One Day at a time – Accepting Quiet

Accepting Quiet

Quiet is not the same as silence; it is not the mere absence of sound. In fact, we can be quiet in spite of any noise or activity around us.

We can find quietness even in the midst of activity and noise if our inner soul is at peace because it is as much a state of mind as an external fact.

In the rush and turmoil of modern life, we can look to the externals of our lives and become wrapped up in the noise that everyday activity brings with it. But we can also accept the events for what they are – just “noise”, and look for the inner peace that comes from a happy heart.

Since this quietness of the soul is an internal thing, location and activity are essentially unimportant. We can find quiet in the middle of a busy city street if we seek it there.

Today’s Meditation: There is a difference between silence and peace.

Today’s Action: I will actively try to calm myself enough today so that my inner peace can shine through.

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Cabin 22 – Orlando Smith

Author’s Notes. I had to sign in to a building recently, and I idly looked at the names above mine on the sheet. One was “Orlando Smith”, a common enough name here in the MidWestern US, I thought, but not one you’d see in England much. Sitting at my desk a few days later, I remembered the name, and this story is the result. I never saw the Orlando that signed in before me, so I have no idea if that person is anything like the man portrayed here, although I suspect not!

As always, this is a first draft, so please accept it for what it is:)

 

 

To all appearances, Orlando looked like he might be a professional wrestler, a weight lifter, or even a member of the mob. He was a heavy set, muscular man, 6 foot 3 and instantly intimidated most people he met. He was used to the sideways looks from strangers, the guarded manner from shop assistants, and to be regarded with suspicion wherever he went.

He hardly remembered his early years in South Carolina; his Mum had divorced his father and moved back to England when he was just over 5. He did remember his time growing up in South London, the only black kid in his class, and the casual racism. It was there he learned that being strong and looking fierce was an excellent protection against attack. Even the class bully thought twice about saying anything against the black kid, for fear of what he looked like. Orlando rarely got into fights, but when he did, he always won, and the other kid always regretted crossing his path.

But in music class it was different. Mr. Purton, the music teacher, saw a talent in him that even Orlando didn’t know he had, and encouraged him to play an instrument. He soon became proficient in all the instruments they had at school and begged his Mum to let him take piano lessons, which she somehow managed to afford.

This love of music also marked him it as different. Rather than the pop and rap that his contemporaries liked, his passion was for baroque music. The first time he went to a J. S. Bach concert he was enchanted, but Vivaldi had him hooked. He wanted so much to be able to join an orchestra and play, but he needed to work to make a living, and so he turned his hand to what he could find, with music becoming his all-encompassing hobby.

When his Mum had become bedridden soon after he started work, he moved back in to look after her, and when she passed away, he stayed in the family home, eventually remodeling it as a shrine to his musical interests. He sometimes overheard his fellow workers in the car repair shop making fun of his musical tastes behind his back, but they were all polite to his face, so he pretended not to hear. It was just easier that way, and he never made good friends with any of them.

He never had any steady girlfriends, either. All the girls he had was interested in were either put off by his appearance, or they expected him to be the macho man of their dreams and were disappointed by how gentle he actually was. And so at the age of 29, he was unattached, but not unhappy, as long as he could continue to lose himself in music.

On his time off work he would often go abroad to attend international baroque concerts, but this summer he had not found any that he really wanted to go to, so had booked into Silver Oaks thinking he could spend the days walking and listening to music from his extensive collection of recordings.

 

He unpacked slowly, examined the audio system in the cabin, and decided it was adequate; not as good as his own equipment back home, but reasonable for the sort of place it was. He put his flash drive into the player and was soon lost in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

The strings had just finished “Autumn” when he heard a knock at the door. Slightly annoyed by the interruption, he paused the music and opened the door. Standing there was a young woman in jeans and a black studded leather jacket. She had thick black lipstick and eye makeup, and her long untidy hair was a color that Orlando could not quite fathom, a kind of silver-blue, with streaks of silver running through it. One hand held a crash helmet, and the thumb of her free hand was hooked into the belt of her jacket.

Orlando had her summed up in a second: a “goth.” Someone with no interest in real music, only out for what they could get, and was probably here wanting to complain about something. So he was amazed when her first words to him were “Is that the Budapest Strings?”

Momentarily taken aback, he realized she was talking about his music. “Well, yes…” he started.

“Oh my God! I heard them at the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt last year, they are amazing!” She paused, for the first time realizing that she probably looked and sounded stupid.

“Oh I’m sorry” she stammered. “I was just so excited to hear it here, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have interrupted you.” She went to turn away, and suddenly Orlando felt shame for his first impression.

“No, no it’s fine.” He said. And stepping back he opened the door “You were at Eisenstadt? Me too! Do you want to come in and listen to the last concerto?”

With hardly a moment’s hesitation she accepted his invitation, and together they listened to Winter. When it was done, there was silence. Not an uncomfortable silence, Orlando thought, but more a companionable silence, one where two people were sharing a space visited by angels. He mentally shook himself free from the fanciful thought.

“I didn’t introduce myself, I’m Orlando, were you really in Austria last year at the Festival?”

“Sure I was.” She smiled in return. “I’m Ophelia, good to meet you.” She held out her hand, and Orlando shook it. “I know, I don’t fit the profile of a Haydn fan, whereas you are totally the sort of person who you’d expect to see at a Baroque concert.” She half smiled, hoping he’d know she was kidding, but suddenly aware she was alone in the middle of nowhere in a cabin belonging to some random black man.

Orlando laughed, “Yeah, I guess neither of us is, but the music is bigger than both of us!” Any unease that there might have been between them melted then, and they talked about the festival, the music they both liked, and discussed the finer points from various orchestras.

Along the way, they also learned a bit about their backgrounds, and she shared that she was originally from Edinburgh, but was now living in Norfolk, with a collection of part time jobs, including working as a cleaner at the cabins. Just then a look of panic crossed her face.

“Oh, Shit look at the time! I’m supposed to have started work half an hour ago, and here I am chatting with you. Listen, it’s been great, but I have to get to work, or they’ll sack me.”

“When are you off work?” he asked as she scrambled to the door.

“Well I finish here at 5, but then I have to rush off coz I’m working at The Feathers this evening. I have to clean up a bit for that, they hate the makeup, but it brings in the cash you know?”

“Can I give you a lift there?” Orlando didn’t know what was coming over him. He hardly knew the girl, but there was something about Ophelia that made him feel something that he hadn’t felt in a long time. He couldn’t explain it, but he had to see her again.

“That’s sweet of you, but I have my bike.” She paused. “Stop in later if you like. They play crap music there, but I’m off just after 11, so maybe we could share some Bach or something afterward?”

Orlando agreed and smiled as he shut the door, maybe this vacation wasn’t going to be as lonely as he had thought.

 

Orlando arrived at the Feathers just after 9 pm. Looking around he at first thought he had the wrong pub, but then realized that the fresh faced women with her hair in a neat bun was Ophelia. The pub closed at 10:30, and Orlando helped her collect glasses, which Ophelia washed and stacked with the other bar staff. He couldn’t help but notice the sideways looks he was getting from the other workers, and when they walked out together, he was sure he heard muttering from them.

“Ophelia is an unusual name” Orlando was suddenly feeling out of place and disconcerted, not sure what to do or what to say. She laughed.

“Actually, that’s my Goth name. My given name was Margaret, Maggie to my family. But when I left Edinburgh I wanted to be someone new, so Ophelia it is.”

“It’s a great name, and I hope you don’t mind me saying you look a lot prettier without all that black makeup.” Ophelia’s expression changed, and suddenly Orlando wondered if he’d said the wrong thing.

“You’re probably right,” she replied, “but I don’t want to be pretty, I want to be strong. Pretty girls get taken advantage of, they don’t have any control. Strong girls are safe. That’s why I look the way I do.”

She looked at Orlando, almost willing him to disagree. It would be easier that way, she knew. Then they could argue, and he’d go off into a rage, and she would be left on the high ground. Along, but safe.

Instead, he said, “I take your point, looks are not that important, and you should do whatever makes you happy.”

By this time they had reached his car, which was parked next to a motorbike which Orlando had assumed, correctly, belonged to Ophelia.

“Would you like to come back to Silver Oaks with me? I’ve got a lot of different music we could listen to.”

Ophelia thought for a moment, then replied. “OK, I’ll follow you on my bike, that way you don’t have to worry about going out again, and I can leave whenever I want to.”

Back at the cabin Ophelia looked through his collection and chose Haydn’s 45th Symphony played by the New Century Chamber Orchestra, and they sat entranced as the music swept over them. As the soft pianissimo ending sank into the distance, they moved closer together, and without quite realizing it they embraced and started kissing.

 

By the early morning light coming through the shutters, Orlando looked at Ophelia sleeping on the bed next to him. She had let down her hair, and it was now tumbling over the pillow and catching the light. A sheet covered her naked body, but he could detect the soft rise and fall of her breast. He didn’t quite know what to make of her, or the situation. He tried to remember who had suggested she stay the night, but he didn’t recall any discussion at all, it just seemed inevitable. Their kissing had turned to love making, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world to just snuggle into bed together.

Trying not to wake her, he slipped out of bed and found what he was looking for, András Schiff playing Bach’s French Suite No.2 in C minor. Putting this on the music system he climbed back next to the sleeping woman, who stirred and then sighed as Orlando wrapped his arms around her. By the time the music came to its central section, they were exchanging kisses, and when it ended, they were too preoccupied to notice.

When Orlando woke next, he was immediately aware that the bed next to him was empty. Looking round he saw a note pinned to the bedhead.

“Hey sexy man!” the note said. “I helped myself to your coffee, but I have to go – some of us are working you know! But I’m cleaning here again today, so I’ll check on you later, and then you can come back to mine and listen to REAL music played on VINYL records! Love you! O.”

He stared at the last words in the note. It was probably just a throwaway line, and he shouldn’t read too much into it. But his heart jumped with a strange sensation as he read the words over and over, “Love you.”

How did he feel about that? He’d had romantic thought about other women before, it was true, but never had he felt this close to someone so soon after meeting them. It was not even as if she was really his type. He didn’t know what his type was, exactly, but certainly, not a Scottish girl got up in full Goth gear. Even so, he felt himself happier than he had been in many years, and he was anxious to see Ophelia again.

He kept a look out all morning, and eventually, he saw her walking towards a cabin, knock and then unlock the door, pulling her cleaning equipment behind her. He went over to the other cabin and tapped cautiously on the door.

“I’m not allowed to clean when guests are in the rooms,” Ophelia said when she saw him at the door.

“But I’m not a guest in this room.” Orlando pointed out, as he came over and went to put his arms around her, but she stopped him with a look.

“I’m working,” she snapped and then turned back to the cabin. Orlando muttered an apology and started to back out of the room. Ophelia sighed and turned back to him. “No, I’m sorry,” she said, “it’s just that, oh, I can’t talk about it here, and I really do need to work. Can we meet later? Maybe 5 o’clock in the Feathers? I’m not working tonight, and maybe we could something to eat and then have a talk?”

 

Orlando spent the rest of the day exploring the woods, had lunch at a café near the beach, and got to The Feathers about 5 minutes before the hour. It was almost 5:30 before Ophelia turned up, in her signature jeans and black leather jacket. She refused Orlando’s offer of a drink, saying she would buy her own, and then sat with him in a corner booth away from the jukebox.

“Orlando, you seem like a good guy,” she started “but I’ve been hurt before. Last night was, well it was great, but I know you’re just here on vacation, and you probably have a string of girls waiting for you back in London, which is fine, of course, only, if this is just a one night stand then that’s OK too, but I need to know. I’ve had my heart broken once, long ago, and I don’t want it to happen again.”

She went on to talk about her time in Edinburgh, and about how she had started a small design company making Goth clothing. But then she had met and married a man who had turned out to be an abusive alcoholic. She had left there, and made her way south, leaving everything she had behind and was now surviving with a hand full of part time jobs.

In return, Orlando shared about growing up in a culture that was alien to him, and about his secret dream of playing in an orchestra.

“Well, why don’t you do it?” Ophelia asked.

Orlando laughed. “Oh, I’m too old now, too out of practice. Besides, I have my job and…” he stopped. As he said it, suddenly it seemed an excuse, even to him. “Actually, in all honesty, I think it’s because I’m scared of failure. If I don’t try, then I can’t fail, and I’m so stuck in my ways that I can’t see how I could start.”

They continued to talk over another drink, ordered food and still sat and chatted. After they had eaten, Orlando said “So, do you want to come back to the cabin? I have a new performance of ‘La Gloria e Imeneo’ that I think you’ll like.”

Ophelia giggled. “That has to be the worst chat-up line I’ve ever heard! But I’d love to,” she added quickly.

 

The last day of vacation came all too quickly. As he packed, he looked over at Ophelia sitting on the bed. “You sure you won’t come with me?” he asked for the thousandths time. “I can’t stand the thought of leaving you behind.”

“I know babe,” Ophelia smiled at him gently. For once she did not have her black makeup on, and Orlando thought she was the most beautiful women in the world. “I’ll come and see you next weekend, and we can make some plans then. In any case, as you’re going to be on the concert rounds who knows where we will end up?”

“Oh, honey it will be ages before I can join an orchestra if I ever manage it at all!”

“Well at least signing up for the music degree is a start” Ophelia replied.

“I know, and I will start looking into that as soon as I get back,” he paused, “but it would be so much easier if you were there to help.”

Ophelia smiled at him again. How could someone who looked so strong and in control be so insecure inside?

“Babes I’ll be with you soon, I promise. But for now I need to start cleaning cabins, so I might as well start with this one – the sheets look like they have had a lot of use! Oh, and don’t forget to write in the journal, you never know, one day you might be famous, and this will be where it all started.”

 

 

Cabin 22 Journal.

August 10

 

Well, this is a very nice place, even with someone looking over your shoulder as you write! The housekeeping, in particular, is outstanding and the cabins are all cleaned to perfection!

But seriously, I really do love this part of the world, this time has been a revelation to me, and I see my life changing so many ways. These four walls now have a very special place in my heart. My Mum always used to sing “count your blessings,” well, I can only think of one right now, and her name is Ophelia.

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Cabin 22: Eric

Author’s Notes:

This writing came from two unrelated thoughts.

One was about where “inspiration” comes from, and the other was what the last journal entry would have on other people reading it. It wasn’t until I got to the end of Eric’s story that I realized that his creativity would have taken him to read so much into the single sentence he read, that he would start to believe his own version of the truth must be the real one.

Once again, this is a first draft, please accept it for what it is:)

 

Eric – August 3

 

His first wife, Monica, had suggested coming here. Of his four ex’s, Monica was the only one with whom he still had any contact. They had married when they were both 17, and full of youthful lust. The lust had lasted a year or so, the marriage not much longer, but somehow, after the divorce, they had become friends, and their friendship had grown stronger over the years.

It was after their breakup when they were still going through an uncivilized divorce that he started the ‘Elroy Blue, Detective’ series of murder mysteries. They were dark and humorless, much like his mood at the time, and they achieved a notoriety among a set of readers. When they were adapted for television, he became instantly famous, and just as instantly fed up with his “hero” as portrayed on TV. He tried to kill him off three times, and in the end agreed to a ghost writer continuing with the TV version of the character. It went on to run for seven series, and when he was depressed, Eric would search the cable channels for re-runs, just to show himself that nothing he could write would ever be as bad as that.

Much as he disliked the TV series, it had given him funds for the first time in his life, and he had gone into what he referred to as his hippie phase. He drank, took drugs, and wrote “spiritual” books under the name Grey Cloud IV. Why he chose that pseudonym he wasn’t sure, it had just been in his head one day when he came down from a trip, but it went well with the mystical feel of the books.

He was on a Tibetan retreat when he met, and quickly married, Angel Child. She at first seemed mystical and exotic too, and they tripped and meditated together. One day he suddenly decided he had enough of the booze and the pills, joined AA and got sober. He took to heart the slogan about taking what you liked and leaving the rest, and his next best seller was “Think Yourself Sober,” which was all about how to work your way out of addiction. His sudden sobriety was not what Angel Child wanted, and a clean and non-drinking Eric found her utterly shallow. When she served divorce papers on him, he discovered that her real name was Mary Smith, and she came from Luton, both of which facts made him laugh uproariously for no particular reason.

He met Julie in AA, who soon became wife number 3. When his book was published and became a modest success, he decided that he wasn’t a drunk, just someone who drank too much, so he went back to social drinking. He tried to persuade Julie that she should have a drink or two also, which led to arguments and eventually to divorce number 3.

His minor success with ‘Think Yourself Sober’ resulted in a string of self-help titles. The most successful of these was ‘Think Yourself Thin,’ which ran to four editions. The series soon ran its course, however, and ‘Think Yourself a Better Driver’ was rejected by the publisher, who was afraid of litigation if people took the advice given.

It was around this time that Eric hooked up with a young TV producer, Lucy, who was keen to get him on television again. Eric was OK with that and was also keen to get into Lucy’s bed. They started work on filming a new series, which included a location shoot in Las Vegas. One morning while they were there he woke to find he had wife number 4 lying beside him, although neither of them had any recollection of the night before. That lead Eric back to AA, but now his being sober was unacceptable to his current wife, and so the marriage ended pretty much before it had begun. The break up also marked the end of his short career in TV production.

And so he found himself with no job, a bit of cash not no steady income, and no woman in his life. He was pleased with the latter of these things. He’d had enough of the complications that came with relationships, and since he was sober again, he didn’t go to places where he’d be likely to hook up with anyone accidentally. His time consisted of going to AA meetings, meeting with old friends, and trying to write.

The trouble was, he seemed to be out of ideas. A lot of drafts had been started, but they all ended up abandoned due to lack of interest. Eric’s interest that is, and he thought that, if they don’t even interest him, what point was there in writing them?

He’d moved back to his old home area in London, but didn’t feel he belonged there anymore. Too many people with jobs in the City had moved in, and all the old places he knew had been taken over by smart wine bars and restaurants. Monica had never left the area, and they started to meet every couple of weeks for a meal, and it was at one of these that Monica had suggested Silver Oaks.

“A cabin in the woods in Norfolk? Not really my style I don’t think!” had been his first reaction. But he thought more about it over the next few days. Maybe a time with nature would help him get some perspective. And maybe being out there would spark some sort of creative thoughts that had been sadly missing lately.

He called, expecting them to be full at the beginning of August, but they told him they had just had a cancellation, so he found himself booking it, and now here he was, in a cabin in the woods in Norfolk.

He had to admit it was quite nice, comfy bed, a wide screen TV, and a pleasant enough view out of the window. He threw his suitcase onto the table, barely noticing that he had knocked a journal onto the floor as he did so, grabbed a change of clothes and was out of the door.

It was a beautiful area. The woods were pleasant to walk through, he found an easy path to the beach, and discovered a café where he could get a cup of tea. Inwardly he laughed at himself. Here he was, international best-selling author, one-time TV celebratory, in a run-down café in rural Norfolk, drinking tea. If only his friends could see him now.

That thought made him stop inwardly. Friends? Monica was a friend, yes, and maybe one of two other people from his youth. He tried to think of any friends he’d made recently, or even in the last 20 years but failed. Yes, he had lots of contacts, lots of people with whom he could network. But friends? Individuals who he liked to meet and that would be happy to see him, just for the sake of it?

His introspection was broken by the server, Dorothy he thought she had said, talking to him.

“I’m sorry, I was miles away, what did you say?” He asked.

“Oh nothing much,” Dorothy replied. “Just wondered where you were staying?”

“I’m up at Silver Oaks.” He replied. “You must get a lot of visitors here, is this your cafe?”

“Well, it’s a family place” Dorothy replied. “My son owns the property, I chat with the customers, and my husband is in the kitchen. He’s a good cook too, why not try one of these scones, made fresh this morning.”

Eric smiled and said yes to the scone, which was really good, and, chatted happily with Dorothy until another customer needed her attention.

He was still smiling as he paid and left and took a stroll along the path through the wood back to the cabins. He came to a bridge over a tiny stream, and stood for a moment, taking in the scene, before going o up the path.

He suddenly realized that he was content.

This feeling was so strange to him that it had taken this break from his routine for him to see it. Looking back over his life, he saw that he had been depressed, drunk, sober, high, in love, successful, and rejected. He had lived all his life in these highly charged emotional states, and he was familiar with them. But now, he was getting along, nothing much to worry about or be excited about. Nothing much of anything, really, just life, each new day much like the one before.

He got back to the cabin and started to unpack. He had a few clothes, but mostly he had brought books to read. He was old fashioned enough to prefer actual paper books to their electronic brethren, and so he had a section of old favorites and new titles, hoping that one of them would spark a creative thought in him.

He settled into a deck chair with the latest blockbuster novel which had come highly recommended. He recognized the style, and he could see how cleverly the authors was leading his reader along the path he wanted them on. That the book was successful was no surprise to Eric, it was extremely well crafted and had all the right hooks to catch the reader. However, the very fact that Eric could analyze the style made it impossible for him to enjoy it. He could see why people liked it but failed himself to become entangled in the plot.

He went back to the cabin and started to shift through the books he had brought when he spotted the journal lying on the floor where he had knocked it earlier. He began to look through the pages and then took it outside to read more thoroughly.

He was intrigued by the different handwriting and styles, but more that these few brief sentences were from real people, trying to say something real. Surely, he thought, from this collection of real life, I could produce something real, a happy, but true, summer love story. But then he came to the last entry in the book. One brief phrase that stopped him in his tracks. After all the happy tails and good times, there was just this one sentence.

“WHAT A TOTAL FUCKING BASTARD.”

He stared at the sentence for a long time. He tried to analyze why it affected him so. Most likely it was just some jilted lover, unhappy over a failed relationship. Nothing unusual there, his own life was full of people who probably thought of him in those terms.

His earlier thoughts came back to him about being content. Most of the writers in the journal seemed content, except this one. He realized that all his best work had come from unease of some sort. He had been depressed, or high, or falling into or out of love. All of these emotions had sparked an area of creativity in him. Maybe contentment and creativity did not make good bedfellows. Maybe he had nothing to work from, no springboard of pain to shoot him into the stratosphere of creativity. But perhaps he could borrow the pain shown in that one sentence as the starting point.

He looked back at all the journal entries before the last one. All of them were at least hopeful, many were completely full of joy, but none of them had inspired a real creative rush like the few angry words. Maybe others could write the happy love stories he read here, not him.

He got his notebook and started scribbling ideas. When it got dark, he went into the cabin and carried on writing, throwing idea after idea n to paper. He only looked up when he realized he was ravenously hungry, and looking up was confused to see it was light outside. Checking his watch he realized he had worked through the night, and it was morning.

He went to the local grocery store and stocked up on coffee, milk, and cereal. Back at the cabin, he slept for a couple of hours, then drank coffee while he read through his notes from the night before. At least two-thirds of them he just threw away, but here and there he found just enough to make him believe he was on to something, and he started into writing again with a new enthusiasm..

 

He was hardly aware of the knocking on the door, but when a key turned, and the door opened, he suddenly became conscious of his surroundings.

“Oh! I’m sorry Sir, I thought you must have checked out by now.” A maid was standing at his door, clearly dismayed at a room full of coffee cups, bowls with half eaten serial and screws up paper all over the floor.

“What? No, I’m booked in until the third. Oh, wait, what day is it now?” He checked his phone for the first time in days and realized he should have checked out a few hours before.

“Listen I’m really sorry, give me half an hour, OK? And I’ll be out of the way.”

The maid left to report back to the owners, and Eric quickly scooped up all his papers and threw everything into his car. He became aware that he hadn’t washed or changed for the last several days, but decided against a shower as he didn’t want the made to have to wait any longer. Looking at the mess of the cabin, he left a large tip on the counter, and then as an afterthought, remembered that he really needed to write something in the journal.

 

Cabin 22 Journal.

August 3

 

Thank you, dear July 25, if you ever come back here, I hope your pain is gone now.

I can hardly imagine the anguish you felt when you found you were pregnant after being raped by your uncle, but I am sure the arrival of your daughter eased some of that pain. I am sure it broke your heart to learn that that vicious brute was seeking to gain custody of the child, using the resources he had stolen from your late father’s estate.

Perhaps it is some comfort to know that your story will now be told, and the guilty brought to justice.

“Elroy Blue II”

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Cabin 22: David and Jackie

AUTHOR NOTES: This is very much a first draft – I wanted something less “happy” to occur in Cabin 22, and this story came to mind. Actually, a variant came to mind first, but as I put it down the story re-wrote itself in my head. I am not totally happy with the Journal entry at the end, but re-wrote that a dozen times until I came up with the current version.

So, please accept it for what it is, the spelling may be OK, but grammatically that’s about all I’ll promise, and it may well change in emphasis again before the final draft…

 

It was David and Jackie’s 24th wedding anniversary, and they had decided to celebrate it at Silver Oaks Cabins this year. They always did something to mark their anniversary, and as she parked and stretched her legs, Jackie tried to remember all of them. There was the honeymoon, of course, when they went to Lanzarote. She remembered the first anniversary was in Paris, and then Rome – or was that year 3? That’s right, she thought, on their second anniversary she was pregnant with Julian, and they’d gone to a place in Wales where she was sick every morning! Then the 4th anniversary was that trip to the hotel in the Highlands of Scotland, were David had tried golf for the first time. She smiled when she remembered that for year 5 they had tried Wales again, but she was sick each morning, and it turned out she was pregnant with Jessica, and they had laughed that they would have to stop going to Wales if that kept happening!

After that there was Dublin, Cyprus, a cruise on the Mediterranean and, well, it became a bit of a blur after that, so many celebrations, and so many places. She was already wondering about next year, and the big quarter century of marriage; they would have to mark that with something special, surely? Maybe they would go on a Caribbean cruise, they had never done that. Or, instead of a vacation, they might have a big party at the house, and invite all their family and friends.

Her thoughts were interrupted by David driving into the parking place next to hers. He had suggested they both drive their own vehicles to the cabin, so that they would have both his big Land Rover, and her smaller hybrid. That way, he said, they could be flexible about which car to take out when they went sightseeing. It seemed like an unnecessary expense to Jackie, especially as she had thought they would walk in the woods and sit on the beach most of the time, but she went along with it. In any case, money wasn’t really a problem with David’s new job, and her own little design business ticking over nicely.

Jackie noticed that David was finishing up with a phone call as he parked, and she wondered inwardly if these calls from his office would continue while they were here. She knew he was super busy and really successful, but sometimes she wished for the old care-free David, the one who took vacations without bringing any work with him.

“OK Jason, I’ll talk to you soon.” David looked up from the call to his assistant at the office and saw Jackie standing by her car, waiting for him. She really was an exceptional wife, he told himself for the thousandth time. Talented, witty, charming, a good hostess, a pleasant companion. And she had kept her looks over the years too, a little bit plumper, maybe, and her hair was tending to gray a bit, but really, not too bad for a women her age. Our age, he corrected himself.

If only…

He left the thought uncompleted, smiled at Jackie and climbed out of his car. They kissed briefly and then they busied themselves unpacking and settling in the cabin, which they agreed was charming, romantic and quaint. Jackie noticed the Journal, and flicked through its pages while David finished unpacking. She would have to put something really nice in there, she decided.

Then they drove to a restaurant that David had heard about in a village a few miles away, where they had a well-respected chef who only used locally produced food. David’s phone vibrated twice, but he valiantly ignored it, and Jackie gave him an extra encouraging smile for being so thoughtful.

The meal was excellent, the service attentive, the bill huge, and they both thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As they got back in the car, Jackie suggested they drive along the coast road north to Cromer. David hesitated at first, but then agreed that it sounded fun, so he sat back while Jackie maneuvered the narrow lanes and byways.

The drive was splendid, and the sun was setting as they made their way back to their temporary home in the woods. David took over driving on the way back, and it was Jackie’s turn to relax and admire the scenery. She thought it was a really romantic setting, and the idea crossed her mind that maybe they would make love that evening. They both lived such busy lives that there was hardly any time for intimacy nowadays. Jackie tried to remember the last time, and realized with a shock that it must have been before David got this new job, so probably 8 or 9 months ago.

She had an idea, and decided to put it into action as soon as they got back to the cabin. Looking through her suitcase, she quickly hid her nightdress, and then told David that she had forgotten to pack one. As David poured them both a whiskey, Jackie took off her clothes and laid on the bed in just her panties.

This action seemed totally lost on David, who appeared preoccupied in checking his phone, but he did look up and ask if she was warm enough, or did she need another blanket or anything?

Ah well, thought Jackie, at least I tried.

David was feeling conflicted. He was aware that they had not had sex for quite some time, but there were a lot of reasons for that. They had been married for a long time, after all, and then there was the stress of his job, and Jessica’s business took a lot of effort too. And then of course there was…

No, David told himself. No, this vacation is all about Jackie and I, nothing more. Not that there was anything ‘more’, really. Nothing.

Even so, he somehow couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge Jackie’s clear intention. He had seen her pack her night clothes, just like she always did. In a moment of insight he wondered if she missed the physical side of their marriage. It had been OK to start with, but he thought that really they should be over all that sort of adolescent stuff by now. There were really good friends, and liked each other’s company. They were content, wasn’t that enough?

Just then an email from Jason floated up on his phone, and he found himself opening it without really thinking.

 

The next couple of days were filled with trips to the coast, walks in the woods, and a seemingly endless array of different restaurants to eat in. It was fun, lighthearted and, Jessica thought, romantic in an easy, low-key way.

Their actually anniversary was on the last full day of the vacation, and they decided to celebrate with a nice lunch at the restaurant they had been to the first night they were there. Rather than have to drive, which meant one of them had to be careful of what they drank, they got a cab there. The meal was splendid, with a different wine accompanying each course, and brandy with the coffee after the meal.

Neither of them were really drinkers, so they were both somewhat light headed as they were driven back to the cabin, and Jackie flirted outrageously with David in the back seat of the cab. Rather than go into the cabin, David suggested that they go for a last walk in the woods. Jackie pouted; what she really wanted was for David to grab her and carry her off to bed, but, she reluctantly realized, that was not going to happen. So she took his arm and let him lead her into the woods.

It was cool and calming in the woods, and they strolled along, sometimes commenting on a view or a bird song, but mostly just walking arm in arm. Jackie was slowly getting less drunk, but at the same time her bladder was starting to scream that it needed release. She was enjoying the walk, and the alone time with David, so she didn’t say anything for the longest time. Eventually, however, it became too urgent not to do something about.

“David, I need to pee” She said.

“OK, we can head back to the cabin, it’s probably only a mile or so.”

“No,” Jackie replied. “I need to pee right now or I’ll wet myself. I’ll go behind this tree, you stand guard and make sure no one is coming!”

Without waiting for a reply she rushed to the other side of the tree, shifted her clothes as best she could, and squatted to urinate. As she did so a thought crossed her mind.

“Sorry about that,” she said as she returned to find David staunchly guarding the path. “I’d wet my panties a bit, so I left them off.” So saying she flicked her skirt so that David could see that had nothing on underneath. David blushed slightly, and they carried on along the path. Coming to a bridge over a stream Jackie stopped and lent against the railings, looking out over the water. “Stand behind me.” She said to David, and as he did she guided his arm around her waist, then moved his hands up to cup her breasts.

She sighed. “Doesn’t that feel nice?” She said. She let go of David’s arms, and bent slightly over the railing, pushing back ever so gently into David’s. She started to slowly move up and down, in a way she was sure was irresistible.

David spluttered. He knew what was expected of him, and he was willing himself to just do what Jackie wanted. But somehow he could not bring himself, either physically or emotionally, to do it.

Jackie straighten up, and turned on him.

“What the fuck David! I’ve given you all the signals I could, and I can’t be any more obvious that I want us to have sex, so what’s the problem? And don’t give me that ‘I’m tired’ crap, we’ve been here a whole week and nothing. Don’t you find me attractive anymore? Or,” Suddenly a horrible thought crossed her mind, “Oh shit David is that it? You’re having an affair? Some young bitch of a secretary has her hooks in you, is that it?”

David felt like he had been backed into a corner, that there was nothing that he could do anymore to hide from reality. He didn’t want to admit it, and he’d hid the truth even from himself. But Jackie was right, there was something wrong, and it was time he admitted it.

“It’s not that, really, it’s not anything I planned or wanted. It’s just that…”

David took a deep breath and started again.

“You know you were my first real girlfriend.” David started. “Growing up I always thought that I’d never find someone special to love, and then you came along and we were happy.”

“We are happy!” Jackie said, even though she was starting to cry tears of fear, and her stomach was trying itself in knots. She felt something bad was coming, it must be an affair, she told herself, sex with a younger woman that was OK she could win him back, she knew it.

“The thing is,” David found it hard to put into words, but as his jumble of emotions forced themselves out, he knew he had to admit what had to be said.

“Jackie, I do love you,” he said at last. “You have been the best wife that a man could ever want, never think that any of this is about you.”

“Any of what?” Jackie said through her tears.

“The thing is, when I started in my new job, I got a personal assistant, Jason. Well, you’ve met him, he’s openly gay, and well, I find I’m attracted to him. Actually, I think I’ve fallen in love. I couldn’t stop myself and I’ve tried to ignore it, or suppress it, but…” Once again he stopped, unsure of the words he needed to express himself. With a growing dread, Jackie slowly started to comprehend what David was trying to say.

“Are you saying that this Jason is your, She struggled with the word that had to be spoken, “boyfriend?” The thought was ridiculous, but at the same time, it made sense of the late night phone calls and how David hurriedly hung up whenever she came into the room. She had thought he was being polite, but maybe it was something else.

“I don’t think boyfriend, is right really” David stammered. “But yes, I think I’m gay and I think I want to be with Jason.”

“What the fuck does that mean, you think you’re gay? We’ve had 2 children together, was all that a lie? Just you joking along and laughing at me behind my back while you screwed rent boys?”

Her fear was slowly being replaced by anger; a generalized anger directed at David, true, but also at herself for not seeing the signs earlier.

“No Jackie, I have never been with anyone, I promise you, not to this day.” It was important to David that Jackie understand the struggle he had been going through. “All through school I kept having feelings for boys, but I was taught over and over that it was wrong. So I smothered those feelings for years, and we were a happy couple and I thought that was enough.

“But then I met Jason and all my resolve came crashing down. I’ve never said anything to him about it, but I’m pretty sure he knows anyway. I’ve never done anything with him, and I don’t even know if he would have me, but I can’t deny it any longer. I thought, no, I hoped that being here with you this week would make it all go away, but being away from him is just making me more sure.

“I’m sorry, Jackie, I really am” He trailed off, unsure if he had said enough or too much.

Jackie, meanwhile, was trying to make sense of it all. “So what happens now? Are you going to throw me aside like a used rag? Are you going to make a mockery of our 24 years and our children? What about all our plans for the future, are you going to give that up just to try being gay for a while? You turn down sex with me, but want it with some little…” She didn’t have the words, so she left the sentence unfinished.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, all I know is that I can’t go on living a lie anymore. I just have to take this chance to be true to myself, to the real me.” He looked pleadingly at her. He didn’t want this to end badly, but at the same time, he knew deep inside that it was going to.

“I can’t stand to talk to you, go get your things and get the fuck out of my life you worthless faggot.” She spat out the words through tears of pure rage.

Without a word, David turned and headed back to the cabin, packed a few things and got in the Land Rover. As he drove he put in a call. “Hi Jason it’s David. No, nothing to do with the office, I just wondered if you were free tonight? Maybe we could have a drink and talk?”

 

Jackie stood on the bridge for a long time, reliving over and over the conversation that had just turned her world upside down. Only as dusk fell did she move, and made her way to the cabin. She had a fleeting hope that David’s car might still be there, and that he would plead with her to forgive him, which she would have done without a seconds thought. But his car was gone, as was his bag. She fell on the bed wept herself to sleep.

 

Jackie woke to a gray dawn outside. She had the momentary hope that it had all been a bad dream, but the empty space next to her in the bed told her that it was all too real. She was angry at David. How could he ruin all her dreams and let her world crumble around her ears. Why couldn’t he just have had an affair and got it out of his system. He wasn’t gay, how could he have been? It must be an excuse, she concluded, there must be something else behind it, some reason why David wanted to hurt her so.

She packed up her things and put them in the car. Coming back in the cabin to check she had not left anything, she spotted the journal. A bitter smile crossed her lips, as she recalled her thought that first day to put something nice in it when she left. Instead, there was only one thing on her heart that she wanted to share.

 

 

Cabin 22 Journal.

July 25

 

WHAT A TOTAL FUCKING BASTARD.

 

 

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Cabin 22: Selwyn Smyth-Tomlinson

Selwyn Smyth-Tomlinson

 

Selwyn looked around the cabin. There was no desk, nowhere to set out his laptop or sort through his papers. He checked his phone: only 3 bars on the connection, and no Wi-Fi network that he could connect to. He sighed, and once more complained under his breath at the stupidity of taking a “vacation.” It was true that he had not taken even a Saturday off for the last several years, but he was happier like that. He wouldn’t be here now if the other partners at Tomlinson, Jackson and Smithers hadn’t insisted that he take a break. He looked out of the window. He might be only 100 miles from London, but the view outside was strange and slightly scary, to be honest.

He returned his view to the interior of the cabin, and soon managed to hook up his laptop, set up a hot spot on his phone, and was ready to check emails. Only 256 unread since he had left the office, and his virtual assistant had categorized 26 as urgent, and 2 as critical. He was soon busy dictating replies and organizing his schedule, when the phone rang, and he was momentarily annoyed to see that it was Bridget, the newest partner in the firm, and quite the rising star.

“Bridget!” He answered cheerily. “What’s up? How can I help?”

“Selwyn, aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? What’s with all the emails? Shut off your computer and have some fun!”

Fun? Selwyn wanted to say. Fun? What has fun to do with anything? There were profits to be made and deals to be struck, and he was here in this back end of nowhere, without even a fast internet connection. But he knew the latest fad was to have a ‘work-life balance’, and so he gritted his teeth, and said he’d shut down the computer and go for a walk.

He was, in any case, almost completely up to date with his inbox, so, he concluded, it would be fine to take a break for a while, and check back later when Bridget was not around to spy on his activities.

Selwyn could not remember the last time he had just walked, without any idea of a destination, and with no thought other than the physical activity of walking. He followed a path through the woods, noticing that it did not seem to be taking the quickest route, but was twisting this way and that, apparently at random. He crossed a dilapidated bridge over a small untidy stream, and was annoyed to see the path continued to wind back and forth in an unstructured manner.

He had been walking for probably about 30 minutes when he noticed the first drop of rain. Before long the rain was falling in sheets, and he hurriedly retraced his steps, trying to get back to the relative safety of the cabin as soon as he could. He was just approaching the bridge when there was an enormous clap of thunder, and the ground seemed to shake under him. He found himself tumbling forward from the shock of the blast, and before he knew what was happening he was knee deep in the rushing stream. He struggled to shore, drenched through from the river and the pouring rain.

Another clap of thunder was followed by what sounded like an explosion, and there seemed to be a secondary flash from closer by. More lightening illuminated the area, and he struggled to the cabin, wondering where all the lights were. He soon found out, when flicking the switch in his cabin he discovered there was no electricity. He reached for his phone, only to find that it was missing; he assumed it must have fallen out of his pocket when he fell into the water. Cursing all the way he went back out into the night, and was soon hopelessly lost in the dark and dank forest.

Eventually the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and by the light of the full moon Selwyn was able to make out the river, and followed it until he found the bridge. He searched, and eventually found his phone, covered in mud, but apparently unharmed. He wiped it off as best he could, but when he pressed the power button, nothing happened. He trudged back to the cabin, and collapsed onto the bed, too tired even to take his wet clothes off.

Suddenly power was restored, and light filled the cabin, shocking Selwyn awake. He got up, ran the bath, slipped out of his sodden clothes, and relaxed into the hot water, grateful for the simple gift of warmth. Drying off, he found that the top of the bed was wet where he had laid on it, but he managed to find a dry area, and he pulled the blankets up to his ears, and fell into a deep dreamless sleep. He didn’t even think about checking emails.

The next morning he awoke slowly, luxuriating in the warmth of the bed, before jolting awake to check on his phone. It was as he had feared, the drenching in the river had been too much, and it showed no signs of life. He dressed in his still damp clothes and went out to the campground office, made some calls and arranged for a new phone to be expressed delivered. Even so, it would be mid afternoon before the delivery could reach him, and so he was out of communication for the next few hours.

He decided that he’d walk to the beach following the directions he found in the office, and he set off. He felt strange. This was the longest he’d gone without being able to check emails and social networks for – well – for longer than he could remember. It was scary, but also somewhat exhilarating.

He soon found himself on the beach, and realized that his Giorgio Armani Moccasins might not be the most appropriate things to wear on the sand. He couldn’t take them off, obviously. To even think of walking barefoot along the sand was ridiculous. Soon, however, the sand was finding its way into his shoes making it really hard to walk, so he reluctantly removed them and his socks, rolled up the legs of his trousers, and carried on.

He wanted to hate it. He wanted to be having a really bad time, so that he could complain bitterly to Bridget and the other partners and say that he was coming straight back to London. He wanted to feel out of place and awkward.

But somehow, some small corner of his heart was not having it.

For as much as he didn’t like to admit it, the feel of the cool sand between his toes was soothing and refreshing. Much as he tried to scowl at the world, the bright sun reflecting off the water made him smile. Even though he tried to ignore it, the gentle breeze coming off the sea, with its slight salt tang, made him feel light and alive.

He came to the lane he had been told about, and started back inland, and as a café came into sight he realized that he was ravenously hungry. Thinking back, his last meal had been lunch the day before, he had been too preoccupied since to even think about food.

He went into the café. He ordered a Full English Breakfast, extra toast, marmalade and tea, and was soon happily eating his way through a huge plate of freshly fried food. It wasn’t the sort of thing he was used to, of course, no fine dining experience, and he inwardly labeled it as “carb city” food. It also came with conversation, and the serving lady, Dorothy, who also seemed to be the cook, cashier and cleaner, talked nonstop about the storm of the night before, and Selwyn recounted his own story of falling in the stream and almost getting lost in the woods. He ordered more toast and marmalade washed down with more tea, and his hunger was eventually satisfied.

When he got the bill, Selwyn was shocked at how little it was, considering how stuffed he felt. He reached into his wallet for his corporate credit card, but it was not in its normal place. He checked through the wallet, but no card. He stared to go through his pockets, when it suddenly struck him; when he had called for a new phone, he put his card on the desk while he read the numbers, but he didn’t recall picking it up again. In fact, now he thought about it, he had a clear picture of his card sitting on the desk in the campground office. He went back through his wallet and his pockets, getting together all the loose change he had, but he came up short. He could feel a cold sweat coming over him. How embarrassing was this? He had visions of being carried away to sit in the police cells, and what his partners would say at his criminal record.

All this time Dorothy had been watching him from the other side of the counter. She seemed to come to a decision, and came up to Selwyn, who was still frantically counting the pathetically small amount of cash he had.

“Don’t worry, darling, you put your money away, this one’s on me.” Selwyn looked up, shocked and unsure of what to say. Dorothy went on, “I’ve lived rough myself a few times, and I know how hard it can be, even round here. So call it me playing it forward for the day I need a helping hand. You keep that money you have for later, and here.” She scribbled an address on a napkin and slid it over to a totally confused Selwyn. “This is our local charity shop. Go there and tell them Dorothy sent you for some decent shoes. When you’re on the road the one thing you really need is good footwear.”

Selwyn was speechless. He, Selwyn Smyth-Tomlinson, was being mistaken for some down and out looking for a handout? Then he looked at himself, at his sand covered bare feet and his dirty disheveled clothes. He stumbled a few words of thanks, and left the café, stunned.

He started out along the trail, wondering at all that had happened. Soon he found himself at the bridge over the stream, where he had lost his phone the night before. Now, instead of the dark gloomy place he had thought it, it seemed bright and alive, full of joy and promise.

Joy.

He let that word run around in his head as he stood, transfixed by the babbling water of the stream. There were many things that made him happy, many things that gave him a sense of achievement. Buy joy? He realized that he had seen joy in the face of Dorothy when she had helped what she assumes was a destitute man. When had he seen joy around the boardroom table at Tomlinson, Jackson and Smithers? Where was the joy in his expensive clothes and exquisite dining experiences?

He shook his head, trying to get rid of these annoying thoughts that had come, unbidden to his mind. He turned resolutely towards the campground office, retrieved his credit card, and the phone that was already waiting for him.

Going back to his cabin, and trying to ignore the tug that his heart gave as he went past the path to the beach, he set about setting up his new phone, and in no time was connected to the world again. His Virtual Personal Assistant told him that he had 526 unread emails, of which 35 were urgent and 7 critical.

He was just about to look at these when his phone rang. Without thinking he answered and was greeted by the voice of Bridget. “Ah! Glad I got you at last Selwyn.” She was all business, all the time, Selwyn thought, and he wondered if she ever found any time for joy in her life. Bridget’s continued talk broke into his thoughts. “It’s about the Hodgkin’s case, we have a couple of issues and I’d like to run them past you.” Selwyn could tell that she was about to continue, but he cut her short.

“I’m sorry Bridget, but I’m having a hard time hearing you,” he lied. “Anyway, why don’t you put it in an email, and I’ll get back to you after my vacation. Only I’m quite busy right now, I have some things to sort out.” With that he cut off the call. He told the Virtual Assistant to categorize all his unread emails as non-urgent, closed his laptop and switched off his phone.

He sat wondering what had come over him, but whatever it was, it filled him with excitement. First, he would go to the café and pay the money he owed, he thought. No, much better would be to go there after they close, and secretly leave them the money, plus a tip, a really generous tip! First, he would go buy some unfashionable swimwear, flip-flops and a cheap tee shirt, and go and laze on the beach. And if it rained again, he’d sit in the rain, and feel the joy run through his body.

He still wasn’t sure what had come over him, but it felt good.

 

 

Cabin 22 Journal.

July 18.

Accommodation? Barely adequate.

Amenities? Almost completely lacking.

WiFi? No.

Phone coverage limited.

Electricity supply unreliable.

Also, the weather is terrible.

Conclusion?

The Most Perfect Place in the entire world, and I can’t wait to come back!

S

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Cabin 22: Veronica

Veronica

 

Closing the door behind her, Veronica stood for a moment and wondered what on earth she was doing here. It was true that she had dreamed of a vacation in a cabin in the woods all her married life, but it was also true that now she had actually done it, she felt it was almost an anti-climax.

Arthur had always said it was too expensive to rent a cabin, and in any case, he needed to be at the farm and put all his energy there. He had been a good man, but stubborn beyond imagining, and even when he had his first heart attack refused to slow down and take a vacation.

Then last year he had a stroke, and in the hospital, they found that he had cancer too. That time was a blur to Veronica, and Arthur seemed to go downhill so fast. When the end came, it was mercifully quick, but it left her totally unable to cope or to quite take it in.

The funeral, selling the farm, moving into town, all these things had taken her many months, and painful as they were, they had at least given her something to do. When all the practical things were done, and she found herself alone in an apartment in town, she seemed to be left with nothing but time.

It was while she was going through some old papers that she found the flyer for Silver Oaks Cabins, and she remembered all the times she had nagged Arthur to go. Suddenly aware that no one was going to say no to her again, she phoned and booked for late the following June.

 

It felt thrilling and exciting to be doing something by herself for a change, and she did not even tell her family she had booked it until the week before she was leaving. She wondered if their looks were of concern or if they disapproved, but either way, it was her money, and her time and she would spend them both as she wished.

The excitement and novelty had carried her through the drive, the checking in and the unloading, and now she was here. Veronica looked outside. Even though it was almost July, the weather did not look promising, and there was rain in the forecast. Even so, she pulled on her hiking shoes, wrapped a coat around herself against the possibility of rain and set off for a walk. As she left the cabin, being careful to ensure that the door was locked and the key safe in her inside pocket, she noticed that someone was just arriving at Cabin 23, next door to her own home from home. She was a younger woman, wearing a smart business suit, and Veronica wondered if she was going to a wedding nearby. She nodded an acknowledgment to the woman’s smile and went on to find a trail.

The walk started well. It had been warm and sunny earlier in the month, and the rains of the last few days had made everything just burst into life. Reaching an opening, she found herself gazing down onto a small valley. At the base she could see a stream, running fast with rain water, and even from this height, she could hear the gurgle as it rushed over the river bed. Over to her left, Veronica saw a path leading down to a bridge over the stream, and she decided it would make an excellent place to explore. She was almost on the bridge when the heavens opened, and in no time she was soaking wet even through her coat. Wondering if the adventure had been such a good idea, she headed back along the now wet and slippery path towards the cabins.

As she approached Cabin 22, she was trying to wipe the hair away from her eyes when she suddenly lost her footing, slipped and fell unceremoniously into a puddle. Shocked and thoroughly wet, she felt a moment of panic, but then burst into tears.

“Here sweetie,” a voice said, “let me give you a hand up.”

Veronica looked up and saw her new neighbor standing with her hand outstretched, while her other hand held a big golfing umbrella. She accepted the proffered hand and tried to regain some composure. “I’m so sorry!” she said. “It just seemed suddenly too much for me, sitting in a puddle in the rain! Just the sort of thing Arthur always warned me about.” The thought of her late husband, never far from her mind, was suddenly clear and sharp. She thanked the stranger and hurried off to her cabin to dry off and get changed.

 

Her plan all along had been to eat in the on-site restaurant, but now the time came to go there, she had second thoughts. She hated eating alone, and the idea of people’s pitting gaze at her single state was frightening to her. Nevertheless, eat she must, so she put on a brave face and set off.

She had found a table, ordered and was sipping her water when she saw her neighbor walk in the restaurant, wearing an expensive looking evening gown. Without quite thinking, she smiled and indicated the empty chair on the other side of the table. The woman smiled back, and come over to her table.

“Do you mind if I join you? Or is this reserved for anyone?”

“Oh please do join me” Veronica replied. “I’m Veronica”

“Tracey” the other lady replied and took a seat.

The waiter came with a menu, and Tracey looked across at Veronica. “I would love some wine, but don’t want to drink alone, would you care to join me?”

“Well, I’m not much of a drinker, but that would be wonderful, thank you. And I will pay half towards it, of course.”

“Well, let’s see” Tracey looked over the wine list “They don’t have a great selection here, would you be OK with a New World Merlot?”

“Of course!” Veronica replied, not quite sure what a “new world Merlot” was, but happy to go along for the ride.

It turned out to be a red wine, quite bitter tasting at first, but, once she got over the initial shock, not unpleasant. As they waited for their food to arrive, they chatted about the weather forecast for the rest of the week, which was threatening to be wet more often than not.

“You mentioned someone when we met earlier,” Tracey said. “Arthur was it? Is he your husband? Is he joining you soon?”

“Oh, Arthur was my late husband.” Veronica still shook a little when she had to say those terrible words.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! How insensitive you must think me!” Tracey looked mortified, and it was Veronica’s turn to be apologetic.

“Don’t be silly, you weren’t to know,” Veronica said, taking another sip of the wine. She did not have a lot of experience with alcohol, Arthur had beer when he had anything at all, and her own adventures in that area were mainly a sherry at Christmas or a “port and lemon” on the rare occasions she went with Arthur to the pub.

The food arrived, and they two ladies ate, drank, and talked, and somehow another bottle of wine was ordered. By the end of the meal, they felt like old friends. The second bottle had been emptied, and Tracey suggested having a cognac to round off the meal, and Veronica accepted before she realized that cognac was another name for brandy. As they sipped their drinks, they agreed that breakfast the next morning followed by a brisk walk would be great, and they stood to go back to their cabins.

Veronica was feeling a little light headed after the wine and spirits, but she thought that the short walk back to the cabin would clear her head. In the event, she had a hard time keeping to the path, and Tracey giggled at her and took her arm to guide her home.

Getting to Veronica’s door, Tracey said “Are you going to be OK? Maybe you had a bit too much to drink tonight.”

“Do you think you could help me?” Veronica said as the mechanics of unlocking and opening the door seemed too much for her. Soon they were inside, and Tracey helped Veronica out of her coat and shoes.

Veronica was just saying thank you, when she felt the urgent need to go to the bathroom, where she promptly threw up most of her dinner.

“Oh God I’m so sorry,” Veronica said when she came back into the main room.

If Tracey was shocked by Veronica’s unkempt appearance, she didn’t show it. “No it’s my fault, I shouldn’t have persuaded you to another drink. Listen, you go to bed, and I’ll see you in the morning, but only if you’re up to it, OK?”

With that, she took herself off, and Veronica fell on the bed, fully clothed, and collapsed into unconsciousness. At some point during the night, she woke, took off her clothes, and got into the bed and fell into a sound sleep.

 

Veronica was aroused by a knocking at the door. She tried to hide under the covers, but it would not go away. Eventually, she wrapped a blanket around herself and went to the door to see what monster was making all that racket.

There stood Tracey, bright eyed and wearing another smartly tailored two piece suit. Slowly, Veronica remembered the suggested breakfast and walk, and let her new friend in.

“My God you look dreadful!” Tracey said.

“I think last night was the most I’ve drunk since, well, ever!” Veronica replied. She suggested that Tracey should go off to breakfast without her, and then went into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower.

She was still showering when Tracey knocked on the door again, and Veronica called for her to wait. Reluctantly she turned off the shower, wrapped a towel around herself and went to open the door.

There stood Trace with a big grin, holding a coffee cup and a croissant.

“Here,” she said, “these are for you, and, “she put the food and drink down and searched in her bag, from which she produced a bottle of water and a small packet of pills. “Now, take a couple of these, they are only aspirin, and they will help with the headache.”

Veronica swallowed the pills, then grabbed some cloths and went back into the bathroom with her coffee. There she brushed her hair, dressed and applied some lipstick. Coming back out she felt almost human again.

“This Journal thing is a cute idea,” Tracey said as Veronica came out of the bathroom. “The one in my room is nearly full, and is fascinating reading, but I see yours is a new one, with just a couple of entries.” She looked Veronica up and down. “There, you look a ton better sweetie,” Tracey reassured her. “Now eat up your food and let’s get out on that walk!”

“Yes, great idea!” Veronica looked at Tracey’s feet, and the 5-inch heels she was wearing but decided that her friend must know what she was doing, so decided not to say anything. Soon they were walking along the path that, the map said, would lead to the beach.

“This is unbelievable!” Tracey said as they emerged from the forest, climbed the dunes and saw a vast expanse of sand ahead of them. “They were right about coming here to unwind.”

Tracey hadn’t talked directly about her job, but it was clear that she was some kind of financial high-flyer, working in the City of London and living in a penthouse at The Barbican.

Finding a place to sit, Tracey removed her shoes and patterned tights and then smiled up at Veronica. “It’s been ages since I walked barefooted in the sand, not since I was a kid, I’m sure.”

Veronica thought she made an odd sight, walking along the shore in her business suit, but jumping into the puddles like an excited 6-year-old. For herself, she removed her boots and waded in the water, and soon the two of them were giggling and splashing each other.

They had walked maybe a mile along the sand when they spotted a small café on a path leading inland, and Tracey suggested they stop for a cup of tea. “And maybe they will have some nice homemade scones or something yummy like that” she said.

The walk had cleared Veronica’s head, and the mention of food had her feeling suddenly ravenous. They checked the menu, but there were no homemade scones, so Veronica chose the “all day breakfast,” while Tracey just had tea and, because they were sitting outside, lit a cigarette.

“I hate smoking,” Tracey said as she noticed Veronica’s look. “I only took it up to be one of the boys, and now I’m hooked.” Although they had been talking non-stop all the time they had been walking, this seemed the most open thing that Tracey had said.

“So, what is it exactly you do?” Veronica asked.

“I’m an options trader,” Tracey replied. Her face, normally smiling and carefree, took on a dark look, and her eyes narrowed as she continued to talk, “And a fucking good one too, but according to my firm, I’m burnt out. I gave those fucking people 5 years of my life, and then they just throw me out like a piece of trash. What a load of assholes.”

Veronica tried not to look shocked at the casual vulgarity. Up to that moment, she hadn’t heard Tracey complain or swear, had not seen anything but a bright and cheery disposition. She noticed that Tracey’s hand was shaking as she lit another cigarette. “And they don’t even sell booze in this God-forsaken place. Let’s get back to the cabin I’ve got some there.”

Without even waiting to see if Veronica was ready to leave, Tracey got to her feet and started along the road inland. She had got only a few steps before she realized this was a gravel path, and her shoes were still stuffed in her bag. She put them on and stomped off, Veronica following along in her wake, wondering who this person was; it was certainly not the care-free girl who had been playing in the water just a few minutes ago.

Suddenly one of Tracey’s heels broke, she tripped and landed in the sand at the side of the path. When Veronica caught up with her, Tracey was just sitting there gently sobbing. Not knowing quite what to do, Veronica sat next to her, gently put her arm around the crying woman, and started to make soft, loving noises, like she had when one of her children had hurt themselves.

Tracey began to pull away and then relaxed into Veronica’s arms and sobbed uncontrollably on her shoulder. After a while, she calmed down, whipped her eyes and got unsteadily to her feet.

“I’m so sorry sweetie,” Tracey said, almost back to the cheery persona that Veronica had seen on the beach. “It’s all still raw, and I sometimes let the anger get the better of me.”

“It’s OK, I understand,” Veronica said, even though she really didn’t comprehend how someone could change so quickly and dramatically. “Look, you can’t walk like that with one heel broken, let me break the other one off and then at least you’ll be able to get somewhere.” Veronica helped her friend, and then they started off along the path into the forest.

Tracey got tired quickly, and even Veronica was wondering when they would get back to the cabins when they came to the bridge she had reached the night before.

“I got this far yesterday before the rain came down,” Veronica said. “The cabins are just up that hill, not far now!”

“Can we have a break for a minute?” Tracey asked. She stopped in the middle of the bridge, took what remained of her shoes off, and started to rub her feet.

Veronica stood watching Tracey and then broached the subject that she had been fretting over since their stop at the café. “So, not wanting to make you angry or hurt or anything, but your job…” She wasn’t really sure what the question was, just that there was something that seemed odd.

Tracey gave a half smile. “I’m sorry about earlier, it’s just that I recently realized that I’ve wasted so much time. I wanted a big city career, and that is what I got. I worked hard, and there was always the next promotion and a bigger bonus to aim for. But after a while, it all seemed sort of pointless, and much as I tried, I think the Bank saw that in me too.

“They ‘let me go’ 2 months ago, and I’ve been angry ever since. Well, angry and relieved too in a way, I would never have found the courage to leave on my own. But I’ve been feeling adrift and not knowing what to do next. I thought the Bank job would be the pinnacle of my achievements, but when I got there, all I could see was years and years of doing the same thing, over and over. It didn’t fulfill me, but then, what did I really want to do?

“Just a week ago I was just looking on Instagram, and pictures of this place came up, so I thought, why not take a break? I called and got a last minute booking, and left before I had a chance to have second thoughts. Then when I got here the first person I saw was you, sitting in a puddle in the rain. You made me smile and feel sad all at the same time, and I started to feel the ice inside melting.” Tracey let out a long sigh. “You know, I came from a small town, and my parents wanted me to stay, but I thought that it was too stifling to live in a close knit community like that. But now, I wonder…” She left the sentence unfinished, the regret unspoken.

There was silence for a while, and then Veronica started talking about her husband, how they had had a good life together, but that she had always wanted something different, something ‘other’, without quite knowing what it was. She talked about her new home, and about feeling being adrift too. Then she mentioned an idea that had been percolating in her head for a while, unspoken to anyone. She stared to talk about her idea of doing something in the line of catering, while also saying that she had no idea about how the business side of it would work. “I guess it’s just a pipe dream of mine, I’m too old to be starting up something all by myself.” Veronica said wistfully.

The two women stood side by side for a long time in silence, just watching the water flow under the bridge and the patterns the sun made as it filtered through the trees. Then without a word they set off up the path to the cottages.

 

The next morning Veronica was already up and dressed when Tracey tapped on the door of her cottage and suggested they went to breakfast together. “And,” Tracey said, “I’ve been doing some research; I have an idea I want to talk about.”

Over bacon and eggs Tracey explained that she’d been investigating businesses in the town Veronica lived in, and found a store for sale on the high street. She set up her Notepad and showed Veronica that she had been working on a business plan, budget and cash-flow forecast for a business hub and café.

“We could call it VeeTee’s after our initials” Tracey said. “I’d look after the business said, and you could run the café.” She looked excited, just like the girl that had been on the beach splashing in the water.

“Wait, what? Us? Are you suggesting we go into business together?” Veronica was struggling to get her head around the plans that had suddenly appeared in front of her, when she thought it was going to be another day with nothing much to do.

“Absolutely” Tracey smiled as she replied. “Sorry, I’ve been up most of the night going over this, but I didn’t mean to spring it on you. Your talk about catering sparked a thought in my mind too. I AM good at running a business, but I need someone with the creativity that you obviously have to spark my ideas. Of course you’ll need time to think about it, but I really do think we could make a go of this.”

Veronica paused before responding. In her head, she could hear her Arthur saying “you be careful of those City types, they can’t be trusted.” She thought she knew what her children would say too, that she didn’t know this person, and that she should not get involved. All her sensible instincts were telling to run, not walk, from this obviously crazy woman. And yet…

“What sort of food do you think we should serve?” Veronica asked. “And would we be open all day, or just during business hours?”

 

 

Cabin 22 Journal.

July 2:

I have dreamt of coming here many times, but the actual experience was totally different than I expected. Wonderful place, great walks, wonderful restaurant, altogether one of the best vacations I remember taking. Do take the walk down to the sea, along the beach and back over the bridge, it really is magical. I feel like my life has been on pause for the last many years, and now I am ready to move forward again.

I am a strong and resourceful woman, and I can do anything I set my mind to.

Vee

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Cabin 22 – Part 2

Jill

 

Jill shut the door behind her, and squealed with excitement! At 14 she was grown up enough to have a cabin to herself, and not have to share with Mum and Dad anymore. Her brothers, Ben and Don, had moaned that they had to share a cabin, and said they should have one each too, but Jill didn’t think they meant it, they just liked to argue.

She quickly unpacked and hung her clothes in the dresser, then looked around to see where she could hide her drawing paper and pencils. She never left them in sight in case one of her brothers found them, or, even worse, Mum or Dad. She sighed. No one would understand the fascination she found in her drawing; she knew that, so she never shared this secret passion with anyone. Dad worked long hours in a factory, and Mum worked in the local grocery store. She had it drummed into her from an early age that it was important to get a job and make money. Hard work was all that counted, and she had studied hard so to get good grades in Math and English so that she could get a well-paid job in an office one day.

No, Jill knows that her passion fro drawing was a waste of time, but still, in the quiet moments of the night, she dreamt of drawing and art and longed for the time when she could steal a few minutes with her book and pencils. She picked up the journal on the table next to the bed and was momentarily disappointed to see only one entry in it, and that it was a very short one about some old couple. But the mention of a bridge over a stream interested her; now that would be a good idea for a drawing.

Without further thought, she gathered up her paper and pencils and headed down to the stream. Only when she was half way there did it occur to her that maybe she should have told someone where she was going. Then she realized she’d left her phone back in the cabin, but it was too late to go back now. In any case, she was sure she’d be back before anyone noticed her absence.

 

It was about that time that Ben and Don were getting ready to go to the beach. The sea was a 20-minute walk away, 15 if you ran, and the boys were keen to get there as soon as possible. Just as they were packing up, Mum came and told them to knock on their sister’s door, and see if she wanted to go as well. They grumbled a bit; Jill was OK, but she was a girl, and always wanted to stop and look at things along the way. So when they knocked and got no answer, they weren’t too upset.

“Should we go and tell Mum?” Ben asked his brother.

“No, we were told to knock, and we did,” Don answered. “Now let’s see who can get in the water first!”

With that, he was off at a fast run, and Ben had to scramble to catch up. By the time they had gotten to the beach, breathless and excited, they had forgotten all about Jill and just concentrated on having fun.

 

About an hour later, Mum tapped on Jill’s door too. She didn’t get an answer, so she peeked round the door, and saw that Jill had unpacked but was not in the room. Mum smiled, thinking that Jill had gone off with the boys to the beach. She did worry about Jill sometimes, just recently she seemed to be preoccupied, and always having her nose in a book, or staring off into the distance. Jill was a sensible, hard working girl and was doing really well in the academic subjects at school, but Mum felt that something was troubling her daughter. She was hoping that this time away from the regular day-to-day routine would bring her out of it, whatever “it” was.

She went back to her own cabin and found her husband busily cleaning the barbecue grill, ready for tonight’s supper. Here was another one who could not stop working, she thought, not for the first time. She was proud of him, of course, and amazed at the hours he put in at the factory. Still, it would be nice if he would relax a bit sometimes, not everything had to be about work.

 

Meanwhile, Jill had discovered the perfect spot for her drawing. She had found the bridge over the stream that she had read about in the journal, and thought it was full of action, and yet calming at the same time. Jill looked around and found somewhere to sit, with her back to an old gnarled oak tree. The location also had the advantage that anyone walking along the path would not be able to see her, so she was sure there would be no interruptions.

Soon she was entirely focused on her work, trying to get the reflections and the shadows just right, even though they kept changing by the minute. As she sat, the sun filtering through the treetops had a mesmerizing effect, and a gentle warm breeze further relaxed her. She tried a number of times to capture the essence of what she was seeing, each time being pleased but unsatisfied at the same time. The warm sun had a soothing effect on her, and without being entirely aware of it, she slipped into a deep sleep.

 

“Where are the kids?” Dad asked, fretting over the fire in the barbecue. “I’m just about ready to start cooking.”

“They all went down to the beach; I’m sure they will be back soon,” Mum reassured him. Just then the Don came running along the pathway, closely followed by Ben, who was eager to show off the dead fish they had found on the shore.

“Where’s Jill?” Mum asked, looking back along the path.

“Oh, she wasn’t with us,” Ben said.

“What do you mean?” Mum said, suddenly concerned.

“Well we knocked like you said, but she didn’t answer, so we went without her.”

“Oh, I expect she’s back in her cabin enjoying the quite,” Mum said, “I’ll just go check on her.”

Within a few moments, she was back. “She’s not there, and her phone is on the counter. Dad, where is she? Where’s my Jill?” Mum was trying desperately to keep calm, despite thoughts of her baby girl being abducted and murdered, or worse, while she had just been enjoying the sun.

“Now, let’s get this straight,” Dad took over, “exactly who saw Jill last and where?” He quickly found out that the last anyone had seen his daughter was when she had taken her bags to her cabin, several hours ago.

“OK, there is no need for anyone to panic” Dad tried to reassure his increasingly tearful wife and overexcited sons. “Mum, you go to the office and let them know what’s happened, and then came back here in case she turns up. I’ll go and search the woods. Don, Ben, you go back along the beach road, maybe she followed you and you missed her. Call me if you find her, but come straight back here if you don’t, is that clear?”

The boys said they understood and set off, calling Jill’s name every few minutes, Mum ran to the office, and Dad ventured into the forest. He met a few people coming the other way, but none of them had seen a young girl, and his grip on the composure he had tried to show the family was slowly ebbing away. His phone rang, and it was just his wife reporting that the boys were back, but with no news. He told her to get them to try around the campsite and hung up. He had reached a bridge over a stream and was unsure what to do next. He was not a religious man, but as he sttod there he suddenly found himself praying with all his heart that his little girl was safe. He called Jill’s name for the hundredth time, and then held his breath; had he heard a reply?

 

In her dream, Jill was floating along a red river on a golden sailboat, the wind gently wafting the sails. Someone far away was calling her name, over and over, and she idly wondered how to bring her boat to shore. Then the voice was nearer, and Jill became aware that the red was not a river but the sun setting across the valley. She started to wake slowly, groggily wondering where she was, and then suddenly she was jolted awake by the sound of her father’s voice calling her name.

“Dad?” she said unsteadily, raising from her vantage point, but still unsure if she was asleep or awake.

When Dad spotted movement, he ran towards the old oak tree, more in hope than expectation. Then he saw her, his beloved daughter, standing in a clearing surrounded by papers. He gathered her up in his arms, and for the first time in her young life, Jill saw her father cry.

“Oh Jill, thank God you’re safe. We were so worried!”

He held her in his arms, and then noticed the papers that the wind was starting to blow around. “And what are there?” he asked, picking one and studying it.

“Oh, it’s nothing” Jill tried to stop him looking, but he picked up a few of her sketches and looked them over. “I know it’s silly; I need to study and get qualifications so I can get a proper job, just like you and Mum. It’s just that, well, this is what I love to do. I love sketching, drawing, all that art stuff. But it’s stupid, I know.” She blushed and looked away, as her father reached for the remaining pages and studied them.

“Stupid?” he said. “These aren’t stupid; these are excellent. I tell you what would be stupid, and that would be not pursuing your talent.”

“But Dad, how can I make money doing this? If you’ve taught me one thing, it’s the importance of hard work and diligence.”

“And you think being an artist isn’t hard work?” Dad looked at his young daughter, no longer the baby he had once held in his arms, and not quite a woman yet. A thousand memories came to mind all in an instant, and he sat down on the soft earth, patting the ground for Jill to sit next to him.

“Let me tell you a story.” He started as Jill looked at him in amazement. “When I was a young kid, maybe a year or two younger than you, I dreamt of being an actor. I just loved the whole thing about being on stage, I was in all the drama at school, and nagged my Mum and Dad to take me to all the plays that were on in anywhere in town. Then when it came time for me to take exams, my English teacher said I had talent, and suggested I go on to drama school.

“I wanted that with all my heart, but Dad had just passed away, and Ma, your Grandma, she was struggling to bring us kids up and keep us fed. As the eldest of the boys, I decided that I needed to get a job and earn some money, but I vowed to carry on acting, and to go to drama school when I could.”

Jill looked with new eyes at her Dad. She had always thought of him as someone so down-to-earth and practical, and now it seemed that he had dreams too.

“And then I met your Mum and got wed, and you kiddos came along. Not that I would have changed any of it, but still, sometimes in the middle of the night, I wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to drama school.”

“But the point is” Dad took a deep breath, got to his feet, and held out his free hand to Jill, the other one still holding tight to the drawings, “I’m not going to let you throw away the chance of using this talent of yours. Stop double guessing yourself, and be proud of your talent, I am!”

Just then his phone rang. “Oh, it’s your Mum, here, you answer it, tell her you’re OK.”

All the way to the cabins Jill and Dad talked about drawing and art classes, and when they got back, she told everyone that she had fallen asleep while drawing, and showed them her pictures.

For the rest of the week she spent many happy hours drawing, and when it came to packing to go home, Dad drove into town and brought her a portfolio case to carry her pictures. As she scanned the cabin one last time before leaving, she saw the journal, and just had enough time to scrawl an entry.

 

Cabin 22 Journal.

June 19.

This is the first time I get to stay in a cabin by myself, and that means I get to write in the journal too! I am 15, well, almost, I will be later this year, and I am Jillian Mary Robertson, I have two older brothers, who are a pain, but I love them anyway. Mum and Dad are here too in one of the other cabins, and Ben and Don have one to themselves. Oh! Ben and Don are my brothers, and I’m called Jill, not Jillian, that is just my given name.

This is a magical place, and something about the magic has rubbed off on me this week! I have discovered that I am not a misfit, that I have Talent, and that it is OK to dream. My Dad is an amazing man, who gave up so much for us and I love him more than anyone in the whole wide world.

Jill

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