And then, one day, the most remarkable things happened! A breakthrough!
It all started when a letter was swiftly pushed under the front door.
In rushed handwriting, it read:
I cannot divulge too much detail; only what you need to know. You must trust this letter with everything.
We are to swap houses. I too have a child; although she is a girl, she is around your son’s age. It is just the two of us.
We need to swap so you can be free. Please leave all of your possessions. You don’t want to cause too much of a scene.
The swap will happen tomorrow at 3pm on the dot.
Just make sure you are down your road to the right of your front gate.
Do not stop to talk. I will hold out my hands and pass you some instructions on how to get to our home.
Again, it is important you do this swap. This is our gift to you.
Please dispose of properly after reading.
After reading the letter, Suzanna rushed straight to the toilet, where she burnt it and, with trembling hands, flushed away the ashes.
Shaken but optimistic – she had a rare radiant smile as she hugged John. She decided to trust the letter. ‘We need to do this,’ she assured John.
She explained everything as best she could. ‘Tomorrow at 3, we go’ she murmured. ‘Trust me and be quiet.’
‘We must follow this.’
The next day, they both nervously waited by the door for 3 o’clock to strike.
‘We will do this together.’ Suzanna assured John.
3 o’clock came, and they stepped out into the unknown. They turned right and walked down the street. No one of notice was in sight. But then again, they didn’t know what they were looking for.
They didn’t want to be looking around too much so they continued to walk forward, taking measured steps.
Halfway down the street, John tugged on Suzanna’s hand and nodded his head to the other side of the road.
Across the way, a woman and a young girl, dressed almost identical to Suzanna and John, were looking over.
Cautiously, with their hearts beating fast, they walked over to the pair.
As they inched closer, the two on the other side crossed too. Suzanna held out her hand, and the woman slid a note into it.
Suzanna heaved a sigh of relief!
No turning back now!
Suzanna walked a bit further down, before starting to read the letter.
It instructed her to pace further down the road.
They walked and walked and walked until they were in new surroundings, an uncharted area.
Their surroundings were becoming more and more rural, the houses bigger and the people a little happier but not too much.
The last of the instructions asked her to ‘look for the start of a white stony path that parts a pair copper beech trees, this is the path to your new home.’
‘This is our gift to you, may you be very, very happy here’ the final line of the note read. Suzanna’s eyes were brimming with tears of joy and gratitude!
As they walked down the path, they both looked around in amazement.
The huge copper beech trees slowly turned into a row of pink blossom trees that stood around a pristine white mansion. Majestic, it stood in the middle at the end of the road. Emerald lawns carpeted the area.
Eyes full of the most wondrous joy, Suzanna looked at John. ‘This is our home!’ ‘Am I dreaming?’ He sounded incredulous.
They both laughed with excitement before rushing, as fast as they could, down the white stony path and towards the house.
The house was a big, white structure with massive Georgian-style windows, bespoke wooden frames and a huge solid oak wood door with a large knocker.
As they reached the massive wooden front door, they looked back at the most amazing, immaculate gardens and the vibrant circle of pink blossom trees.
They couldn’t have drawn a better house if they had tried.
They went straight in and opened the door slowly. Their hearts were beating very fast now.
As the entered, they closed the big door behind them. An engraving in stone above the door read ’Forced to be free.’
‘That sounds like something Dad would say,’ John mused.
They stepped inside and started looking around the house. It was filled with the most amazing furniture and art.
It was decorated to the highest standard.
‘Who would give up this home? Why us?’ Suzanna pondered.
As they stepped further in, the large wooden door closed behind them.
They started to take a few steps forward before a loud knock echoed at the door.
Someone must have been watching them! Their hearts sank.
Suzanna quietly pointed for John to head upstairs. He crept upstairs, looking back at his mum as she approached the door. He feared the worst.
‘Hellooo?’ she said with her ear pressed against the door. There was no answer. ‘Who’s there?’
‘Ssshh!’ The voice replied. A familiar ‘sssh’ at that! She grabbed the handle, a smile creeping into her face realising who it was and swinging open the door as fast as she could. She was greeted with the unfathomable sight of a very weary but beaming Chester! He was back!
‘You know who it is, flower!’ Chester added as Suzanna’s arms embraced him!
They both let out a cry, and John ran down the stairs to join them! The three shared the most magical of embraces.
They all cried and hugged as tightly as they possibly could; all hysterical with happiness.
Here was a spirit reborn.
They all let out a big sigh before releasing each other. John studied his father.
Although it was him on the inside, he looked a completely different man! They had a lot of lost time to make up for! John was a young pup when he had been taken!
Chester had a long, dark grey beard and greying long hair. His eyes were sunken, as if he had cried a million tears and his skin was grey.
What had happened for him to be like this? His eyes looked as if they were telling a thousand stories.
This just made John want to hug him tighter and never let him go again. His father was finally home!
Suzanna led Chester to a chair where she sat him down. ‘Let me get you some water’ she walked towards the kitchen she had seen while looking around.
She fetched him a drink, and they all sat round. Suzanna looked overwhelmed with delight! Shaking, she listened as Chester started talking. The mother and son were hanging on to his every word.
‘I will explain all’ he said. ’Is it safe? ’Suzanna glanced around, looking for listening devices. ‘Everything is safe in this house. I have been assured.’
Their eyes lit up ever more with this news.
‘So? What happened? Please do tell!’
He nodded. ‘I need to tell you this…you are not going to believe it.’