On Sunday night, Joel took Susanna out for dinner. She returned to inform me “He’s telling his parents when he gets home. Wish us luck.”
On Monday, Susanna received a letter that made her sigh deeply and sadly. She handed it to me wordlessly after she had finished reading it herself.
Dear Ms. Towner, [it read]
I appreciate that it is not your fault you were allowed to develop a strong emotional attachment to my brother. He should not have encouraged your feelings for him, and for that I am sorry. When you met Joel, he was already engaged to another young woman and we would really like to retain the ties between our family and hers. No one blames you, Ms Towner, but to continue dating Joel would be to the detriment of those ties. It would be greatly appreciated if you could help us preserve them.
Please accept my sincere apologies for this sad state of affairs, which must seem terribly unjust from your point of view. Rest assured that from Joel’s description of you, you will find an equally fine, if not finer, gentleman friend in the future who will surely make you as happy as our Joel.
(Joel’s older sister)
I felt sorry for Susanna, who, while she had certainly had her annoying moments in the past, had never deserved a love fraught with difficulties. I hoped that Joel’s family would come to see the error they were making in obliging him to marry a girl he didn’t love.
On Tuesday night, Joel took Susanna to the cinema and she came back to say that Natalie had confronted her in the car park after the film. It had been a nasty shock and an unpleasant conversation but Susanna came out of it as determined as before not to leave her boyfriend.
“Whether it’s wrong or right,” she told me, “I’m staying by his side.”