Friday, 31 March 2017

Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (32) It Happened at the Seaview Hotel

(Part 01)

It was towards the end of June when Iain Akhurst drove along the promenade at Sharpington-by-Sea.
It always made him smile when he visited the traditional seaside resort which he was pleased to see still boasted a Victorian Pier, The Palladium ballroom, and of course the Sharpington Fun Park.
He liked it because it was like stepping back in time with the illuminations, crazy golf, and the amusement arcades in fact all the usual things to have a great time by the seaside
He parked the car and walked along the promenade and paused to sit in the well maintained gardens and looked out to sea.
As he left the gardens after a few minutes he looked across to the Sharpington Fun Park.
It was the first purpose built amusement park to open in Britain, and had an assortment of rides, like the Rotor and the Wild Mouse, The Cyclone and the Morehouse Galloper, all very tame compared to a 21st century roller coaster but was still great fun, and he spent many a happy hour in there during his youth.
He toyed with the idea of going in but instead headed towards the seafront hotels.

After checking in he sat in the lounge bar of the Seaview Hotel and was enjoying a pint when she walked in.
He didn’t recognise her at first and he had to do a bit of double take.
She was still as beautiful as ever but her lustrous brown hair that used to be cut in a tidy bob now flowed in brunette waves over her narrow shoulders and the business suit she customarily used to wear had been replaced by faded denim jeans, a pink top and a long flowing cardigan cut in the style of an Afghan coat with fake fur trim and bright brocade panels.
Francine Delise looked so different from the young woman he had last seen 18 months earlier at their mutual friend Ran Michaeli’s New Year party.

Her eyes were sharp and intelligent behind her gold rimmed spectacles that sat on her aquiline nose and with her finely chiselled features she was the attractive side of beautiful but only for the fact she wasn’t wearing a scrap of make-up.
But despite the hair, the clothes and a lack of makeup, the eyes and the smile could not be disguised.
It was a case of “what you see is what you get with Francine” just as it was the first day she walked into the office straight out of University.
That was eight years earlier and as the old man of the team at 33 he adopted the role of the avuncular and took her under his wing and showed her the ropes and of course try as he might, not to, and despite the 12 year age difference he fell in love with her.
There was no double take for Francine, she recognised him instantly and she beamed a broad smile and he realized as she walked towards him that he was still in love with her.
“Iain Akhurst! She said “What are you doing here?”

(Part 02)

She was never a tall girl but in her flat shoes she had to stand on tip toes and he had to stoop so they could properly embrace.
“I had to see a client locally” Iain said “It ran on later than expected so I decided to put up here for the night”
In truth he always liked booking a meeting late on a Friday and then he could stay at a local hotel for the night, two if it suited him.
“Not Brocklington Broadcast International?” she said “I’ve been trying to nick him off you for two years”
“I know, keep your hands off, BBI is my pension”
Iain said and they both laughed
“Anyway what about you?” he asked “What brings you here?”
“My sister lives in Sharpington” Francine replied “and she’s just had twins”
“Wow Aunty Francine” he said “that still doesn’t explain why you’re here”
“Because I’ve only been an aunty for five days and I’m exhausted”
She said and slumped down in her chair
“Oh dear” he said “No stamina, you youngsters”
“Honestly if I don’t get a good night’s sleep before I drive home I won’t make it” she explained
“So this is as far as you got?” he asked
“I so need a good night’s sleep” Francine said and hugged the cushion to her chest and Iain found himself feeling so jealous of that cushion
“Do you think you might stay awake long enough to have dinner?”
Iain asked
“It depends who’s paying” Francine answered peering over the top of the cushion.
“My treat” he said and it really was a treat to see Francine again and he knew in that moment he was still hopelessly in love with her.

Iain’s hand was shaking as he was stood at the bathroom sink to shave and he paused to look at his reflection.
“Who am I trying to kid?”
Since he’d last seen her 18 months earlier she hadn’t aged a day while he thought he looked as if he’d aged 10 years and that he stood less chance of getting her than ever.

He did nothing about his attraction toward her in the years he worked with her but imagine.
There was a near miss beneath the mistletoe at the last office Christmas party she attended.
But as every man in the office had the hots for her they didn’t give her a moments peace, and the sought after kiss beneath the mistletoe never happened.

The following year at Ran Michaeli’s New Year’s Eve party he found her on the dance floor and once again they had a moment but once again it came to nothing and like smoke it slipped away and she slipped through his fingers and that was the last time he had seen her which was 18 months previously.
So understandably he felt that it would never be.

Despite his misgivings he shaved and showered and made the best of what he had, such as it was, and he went downstairs to the bar to wait for her.
When he got there she was already sitting at the bar perched on a barstool waiting for him.

(Part 03)

Francine was still wearing jeans but she now wore a white smock top decorated with tiny pink roses and she was made up to perfection and was already halfway through a large glass of white wine.
“Hi” he said as he leant in and kissed her cheek
Her hair was freshly washed and was subtly scented with the fragrance of apples, while her skin exuded the aroma of coconut and he lingered by her cheek, perhaps a little longer than he should have.
While he was in such close proximity to her his senses were assailed by the scent of just a little too much Channel, which was unusual for her, she was normally more subtle than that.
She was always a very subtle girl, or at least she had been when he’d worked with her.
“You look lovely” he said when he had come up for air.
“And you smell good enough to eat” he added to himself
“This is the only thing I had left that didn’t smell of baby sick” She confessed “but to make doubly sure I doused myself with perfume”
Well that cleared up for him the little mystery of the unsubtle scenting.
“You smell delicious” he said “not a hint of baby sick”
“Honestly?” she asked
“Honestly” he replied just as he caught the barman’s eye “Do you want another?”
“Hmm yes please” she replied and drained her glass
When the drinks appeared they made their way to the restaurant, it was a walk they had done many times before during his mentoring days.
It was a favourite of Iain’s and they had stayed at the Seaview Hotel many times before and had eaten in the restaurant more often than not.
But that was in the distant days when he was mentoring her in his avuncular role and fancying the pants off her.

Iain and Frankie sat in the restaurant and as they ate their starters they talked about the old days, the colleagues they both knew, mutual friends and how both their careers were going.
However what Iain really wanted to talk about was her, the personal stuff, what she had been up to in her life over the 18 months since they had last met and the two years since they worked together, and more importantly who was in her life.
“What about you?” she asked taking him by surprise as he tried to frame that same question in his own head.
“What?” he asked
“What about you?” she repeated this time with more than a hint of a slur “are you spoken for”
To his amusement he watched as she appeared to rerun the question in her head and seemed alarmed by her realization of what she had actually said
“What I meant to say is… um… err… are you… erm…”
It tickled him to watch her struggle and getting more flustered but decided to put her out of her misery.
“I’m still single”
“Oh” she responded trying to appear indifferent “still not met the right girl?
“I wouldn’t say that exactly” he replied but didn’t elaborate, the truth of the matter was he had met the right girl but she didn’t want him.
“What about you then?” he asked
“Still footloose and fancy free” Francine replied

(Part 04)

Dinner came and went as did desert and all the time their glasses were refreshed, but it wasn’t until they were having liqueurs that he plucked up the courage to say what was on his mind.
“I’ve really missed you”
She seemed both surprised and pleased by the revelation and Iain wondered if she heard him correctly or if it was just the effect of the wine on her processing ability
“I’m sorry” she replied
“Why did you go?” he asked “I never understood why you left”
“I had to” she replied earnestly
“But why?” he asked more emphatically
“Because I knew how you felt about me” Francine confessed
“You knew?” he asked aghast
“You knew and you said nothing?” Iain asked angrily
She nodded
“That was cruel” he said and then there was an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes as the waiter cleared the empty glasses from the table, when he had gone she said
“I thought it was for the best”
The waiter hovered just out of earshot of them but made it obvious that as they were the last two diners and he was ready for them to leave.
“I think we have out stayed our welcome” he said flatly and got up and Francine followed suit.
“Goodnight” he said to the waiter and headed towards reception leaving Frankie in his wake.
“Let me explain” Francine said as she trotted behind him but Iain ignored her and pressed on along the corridor, but she caught up with him as he stopped to allow an elderly lady to go through the fire doors.
"I thought if I put some space between us, you would stop caring about me" she said from behind him and Iain spun round on her in response
"You thought my feelings were so fickle, so insincere that they would just evaporate away if I couldn’t see you?"
“No” she snapped at him crossly
“I did it because I thought that mine would”
“What?” he said doubting his own hearing
“I left because I was falling for you” she said
“And did it help?” he asked
“No” she said and fell in to his arms “I fell for you anyway”
“So you made us both unhappy” Iain said gently and held her close to him
“Yes” she replied and then Francine began to cry
“Don’t cry honey” he said and in response she looked up at him through tear filled eyes and he kissed her, a kiss he had longed for and dreamt of for eight years and when it was over he was not disappointed.

After their long awaited magical first kiss they walked hand in hand to the door of his room where they kissed again and then Iain unlocked the door and pushed it open but Francine paused in the doorway.
“Before we go any further” she said “I have a confession to make”
“You don’t have to say anything honey” Iain replied
“I really do” she insisted
“Ok” he replied a little concerned at what might follow, some revelation that would undermine the gravity of the moment, so he waited as Francine took a deep breath and blurted out
“I haven’t shaved my legs since the twins were born”

Mornington-By-Mere – (32) Be My Guest

(Part 01)

Mornington-By-Mere is a small country village lying in the Finchbottom Vale nestled between the Ancient Dancingdean Forest and the rolling Pepperstock Hills.
It is a quaint picturesque village, a proper chocolate box picturesque idyll, with a Manor House, 12th Century Church, a Coaching Inn, Windmills, an Old Forge, a Schoolhouse, a River and a Mere.
But Mornington-By-Mere is not just a quaint chocolate box English Village it is the beating heart of the Finchbottom Vale.

Corner House aptly stood on the corner of Purplemere Road and West Gate Road in the part of Mornington Village known as Manorside.
There were a number of cottages and small houses on the Purplemere road and Dulcets Lane, but Corner House was a large 8 bedroom Victorian monstrosity which had at one time been the home of the master brewer of the Mornington Brewery.
It was now the Corner Guest House run by affable landlady Kay Richardson assisted by her children Paul 24 and Stephanie 23.
For 5 years Kay had her nephew Calvin Chance living with her as well, and while he was there he managed to build up a reputation locally as a solid and reliable worker.
As a result of that reputation he got regular work at Mereside Farm renovating an old cottage which was where he met and fell in love with April Hoddinott.
They worked together from autumn till spring unable to show their feelings for each other but they eventually went on their first date appropriately in April.
It was a whirlwind affair after that, they Married in June and had their first child Carrie in the following February and the new family lived together in the cottage they had renovated together.

So as a result of her nephew starting his new family she had another room to rent out.
Which was very beneficial as there was never any shortage of guest’s requiring a room such was Corner House’s reputation.
Kay Richardson had worked very hard over the years running the Guest House to build up that reputation as well as raising her children as a single parent.
Her husband abandoned her and the children when Steph was only a few weeks old so she and her mother ran the guest house but she died suddenly just at the point when things should have begun to get easier when both children were at school full time.
But that wasn’t to be.

There were of course no shortage of willing hands in the village to help but she couldn’t afford to employ a lot of outside help.
As Paul and Steph grew up they were able to help out as well as long as it didn’t conflict with their schoolwork.
She wanted her children to have options that she never had and make their decisions accordingly.
As it turned out neither Paul nor Stephanie wanted to leave the village they loved it there too much, so when they left school Kay took them on full time and they earned their livings from the guest house which was always busy.
It was also at that time that her nephew Calvin moved in which gave her another pair of hands.
But as steady as the trade was she always closed Corner House at Christmas so she and the children could have a proper Christmas.
The last guests would check out on the 23rd and the earliest check-in was 3 o’clock on the 27th.
It wasn’t a big break but they made the most of it.

(Part 02)

Throughout the year Corner House was always busy if not fully booked, and even at the quietest times they had more money coming in than they had going out.
It was mixed trade, at weekends they were Birders, Ramblers or fishermen and weekdays they were mainly business guests.
However when the Mornington Estate exercised its option to purchase Mornington Field from the MOD the conversion of all the buildings and infrastructure on the airfield to commercial premises brought in a much steadier weekday business trade.
And it was the commercial space on Mornington Field which was what brought Robert Gregory to the village.

He was a manufacturer of handmade toys who was interested in taking on one of the converted units to use as a workshop and storage area and between Christmas and Easter he had stayed at the Guest House at least one day every week more often in fact than he really needed to.
Because he was a toymaker, The Richardson’s called him Santa because apart from making toys he was also stout, jolly and had a white beard and hair to match.
He was not as old as his hair colouring suggested, he had white blonde hair when he was a child which darkened slightly when he reached adulthood before turning white again in his late thirties.
As the year reached the Easter weekend he was actually 47 years old, his wife died when his children were very young and it was to amuse his children that he began to make toys.
As the children grew up he found he had more time to indulge what was at that time a hobby.
But when he had a garage full of his creations and the children were more interested in Xboxes and Playstation’s his sister Janice suggested he take them to a car boot sale.
Janice did some research online to gauge the prices to see what they could ask and then the two of them went off early one Sunday morning to the Nettlefield Antiques Fair and Car Boot Sale with a carful of toys and they set up their stall and had sold out by midday.
It was after that first successful day in Nettlefield which planted the seed of what was to become a very successful business employing almost 50 staff.
But now he was in his late forties, the children had all left home and two of them had children of their own, and he thought it was time for a new chapter in his life.
So when he arrived at the Corner House Guest House in January and first met the voluptuous Kay Richardson he thought the Gods had smiled on him.
So while he was totally committed to setting up another workshop in Mornington his primary reason for visiting quite so frequently was to see Kay.
He was taken with her the very first time he saw her and that feeling had not diminished since.
In fact his feelings had deepened it was just that he wasn’t able to put those feelings into words when he was with her.
He had a whole speech, carefully rehearsed in the car on the drive to Mornington but the moment he saw her and his brain turned to mush.

(Part 03)

Kay Richardson had been alone since her husband absconded leaving her at the age of 21 with two small children.
Kay was still an attractive woman though fast approaching her 45th birthday.
She had the same facial features as her daughter Stephanie but she had a fuller figure than Steph, who she resembled in every other way, but she carried it well.
Robert looked at her and saw a voluptuous woman but when she looked in the mirror all she saw was fat.
She had fair hair with just a hint of grey and striking green eyes.
And because she had been alone for over 20 years, she was lonely, she had her family around her and she loved them dearly but that wasn’t the same as having someone to snuggle up to at the end of the day or someone to share the mundane minutiae of the day.
Kay had loved Gerry and she hadn’t really felt whole since he left, not that she missed him in the slightest and she felt no love for him but she needed someone, she deserve someone because she was a warm and loving person.
But she didn’t dwell on it or feel sorry for herself, she had always had to be strong for everyone since her mother died and she had built a stable home for her children as well as running the B&B to great effect.
Kay was proud of her children as well they had grown up into nice people, good and kind.
In Paul Richardson’s case he had literally grown up, he was very tall, almost six foot six, and stick thin with mousy hair and big feet.
He was a hard working lad and what leisure time he had, and there wasn’t much, was split between his hobby of birdwatching, and his girlfriend Cally Wilson.
Cally was only 21 and was a trainee chef at the Old Mill Inn and they were perfect together because she stood six feet tall herself with short curly auburn hair, and a very large bust, lovely eyes and a nice smile and Paul loved her very much.

At 23 Stephanie was a year younger than her brother and eight inches shorter but other than that they were very alike, stick thin, big feet, mousy hair and good hearts.

The week began with a normal Monday at the Guest House for Paul who along with his sister were cleaning the vacated rooms of the weekenders.
Monday was normally the worst day of the week for them because after the weekend visitors had checked out the rooms needed servicing before the Monday afternoon arrivals.

That Monday however they had Cally helping as Monday was her day off and the sooner Paul got finished servicing the rooms then the sooner he could do the same to her.

With the extra pair of hands they made great progress and had all the rooms completed and the landings hovered by 1 pm.
And it was as they were on their way to the kitchen for lunch that Paul noticed Robert Gregory’s car pull into the car park.
“Is that a guest arriving already?” Steph asked
“Yes its Mr Gregory” he replied
“Oh he’s the one your mum fancies” Cally said as they looked out of the window and when she turned around Paul and Steff were staring at her open mouthed.

(Part 04)

“Oh he’s the one your mum fancies” Cally said as they looked out of the window and when she turned around Paul and Steff were staring at her open mouthed.
“What do you mean?” Paul asked breaking the silence
“Your mum fancies Mr Gregory” Cally said in surprise and was met again with stony silence.
“Blimey do you two go around with your eyes shut”
“You’re wrong” Paul said with a half laugh
“Trust me she fancies him” Cally reiterated
“No she doesn’t” Steph chimed
“I know he likes her but then why shouldn’t he,
Mum’s still an attractive woman”
“I agree” said Paul “She’s just being friendly, like she’s friendly to all the guests”
“Ok then if you don’t believe me just look at her face when he walks in and then tell me that she thinks he’s just another guest” Cally challenged them
“Alright then” Paul said accepting the challenge and all three of them positioned themselves on the stairs so they could peer through the spindles at the door where Kay would immerge to greet the arrival of a guest.
They heard the front door open and Robert Gregory’s footsteps as he walked up the hall to the reception desk.
He put down his suitcase, straightened his tie and rang the bell.
A few moments later the staff only door opened and Kay stepped through it into reception and her face broke into the broadest smile.
“Oh Hello Robert” she said fiddling with her hair
“Hello dear lady, you’re looking as lovely as ever”
“Flattery will get you everywhere” she replied and she played with her hair again.
They watched on from the stairs in silence as the scene unfolded before their eyes but when Robert headed for the stairs they moved quickly up the stairs ahead of him and hid until he had passed by then Paul exclaimed
“My God you’re right Cal she does fancy him”
“How did we not notice?” Stephanie asked
“I told you so” Cally said
“Alright Miss Marple there’s no need to gloat” Paul said “But mum is clearly smitten”
“I think it’s mutual” Steph added
“Then it’s obvious what you need to do” Cally said
“What?” the Richardson’s replied in unison
“We must breathe on the embers” she replied
“What does that mean Sherlock?” Paul asked
“We have to play cupid” she replied
“Oh no I don’t think so” Paul said forcefully “we shouldn’t get involved”
“Why not?” Cally asked “Is it because you would like it if they got together?”
“No of course not, she deserves to have someone in her life other than us” he replied
“So why don’t you want to get involved?” Cally asked
“I just think we should let nature take its course” Paul said
“But that’s not working is it?” she said “they’ve been flirting with each other since January and they’re still no closer to doing anything about it”
“Cally’s right” Steph said “it’s time for an intervention”
“Ok then what do you suggest?” Paul conceded
“Well a birthday dinner obviously” she replied
It was Kays birthday the following Monday which gave them a week to put their plan into action.

(Part 05)

Normally Robert only stayed for a day or two every week but as Block C on Mornington Field was formerly being handed over to him the following day he was planning to be on site all week overseeing the fit out so he was staying all week and into the weekend.
And he was determined to make his time at Corner House count by asking Kay out for dinner unaware he had three allies who would assist in his endeavour.
Kay for her part was delighted to have him there all week but it happened to be a week when they were fully booked and he was busy in the new unit so they didn’t see as much of each other as either of them had hoped.

The fact that they were attracted to each other was an unexpected development for Paul and Steph and they had never had the slightest intention of becoming match-makers until Cally had pointed out what was happening under their noses, or not happening as was actually the case, and since Cally’s revelation they had been disappointed with the couple’s progress.
So when Paul, Steph and Cally came across Kay and Robert talking in reception on Friday afternoon they took their chance to move things along.
“I need to extend my stay until Tuesday, possibly even Wednesday” Robert was explaining
“The work is taking longer than anticipated”
“Oh dear” Kay expressed trying to sound sympathetic
“Did you say you have to stay on a bit longer?” Paul asked
“Yes we’ve hit a bit of a snag” he replied
“Well that’s handy, it’s Mum’s birthday on Monday” Steph said
“Is it really?” Robert said “And might I be indelicate by asking which one”
“Forty five” Kay confessed
“Surely not, I don’t think you look a day over 40” Robert said kindly and touched her hand
“Flatterer” she said and smiled
“Sounds like serendipity to me” Steph continued “Why don’t you have dinner together”
“Stephanie!” Kay said crossly “Don’t be so forward”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea” Robert said “perhaps we could go to the Old Mill”
“The restaurant doesn’t open on Mondays” Cally said
“Oh that’s a shame, in that case perhaps we could go to Shallowfield instead”
“Yes but if you go all the way over there you won’t be able to have a drink” Cally pointed out “But I could make a special birthday meal here”
“That’s very sweet of you Cally but I have the other guests to consider remember” Kay said
“That’s ok I can cook for them as well” she replied
“Well that sounds like a plan to me” Robert said
“Well under the circumstances I can’t really refuse, so thank you Cally that will be lovely” Kay conceded

Afterwards Paul, Steph and Cally were feeling very pleased with themselves for their cunning and Cally was singled out for special praise for her quick thinking.

Robert wasn’t quite sure how it had all happened but he was delighted with the outcome and as for Kay she knew that she had been railroaded by her children but she was happier than she had been for many years until it sank in and she started to panic and called her best friend.
“Phil!” she said “Come quick I need help”

(Part 06)

Kay’s best friend was Philomena Cruickshank and she was best known as Aunty Phil, the matriarch of the St George family, who were the custodians of the Vale, and the residents of Mornington Manor.
They had been friends for the five years since Phil first moved to the village from her home in Tipton, in the north of the county, when her sister was taken ill.
She was wise and brimming with stoical strength and practicality and Kay was to be her matron of honour when Phil was to be married to the Vicar of St Winifred’s, Peter Cockcroft next April.

“So what exactly is the trouble?” Philomena asked
“I’m having dinner on Monday” Kay replied
“Ok” Phil said “but I’m not seeing anything life or death yet”
“With Robert”
“Really? That’s brilliant news” Phil said “About time, tell me everything, when did he asked you?”
“Well he didn’t actually”
“So you asked him, good girl” Phil said
“Well no I didn’t ask him either”
“Ok now I’m officially confused” Philomena said
Kay then went on to explain how the children and Cally had cajoled them both into having dinner together on her birthday.
“But that’s rather wonderful isn’t it?” Phil asked
“You’ve been wanting him to ask you since the first time he stayed here”
“I know, but now it’s happening” Kay announced “And what if I blow it, what if I bore him to tears, it might easily happen, I’m not a very interesting person, in fact I’m quite boring”
“What nonsense, you are witty, charming, intelligent and articulate” Philomena corrected her “Not to mention attractive and sexy”
“Now you’re just being silly” Kay said

On Monday because it was her birthday Paul and Stephanie gave their mum the day off and took care of everything between them while Cally and her best friend from the restaurant Tegan got going in the kitchen.

When they had finished servicing the rooms and had hoovered and dusted throughout they set up a table for two in the private dining room for an intimate candlelit dinner.

While they busied themselves at Corner House, Philomena Cruickshank was getting Kay spruced up at Mazzone’s Beauty Salon in the village.
They didn’t normally open on a Monday but when Phil phoned Antonella Gardelli over the weekend and explained the situation she had no hesitation in offering to open the shop just for her.
Kay had been very kind to Antonella when she first moved to Mornington, she helped her out with part time work when she was struggling to make ends meet and later to get one of the Brewery Cottages by lending her the first months rent and so she had great affection for Kay.

Antonella went to town on Kay doing her hair, nails, eyebrows and a facial and by the time she and Philomena left Mazzone’s she felt like a new woman.
Which meant she just needed to put on her best frock and a bit of bling.

(Part 07)

Kay left her room wearing a cocktail dress and her mum’s best jewellery and she looked stunning and Steph met her on the landing and they stood together, to the casual observer they couldn’t have been anything other than mother and daughter, Kay was just a curvier version of Stephanie.
“Wow mum you look lovely” Steph said
“I’m not sure I needed to dress up” Kay replied
“Of course you did” Steph said “How often do you get the chance to dress up mum?”
“I know but….”
“Why wouldn’t you want to look your best” Stephanie said
“I should have worn jeans” Kay said “this looks like I’m trying to hard”
“Nonsense, you’ll knock him sideways” she said and kissed her mum

They walked down the stairs together arm in arm and then Kay put her hand on the dining room door handle but Steph stopped her
“No not in there you’re in the private dining room”
“Don’t be silly we don’t need to eat in there, Robert and I can eat with the other guests”
“Do as you’re told mother” Steph said
“When did you get so bossy?”
Stephanie opened the door to the private dining room and Robert was sitting at the candle lit table.
“Hello” she said
“Wow you look stunning” he said and kissed her cheek “Happy birthday”
“Thank you but I think it must be the candle light”
“You’re far too modest” he said
“Thank you”

Cally and Tegan had worked tirelessly all day to produce the finest gourmet meal for Kay and Robert to make it a memorable occasion.
The food was wonderful and during the course of the meal, the conversation flowed along with the wine and they both shared things about their lives that they had never shared with anyone outside their inner circles of friends and families.
At some point between a wonderful Moroccan inspired Lamb dish and a desert that made her taste buds tingle the conversation naturally turned to Toy making and the new premises.
“Why don’t you come and have a look at the place?”
“Well as I’ve heard so much about it and as you paint such a vivid picture I’d love to” she replied
Coffee and liqueurs followed desert and the conversation got onto future plans like walks in the local countryside and maybe even a drive to Sharpington.
When they had finished their liqueurs Kay suggested they go into her sitting room where it was more comfortable.
Robert thought that was a wonderful idea and stood up to attend to her chair but when she had stood up she turned and kissed him.

When Paul and Steph returned to the kitchen after clearing the tables in the guests dining room he asked
“How is it going in there?”
“Well I think they enjoyed it, all the plates were cleared” Cally replied
“And they were very complimentary about the lamb” Tegan added
“Not the food” Steph said “how is it going?”
“Oh I see” Cally said “Well they’re kissing so I suppose it’s going quite well”
“What exactly do you mean by kissing?” Paul asked “was it a peck on the cheek or a “thank for the company” kiss or was it something more?”
“Something more I would say” Cally said
“To be perfectly blunt they were snogging” Tegan said definitively

(Part 08)

Over the following few months Kay and Robert saw a lot of each other as he was in Mornington for 3 or 4 days every week.
And when they were in her sitting room one evening after the guests had been fed they were chatting when the subject of the Sharpington Day Parade came up.
“I haven’t been to the parade since the children were small, we had such a lovely time” she said and then her eyes filled with tears
“What’s the matter?” he asked putting his arm around her
“It was the last trip we had with mum before she died”
He comforted her for a few minutes and then he suggested
“Why don’t we go to the parade this year?”
“That would be lovely”
“We could put up at the Seaview Hotel for a couple of nights and make a weekend of it” he said “Separate rooms of course, what do you think?”
“Yes” she said “I would love that”

She felt a little nervous about broaching the subject with her children, she wasn’t sure how they would take it.
So over breakfast one morning as they sat around the kitchen table she just came straight out with it
“Robert has invited me to Sharpington for a couple of days on the Bank Holiday weekend to see the parade” she said
“That’s brilliant” Paul responded
“You deserve a break” Steph added “You should have a weekend away when someone else is cleaning after you for a change”
“Are you sure?” Kay asked suddenly doubting herself “I don’t think I should go”
“Why shouldn’t you go?” Steph asked
“It will mess up the rota for one thing” She replied stubbornly
“Oh hang the rota” Paul persisted “We can cover for you for a few days”
“Well that’s all very well but who will cook dinner for the guests?” Kay said
“You hadn’t thought of that had you?” she retorted “You two can’t manage to do that as well”
“Cally has volunteered to help with the cooking whenever we need cover as long as we give her some notice” Paul said “I think six weeks is sufficient”
“Oh” Kay said
“So you have no excuse do you?” Steph said triumphantly
“But...” she began
“You know how good a cook Cally is” Paul said
“But...” she began again
“And furthermore you know that Paul and I are perfectly capable of running things”
“Ok I give in” she submitted

That was the only protest she put up until the morning she was due to leave and Paul and Stephanie ganging up on their mother was having no effect so Paul called in an ally.
“Phil? It’s Paul she’s weakening”

Kay was pacing up and down in the kitchen nervously as she fretted about her weekend away.
“I’m not sure about staying overnight” she said to her friend
“Relax, Robert has booked two rooms at the Seaview Hotel” Philomena said “Nothing has to happen unless you want it too”
“Philomena!” she scolded
But her friend just gave her a look and Kay sat down hard on the chair.
“I wouldn’t know what to do anyway, it’s been so long” she said “There hasn’t been anyone since Gerry, in fact there wasn’t anyone before Gerry”
“You’ll be fine” Phil said reassuringly “It’s like riding a bike”
“Yes well I fell of the last time I rode a bike” Kay said
“I’m not sure I should go at all” she said “I’ll call him and cancel”
“Nonsense” Phil said sternly “Robert really likes you, and I mean “really” likes you”
“Oh ok” Kay said meekly
“Just relax and enjoy yourself” Philomena said and hugged her friend “Then if you feel like a special treat, you will know what to do when the time comes”
“Are you sure you should be marrying a Vicar?” Kay asked and they were both laughing and hugging when Paul and Stephanie walked in.

Robert picked her up half an hour later without further protest and Philomena received a text from her the next morning just as she was leaving for church which simply read.
“Apparently I can still ride a bike”

Downshire Diary – (32) Mother’s Day Duty

(Part 01)

Clare Harwood and her mother Anna lived in the village of Clarence which was a mile or so from Purplemere.
She was 27 years old, pale skinned, strawberry blonde, five foot nothing tall and whippet thin and her mother was just an older version of her daughter.
Her Father David had died the year before and as she was an only child there was only the two of them.

They both worked at the Royal Downshire Hospital in Purplemere Anna was a clerical officer and Clare was a district nurse.
The two of them did a lot of things together, shopping, eating out and the theatre.
But for Mother’s Day Clare had bought a three day, all-inclusive spa break for her mum, plus one, at the Tipton Manor Hotel and Spa in the north of the county.
She booked for two because she knew her mum would never go to a place like that on her own.
But her mum insisted she wanted to go with Clare, so they could spend some quality time together doing girls stuff.
Well that wasn’t the kind of thing Clare had in mind, it wasn’t her kind of thing at all.
The younger Clare wasn’t the rest and relaxation detox kind of girl at all, she was more of a “burning the candle at both ends” and toxing her socks off kind of girl.
So it was with some trepidation that she agreed to accompany her mum.

In order for her to get the best possible deal Clare had booked a midweek mini break, she was a nurse after all, so money didn’t grow on trees, but the earliest she could get was at the end of April.

It was a long drive from Clarence, on the outskirts of Purplemere, to Tipton in the north of the county but then they had taken the decision after getting off the expressway to take the scenic route through The Pepperstock Hills National Park.
But the scenery in the Park was well worth the additional time with its stark contrasts from the extensive tract of magnificent mixed forestry to the south and east, the old Quarries reclaimed by Nature to the west to the bare, and often barren crags to the north.
However despite the scenic splendour she had witnessed when they arrived Clare was not in the best of spirits.
To her mind there were much more enjoyable ways of spending her days off than babysitting her mother.
As much as she loved her she wasn’t exactly the type of company she was interested in she would have preferred to spend her days off searching for her prince charming, god knew it was difficult enough to do without having your mother riding shotgun.
But she resolved to make the best of it and try to get her monies worth.

They were greeted in reception by a very attractive specimen of a man and Clare’s spirits rose.
He was over six feet tall, lean and muscular, very good looking and well groomed, he was manicured and pedicured, toned, tanned and smelt like a perfume counter.
Naturally Clare marked him down as gay.

(Part 02)

Clare and Anna were greeted in reception by a very attractive specimen of a man and Clare’s spirits rose.
He was over six feet tall, lean and muscular, very good looking and well groomed, he was manicured and pedicured, toned, tanned and smelt like a perfume counter.
Naturally Clare marked him down as gay.

“Good morning ladies” he said with the faintest hint of a French accent.
“Good morning” they replied in unison
“We have a booking in the name of Harwood” Clare said
“Ah the Harwood sisters” he said
“You know very well we're not sisters you cheeky boy” Mrs Harwood said in a style something akin to a Carry on movie.
“You're not sisters?” he asked feigning surprise
“Mother and daughter” she said
“And which one are you Mademoiselle” he said and kissed her hand
“Cheeky” she said and blushed
Clare didn’t contribute to the converse but continued her appraisal of the man and concluded what a waste it was for him to play for the other side.
When the Oscar Wilde capers were over and done with they managed to get themselves checked in, it was while her mum was signing in that Clare caught him at the back doing some appraising of his own, of her and her mother and she began to question her initial assessment.
“When you have settled into your room I will give you a tour of the facilities” he said “Shall we say on the terrace in 30 minutes?”
“That will be fine” Clare said
“Of course with your lovely pale skin you two will need to stay in the shadows” He said.
Clare smiled and her mum blushed at the compliment.
According to his name badge his name was Claude and he was very handsome and she thought things might well be looking up if he didn’t bat for the other side.
“You can check my skin anytime” Clare said
“I’ll bare that in mind” he retorted
“You’re a terrible flirt Clare” mum said
“I know” she said, “although I think of it more as advertising”

They went up to their rooms and settled in and then went down stairs to find Gorgeous Claude.
However as the approached the terrace they came across him fawning over another group of women of mixed ages, ranging from 16 to 60, and they watched as he ogled and drooled over all of them and Clare felt her skin crawl and she shivered.
“Yes I know what you mean” her mum said “he’s a real lounge lizard.
So they decided to skip oily Claude’s tour and just wandered around on their own.

Their sojourn took them to the pool area first, they saw the Rock sauna, infra-red sauna, aroma steam room, ice fountain, drench showers, Jacuzzi, a Romanesque pool and the swimming pool as well.
After which they headed towards the sun lounge and refreshments which was when they literally bumped into Phil Grice and his uncle, Roger Greven.

(Part 03)

The collision between the Harwood’s and Roger Greven and his nephew Phil Grice resulted in Clare falling into a planter and Roger lying flat on his back with Anna on top of him nose to nose.
Phil Grice was the only one left standing and unsure who he should help first.

He decided on the pretty young one in the planter, who was left like an upturned beetle, with her legs waving about, which was what he noticed, her lovely legs, she was also giggling which he liked to.
“I’m terribly sorry”
He said and took her hands and pulled her to her feet, it took little effort as she was a tiny little thing and he was over six feet tall.
She was still giggling and was unable to respond and when she saw her mum lying on top of a strange man her giggles turned to belly laughs.

All four of them were laughing by the time everyone was on their feet again and between the laughter everyone expressed their apologies for their clumsiness.

In between giggles Clare kept giving appraising glances at the good looking man who had pulled her to her feet and she liked what she saw, to the point that she though he put Claude in the shade.
He was six feet two inches, athletically built with short sandy hair, blue eyes and a close cropped beard.
And while she was looking at him he was sneaking glances at her, he had been very impressed with her legs when she was in the planter but now she was stood up on them they rather paled into insignificance compared to the rest of her.

When the laughter had subsided her mum said
“We were headed to the sun lounge for a coffee, perhaps you would join us”
The two men agreed and Clare thought “Nice one mum”

When they were seated in the lounge and the drinks were ordered the introductions were made.
Roger Greven, who walked with a stick, was a year older than Anna and Phil Grice was the same age as Clare.
Roger was there for aqua therapy to rebuild his muscles after shattering his pelvis following a fall from his horse, and his nephew Phil was there because Roger hadn’t been passed fit to drive.
“Are you from Tipton?” Clare asked
“No we are from Sharping St Mary in the Finchbottom Vale” Phil replied
“Really?” Clare exclaimed “we’re from Clarence”
“So we are practically neighbour” Anna said to Roger
They stayed in the lounge for over half an hour in which time Anna and Clare discovered that Roger was widowed and Phil was single.
Unfortunately before they could glean any further information one of the therapist staff approached the table and informed Roger that it was time for his session.
So they parted company with expressions that they hoped they would run into each other again during their stay.

After they had gone Clare and Anna looked at each other and said in unison
“Well they were nice”

(Part 04)

During the remainder of their first day and all of the next, despite their best efforts, they didn’t see Roger or his nephew.
But they had a great time using the facilities and enjoyed the full range of what was on offer, fitness classes, gym, rock sauna, infra-red sauna, aroma steam room, ice fountain, drench showers, Jacuzzi, a Romanesque pool, Reflexology, Raki, facials, scalp massage, hand massage, Manicure and Pedicure you name it they had it.
But by the end of the second day Clare was getting increasingly frustrated that she hadn’t even had a glimpse of the lovely Phil.
After her and her mum had dinner together Anna went off to bed as she said she was exhausted and Clare went off to the Gym to try and relieve some of her sexual tension.
After an hour she realised it wasn’t working so she decided to have a swim before turning in.
While she was swimming Clare noticed she was not alone, and wondered what it was that brought them to pool.
She swam another two lengths and then got out but as she reached the entrance to the changing rooms her companion spoke.
“I see you managed to not bump into anyone” Phil said as he exited the pool.
“Yes” she replied “That’s because there was no one around”
“Ah that would explain it” Phil said
“I did try to bump into you again, but I could find you” Clare said flirtatiously have you been avoiding me”
“No” he replied “I just haven’t been here, I was only here to drop Uncle Roger off, and then I had to leave for an appointment”
“For what?” Clare asked nosily, hoping it wasn’t an assignation
“I had to see a client about a commission” he replied “I’m an artist”
“So when did you get back?”
“About 20 minutes ago, I was a bit stiff after the drive so I thought a swim might relax me before bed” he replied
“And did it work?”
“Not really” he replied
“What you need is a massage” Clare said
“Unfortunately there are no masseurs around at this time of night” he said regretfully
“I’ll do you if you like” she offered hoping he would take it the right way. “I’m a nurse and I have healing hands”
“Ok” he agreed
So she led him into a cubicle and said
“Lie down on the table while I find the oil”
Phil complied with her instruction and climbed onto the table and lay face down on the towel she had prepared.
When she had found the oil she turned around to see him lying on the table like a delicious buffet.
She applied the oil and began to rub it into his muscular shoulders
“That feels nice” he said and for the next 15 minutes she continued her massaging caresses of his sculpted body.
Although it was relaxing Phil it was unfortunately having the opposite effect on her so she slapped his buttock and said
“That’s you done”
“Wow that’s what I call a relaxation massage” he replied
“That was bloody marvelous”
“I told you I had healing hands” she said and he sat himself up and swung his legs around so he was sat facing her
“Do you have anything more to show me from your repertoire?”
“Well I do but I don’t think this is the time or the place for it” she replied provocatively
“But I do think this is the time and the place for a kiss though”
She continued and stepped in close to him
“But I’ve never kissed a man with a beard before”
“Nor have I” Phil retorted and kissed her.

Clare and her mum had to go home after lunch the next day but they spent lunchtime with Phil and his Uncle and when they left Clare and Phil found a secluded corner to share a goodbye kiss which would have to sustain them until the weekend when they were meeting up again.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Tales from the Finchbottom Vale – (31) Like a Thief in the Night

(Part 01)

Sharpington-by-Sea is a traditional seaside resort complete with a Victorian Pier, seafront hotels, crazy golf, The Palladium ballroom, well maintained gardens, promenade, theatre and illuminations, all the usual things to have a great time by the seaside, as well as amusement arcades and of course the Sharpington Fun Park.
Which was the first purpose built amusement park to open in Britain, which had an assortment of rides, like the Rotor and the Wild Mouse, The Cyclone and the Morehouse Galloper, all very tame compared to a 21st century roller coaster but still great fun.
It was also a popular resort for retirees and boasted a number of static caravan parks.

Seventeen year old Wendy Corney lived on the Potters Lane caravan park in Sharpington with her alcoholic mother.
She was a skinny waif with short mousy blonde hair which made her look like a shaggy dog.
Wendy was a tomboy, a pretty one with elfin features, but a tomboy none the less, and two things defined her, one was her mother who neglected her and the other was her inherent goodness, despite her low self-esteem, and all she needed was a break.
Which she eventually got as a result of a break in.
It was June 6th and her mother was passed out drunk on the sofa and Wendy was starving.
There was no food in the caravan and her mum had spent the last of the money on the booze that had led to her comatose state.

So she left her slob of a mother unconscious in the caravan and went out looking for food.
As she walked towards the town she saw Mr Goodman walking the other way, he was a retired school teacher and she knew where he lived and that he lived alone.

Once in his back garden, she stood and stared at the bungalow and wondered what she should do next.
She’d never stolen before, but she was desperate and it was that or rummage through the bins behind the chicken shop.
Wendy hated her mother for driving her to the brink but she hated herself more for letting her.

Wendy stuck to the shadows as she approached the house but when she got to the back door she had no idea what to do.
She could have smashed the window she supposed but it was bad enough she was planning to steal from him without causing damage as well.
Wendy walked away from the kitchen door and grabbed the handle of the garage door instead, she was in luck the door was unlocked so she pushed it gently open.

(Part 02)

She had been rummaging around by torchlight for about half an hour when all of a sudden the two lights lit up but one of the bulbs, the one at the rear, blew immediately, returning it to near darkness.
It was a tandem garage and there was a car in the front half but the other half was full of everything and nothing, old pieces of furniture, tools, packing boxes and so on, junk mainly, and as a result not much light got from one end of the garage to the other because of everything in between, so she darted for the shadows.
Whoever had switched on the lights used their phone torch to search for her and in the gloomy light she made a bolt for the door.
Unfortunately she misjudged the distance between the figure and the door and glanced against their shoulder and she felt a hand grab her.
“Got you” he said as he bundled her towards the workbench and pinned her down while he got a better purchase on her.
She wriggled and squirmed and then lashed out at him and she thought she connected with his face, but then he shifted his body weight which meant her hands had to support herself.
However she alternated her hands to have quick swipes at him while he tried to subdue her and in the process he grabbed her breast.
“You’re a girl” he said and released his hold and grabbed her shoulder instead.
“Of course I’m a girl” she said inside her head but at the same time she was completely pinned down while he used his phone again to have a look at her.
“My god you’re just a kid” he said and slapped her hard on the buttock.
“Get out of here” he said angrily “And don’t come back again”

Wendy scurried away, but felt ashamed of what she had done so she waited in the shadows and watched Mr. Goodman walk back to the kitchen door.
She wanted to apologize to him but lost her nerve as she got close to the bungalow so she hid in the garage.
She sat down on the workbench and tried to summon the courage to go and knock on his door.
But she froze when the garage door opened and he walked in and reached up to replace the bulb and it lit immediately and when it did he looked straight at her.
“Didn’t you hear me tell you not to come back?” he asked her
“Yes” she said meekly
“So what are you doing back here again?” he asked sharply
“Why are you back?” he said standing directly in front of her
“I wanted to say sorry” she said quietly and he softened
“How old are you?” he asked her
“17” she replied
“And what’s your name?”
“And what were you after in here anyway?” he asked
“I was looking for food”
“Why?” he asked with surprise
“Because I was hungry”
“I was hungry” she repeated
“Where are you from? Where are your parents?”
“I live on the caravan park, Potters Lane, with my mum”
“Why hasn’t she fed you?” he questioned
“She’s not well,” she said tearfully
“Come in the house” he said “And I’ll make you something”
So David took her in the house and sat her in the kitchen while he made her bacon and eggs, which she polished off in no time flat.

(Part 03)

As she was sitting drinking a hot chocolate Wendy asked
“Why did you feed me?”
“Because you were hungry” he replied
“But I was trying to steal from you” she pointed out
“Yes but you didn’t”
“That’s because you turned the light on and disturbed me” she stated
“But I could tell you weren’t a bad girl” David said washing up her plate
“But you thought I was a boy until you grabbed my...”
Wendy left the word unsaid and blushed
“No you’re right” he said “I wouldn’t have grabbed you there had I realized you were a girl”
“So why did you feed me bacon and eggs?”
“Because you came back and apologized” David explained “That’s why”
“So you don’t think I look like a boy?”
“No I think you look like an urchin” he corrected her and smiled
“Seriously do you think I’m ugly?”
“No I don’t, why would you think that?” David said
It would have been true to say she wasn’t stunningly beautiful but there was something about her elfin features, a distinct cuteness, she was a tomboy certainly but a pretty one.
“Everybody thinks I’m ugly and worthless” she said and she started to cry
“Even my mum” she added between the sobs so he went over to her and hugged her and she instantly locked her skinny arms around his neck.
“No one thinks you’re ugly” he said reassuringly
“You do,” she sobbed
“No, I think you’re cute”
“Really?” She said then cried into his neck
“So why did you think I was a boy?”
He thought about it for a while before answering
“Because it was dark and I’m old” he said
“Now dry your eyes and I’ll walk you home it’s getting late,” he said giving her his hankie
“You don’t have too” she said between sobs
“I know but I’m going to do it anyway” he insisted
She couldn’t believe how kind he was being.

“Does your mum work?” he asked as they walked towards Potters Lane
“No” she replied, “She’s not well enough”
“What about you?”
“No one’ll give me a job” she said and laughed
“Why not?”
“No don’t tell me, because you’re ugly and worthless”
She nodded
“Do you want a job?” he asked
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t care what I do, anything” she said earnestly
“So if I could get you some work, would you be interested?”
“Oh yes” she replied as they reached the end of her road.
“Ok, I’ll see what I can do” he said “But you have to promise you won’t let me down?”
“No way” she said
“Shake on it then” he said and held out his hand which she shook as she looked him squarely in the eye before turning off into the caravan park.
“And the next time you’re hungry come and knock on the door” he called after her

Wendy couldn’t understand why Mr. Goodman had been so nice when she had been trying to steal from him.
And he said he would try and find her a job which she would love, it would give her some worth and as well as some money in her pocket.

Her mum was still passed out on the sofa when she got back to the caravan, so she checked she was ok and then went to bed feeling more positive than she had for months.

(Part 04)

She woke up on Sunday feeling less confident than the night before and the doubts about her worthiness to be happy had returned.
What hadn’t left her though was her anger at her mum so she avoided speaking with her and left.
She wandered off in the direction of the pier and the amusements, not to play them but to check for any coins left in the trays or on the floor and she made enough in an hour to buy herself a burger, fries and a large coke.

On Monday she didn’t have anywhere to go or anything in particular to do so she just walked around aimlessly for a while, but then she was used to that.
Wendy crossed the footbridge over the railway and then turned left and ended sitting on the banks of a little stream dangling her naked feet in the water.
She had been there for about ten minutes when she was startled by a voice behind her.
“Hello you” he said startling her
“You made me jump” she said and giggled.
“What are you up to?” he asked
“Nothing as usual” she replied glumly.
“Just as well I’ve found some work for you”
“Really?” She said excitedly
“You’re not just winding me up,” she asked as she was used to being let down.
“No I’m serious” David said
She felt the tears welling up so she turned away from him so he wouldn’t see.
“Well come on then” he said “Get your shoes on, they’re waiting for you”

“What, now?” She said wiping her face on her sleeve and nearly falling in the stream then she threw her long arms around him in a big gawky hug.
“Thanks David” she said and then she sat down again and he handed her a hankie which she gave a double take at, not knowing whether to dry her eyes or her feet, so she did both in the end, eyes first.
As they walked back into the village he filled her in with what odd bits of work he had found for her so far.
“The gardener Alison Williams said she will give you a trial and Miss Quinton-Smith says she has some odd jobs for you”
He said
“But for this morning Sabr Hemmings has said she can use you in the shop”
“All of them want to give me work?” she asked in surprise
“Yes” he said
“Thank you so much” she said
“All I did was ask” he said “But the rest is up to you”
“I won’t let you down David, I promise” she said and when they arrived outside the shop David added
“It’s only temporary while Mrs. Hemmings is ill but if you work hard, I’m sure they’ll use you again”
And on hearing those words she stood up straight and gave him a wonky smile.
“What if she doesn’t like me?” She said nervously and he wiped the last remnants of her tears away and took her into the shop.

“Sabr! This is Wendy” he said
Since her mother’s Belinda’s illness, Hemmings General Store was run by Sabr.
Sabr was an Arabic word for the Islamic virtue of “patience”, although neither Belinda or her husband were Arabs or Islamists, she read it in a book when she was expecting her daughter and fell in love with the name.
“Hello Wendy” Sabr said
“Hi” she replied trembling
“Don’t look so worried” Sabr said “I won’t bite”

It wasn’t complicated work on that first day, filling shelves mainly but at the end of her shift Sabr said
“You did well Wendy”
“Thanks” Wendy said “I enjoyed it”
“Good, same time Thursday then”

(Part 05)

The following Monday she walked up to David Goodman’s garden to introduce herself to Alison William’s.
She was a self-employed gardener and was a muscular, big chested and thirty something with a great unruly shock of vivid ginger hair and Wendy thought she looked terrifying.
“Aaaalison” she said
“Hello sweetie, you’re just in time, come and help me unload the mower”

They did five gardens and at the end of the day Wendy was nervous about how well she had done but when they finished loading the truck Alison said
“Jump in, I’ll take you Ravensbrooke and get you some safety boots and overalls”
Ravensbrooke was a nursery and Garden Center, on the outskirts of Sharpington.
“Did I do alright then?”
“You did great, now jump in” she said but Wendy didn’t move “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t have any money” she said
“You don’t need any” Alison said “Now get in”

Apart from being a nursery and Garden Center Ravensbrooke was also a Country Store so it was possible to buy anything from top soil to designer leisurewear.
They walked through the automatic doors and headed towards where the work boots were on display.
They found a suitable pair for her and then went in search of overalls and then as they were looking at work Gloves a man appeared from the stock room right where they were standing.
“Hhhhello Aaaalison” he said
“Hi Ged” Alison said

Alison was so pleased with Wendy that by the time the first month was over she was working with Alison for four days a week and in the shop for two as well as some evenings.
She was also doing odd jobs for Gwen Quinton-Smith in her spare time.

So at the end of the first month Wendy was carrying some empty sacks from the truck when she saw Alison talking with David Goodman.
“Hello” she shouted
“Hi Wendy” he shouted back then he said something to Alison that she couldn’t hear.
When they were finished at David Goodman’s they went over to Ravensbrooke to pick up some more materials, Wendy noticed they made a lot of trips over there.

A couple of days later it was raining and Alison was at Ravensbrooke again so Wendy was to meet her outside David Goodman’s bungalow.
But Alison was late so she started pottering about in the garden to kill time.
“WENDY” a voice shouted and she immediately looked up and waved.
“COME HERE” David Goodman called to her and accompanied it with a gesture so she stopped what she was doing and trotted up the path to the back door.
“Hi David” she said her rain soaked face smiling, and then she shivered.
“Come in out of the rain for a bit”
“Ok” she said, “have you got the kettle on?”

As they sat in the kitchen he said
“So how are you getting on?”
“Great” she said
“How’s your mum?”
“The same” she replied “But I’m working most of the time”
“And how’s that going?”
“Brilliant I work with Alison the most, and Sabr at the shop use’s me as and when in the shop and Miss Quinton-Smith has been giving me odd jobs as well”
“Gwen is a good woman” he said
“Talking about jobs, I bumped into Emma Goldup at the Dinner Dance last weekend and she asked if you were available”.
“Is she the blonde girl with the horse?” She asked
“Yes” he said “I don’t know what work she has in mind, it might well be shovelling muck”
“Oh I don’t mind what I do” Wendy said “I just like being useful”
“Good for you” he said

When Alison arrived she was very apologetic for being late but she was in a very good mood, in fact she was like the cat that got the cream.

(Part 06)

September 6th was Wendy’s 18th birthday, a very significant birthday for anyone else but for her it was just another day.
Her mother was too hungover to know what month it was let alone that it was her daughter’s special day.
So she spent the morning mooching around on the seafront and then walked up to Miss Quinton-Smith’s house.
Gwen wanted some help tidying her garage so that was how she planned to spend the bulk of the day.
But despite the fact that she was not going to celebrate her coming of age she wasn’t bothered after all it wasn’t the first birthday that had gone unmarked it was just the latest in a long line, and it probably wouldn’t be the last one that her mother would be too drunk to remember.

She knocked on the front door and after a moment it opened and Gwen said
“Hello Wendy, right on time”
“Hi Gwen, shall I make a start?” she said and headed towards the garage door.
“No I thought we’d have a drink first” she said “Come in”
“Oh ok”
Gwen stepped aside and let Wendy pass and then urged
“Go through”
And when Wendy pushed open the door she was greeted by a rousing
“Happy Birthday!”
Gwen had organised a surprise party, complete with banners and balloons and guests.
David Goodman, Leslie Maher, Sabr Hemmings, Alison Williams and one other, a young dark haired young man who was introduced to her as Oliver.
There were lots of hugs and kisses of best wishes and Wendy got very tearful.
“Ok sit down sweetie” Alison said “open your presents”
“Presents?” Wendy said
“Yes, on the table” Gwen said
“They’re all for me?” she ask in disbelief and tears filled her eyes again.
“This one first” Alison said and brushed her ginger locks off her face as she knelt beside her.
Wendy couldn’t remember the last birthday present she had received and she wanted to savour the one Alison had given her so instead of ripping the paper off it so she carefully pulled the tape off one piece at a time and she was concentrating so much that she had her tongue poking out the corner of her mouth and when she finally got to the contents, they were thermal long johns.
“Brilliant” she squealed and hugged Alison
“You’re going to need them in the winter sweetie”

After that first gift she was less patient and opened the rest of the presents in quick succession.
Leslie bought her a wrist watch, David, a pair of converse shoes, Gwen, an MP3 player and Sabr, a hoody.
And so as not to be left out Oliver gave her a box of Crazy Chocolatiers Truffles he bought in Sharpington that morning.
“Thank you” she said and they exchanged a lingering look.
18 year old Oliver Kingham was David’s grandson and was staying with him for a couple of weeks and they were attracted to each other immediately.

(Part 07)

They were sitting together and Wendy kept looking at her presents, apart from her converse and hoody which she was wearing.
“You like all your presents then” he said
“Oh yes” she said and then she whispered to him
“How do I put music on the MP3?”
“You can do it from your computer” he said
“Oh” she exclaimed a little deflated “I don’t have a computer”
“Not to worry” Oliver said brightly “I can do it from my laptop”
“Really?” she said
“Yes, what kind of music do you like? Do you have a favourite band?”
“I don’t know” Wendy said “I mean I know some songs but I don’t know who the singers are”
Wendy liked to sit in the Fun Park in Sharpington and listen to the music coming from the rides and the amusements but she didn’t know what she was listening to.
“That’s ok” he said “I have an idea, I’ll download some tunes and you can tell me which ones you like and I’ll delete the ones you don’t”
“Would you do that for me?” she asked with surprise
“Of course” he replied and she wiped a tear from her eye with her sleeve.
“But you don’t even know me” she said with her eyes glistening
“But they all do” he said with a sweeping gesture.

When it was time to go she put her old shoes and sweater in a carrier bag and quietly said to Gwen
“Can I leave my watch here for safe keeping?”
“Of course you can my dear” she replied
A great deal of hugs and kisses followed and then with tears in her eyes again she headed towards the door
“I’ll walk you home Wendy” Oliver said
“You don’t have to do that” she half-heartedly protested
“I know, but I want to” he insisted

When they reached the end of Potters Lane she said
“You don’t have to take me any further” and handed him the MP3 player.
“Thank you”
“No problem, give me your mobile number and I’ll text you when I’ve done it”
Oliver said
“I don’t have a mobile phone” she admitted
“Don’t you?” he said
“Well never mind I’ll bring it over to Potters Lane”
“Oh no please don’t” she urged “I’ll be at David’s on Wednesday”
“Ok I’ll see you then” he said and gave her a hug.

As she walked the rest of the way on her own she was feeling the happiest she had felt and for the first time in her life she felt truly special.

The day after her birthday surprise she was working in one of the gardens across the street from David’s bungalow and she was startled by a voice from behind her.
“Hi Wendy”
She turned around and she saw it was Oliver and she immediately blushed.
“Oh hello”
“I’ve got your MP3 player” he said
“You’ve done it already?” she said
“Yes I did it last night” Ollie said
“Thank you” she said looking at the device “but I don’t know how to use it”
“I’ll show you” he said and explained what she should do and finished by saying
“Let me know which ones you like tomorrow”
“I’m working in the shop tomorrow, Hemmings” she said
“I’ll see you there then” he said
“I have a break at 12” she called after him

(Part 08)

It had been a busy morning in the shop and she was really surprised when she looked up at the clock and saw that it was 11.55am.
However once she knew what the time was it seemed to slow down and those last five minutes seemed to take an hour to pass.
Sabr had noticed her watching the clock, which wasn’t like her, so she assumed she had somewhere to be so she said
“You’d better take you lunch now honey, before the rush starts again”
“Ok, great, see you later” she said and scampered out of the shop, which made Sabr smile.
When she got outside she found Oliver leaning against a lamp post waiting for her.

They spent most of her lunch hour sitting on the seawall listening to her MP3 with one earphone each.
It was the best lunchbreak she had ever had but she couldn’t believe how quickly it had gone, and she felt a bit sad when he walked her back to Hemmings.

It was late in the evening and she was crouching in the shadows of Potters Lane sobbing uncontrollably when Leslie Maher, who was out walking her dog Trio, so called as he had three legs, discovered her.
There was sufficient moonlight for her to recognize her
“Wendy?” she said “Is that you?”
She mumbled something incomprehensible in response
She could also see the she was in a bit of a state.
“Come home with me and you can tell me what’s wrong” she said
But Wendy reacted angrily and drew her knees up to her chin and sobbed uncontrollably.
“I’ll go and get David” she said
Leslie and David were neighbours and had recently become a couple but they still had their own homes, for the time being at any rate.

David and his grandson Oliver were sat in the lounge playing chess when there was a persistent knocking on the front door.
“Who’s that, at this time?” David said and tutted as he got up from his chair and he muttered to himself all the way down the hall and then he opened the door and found an agitated Leslie standing there with Trio.
“Hello” he said surprised “is everything ok?”
“Come quick” she said and headed down the path.
“Hold on, let me get something on my feet” David said and briefly went back inside.
“Oliver!” he called “Get you shoes on we’re going out”
He and his grandson were ready to leave at the same time.
“Come on hurry up” Leslie urged
“Ok what’s the problem?” he said when he and Oliver emerged and rushed after Leslie who was now almost out through the gate
“It’s Wendy” she said
“Why what’s happened?” Oliver asked
“I found her sobbing in the street” she answered, “She’s inconsolable, and…”
“And what?” David said
“She’s been beaten” Leslie replied sombrely
“What?” he said incredulously “who?”
“I think her mother hit her,” she said “hard”
“Where is she?” he demanded
“In the bushes in Potters Lane” she answered “but she won’t come out”
They ran the short distance to Potters Lane and sitting in the shadows was the quivering figure of Wendy with her knees drawn up to her chin and she was still sobbing uncontrollably.

(Part 09)

“You two wait here” David said to the other two and started walking towards her.
“Hey Wendy” he called and she looked up and as soon as she saw him she was on her feet and bowling towards him at a rate of knots and she was still crying as she launched herself at him
“Oh David” she cried
“It’s alright, I’ve got you now” he said and just let her sob into his shoulder.
After about five minutes she had calmed down considerably.
“Ok” he said, “let’s have a look at you”
Wendy had a bruise on her forehead and her right eye was badly swollen, she had a fat lip and her nose was bloodied, Mrs Corney had given her daughter a real pasting.
“Right let’s get you home” he said with a smile and her whole body went rigid and panic covered her face and her head was shaking.
“No baby girl not that home, my home” he reassured her and he could see the relief cross her face instantly.
He took out his hanky and gently wiped away the blood, snot and tears from her face.
“Come on then and we’ll get you cleaned up”
“Ok” she said managing a week smile
“Do you want me to come too David?” Leslie asked quietly
“Yes please” he said as he put his arm around Wendy’s shoulder and steered her slowly down the lane, but by the time he had reached the road she was managing to walk under her own steam and she continued to do so for the short distance from there to his front door.
When they reached the front door Oliver opened it and let Wendy in
“I’m sorry” she said
“What for?”
“For being a nuisance” she replied
“Don’t be daft” he said and kissed the top of her head
“Now go to the kitchen with Ollie”
David looked over his shoulder to where Leslie was fussing around the dog
“I’ll follow you in when I’ve tied Trio up” she said
“Don’t be silly, bring him in” he insisted “he’s no trouble”
Leslie nodded and she and Trio followed him inside where he was waiting to give her a kiss.

(Part 10)

In the sanctuary of the kitchen, as Leslie made coffee and Oliver held Wendy’s hand, David got to work cleaning Wendy up and attending to the cuts on her face.
“Does this happen often?” David asked
“No” she answered with a sniffle “she’s normally too drunk to catch me”
“What happened today?” Leslie asked
“I fell over and she caught me” and she sniffled again while Leslie shook her head.
“She’ll be really sorry tomorrow” Wendy said defensively
“So she ought to be” Leslie muttered with disgust.
“What brought it on?” Oliver asked “why did she want to hit you?”
“She wanted my money” she said “for booze”
“And did she get it?” David asked
“No” she said “because I don’t have any”
Her answer puzzled him somewhat because since he had intervened in her life she was always working, either with Alison the gardener or Sabr at the corner shop, odd jobbing for Gwen or mucking out at the stables and countless other odds and ends Wendy Corney was a regular cottage industry and she never went anywhere to spend her earnings.
“How come?” he asked
“Sabr opened a post office account for me, all my money goes in there” then she laughed “I’ve got loads”
“I take it your mum didn’t laugh” Leslie said
“No” she said and put her hand to her swollen eye.
“I told her I didn’t have any money so then she wanted me to give her the book”
“But you didn’t” I added
“No” she said, “because I don’t have it”
This time she noticed the puzzlement on David’s face and added
“I gave it to Gwen to look after”
“Clever girl” he said proudly “I assume that didn’t go down well”
“No, she went absolutely berserk and that was when I took my chance and got away”
“Good for you” Leslie said and patted her back, which made Wendy wince and she immediately apologized.
“I’m sorry luvvie, did I hurt you?”
Leslie gently pulled her shirt up and could see the bruises immediately and they resolved at that moment that she would not be living under her mother’s roof for one more night as Leslie and David exchanged a look.
No one deserved to be treated that way but especially not Wendy.
“How about a long hot bath?” Leslie suggested and looked at David
“That’s a great idea” he said
“Oh yes please” she answered brightly “with bubbles?”
“Yes with bubbles and whatever other lotions and potions your heart desires” Leslie said
It was amazing to think that a simple thing like a bubble bath could illicit such joy and it was simply heart breaking that this hard working and good natured girl had been denied such a simple pleasure due to the short comings of her alcoholic mother.
Leslie led Wendy down the hall to the bathroom and David sorted out some fresh towels and then left Leslie to take charge.

(Part 11)

When Leslie returned, David and Oliver were still in the kitchen.
Ollie had a very grave expression on his face as she entered.
“Is she alright?” he asked
“She’s feeling a bit happier now” Leslie reassured him
“I’m just going to pop next door to get her some clean clothes, I have a few bits that Karen and Amy left the last time they visited”
Karen and Amy were her granddaughters.
“They’re very different shapes of course but they’ll be better than what she had on”
And with that she hurried out of the door as she was about to cry.

She returned 10 minutes later having dried her eyes and composed herself
“These should do the trick” she said and went and put the clothes on the bed, she told Wendy where they were and returned to the kitchen a few minutes later.

Oliver was pacing up and down looking very anxious while David and Leslie sat silently at the table and drank their coffee.
Finally Leslie broke the silence
“That poor girl’s body is black and blue David”
He nodded in response
“That woman should be locked up,” she continued and he nodded again
“So what are we going to do about it?” she asked angrily “and don’t just nod your head”
But he remained silent
“We have to do something” Oliver said
“And we will” David said
“But what?” Leslie pressed
“Well for one thing she’s not going back to her mother’s”
“I agree,” she concurred “but where can she go, she can’t stay here”
“I know” he said “And I have a plan”
“I think you should let Gwen know what’s happened” he suggested, “She thinks a lot of Wendy”
“I know she does, but how will that help...” she began then as she slowly processed the input she continued to answer her own query
“Yes I see what you’re getting at, that’s very clever, yes that could very well work”
Then she drained her coffee cup and stood up with a look of determination on her face she called
“Come on Trio, We’re off on a mission”

It was another five minutes before Wendy reappeared looking altogether better.
The unbruised sections of her face were pink and fresh and her hair was damp and tousled.
The clothes Leslie sorted out for her, fitted well enough though the trousers were a bit short.
“Are you feeling a bit better now?” Oliver asked her with real concern.
“Much” she said, “where’s Leslie?”
“She’s gone to tell Gwen what happened” David said, “she worries about you, you know”
Wendy went very quiet and looked at her feet
“Do you mind her knowing?” David asked
“Oh no I like Gwen she’s a really nice lady” she answered then she went quiet again
“What’s wrong?” Oliver asked but she just shrugged
“Come on, out with it” David insisted
“I don’t understand why you’re all so kind to me,” she said which made David laughed and Ollie smile
“Isn’t it obvious?” he said, “It’s because we all like you”
And David gave her a hug and Oliver held her hand
“Now then” he said, “have you eaten anything?”
“Yes Sabr fed me at the shop”
“Good, how about some hot chocolate then?”
“Yes please”
“I’ll make it” Oliver offered and stood up but Wendy was reluctant to release his hand.
“I’ll only be a minute” he said softly
“Go and sit in the lounge and then Ollie will bring it through” David suggested
“Ok” she said meekly
“Put the TV on if you want” David added
While Ollie was boiling some milk there was a knock at the front door, David got up from the table and went to open it.
When he did Leslie, Gwen and Trio were standing there.

(Part 12)

“How is the poor girl?” Gwen asked with real concern
“Much better” he answered, “come in”
They went into the kitchen and while Oliver finished making the hot chocolate he chatted to the ladies.
“I was beginning to wonder where you’d got to” he said
“Well, we would have been quicker but Slugger Quinton-Smith here wanted to go and smash Linda Corney’s face in”
“Seriously?” Oliver asked
Leslie nodded and Gwen blushed
“I was a bit miffed” Gwen said
“What happened?” David sked
“I persuaded her that it probably wasn’t the best course of action” Leslie relayed
“And that Wendy should be our main concern at the moment”
“Quite right” Oliver said pouring the hot milk into the waiting mug.
“Ok let’s go and see her” David suggested, “She’s in the lounge, go through”
And Ollie followed on with the hot chocolate.
But when they arrived in the lounge they found Wendy fast asleep on the sofa.
Oliver put the mug down briefly while he picked up a flowered throw and gently covered the sleeping figure.
He then picked up the hot chocolate and all four of them tiptoed from the room.
In the kitchen Leslie said
“Well that solves the problem of where she’s going to sleep”
“For tonight at least” he added
“I’ll look after her” Oliver said as Gwen appeared to be lost in thought and said nothing.
Leslie and David just exchanged a look and smiled.

Oliver went to bed and let David and Leslie kiss goodnight but once his grandfather had settled down for the night he sneaked out of his room just as the rain began to fall planning to spend the night sleeping in an arm chair in the lounge.
He had been asleep for a couple of hours and then the thunder rolled in and lighting flashes lit the sky, he was facing the window and had a great view through the open curtains.
But when a particularly loud clap of thunder shook the house at about 3am Wendy let out a yell
Ollie leapt straight out of his chair and knelt beside her
“It’s ok Wendy” he said “You’re safe now”
“Oh Ollie” she said and locked her skinny arms around his neck.
“Don’t leave me”
“I won’t” he said and kissed the top of her head “I promise”

Although he had planned to sleep in the armchair Oliver actually spent most of the night on the floor beside the sofa where Wendy was.
He woke the next morning with the smell of bacon filling his nostrils.
After an uncomfortable night keeping Wendy company he was as stiff as a board when he got up.
“Hello” Wendy said “Thank you”
“What for?”
“For looking after me” she replied
“I wanted to” He said and kissed her forehead “Now come on I smell bacon”

“Hi Grandad” Oliver said as he walked into the kitchen
“Morning, how’s the patient?”
“She’s ok I think” Ollie replied
“Good” David said just as Wendy appeared and walked gingerly to the table.
“Oh dear, are you a bit stiff?”
“Very” she replied and lowered herself gently onto the chair next to Ollie.

(Part 13)

They all sat together at the kitchen table eating eggs and bacon and when they had cleared their plates David said
“You know we can’t let you go and live with your mum anymore?”
“I know” she concurred sadly “But I can’t live here”
“I know” David responded, “Which is why we need to find you somewhere else”
A puzzled look spread across her face.
“Don’t worry hon I have somewhere in mind” he reassured her “I can’t say where yet but…”
He was interrupted by a loud banging on the back door and when he looked up it was the gardener Alison.
“Hello Alison” he said brightly
“I’m looking for Wendy, is she here?” she asked
“Yes, come in”
“Is she ok?” Alison asked with concern as she bent down to undo her boots
“Never mind the muck just come in” he said and once inside the kitchen she clucked around Wendy like a mother hen
“Oh sweetie, look at the state of you,” she said
“I’m fine now,” Wendy said bravely
“Fine my arse” Alison barked poking Wendy’s black eye until she winced.
“And your mum did this?”
Wendy nodded
“I might have to kill her sweetie,” Alison said without humour
“You’ll have to get in the queue behind Gwen” Oliver said
“Really?” she queried with raised eyebrow and David nodded
“Good for her” Alison said proudly
“But seriously what are we going to do?” she said soberly
“We can’t let her go back there again”
“What about my stuff?” Wendy suddenly said, “I need my clothes for work”
Alison was about to say don’t worry
“And clean knickers” Wendy blurted out, and then blushed scarlet when she realised what she had said.
“I can take you home to collect your stuff” Alison suggested “But then what?”
“Bring it back here,” David said matter-of-factly
“She can’t stay here” Alison said bluntly
“That’s what I said,” Wendy confirmed
“I know that she can’t stay here” He said and Alison relaxed
“I actually have a plan” he added but didn’t elaborate

Alison drove a rather nervous Wendy and a concerned Oliver to the caravan and parked the truck.
Oliver understood now why she was so vehement about him not going to Potters Lane.
Oliver held Wendy's hand as they walked up the path to the half open door and Alison followed on.
When they were inside they found her mum collapsed on the sofa in a drunken stupor.
“I’ll watch her while you grab your stuff” Alison instructed
“Okay” Wendy said but wouldn’t release Ollie’s hand.
It didn’t take long, maybe 10 minutes to gather together everything of importance to her in one shoulder bag and all her clothes in a black sack.
“Do I really not have to come back?” she asked almost pathetically “Ever”
“Not ever” Alison replied and Oliver hugged her and she looked down contemptuously at the prone figure of her mother and wiped a tear from her eye.

“Now go and change your knickers and get your dungarees on,” Alison commanded, once they were back at David’s
“We have work to do”
“Ok boss” she said and headed upstairs
“Are you sure she should work today?” Oliver asked after Wendy had left.
“Definitely” she replied “it’s just what she needs”
Then with a doubtful look she added
“And it will give your Grandfather time to work on his master plan, whatever that is”

(Part 14)

The “Master Plan” such as it was involved a drive over to Dulcet-on-Brooke and lunch at The Waterside Inn with an abundance of wine.
Those present were David, Leslie, Gwen and Oliver, who was the designated driver.
As they sat at a table Leslie asked
“Shall we have wine?”
“What a good idea” David said working off Leslie’s script.
“I’m game,” said Gwen and so it began.

The “master plan” as Alison had put it, in essence involved getting Gwen Quinton-Smith, a little bit squiffy on wine and then suggest to her what a good idea it would be for her to take Wendy in as a lodger.
They knew Gwen was very fond of her and she had plenty of spare rooms and to cap it all she was lonely.
Furthermore they knew that Wendy liked Gwen and needed someone to care about her.
So the plan was virtually symbiotic.

Two hours and two bottles of wine later they had succeeded in their mission and Gwen had agreed to have Wendy as her lodger.
“I was going to suggest it myself,” she said as David settled the bill.

Gwen’s only condition was that she should tell Wendy herself.
So having phoned ahead to ensure she should be there they drove back to his bungalow and when he stepped through the back door, he found Wendy and Alison sitting at the kitchen table.
“At last” Alison snorted
“Well hello gardening ladies” he slurred
“Sorry I’m late but I had to go and meet Wendy's new landlady”
“Really?” Wendy asked
“Yes indeed” he replied “Would you like to meet her?”
“Yes please” she replied excitedly so he stepped aside and Gwen walked in.
“Gwen” Wendy shouted and raced across the kitchen and hugged her “I’m so glad it’s you” she squealed and they both started to cry.
She moved in that night and Ollie carried her things over for her.

On Friday morning the rain had come once again, with a vengeance and added to the gloom she already felt.
It had been a rollercoaster of a week beginning with her surprise birthday party and was ending with her having to say goodbye to the boy she had fallen in love with in between.
Oliver was starting at Abbottsford University the following week and had to go home to Purplemere to pack and like a thief in the night he had stolen her heart and was now leaving with it.
They were standing on the door step of Gwen house saying their goodbyes.
“I’ve got you a present” he said
“What is it?” she asked
“It’s a mobile phone, it’s just a “Pay as you go”” he said “I’ve programmed my number in so we can call and text”
“Can we?” she asked innocently
“If you had a computer we could even Skype”
“I don’t know what that is” Wendy said
“Ask Granddad, we Skype a lot” he said “He’ll show you”
“Oh ok” she said and looked around nervously until he worked up the courage to do what he wanted to do and kissed her.

(Part 15)

After two weeks of washing and ironing her clothes Gwen had become aware of the meagre selection that she had and the overall quality.
With all her jobs, Wendy had accumulated a nice pot of money, Gwen knew that because she looked after her savings book, but she never did anything or went anywhere to spend it.
So Gwen suggested taking her into Abbottsford on a shopping expedition.
“Abbottsford? Really?” she said
“Yes” Gwen replied “When was the last time you were there?”
“I’ve never been to Abbottsford before” she said “I’ve never been out of Sharpington”
“Well we had better make a day of it then” she said

She was very excited about going shopping and she’d talked of nothing else all week to Alison and Sabr at the shop or Emma at the stables and of course Oliver.
However she didn’t know how much money to take, she knew how much she had, and she had an idea of what she wanted to buy but she didn’t know how much cash to take.
So she asked Gwen for some guidance and she advised that she should only take about £50 in cash as she would use her credit card for most purchases and then Wendy could reimburse her later.
“But you have to let me pay” Wendy insisted

Come the day, the expedition was every bit as exciting as she imagined it would be.
They set off from Gwen’s at 6.30 in the morning and were in the Espresso Phoenix Coffee House in the Phoenix Centre having breakfast by 8 o’clock.
And from the moment the first shop opened they shopped till they dropped and on the return journey Wendy fell asleep in the car.

As it was gardening day he expected to see Alison and Wendy pottering about in the garden but when he looked out through the window he could only see Wendy who was raking leaves off the lawn so he opened the door and called out
She turned around instantly and smiled
“Hello David”
“Come inside a minute, I’ve got something for you”
“Ok” she replied “just for a minute though”
Wendy came into the kitchen and stood on the mat.
“Where’s Alison today?” David asked her
“She cut her hand yesterday so I’m on my own” Wendy said rubbing her hands “she needed 8 stitches”
“I’ve got something for you” he said, “So sit yourself down”
“What is it?” she asked
“Well, have a look and you’ll find out” he said
She stooped down and untied her boots and then slipped them off before walking to the table and sitting down and then he turned the lap top around to face her.
“Hi Wendy” Oliver said and David took his coffee into the other room.

(Part 16)

After that first Skype with Oliver in David’s kitchen she liked it so much that they arranged to do it once a week at David’s bungalow.
Of course had she realized that she had more than enough money in her savings to buy her own laptop they could have Skyped every day.
But she didn’t know so they made the best of it and she spent the whole week looking forward to it and when it came she loved every second.
The weekly Skype went on from that first time in October right through until December which was a significant time as that would be when she got to see him again.

When she wasn’t thinking about Oliver or looking forward to seeing him again, she was working hard.
But she did get some time off, but even at those times she kept herself busy and one day a few days before Christmas she used her free time to deliver cards and presents to her friends and family.
She started at her mum, it was the first time she’d been back since that day in September when she picked up stuff, she hadn’t seen her mum since that day and she wasn’t in any hurry to change that.
But she was still her mum so she went to the caravan early when she knew she would still be out of it.

She would give Alison her present the next day when she saw her at work and as she was working at the shop on Christmas Eve she would give Sabr and the Hemmings their gifts then and Gwen’s was already under the tree.
So after her mum’s she was mainly delivering Christmas Cards but she did have a gift for Leslie and David.
She called at Leslie Maher’s house first and just as she reached the front door she stepped out onto the doorstep.
“Hello Wendy”
“Merry Christmas Leslie” she said and handed her a package adorned with ribbons and bows.
She took it from her and read the tag.
“Have a Merry Christmas Leslie, with love and gratitude”
“Well that’s a really nice thing to do,” she said and they exchanged a kiss and a hug before she had to go and Wendy went next door and knocked at David’s door.
When it opened, she found David standing there wearing a Santa Hat.
“Happy Christmas” she said beaming “And handed him a present”
“Hey! Happy Christmas hon” David responded, “come in”
“Ok” she said still smiling broadly “Just for a minute”
“Just for a minute” he agreed and Wendy stepped inside
“You didn’t have to get me a gift,” he said to her as he took her coat and as she sat down on the sofa she said.
“Last Christmas my mum was drunk for ten days in a row, we had no decorations, no Christmas dinner and no electricity”
Tears were beginning to form in her eyes as she added
“This year, I have three jobs, I have a proper home, I have someone to mother me, I have money in the bank and a boyfriend and it’s all thanks to you”
David tried to interrupt but Wendy continued unabated.
“If you hadn’t helped me, looked out for me, set me on the right path, I wouldn’t be here now having the best Christmas I’ve ever had and I will always be grateful for that”
Then she stood up and gave him a big hug.
“Well why don’t you go in the lounge and put the present under the tree for me then and I’ll bring the drinks through” he suggested
“Ok” she said

She walked down the hall and pushed open the door into the lounge and when she looked ahead she did a double take because standing by the Christmas tree was Ollie.
“Ollie” she squealed and launched herself at him.