The Dividing Tide – Episode 24

The following Saturday noontime, after the siren had sounded to down tools, Garren walked back to his lodgings, washed the dust off and changed his clothes.

“My, aren’t you an ’andsome one?” his landlady said, as he came downstairs. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you was going a-courting.”

“Maybe I am, Annie.”

“Well, she’s a lucky girl, whoever she is. Now, be off with you. And don’t be back after midnight,” she called after him, “or you’ll find the door locked.”

“I won’t be late, Annie!”

The December day was overhung with grey cloud, but his step was light as he set out up the hill to the church. There, he followed the road around it.

I’m going to see Jenna, he thought gaily, and the words rang in his mind to the rhythm of his steps.

He had just found the Truro turning when it began to rain. Turning up his collar and tying his scarf tightly about his neck to stop the drips, he lengthened his stride. A bit of rain wouldn’t hurt him.

In less than an hour he reached the tiny village of Sticke, and just as Ben had said, when he emerged on the other side, he spotted a large white board set back from the road. It bore an arrow pointing right.

“Only one thing that can be,” he murmured, and set off along the track.

Halfway along he paused for a moment to look through a gap in the hedge. His friend had been right – the house was grand.

It was formidable, too. Everything about its structure was rigid and hard with no softness anywhere. Even the edges of the lawns were precise and straight.

He frowned. It was hard to imagine a lively, energetic person such as Jenna living in such a place.

He soon came to the back of the house.

“Excuse me, miss,” he called out to a maid as she emerged from the dairy. “Could I have a word with your cook?”

He had decided that she would be the best person to ask. The kitchen was always the heart of a house.

“If you’ve come about work, I can save you the trouble,” she answered, her cheeks colouring as she smiled at him. “I know for a fact there’s nothing to be ’ad.”

“I’m not here about work.” He returned her smile, pointing to an open door beside a long low window from where there came the clank of pans. “That the kitchen?”

The girl nodded before turning and running towards it.

“Mrs Cate?” she called out as she entered the doorway. “There’s someone to see you!”

As she disappeared over the threshold, Garren decided to follow her, and almost collided with a stout woman coming out of the pantry. She had a jar of preserves in one hand and a basket of eggs in the other.

“Mercy me, what’s going on? We don’t want any hawkers in here,” she told him sternly as she put down her items on a scrubbed wooden table. “Nancy, get on with scraping that sugar.”

He took off his cap as he stepped on to the red stone floor.

“I’m no hawker, missus,” he said respectfully.

The cook stared at his boots.

“Be that as it may, I don’t want them muddy boots in here,” she admonished. “Whatever you want to say, you can say it standing right there.”

He did as he was told, clearing his throat.

“I would like to see Miss Jenna Goss, if you please. I’m told she’s staying here?”

She narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking at him shrewdly. Then she scooped a large piece of butter into a mixing bowl.

“What’s it to you if she is?”

“I’m a friend of hers,” he replied. Perhaps this wasn’t going to be as easy as he’d thought.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.