ELLA shut and locked the door behind her, then glanced at her watch. Was there time for one last walk around the village? A couple of months ago, she would have rushed straight off, but a lot had changed since then. She would make time.
She walked up to the farm to drop off the key, then followed the road round to the village. She committed every detail to her memory as she went; the thatched roof of the Fox and Hounds, the bright red postbox, the row of terraced cottages where Margaret lived with their latticed windows glinting in the wintry sunshine. She wanted to remember everything.
When she reached Wembury House, she stopped. The conversion was continuing apace, and it wouldn’t be long before it was finished and the apartments occupied.
Automatically she looked for Joe, but there was no sign of him and she sighed. It was probably just as well. Despite the distance that had grown between them recently, it would have be very hard indeed to say goodbye to him. She was going to miss him terribly.
She doubled back to the green and made her way down to the bottom of the village, the last place on her itinerary. A new For Sale sign had been put up outside one of the cottages. It was the old post office.
She stopped outside and let her gaze slip over the untidy front garden to the big bay window. Suddenly she was a little girl again, skipping along beside her grandmother and reaching up to post a letter in the little slot in the wall.
Her heart beat fast as an idea came to her. What if she set up her design business here? She walked up the path, excitement catching at her as she did some quick mental calculations.
She could sell her flat in London, and use the proceeds for a deposit. But it would be risky setting up on her own and it would take time to establish a business. How would she manage for money till then?
Seconds later, another idea popped into her head. She could convert the downstairs to a tea shop! She was sure there were enough day-trippers to the village to warrant it, especially in summer.
She could organise her design business around it and set up some displays in the tea shop, too. The Wembury House apartments were almost ready for sale. Perhaps she could offer her services there?
Her mind whirring, she turned to walk back through the village. She’d go to the estate agent’s in Farchester before leaving for Norfolk to get the property details and talk to them.
Ella was so engrossed, she almost didn’t see Joe. He was sitting on the stump of the old elm tree on the green, deep in thought, his shoulders slumped as he watched Cathie playing on the swing.
Her footsteps slowed. What would he think when he heard that she was planning to stay in Wembury after all? Would he care one way or the other?
He looked up as she approached.
“Ella! I thought you’d left!” he exclaimed.
“I was about to . . . Well, I am,” she stuttered, her heart hammering. “That is, I’m going up to Norfolk, but I’m coming back!”
His dark brows drew together.
“To collect more of your gran’s things?”
She shook her head.
“No, I’m coming back. For good. If my offer on the old post office is accepted, that is.”
“What do you mean?” He stood up.
“Oh, Joe, it’s been staring me in the face but I’ve been too blind to see it. My life’s not in London, it’s here.”
Joe’s smile started with a crinkling of his eyes, then slowly it lit up his face until he was beaming.
“Does that mean you’re staying?”
She nodded. Suddenly his arms were around her and he was lifting her up and swinging her around.
“Put me down!” She laughed.
“Not until you know how happy you’ve made me.”
And as Ella felt his lips press against her own, everything seemed to click into place.
She’d come home. Exactly where her heart had been telling her all along that she should be.