For part one, click here
She looked at the front door key in her hand and closed her fist round it. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t pluck up the courage to go in.
“Something moved! There are tigers in there,” Gemma screamed and clung to Sarah’s leg.
A black cat sauntered out of the undergrowth. He paused to look up at them with his wide green eyes, and then stuck his tail in the air before walking nonchalantly off in the opposite direction.
“Sarah! Gemma! Abigail!”
Sarah swung round at the sound of their names. A face was beaming at them from over the fence.
“My dears, you’re back. How wonderful.”
Sarah smiled. Mrs Minchin. There was no finer neighbour than Mrs Minchin.
“Come in, come in. You must be gasping for a cup of tea and I know there’s nothing in that larder of yours. I thought you were coming back tomorrow. I’d got it all planned. Tea bags, milk, bread. You name it, it was all going to be there, lined up just so on the larder shelves. Never mind. And don’t you screw up that nose of yours, Miss Abigail, I know you don’t like tea. I’ve plenty of Ribena for you girls,” Mrs Minchin said, already half-way through her front door.
“I don’t like Ribena. Ribena is for babies,” Abigail said as Sarah ushered them in the direction of Mrs Minchin’s.
Sarah rolled her eyes up to the sky. Eight-going-on-eighteen, that was her Abigail.
“What’s Ribena?” Gemma asked.
Sarah looked at her youngest daughter. Gemma had only been three-and-a-half when they had left for Spain. Eighteen months. That was a long time to a child. Gemma couldn’t remember much about England. All she really knew was Spain. And Sarah had forced them to come back. She chewed her lip. She had been so sure she was doing the right thing. What on earth had she done?
Sarah helped Mrs Minchin with plates of biscuits, cakes and sandwiches, an enormous pot of tea and gigantic glasses of Ribena. Her mood couldn’t stay sombre for long. Mrs Minchin hadn’t changed and neither had her house, with its beautiful antique furniture and quaint knick-knacks collected over the years.
Something soggy splashed her leg. Sarah looked down.
“Amy!” she cried, bending down to hug the Westie who was ferociously licking her leg. She buried her face in the dog’s wiry white coat.
No, some things never changed. But her home had. Would it ever be the same again?
“Now, I know just what you’re going to say,” Mrs Minchin said, as they all sat down in the lounge, “you’re going to say what a state your lovely home is in.”
Sarah’s head snapped up.
“Before I start my tale about your house, how’s that Duncan? How rude of me not to ask about him,” Mrs Minchin said, handing round the biscuits.
Sarah watched two pairs of eyes hungrily hover over the delights being offered and two pairs of equally hungry hands taking those delights and filling their plates with them. At least the girls seemed happier now.
Duncan had loved Spain. He had taken to it from the moment they set foot in the country. They’d been abroad before, on holidays to Corfu, Greece, Majorca and Cyprus. But this was different. It wasn’t just for a week or two. She had hated it. She had longed for England, for her garden full of flowers, for the charm of the changing seasons, for walks in the woods, feeding the ducks at the lakes with the girls, for her job at the school. Her list was endless. Deep down, she knew the children hadn’t settled either. Perhaps Gemma had more than Abigail, but Duncan was the reason they had stayed. And then she had ruined everything.
Part three next week