The Mystery Of Anna Grace – Episode 19

Mrs Cecilia still liked guests to dress for dinner, even if it was just the staff who came in while coffee and dessert were being served.

However, the dining-room had draughty sash windows and the highest ceiling Charlie had ever seen. So her short cocktail dress was not an option tonight, unless she wanted to end up with pneumonia.

Instead, Charlie took a jumper, teamed it with thick tights and her ankle boots and finished off the ensemble with a colourful scarf she and Katarina had found during one of their forays into the attic.

Mrs Cecilia was in full flow when Charlie came in.

“Then we told them that they simply must stay, but they’d have to leave the ducks upstairs in the bath.”

The other guests laughed politely, but Charlie felt herself colour as she saw Robin to the right of his mother at the table in his fleece and jeans.

“Sit down, Charlotte,” Mrs Cecilia said, looking Charlie’s outfit up and down.

Charlie sat down and looked at Robin. She hadn’t seen him all day and had assumed he was helping out the farmer next door.

Introductions were made somewhat unnecessarily, as Charlie already knew the Mortons, of whom Katarina disapproved so strongly, and Wynford, the artist.

Katarina, bless her, had set Charlie a place with the plain silver napkin ring and as soon as she sat down, Charlie felt something she hadn’t felt for a long time.

She felt like she had come home.

Mrs Cecilia finished her tale and Charlie was relieved to see Katarina coming in with dessert.

“I hear you’ve had a massive clear-out down by the old tennis courts,” Robin said.

Charlie put down her cup.

“Well, it was great having Dean there, and sometimes you just need a clear day to tackle something like that,” she answered.

“It should have been tackled years ago,” Robin said ruefully. “But there was just never the time.”

“There should be tennis racquets somewhere,” Mrs Cecilia put in. “And the net is . . . let me think . . .”

“It was always kept in the boathouse,” Robin said.

“I think I saw it in the summerhouse, but it was so buried under lumber that I couldn’t be sure,” Charlie told them.

“We used to have marvellous tennis parties,” Mrs Cecilia said dreamily.

“Do tell us more,” Mrs Morton said, anxious, Charlie knew, that Mrs Cecilia would let them stay another few nights.

“Perhaps another time,” Robin said, and only Charlie could detect a hint of impatience in his voice.

Charlie was dying to ask Mrs Cecilia about Anna Graystone, but once Mrs Cecilia was reminiscing about the past, it was hard to get a word in edgeways.

Fortunately, Wynford came to their rescue.

“Cecilia, perhaps you’d like to accompany me into the morning-room? I know the fire is lit.”

“What a good idea, Wynford,” Cecilia said, taking his arm and sweeping out of the room. The Mortons took the hint and obediently followed.

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.