It had been an amazing year, a life changing year, a year never to be forgotten, beginning with love at first sight and ending with a miracle.
It all began of course as all years do on New Year’s Day.
Now you might think that very little occurs, let alone starts, on New Year’s Day as everyone is either nursing a hangover or is just too tired to even contemplate participation in anything very much at all.
Now that may well be true for some but not for everyone.
For me New Year ’s Day is no different to any other day of the year after all isn’t every day the first day of another year?
You might deduce from this that if I have such disdain for the first day of the year that my feeling for the last day of the old year might be like wise and you would be right.
I am and always have been a Christmas person and I love every aspect of the season but New Year’s Eve has always left me cold.
In fact I dislike everything about it, I hate the crowded pubs, the noisy house parties, “old lang syne”, first footing and of course the bloody fireworks.
I always spent the evening with likeminded people, namely my younger brother Greg, eating Chinese takeaway and watching DVDS.
We would prefer to go out to eat but to go anywhere decent you have to book at Easter.
On the other hand my friends Dave and his wife Emma loved New Year’s Eve but didn’t celebrate it for quite different reasons.
Dave worked shifts as a porter at the local hospital. He’d been there since he left school, which was nearly fifteen years, it didn’t pay well but he really loved it.
As a family man he always managed to trade shifts so he had Christmas off but subsequently he always had to work New Year’s Eve.
Emma was a housewife or homemaker or domestic goddess or whatever the pc speak is, she had worked at the hospital as well until she fell pregnant with their first child now they had three children all under 5 years old so she never had time off.
So with all those in mind who do not participate in the Old years night rituals, either by design as in my case or by circumstance as with Dave and Emma we set the scene for the tale and so with all that said we get back to the beginning of the story, the start of that amazing year.
It was New Year’s Day and I was invited to spend the evening with my good friends the Parkers for one of Emma’s wonderful dinners a culinary experience for which I would have gladly paid a king’s ransom but for which the only charge to me was my attendance.
Well as the saying goes “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and that goes for dinner as well.
I was a bachelor and happy to be so, I was comfortable in my own company, I liked my life, I could do what I wanted when I wanted and I had a good job which paid well and allowed me to indulge myself if I wanted to.
This for Dave and Emma was an alien concept. They were a couple and were happy ergo I was single and therefore must be unhappy.
So every time they had a dinner party, a picnic or BBQ there was always some poor unfortunate unattached female guest who was propelled towards me.
Even at their wedding they tried to pair me up with the matron of honors younger sister.
They were relentless and never gave up but it was always to no avail.
It wasn’t because they were horrible or unattractive young women in fact they were normally very nice it was just that they were just not for me, we didn’t connect.
So the price for a very excellent dinner was to be aimed at yet another single/unattached/divorced woman.
Still it was a price worth paying for a very exceptional meal with good company.
I arrived late afternoon so I could spend some time with the kids before they went off to bed it was sufficiently dark for the Christmas lights to be on and Dave did like a good Christmas light.
His house was in no way as gaudy as many were but he did like his lights.
I was greeted at the door by a very bleary eyed Dave who had clearly just risen from his pit.
“Oh dear” I said as I looked at his sleep filled eyes and the unmistakable bed head
“Yeh” he replied then yawned.
I had known Dave from infant school and we had been best friends for most of the years since. I had been best man at his wedding and godfather to his first born.
I followed him into the kitchen where I was greeted by Emma, who standing on her tip toes drew herself up to all of five feet four, hugged me and kissed my cheek and I breathed in her scent, a mixture of heady musk and baby sick.
Noticing the bemused look on my face she pointed to the milky stain on her top and laughed.
I hadn’t known Emma as long as Dave, just over 10 years but we became friends instantly she was one of that rare breed of humans who are just impossible to dislike and you feel instantly at ease with.
“Happy New Year” she said still chuckling
“Ditto” I replied
“You won’t even say the words” She said incredulously.
“I can’t believe you dislike New Year that much”
She left the room laughing.
While all this was going on Dave had boiled the kettle and made drinks.
He put a steaming mug of instant coffee on the kitchen table and I sat down on the chair nearest to it.
“What are you doing here so early anyway?” Dave asked.
“I thought I could help out by entertaining the ankle biters while you two got yourselves ready”
“That’s very sweet of you Bernie” Emma said as she came back into the kitchen and sat down next to me.
.”But Jake and Kenny are at Karen’s until tomorrow and Molly is asleep”
Jake was my godson and was almost five, Kenny was three and Molly was barely six months.
“Your sister Karen?”
“I thought you didn’t get on with her”.
“I don’t” she replied
“But I made a New Year’s resolution to get closer to her” she said without enthusiasm.
”She’s the only family I have so I thought I should make an effort”
I was going to ask Dave if he had made a similar resolution but I thought better of it, I knew there was too much bad blood there..
“Well as my entertainment skills are not required I will ….”
I was about to suggest that I would finish my coffee and come back later when Emma interrupted me.
“I can use you in other ways”
“Oh” I said and raised my eyebrows slightly as I considered the eroticism of the image in my mind of my best friends wife naked and smelling of baby sick “using me” when she placed a potato peeler in front of me.
The next three hours passed by in the same way that so many of the hours we had spent together had.
Good old fashioned fun I could imagine nothing better than spending time in their glorious company.
As I said I liked my life.
By seven thirty everything was done that could be done, Dave and Emma had made themselves presentable though in truth Emma scrubbed up better than Dave.
So I took my self-off upstairs to change into a clean shirt which I swiped from Dave’s wardrobe.
Just as I was coming down stairs the doorbell rang. Dave headed for the door and I ducked into the lounge. I didn’t want to be hovering in the hall when the desperate single woman arrived in case I gave her the impression I was keen to meet her although I confess I was curious to see what the latest offering in a long line of potential life partners looked like, but not curious enough to hover in the hallway.
As it turned out the doorbell was rung by Colin who worked with Dave at the hospital and his wife Clair, who was a nurse, I knew them very well and they were good company.
There were to be six for dinner Dave and Emma, Colin and Clair and myself and the mystery woman.
The new arrivals soon joined me in the lounge and the volume rose as the banter began with barbed jibes mainly aimed at me.
Colin went through a whole tirade of remarks questioning my manhood and my sexuality.
“What’s the matter Bernie couldn’t they scrape up a date for you this time?”
“Perhaps you should try something in the inflatable line, the conversations not up to much and they always have the same expression on their face, but they never judge”
Thankfully the doorbell went again.
“Saved by the bell” Emma said as she went towards the door.
This didn’t knock Colin off his stride for a second as he continued to elaborate on the advantages of having an inflatable girlfriend which he continued to do until Emma led a very attractive brunette into the room.
Colin stopped mid-sentence with his mouth open which he only closed after Clair had inserted her elbow into his rib cage.
“Everybody this is Angela” Emma said.
“Dave you know already, the one with his mouth open is Colin and his long suffering wife Clair”
Then she turned to me “and this is Bernie”
I would be hard pressed to put a figure on the number of attractive young women Emma had steered in my direction over the years.
In many ways Angela was just another in a very long line but there was something else to her which I couldn’t put my finger on.
Maybe it was the way she held herself and how she was un-phased by the realization that she was making up the numbers.
Sometimes when Emma has introduced me you see the shoulders slump in disappointment or you see excitement on the faces of the keen ones that give them the look of kittens on speed.
Angela was poised and confident and…
“Hi” I said and offered my hand which she took.
We obviously held hands for longer than we should have and as soon as we realized we let go and she laughed nervously and I felt myself blush.
“Where do you know Emma from?” I asked trying to regain my composure while being painfully aware that no one else in the room was speaking.
“We were at school together” She said
“And then after university I moved away and we lost touch”
“And now?” I asked suddenly aware the question made no sense; I was normally much more coherent than this.
“And now what?”
“I think he means where are you living now” Said Emma coming to my rescue.
“Oh I see yes, I moved back in November, I’m living with my parents at the moment until I find somewhere I like”
I became aware of a low murmur in the background so I relaxed in the knowledge I was no longer being watched.
“And how did you two get back in touch?”
Emma laughed and Angela said.
“It was in Sainsbury’s and I inadvertently walked off with Emma’s trolley when …”
“I was about to draw it to her attention by throwing a tin of baked beans at her”
“But I turned round just in time”
They were both laughing now and soon Angela’s soft infectious giggle had circled the room until we were all laughing.
That kind of set the tone for the rest of the evening as we enjoyed Emma’s wondrous culinary offerings, each course was punctuated with a mixture of rehashed old anecdotes and previously unheard tales regaled to us by Emma and Angela.
All through the evening my eyes were drawn to Angela almost to the point of staring and once or twice Emma noticed my interest and I quickly glanced away and the she and Dave exchanged a knowing look.
It was when we reached the liqueur stage of the evening when we were all slightly the worse for drink and all guilty of over imbibing that I finally let myself down.
As a veteran guest of the Parkers it always fell to me to raise a toast which I gladly did.
“Please raise your glasses to the hostess with the mostest Emma and yet another outstanding feast, Emma”
This was greeted with a chorus of “Hear, Hear” and much table tapping.
“And to the man who mastery of the bottle opener is second to none, Dave”
More cheers and more table tapping.
“And last but by no means least old friends”
And that is where I should have left it but no.
“And new friends” and raising my glass and looking straight at her I said “Angel”
Everybody just cracked up Dave laughed so much he fell off his chair which only managed to fuel the flames.
I just turned crimson and slumped into my chair.
Angel smiled at me though the tears rolling down her cheeks, so I thought maybe I hadn’t ruined my chances.
Colin stood up and did a very credible impression of me saying
“We have an angel in our midst” which isn’t easy to say even when your sober.
Then Dave clambered back into his chair and exclaimed
“It’s better than that I’ve just realized we have two angels”
“What are you on about” Said Emma
I had a bad feeling about what was coming next so I interceded
“Just ignore him he’s pissed”
But Dave was not to be deterred.
“We have the beautiful young angel Angela, and we have the angel Gabriel”
“What are you talking about?” quizzed Emma
He resorted to pointing to get his meaning over; firstly he pointed at Angela and said slowly.
Then he pointed at me
“What?” Emma asked again with a very puzzled expression
So he pointed at me again and said
“GABRIEL Bernard Brophy”
Finally the penny dropped and everybody fell about.
Except me I just leant forward and started banging my head on the table.
I sat up and looked at Dave.
“Over Twenty five years you’ve kept that secret and you chose tonight to give it up”
“It’s alright you’re among friends” Emma said and then broke down again.
“It won’t stay among friends though, not now loose lips knows” I said gesturing in Colin’s direction. “It will be all round the hospital tomorrow”
“Oh now that’s not fair” said Emma
“No it is” Said Colin
“No it won’t be all over the hospital tomorrow” Added Dave reassuringly.
“He’s off until Thursday”
The next day was one of reflection and I was left with a feeling of what might have been had I not dropped the ball.
How ironic it was that after all the young women Dave and Emma had put in my path over the years in the hope of finding me a wife, which I always managed to side step, I finally met a woman whom I didn’t want to swerve to avoid and the fates conspired against me.
I finally met a girl who was attractive, funny, intelligent, well spoken, had a sense of humour and good table manners (which was a definite plus) and who left me tongue tied like a lovesick schoolboy, someone who ticked all the boxes and quite simply bowled me over, and I blew it in the most humiliating manner.
It seemed like we had a number of things in common, we were both Christians, we both liked film and cinema, walking in the country to name but three and I was looking forward to finding out more about her and if there were any other boxes I could tick.
I couldn’t believe what a gibbering idiot I had been; I had been complimented in the past, more than once for my eloquence at such occasions and I had never been tongue tied before well not since I was fifteen, and why oh why did I call her Angel and why did Dave have to blurt out my Christian name.
I didn’t even bother asking her out or getting her number there didn’t seem much point.
I did feel though that we had made a connection and that my overtures, for want of a better term, would not have been rejected out of hand.
I could still have gotten her number from Emma but how would I ever have been able to ask her out after she knew that my name was Gabriel?
So I resigned myself to the fact that due to some circumstances beyond my control and my total inability to string even the simplest of semi coherent sentences together she would be forever viewed as the one that got away.
So I turned my full attentions to work and started getting things ready for my return to harness the next day.
As I was ironing myself a shirt the phone rang, I ignored it; it was probably one of my mates who having heard the revelation about my name were just phoning to take the piss.
It rang again, I ignored it again, I knew it wouldn’t take long for Colin to spread the word.
It rang a third time.
“I suppose I’d better get it over with” I said and headed towards the phone.
It rang again before I got to it and the answer phone kicked in.
My first reaction was good now leave your poisonous message and then I can delete it without even hearing it, but curiosity got the better of me so I decided to listen to the message and braced myself.
“Hi, Oh dear I hope you don’t mind me ringing” Said a faltering voice
“Erm, I got your number from Emma”
There was a pause then a nervous laugh.
I quickly grabbed the phone.
And almost shouted “Hello”
If I had gone with my first instinct and deleted the message unheard she would never have called again I would still have thought of her as the one that got away and the remarkable year would simply not have happened.
Well thankfully I did and what a remarkably good decision it was.
The conversation began in a rather stumbling and embarrassed fashion, with lots of nervous laughter and hesitation but ended in a date.
It was decided that a meal would be best where we could relax and find out more about each other.
But where proved more difficult, we ruled out restaurants that used unusual eating utensils which excluded most oriental places and any French establishments serving escargot, the food had to be cooked which eliminated sushi, any food which the eater might end up wearing i.e. spaghetti, ribs etc. so we reached the conclusion that beer and pizza was probably the safest option.
The phone call lasted more than an hour and I was reluctant to end it but my bladder had the last word.
As it turned out this one carefully selected date proved to be the last difficult decision we had to make together.
The first date led to another and then another and another, we dined at all the establishments we excluded for our first date and ate all the foods previously mentioned.
Between New Years and Easter we were rarely apart and we did everything together, Bowling, Swimming, walking you name it we did it and we could neither remember the time before we met nor craved time to ourselves.
We were obviously regular guests at the Parkers where Emma would gloat shamelessly at her matchmaking success.
In April I had to go to the States on business unexpectedly for two weeks and Angela wasn’t able to get any time off at such short notice so I went alone and although we spoke on the phone and emailed every day I missed her terribly.
When I returned to home on the last day of April she was waiting for me as I came through the gate and she ran to meet me and I took her in my arms,
“I missed you so much” Angela said
“I never want us to be apart again, Angel” I replied
Then I knelt in front of her and proposed to her right there at the arrivals gate.
We were married in June at St Lucy’s Church in the village of Brookley, we had to get a special license.
We were lucky to find somewhere at such short notice but we wanted to be married in church as we were both Christians we just weren’t regular attendees though we became so at St Lucy’s.
Dave was my best man and Emma was matron of honour and their boys Jake and Kenny were page boys.
It was a small affair just close friends and what family we had, my brother Greg and Angela’s parents, mine were both gone years before.
But it was a wonderful day, one that we would never forget.
Then an ambition fulfilled and a dream come true, when we honeymooned in Italy travelling to Venice on the Orient Express.
After the honeymoon we moved into my flat, a short term arrangement while we found a house, Angela never did find a place of her own and had been living at her parents where most of her stuff remained.
There was an old run down farm with a derelict farm house that we often walked past on one of our many country walks and we had often wondered what it would be like to live there.
It was beautifully situated in a nice plot of land far enough into the country to be peaceful and close enough to the village to be part of a community.
Then one day I noticed it was up for sale, it was lucky really because I only drove past it because a bus had broken down on my usual route to work so I went cross country.
I called the agent, it had been empty for about ten years, when the owner an elderly widow moved into a home and with no next of kin to keep an eye on the property it fell into disuse.
Now upon the death of the old lady the farm was to be sold to settle her estate.
I arranged an appointment but I kept it secret from Angela and I just told her we had a viewing.
“So where are we going first?” Angel asked as we were about to leave.
“It’s over Brookley way” I said vaguely
She was sat in the car flicking through a pile of A4 sheets containing estate agents blurb.
“Where are the details then?” She quizzed “I can’t find it”
“I must have left it at work, but don’t worry the agent will have a copy”
We had quite a few places to look at some Angela had chosen and some of mine but the old farmhouse was first on the list, .as we drove down the lane towards the farm Angela asked.
“Where are we going?”
“It’s not far now it’s just down here I think”
Then we turned the corner and the entrance was on the left.
On the right hand side of the entrance there was a half rotten five bar gate leaning askew against a crumbling brick wall held in place by a solitary well rusted hinge and tied to the gate.
While on the left hand side was a once sturdy sign post leaning at a precarious angle adorned by a board bearing the name of the farm but it could not be read from that angle.
As I drove through the entrance into the yard Angela said.
“It’s our farmhouse”
There was already a car in the yard which was unnecessarily flash and could only belong to an estate agent.
The door opened and a preening peacock of a man climbed out pausing briefly to brush away an invisible speck of dust off his sleeve.
I opened my door first to get out but by the time I climbed out Angela was already out fidgeting and transferring her weight from one foot to the other eager to get on.
The agent glanced briefly at the paper he was holding and enquired.
“Yes” I said and proffered my hand.
He inspected it briefly then shook it limply in his clammy manicured hand.
“And this is my wife”
I waved my hand in the direction of where she had been standing but she had already bounded off like Tigger.
It took about an hour to view everything, the farmhouse, out buildings and the couple of acres of land.
The agent didn’t fancy leaving the confines of the yard presumably he didn’t want to get mud on his expensive Italian shoes.
So we explored the land by ourselves.
We had both fallen instantly in love with the old ramshackle farm and by the time Angela and I had wandered back to the yard we had decided to make an offer on the place.
We had good jobs, well paid jobs, and for a number of years earned more than we could spend and as a result both had substantial savings.
Plus Angela had sold her house the previous year and I only had a tiny mortgage on my flat so we worked out that we could easily afford to buy the farm, renovate the farmhouse for ourselves and convert the out buildings into another property which we could earn a little income on either as a summer let or as a normal rental, provided of course we could get it for under the asking price.
It would be a gamble and after years of playing safe and being sensible it was not an easy one to make but because neither of us had seriously invested ourselves in a long term relationship before we went for it with gay abandon.
So we made our offer to the agent.
“That may not be good enough there are other people interested” He said looking down his nose.
“In fact I have another viewing this afternoon”
“Well actually that appointment is with me” Angela said sheepishly.
As we drove out of the yard I stopped just inside the gate when something caught my eye.
“Look at that” I said pointing out the window
From that angle I could clearly see the signboard that bore the name of the farm.
It read “Angels Farm”
“Well now we know it’s definitely meant to be”
So our offer was accepted, it had taken one day to find the house of our dreams but it was to be several months before we could move in properly.
The first thing we did after we sold the flat was to buy a second hand caravan that we parked in the farmyard which would be our home until the house was finished as we had decided we didn’t want to move in until absolutely everything was done although that would very much depend on the severity of the winter.
All of our furniture and worldly goods were put in the barn which we were using for storage.
Now as an accountant and a software engineer, Angela and I were of very little use in regard to the major work that was required but as project managers we were second to none.
We were very lucky securing professional help we needed, so many of them were between jobs or had another job that had fallen through and were unexpectedly available.
We employed a constant stream of them, builders, roofers, plumbers, plasterers, electricians, telecoms engineers and tree surgeons, and apart from our talents for project management were excellent tea and coffee makers.
On the practical side we were gainfully employed with clearing rubbish and shrubbery from the site and filling skips with anything and everything.
To all intents and purposes we dropped out of sight for the duration of the project and spent every available minute we had working on the farm.
Although we did make great use of baby brother Greg on several occasions, we were quite selfish and single minded really but we were even handed about it and we ignored friends and family alike, and we did feel guilty about it but if we could get everything done by Christmas we would be able to see whoever we liked whenever we liked..
Angela did touch base briefly with her parents by phone and we spoke occasionally to Dave and Emma but we didn’t see them after August.
Throughout October, we made great progress whipping a large section of the acreage into something resembling a garden and in November our hard work was rewarded when the turf was laid.
By the end of November we were able to get into the farmhouse and start decorating while the professionals made progress on the outbuilding conversion.
As we completed each room the carpets were laid and then we moved the furniture in room by room we worked our way through the house and we were counting the days when we could abandon the caravan forever.
We had both accrued quite a lot of holidays and lieu time over the last few years so we decided to use them up for the final push which meant we only worked about five days in December.
Then on the twentieth of December with great ceremony (A recording of a fanfare and a bottle of Cava) we took up residence in our dream home.
The next morning when we awoke for the first time in our own bedroom it was with a certain smug satisfaction after all we had achieved our target with four days to spare and a few pounds left in the budget, It was going to be the best Christmas ever.
“CHRISTMAS!” Angela shouted and sat bolt upright.
“What?” I said as she leapt out of bed
“CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS” she was shouting and running around like a headless chicken trying to dress and run at the same time she fell over twice.
I just looked on in amusement as she flitted from bedroom to bathroom in various states of undress.
Then she stood in the bathroom door and said.
“We don’t have anything for Christmas, no decorations, no tree, no cards, no food, no presents, no crackers, no drink we have nothing for Christmas.”
Then the penny dropped we had been so focused on getting in the house by Christmas we had forgotten about Christmas itself.
“OH GOD!” I shouted and then joined in the headless chicken dance.
So for the next three days we did battle at the mall amidst the throngs of Christmas shoppers and took part in the supermarket trolley dash filling the trolleys with enough food to feed a small army.
Then we wrote endless cards, wrapped the numerous presents, decked the halls and trimmed the tree.
So by the time darkness fell on the third day everything was done and presents stood in neat piles ready to be delivered the next day.
I opened a bottle of wine and we sat on the sofa beside the glowing fireplace and I put my arm around her and asked.
“Can we be smug now?”
“Oh yes I think we most certainly can” she replied smiling then she turned her head and kissed me.
On Christmas Eve morning we woke up late, well late for us anyway, it was 9.30am when we stirred and it was so quiet.
Angela snuggled up to me and I held her close.
“What time is it?” She asked sleepily
“Half past nine”
“Wow that’s late we’d better get on”
“It’s not that late” I said nuzzling her neck
“It’s too late for that” she said pushing me away.
“Go and put the kettle on”
“Ok” I said and got out of bed.
Angela got out the other side pulled on a T-shirt and went to the window.
I looked at her and wished we had stayed in bed.
She drew back the curtain.
“Snow!” she exclaimed and then Tigger was back bouncing all over the room squealing “Snow “ every time she left the floor.
I walked to the window and looked out on the scene, it had snowed heavily in the night and snow was still falling though more softly and everything was coated in five or six inches of snow.
“It just gets better and better” I mused
“Ok” I said as I turned from the window “What’s it to be, coffee in bed or play in the snow?”
“Play in the snow” Angel shouted and bounded across the room and launched herself at me wrapping her arms round my neck and knocking me backwards onto the bed.
She kissed me passionately on the mouth and asked
“Is there a third choice?”
So after we made love we got dressed in our play clothes and wrapped up against the cold and went out to play in the freshly fallen snow.
It was like being children again as we rushed around throwing snowballs and wrestling in the snow.
Where our newly turfed lawn used to be was a vast area of virgin white and we took turns making snow angels and then we built a snowman in the yard until we started to feel cold and wet and our bodies told us to act our age.
So we went inside and had hot showers and for lunch we had piping hot soup in front of a roaring fire.
After lunch Angela was pottering about in the kitchen washing up and such like and I dozed off in front of the fire.
I started to dream and in the dream I was woken by an icy blast of air from the patio door as it slid open and then a figure stepped through the door it was white and translucent and its outline was made of snow, it was one of the snow angels we had made on the lawn.
It walked towards me then stopped as it became aware of the heat from the fire.
Then it looked directly at me and spoke.
“You must help them, they need you”
“Who? Who must I help?”
“You must help your friends”
Then the snow angel turned and left the way it came.
Then I woke up.
“Well that wasn’t weird at all” I said out loud and gave a nervous laugh.
I stood up and walked towards the kitchen so I could tell Angela and then I felt something beneath my feet, I looked down and there was a patch of melted snow on the carpet.
“That’s odd” I said to myself.
It was odd as we hadn’t come into that room with our snowy shoes and it was the exact spot were the snow angel had been standing in my dream.
I moved again and as I reached the kitchen door I could see Angela standing motionless staring out of the window open mouthed.
I entered the room and walked up behind her and followed her gaze and on our snow covered lawn were a dozen snow angels all pointing in the same direction.
Then in an instant they were gone and Angela turned around and buried her face in my chest.
“Tell me you saw them as well; tell me I’m not going mad”
“I saw them too” I said reassuringly
Then I proceeded to tell her about my dream.
But we didn’t really understand what they were trying to tell us. Who were we supposed to help? And what were the angels pointing at?
They seemed to be pointing at what used to be the old out buildings which were now a house. But why we couldn’t fathom.
The only friends we had in common were Dave and Emma so it had to be them.
I phoned the landline and got the “out of service” tone.
Angela phoned Emma’s mobile - no answer so I phoned Dave’s and I got no answer as well.
“Well that settles it” I said
Angela agreed and if it wasn’t them who needed our help it would be great to see them anyway.
But just in case we were both completely barking mad we loaded their presents in the car.
As we drove past the snowman in the yard I was sure it had moved it was now facing the opposite way and its stick arm was pointing at the empty house.
I turned to look at Emma she was looking at the snowman as well
“It’s moved hasn’t it? And look where it’s pointing” she said.
As we drove up the road to their house it was obvious something wasn’t quite right.
To begin with there were no Christmas lights, and then there was virtually no light in the house just a dull kind of flickering glow.
We parked the car quickly and hurried up the path and knock on the door.
It took a while but then the door opened a few inches and a gaunt pale face peered through the crack with frightened tired eyes.
“Emma?” we both said at once.
Then the door swung open and Emma broke down and fell against me.
I scooped her up and carried her through to the lounge Angela followed me in and quickly shut the door to keep out the cold.
Once in the lounge we realized it was little warmer than the street.
There was a paraffin heater in the middle of the room and the only light came from candles.
I set Emma down on the sofa and she wrapped herself in the duvet that was laying there, two of the children were sitting on another sofa beneath another duvet reading books the youngest was asleep next to Emma..
Emma was a mere shadow of the confident self-assured woman I had last seen in August.
“What happened?” I asked and it all poured out of her.
She told us that Dave lost his job in September when they started a phased closure of the hospital and try as he might he couldn’t find anything else.
“At first I got a part time job, cash in hand you know, which helped a bit but then I fell off my bike and broke my arm and I couldn’t work”
“Why didn’t you call us?” Angela asked
“Dave wouldn’t let me” she sobbed
“What about Karen? Wouldn’t she help” I added,
“We had another falling out, we haven’t spoken since Easter”
Karen was her sister, they had never been close, but Emma had resolved to know her better.
“What about when we phoned you? Why didn’t you tell us then?”
“Dave was so ashamed that he couldn’t look after his family, he didn’t want anyone to know”
Emma went on to say that after that the bills just kept mounting up and then the phone was cut off, then the mobiles had to go and the electric was likely to be next.
“You should have called us then?” I said
“When it got so bad I didn’t know what to say”
I looked at Angela and I could tell we were sharing the same thought.
We had been so wrapped up in the farm we had forgotten our friends.
“We owe three months’ rent, what will we do when the council evicts us?”
“It won’t come to that” I said and I looked again at Angela and she nodded agreement
In that moment the meaning of the angel’s message had become clear.
“No it won’t” Angela agreed
“Where is Dave now?” I asked
“He’s upstairs in bed” Emma sobbed heavily “he’s very ill but he won’t let me call a doctor, he hasn’t eaten for two days”
“Well he’s not going to get better if he stays here” I said “You can all come to stay with us for Christmas; we’ve got plenty of room”
I suddenly thought I may have overstepped the mark so I looked across at Angela.
And she nodded her approval and smiled.
“Then after the holidays when the other house is finished, you can move in there until you’re all well and back on your feet” Angela added
It was my turn to nod approval.
That was what the angels meant I was sure of it.
Emma Leapt off the sofa and hugged us both.
“We can sort things out with the council after Christmas so don’t worry” I assured her
“Now you go and pack some clothes and toys for the children” Angela ordered wiping away her own tears.
The logistics took a little thinking about it was obvious we couldn’t all get in our car and I was going to need help with Dave so I phoned Greg, he was coming to us for Christmas anyway, and between the two of us we transported everyone plus baggage and Molly’s cot.
Back at Angels Farm, Angela got everyone settled while Greg and I unloaded the cars.
As we took the last bags out of his boot I said.
“You do realize I’ve given your bed away to someone else?”
“No you’ve given it to someone who needs it more” He replied
“I’ll be all right I’ll sleep in the caravan”
Once we were all inside in the warm, Greg played with the children in front of the fire, Angela prepared some hot food and I called a doctor for Dave.
After everyone was settled in bed Angela and I were clearing up when we looked out the window and noticed it was snowing again. I opened the kitchen door and stepped down onto the patio Angela stood on the step behind me and wrapped her arms round my neck and kissed my cheek.
“It’s going to be a white Christmas” she whispered in my ear.
Suddenly the floodlight came on and illuminated the whole patio and stood at the edge of the lawn was a Snow Angel with a gentle smile on its face.
“Did we do the right thing?” I asked it
The Angel nodded.
“And the house is for people who need help?”
The Angel nodded again.
“We will use it well” Angela added
And with that the angel smiled again and then lay down upon the lawn and then the light flicked off.
The snow was falling fast now.
“All trace of them will be gone by morning” I said
“There will always be angels at the farm” Angela replied and kissed my cheek again.
Then we went back inside.
And so for Angela and me it had been an amazing year, a life changing year, a year never to be forgotten, beginning with love at first sight and ending with a miracle.
At first we chastened ourselves for being such poor friends, by being so self-absorbed in our own priorities that we forgot what was important.
But when we looked back over that eventful year we realized that we were merely adhering to a greater plan
Throughout the year we were being guided and steered towards our destiny by the angels.
The steered us towards St Lucy’s church in Brookley for our wedding and it was no coincidence that the farm went on the market the very day we began our search for a home.
Nor was it happenstance that a breakdown led me to take a diversion that took me past the farm so I would see the for sale sign and all those workmen being available just at the time we needed them.
Then finally in an area of the country that had not seen a significant fall of December snow for more than 50 years produces the snowfall on Christmas Eve in which we made the snow angels.
Though some might say we had been manipulated we chose to think we had been chosen and guided and we were happy to be so.
For the rest of our lifetimes we never saw the snow angels again but for all our days we were the angels of Angel’s Farm.