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.
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.
Paul Richardson was tall, almost six foot six, and stick thin with mousy hair and big feet and what leisure time he had, and there wasn’t much, was spent birdwatching, and that would have remained the case had it not been for a serendipitous set of seemingly unrelated circumstances.
It began as a normal Monday at the guest house for Paul who along with his sister were cleaning the vacated rooms.
Monday was normally the worst day because the weekenders had checked out and the rooms needed servicing before the Monday afternoon arrivals.
That Monday however they only had two rooms to do because the other three were still occupied so they took a lot less time to do.
Consequently he was in the hall when the phone rang.
“Corner guest house” he said
“Is that Paul?” the caller asked
“Excellent I need to ask a favour” they said “it’s Peter Carter”
Peter Carter was a guest and it transpired that he had gone to have a pint and a sandwich and after having several pints and two sandwiches he realised he had left his wallet back in his room and the favour he was referring to involved Paul collecting his wallet from his bedside table and taking it to the pub.
Had it been a normal Monday he wouldn’t have had the time but on that occasion as it was a lovely Sunny day he was only too happy to oblige, a walk in the autumn sunshine was just what the doctor ordered.
It was a different kind of a Monday at the Old Mill Inn as well because although it was a Monday and the restaurant was closed, instead of being eerily quiet, the kitchen was a hive of activity because on that Monday two new trainee chefs had started work under chef Lorraine Olson and she was putting them through their paces.
Even though Lorraine had to forgo the only day off that she got a week she thought it would be worth it in the long run.
As pleasantly sunny as the walk to the pub was for Paul it paled into darkness compared to what he saw when he stepped into the pub at the precise moment as Cally Wilson exited the kitchen and the trifecta was complete.
Cally Wilson was only 21 and when she walked into the bar and saw Paul Richardson her heart skipped a beat and when their eyes met they were immediately smitten.
She stood six feet tall with short curly auburn hair, and a very large bust, lovely eyes and a nice smile.
Paul just hovered in the doorway staring at her while Cally who was quiet and reserved was trying to summon the courage to go and say hello but she was beaten to the punch when a middle-aged man walked over to him instead.
She didn’t hear all the conversation but she did hear the middle-aged man say as they separated
“Thank you Paul”
“Paul” she said to herself “I like that name”
However as she thought it, he turned around and went back out the door.
Fortunately for her she was going that way because Cally’s mum had MS and she was just going to pop home to check on her when she ran into Paul.
She rushed out the door so she could see where he went but as she burst through the door she ran straight into him.
“Oh I’m sorry” she said
“That’s ok I was coming back in to ask you something” he said
“Me?” she asked with surprise
“Ask away” Cally said
“Would you like to go out sometime? The cinema maybe?” he asked
“Yes” she replied “I would”
“Great” he said with surprise “When?”
“How about tonight?” She said and that was how it started with a trip to the Cinema in Finchbottom.
The relationship blossomed over the following weeks despite the fact that they didn’t see each other as often as they would have liked.
Cally worked long hours at the restaurant as well as having to help with her mum and the only regular day off she got was a Monday which was Paul’s busiest.
But with Christmas fast approaching they were looking forward to spending more time together
Kay Richardson had worked very hard over the years running the Guest House but to preserve her sanity she had always closed at Christmas so she and her 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.
Also the Old Mill Inn restaurant would close on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and would not reopen fully until the following Tuesday.
Cally was particularly looking forward to spending some “private” time with Paul as he had been a little backward in coming forward in the intimacy department.
And although Cally was quiet and reserved she was reaching the point that she would have to take matters into her own hands.
She wasn’t sure how she would achieve it but she had definitely lost patience waiting for him to act so she had no alternative but to take decisive action herself.
It was as she and her friend Tegan were walking to work on Christmas Eve that a plan formed in her mind and a smile not dissimilar to a leer crossed her face.
Paul spent the early part of the morning of Christmas Eve delivering Christmas gifts and cards to friends and neighbours in the village, and when he had finished he planned to spend the rest of it alone at home listening to Christmas music and watching schmaltzy movies on TV.
His mum and sister were out for the day, the former had driven over to visit a friend in Sharpington and the latter was spending the day with her best friend in Dulcet St Mary.
So everything was going according to plan.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve the Old Mill Inn was still open but there weren’t many customers left but those that were made enough noise for a crowd.
The kitchen was cleaned down and pristine and Cally had just finished putting the clean cutlery back in the trays in the dining room.
“Anything else you want me to do?” she asked Lorraine
“No you get off home now” she replied and gave her a hug and kiss “Happy Christmas lovely”
“Happy Christmas” she said in response and Lorraine went back into the kitchen.
Her friend Tegan, was small with delicate features and bobbed strawberry blonde hair and was a foot shorter and at least six stones lighter than Cally, was stood up on a chair writing up Saturday’s menu.
“Oy what about me you ginger bint” she shouted
“I’m auburn” she shouted back and went over a picked Tegan off the chair and got her in a bear hug.
“I give in, I give in” she said laughing loudly
“Now give me a kiss” demanded Cally
After exchanging kisses Cally then deposited her back on the chair.
“Happy Christmas Cal” she called as her friend walked away
“Happy Christmas” she called over her shoulder.
As Paul was watching back to back Christmas movies Cally spent the afternoon helping her mum with the preparations for the big day, and then she got changed and set off to walk to Paul’s through the fast settling snow and got there about seven o’clock.
When she arrived she was greeted with the news that Pauls mum and sister were unable to get back to Mornington due to road closures because of the snow.
Paul had put the presents underneath the tree that afternoon, so all evening almost from the moment she arrived, she was like a child.
“Can I open a present?” she asked him every ten minutes.
“Just one, please, please, please”
She was getting on his nerves to be honest and she knew it, so she did it all the more.
She kept picking up the presents, shaking them, squeezing them, and even listening to them.
Finally he relented and as he headed upstairs to the loo he said.
“We can open one present each before we leave for midnight mass”
“Goody” she squealed
When he returned to the lounge he was expecting to find her waiting impatiently to open a present.
But instead he found her lying beneath the tree with wrapping paper loosely draped about her obviously naked body.
“You go first” she said and giggled
“I assume we’re not going to midnight mass” he said
“We’ll if you’d rather go to church than open a present we can” Cally suggested
Once he had un-wrapped his present and thoroughly enjoyed its contents they were too late for midnight mass so they went to bed and went to Church on Christmas morning instead.