By Fruitcake @barjan
John Savage was really looking forward to his week away, he’d been working flat out for the last 6 months to meet all sorts of deadlines and it had intensified since the new editor had taken over a month ago. John just wanted to get away on his own for some peace and quiet to de-stress a bit, so the little hideaway cottage, with its own access to the beach, just seemed perfect for his needs. True it was a bit expensive but John reckoned the exclusivity was well worth it.
It was late by the time John arrived at the cottage, he knew it was over optimistic of him to have expected to get away at a reasonable hour but he was determined to go that night, so that he could start relaxing as soon as possible.
The approach to the cottage was via a narrow lane which, even in the fading light of the warm June evening, John could see was edged with pretty hedgerows dotted with yellow gorse and interspersed with deep pink spires of foxgloves and groups of tall white daisies. Beyond the hedgerows John could make out the dark outline of sand dunes. He felt excited with the prospect of what the cottage was going to be like and, as he rounded a corner, there it was.
Aptly, though not very originally, named “Dune Cottage” it was not particularly remarkable looking, but had a charm about it all the same, with a little picket fence, to the left of which was a small garage. There was a rather worn little gate in the fence which led into the small but well kept garden. There was a curved, paved footpath, with short grass growing in the spaces between the paving and, strangely, this didn’t give it an uncared for appearance but rather a sense of “It’s supposed to be there” John felt.
The footpath disappeared around the right side of the cottage, either side of the footpath was mainly laid to lawn, in the middle of which, on the right hand side, was a huge Holm Oak tree, under which was a seat, which appeared to be made out of a very old piece of gnarled wood, John guessed it may have been a piece of driftwood. Beyond that was a small, well kept, flower border. To the left of the path, climbing up a trellis on the side wall of the garage, was a beautiful, deep red rose, the heady scent of which was a delight to the senses!
John managed to find the key where Mrs Brandon, the owner, had explained it would be and let himself into the cottage, he groped around and found the light switch and was delighted with what he saw, “Perfect”, he said, “Absolutely perfect”. The door opened straight into a surprisingly spacious room with quite a large window to the right of the front door overlooking the front and one facing it, at the rear of the property. The room was comfortably furnished with a deep, club chair either side of the fireplace to the right of the room, one covered in tapestry material, the other in deep red upholstery and each had a well plumped deep brown leather cushion and a small table at the side. There was a wood burning stove in the fireplace.
On the other side of the window, against the wall, was a bookcase, on which was an assortment of articles, a small selection of books, 2 or 3 jigsaw puzzles, a few board games, a pack of playing cards and a small basket in which were various leaflets describing places of interest in the surrounding area. Under the window was a low table with a pretty vase filled with some of the red roses.
Facing the door, under the smaller window at the rear, was a wooden settle with two deep seat cushions upholstered in the same material as the red armchair. To the left of this was a small dark wooden unit with two doors, on which was a television. The walls were plain white, the ceiling was higher than John thought it would be but had some lovely oak beams in it. There were wall lights strategically placed and on the flagstone floor an antique rug in a mixture of hues of reds and terracotta.
To the left of the front door was a wall which ran from front to back of the cottage and in which were two doors, one immediately to the left which led to the quaint stairs and a second which led into the kitchen diner.
The kitchen had all the appliances required, ample work space, was decorated in a soft, creamy yellow and in one corner had a small round wooden table and chairs. A cupboard neatly fitted into the under stairs space housed a selection of cleaning tools and materials. A door from the kitchen led outside onto a large courtyard with wrought iron table and chairs and which was surrounded by a low wall with a small opening to the right, with a step down onto the footpath which ran around to the front of the cottage and another straight ahead with a step down onto a sandy footpath which led down to the beach.
John found the garage key, unloaded his things from the car and put the car into the garage. When he took his belongings upstairs he found a large comfortable bedroom with a huge wooden bed, an armchair in one corner, a chest of drawers and a wardrobe. He wondered how anyone ever got this big furniture up here! He imagined it must have been through the large window, which looked out over the fields at the front, the smaller, rear window looked out over sand dunes and the beach He couldn’t wait until daylight to see if he could glimpse the sea.
Across the small landing was a very nice bathroom with a large walk in shower, a toilet and a washbasin, the room was half tiled in pale blue with white paintwork and the floor was covered in dark blue and white checked flooring. All the fittings were in white and the luxuriously thick towels were a rich, dark blue. There was a small window overlooking the front garden with little blue and white checked gingham curtains. John was really thrilled with the whole place.
Mrs. Brandon had left, as promised, some basic groceries, fresh bread, eggs, some ham, cheese, butter, tea, coffee etc and a bottle of wine, and a note saying that if he had any queries to ring her, if not she would call at 10am on next Friday morning. John poured himself a glass of the wine, settled down in the red armchair and let out a long, satisfied sigh “I’m so going to enjoy this week” he said to himself.
The following morning, after a really good night’s sleep in the comfy old bed with its crisp white sheets & patchwork quilt, John woke quite early at 7.00am and threw open the heavy brocade curtains covering the back window in the bedroom in anticipation, and there it was, a shimmering glimpse of blue like a sparkling blue band edging the yellow sand, John felt a thrill of pleasure at seeing his first glimpse of the sea and suddenly he just wanted to walk on that beach.
He quickly showered and dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, went downstairs, out of the back door, down the sandy pathway and, as he got to the end of the sand dunes, the pathway opened out onto the sandy beach. He was glad he’d grabbed his big sweater as the sun had not yet got its full heat and the sea breeze had a slight chill this early in the morning, but oh my! It was wonderful to breathe in the clean air, feel the sand between his toes and hear nothing but the lapping of the distant waves on the receding tide and a few seagulls arguing over a tasty morsel as they bobbed along. John sat down on a rock near a wooden breaker and just drank in the peace and tranquility, “This” he sighed to himself “Is absolute bliss!”
John suddenly felt hungry and went back to the cottage and made himself some breakfast. He then decided that he really ought to get a few groceries in to last him a couple of days, he remembered passing through a small market town on the way, so thought he’d wander down there, as he got the car out of the garage he marvelled at the fact that he had not yet seen a soul, which was exactly how he wanted it and so different from his normal hectic lifestyle.
He took a steady drive along the quiet country lanes, admiring the views around him, he’d just past a couple of little cottages and had rounded a fairly sharp bend, before the road straightened out and led into the town, when he thought he saw, out of the corner of his eye, something blue on the side of the road but, when he checked in the rear view mirror, couldn’t see anything, “Perhaps a piece of paper” he mused.
The town was small and friendly yet quite bustling, John found all that he needed in the shops available and also picked up a couple of books to read, he’d intended to do so before he left but had just run out of time and he had found none to his taste in the cottage.
For the rest of the day and for the next two days John enjoyed his peace and tranquility, his reading, strolling along the beach and generally relaxing. On his fourth day, Tuesday, he was beginning to get a little bored, now feeling totally relaxed and de-stressed he decided to take himself off for a drive around the area, he’d seen some posters in the town, when he went the other day, so thought he’d go and see if there was anything going on which might interest him.
He ambled along humming to his favourite CD, thinking that he could really get used to this relaxed pace when, as he rounded the same sharp bend as the other day, he again thought he glimpsed something blue but, again, when he looked in his rear view mirror could see nothing, “How strange” he thought “There must be a trick of the light on that bend”.
John found quite a few things of interest, there was an art exhibition in the town hall all this week and there was a poster advertising an auction in the next town tomorrow afternoon, he needed a couple of decorative items for the apartment he’d recently moved into so thought he might just go along and see what was there. He also noted that there was to be a concert on Thursday evening, to be held in the main hall of the local college, to be performed by the students of that college, “That will be nice for my last evening” he thought. John was having to leave on Friday because he had to be in the office for Saturday morning as there was a big meeting for the heads of departments, he’d been able to rent the cottage from Friday to Friday which had fitted in nicely with his plans.
He found a nice little pub where he enjoyed a tasty lunch before going along to the art exhibition, there were some nice pieces exhibited, “Obviously some talented artists in the area” he thought, though nothing that suited his personal taste. There was still plenty of evening left, when he arrived back at the cottage, to have a stroll along the beach before he had a light supper, a glass of wine and read a few chapters of his book before bed.
Wednesday was the first overcast day since John had arrived, he had an early lunch to allow him time to find where the auction rooms were, the town was only half an hour further on than the town local to the cottage so he had plenty of time. He couldn’t believe it when, yet again, he thought he saw a glimpse of blue on that same bend, it was so strange because it was almost as though it was a figment of his imagination, but John was not given to the imaginary, far from it in his occupation! Facts were his forte in his capacity as head reporter for the performing arts section of the magazine.
He found the auction rooms without too much preamble, he’d never actually been to an auction before so was looking forward to it with a certain amount of excitement. He saw a few items which were of interest to him, but had told himself not to get too over zealous with his bidding!
He lost the first couple of items that he liked, to higher bids, but the next lot, a rather splendid solid wooden bust of a girl with long hair really did appeal to him, it was about two feet high, beautifully made, the carving was expertly done with such precision, the feel of the smooth glossy wood was quite sensuous and he had in mind just the place where it would go. The bid kept rising, he had mentally set his limit, but he really did want it so up shot his hand again, he waited with baited breath to see if the other bidder would better it “No advance? Final chance? Going once, going twice” Bang! Down went the gavel “Sold to the gentleman on my right” John felt a shiver of excitement and quite a thrill at making his first auction purchase!
“I can’t believe it’s my last day already” John thought as he prepared to enjoy his final day, the weather was a bit on the cool side, but dry so he planned to make the most of this last opportunity with some long slow walks along the beach and spent most of the morning, after a leisurely breakfast, doing just that. He made himself a grilled salmon and salad lunch, washed down with a small glass of white wine, and followed by the last of the apple pie and cream that he’d bought in town the other day.
After he’d eaten and sat reading for a while he thought he ought to do a bit of his packing and then it was time for one more stroll before getting ready for the concert.
On the road to the town, as he approached the sharp bend, he half expected to see the elusive glimpse of blue but as he rounded it he swore and said “What the? ……” he stopped sharply as he saw a young girl walking along the side of the road who was limping, he guessed that she was about 18 years old, pretty with long dark hair and wearing a blue checked dress. “Are you okay?” he asked “My foot hurts a bit” she replied, “I’m on my way into town if you would like a lift” John said, she smiled and said “Thank you that’s kind of you” and slid into the seat when John opened the door.
“What happened to you?” John asked, “Oh I was waiting for my parents, they were going to take me to the college, I have a rehearsal, they haven’t arrived yet so I thought I’d walk, it isn’t far and I don’t want to be late” “What happened to your foot?” John enquired “Oh I caught it on something” was her simple reply.
They arrived at the college, the girl smiled her thanks and was gone. John thoroughly enjoyed the concert, there were some really talented young musicians and singers, and they all looked charming in their blue and white uniforms, he thought it was a very fitting end to his week. He was back to the cottage in time to have a light supper and half an hour sitting on the terrace with his book and the remains of the white wine.
Friday morning, at precisely 10 am, Mrs Brandon arrived, “Has everything been okay for you Mr, Savage?” she asked “Absolutely perfect Mrs Brandon, you have a beautiful cottage here and it’s a stunning location, I even finished my week perfectly by going to a very nice concert at the college in the town last night” he said. “Oh yes, the memorial concert, it’s held this time every year” “Memorial?” he asked “Yes it’s held in memory of Sophie Dexter, a local girl who was the shining star of the college, destined for much higher things but, tragically, 5 years ago when her parents were taking her to a rehearsal, their car was involved in a freak accident on a dangerous bend as you go into town, both of her parents were on life support machines for a few days but pulled through, sadly Sophie died at the accident, her foot was caught under the mangled wreckage, the medical staff at the scene of the accident did their best to save her but, sadly, she was lost.
John suddenly felt very dizzy and grabbed the back of the chair that he was standing next to , “Oh I’m so sorry Mr Savage, I’ve upset you, you’ve gone very white, you look as though you’ve seen a ghost!.