IT was Judy’s turn to drive and they were almost there.
This is it, Tom thought, our new life is just up ahead. No going back. Certainly he wouldn’t want to try to go back now!
For the last couple of hours the car had been buffeted by wind and now Judy had to slow to crawling pace because of the fog.
But it wasn’t a bad omen. It was just weather, normal for the end of January.
The last three months blurred together in his memory. Holly and Corin had glowed with such enthusiasm over their plans for putting the hotel on the map.
Philip Grainger had come on board, as he put it. Corin’s flat had been sold. Jim next door had put in a good offer for the B&B. Louise and Marilyn had expressed themselves very happy with their new living arrangements.
Now Judy and Tom’s furniture was somewhere on the road behind them and Holly and Corin were waiting for them in Lorn, having gone up yesterday as soon as they got the keys.
Tom smiled grimly to himself. All they had to do now was make the Ferryboat viable and not lose stonking amounts of money for everyone concerned.
The car turned into the short drive in front of the hotel. As Judy drew up to park there was a rather sickening thud.
“That sounded expensive.” Tom groaned. “Must be a pothole.”
“I was on it before I realised. Sorry.” Judy sounded stricken.
“So, we’ve got a car park that needs resurfacing. I hope we won’t need a mechanic as well.” He looked around. “I can’t see their car. I wonder where they’ve gone?”
Judy clutched his arm.
“One of them must be here. Look, there’s smoke coming from that chimney. A real fire! And some of Corin’s cooking to look forward to. We’ll have a lovely evening, the four of us, before the hard work begins.”
“Here’s Holly,” Tom said, as the back door opened.
“Oh, Dad.” Holly ran towards him. “Do you know anything about fires? I can’t get it to light properly the whole room’s full of smoke.”
Tom headed inside, gesturing to Judy to follow him.
“I wanted everything to be nice for you and Mum.” Holly was on the verge of tears.
She had not exaggerated. Tom coughed as he made his way to the fireplace.
“If someone had made up the fire it suggests it’s in regular use.” Judy stood in the doorway, an arm round Holly. “So it won’t be that the chimney needs cleaning.”
“Your mother’s right,” Tom said. “The wind will be blowing down the chimney. Your fire didn’t have a chance to catch properly. Look, I’ll put this guard in front of it and we’ll open the window just a little bit. There. Close the door.” He stood in the corridor, clearing his throat. “Phew. Welcome to the Ferryboat.” He gave Holly a kiss. “Where’s Corin?”
This time Holly’s eyes did brim over.
“He went to do some food shopping but that was hours ago and he’s not answering his mobile.”
Tom looked at Judy and raised his eyebrows.
“Hey,” he said gently. “It’s not like there’s a supermarket on the doorstep. And it’s so misty out there he’ll be driving really slowly. Come on, let’s explore.”
Holly rubbed her eyes, led the way into the room on the other side of the corridor and switched on the light.
“My favourite room.”
Tom saw a room hung with patterned green wallpaper and bland flower prints. It wasn’t to his taste, but if Holly liked it . . .
“Grim, isn’t it?” Holly said. “Like a doctor’s waiting room. But the view is brilliant.” She crossed to the window. “Well, usually!”
Tom and Judy joined her. All they could see was the reflections of their three selves and the room behind them.
“Shall we save the tour for the morning? Tomorrow is another day, as the woman said.”
“And she was right. Listen, what’s that noise?”
Someone was knocking on the front door.
Tom walked past her and undid the bolts. He peered into the gloom.
A middle-aged lady stood uncertainly on the step.
“I wasn’t sure if there was anyone in,” she said. “I’ve missed the last ferry and I don’t want to drive round the loch in the mist. Do you have a bed for the night?”