The thing about a “bad first draft” is that as I write it, I find out about the story – it’s almost as if the book is there already, and my job is just to discover it. So, having started “reading” Cabin 22 half way through summer, it came to be that there was actually a back story I’d never written, but was there all the time in my head.
And so this part of the story is before all that you have read so far, and this, plus some other parts, connect to what has already been written, although some of that will have to be re-written in a later version before the final edit.
As always, please remember this IS a first draft, and I’d ask that you accept the imperfections as part of the process!
Maggie shut the door behind her, let out a deep sigh, dropped her bags to the floor, and collapsed onto the bed. It was really the first time she’d been still for the last two days. She went back over what happened and wondered for the thousandth time if she had been right to leave him like she had.
She had left without any plan in mind, and it was not until she was dozing in a rest area somewhere south of Newcastle that she suddenly remembered the family holiday her Mum and Dad had taken her to in Cromer. Having nowhere better to go she made that her destination and had almost reached there when she got hopelessly lost in the country lanes of Norfolk. It was dark, and she was nearing her breaking point when she saw the lights of what turned out to be Silver Oaks. She stopped, and it being mid-winter they still had a lot of cabins free, so she decided she might as well rest there at least for a few days.
And so she was here, with no real idea of what was going to happen next, but at least for the moment, she felt safe. There was something about the cabin that made her feel that this was, if not home, at least somewhere that could be a temporary base for a few days.
Suddenly Maggie woke and noticed that a little gray light was appearing through the shutters. She realized that she had slept all night collapsed on the bed. She found the kettle and made tea, and splashed some water on her face in an effort to wake up. Running away has been the easy part, she was coming to realize, it was deciding what to move to that was difficult.
Hamish’s drinking had taken ridiculous levels recently, and he seemed nowadays to be drunk more than he was sober. Maggie thought back to the days after their first meeting, and how much fun it had been to get away from her parent’s staunch upbringing. She had always been told that drinking was the work of the devil, but she couldn’t help but notice that Dad often smelled of something odd when he came back from being out with his mates. Hamish had been fun and adventure, and when he asked her to marry him, she said yes without a moment’s hesitation.
At the time she had just opened her shop, “Pretty Things.” It had been her dream since school days to make and sell all kinds of cute clothing and accessories, and she had worked hard to get enough money to open her own store. She found the perfect spot just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, where visiting tourists, as well as locals, could find her. Hamish seemed to support her, although, even in those early days, he complained about the number of hours she spent in the shop. Hamish went from one job to another and always seemed to leave abruptly after an argument. Wanting to help, Maggie suggested he start looking after the books for the store, and when he agreed she could devote more time to designing her cute merchandise and marketing her store.
Maggie understood that it would take a while for a new business to take off, but was astounded to find that, busy and successful as they seemed, there was never enough profit. Maggie and Hamish took to arguing, which always ended with Hamish slamming the door and going to the pub. Maggie started to find empty gin bottles in the trash, and just before Christmas, she had made a stand. They were invited to her Mum’s for Christmas dinner, and she insisted that Hamish not drink at all when they were there. The ensuing argument saw Hamish leave for the pub 3 days before Christmas, and not come back until the day after the new year.
While he was away, Maggie thought she should look at the books, and slowly she came to see why there was no profit, and where Hamish was finding the money for his drinking. The shop was more or less bankrupt, with sales money being taken out almost every day. Try as she might not to believe it, it seemed that her husband had been taking the hard earned cash and drinking it away. When Hamish did return, she confronted him the books, which lead to a storm of accusations from Hamish, and ended with him striking her across the face so hard that she lost consciousness.
When she came to, Maggie felt dried blood on her face and noticed that she had nothing on below her waist. Putting her hand down there, she realized that Hamish must have had sex with her while she was unconscious, and the thought made her retch. She packed what she could carry on her motorbike, and left without a further thought.
Maggie told herself she needed to pull herself together. Right now, after a night’s sleep she was ravenously hungry, and so she set off for the restaurant she had seen when she booked in yesterday. When she got there, she found that it was closed during January. However, there was a map showing Fisherman’s Café not far away. Pulling on her leather coat, she set off and found the place without incident. As she turned off the engine of her motorbike, she was surrounded by the silence of the winter countryside, and for a moment she wondered if she was in the right place. Then she spotted an older lady sitting behind the counter reading a book. Which she put down as Maggie entered.
Maggie was greeted by a warm smile and friendly voice. “Hello m’dear, great to see somebody in today. I was just saying to myself – Dorothy, don’t be surprised if you’re by yourself all day. Now, what can I get you?”
“Well I’m famished, so whatever you have would be great,” Maggie said, feeling warmed by the smile and welcome.
“I could get you a full English breakfast, how does that sound? And I’ll get you tea and some toast while you’re waiting, sit down anywhere m’dear, I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.” She busied herself getting the tea, and then set it down in front of Maggie.
“We don’t get many visitors this time of year,” Dorothy said as she put the food in front of Maggie and poured her more tea.
Maggie found herself feeling comfortable around Dorothy, and shared more of her story than she had actually intended. It was good to talk to someone – anyone – after her quick getaway.
“So what are you going to do now?” Dorothy asked. It was a question Maggie didn’t really have an answer to.
“I really don’t know,” Maggie admitted, helping herself to more tea. “Since I don’t have a business anymore, I guess I’ll get myself a job and start from scratch again. I don’t suppose you know of any work around here, do you? Oh, and somewhere to live, only it’d have to be cheap.”
Dorothy thought about it for a moment. “Well, I do know that the Feathers is always looking for good bar workers. And that Silver Oaks place lost a couple of cleaners last year, I’m sure they will be hiring again soon. It’s quiet here this time of year, but come summer the place is heaving with visitors, and there are lots of temporary jobs around.” She paused and then went on. “As for accomodation..” She stopped, and a look of concern crossed her face.
“What is it?” Maggie asked, but before Dorothy could continue, Maggie’s phone started to ring. She looked at the caller ID; it was Hamish, as it had been several times over the last 2 days. She didn’t answer, and then her phone showed that a message had been left.
“That was Him, wasn’t it?” Dorothy asked.
“Yes,” Maggie answered. “He keeps calling and telling me how sorry he is and how it was all a mistake. And the worst thing is he keeps saying how pretty I am, but all I can think about is that night.” She hadn’t talked in detail about what she had found when she regained consciousness but had told Dorothy about being hit.
“Well I hope you’re going to divorce the bastard,” Dorothy said in a matter of fact manner as she collected the dirty dished and took them out to the kitchen.
Maggie hadn’t got that far in her thoughts, but now Dorothy brought it up, she knew it was over, and that divorce was the obvious answer. Not that there were any assets left to fight over, she thought bitterly.
Over the next few days, Maggie spent a lot of time just walking around the area, and stopped in to see Dorothy for lunch most days. She found the Feathers, and they agreed to give her a try one evening a week while they were not busy. At Silver Oaks, Leo said he would certainly need another cleaner, but not until March at the earliest when the bookings typically started to pick up. She tried out a few other vacation places, and they all sounded hopeful later in the year, and as she talked to more people, she started to feel more at home.
It was a week later, and she woke feeling sad. The cabin was becoming to feel like home, but she could not afford to stay here much longer. As it was, she was using her credit cards to pay for the accommodation but knew she couldn’t afford to do that much longer. And today her Ma and Pa were coming down to see her.
They had taken the news of the breakup badly and seemed to be blaming her. They had not said so as such, it was just a feeling she got, but she was feeling concerned. They were due to arrive around mid day, and Maggie had booked a cabin for them that night.
She spent the morning at the laundrette in the village, then returned to the cabins to wait for the visit. She recognized the car immediately as it turned into the Silver Oaks grounds, but the smile froze on her face as she realized that her parents were not alone; Hamish was sitting in the back seat, holding a big bunch of flowers.
The color drained from her face. How could her parents do this to her?
“Now Margaret, just wait,” her mother said as she got out of the car. “I know you told me you didn’t want to talk to Hamish, but he’s still your husband, and he’s willing to give it another go, and forgive and forget.”
“Hey my pretty girl,” Hamish said, holding out the flowers to Maggie. “What say we kiss and make up?”
Of all the things he could have said, calling her his ‘pretty girl’ somehow summed up why Maggie would never go back to him.
“Pretty?” She turned on him, her shock slowly turning to anger. “Pretty? Was I pretty when you stole all the money I worked so hard for? Was I pretty when you left me and spent all that money on drink? Was I pretty when you smashed me to the floor and left me unconscious?”
“Come on, sweet girl,” Hamish tried to be consoling as he got closer to her. “It was a bit rough there for a while, I admit, but it was the drink talking, and I’d never hurt you on purpose.”
Maggie could not stop the rage rising in her.
”Was I pretty when you raped me lying there covered in my own blood?”
She glanced over at her parents, who were looking shocked by her outburst.
“Oh, he didn’t tell you that, did he? Well, this ‘pretty girl’ is not going to take it anymore.”
So saying she turned on her heels and started blindly to run along the path leading into the woods. At first, she could hear the sound of pursuit behind her and her parents calling her name, but soon she left them far behind. Se continued running until her breath was coming in gasps, and her muscles were screaming out for rest. Only then did she slow down enough to look around and get her bearings.
She had come out of the forest and was on a long path between plowed fields. In the distance, she could see a farm house, and as she had no idea where she was or what she was going to do, she headed towards it.
As she approached the house she could hear a dog barking, and she was momentarily worried about what her reception would be, but her fear carried her on until she was standing at the door. When Dorothy answered her knock it was hard to judge who was more shocked.
“Oh, Maggie m’dear! What a surprise to see you! But you look worn out! Come on in. I’ve got the kettle on!”
She showed Maggie into the warm and cozy kitchen, where a golden Labrador came up to sniff at her, wagging his tail and begging for attention.
“Don’t pay no attention to Biscuit here, he’s a big old softy. You just sit down while I make the tea, and tell me all about it.”
Maggie found herself saying out loud for the first time what Hamish had done to her while she had been unconscious, and then went on to say that her parents had arrived with Hamish, apparently wanting them to get back together again.
“I don’t know what to do,” Maggie admitted. “I can’t go back there and face them, and I don’t think I can ever trust my parents again after they took his side against me.”
“Well, for right now, you’re safe and warm, and that’s all that matters for the moment,” Dorothy said. “You can stay here tonight, and then in the morning, I can drive you over to Silver Oaks if you want. I won’t get in the way, but if you need any moral support, I’ll be there for you. And then, well, I was going to say something earlier, but you made my mind up now. Why don’t you move in here until you’ve got on your feet a bit?”
“Oh, Dorothy! You are so kind,” Maggie said, ”but I couldn’t impose on you like that.”
“No imposition, m’dear,” Dorothy’s smile, never far from her face, seemed a bit distant somehow. “I always dreamed of having a daughter grow up in this house, but it was not to be, so maybe you’ll let me mother you for a bit, just till you get on your feet, of course.”
The next morning it was overcast and drizzling with rain, and Maggie thought the weather perfectly reflected her mood. They had talked late into the night, and Maggie had slept later than she had intended to. Dorothy insisted she have a good breakfast before they set off, and so it wasn’t until almost 10 that they arrived at Silver Oaks. Leo saw them approaching and waved them down.
“Ah the wanderer returns!” he called out to them. “I should have known our Dorothy would look out for the waifs and strays!” He grew serious as they got out of the car and came over to them. “Your parents and that man left early this morning, but they asked that I give you this.” So saying, Leo handed Maggie an envelope, and took Dorothy by the arm and led her away so she could read it in peace. She opened the envelope with shaking hands and saw there were two folded pieces of paper inside. She took the first one, and immediately recognized her mother’s handwriting.
“Margaret” it started,
“I don’t know what to say, but Hamish has told us his side of the story, and I am sure there are faults on both sides. When we take our marriage vows, they are for better or for worse, and I for one have always taken that view that people should stick to their promises.
However, maybe it is best if you stay away from Edinburgh for the time being, your father is not happy that he has come all this way and you ran off like that.”
It went on to another page, but Maggie had stopped taking anything in at that point, and she took out the second letter. It was from Hamish and was more direct.
“OK Bitch, if that’s the way you want it, you never were any good anyway, always looking out for that precious shop of yours. And don’t forget half of everything is mine. So long loser.”
“You wouldn’t credit it!” Leo was telling Dorothy about the events from the day before. “I heard shouting, and Maggie was running off with these three people chasing after her. I tell you, I would have called the police, but we don’t want no problems around here, business is bad enough as it is.
“Anyway, soon they came back, not Maggie, but the other three, and the man, Hamish I think he said was his name, started shouting at me that he had to get in Maggie’s cabin. The cheek of it! So I told him in no uncertain terms that that sort of thing was not allowed. When he could see that this wasn’t getting him anywhere, he asked where the nearest pub was, well you know how far The Feathers is from here, so I sent him there. Came back late at night shouting and swearing, and next thing I knew he was banging on my door demanding somewhere to sleep for the night.
I just told him to sling his hook, the cheek of some people! Heard them pack up and leave about seven – honestly, I sometimes wonder why I bother.”
Dorothy had been half listening, but also watching Maggie. When she saw her crumple up the notes, she went over and took her in her arms.
“Come on now m’dear, let’s go get your stuff and you can come on home with me. I know Leo here won’t mind you leaving early.”
“Actually Maggie,” Leo said, “My cleaner has just called in sick, if you’re still interested, I could do with a bit of help this afternoon?”
“That would be great,” Maggie said. “I’m moving in with Dorothy for the time being, so maybe I could move my stuff and come back later? I’ll start by cleaning cabin 22 if you like!”
Later that day, after she had moved her belongings over to Dorothy’s farmhouse, and learned the basics of cabin hygiene, she was finishing cleaning “her” cabin, when she noticed the journal lying beside the bed. With a sigh, she sat and wrote an entry.
Cabin 22 Journal.
You never know where the road leads us. I thought I knew, thought I was settled and that I’d never leave Pretty Things and never leave my home. But home is where you make it and right now, this is where I am. Somehow I ended up here, with some pretty fantastic people and a new life beckoning. And I don’t want to – no – I won’t be pretty anymore.