a goddess to him, with her long flowing hair and
pouting lips and lovely face. He wanted to run away with her.
Before the tea was over, Mrs. Campbell made an announcement.
“Tomorrow is Wednesday, market day for me,” she said. “So I will
be up and out early.”
Mr. Campbell chimed in. “And I will be out before your feet touch
the floor, my dear. I plan to make a run to Leeds for some major
supplies. Easter’s this weekend, and that means the start of our
busy season—with all those nasty tourists!”
Mrs. Campbell continued, “Since Trevor and I will both be busy as
bees, rise and shine for your breakfast by half-past seven, or sleep
in. I’ll leave coffee on the warmer and scones for the
That evening, after dinner, the Burnses and Harveys went to the
pub for cognacs. Robert was quiet and a bit sullen and broke away
from the group and ended up talking to the bar tender. He waited
for Charlotte to go to the ladies room and met her in the hallway.
“Fancy meeting you here!” he said, pulling her close and kissing
She pulled away. “Not here, Robert!,” she said. “You know you’ve
really been quite boorish tonight.”
“I just can’t stand listening to him talk all the time!” Robert
“We’ve been through all that,” she said.
He looked around and made sure nobody was coming. He pulled
her close and groped her breasts. “I want you so much, darling!”
“I know,” she said, kissing him. “But we have a problem.”
“Problem? Does he suspect?”
“Worse,” she said. “He’s talking about leaving earlier. On Friday
instead of Saturday. To beat the Easter weekend traffic.”
“Jesus, no!” Robert said.
“But I think I can talk him out of it,” she said.
“Listen to me,” he said. “Sleep in tomorrow. Say you’re too tired,
you have a headache, whatever. I’ll do the same.
The morning broke clear and cold. Robert heard Galen talking to
Alan in the hallway outside the room.
“Robert, are you up?” she asked upon returning.
He turned over and pulled up the covers. “Go ahead on,” he said.
“I drank too much. I need to sleep some more.”
“Alan’s up, and he’s ready to go.”
“Well go with him, then.”
“All right. But you sure you don’t mind.”
“Have a good time. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Have a good time,” he said.
She closed the door behind her. He got up after a few moments,
opened the door a crack and got back into bed.
He heard their voices downstairs and then, after what
seemed like an eternity, heard the entrance door slam. There
was a short period of silence, which was finally broken by
footsteps. Who was still here? he thought. He heard the
doorbell ring and then heard Mrs. Campbell’s voice and another
voice—a man’s voice. The door slammed again. And then it fell
silent again. After several more minutes of uninterrupted silence,
Robert knew they were alone in the house. He got up and tiptoed
down the hallway and through the door at the far end of the hall. It
clicked shut behind him.
Down the street, Alan and Galen were coming out of a shop when
they heard their names being called. It was Mrs. Campbell. She
was walking toward them pulling her two-wheel grocery basket
She was waving and smiling broadly.
“Galen, darling, you won’t believe who stopped in Campbell
House just as I was on my way out the door,” she said, quite
“The Queen?” Galen replied, teasing.
“No, silly girl! Guess again.”
“It must have been the Queen Mother then,” Alan quipped.
“No, you sillies. It was the parcel man. He brought Galen’s lost
“Oh, my god!” Galen exclaimed. “I’d almost forgotten it. Imagine
them driving it all the way up here? What did Robert say?”
“He wasn’t down yet, and I wasn’t about to wake him,” Mrs.
Campbell said. “I left it at the foot of the stairs.”
“Was Charlotte up and about yet?” Alan asked.
“Nay, she was sleeping as well.”
The woman continued up the sidewalk toward the market. “I must
get to the butcher before it gets too crowded,” she said, talking
over her shoulder. “Bye.”
Galen turned and looked sadly at Alan. “I want to go back, but I’m
afraid,” she said.
“Then why go back?” he replied, looking her in the eyes. “You’ll only get
“Well, how do you feel?” she asked.
“I was hurt the first few times time, but I’ve found that it’s not worth it to go
through the hurt each time. I guess I’ve learned to accept it.”
“Accept it? How can you accept it. Alan?”
“They’re not going to change,” Alan said. “So let’s not fret
about something we can’t control. Yes, we’ll have to make
decisions eventually, but not today. Let’s enjoy our time together.
Perhaps we’ll spend the day together. Perhaps we’ll just do it.
How would that be?”
“That would be nice,” Galen said, wiping tears from her eyes. “That
would be very nice.”
After showering and dressing, Robert and Charlotte drove out into the dales.
As he drove, she began hugging and kissing him passionately. She soon
rested her head on his lap, unzipped his trousers, and began performing
intense oral sex on him. As he orgasmed, his eyes rolled back in his head.
He never saw the on-coming lorry in front of them as he rounded a bend
on the narrow road.
Later, in Robert’s intensive care hospital room, he was still under sedation
and unconscious – suffering from broken legs, a shattered pelvis, and various
other injuries — as a doctor talked with two nurses.
“The constables told me that he’s a Yank and she was a Brit,” he said. “They’re
trying to find out where they met or were staying.”
“What on earth do you plan on saying to him?” a nurse asked.
The doctor squinted and scratched his forehead. “Perhaps I should get the chaplain
to speak to him when he wakes up…because he has to be told the sad reality that
his female companion is gone,” he said.
He paused a moment. “In the meantime, I’m going to have to figure out the
best way to tell him that his manhood, as he knew it, also is gone.”
About the Author:
A.G. Dumas is a longtime writer from New Jersey. His most recent short stories include “God Will Turn Eleven On Her Next Birthday,” “The Beta,” “The Robbed Is Not Blameless,” and “A New Vagina.”