There are four Windmill Cottages in the village of Mornington-By-Mere and they are as quaintly picturesque as the rest of the village.
They stand detached in a neat row alongside the southern bank of the River Brooke situated between the East Bridge and Church Hall.
The Chapman family live in number 1 and Jo Williamson and her daughter Cassandra live next door at number 2.
Alan Chapman was a 50 year old widowed Farm Labourer and was very highly regarded and as such he was never out of work as a result and because of that he could easily pick and choose where he worked.
As a consequence of his outdoor life he was a lean fit man with a full head of sandy hair and a weathered complexion.
As a result of his children’s independent existences Alan spent a lot of his leisure time on his own.
He wasn’t altogether happy with that but he had been a widower for ten years so he was getting used to it.
He was not an unsociable man however and was well liked by those who knew him and he got on well with his neighbour’s.
One of his neighbour’s was Josephine Williamson who he knew very well and had wanted very much to have known her better for some time.
But what held him back was that she was 8 years younger than him.
So he admired her from a distance, and there was much to admire, she was five foot eight with luscious thick ginger curls tumbling down onto her shoulders and mesmerizing green eyes, with a lovely figure, curvaceous and perfectly proportioned.
Jo was a divorcee but had raised her daughter single handed and had to stand on her own two feet, she had managed to get a full time job with one of the new firms up at Mornington Field, Paige Turners and things were going well for her so she was happy-ish.
However everything changed on a Friday afternoon two weeks before Christmas when he opened the front door and found a rather tipsy Jo Williamson leaning against the doorframe.
“Alan darling” she slurred, “I am a damsel in distress”
Once inside she told him that she had been to the Paige Turners Christmas lunch at the Old Mill Inn and she had enjoyed it very much but she was locked out of her house and her daughter Caz had gone Christmas shopping in Abbottsford for the day.
After having to pay a visit to the loo she tottered into the lounge, make up repaired, outfit perfect, and in one hand she held a sprig of mistletoe.
“Look what I have found,” she said and as she reached him she raised it above her head.
So he stood up to face her, puckered up and gave her a Christmas kiss and as his lips touched hers her it was evident that it was a more intrusive kind of Christmas kiss she was interested in, which took him by surprise, but it was a nice surprise, so in the spirit of the season and just to be neighbourly he responded in kind.
But the greater surprise came when they ended up making love in his bed.
Jo and Alan lay silently in the afterglow in his bed and after a few minutes Jo turned her head to look at him.
“My goodness that was really powerful mistletoe” Jo said from beneath the duvet.
“It was that” he agreed
“This isn’t quiet how I envisaged the day going” she said
“Well we Chapmans take hospitality very seriously” he said
“I don’t make a habit of this” she said
“Nor do I” Alan said “And this isn’t something I envisaged happening either, but it’s something I pictured in my dreams, often”
He reached out and put his arm around her and she lay her head on his chest.
Holding the bubbly redhead in his arms was something he had often imagined doing but he never expected for a moment that it would actually happen.
But as if it wasn’t enough of a surprise to have enjoyed some afternoon delight with the woman he had admired from afar for so long, it transpired that she felt the same way about him.
Almost a week had passed since they made love in his house and they had barely spoken a word.
Though not out of guilt or regret it was merely the time of year and they just couldn’t get a moment alone.
They did text, in fact the very next day he received one which read
“Merry Christmas Alan, with love from a grateful Damsel in Distress” It should have been simple enough to communicate as they were next door neighbours but it was complicated by the fact they had family.
They both wanted to take it to the next level but they wanted to speak to their children first and pre warn them.
He walked into the village to do some shopping, and first he went to Normans General Store.
It was full of all the usual trappings of the season, selection boxes, tinsel, wrapping paper and cards but his eyes were immediately drawn to a large stack of magazines.
The Radio Times to be precise, the bumper Christmas edition of the Radio Times.
He got a lot of stick from his kids over it, because they thought it was a bit sad but he really looked forward to getting the Bumper Christmas Edition of the Radio Times, (other TV Guides were available).
It is one of the highlights of the season for him, and to make it even sadder, he bought two copies.
After leaving Norman’s he crossed to road and went to Legg’s Farm shop, then he crossed the road again and went to Addison’s Bakers and finally Boddingtons to get some mince.
It was as he was leaving the latter that he bumped into Jo coming the other way.
“Hello Alan” she said
“Hi Jo, you surprised me” he said then she surprised him again by giving him a bear hug almost crushing his Radio Times and kissed his cheek several times.
“I’ve missed you” she whispered
“Likewise” he whispered back
“Are you going to The Carol Concert on Saturday night?” She asked
“Yes I am” he replied
“If you’re going as well then perhaps we could go together”
“That would be nice” Jo said “I’ll see you on Saturday”
On Saturday Night the Chapmans and the Williamson walked together the short distance to St Winifred’s and even sat together and as it was a candlelit service Jo took the opportunity to hold Alan’s hand in the semi darkness.
On Christmas Eve Alan rose early and took advantage of the fact the house was empty to get the chores done.
His daughter Lorraine didn’t live with him full time as she was a Nurse at the Winston Churchill Hospital in Abbottsford and rather than commute back and forth she shared a flat with two other Nurses, Jane Hall, and Rosie Parsons who also lived in Mornington and worked at the Churchill, she herself was working the night shift and wouldn’t be home until Christmas Day.
His son James was a Farm Labourer and worked at Windmill Farm and they were working in the morning and then having Christmas Dinner followed by drinks.
And Subhan was babysitting Hannah Hills kids all day.
He loaded the washing machine and set the program to wash and then went upstairs and remade the beds with fresh linen in preparation for Christmas, then he hoovered, dusted and polished throughout the house.
His exceptionally early start to the day enabled him to complete all his chores with ease by lunchtime and after a long leisurely shower he made himself a sandwich.
Alan was just drying his hands after washing up his lunch plate when there was a knock at the door.
When he opened it, he found Jo Williamson on the other side of it, wearing a Christmas jumper and wearing tinsel in her hair, holding a Christmas parcel.
“Happy Christmas” she said beaming.
“Hey! Happy Christmas hon” he responded, “come in”
“Ok” she said still smiling broadly “but no funny business”
“No funny business” he agreed and Jo stepped inside.
“You didn’t have to get me a gift,” he said to her as he took her coat.
“But it was a nice thing to do, thank you”
As Jo sat down on the sofa he reached under the Christmas Tree and picked up a little gift bag and handed it to her.
“Merry Christmas” he said and sat down beside her.
But she seemed not to notice the gift and took a deep breath and blurted out.
“I’ve told Caz about us”
“Really?” he said
“She saw us holding hands at the Carol Service” She explained “So I had to”
“Good” he said
“Then you’re not angry?”
“No of course not” he said “What did she say?”
“She said that she was thrilled for me” and tears were beginning to form in her eyes.
Alan put his arms around her and said
“I told Jimmy last night and he said it was about time”
“What about the others?” she asked
“I spoke to Siobhan before she went out this morning” Alan said
“And what did she say?” Jo said urgently, knowing that she would be the most likely to be upset by the news as she was only 7 when her mum died.
“Cool” he replied and she sighed
“So only Lorraine to tell then”
“Yes I’ll tell her tomorrow” he said “But she’s been telling me for years I needed to find someone, so she won’t be a problem”
“So what do we do now?” she asked
“Well I don’t know” he replied “but once I’ve spoken to Lorraine it means you can kiss me anytime you want without the aid of mistletoe”
“Oh I like the sound of that” She said and gave him a big hug and an hour later they were snuggled beneath the freshly laundered duvet.
“So much for no funny business” he thought as she lay her head on his chest and sighed.