There’s Always Tomorrow – Episode 01

Sailesh Thakrar © The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Relax and enjoy our new fiction serial beginning today. The story centres around Helen and Lorna who have both come to Auchencairn to begin their lives anew…

Outside the warmth of her battered old van, it was a grey and windy day with squalls of cold rain sweeping in and rocking them.

Wiping condensation from her window, Helen paused uncertainly at a bend on the main road to Stonehaven before turning into the narrow country lane.

At first, this seemed wide enough, and there was a car park to the left for visitors to Benholm Mill. Then the road narrowed and began to climb.

If she’d taken the wrong turning, she was in trouble. There was no real option but to go forward.

She was climbing slowly under trees from which fell huge plops of rain on to the van’s roof.

The van’s inhabitants were getting restless.

“Lie down,” Helen said over her shoulder. “We’re nearly there.”

More mutinous muttering from the dogs.

Helen prayed silently that she was indeed nearing the rented farm cottage, chosen from the map because it was in the middle of nowhere.

This was exactly where she wanted to be: away from everyone and everything.

She was taking time out from life, funded by the money from the sale of her mum’s apartment, and hiding away to heal with her four-legged friends.

The narrow road broke through on to open countryside with its blasts of wind and rain. There were no signposts of any kind.

She hesitated, then slowed down in the middle of a long stretch of road, reaching for her map and the instructions from the agency leasing the farm cottage.

More restlessness came from the rear, until the small West Highland terrier – the boss – squeezed through on to the cluttered passenger seat beside her.

“Sit down, Hamish,” Helen ordered, stopping him from climbing on top of the map and her instructions.

He settled for standing on the passenger seat with his front paws on the dashboard, peering through the windscreen and fogging up the glass with his panting.

Helen studied the instructions.

Turn left at Benholm.

She checked the map: been there, done that.

Her finger traced the curves in the road she had taken, and she glanced again at the letter.

Take second road right.

That looked to be around two miles from now. But were there other minor roads not shown on the map?

She glanced out. She was in the middle of nowhere.

A final glance at the instructions.

Follow the road for two miles, taking the first road on the left. The cottages are on the right-hand side.

Checking her mirrors, Helen set off again. This road was like a country lane back home – worse, in places.

What would happen if she met anything coming in the other direction? Surely nobody else would be mad enough to be out on a day like this.

A tense half an hour later, Helen turned at last on to a rough stone courtyard in front of two rain-drenched stone cottages.

She fumbled through her bag and drew out the cottage key for No. 2. Did the cottages number from the right or the left?

Climbing out uncertainly, Helen was soaked almost instantly by the rain.

Her eyes travelled from one door to the other: they were numbered, certainly, but the paint had faded and the rain and muck had darkened what was left.

There was no sign of life in either cottage.

She hesitated, then approached the nearest door and tried to fit the big old-fashioned key into its lock. It went in easily enough, but wouldn’t turn.

She was struggling to pull out the key when the door opened.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, the keys falling from her hand.

The man facing her leaned down stiffly to pick them up.

“So you’re the new tenant next door,” he said. “You’ve picked a grand day to arrive. Come in. You’ll get soaked out there.”

“No, no,” Helen replied, embarrassed. “Sorry to trouble you. It’s been a long drive. I’ll just open the cottage next door and get everybody settled in.”

The man glanced at the steamed-up van.

“Everybody?” he asked with a frown.

To be continued…

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