Letting Go

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Letting Go

Fandom: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Characters: Douglas Ainslie, Evelyn Greenslade

Pairing: Douglas Ainslie/Evelyn Greenslade

Rating: General

Disclaimer: All characters belong to their respective owners.

Summary: Evelyn is torn over her feelings for Douglas after he comforts her during her breakdown when she returns from visiting Gaurika.


Letting Go

~*~

Evelyn stared into the distance, hardly believing the news she had just heard. It was incomprehensible to imagine, especially when she felt happiness again for the first time in years and it was all thanks to one man. Now, that he was leaving, the same coldness settled over her heart that she had been carrying ever since Hugh passed resurfaced once more. She knew it was wrong to be feeling the way she was as he wasn’t hers. He belonged to another, but on some level, she liked to believe that just for a moment that he was hers. It was a ludicrous thought, but she couldn’t get the memory of their brief encounter in the hotel corridor out of her mind. She had tried to be strong, but the feel of Douglas’ arms around her caused her emotional wall to break. She felt as if she were drowning as she collapsed into his embrace and held onto him letting him pull her back to the surface from her despair.

They had both gotten lost to their surroundings, seeming to forget about the real world for a few moments, before their paradise came crashing down around them when Jean had caught them.

“Mrs Greenslade, might I have my husband back now?”

She felt both embarrassment and guilt for letting herself get caught up in Douglas’ warm embrace as he offered comfort that she had denied herself for years. A soft apology was all she could manage as she hurried to her room to dry her eyes, never looking back. It was only after a few moments, that she made her way to the top of the hotel’s roof, and made her way over to Madge and Norman.

“Are you all right?” Madge’s worried voice asked her.

“Fine, just need a glass of water,” she replied.

Picking up the glass, she ignored their worried looks, as she drank the contents of the glass in one swallow. Her throat burned, as she felt her eyes water once more.

“That was a gin and tonic,” Madge said pointing out the obvious.

“I know that now,” Evelyn muttered, trying to keep the break from her voice.

“What’s happened?”

Evelyn was about to reply, when she heard Jean’s voice come from behind her. Taking a step back from the table, she looked over at Douglas, who have her a look of worry, and apology. His look of sympathy caused more tears to prickle at the corner of her eyes, as they threatened to fall.

“Good evening, the Ainslies.” Norman gave them a forced smile, having a feeling that Jean was responsible for Evelyn’s current emotional state. He glanced at Madge from the corner of his eye and saw that she had come to the same conclusion.

“How are you both? Madge gave Jean a fake smile keeping pleasantries.

“We’re particularly well. Douglas, tell them our news.”

Evelyn looked over at Douglas who kept his attention on the ground, unable to look at anyone.

“I guess, I’ll just come out with it then. We’re going home.”

Those three little words had continued to plague her thoughts as they journeyed back to the Marigold Hotel. The atmosphere had become tense and awkward as Jean continued to chat away, oblivious to the fact that no one was listening to her.

“The whole thing is actually exciting. Not just getting on a plan, but getting on a plane and turning left.”

Norman looked at her confused, “turning left?”

“First class. And home in time for our 40th wedding anniversary. We haven’t yet decided how to mark the occasion.”

Jean’s words caused more heartache to wash over her. It just made her situation more difficult to bare. She guessed in her own way she only had herself to blame, for getting carried away with their friendship. Their brief moment in the hotel corridor wasn’t their first, as she recalled the night he had saved her from being hit by a tuk-tuk after a lovely meal. She had felt the same safety and comfort in his embrace before they had pulled apart, and looked up into each others eyes. It felt like her world had stopped, as Douglas lean in closer, before they pulled apart at having being interrupted by a street band who decided to play romantic music for them thinking that they were a couple. How she wished it were true, but it was a fantasy. Nothing more. She would never become between two people in a marriage. It would be best to forget all about her time together with Douglas. It would make her situation more bearable, but at the same time, she didn’t want to let him or the memories go.

So lost in her own thoughts, she didn’t see Madge’s concerned look until her voice filled the compartment causing her to give a faint smile at her words.

“Perhaps a minute’s silence.”

The rest of the journey was made in silence until they reached the bustling crowds outside as they approached the train station. Evelyn tried to stay as far away as possible from Douglas as they walked out into the hot Indian sun and over to the tuk-tuk’s that were stationed in front of them.

The thought of being close to Douglas in such a confined space, caused her to feel suffocated. She couldn’t go through with it. Thinking of the first excuse she could think of, she informed the group that she would walk back to the hotel in the hopes to see more of the festival that they were getting prepared for. It was only partly a lie, she did want to see the festival, but she would rather see it on her own. It would give her much needed time to think about everything that’s happened over the last few weeks.

“Perhaps you would like one of us to accompany you?” Douglas chimed in, hoping she would say yes. He needed to speak with her alone. It was never his intention to hurt her, and it seemed he had done what he swore never to do.

“I’m happy to walk with you.” Mage cut in, seeing the conflicting look in Evelyn’s eyes at Douglas’ proposal.

“I’ll be fine.” She gave them what she hoped was an encouraging smile, before she turned to Jean.

“I’m delighted for your daughter’s success. I wish you all every happiness,” she said, the words leaving a foul taste in her mouth.

“Thank you,” Jean replied giving her a fake smile, before stepping inside one of the tuk tuk’s.

Madge, Norman, and Douglas watched as Evelyn walked into the crowd with a look of sadness. Douglas was just about to go after her when he felt a hand tighten on his arm.

“Give her time,” Madge whispered so Jean wouldn’t hear.

He simply gave a faint nod in agreement as they got into the tuk tuk’s leaving the train station and Evelyn behind.

Douglas looked over at Jean who continued to stare out the window, refusing to look at him. He had done everything in his power to make her happy over the years, yet it seemed it was never enough. He was never enough. Jean had never voiced those thoughts, but he could tell she had often thought it. Then he had met Evelyn, who was the complete opposite of Jean. She was kind, soft spoken, loyal and treated people with the respect they deserved. He had instantly warmed to her the first time he had set eyes on her. She was special. If he had met her before Jean, would his marriage be a lot happier than what it currently was? The answer was probably, yes. There was no denying there was a connection between him and Evelyn but was it enough to throw away forty years of marriage? It was tempting, but he wouldn’t become the man who left his wife for another woman. Evelyn deserved better. Perhaps it was best that they were going home, yet at the same time he couldn’t help but feel that it was the wrong decision.

/*\*/*\

Evelyn had just finished the call with her son when she saw Sonny outside. Picking up her bag, she left the station and called out him. It was a few seconds before he saw her and came rushing over.

“What’s the matter?”

Sonny ignored her question, and instead continued to look around the surrounding area.

“Mrs Greenslade, where are the others?”

“They’re on their way back to the hotel.”

Sonny looked around at a loss. “I wanted to warn you before you see for yourself the momentous changes that are occurring, absolutely all of them without question for the very positive.”

Evelyn stared up at him confused; “What are you talking about?”

“I am delighted to announce the closing of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and the joyful return of all its inhabitants to their home country.”

Evelyn was lost for words. The news was the final nail in the coffin. She tried to think of a response, but she was still in a state of shock at what Sonny had just told her.

“Perhaps we should sit down,” Evelyn told him, walking over to the wooden bench and sank down with Sonny joining her.

“As for myself, the news is even better. I shall be moving to Delhi to live with my mother, and furthermore, I shall be wed to a most suitable person of her choice, whom I look forward very much to meeting before I spend the rest of my life with her.”

“But what about your girlfriend? What about Sunaina?” Evelyn pressed him for more answers.

“She is no longer my girlfriend,” Sonny replied.

Evelyn heard the same heartbreak in his voice that she herself felt earlier. “This is a disaster.”

Evelyn looked out into the bustling crowd. “Do you love her, Sonny? Do you love Sunaina?” she turned back to face him already knowing the answer.

“Most deeply.”

“Have you told her you love her?”

Sonny shook his head, “It’s because I love her that I must not tell her. She can do so much better than me.”

“And you have told her that?”

“Many times.”

Evelyn shook her head, “Good, women love it when you say that sort of thing it’s a powerful aphrodisiac.”

Sonny’s eyes lit up at her reply, “Really?”

“No, of course not. Go and find her, before you lose her forever. Her future is hers to choose, and so is yours. You can have anything you want Sonny. You just need to stop waiting for someone to tell you, you deserve it. Or you can just keep failing yourself and hurting the ones you love.”

Sonny’s eyes sparkled with excitement, “You have just struck gold.”

Evelyn was slightly taken aback at his response. “Excuse me?”

“You’re right. Everything you have said is what I’ve been needing to hear.”

“Good, I’m glad.” Evelyn gave him a smile.

“But I will say this, Mrs Greenslade, perhaps you should take your own advice.”

Evelyn narrowed her eyes, “What do you…”

“You and Mr Ainslie.” Sonny gave her a knowing smile. “He makes you happy.”

“Sonny he’s married.”

“Yes, but a marriage is based on love, trust, loyalty, and happiness. Mr Ainslie doesn’t seem happy with Mrs Ainslie. Everyone has noticed. I think Mrs Hardcastle was hoping Douglas would send her packing so you and Douglas would settle down together.”

“Madge is a dear woman, but she likes to live in a fantasy world.”

“Perhaps, but maybe it’s time you listen to your heart and tell him how you feel. That way if it doesn’t work out, it will still hurt, but it will give you the closure you need to move on.” Sonny gave her an encouraging smile.

“And here I thought, you needed help with women’s feelings when you seem to already know everything there is to know.”

“I am a man of many talents Mrs Greensalde. Now I had best find Sunaina.” He stood up and ran to his bike before rocketing off down the street, leaving Evelyn sitting on the bench speechless as to what had just occurred.

Shaking her head, she stood up and made her way back to the hotel, thinking over Sonny’s words wondering whether to take on board the younger man’s advice.

/*\*/*\

Douglas and Jean were packing their belongings in silence as each of them were lost in their thoughts. Upon arriving back at the hotel, the news that the hotel would be closing was still raw in everyone’s minds. It seemed all of them would be heading back home after all. He had tried to pack as slowly as possible in the hopes to catch Evelyn before they left. Even if she didn’t want to see him, he still needed to tell her goodbye. The sound of Madge and Carol’s voice outside, reached his ears as he tried to listen to their conversation. It seemed Norman would be staying after all. He wished the older man luck with his new life with Carol. He just wondered what Evelyn would do once she was back in the UK. From what he could recall, she had to sell her house because of Hugh’s debt, he hoped she had somewhere to go when she arrived home. He didn’t like the thought of her being alone.

He was nearly finished packing when he heard Madge call out Evelyn’s name. Placing the shirt in the case, he stood up and looked into the courtyard to see her standing and speaking with the two women. It was clear that she already knew about the hotel’s demise after hearing it from Sonny. He continued to stare at her, her white hair becoming silver as the sun continued to shine on it, making her stand out from the other two women. It was his last chance to memorise every detail of her, knowing he may never get the chance to do so again.

“Douglas, are you done?” Jean called over to him, trying to keep her temper in check when she realised he wasn’t listening to her.

Walking over to the window, she followed his direction and couldn’t stop the scowl on her face as her eyes settled on the smaller woman.

“Do you love her?” Jean asked looking up at him.

Douglas looked over at Jean, unsure how to answer. Did he love her?

“For god sake Douglas, it’s a simple question, Do you love her?” Jean repeated finally losing her patience.

“Yes, I believe I do,” Douglas admitted seeing the hurt look flash in his wife’s eyes.

Jean have him a watery smile, “then what are you waiting for? Go to her.” Jean ordered walking away.

“What about you, us?”

Jean turned with a look of defeat, “The truth is Douglas, we both deserve more than we’ve had.”

Douglas took a step forward, but Jean put her hand up to stop him coming closer. “Please, let me finish.

He gave a nod willing her to continue.

“I think we can both agree that our marriage hasn’t exactly been the happiest one. The only reason it has survived as long as it has is because you are too kind and too loyal to end it. So, I’m doing what we should have done years ago. I’m letting you go.” Jean gave a watery chuckle, “Somewhere down there, is a woman who I know will make you happy.”

“Jean…”

“I’ll be all right, I’m turning left. Now, go to her.”

“She may not feel the same…”

“Oh for goodness sake Douglas, use that head of yours, anyone can see how much you care for her. You and her share a connection that we have never had, so go to her. Love her, you both deserve to be happy.”

Douglas pulled his wife into his arms holding her in one last embrace. “You deserve happiness as well, and somewhere out there, someone is waiting for you.”

Jean pulled back and wiped the tears from her eyes, “Well, what are you waiting for, go.”

Douglas placed one final kiss on Jean’s forehead.

“Goodbye, Jean.”

“Goodbye, Douglas.”

Jean watched him go, feeling a weight lift off her chest. She may not be the nicest person in the world, but she wasn’t heartless. This was for the best. She had forty wonderful years of marriage with Douglas. Even though it was more of a friendship than a marriage she knew it was time, she found someone who made her happy.

Walking over to the window, she saw Douglas approach Evelyn before the two of them disappeared from view. She was about to turn away when Madge caught her eye, and lifted her glass to her, with a smile.

She gave a faint nod of her head, before picking up her case and leaving her old life and the Marigold behind knowing she had made the right decision. It was time to start a new life.

/*\*/*\

Evelyn and Douglas walked down the courtyard in silence, both of them not knowing how to start the conversation. It was a few moments before, Douglas stopped causing Evelyn to look up at him.

“I’m glad you agreed to speak with me.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t I?” Evelyn replied trying to hide the turmoil she was feeling with a faint smile.

“I don’t quite know how to put this, I’ve never been one for speeches.” Douglas rubbed his forehead, wondering how to start.

“You had best be quick before Jean notices you’ve gone.”

“She knows,” Douglas admitted softly.

“Sorry?” Evelyn asked confused.

“She knows, actually it was her that I suggested I come and speak with you. You see, Jean and I got talking and we decided that it wasn’t working between us. It hasn’t been for quite some time. I guess it took this trip for us to realise that tiny detail.”

Evelyn looked away, “I’m sorry Douglas. I suppose our friendship didn’t do your marriage any favours.”

“Quite the opposite in fact.” Douglas gave her an unsure smile. “It made me realise that although I loved Jean, I was not in love with her. Our marriage was never a happy one, we were always at each others throats on a daily basis. We should have ended it years ago.” Douglas admitted softly. “The only reason it lasted so long was because according to jean I was too kind and loyal to leave her.”

“She was right. You are loyal Douglas and kind.” Evelyn turned back to him. “You were one of the first people I really opened up to, the other being Graham.”

“I feel honoured, but there is something else I need to tell you. I’ll understand if you don’t feel the same.”

Evelyn felt her mouth become dry as she waited for him to continue, wondering if he was going to tell her what she had been feeling these past few weeks.

“Tell me.” she urged.

“These past few weeks, my feelings for you have changed. To be honest, at first, it scared me. I had never felt anything quite like it before, not even when  I was married to Jean. I was finally happy. Then when I saved you from being knocked down from that tuk-tuk, all I could think about was kissing you as I held you in my arms.” Douglas looked down at her, expecting her to turn and walk away, but her smile gave him encouragement to continue.

“When you told me about your marriage to Hugh in the hotel corridor before Jean walked out, I wondered what it would have been like if we had been married instead. Would it be different, or would our lives be the same? It’s only now, with small thanks to Jean that I want to start a new life with you. God knows we deserve some happiness.” Douglas joked before coming serious once again. “But I’ll understand if you want to remain friends…”

Evelyn shook her head, “no.”

“Sorry?”

Evelyn chuckled, her blue eyes reflecting happiness at what Douglas suggested, “What I meant to say was, I think I would like to take a chance on us, more than friendship just to clarify.”

Douglas felt relief wash over him, “We can go as slow as you want, I’m not going to pressure you.”

“Douglas, at our age we can’t afford to go slow, sometimes it’s best to go in the fast lane.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Douglas gave her a loving smile. “Shall we?” He took her bag from her grasp and held his arm out for her to take before walking to her hotel room.

Madge and Carol looked on from the alcove and shared a smile, “It’s about time.”

Carol nodded absentmindedly in agreement. “They’re good for each other.”

“Yes and one can just imagine what they are going to get up to,” Madge muttered mischievously causing them both to giggle.

The sound of a bike approaching caused them to stop as they saw Sonny and Sunaina dismounting off the bike before Sonny approached his mother.

“This ought to be interesting. Shall we?”

The two women made their way back downstairs wondering what lay in store for all of them now.

“Mummyji? Mummyji!”

“I’m right here Sonny, there is no need to shout.” Mrs Kapoor scolded her son.

“Do you remember what my father used to say? That nothing happens unless first, we dream.”

Evelyn and Douglas came to a stop, as they listened to what Sonny had to say.

“Like him, I have dreamt, Mummyji, and like him, I have failed. The Marigold hotel is crumbling into dust. And it turns out I can live with that. But the one thing I will not do is live without this girl. To whom I did not introduce you properly before”

Evelyn looked on in pride that Sonny had taken her advice.

“I take it you had something to do with this, darling?”

The term of endearment caused Evelyn’s heart to quicken, “No, he’s done this on his own.”

Douglas reached out and took Evelyn’s wrinkled soft hand in his own which caused her to smile. They may all just get their happy ending after all.

“This is Sunaina Shantanu Palawat. The woman I love and wish to marry.”

Sonny turned to Sunaina who stepped forward with a smile. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Mrs Kapoor.”

Everyone held their breaths wondering what would happen, they didn’t have to wait long before Mrs Kapoor refused to listen.

“No. I forbid it.I forbid this match. Utterly and completely. Do you hear me, Sonny? This cannot happen.”

The surrounding area was silent until a soft voice penetrated the air in Hindi.

Everyone looked over at Young Wasim, wondering what it was he was saying.

“Sunaina, can you translate?” Evelyn asked.

“He is saying, that he has been with this family as long as he can remember. Given them a lifetime of service. And that he remembers another fight, between two young people and their parents. And he remembers the moment where the young man stood up to his mother…”

“And said, yes, I want to marry this woman.” Mrs Kapoor cut in smiling faintly at the memory. Yes, she is from a different community. But she is smart, she is beautiful, and I love her.” Mrs Kapoor shook her head as she came out from her thoughts, “I don’t know who he is talking about.”

She took a step forward and took Sunaina’s hand in her own, “Take care of my favourite son.”

Sunaina smiled before taking her place by Sonny’s side. “I will.”

“That’s all I ask. Now, we shall see about getting all of you flights back home.”

Muriel wheeled herself forward, with a stack of papers sitting on her lap. “You do know, that his hotel doesn’t have to close? It all depends on how you read the accounts.”

Sonny looked at her confused, “the accounts?”

“Yes, turns out the original plan is good, it works. Just not in the hands of an imbecile.”

“I knew that plan was good.”

Muriel pressed on before Sonny got too over excited, “What the place needs is more money.”

“Unfortunately, while Mr Maruthi has declared that while he greatly admires my endeavours, he cannot-“

Muriel waved a hand in front of him to cut off his ramblings, “He’s reconsidered.”

“You spoke to him?” Sonny asked in disbelief.

“So as long as there is someone to help the manager.”

Sonny smiled, “The manager needs no help.”

“Sonny…” Sunaina admonished.

“The manager needs a little help.”

Muriel turned to the rest of the group, “So will you stay?”

“I’d like to.” Norman declared looking at Carol, who gave him a smile.

“I’ll think about it.” she told him giving him a subtle wink knowing he already had his answer.

“What about you Mrs Hardcastle? You’re staying.” Muriel stated rather than questioned.

“What? On my own?”

“You’re off your game. Lost your confidence perhaps. But you.” she pointed at Madge “are a thoroughbred. You’ll be back.”

Madge gave her a smile, knowing she was right. She still had it, she just needed to take a leap and find someone.

“And you Mr Ainslie, Mrs Greensalde, you’ll be staying. I can already tell.” Muriel gave them a knowing smile.

Evelyn and Douglas looked up at each other knowing they would be no place they would rather be. It may only have been a few months, but the hotel had become their home, and they wouldn’t be leaving it anytime soon.

“Now, I think that’s everything,” Muriel stated as she stood up from her wheelchair and walked a few steps towards the office. Feeling the pain in her hip increase at the small action, she turned to look at Sonny who brought the chair over to her, before she sank down.

“That’s enough exercise for one day.”

They all watched as Sonny wheeled Muriel from view, and gave relieved smiles glad that everything had worked out all right in the end.

Evelyn and Douglas made their way up the steps to her bedroom. Everything was the same way she had left it, and she couldn’t help but give a sigh of relief that she was finally home.

“I don’t know about you, but I think today’s events are catching up with me,” Evelyn stated as she sat down on the bed.

“Yes, it has been a rather eventful day. I can come back later if you prefer to be alone.”

“Stay.” Evelyn looked up at him hoping he would agree to her offer.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. If we are going to be a couple. We may as well get used to the idea.” Evelyn told him softly lying down on top of the bed suddenly feeling tired.

“All right.” Douglas agreed before taking off his shoes, then lay down next to her.

“You meant what you said, didn’t you?” Evelyn looked into his eyes.

He reached out a hand and gently caressed the side of her face, “Every word.”

Their faces were inches apart and Evelyn felt all train of thought leave her as she felt his lips brush against hers, gentle and lingering until her mouth parted slightly beneath his kiss and her hand moved to settle at his hip. She felt her eyes close getting lost in the moment. Evelyn couldn’t stop the moan escaping as his tongue explored her mouth. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt such passion. Everything around them seems to disappear, as they lay wrapped in each others arms enjoying their perfect moment of bliss.

When the need for air was too great, Evelyn pulled back and opened her eyes to see Douglas’ smiling face staring back at her.

“Is it too early to tell you, that I think I’ve fallen in love with you,” Douglas muttered softly.

She gave a tearful laugh and shook her head. “It’s never too early, Douglas. We’re in the fast lane, remember.”

“I remember, darling. I don’t know what the future holds for us Evelyn, but I know that I’m going to enjoy every minute I have with you.”

“Likewise, Douglas and you should know, I think I’ve fallen in love with you too.”

Douglas returned her a smile, before turning to lie on his back as Evelyn rested her head on his chest finally drifting off to sleep. Douglas looked down at the sleeping woman in his arms. It was true what he said, he didn’t know what the future would bring, but he knew deep in his heart that everything would work out all right in the end.

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