A decision is made in this charming complete story by Pauline Bradbury.
WELL, why not?” Vicky asked herself, struggling with the wind which was buffeting her brolly. “I need a cuppa and there’s one waiting for me right there.” Right there being a rather imposing hotel, outside of which was a notice telling told Vicky it was open to nonresidents.
If it hadn’t been such a wet day, and the wind so boisterous, and if she hadn’t received that text earlier on, she would have trudged back into the town centre to f ind a tea shop. As it was, buoyed up with feelings of excitement and anticipation, she took a last look at the churning surf and deserted beach, and marched up its short drive.
Inside it was quiet and warm, and a pleasant girl welcomed her and suggested where she might leave her wet things before going into the lounge.
“Such a frightful day.” She smiled, pointing out the way. “I’m sure you’re looking for tea.”
Vicky deposited her wet garments and went through the archway to the large room overlooking the sea. It was full of comfy-looking sofas and chairs, where people were chatting quietly.
She spied an empty chair and table in the corner.
“I’ll be with you in a moment, madam,” a waiter told her as he passed.
Madam! Vicky nodded graciously. She used to be good at amateur dramatics, she thought with amusement, and this was just the sort of real-life stage where she could practise it.
She sat up straighter, pushed back her dark hair and checked that her pink sweater was smoothed down over her most respectable pair of jeans.
In no time at all she found tea and scones in front of her. The china was delicate, and the golden scones were accompanied by dishes of jam and clotted cream. Lovely.
She was just about to get stuck in when she remembered her role, so instead she spread the jam and cream leisurely and daintily, with gestures she imagined more suited to a lady having tea at an expensive hotel.
“I wondered which you would spread f irst.”
Vicky almost dropped her scone, and looked up to f ind it was a friendly looking man at an adjacent table who had spoken to her.
“If you put the cream on f irst it means you come from Devon, but jam first means you’re Cornish. Or is it the other way round?” He smiled disarmingly.
“I don’t know,” she replied, rather at a loss. “I don’t know this part of the country at all.” “Have you just arrived?” he asked. Vicky was puzzled. If he’d been watching her that closely he must have seen her come in. She tried one of her gracious nods, half hoping that would f inish his overtures.
Not that he was unpleasant. In fact, he looked nice, with a sprinkling of grey hair and a cheerful smile. She liked his blue polo-neck sweater, too. He got up. “Well, I hope to see you around, then,” he told her.
She nodded again. This gracious nod was coming in useful.
It was only as she was leaving that the penny dropped. He had asked if she had just arrived at the hotel, and she had nodded. So, in effect, she had let him think she was a guest here.
She felt embarrassed and slightly guilty, though it wasn’t even a white lie.
“Just crossed wires,” she told herself, but all the same, before venturing out into the wilds of the gale again, clad in her boots and a robust quilted coat, she peered all round to make sure he was nowhere in sight.
Head down, brolly up, she hurried back along the esplanade towards the town, and then, amazingly, there he was on the other side of the road, peering into a café window.
She knew the café quite well now, because she had tried a couple of meals there.
Probably checking how the other half lives, she decided, before returning to his f ivecourse dinner.
With her brolly shielding her, she carried on through the main shopping area to the little guest-house – one of many up this quiet side road, each of them decorated nicely and most of them displaying No Vacancies signs, even this late in the season.
Later, she sat in her room in front of the TV. In front of it, but not watching it, because she had a lot to think about.
She was about to embark on a huge enterprise.
“Well, probably,” she cautioned herself.
“More than likely,” her more impetuous inner self asserted.
Vicky sighed. Ever since her mother had died and left her the house and all of her savings, she had been in a quandary. It seemed like a good time to take a step into the unknown and do something she had always wanted to, but at the back of her mind she could hear her mother telling her to be sensible and careful.
That was the trouble. All of her life she had been sensible and careful, and where had it got her? No further than a catering course and a job at the small restaurant in her home town where she’d been ever since. Of course, she shouldn’t forget her romance with Jeff, the love of her life, who had offered excitement and adventure.
But after much heart-searching and sorrow, she had backed away from him because being sensible and careful weren’t words he was familiar with. According to her mother.
“At twenty-f ive, why should they have been?” Vicky mused. “At twenty-f ive, life is full of promise and possibilities.
So what about f ifty-one, then? That was what loomed just round the corner for her.
Was this her second chance?
Vicky was no nearer making the f inal decision when she woke the next morning,