Tuesday, 23 May 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.

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