The first words seep through into Frank's dream and is 'Dream Alan' all he seems to be?
A movement to his left caught his eye and as he looked over, he saw Ray closing the door silently behind him and motioning for Bob to come over. Easing himself out of the chair, Bob stepped lightly to join Ray at the door.
“What did you say to him?” Ray asked, his voice the barest whisper.
Bob shook his head.
“Nothing,” he admitted in a hushed tone. “I’m too scared to.”
Ray nodded. “I don’t think I could either.”
“I’ve done enough damage already.”
“What?” Ray asked, the pitch of his voice rising but the volume staying low. “What are you talking about?”
“This is all my fault, and don’t say it isn’t because it is.”
“It was an accident, Bob.” Ray tried to reassure him.
Bob merely sighed in reply and shook his head. Ray frowned. Bob needed more than a brief few words; he needed a shoulder. Grabbing Bob’s arm, Ray opened the door and pulled him out before closing the door quietly behind him.
“Come on,” Ray nodded to emphasise his words. “Let’s get a coffee, you need a break anyway.”
Despite the late hour Ray and Angela begged and cajoled their friends and family to go with them to the town’s tavern. Once more than a couple of them had been convinced, it became obvious that an announcement was on the cards and it became increasingly easy for them to encourage people to join them. Once everyone was gathered, drink in hand, Ray and Angela announced their engagement. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were perfect for each other and anyone could tell from the way they looked at each other that they were deeply in love. It made it all the more confusing that Bob, Angela’s brother was seated in the corner of the room staying as far away from the celebrations as he could, in deep conversation with a tall stocky man with mid-brown hair.
“Bob?” Ray called as he wandered over to the darkened corner of the room.
The man with him looked up urgently and displayed a nervous expression. Whispering a few brief words to Bob, he snatched up his belongings, lowered his gaze and darted from the bar, almost knocking Ray over as he left.
“What did you say to him?” Ray asked, looking back towards Bob.
“Nothing,” Bob replied evenly.
“Well, something scared him,” Ray glanced back over his shoulder; the man was nowhere to be seen.
“Yeah, well, something’s scared me too.”
“What’s wrong?” Ray asked, puzzled as to why Bob had secreted himself in a dark corner of the tavern, completely ignoring his only sister and Ray’s celebrations.
Bob shook his head and lifted the tankard to his lips only to have his arm stopped half way by Ray’s hand gripping it firmly.
“What’s wrong?” Ray repeated.
“Nothing,” Bob growled switching the tankard to his other hand and taking a long draught so that half was gone by the time he lowered his hand once more.
Ray regarded the man who would soon be his brother-in-law. It wasn’t that he didn’t care for his sister, it wasn’t even that he and Ray didn’t get on. Bob could be distant and very private, but he was very much a family man and since the death of their father had almost taken on the mantle of surrogate parent to Angela, vetting all of her suitors. Ray had been the only man since their father’s death that he had approved of, so now, his distracted behaviour was bewildering to Ray. Did he not approve of their marriage? Was he angry that Ray hadn’t come to him and asked for her hand? There was nothing more to do but ask him outright.
“Aren’t you happy for us?”
Bob looked up, surprised by the directness of the question.
“Do you really love her?” he asked taking another swift drink.
“What kind of a question is that?” Ray asked, astonished that Bob didn’t know the answer after all this time. “Of course I do! You know I do, I’d do anything for her!”
“Anything?” Bob queried finishing the drink and motioning to the serving girl for a refill.
“What are you asking?” Ray asked narrowing his eyes suspiciously. “Who was that?”
“Before I answer that, I want to ask you one more thing,” Bob raised his eyes in a stern glare as his tankard was refilled.
“Go on,” Ray was beginning to appreciate the seriousness in Bob’s tone.
“Why do you let her work at that house?”
“Because it’s not my place to stop her,” Ray frowned at the suggestion. “And anyway, why shouldn’t she?”
Bob scowled and absently tapped the side of his drink.
“If you can seriously ask that, you’re not marrying my sister.”
“What! You can’t tell us what we can or can’t do!” Ray jumped to his feet angrily only to be pulled roughly back down into his seat.
“I can’t tell you, but I can tell her!” Bob growled. “You can’t honestly tell me you don’t know what she has to deal with in that place! You see her all the time!”
Ray’s face grew pale. Yes, he knew that something was wrong; she had frequently come home subdued or even bordering on tears, but she had never confided in him the reasons, no matter how much he begged, pleaded or even insisted. He had eventually assumed that she must have been rebuked over some trifling matter or perhaps it was her natural ability to be cross at herself over small things upsetting her. He hadn’t considered that there could be anything seriously wrong; she could tell him anything, couldn’t she? In that moment, as all the uncertainties passed through Ray’s mind, Bob’s expression softened.
“You really don’t know, do you?”
“What?” Ray’s expression changed into a mixture of worry and concern for his beloved fiancée. “What’s happened? Sometimes she’s upset when she comes home, but she outright refuses to tell me anything, no matter what I say. I always thought that if it was bad, she’d tell me.”
Bob sighed and offered a sympathetic smile.
“I think it’s because it’s bad that she won’t tell you.”
“Please, you have to tell me, what’s going on! Who was that man you spoke to earlier?” Ray asked, now frantic with worry, imagining all manner of unpleasant scenarios.
Calling for another tankard of ale for Ray, Bob explained.
“His name is Alan; he works for Way as his stableman. He told me that Way has secretly ordered new livery for his horses and a bridal coach is being built for him at the coachworks in the next town.”
“So?” Ray asked hesitantly. Even though it was fairly obvious to him where Bob was alluding to, he still didn’t want to believe it.
“He’s got his eyes on Angela he’s planning to force her to marry him at a secret ceremony at the house next week.”
“I can’t believe it,” Ray shook his head. “He can’t force her… can he? But she’s never said anything.”
“I told you it was bad. She’s trying to handle it herself; you know how stubborn she is, but if you asked her outright if he had ever forced himself on her, she couldn’t look you in the eyes and deny it.”
Ray’s fingers curled tightly around the handle of the tankard until his knuckles whitened.
“I’ll kill him!” he spat angrily through gritted teeth.
“No you won’t,” Bob replied gently but firmly as he placed a sympathetic hand on Ray’s arm. “If you do, his brother will have you strung up before you can blink.”
“What then?” Ray welled up at the idea that his innocent love was suffering such indignity in silence. “He can’t get away with this!”
“You have to leave, both of you, get as far away from here as you can, start a new life.”
Both men stared at each other briefly for a moment. Ray could see the hurt in Bob’s eyes at the necessity of losing the only family he had left, but neither could he bear the thought of what he had just been informed that Gerard Way was doing, and worse still, what he was planning.
“But…” Ray gasped at the idea. “My farm. Everything I have to offer her is here.”
Bob shook his head kindly.
“Everything she needs is sitting right in front of me.”
“He can’t do this!” Ray objected to his new life being torn apart before it even began.
“But he will, if you don’t get away now,” Bob sighed, “I’ll help you.”
“Don’t mention it to her. It’s all arranged. Alan will bring you a horse and trap, you can load all the belongings you can and get away, while you still can.”
“The day after tomorrow,” Bob forced a smile. “Do you think you can keep this in? Behave normally?”
Ray nodded sadly. “Anything for her.”