Nestled in the lush greenery northwest of London, stands a grand manor known as The House of Pembrooke. This magnificent estate was owned by a man named Alfred Wilson Pembrooke, who built the home in 1921 when he had attained the age of thirty. Hitting that age unexpectedly sparked a sadness in Alfred that he knew he had to conquer – he was lonely and desperately needed a life partner. And he wasn’t lonely for a lack of trying. For many years he dated obsessively but those dates never turned into anything meaningful.
As he looked at his life he was beginning to feel that he must suffer from some unseen malady which kept him in a perpetual state of bachelorhood. Though his life was going along rather well, he jealously watched as his friends and relatives married at a ferocious pace. One after another he saw them walk down the aisle into wedded bliss, which then, of course, led to parenthood. Owning three dogs just wasn’t a very good substitute for being a father.
Time passes quickly as one ages and before Alfred knew it, it was 1926. It was five years since he moved into his beautiful estate, and he was still unmarried. Now he was certain that something was terribly wrong with himself. He was resolved to try one last time to find his soul mate.
His thirty-fifth birthday would soon arrive, and he felt it was time to do something on a grand scale. So he decided to throw a lavish birthday party for himself. He invited his family, which consisted of his parents, Jacqueline and Herbert, and his two younger sisters, Gwendalyn and Astrid; his aunts, uncles, and cousins, which numbered around one hundred and fifty; and his friends, which added an additional one hundred and twenty-five people to the mix. He hired the finest party planner in all of London to create something so memorable that it would certainly impress some fine lady. His secret wish was that someone would bring along a charming woman who would be interested in marrying him. Although he wasn’t aware of it, his luck with the ladies was about to change.
Alfred was born on August 7, 1891, and here it was 35 years later. His home never looked better, and the scene had been set for a party that many in the community wished they had been invited to. The company he hired to plan this lavish birthday bash was busily getting everything just right. The large ballroom looked like something out of a Hollywood movie and certainly something that would impress even his majesty King George.
The guests began to arrive and mingled in the ballroom as the wait staff strolled through the party offering the guests champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The orchestra was set in place and began playing the latest music of the day. Many of the guests began to dance and the jubilation of the event began to ramp up.
Once all of the invitees had arrived, the orchestra leader got everyone’s attention and introduced the birthday boy. As Alfred entered, the mass of people stood and began to sing Happy Birthday to their beloved friend. Alfred cut a rather dashing figure as he strolled into the ballroom and stepped up onto the stage. He wore an off-white linen suit with matching vest, a light blue, fine cotton shirt, and a maroon silk tie. His speech was short but heartfelt, which brought tears to some of the guests, but especially his mother.
Once Alfred sat at the lead table, the wait staff began delivering one of the finest birthday meals any of them had ever seen. Alfred’s sister, Astrid, sat at a table with her best friend Alice and turned to her and said, “My brother certainly knows how throw a party. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Alice replied, "Yes, and he looks as if he just stepped out of a Hollywood musical. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him. I almost forgot how handsome he is.”
Astrid laughed, “Well, I wouldn’t go that far." She paused for a moment and then continued. "You know, I just realized that you’ve never really met him. After all these years it seems rather unbelievable. You’re my best friend. I should introduce you to him.”
Alice smiled politely and replied, “Well, let’s not bother him on his big night. It’s not that important.” But to Alice it was important. For years she had secretly thought about Alfred and how attracted she was to him. She thought to herself, Maybe another time.
“Well,” Astrid stated, “if you change your mind, let me know.”
Often when we are doing something that is pleasurable, time seems to zip by quickly. And it was certainly true for Alfred’s big birthday extravaganza. But as the party drew closer and closer to an end, Alfred was feeling ever more despondent. Yes, there were a number of young, eligible women at the party, but he knew them all, dated most of them and, well, they just weren’t the ones he was looking for. Soon the party would be over, and he would once again be alone in his oversized home.
As he wandered aimlessly through the remains of the party, he noticed a beautiful, young woman sitting alone on the stairs leading up to the second floor of his home. She had short black hair, deep blue eyes, and ruby lips and was wearing a Champagne colored, spaghetti strapped, Gatsby dress. Who is that woman. How did I miss her, he wondered to himself. He walked over toward her and said, “Are you bored?”
She looked at him with her piercing blue eyes and replied, “No, Alfred, not at all, I’m just sort of lost in my own thoughts. I’ve had a grand time.”
“Do I know you,” he asked.
“No, we have never been formally introduced, but I’ve known you my entire life. I’m Astrid’s best friend, Alice. She and I would play together at your parent’s home and, of course, you’d be roaming in and out never noticing me. You are a bit older than I am,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“Well, I’m certainly noticing you now. Why hasn’t my sister ever introduced us before,” he asks.
“Well, just tonight she realized how absurd it was that we were never introduced before. However, for the past five years I’ve been in America studying at university, Wellesley, and just received my degree in English literature. So, Alice was not able to introduce us as I wasn’t here. She is blameless,” she stated.
“Well, you are here now, and I am very pleased to have finally met you,” he stated as he reached out and shook her hand.
Alice paused before replying as she realized that she was about to say something that most people would think was rather aggressive for a young woman, even if things were changing for the better. But she pressed ahead anyway. “To tell the truth, I was kind of hoping this would happen. I admired you from afar during my younger years. I would hear Astrid’s stories about you and your adventures. You always seemed so confident in who you were and what you did. So, I decided to emulate how you lived your life. Charging ahead and seeking what you wanted. So, you see, you inspired me to become the person I wanted to be, a writer. And now I am one,” she said with a happy look of confidence on her face.
Alfred felt stunned by her statement and sat down on the stairs, “I inspired you,” he asked.
“Yes, yes you did, very much so. Is that so hard to believe,” she asked, as she gazed toward him.
“Yes, I guess it is hard to believe. I don’t think I’ve ever inspired anyone, at least that I know of. But I’m certainly exceedingly pleased to know that I played a small part in helping you become a writer, even if I wasn’t aware of it. I’m at a loss for words,” he said, with a sense of awe in his voice.
A flood of emotions went through Alfred. He had never felt so moved in his life, and to think he helped shape Alice’s life in such a positive way. He just sat there on the stairs for a moment taking in how he was feeling.
“Are you all right, Alfred,” Alice asked in a concerned way.
Alfred replied, “Oh, yes, very much so. You caught me off guard. Here I was thinking that I’d introduce myself to you and then I discover that I’ve played a very impactful role in your life. It’s quite stunning. I never thought I was living my life in any way other than ordinary.”
“Well,” Alice replied, “it didn’t seem ordinary to me. In fact, I thought you were rather extraordinary.”
As they continued to chat, Alfred was overcome by the fact that he had never been so drawn or mesmerized by a woman before. It was an entirely new experience for him, and he rather enjoyed it. But then thoughts of disaster began to creep in. What if she was just being nice but really had no interest in him? He decided to quell those doubts one way or another. It was time to take immediate action.
Alfred, with his heart racing, looked at Alice and said, “I am truly enjoying our conversation and would love to continue it in the future. So, I’m wondering if you might be interested in accompanying me tomorrow for dinner and then dancing at this new jazz club I discovered recently. That is, if you are available.”
What Alfred didn’t realize was that for Alice, this meeting was a dream come true. Her heart was also racing once she realized he wanted to spend time with her, significant time. She was shaking from excitement and replied, “Yes, Alfred, I am available. I’d love to join you and I’ve never actually been to a jazz club. It sounds thrilling to me.” Alfred reached out and held Alice’s hand and the two hopeful lovers stared at each other for what seemed like seconds but was actually minutes. Finally, Alfred said, “I’ll pick you up at six.”
And that was it; Alfred and Alice’s lives were changed forever. Alfred hopefully met his soulmate, someone he might spend the rest of his life with; and Alice had her dream come true of finally meeting the man she held in her heart for many years. True love won out when it was least expected. Would they live happily ever after? Only time would tell.