Lynn Fletcher was a Shallowfield girl born and bred.
When she was born in 1958 her father Colin was a Forrester for the Dancingdean Forestry Commission and up until she fell pregnant her mother Laura worked at Addison’s bakery.
Baby Lynn’s arrival brought great joy tinged with a good deal of sadness when complications almost cost Laura and Lynn their lives.
After a tense and difficult couple of days, they both survived but at a cost, Laura was left unable to conceive again.
As an only child Lynn grew up as the apple of her parent’s eye and as a result she was spoilt but she was not spoiled.
Lynn was a popular girl, kind and thoughtful, who made friends easily and kept them through her gentle nature.
Shallowfield’s fortunes had always relied largely upon forestry and agriculture for its survival.
In the post war years with rationing and a shortage of work a lot of people moved away, to Abbottsford, Abbeyvale and beyond and it only barely survived.
And the community around Teardrop Lake fared even worse.
Only a few of the houses around the Lake were thriving, a lot of the houses had been rented out and those that hadn’t were in a poor state of repair, some too such an extent they were little more than ruins.
But by the 70s things were beginning to change, thanks mainly to tourism and an increase in leisure time.
More importantly these people had money in their pockets.
This trend was reflected by the fact that the derelict Shallowfield Lodge, which had been inherited by a young couple from Lincolnshire, Rob and Sheryl Brown, was being turned into a hotel.
Its completion formerly marked the rebirth of Teardrop Lake.
When Lynn started school at St Mary’s in Abbottsford, Laura was able to return to work at Addison’s Bakery.
And by the time Lynn left school the bakery had expanded into the shop next door and opened a tea shop which provided Lynn with her very first job as a school leaver aged fifteen.
Paul Cooper was a year younger than Lynn and he too had a troubled entry into the world, however his mother did not survive it, and it was touch and go for Paul.
When Paul was born his father Harry was a Captain in the Downshire Light Infantry, he’d already seen action in Korea and Cyprus and was set to deploy to Aden.
Paul had an older brother named Simon who was 8 years older than him but they were never close.
Simon was already at boarding School when Paul was born and when it was time for him to go, Simon had already moved on to a military college.
When he was at home Paul was cared for by a nanny who was by definition a woman, but looked and acted more like a sergeant major.
He was jealous of Simon, partly because he was his father’s son, but mainly because he resented the time he had with his mother.
Simon himself resented Paul for killing his mother.
In 1969 Simon followed Harry into the Downshire’s regiment and was rewarded with three tours of duty in Northern Ireland he did not return from the third after he was shot dead while on patrol on the streets of Londonderry in 1972.
The loss of his son almost broke Harry but Paul felt nothing and for that he felt guilt.
And it was a guilt that almost consumed him and had he not taken shelter in Addison’s Tea Shop one rainy day it may well have done.
It was Lynn’s first day in the shop and she was quite nervous, it wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life but she working as a waitress in a Tea Shop and she wanted to do it well.
The weather was foul and the shop had been open for half an hour and not one customer had come in, which wasn’t helping her nerves at all.
So when the little bell above the shop door rang and a sad looking, sopping wet teenage boy walked in, she sprang into action with great efficiency.
He sat down at the table by the window, and pushed the hood of his raincoat off his head.
Lynn recognized the boy, though she didn’t know his name, she knew he lived in one of the posh houses by the lake.
“Good morning” she said brightly and took out her little note book and pencil
“Hey” he responded
“I only started today, you’re my first customer” she whispered
“So be gentle with me”
“Just a Coke” he said flatly
Lynn nodded and turned to walk away and he added
Which made her smile.
After the first occasion he went to the Tea Shop the conversation didn’t become any deeper than it had the first time but he became a regular fixture over the coming weeks.
It was the only real human contact he had that summer despite the fact his father was home on leave, they were only really speaking in monosyllables, when they spoke at all.
There were added tensions because when he re-joined his regiment at the end of the summer he was to join them on deployment in Northern Ireland.
The Tea Shop was the only oasis in his desert of unhappiness and he looked forward to his daily visits.
It was almost the end of the summer holidays before Paul finally worked up the courage to ask Lynn out.
And when he did he rather spat the words out at her.
He’d been in twice already that day and bottled out both times and then he walked up and down outside the shop for half an hour before he went back in again.
“Hi” she said “Back again?”
“Yes” he replied
“Coke?” she asked
“No” he barked
“Ok, so what do you want?” Lynn said cheerfully
“Pictures” he said abruptly
“Will you come to the pictures?” He blurted
“Saturday” he replied with a crack in his voice
Lynn did like him, she even looked forward to him coming in every day, he was a good looking boy and he was very sweet, but he was younger than her and he was a Lakesider so he was of a different social status.
So she rather surprised herself when she said “yes”
And that was how it all began, a first date to the Cinema in Abbottsford to see American Graffiti.
That first date led to a second and a third, a fourth and a fifth, there would even have been a sixth but Paul had to go back to boarding school in Roespring for the start of the new term but by that stage the bond was well and truly made.
Lynn missed him when he went away to school, she missed him coming in to the Teas shop each day and ordering a Coke, she missed his smile.
She also missed holding hands with him at the pictures, but most of all she missed his kiss.
The goodbye kiss before he left, it was her first so she had no frame of reference, but she knew she liked it.
So she counted down the days while he was away at school and looked forward to October.
By the middle of the second week Lynn was beginning to think it was a very slow count down when she arrived at the shop with her mum at the normal time.
They went inside and changed into their uniforms as usual and were ready to start work when Elsie Addison walked into the staff room.
She was a lovely jovial lady in her sixties, she was quite rotund and was always laughing.
“Good morning ladies” she said
“Good morning Mrs Addison” they chorused
“I think someone has an admirer” she said enigmatically and reached a chubby hand into her overall pocket
Laura and Lynn just looked at each other and smiled.
When Elsie’s hand came out of her pocket it was holding a letter
“Someone has a billet-doux”
“I wonder who that might be for” Laura said looking at her daughter
“Well it’s addressed to L Fletcher” she said and paused “Miss L Fletcher”
“For me?” she asked
“Yes” she replied laughing heartily “now you had better go and read it quick before we open”
So she did, and Lynn consumed every word and digested every romance laden syllable, it was the first love letter she had ever received but it wasn’t the last time she would read it.
Nor was it the last letter she received that autumn as she and Paul exchanged letters every two or three days.
The correspondence which helped the day’s race by until October when he would be coming home.
But October came and went and Paul didn’t come home because his father had instructed the Head Teacher that he should stay at Roespring school for the half term as he was still in Londonderry.
When Paul received the news from the School and not his father it did nothing to improve their already fractious relationship.
So the letters continued between them until the Christmas holidays and Paul had pledged that he would be home for the holidays in spite of his father rather than because of him.
As it turned out Colonel Cooper and the Downshire’s returned to the UK in the middle of December and Paul returned home from school a week later.
Paul’s first port of call, after dumping his bags in the hall at the family home was Addison’s.
He got a cab from the station and he asked the driver to wait while he dropped his bags off and then drop him back in Shallowfield.
It was already dark when he exited the cab.
When he approached the shop, he looked through the window and sighed when he saw Lynn.
She hadn’t seen him as she was serving a customer and he stared, mesmerised by her loveliness as he drank in the picture.
It was the thought of seeing her looking like that, which had got him through the last term.
He pushed open the door and the little bell rang which caused her to throw a glance at the door.
There was a moment of hesitation and then the comprehension of what she was seeing spread across her face and she smiled.
“I’ll be with you in a moment sir” she said and went behind the counter
Paul sat down at his normal table where he could keep Lynn in full view as she finished serving a table of middle-aged women.
Lynn turned around and walked to Paul’s table, but kept her eyes averted in case she gave away just how much she had missed him.
She had not wanted to miss him. Lynn had not even intended going out with him, he was too young for a start and he was posh, but then she hadn’t intended to go out with anyone, she didn’t think she was ready at 15 to have a boyfriend.
But she did go out with him and she really did miss him.
His love letters to her were wonderful, she would keep them forever, but he was there in the Tea Shop in the flesh.
Lynn kept her eyes down until the very last second, determined to maintain her composure.
But as soon as her eyes met his she turned to jelly.
“Hello” she said soppily
“Hi” he said grinning like a half wit
“What can I get you” she asked desperately trying to keep her cool.
“A kiss” he whispered
“That’s not on our menu” she said and giggled
“I’ll get you a Coke sir, for now” then she blushed at her forwardness.
Paul waited outside for her until closing time and walked her home, the long way round.
“Can I see you tonight?” Paul asked
“I can’t tonight” she replied “I have choir practice”
“Oh” he said
“But its half day closing tomorrow” Lynn said “we could do something then”
“That would be great” he said
“I was going to go Christmas shopping in Abbottsford” she said “we could go to the pictures after that if you like”
“I don’t care what we do as long as I’m with you” he replied and then he got his kiss.