For part one, click here
For part two, click here
For part three, click here.
“Phillip got himself a job window cleaning. He loved it and was even talking about setting up his own business. Then he went and fell from the ladder. He broke his leg in two places. It’s just not healing properly. It’s now been six months and he’s still not been able to get back up that ladder. He took such care of your house as well and now it’s gone to pot,” Mrs Minchin said, dunking a biscuit into her tea.
“Like mine,” Mrs Minchin continued, “did you see my fence? We had some bad winds a couple of months ago and the wind knocked it right down. It’s top of Phillip’s list to do when his leg’s all better.”
Sarah blushed. She hadn’t noticed Mrs Minchin’s garden. She had been too busy moaning about her own.
“But don’t you worry, I’ve made sure the inside has been kept spotless. You’ve been really lucky with the tenants. They didn’t make any mess. And they knew not to touch the girls’ bedrooms, especially not Miss Abigail’s cuddly toy collection,” Mrs Minchin said, winking at Abigail.
“Cuddly toys are for babies,” Abigail said, chomping on a Bourbon biscuit.
“Can I have them, then? I love cuddly toys,” Gemma said, grinning.
“Well, perhaps they’re not all for babies,” Abigail stammered.
Sarah smiled at Mrs Minchin. How could she have doubted her?
“I want to see Abigail’s cuddly toys. Can we go home now?” Gemma said, her mouth laden with crumbs. Thank you for the treats, Mrs Minchin.”
Gemma and Abigail jumped up, both leading the way.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Mrs Minchin said, squeezing Sarah’s hand. “It’s good to have you back.”
“It’s good to be back. I don’t know how to thank you,” Sarah said, feeling guilty.
“Just get that garden of yours in order and then you can pick me some of your flowers. Like you used to. My bay window has been quite bare since you’ve been gone,” Mrs Minchin said.
Sarah watched the girls go on round and brave the back garden. She joined them and inserted the key into the lock. She pushed the door open and the girls raced up the stairs to their rooms. Shrieks of delight came to her from the floor above and she smiled, savouring the smell of home.
And it was home. Paintwork could be repainted, the tile replaced, the lawn mowed and the number two nailed down. All it needed now was Duncan. It didn’t feel right without him. She remembered his words after her outburst in Spain.
“Thank goodness for that. I loved it at first. I got swept up in the moment, the job, the freshness of it all. And then I got homesick. All I wanted was England. But I thought you and the girls were happy here. I’ve been putting on a brave face for you and all the while you’ve been doing the same for me,” he’d said.
And there she was, thinking it was her and that she’d ruined everything. How they had laughed then. When the opportunity came for them to return to England before the two years were up, they grabbed the chance. It was a shame Duncan had been called back at the last minute to finish a project, but he would be back by the end of the week.
Sarah looked round the house and smiled. Then they would truly be home.