Difficult to Reach

Difficult to Reach

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

"Delightful - very endearing!" The village of Hawksbury Hollow is nestled in the shadow of the English South Downs. It's late December and unbeknown to the residents, the coldest and most dangerous spell of weather since records began, is about to hit. Just before the snowfall starts in earnest, Fen Martin moves into Rose Cottage. Without any family to look out for her, Fen is grateful for the support offered by her new neighbours but the last thing she's looking for is love. Against her will, Fen is drawn to the solemn but seriously attractive Daniel Anderson who owns neighbouring Riverside Farm. As the ice and snow build up outside and emergency situations start to become the norm, the residents are forced to seek refuge with each other. Amidst a backdrop of extreme conditions, both Daniel and Fen are forced to confront their pasts in order that they might enjoy a brighter future.

Summary

"Delightful - very endearing!"

The village of Hawksbury Hollow is nestled in the shadow of the English South Downs. It's late December and unbeknown to the residents, the coldest and most dangerous spell of weather since records began, is about to hit. Just before the snowfall starts in earnest, Fen Martin moves into Rose Cottage. Without any family to look out for her, Fen is grateful for the support offered by her new neighbours but the last thing she's looking for is love.

Against her will, Fen is drawn to the solemn but seriously attractive Daniel Anderson who owns neighbouring Riverside Farm. As the ice and snow build up outside and emergency situations start to become the norm, the residents are forced to seek refuge with each other. Amidst a backdrop of extreme conditions, both Daniel and Fen are forced to confront their pasts in order that they might enjoy a brighter future.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: December 02, 2018

Reads: 238

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: December 02, 2018

A A A

A A A

‘Bugger it!’

She was lost.She was definitely lost.But not lost somewhere exciting or sophisticated, no.Fen was lost and alone, driving a shabby white transit van through desolate, grey, wild and unrecognisable countryside.If she didn’t make it to her destination, the only people who would eventually report her missing would be the vehicle rental company trying to locate their stolen property.If there was a more depressing scenario than that, Fen didn’t want to hear about it.But, lostwas a state of mind, surely, not a state of being?It was impossible to be truly lost these days, wasn’t it? Particularly in the South of England, for goodness sake!

Trying not to calculate how much security deposit would be deducted, as a result of the overgrown bramble cables and rigid branches scraping down the side of her hateful vehicle, Fen indicated and slowly pulled to a halt at the edge of the narrow, winding country lane.Glancing in the rear-view mirror, a wide-eyed woman with dark hair stared back at her.Fen’s normally round smiling face, with a dusting of freckles across her snub nose, exuded a slight air of panic.Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to keep calm.Hawksbury Hollow had been so much easier to find during her last visit in September when everything had felt right with the world.Then, she had whizzed along behind the estate agent’s shiny BMW, marvelling at the beautiful autumnal arboreal display of burnt ochre and deep crimson, basking in the rich orange sunlight.It was an altogether more difficult task to undertake without navigational assistance, surrounded by swirling grey threatening skies, whilst driving a huge, unfamiliar vehicle along unknown frosted lanes in midwinter. Bleak midwinter, in fact.How very apt. 

Fen heaved a sigh and studied the road atlas sprawled on the passenger seat beside her.Twisting her hair through her fingers, she gazed intently at the map, hoping for some kind of divine inspiration.None came. After what felt like an embarrassingly long period of time, she became aware that the page was open at the Brecon Beacons.Feeling foolish, she quickly flicked back to West Sussex, scouring the page for the name of the village she’d driven through several miles previously.If this map was to be believed, her final destination was only a couple of miles ahead, although that conclusion did depend on her suddenly demonstrating wildly more effective map-reading skills.

Hearing a soft clip-clop, she looked up to admire an approaching grey horse ridden by a slim, incredibly pretty blonde.As they drew up beside her, a smiling Fen wound down her window, emitting an icy blast of air into the stuffy cab.

‘Excuse me,’ Fen asked politely.‘Is this the way to…’

‘For Christ’s sake!’ snarled the girl, as her highly-strung horse leapt towards the hedgerow.

‘I’m sorry,’ stuttered Fen.

‘Bloody Pikeys!’ the girl sneered, as she kicked her horse forward and they clattered off down the road. 

‘Don’t you dare cry,’ murmured Fen to herself as she started up the engine and shot forward amidst a flurry of jerks and grinding gears.She quickly turned the heating up to full blast and flicked the radio on, hopeful that it would provide a welcome distraction from her threatening tears.

‘…to the news for Wednesday the 28thof December.The Met Office has issued urgent advice for the country to brace itself.The second big chill of the winter is expected to hit Scotland tonight and move slowly southwards over the next few days.Severe weather warnings are now in place across much of the UK, and Government advice is to prepare for extreme conditions that will see temperatures plummet well below zero for a prolonged period of time. Heavy snow and ice is anticipated to create widespread travel chaos whilst…’.

‘Thanks,’ grumbled Fen, switching off the radio irritably and clenching her fists around the steering wheel.‘I can’t tell you how much that’s cheered me up.’

 

Shortly, the road started to drop into a steep valley and Fen was relieved to see a road sign stating ‘Hawksbury Hollow 1 mile’. However, this was also the section that Fen had been dreading the most.Ordinarily, in her mini, she’d have no concerns, but manoeuvring a huge transit van over potential icy patches was quite a different proposition.The punishingly steep, zigzagging hill was reminiscent of a James Bond car chase scene and it took all of her concentration to guide the vehicle safely down.Just as she began to fear the descent would never end, the road levelled off and Fen was afforded the welcome sight of her new home.Exhaling a shaky sigh, she drove into the beautifully kept village.It was a quaint, chocolate-box affair almost untouched by modern life; there were a number of thatched buildings and a picturesque thatched public house with a peeling metal sign of the moon swinging outside.There was even a red post box displaying the initials V.R. suggesting that it had sat quietly in that location for well over a century and a half, since the reign of Queen Victoria.Making her way carefully over the narrow stone bridge, Fen pulled up outside a pair of cottages, built in the 1700’s, according to the historical building plaques they proudly displayed.Fen switched off the engine, exhaled slowly and wiped her clammy palms down her jeans.

‘You can’t park there!’

Glancing in the over-sized wing mirror, Fen saw a blond, slightly plump, pink-suited woman with heavy make-up marching towards her. The older woman rapped on the window, her rings clattering loudly against the glass.

‘You can’t park there!’ she repeated.‘I’ve got a delivery of hay expected and you’re blocking the route.You’ll have to move.’Fen took a deep breath, slid out of the van and smiled at her aggressor whom she was pleased to note was somewhat shorter than herself.

‘Hi.I’m pleased to meet you.My name’s Fen Martin.’Fen held out her hand and waited.‘I’ve just purchased Rose Cottage.’

‘Belinda Harris-Jones,’ the woman replied, quickly grasping and releasing Fen’s outstretched hand as though being forced to touch a particularly noxious rotting haddock.

‘I’m moving in today,’ Fen explained, patting the van, ‘so I do need to park here.However,’ she continued, as Belinda began to interrupt, ‘I’ll only be in the house so I can easily move the van when your delivery turns up.If that’s ok?’

‘Hmph.I suppose it will have to be, won’t it?’ replied Belinda, striding away.

Shivering beside the loathsome van, Fen bit her bottom lip in an attempt to stop it from wobbling.After several unsettled years in rented accommodation, she had been so looking forward to moving into her very own house.Perhaps this had all been a mistake after all?

Opening the back of the van, Fen gazed in despair at the task that stretched ahead.A random mountain of furniture, brown cardboard boxes and bulging, black bin bags confronted her.The sight represented several hours of strenuous lifting which had to be completed before the van needed to be returned by the end of the day.It seemed like an almost impossible feat, although trying to look on the positive side, the exercise would definitely warm her up as well as burn off the packet of chocolate hobnobs that had mysteriously dematerialised during her journey over.

‘Hello dear,’ said a kindly voice, interrupting her imminent melancholy.Fen turned to see a small, grey haired lady with wire-framed spectacles, in the garden next to hers.In one gloved hand, she held a walking stick, whilst the other rested on her garden gate, partly obscuring a frosted and peeling sign for ‘Elm Cottage’.

‘Hello,’ replied Fen shyly.

‘My name’s Mary.Mary Williams.It looks like we’re neighbours, dear.’

‘Oh, how lovely,’ breathed Fen in relief. ‘I’m Fen Martin.’

‘Nice to meet you, Fen.Now, first things first.Would you like tea or coffee?’

‘Gosh, tea would be lovely.With one sugar, please.Thanks so much.’

‘Don’t mention it.And I expect you’ll need some help unloading that van?’ asked Mary, her eyes twinkling.

‘Oh, no, really, I’ll be fine, thanks,’ protested Fen.As kind as her intentions undoubtedly were, Fen couldn’t envisage Mary lifting and carrying anything much heavier than her walking stick.

‘Just give me five minutes,’ insisted Mary, hobbling back into her cottage.

 

Alone once again, Fen turned to look at her new home and, despite the challenge ahead of her, felt a great sense of peace.This was more than just a new home; it was also a fresh start with a new year just around the corner.It brought with it the chance to start over and to try and bury the bad memories in her past; Fen acknowledged to herself that she would never be able to erase them entirely.The front door gave a satisfactory click as she turned the heavy key in the old-fashioned lock and Fen couldn’t help but allow her spirits to lift.

Unfortunately, inside, the situation was less rosy than the cottage’s name might otherwise imply.The previous owners had vacated the property several months before so the cottage felt cold, musty and unloved.The whitewashed walls and exposed beam ceilings felt damp to the touch and a cold draft of wind down the chimney did nothing to lighten the mood.But after a thorough clean, a roaring open fire and her belongings scattered around her, Fen had no doubt that Rose Cottage would become the home she’d always dreamt of.

Having spent several minutes working out how to coax the boiler into life, Fen heaved a great sigh and made her way back up the garden path to begin unpacking the van.However, she had only managed to unload a few boxes when, as good as her word, Mary appeared over the fence with a steaming mug of tea.

‘There you are, dear,’ said Mary with a smile.

‘Thank you so much.This is really kind of you,’ said Fen, breathing in the warm steam from the welcome beverage.‘I must say,’ grinned Fen sheepishly, ‘I was starting to worry that there wouldn’t be anybody nice living here.I’ve only met two other people and both of them shouted at me.’

‘Yes, I saw you with Belinda.The only practical advice I can give you is to pay her no attention whatsoever.I certainly don’t.Who else have you met?’

‘A blonde girl on a horse, a couple of miles away.’

‘Oh, bad luck!You have had an unfortunate start!’ grimaced Mary.‘That sounds like Belinda’s daughter, Charlie.Pay no attention to either of them.Those two seem to look down their noses at the rest of the world.’

‘Well, that’s a relief,’ smiled Fen.‘I don’t want to be rude, but I’d better keep unpacking,’ explained Fen, balancing her mug on the fence and picking up a box of books. ‘I’ve got to return this van before the end of the day.’

‘Here you are at last!’ exclaimed Mary. Confused as to whom Mary was talking to, Fen turned around to be confronted with three well-built men around the same age as her.The one leading the pack was, without a doubt, the most attractive guy that Fen had ever seen and she felt a deep swooping sensation in her stomach as their eyes met. Astonished, Fen dropped the box she was holding and it landed heavily on her foot.

‘All the contents of this van need to be taken into the house please boys!’ Mary ordered.‘That is right, isn’t it dear?’ she asked, noticing the shocked, vacant expression on Fen’s face.

‘Ow, um, yes please.That’s right,’ Fen replied, desperately trying to regain her composure.‘But I might have to move the van for Belinda’s hay delivery.’

‘Don’t worry, you won’t!’ replied Mary rolling her eyes.

‘That’s our next job,’ explained one of the men, ‘but you and Mary trump Belinda, so here we are.’

‘Right, well, get to it then!’ Mary ordered. With an assortment of grins, ‘Yes Ma’am’s’ and mock salutes, the men got to work.

‘This is seriously kind.Thank you,’ muttered Fen.Smiling broadly at Mary whilst picking up the offending box, she led the work party into her new home.

 

Unsurprisingly, with three strong, fit men at her disposal, unpacking the van took a fraction of the time Fen had previously anticipated. They worked solidly until the job was done.Conversation was largely limited to confirming the required location of each piece of furniture but Fen did manage to glean a few snippets of information along the way.All three men lived in the village.Tim was the blond, stocky, cherub-faced joker of the pack.He worked for the Harris-Jones’s which, considering her experience of the family to date, Fen was quite surprised he was so upbeat about. Olly, who had brown, shaggy hair, a nice smile and an infectious laugh, lived next door to Tim and was the local farrier.

However, the person Fen was most interested in learning about was Daniel.The tallest but also quietest and most serious member of the trio, with jet black hair, blue eyes and what looked like a well toned body underneath multiple layers of clothing, Daniel seemed oblivious to the confusion and turmoil he was inflicting on Fen, for which she was enormously grateful.Unsmiling, he kept his head down and worked hard until the job was complete.It was Daniel whom Mary had initially summoned; the other two happened to be with him and had either offered their services voluntarily or got dragged along. Fen wasn’t sure which, although Olly and Tim seemed quite happy to be there.They laughed and joked as they worked, which fortunately counter-balanced Daniel’s seriousness.Within no time at all, to Fen’s great pleasure and surprise, the van was empty. 

‘I can’t begin to thank you,’ gushed Fen.

‘Don’t mention it,’ replied Olly.‘Glad to be of assistance.’

‘I insist on buying you all a drink in the pub.How about tomorrow night?’

‘That’s really kind, Fen.One thing that you’ll quickly learn is that we never refuse a pint,’ grinned Tim.‘But everyone will be in the pub in a few nights time anyway so how about we make it then?’

‘New Year’s Eve?’ elaborated Olly when confronted with Fen’s blank look.‘You can buy us that drink then if you like.’

‘Oh.Yes, of course.Great, well I’ll see you then.And thank you all again,’ she called to their departing backs.

 

As the trio left, they caught sight of Mary, heading up the garden path with a second cup of tea for Fen.All three automatically stood up straight, as though they were squaddies confronted with a Sergeant Major.

‘Permission to return home, Ma’am?’ giggled Tim.

‘We have successfully completed our assigned mission,’ added Olly.

‘You boys!’ smiled Mary fondly, shaking her head.

‘I really can’t thank you enough,’ said Fen, gratefully accepting the steaming drink in her cold hands.

‘You’re welcome, my dear girl.Not the sort of job anybody wants to tackle alone.Didn’t you have anybody who could have helped you?’ asked Mary, noting Fen’s chewed fingernails.

‘No,’ replied Fen, shaking her head.‘I’m afraid not.’

‘Would you like to join me for something to eat later?’ enquired Mary.

‘Thank you.You’re so kind,’ smiled Fen.‘But I won’t be back until much later.I was planning to grab a takeaway on my way back from returning the van.I’ve still got to pick up my car and then Merlin from the boarding kennels.He’s my dog,’ Fen added, responding to Mary’s quizzical look.‘A flat-coated retriever.’

‘How lovely.I had a beautiful spaniel.Jim. But unfortunately, I lost him last year,’ murmured Mary sadly.‘Such a comfort.Such companionship.’

‘I’m so sorry,’ replied Fen sadly.

‘Thank you, dear.The older you get, the more you accept that death is simply a part of life, but it was upsetting all the same, and I do still miss him.’

‘Will you get another dog?’

‘Possibly.But not right now.As you can see,’ she said, raising her walking stick, ‘I’m not very mobile at the moment.I recently had an operation on my knee.It’s been a damn nuisance, I can tell you.Taking fartoo long to mend.’

‘Well, if you want some canine company at any time, Merlin will be happy to oblige.He’s a very affectionate dog and I’m sure he’ll adore you.’

‘Lovely,’ smiled Mary.

‘And Tim mentioned that they’ll be at the pub on New Year’s Eve.Will you be there too?’

‘Definitely,’ beamed Mary.‘But before that, we must ensure that you’re up to speed on all of the local gossip.You need to be fully prepared before being thrown in at the deep end!’

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The entire book 'Difficult to Reach' is available on Amazon if you search for Sarah Fennel x


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