The last chapter saw Jackie left alone in the cottage. Now the story continues and connects with the lives of others.
Leo looked up as Jackie came into the office. He smiled “I hope you had a great stay with us” he said. He tried hard to keep on top of all the comings and goings in the grounds, and had noticed that one of the cars next to cabin 22 had not been there this morning.
“I just,“ Jackie started, then paused as she tried to retain her composure. “I know I’m due to leave today, but I wondered if I could stay on for a few days or so.”
Leo smiled again, and started checking the bookings list.
“Well, we do have a booking for Cabin 22 from tonight,” he checked through the other available cabins, “but I could probably move a few people around, how long would you like to extend your stay?”
“Well actually,” she realized that not going home had been the only thing she was sure about, “I don’t know really, maybe another week?”
Leo actually relished events like this, they brought out his creative side and he looked at it as if he were doing a puzzle, moving one person here, another there. “Well I can fit you in for the next five days,” he said after just a few minutes. “After that I’m afraid we are fully booked. Of course if we get any cancellations I’ll let you know, but would that be OK? And I can certainly keep you in Cabin 22 until then.”
Jackie agreed, turned, and slowly walked away. Getting back to the cabin she just sat, unsure what was going to happen next.
Maggie was feeling surprisingly optimistic as she came in to White Oaks that morning. The flat was working out well, and she was content with the way her life was going. She was surprised, but not worried, when she saw a note on the signing-in sheet asking her to see Leo before she started work.
She went to the front desk, and Leo invited her into the inner office and offered her a seat.
Leo seemed unusually jumpy as he spoke, and didn’t himself sit down. “Maggie, I had a phone call last week, asking for your address. I took it upon myself to say that I would not give it out, but I did offer to accept a letter here for you, and I’d pass it on. Well, it arrived today, and I wanted to give you some space to yourself – here is the letter.” He handed over the letter to a puzzled Maggie, but as soon as she saw the handwriting and the return address her heart sank. “It’s from Hamish” Leo went on, “and he said it was an amends, so…” His voice trailed off, and there was silence for a moment.
“Anyway, I’ll leave you alone, take as long as you need.” He left the office, shutting the door behind himself, and Maggie continued to stare at the envelope in her hand. Slowly, she turned it over, opened it and took out the letter. Shaking slightly, she unfolded the page and started to read.
“Dear Maggie” the letter started “I needed to write to you to try to make amends for all the hurt I caused with my drinking. I was not sure how to contact you, but I phoned the Oaks place, and the manager there said he could get this letter to you.
“How I treated you was wrong, and I want to take full responsibility for all the bad things that I did. I did steal money from your shop, and I will repay all that money. I am not sure how much it all comes to, but I will send you what I can on a weekly basis from the job I now have. Please let me know if I should send it to you at the Oaks address or a different one. You will find my first payment enclosed with this letter.”
Maggie checked the envelop, and saw a smaller envelope inside. Opening this she counted out £25 in £5 notes. She turned back to the letter.
“I know that money along cannot make up for what happened between us, and for my bad actions, I sincerely apologize. If you wish to press any charges against me, I will not challenge them. I have told my solicitor to wait to hear from yours on the divorce papers. I would hope we could try to make a go of it again, but I will completely accept your decision on what happens next. You should also know that I have not found it necessary to have a drink for the last 41 days, and, one day at a time, I am not drinking today.
Maggie turned the paper over, but there was no more. She reread the letter. If she had not recognized the handwriting, she would have thought that it was a forgery, the tone was so different from the last message she had received from Hamish. Something about the tone of the letter was off, somehow, it sounded both real and fake the same time.
There was a tap at the door, and Leo came in, holding a cup in his hand. “Here, I brought some tea for you,” he said. “Not to hurry you or anything, just wanted to make sure you were OK.”
“Leo, you are the most considerate man I’ve ever known.” She smiled at him. It was sometimes hard for her to remember that it had been just a few months since she’d turned up in this tiny corner of the world, sometimes it seemed like she had been here forever, and Leo and Dorothy were the mainstays of her world. “You are so kind, and I don’t want to impose on your kindness. Thank you so much for taking the letter in, and giving me space to read it. Now,” she gulped down the tea, put the letter in her purse, and stood up. “Now I’ll get to work and let you have your office back!”
Maggie picked up her schedule for the morning’s work, and briefly scanned it. Cabin 22 was supposed to be empty today, so she decided to start there. As was her habit with cabins she expected to be unoccupied, she knocked, called out “housekeeping,” but unlocked the door and went in without waiting for an answer. She was halfway through the door before she noticed the women sitting on the bed. “Oh my apologies!” she said, “I thought this cabin was empty.”
“Yes I was due to be leaving, but there was a change of plan, and,” Jackie started, but before she could say any more the tears came again.
Maggie forgot about her busy schedule, sat down next to the sobbing woman, and put her arm around her.
“I’m so sorry,” Jackie sobbed, “It’s my husband, it was our anniversary, and he, he… “ She couldn’t finish, but Maggie had heard enough
“We’re better off without those bastards.” Maggie said it in a matter-of-fact way, thinking about the letter and the money in it. “Did he hurt you?”
Jackie was taken aback by the question. “He, he told me he was, he said he was gay.” She blurted out. “He told me he had fallen in love with a man at his office, and – oh, I just can’t think of it without feeling sick inside.”
Jackie wiped her eyes. “I couldn’t face going back home. I don’t even know if it is home anymore, it all seems like a sham somehow. I keep wondering what I did wrong, how I missed the signs, what I could have done to stop it before it was too late.” She trailed off, unsure why she had even said as much as she had. But somehow, it seemed better to have been able to talk about it to someone.
They sat in silence for a long moment, Maggie re-living her flight from Hamish. “It is tough, going it along,” she at last said. “But we are strong women, we can survive. More than that, we can thrive. Do you have money? Has he taken that as well?”
“What?” Again Jackie was confused by the question. “No I’m OK I have my own business and,” she paused, suddenly realizing that her office would be expecting her back the next day. “Actually, I need to call in, you have been so kind to listen to me, I can’t thank you enough.”
“You are very welcome!” Maggie replied, “and I should be getting on too, I’m behind as it is. But here,” she scribbled down her phone number and handed it over to Jackie. “Call me if you want to talk or anything, either now, or when you get back home.”
Jackie took the number, thanked Maggie, folded the paper carefully and put it in her purse. She doubted she would use it, but was touched by the thought.
A couple of hours later Jackie had called her assistant and all her appointments for the next week were being rearranged. She then called her lawyer, and outlined the situation. She didn’t want a divorce, and hoped more than anything that they could be reconciled, but at the same time, the businesswoman part of her makeup wanted to make sure that all her bases were covered.
With all the practical matters dealt with for the moment, Jackie decided on getting some fresh air, and so she set off for the beach. It was a perfect day, the sun high and bright, and just the occasional white cloud to bring the blue of the sky into perfect focus. As she reached the beach there was a slight breeze coming off of the sea, just enough to cool her skin. She walked, trying to enjoy the sea and sand, but her thoughts kept coming back to David, the future, and what would happen next.
There were a lot of people on the beach, family groups mainly, with the occasional couple walking hand in hand. Each time she saw a happy couple she grieved a little more. That should be her and David, it ought to be them walking along the beach together, not her alone and him off doing whatever it was he was doing.
Suddenly her train of thought was interrupted, as the smell of freshly cooked bacon wafted past. Looking for where the aroma had come from, she saw Fisherman’s Cafe and realized that she’d not eaten since the evening before. Just the thought of that meal, the drive and the aftermath made her feel sick inside, and she almost walked on, but then decided that eating was the appropriate thing to do, so she headed into the cafe.
“Good Morning m’dear! Sit anywhere, I’ll be with you in just a second.”
Jackie found herself smiling from the welcome, and she sat at a table looking out over the dunes. As she looked a seagull flying against the wind hovered for a moment, appearing to be stationary in the blue sly, before swooping down out of sight behind the dunes.
“Now m’dear, here’s our menu, we’re still serving breakfast if you want something hot, or we have a nice selection of pastries and pies. I used to make my own pastries here in the cafe, but there’s a new place in town that opened a couple of months ago, and I’m getting them fresh from there every day. I said I’d try them out, and my customers seem to like them, so I’m all for saving my old bones from work.”
Jackie ordered a hot breakfast, accepted a pot of tea while she waited for it to be cooked, and once more stared out of the window. What was she to do, she asked herself for the thousandth time that morning. She wanted David back so much it was a like a physical hurt. She thought about their home, their possessions, their dreams and plans. Nothing, she thought, nothing was hers, everything was theirs.
Maggie mulled over what the letter had said as she worked. When her shift was done at White Oaks, she drove out to the sand-dunes and reread the letter over and over. She realized she was only a mile or so from Fisherman’s Cafe, so she went there, even though she knew that Dorothy would soon be closing up.
Dorothy greeted her warmly, and gave her tea and toast without being asked, and they sat and talked for a while, before Maggie brought up the subject she had been thinking about.
“Dorothy,” she started, “I was wondering if you could tell me more about that amends thing you talk about some times.”
If Dorothy was taken aback by the question she didn’t show it. “Of course m’dear” She said. “Well, first we make a list of people we have harmed, then become willing to make amends to them, and then make direct amends to them, unless it would hurt them or other people.” She looked quizzically at Maggie. “Why do you ask?”
Instead of replying, she gave the letter from Hamish to Dorothy.
Dorothy took the letter, read it and sighed. “Ah yes, I see.” She said, handing the letter back. “Yes, that could have been a step 9 amends, and he’s certainly using some AA speak there, how do you feel about it m’dear?”
“I’m not sure.” Maggie hesitated, and then continued. “Until I read this I was just angry at Hamish, at my Mother, at the whole situation. But since reading that letter I’m starting to wonder. I mean, if Hamish was an alcoholic, maybe I could have helped him get over it. Maybe I should have been more supportive of him. I mean I always let him have booze in the house, maybe if I’d stopped him earlier…”
“Oh no, m’dear, don’t start down that road.” Dorothy interrupted, “you didn’t cause it, you couldn’t have controlled it, and you couldn’t have cured it. All that is his responsibility, not yours. If that Hamish is an alcoholic, and it certainly sounds like he might be, then there would be nothing you could have done, he had to want to get better before he could do so. Do you want some free advice?”
“Of course” Maggie replied quickly.
“Put the money in a safe place, but don’t rely on any more. If more comes, put it that in your piggy-bank too. If you feel up to it, drop him a line just thanking him for the money, and acknowledging his apology. You don’t have to accept his apology if you don’t want to, and you certainly don’t need to take any responsibility for his actions.
“When you’re ready, maybe you can talk to people who have been through what you have; maybe you’re ready now, maybe later, maybe never, it’s up to you. But for right now,” Dorothy held out her arms, “What about a hug?”
Later that night Maggie sat in her room for a long time staring at a blank sheet of paper. Eventually she picked up her pen and started writing
“I have received the letter and money you sent.
“The White Oaks address is a good one for me.”
Maggie stared at the two sentences she had written. There was so much she wanted to express, so much hurt and disappointment, but somehow, none of it would form into words. She just didn’t have any way of expressing the feelings inside her, or any way to let out the tension she felt.
Suddenly her phone rang. It was not a number she recognized, and she was about to ignore the call, when something made her answer it.
“Hello, who is it?”
A womans voice spoke
“Oh God I’m so sorry, I didn’t think what the time was, this is a mistake, I’m sorry, I just,” with that the woman started sobbing, and it jogged Maggie’s memory from earlier in the day.
“Are you the lady from Cabin 22? I sorry, I don’t think I remember your name.”
“Yes, it is, it’s Jackie” She replied. “I’ve been wondering around all day not knowing what to do, and then I found your number, and remembered how kind you’d been, and, I don’t know, I just wanted someone friendly to talk to.”
Maggie started to cry too, and although the two women said very little, somehow both of them felt the closeness of the other, and a feeling of having a common bond.
Eventually, tiredness overcame Maggie, and she suggested that they both try to sleep.
“And I’m working at White Oaks tomorrow again, maybe I can call for you and we could go out to lunch or something?” She said. Jackie agreed and the call ended with both women feeling somehow better.
Dorothy had a set routine each evening. She would get into bed with her notebook and pencil and write about her day. She thought back to her conversation with Maggie. She had talked to many drunks about making amends to their spouses, but this was the first time that she recalled hearing the “other side of the story” so to speak, and she hoped she had done well. She thought about her customers, and the young woman who seemed so distracted. Dorothy had noticed an expensive looking ring on her wedding finger, and a look of deep sadness in her eyes.
Then she picked up her prayer list, added the distracted lady at the bottom, and then, as an afterthought, Hamish as well, and started to go through the list, praying for each one in turn. Her list always started with Misty, that she was happy and well, and that she was following her hearts desire. In recent years she had added Misty’s father to the list too, because it seemed a good thing to remember the person who had given her such a wonderful gift. The list was long, and she sometimes fell asleep before the last name, but tonight she got to the end without trouble.
With a sigh, Dorothy turned off the light and laid down. Something was troubling her, but she didn’t know quite what. Sleep came slowly to her, and when it came it was full of dreams of her child, now a grown woman, reaching out to Dorothy. But somehow, try as she might, Dorothy could not move her hands and could not grab hold of her child. It was a dream that had come often in recent months.