When they moved out to Spain Fliss thought that Martin was going to be happy with a life of semi-retirement, what she hadn't bargained for was him spending half the week back in London. Tired of being alone Martin started an affair and was all set to leave Fliss when he suffered a heart attack. Now 6 months later he is back working in London during the week and only getting home at the weekend. Fliss is beginning to wonder if their marriage was worth fighting for, or if after her brief fling with Paolo she should think of moving on before it's too late for her to make a new life for herself.
Sophie has given up her well paid job in London to move her family out to Spain to be closer to her parents and to raise her children away from the rat race. Her husband Alistair has promised that he will try to get a transfer to Madrid so that he can spend more time with his family. Sophie hopes that the move will bring them closer together and that the hot Spanish nights will re-inflame Alistair's passion!
Ella, Martin and Fliss' youngest daughter, is a social worker in London. She split with her boyfriend after she finished University and now lives on her own in a dingy bed sit in the capital. During a holiday with Fliss she arranged to meet a friend from work who was in Madrid at a conference. Father Frank and Ella have been friends for a long time but it was the time they spent together in Spain that made Ella realise her true feeling for the young priest. During a late night phone call to her Mum, Ella confesses her love for Father Frank but says that she knows that nothing will come of her infatuation because Frank is dedicated to his calling, but are the priest's feelings quite as pure as Ella thinks?
Michael and Sonny had set up home in a new villa over in the next valley. Everybody thought that they were a happy loving couple but little did they know that Michael was insanely jealous of Sonny's colourful past. It was while Sonny was seeing some friends in Barcelona that Michael grew more and more convinced that Sonny was having an affair with one of his old boyfriends. Without waiting to hear Sonny's explanation, Michael, in a fit a passion, killed Sonny. After the funeral Michael was convinced that he had got away with the murder but later was worried that his friend Clara might suspect that he was hiding something from the police.
Clara Hale lived quietly in a town house in the village. She was a very private person who wanted to keep her past a secret from her new friends. Before she had retired Clara had worked for British Security and she feared that if she was recognised from those days that her life would be in danger. She confided to Justin Crowther, an old colleague, that she recognised Michael as a junior civil servant but he reassured her that Michael was no threat to her. What neither Crowther or Clara were to know was that Michael had disovered Clara had found Sonny's wallet hidden in his villa. The same wallet that Michael had told the Spanish Police had been stolen by Sonny's road side killer. Clara called Michael one night asking for help, she had fallen, broken her leg and was unable to get up. Michael arrived at Clara's house to find her lying on the floor and murdered her to stop her telling the police what she knew but the police alerted by British Security have now arrested Michael and the ex-pat community is buzzing with speculation.
Gloria and Malcolm Westbury have retired to Spain to live out their days in the glorious countryside. When a stranger turns up in their village, little do they realise how their lives are going to change for ever. Gloria is forced to confront her past and confess to her husband that she had a baby when she was only a child herself. Gloria's parents made her put the baby boy up for adoption and never to mention him again. However her grandson Ollie has found her and now she has to confess to Malcolm that she wants to get to know her long lost son while there is still time.
Liam and Cassy's dream of running their own business in Spain was in danger of collapse due to lack of funds when an unexpected business offer from Sophie and Alistair turned their fortunes around. The holiday lets and pony trekking stables are now nearing completion and the two families are looking forward to receiving their first paying guests very soon.
And finally, Ken and Lizzie Jessel might argue and bicker all day long but under the banter they are happy go lucky couple. When Lizzie said that she wanted to start a business importing and selling soft furnishings Ken thought that she was mad. But now he has had to admit that he was wrong to doubt his wife and is very supportive of her new venture into the world of commerce. The only fly in the ointemnt is Lizzie's brother Frankie. Will his little smuggling operation bring unwanted attention from Britiish Customs?
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Thursday, 14 August 2008
‘Are you sure that you want to do this darling? There’s still time to cancel if you’d rather not go.’
Fiona was worried about her husband. Simon had always known that he was adopted but in all the years that they’d been together he had never shown the slightest interest in looking for his birth mother.
‘We can’t go back now Mum, they’ve spotted us.’ Said Ollie as he shepherded his parents up the path to Gloria and Malcolm’s villa.
Malcolm was feeling nervous as he opened the front door ‘Thank you all for coming. Gloria is in the kitchen putting the final touches to supper, why don’t we go out onto the patio and I’ll fix us all a drink. I don’t know about you but I could murder a beer right know’ said Malcolm as he led the way through the lounge to the garden. ‘What I can get everyone? Fiona would you like a sherry?’
‘A sherry sounds lovely but I you don’t mind I’ll take it through to the kitchen and see if I can help Gloria. ‘
‘Of course I’ll bring it through in a minute. Simon, Ollie will beer be OK or would you prefer to have a glass of wine.’
‘A cold beer sounds just fine to me’ answered Simon as he slipped of his jacket ‘and I’m sure that this son of mine has been looking forward to a cold beer all afternoon. It must be thirsty work painting indoors in this heat.’ laughed Simon.
Malcolm silently breathed a sigh of relief. All day he had been dreading this moment. How was one supposed to act in a situation like this? He had been worried that Simon might feel as awkward as he felt and that the evening would be a strain but so far so good. Ollie was making light work of the dish of olives and Simon looked far more relaxed that Malcolm had dared hoped.
As he made his way into the kitchen to retrieve the beer from the fridge Malcolm smiled when he saw that Gloria and Fiona were chatting away together.
‘Fiona, let me get you that sherry. Is Amontillado OK?’
‘That sounds lovely, thank you.’
‘Gloria can I tempt you with a small glass?’ asked Malcolm
‘Tonight I think that a large glass would be in order. I don’t usually drink mid week.’ Explained Gloria to a bemused looking Fiona ‘but tonight is a special occasion and I think that I might need a bit of Dutch courage.’
‘I know just what you mean.’ Smiled Fiona. ‘This evening isn’t going to be easy for any of us.’
‘Don’t get me wrong dear I’m not dreading the evening, just the opposite in fact. I have been waiting for this moment for my whole life. You can’t imagine how wonderful it is to know that I am last going to be able to sit and eat with my son and his family. It’s like a dream come true.’
Fiona looked at Gloria standing so proud and tall in her neat little kitchen and felt guilty that she had been so angry with Ollie. No young mother should have been put through what Gloria went through. To give up her baby, never knowing what had happened to him or even who had adopted him. Thank God, she thought as she helped Fiona carry the supper dishes out to the patio, things these days were so different.
As Gloria fussed about putting the lovingly cooked food on the table she felt that her heart was bursting with pride for this handsome man and his lovely family. Watching her son as he passed the dishes around the table she wondered what life would have been like if she had been allowed to marry and bring up her baby herself.
‘Penny for your thoughts.’ Said Simon looking anxiously at Gloria
‘You must think I’m so rude’ said Gloria ‘you’ve come all this way and I’m sitting here not saying a word.’
‘We don’t think that at all. Do we Simon?’ said Fiona quickly
‘No of course we don’t. I was just worried that it was maybe all a bit much for you.’
‘I was seeing you there sitting at the table laughing and joking with Ollie, it reminded me of when I used to go to your father’s house for dinner. They always made me so welcome and treated me like one of the family.’
‘What went wrong Gloria, why weren’t you able to keep the baby?’ asked Fiona
‘You have to realise that things were very different forty six years ago. I suppose it sounds daft to say but things were more innocent then. Clifton and I met at the art class in our church youth club. The first time I met him I fell in love with him. He was so kind and gentle. I was only sixteen and he was my first boyfriend. We used to go walking in the park and sit for hours in the café sharing a cup of coffee and a sticky bun. The world could have exploded around us and we’d never have noticed we only had eyes for each other.
My parents were worried that we were far too young to be getting so serious but I was head strong even then and thought that they didn’t understand what it was like to be in love. Why is it that every generation of teenagers think that they are the first to feel that way? We couldn’t imagine ever being apart and when Clifton asked me to marry him I wanted to tell the world but he was far more sensible and said that it should be our secret until I was eighteen when I would be old enough to get engaged without having to ask anyone’s permission. You must understand that we never planned to sleep together before we were married, it just happened the once, but once was all it took and two months later I realised that I was pregnant.
If we’d been older things would have been so much different. But I was still a school girl and there was no way that my parents would let me keep you. We were both heartbroken when my father forbade Clifton from seeing me again but what could we do, we were still children ourselves.’
‘I don’t blame you. I loved my adoptive parents and they did everything they could to give me a good start in life. I suppose that when I was growing up I did wonder about my birth parents but I was afraid to go looking for you. But now I’m glad that Ollie found you and I hope that we can try and make up for at least some of the past forty odd years.’ Said Simon
‘Oh my darling I hope so too’
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Malcolm stood up from the table and raised his glass ‘I’d like you all to join me in a toast. To our new family’
‘Our new family’
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Sitting with her feet up against the patio wall Sophie stretched languorously ‘well Cassy you certainly know how to throw a party, what with Gloria’s secret and Mum’s bombshell about Michael’s arrest, it certainly wasn’t dull.’
‘We knew that Ollie was up to something’ said Cassy refilling her glass ‘but we never imagined hat he was looking for a long lost grandmother. I’m amazed that Malcolm’s taken the new so well, I had him pegged as a real old fuddy duddy.’
‘Just goes to show you never can tell. After all who would have guessed that Michael of all people was capable of murder?’
‘I know, it was a total shock. He and Sonny seemed made for each other and as for Mrs. Hale, wasn’t she a dark horse?’
‘Do you realise that you sound like a pair of old fish wives gossiping away out here’ laughed Liam
‘You can’t tell me that you weren’t shocked when you heard that Michael bumped off the old dear. Do you think that she had a thing for him and he panicked when she came on to him?’ asked Cassy
‘No you daft bat’ laughed Liam
‘I suppose it’ll all come out at the trial’ said Alistair pulling up a chair to join them ‘I’ve checked on the children and they are all fast asleep.’
‘Thank you darling, I won’t be up too much later myself, I’m absolutely exhausted. It was a great party though, thank you so much for arranging it Cassy. It would have taken us months to meet so many of our new neighbours, Wouldn’t it Alistair?’ Said Sophie nudging her husband.
‘Yes, yes, very kind’ he muttered distractedly
‘It was a pleasure’ said Liam ‘we just wanted a way to thank you for everything and to help you feel more at home here.’
‘Oh we do’ smiled Sophie ‘this is the best thing we ever did. Isn’t it darling?’
‘Er yes, absolutely, splendid.’ Mumbled Alistair
‘Well I don’t know about the rest of you but I’ve got to be up in five hours to feed the hens, so if nobody minds I’m going to turn in.’ said Cassy draining the last of her wine.
To a chorus of goodnights the four friends made their way back to their own homes.
Alistair looked at Sophie as they walked down through the olive grove. She was so happy, far happier that she had been in London. It was as if she had been storing up all her gaiety for this new life. Her face was glowing with more than the effects of the hot Spanish sun and there was a spring to her step that he couldn’t ever remember seeing before. He was shocked to think that he hadn’t ever noticed how unhappy she must have been before.
He had always thought that Sophie thrived on pressure and that she couldn’t be happy unless she was earning a huge salary to pay for the children’s’ nanny, their grand London house and her top of the range sports car. He was embarrassed to admit even to himself that he never questioned their life back then, he just presumed that his capable, professional busy wife was content with the trappings of wealth that her high pressured job brought.
‘Alistair are you coming up?’ Asked Sophie
‘In a minute, I just want to check my emails.’
‘Oh not now, it’s so late. Can’t you do that in the morning?’ She pleaded
‘I won’t be long, you go up. I’ll be up in a minute.’ Alistair answered as he walked into his study.
Sophie stood in the cool shower and tried to stop the tears from flowing. Why couldn’t tonight be different, she thought. Why can’t you leave that bloody computer for once and come to bed with me?
She didn’t know why Alistair was being like this, what has she done wrong? They hadn’t argued and she had tried her best to show him how happy she was to have made the move from London. She understood that when he managed to get home from Brussels that he was tired and that when they both had hectic schedules it probably did make sense for them to sleep apart sometimes. But things were different now, she was different. She wanted them to be a proper married couple again. OK they were never going to be the kind of people who tore each others clothes off in the hall and had sex on the stairs because they couldn’t wait to get to the bedroom. But that didn’t matter to her because she loved him, with all her heart.
Lying naked on top of the bed Sophie longed for Alistair to come upstairs and make love to her. She wanted to feel him inside her, making love together for the first time in their new home. As she lay on the cool cotton sheets, the warm gentle breeze wafting in through the open window caressing her tanned skin Sophie prayed that her beautiful considerate gentle husband wanted her as much as she wanted him.
Down in the study Alistair fired up his laptop and sat down at the desk. Absently he read through his emails and wondered how long he should wait until he could be sure that his wife had fallen asleep and wouldn’t wake when he finally climbed into bed.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
That’s what’s so perfect about living in Spain, thought Cassy, you know that if you arrange a BBQ party the weather will be perfect for it.
Cassy and Liam had spent the morning preparing for the party. Liam had moved his sound system onto the patio and was busy downloading the music while Cassy organised Ollie, Sophie and Alistair into setting up the buffet table under the trees, hanging the bunting and stringing the coloured fairy lights through the branches.
‘This really is very kind of you’ said Alistair as he put the final touches to the outdoor lights ‘a party is a lovely way to get to know all our new neighbours.’
Ella smiled from under her large brimmed hat. Their partnership with Sophie and Alistair had been a godsend to them. Within three months of getting together with them their new business was nearly ready to open. The holiday apartments were finished, the bed and breakfast rooms were fully booked through to early summer next year and they even had a tour company interested in Sophie’s pony trekking venture.
After all the sleepless nights that they had endured over the past few months Cassy thought that they all deserved to let their hair down and what better way to do it than to have a party with all their friends, after all this would probably be their last chance to relax before the hard work really started.
Fliss and Martin were the first to arrive and Ollie rushed over to help them carry the salads and cakes that Fliss had prepared that morning. As he ran back from the groaning buffet table Ollie waved to his parents. Colin and Fiona smiled to each other as they made their way across the old farm yard to join the rest of the guests in the garden of the farmhouse.
Colin had been annoyed when they had arrived in Spain and realised that they were staying at Liam and Cassy’s in one of their new holiday apartments. He had promised Fiona that they would treat this trip more like a holiday rather than just an opportunity to meet his birth mother. He was hoping for a small comfortable hotel where they would be able to escape to after what he imagined might be a very fraught visit to his errant son, but Colin had soon calmed down when he realised how happy and contented his son was there. Ollie seemed to have a new energy about him, working all day in the fresh air had given him a glow and Colin and Fiona were relieved that he was happier than he had been for years.
As their guests started to arrive Liam and Cassy were kept busy filing glasses and directing people to the BBQ that Sophie and Alistair had volunteered to run. Standing under the shade of a conveniently placed parasol, Sophie felt that if she was any happier she would burst, Olivia and Grace and settled in well in their new school and already were speaking Spanish with their new friends and even Alistair seemed more relaxed when he managed to get home for the weekend in this new house than he had been in London. Watching Alistair chatting to Lizzie and Ken, Sophie’s heart filled with love for her handsome young husband. If only he could get home more often she thought, life would be just about perfect.
Gloria Westbury stood on the patio by the makeshift bar and tried to pour herself another glass of wine. When Fliss had told her that Ollie’s parents were staying at the farm she had wanted to cry off from the party but Malcolm, dear sweet Malcolm, had persuaded her that now would be the right time to finally meet her son. Watching Gloria’s hand trembling as she tried to pour the wine Malcolm gently took the bottle from her.
‘Come on old girl let me do that for you’ he said ‘why don’t you go and grab those seats under the olive tree for us?’
Gloria kissed her husband on the cheek and quickly made her way down the stone patio. That’s when she saw him, her son, standing with his wife and son chatting to Fliss and Martin. Gloria stopped dead in her tracks, it was too soon, she wasn’t ready for this, what would she say to him, how would she explain?
‘Gloria there you are. I was just telling Ollie’s folks about our golf club and how Malcolm is one of our best players’ enthused Martin ‘I was just saying that Colin should join us for a few rounds tomorrow, sorry Gloria have you met Colin and Fiona?’
Gloria stood still and stared at the handsome man in front of her and with tears welling up in her eyes she held out her hand to her son and said ‘Colin how lovely to see you again.’
Colin took his birth mothers hand and holding it very gently replied ‘I’d like you to meet your daughter-in-law, this is my wife Fiona.’
The years melted away between them as Gloria and Colin sat down on a bench well away from the other party guests.
‘I’m sorry that you didn’t get any warning before Oliver came to find you’ said Colin to this woman who looked barely old enough to be his mother ‘it must have a shock.’
‘I’m just sorry that I handled it so badly’ confessed Gloria ‘poor Ollie, he looked so hurt but I was frightened. I thought that my husband wouldn’t understand and I must admit after all these years I thought that you didn’t want to find me and that my secret was safe. But I never stopped loving you. I want you to understand that. I even have a picture in a locket. They never knew, in the hospital I mean, they never knew that I sneaked into the nursery and took a photo of you on my little camera. They really believed that I would get over it quicker if they took you away from me as soon as you were born and never saw you again. They were wrong; I never got over loosing you.’
Over at the bar Malcolm watched nervously as his wife sat talking to her son.
‘You’d better watch out Malc, I think that bloke has taken a shine to your missus’ laughed Ken as he reached across to grab another bottle of beer from the bucket of ice.
‘Oh I’m not worried it’s just that this is the first time I’ve seen my wife and her son together.’
‘Bloody hell mate’ choked Ken ‘You’ll be telling me next that young Ollie is her long lost grandson.’
Retrieving the bottle of champagne he had buried in the ice, Malcolm scooped up five plastic wine glasses and smiled.
‘That’s exactly what I’m saying Ken and isn’t he a credit to his grandma. Such a lovely young man, we’re all very proud of him.’ Making his way through the garden to his new family Malcolm felt very luck, very lucky indeed.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Ella threw her mobile phone down onto her bed and stormed into the kitchen. Her tiny flat in North London gave her little enough space at the best of times but tonight she felt that the flat was stifling her, closing in around her. Ella grabbed her keys and ran out into the warm evening.
Without knowing where she was going to she ran off down towards the high street. Pounding the busy streets of North London was no substitute for strolling along the lanes around the villa in Spain but there was no way she could stay in doors.
Ella was angry with herself for not being able to keep her secret from Fliss. Why, she kept asking herself, did she tell her Mum about her feelings for Frank. It had been so much easier when she had kept her love for Frank buried deep inside. But now she had to admit to herself what she had denied for so long and all she felt was pain.
She had known from the first time the handsome young priest had held her arm that she was falling in love with him. Sometimes when she thought he wasn’t watching, she would stare at him striding through the corridors of the hostel and her heart would beat a little faster.
She knew it was madness, an infatuation, a fantasy to think that she could ever have anything more than a platonic relationship with Frank. They couldn’t possibly be anything more than just friends; he was married to the church. There was no way that she would ever be able to tell him how she really felt without risking their special friendship.
Damn it, why couldn’t she feel this way about Paolo. At least if she had fallen in love with the suntanned handsome farmer she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about lusting after his body. But to lust after a priest, dear god how low can you sink.
She knew that she was acting like a silly schoolgirl having her first crush. That didn’t stop her from imagining how it would be to feel his strong arms crushing her body into his, her hot moist lips parting as he kissed her. She longed to run her fingers through his tousled blond hair and slowly undress him. She wanted the first time that they made love to be special. She wanted to savour every part of his strong white body and was dizzy imagining him lying next to her, wanting her as much as she wanted him.
After nearly an hour of wondering aimlessly around the neighbourhood, Ella was surprised to find herself back out side her flat. With tears stinging her eyes she fumbled to put the key in the lock and finally getting the door open she ran into her bedroom and flung herself on to the crumpled bed. Sobbing as if her heart would break Ella curled up and buried her face into the pillow.
Father Francis Campbell knelt in front of the altar and bowed his head in prayer, was all this a test of his faith or was he just a weak man?
Frank could remember the first time that he had seen Ella. It was two years ago. He had been on duty with the outreach team over Christmas and had found 14 year old Terry sleeping rough by Kings Cross railway station. The poor lad was frozen and starving and Frank had suspected that he had been working as a rent boy to pay for his drug habit.
The hostel didn’t have the facilities to cope with such a young boy but Ella had taken pity on him and had spent hours trying to find him a place with a foster family, not an easy thing to do at the best of times but a nightmare over the holidays.
Frank smiled to himself as he remembered her battling away with the authorities who had wanted to put Terry before the courts for possession. It was watching her that night, never taking no for an answer, when he knew that she was special. She was so determined to try and help the poor boy that she had still been phoning around long after anybody else would have given up.
He had prayed for help even then, prayed that God would guide him through the feelings that he had never experienced before. When he had been at University a lot of his friends had had girl friends and Frank could understand why, but he had just never felt that he wanted to be with a girl himself. His church was his life and he couldn’t imagine that a woman could awaken feelings of love in him that were stronger than his love of Christ.
It wasn’t as if he was naive, he knew priests had left the priesthood to marry but until now he didn’t realise quite how love worked. You didn’t choose to fall in love, you didn’t wake up one morning and think, the next beautiful woman I meet today will capture my heart and turn my life upside down. It just happens. You meet someone and know, maybe not instantly, it could creep up on you, but at some point you know that you love this person more than you could ever imagine possible. They fill your heart with a longing that hurts. Your dreams are consumed by visions of their loveliness and when you are apart your heart aches so much you think it might break.
His Bishop had been very understanding, it wasn’t unusual he had said for a young priest to have these feelings but Frank had to work his way through them. He suggested that Frank needed time away from the parish. Away from the daily temptations that seeing Ella brought him. That’s why Frank was praying now, praying that Ella would understand why he was going away and understand why he wouldn’t be able to tell her. It was better this way the Bishop had told him, better to get away before the poor girl got hurt. It would be kinder in the long run if she never knew how Frank felt about her.
If this is the kindest thing to do he thought, why does it feel like the end of the world?