Chapter 10

Written by: Linda Alley

New Plymouth, New Zealand – July 2008

On the taxi ride through the country back roads, the mountain followed them, its peak gleaming with fresh snow. The weatherboard farmhouse was just as Alan had described.

Although it was late morning, the grass crunched under Lilian’s shoes. She ran a hand over her tights, but it wasn’t the cold she was worried about. Could her varicose veins be seen beneath the nylon? Perhaps she should have worn trousers.

“Can you wait for us?” she said, turning to the taxi driver.

Beside her, Scarlett raised her eyebrows, but was unusually silent.

“Won’t you miss your boyfriend?” Lilian had asked her as they boarded the plane at Leeds Bradford.

“Gran,” Scarlett said, stowing their luggage overhead. “If you and Alan can do sixty-seven years apart, I think Blake and I can manage another week.”

Now, Scarlett pulled Lilian into a sudden, tight hug. “I’ll be here if you need me.”

Lilian took a deep breath and made her way up the low concrete ramp to the front door. She had meant to knock, of course, but hadn’t counted on the gap in the net curtains. Pressing her eye to the window, she saw a small boy at a table strewn with balsa wood. On the other side, with his back to her, was a man, hair as white as the mountain outside. All except one small lock above his collar that had stubbornly remained chestnut brown. Lilian swallowed. Then, a woman, maybe ten years her junior, entered the room with two mugs. On her way out, she paused to ruffle the boy’s hair and kiss the man’s cheek.

Lilian jerked away. Hardly looking where she was going, she staggered behind the house and sank onto a garden bench, pressing her hands against her knees as she tried to still them.

Of course he had married. She could hardly blame him when she had gone and done the same thing.

She jolted up as the backdoor banged open. A dark green blur glided through the air. The little boy came running out, but stopped abruptly when he saw Lilian.

“Who are you?”

Lilian bent to retrieve the spitfire.

“Well, I’m…”

“Lil?”

And there he was in the doorway. His hands shook as he gripped the pushrims of a wheelchair, propelling himself towards her. As a sharp gust of wind blew down from the mountain, it lifted one shortened corduroy trouser leg, revealing the stump where his right knee finished.

Lilian’s vision blurred, but through her tears, she saw his eyes glitter. Not grief, not anger, but the same spark she’d see on those London nights out long ago.

Curiosity.

“Let’s go inside. We’ve got a lot to talk about – and my sister’s cooking roast lamb,” Alan grinned, lifting his nose towards the house.

As he reached out and took her hand in his own, a fiery warmth spread through her fingers. Once again, she felt his pulse bounding against her palm: quick, strong and alive.

 

Comments

This is a beautifully crafted and well written story. It is tight and reminds me of Maeve Binchy's stories. The characters and the places all fit together and are memorable.
What can I say Linda? I am completely awed. I finished the whole serial at one go. A wonderful story that shows that hope and love are two things that can sustain us and that sometimes life does have an uncanny way of surprising us. Loved how you effortlessly kept switching back and forth between two different time periods.