I usually post a link to my books at the end but couldn’t resist this. Anyone have a spare £1059.63 to buy a copy? 😀 (From Amazon UK 10.7.2018)
£1,059.63 (1 used & new offers)
4.8 out of 5 stars 7
It’s in the course of being republished but I do have some stock copies of the original version at more realistic prices if anyone is interested.
Alternatively you could save your money and read the final part of the short story I started last week.
End of the Road -The story continues:
That night I slept like a log. Waking early to the smell of bacon frying and a bright, winter sun I entered the kitchen to find Martha already hard at work preparing breakfast.
‘Morning, my dear,’ she called cheerfully. ‘The others will be down shortly. Help yourself to coffee.’
‘Morning, Martha. Anything I can do to help?’
‘You could set the table, if you like. Cutlery in the drawer over there, napkins second one down, and sauce in the top cupboard. Full English OK?’
‘Good. Hopefully it will encourage Jenny to eat. It’s not easy but we’re getting there.’
She was interrupted by the entrance of a little boy of about three, who raced in and threw his chubby arms around her.
‘Biscuit, Nanny Mar, Ky want biscuit.’
‘Kyle won’t get anything unless he says “please”,’ she laughed, giving him a cuddle, ‘and cereal first so you can grow into a big strong boy.’
Breakfast over everyone helped clear up, as Kirsten took her son off to nursery.
‘I’ll be back about mid-day and we can go and see about your car,’ Alex said as he left.
Jenny had gone out earlier, carrying a large bag which looked as if it held an easel. I helped Martha do some housework before we went to sit in the living room to enjoy our elevenses.
‘You probably want to know something about us,’ Martha said. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t pry. You can tell us as little or as much about yourself as you like. I’ll start with my story. My husband was a wonderful man. We married young but unfortunately never had any children. We both worked hard and were fairly well off, and when he died the insurance made me quite a rich lady. I realise now that was what attracted my second husband. Perhaps I was still in mourning but I wasn’t thinking straight and needed the companionship. I missed my dear Bertie so much. By the time I realised Gerald’s true nature most of the money had gone, apart from a savings account he knew nothing about. Bertie and I had been saving to buy a holiday apartment abroad for when we retired, but the cancer got him before we could realise our dream.’
She stopped for a moment to wipe away a tear from her eye.
‘Gerald had taken to the drink, and that’s when the beatings started. He was a heavy gambler and took it out on me when he lost or was in his cups. I got the blame when the money ran out, but eventually managed to divorce him. I still own the house I shared with Bertie, and Gerald has never forgiven me for not selling it so he could take the proceeds. The agents handle everything and the rental provides me with a steady income, enough for my needs. About once a year I go to check over the place, but somehow he always seems to know and turns up when I’m there. My last visit was a few days ago.’
I noticed her hand stray up to touch her swollen cheek and bruised eye. That explained the reason for her battered face.
‘Alex is wonderful and usually accompanies me, but this time the agent changed the date unexpectedly, and he was away so I went on my own.’
‘What about Alex? Does he own the cottage?’ I asked, although I already knew the answer.
‘God Bless you child, no. He’s an author and was renting it for six months to finish his latest book when I turned up. Like you, I only had the clothes I stood up in. Gerald had got drunk, flown into a rage and forced me into the car to go for a ride. When I still refused to sell the house, I was honestly in fear for my life. He crashed the car and I just took to my heels and ran. The angels must have been on my side that night. Alex was driving past, picked me up, brought me here and looked after me for a few days until I regained my sanity. He was the one who found a good lawyer and supported me through the court case until they confirmed Gerald had no rights to my property. Alex has his own place locally, but rents the lodge regularly, partly when he needs some peace to write, but also whenever someone needs a haven while they work out what to do with their lives. He helps at a battered women’s charity, and donates half his earnings from every book, as well as being here to act as bodyguard or do some D.I.Y. He’s not perfect though, he’s a useless cook,’ she laughed, ‘which is where I come in.’
‘Do you live here permanently?’ I asked her, amazed that I had no idea of what had been happening in the years since my grandmother died and left the place to me. The rental had been paid regularly into my bank account and I had thought no more about it.
‘No. Like Alex I have my own little flat nearby, but I like to come and help out whenever we have visitors. Usually women find their way here via the charity but I don’t think that’s the case with you.’
I was silent, trying to think how to explain my presence when we heard a cheerful voice call, ‘So that’s what you women do all day, sit here gossiping. And not even a cup of tea to welcome a poor, hard-working man.’
‘And no doubt the poor hard-working man also wants a slice of cherry pie to go with his cup of tea,’ Martha teased Alex as he appeared through the door.
‘My angel,’ Alex grinned as he winked at me. Then, turning serious he asked ‘Do you know roughly where you left the car? Would you be able to find it again? Any idea what caused it to stop?’
‘I think so,’ I replied. ‘Stupidly I just ran out of petrol. It took me about an hour to walk here but it was along the main lane so with a bit of luck it should be reasonably easy to find.’
‘Great. We’ll stop and pick up some petrol on the way, then go before it gets too dark if that’s OK with you. Just give me five minutes to eat another slice of pie. Hint, hint.’
‘Your eyes are bigger than your belly, young man,’ Martha laughed as she filled his plate.
‘I’ll just pop upstairs and collect my bag,’ I said, as Martha topped up his tea.
I expected Alex to give me the third degree as we drove back along the road I had walked, was it really only yesterday? Instead he just chatted about the surroundings, pointing out wildlife I would have missed without his sharp eyes, and generally giving me information about the area. After about ten minutes he took a side turning and pulled into a petrol garage to fill up the can he had brought with him. Returning to the road I saw my car almost immediately, parked where I had abandoned it.
‘I can’t believe I was only a few minutes’ walk from a petrol garage,’ I told him. ‘Now I feel guilty about disturbing you all and dragging you out to rescue me. I’m so stupid.’
‘Never say that. The only stupid people are the ones who think it’s OK to beat up women, or men for that matter.’
Seeing my look of surprise, he smiled. ‘Yes, it happens to men too. And don’t forget the garage wouldn’t have been open at that time of night, so in the circumstances you did the right thing. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you know where to find us?’
‘Er, I had the address, but I’d forgotten to charge up my phone so I couldn’t get directions. It was only the light made me notice the place. Actually, I was expecting a cottage so I was quite surprised how big it is. I should have been more sensible though.’
‘Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s hard to think straight when you’re stressed or under pressure. Interesting point about the light shining out though. I’ll have to see about sorting some blackout blinds.’
While we had been chatting, he had poured the petrol into the tank. Taking the keys out of my bag I tried the engine. It fired on the first attempt and I breathed a sigh of relief.
‘Great. Can you remember the way back? I’ll follow behind you, just to make sure. You’ve got your phone on you, haven’t you? I know it was charged up last night so give me your number and I’ll text you so you’ve got mine in case there are any problems.’
It felt odd standing by the side of the road giving a stranger my number, but somehow I already trusted him, and after receiving his message I got behind the wheel and headed back towards the cottage. Although it had been my original destination, things hadn’t turned out as expected. Despite that, I intended to stay for a few days without revealing my identity, until I made a decision about what to do next.
That was three years ago. Since then we’ve had four small chalets built close to the cottage so guests can have privacy if they need it, although the sitting room and kitchen are still used as the welcoming sanctuary. We divided the rest of the place into two separate apartments and Martha now lives-in, acting as everything from Matron and cook, to hugger-in-chief.
Alex and I took the other flat, and he still writes in between running the charitable trust we set up. Jenny started eating properly again, and has even been known to have a second slice of one of Martha’s cakes when she pops in for a chat. Kirsten got engaged to a man from the village who adores Kyle and is bringing him up as his own.
Battered and bruised women still turn up seeking refuge, and although not every story has a happy ending, the peace and welcome they find at “Journey’s End” gives them a breathing space while they sort out their lives.
I often wonder if Granny realised what a life-saver her gift to me would become, or that it would have such far-reaching consequences. My flight might have had a disastrous start, but the end of the road is everything I could wish for.
© Voinks March 2018