ROMANCE IN FRANCE

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Chapter 19

A few weeks later, Abbey and Mark were married quietly. Attending a small ceremony in a tiny church in the village Abbey’s parents came over, and stayed for a few days, and Mark and Abbey spent a couple of days showing them around the nearby countryside.

The Caravan Park began filling up and Jemma was kept busy booking people in and out, and checking that the caravans stayed in immaculate condition by the team of girls that cleaned them. The Caravan Park had grown by leaps and bounds, and they had plenty to do, checking rotas and work sheets as Alice trotted around with her visiting the people in the caravans and inviting them to the wine tasting events. Alice now attended kindergarten classes twice a week for a couple of hours. This gave Jemma and Abbey, time to catch up on paperwork for the vineyard. They were all so busy, that Mark and Abbey had given up all thoughts of a honeymoon until after the wine harvest.

Jemma returned home for a few days to attend her mother’s wedding and learned she was to have a brother or sister. Tad was completely over the moon, and Jemma returned home to find Abbey in the same condition.

Carl worked like a demon, only entering the house for meals and keeping away from Jemma as much as he could. Mark and Abbey did their best to bring them together but Jemma was nearly as bad as Carl was. She folded herself up into an unassuming worker bee and kept out of Carl’s way.

A couple of months later, the girls were sitting together having a well-deserved break; drinking coffee in the dining room and watching Pup and Alice playing with a ball on the lawn, through the open patio doors.

‘Well, I would have been taking off on my honeymoon now,’ said Abbey gazing with affection at her large tummy ‘If it hadn’t been for you coming along.’

‘Yes, but you wouldn’t want it any other way,’ said Jemma.

‘No, I wouldn’t, if I’ve counted my dates right, It should be born for Christmas and we’ll have the best Christmas ever.’

Jemma smiled warmly at her friend, ‘and I’ll know if I have a brother or sister too. I think Tad, will be one of the happiest men on earth when they get their new baby, you should have seen him with Alice. He didn’t want me to bring her back here.’

Abbey’s mind drifted for a few minutes, thinking about the day she would have the baby and hoping Mark would love it as much as he loved Alice. He had tried to reassure her a thousand times that he would. Then her thoughts drifted to Jemma, would she and Carl ever get it together. She knew they both loved each other, but they were both as stubborn as mules.

‘Hey dreamy, I’ve been talking to you for five minutes and not getting an answer where are you?’ Jemma waved her hand in front of her friend and Abbey grinned at her apologetically.

‘Sorry Jemma, what did you say?’ ‘I said, have you and Mark, decided on any names for the baby yet?’

‘No, well one or two, but nothing concrete yet.’ Jemma looked at her watch. ‘The men should be here soon for their meal, I’ll go and start it, and you rest a bit longer Abbey.’

Abbey wandered into the living room and put her feet up on the settee.

Jemma began chopping onions and garlic; transferring them to the pan she had heating on the stove. Spaghetti Bolognese was one of Mark’s favourites, and her mind wandered for a while, wondering what Carl’s favourite meal was. It seemed she knew more about Mark than Carl did and yet, she knew that without a doubt it was Carl she loved.

Why did he cut himself off from her, didn’t he realise she loved him. It was torture sometimes when he came near her; she wanted desperately to feel his arms around her again. To feel his lips on hers again, and experience once more the erotic magic he had started in her body. She would lay awake, nights, dreaming of his magic touch. Even though that night he hadn’t been particularly gentle with her, she knew he could be. She had witnessed how gentle and kind he was with Alice. She shook the onions in the pan and put the meat in. It was no good wishing she thought exasperated with herself, just get on with what you have to, it will have to come right in the end the same as Abbey always says.

There wasn’t much to do just now in the winery. The wine was already casked and as the weather was decidedly colder they hadn’t so many visitors or guests at the Caravan Park.

Jemma placed the dishes on the serving hatch, her mind wandering. I wonder how mum is, he’s due to have the baby soon. I wonder could I go home for a couple of weeks. I must speak to Mark and see if Abbey will be all right for a while on her own.

Her mind made up; she carried on with dinner determined to speak to Mark and Abbey when they had their evening meal.

‘Of course you can Jemma, there’s not much to do at the winery at the moment, and what there is, I’m sure Carl will take care of. Won’t you Carl?’ said Mark smiling cordially at her.

Carl lifted his head, his mind far away, he hardly acknowledged the people around the table.

‘Yes, of course, there isn’t much doing,’ and morosely went back to eating his meal.

‘Are you sure you will be all right Abbey? I only need a couple of week, Mom’s, due the baby any minute, and I’d really love to be there.’ ‘Don’t worry about me Jemma, I‘ll have Mark with me most of the time.’ She said, smiled at him, and he squeezed her hand gently. You go and make sure you’re Mom’s, okay.’

’Thank you,’ said Jemma, smiling gratefully at everyone sat around the table. ‘I’ll ring up and find out about the train times later.’

There was a train due to leave early in the morning and Jemma packed her bag, and ordered a taxi to collect her the next morning. She lay awake all that night, thinking of Carl and what had gone wrong between them, until she heard the taxi pull up outside the house. Sneaking down the stairs as quietly as she could, she embarked on her journey home.

Arriving at her mother’s house, she walked into the kitchen. ‘Mum I’m here! Where are you?’

Chancy sat upstairs on the edge of her bed, pains coming and going.

Jemma, thank God! ‘I’m up here Jemma, in the bedroom uh! Can you come up?’ She heard the pain in her mother’s voice and dumping her bag, dashed up the stairs. Chancy sat on the edge of the double bed, sweat dripping off her brow. She smiled grimly at her daughter, as she entered the room, her face was white.

‘Hello love!’

’Mom what can I do?’ said Jemma sitting down at the side of her mother and placing an arm around her shoulders gently.

‘Downstairs, on the hall table,’ said Chancy, between the huffs and puffs. ‘Number on pad, ring for the ambulance.’ Jemma ran down stairs, rang the number and galloped back up again.

‘It’s on its way Mum. What should I do now?’

‘Can you get my case love? It’s all packed, under the bed.’

Jemma watched her mother grit her teeth in pain. ‘Are you alright Mum?’

‘Yes love, don’t worry, it won’t happen for a while yet,’ she said groaning audibly. ‘I’ll take your suitcase downstairs Mum, won’t be a jiff.’ Jemma dashed down the stairs with the suitcase, thinking it was easier to do something than sit and watch her mother suffer. She ran back up the stairs again.

Her mother was trying to stand up.

‘Mum, here let me help.’ She helped her mother to stand and stared unbelievingly at the size of her. ‘Mum!’ she said, staring her eyes wide.

Chancy grinned at Jemma’s amazed look: ‘Its twins Jemma twins!’

‘But, Mum, you never said anything in your letters.’

‘No, I didn’t, I didn’t want you worried, are upset if anything went wrong.’

‘Wrong!’ said Jemma looking aghast at her mother’s statement.

‘Don’t worry Jemma the last time I went to the hospital for a check-up everything was fine. Now do you think you can help me down the stairs?’

‘Yes,’ said Jemma. Gazing at her mother alarm still spread across her face.

‘When the ambulance has taken me away, would you ring Tad for me Jemma?’

‘Of course I will Mum, are you sure you don’t want me to ring him now?’

‘No, I don’t want him coming too early,’ she grimaced as another pain shot through her and clung to Jemma’s arm gritting her teeth.’

They were about half way down the stairs when a knock came at the door.

Jemma shouted. ‘Come in.’

A paramedic pushed open the door, and seeing Jemma helping her mother down the stairs called out to his partner. They quickly took over from Jemma and helped her mother into the ambulance. Jemma stood at the door and watched as the ambulance carried her mother away. Suddenly feeling bereft she sat down on the stairs. Worry for her mother encompassed her, and she sat for a while, thinking how lucky she was to have arrived in time to help her. Eventually she moved down the hall to ring Tad. ‘Jemma?’ said Tad, surprised to hear his stepdaughter’s voice on the phone. Panic entered his voice as he said excitedly ‘Jemma? Where’s Chancy?’

‘She’s on the way to the hospital Tad, the babies are coming.’ ‘Coming?’ he screeched. ‘She’s early.’ His voice sounded panic ridden, and Jemma hoped he’d get to the hospital all right.

‘Are you going straight to the hospital Tad?’

’Yes. I’ll phone you with any news as soon as I can. Will you be all right on your own?’

’Yes Tad, please make sure to drive carefully, and give my love to mom.’

’Of course I will Bye, putting the phone down and running through the door.

Returning the phone to its holder she spied her bag in the middle of the kitchen floor, and decided to take it upstairs. She hung her clothes in the wardrobe her mind elsewhere and made a bed up for herself, then retreated to the kitchen to make a drink. Then sat to worry and think as she sat hugging the hot drink for a while.

‘It must have been fate, that had brought her home in time to help her mother,’ thought Jemma. ‘Would the twins be boys or girls or perhaps she would have one of each?’ She paced up and down, unable to settle, moving into the living room to stand staring blindly out of the window sipping the drink, before she at last returned the cup to the kitchen. She washed the few pots that had been left on the side, and tidied up absent-mindedly, as she waited for the phone to ring.

It was a while, before the telephone rang. Jemma had paced up and down and around the house, then made herself a sandwich before finally sitting down to try and watch the Television. It had been a long day, catching the early morning train from France and arriving home to the excitement of finding her mother in labour.

The telephone rang as she dozed off, and she came awake with a start, dashing down the hall to grab the phone off the hook.

‘Tad is everything alright?’

‘Jemma, Chancy’s had a Boy! And a Girl!’ said Tad dramatically, hardly able to contain his excitement.

’A boy and a girl!’ he exclaimed excitedly dancing up and down on the end of the phone line.

’How marvellous, is Mum okay?’

‘Yes Jemma, she’s tired, but doing well the doctor says. I’m leaving now so that she can get some sleep. I’ll see you in about three quarters of an hour, and tell you all about them.’

Have you had anything to eat Tad?’

‘Eh! No, I’m afraid with all the excitement I forgot about eating.’ ‘Okay, I’ll have something ready for when you get here. Bye.’

Two day’s later Chancy came home with the babies and life became a hectic round of bathing, dressing, changing, and feeding the infants until a regular rota was accomplished. Tad was delighted to help and became a dab hand at feeding and changing them both. Proving what a good father he would be. All his relations called to see the children and there were presents by the score.

One in particular was Tad’s sister who was just sixteen and looked very much like Tad. With dark curly hair and chocolate brown eyes, a dainty pretty girl, whom Jemma took an immediate liking too. Marietta was as enchanted with the babies as the rest of them, and begged to be allowed to feed and take care of them as much as anyone else.

She became a regular visitor to the house and a companion for Jemma. They would take trips to the cinema and skating rink, and Jemma told her about life at the vineyard. Marietta was fascinated by Jemma’s life style and wanted to know all the ins and outs of working at the vineyard. They became firm friends and promised to write to each other when Jemma returned.

Time flew quickly, three weeks had elapsed and it was time for Jemma to return to the vineyard. Abbey was nearing her time, and she had promised to return, so she packed her bag and prepared to leave. Everyone including her knew friend Marietta insisted on coming to the station to see her off. Jemma helped to dress her knew brother and sister for the last time before leaving giving them hugs and kisses as she did.

Promises to write soon and send photographs were exchanged between more hugs and kisses. Jemma eventually boarded the train with a catch in her throat as she waved goodbye to everyone. Feeling sad and lonely, she watched the countryside slide past her with tears in her eye’s as she remembered the love and friendship she had received from her mother and Tad. Thinking how lucky the twins were to have a father like Tad and how lovely it was to belong to a family at last.

Sitting back to relax, she resolutely put the thoughts of missing her family to the back of her head, and began to think about returning to the winery. Looking forward to seeing Pup, Alice and her friends Abbey, Mark and mostly Carl, even though she thought sadly to herself Carl doesn’t seem to want to see me, how she had missed them all.

Would they have missed her, she wondered, she knew Pup probably would and she was right. Pup ran out of the house when he heard the taxi pull up. Barking madly and dancing around in circles when he realised it was Jemma. She paid the taxi after picking him up hardly able to hear what the man said because of Pup’s joyous response.

Her face was licked between each of his barks, and Abbey eventually arrived on the doorstep to see what all the noise was about. Yvette stood behind Abbey a beam of welcome on her face a mile wide and between them squeezed Alice, to run out and throw her arms around Jemma’s legs.

‘Jemma! You come home,’ and she looked up at Jemma, her eyes two big blue sapphires that shone with happiness.

’Yes, at last, we were beginning to wonder when you would arrive,’ said Abbey.

Yvette smiled pleasantly and said. ’I hope you have good holiday Jemma, I go home now. See you tomorrow, and touching Jemma on the shoulder, she walked quietly away down the drive.

Mark then arrived in the doorway saying, ‘what’s all the commotion for?’ then seeing Jemma he said. ‘Glad to see you back Jemma, but why on earth didn’t you ring me? I could have picked you up at the station.’

‘That’s the reason I didn’t phone Mark. I knew you would want to pick me up, and I didn’t want you leaving Abbey, alone. Not with Alice, to look after as well, not in her condition.’

She smiled at Abbey, ‘how are you Abbey? You look well.’

’Yes, I am thank you but never mind about me. You should have phoned,’ she said in an exasperated voice. ‘How’s your mother Jemma?’

’Oh! I’ve lots to tell you. The babies are so sweet.’

’Babies!’ said Abbey, in a shocked voice.

‘Yes, Babies, I have a brother, and a sister Abbey, they are beautiful. Little Tommy he weighed just six pounds mind you mum looked like a mountain, and Georgina was just five pounds ten ounces. And guess what! They were born the day I arrived home. Mother was in labour, when I arrived. That’s the reason I wouldn’t phone you Mark,’ she said giving him a big smile as they walked back into the kitchen. ‘I didn’t want Abbey to be in the same boat. This is Abbey’s first it wasn’t perhaps so worrying for mum, because she had at least gone through it before with me.’

Mark put the kettle on and sat down at the table as Jemma explained all that had happened back in England. Pup sat on her knee curled up, and Alice sat at her side as she told them about her brother and sister, Alice interrupting the conversation now and again with her questions, when Carl walked in on the happy group.

He saw Jemma sat at the table and felt his heart seem to kick into gear. Life and elation flooded his whole being. ‘Thank God she’d come back,’ he thought, as his arms wanted to stretch out and clasp her to him. Feelings for her crowded his whole body, but instead as he felt himself grow warm with the wanting. He submerged the tenderness and longing and said stiffly. ‘I hope you had an enjoyable holiday Jemma.’

Alice jumped down from her stool and ran to him, a photo in each hand of the babies.

‘Look Uncle Carl, Jemma, has babies.’

Carl looked down at the photos then up at his brother; his face was white, his eyes begging Mark for an explanation. Mark saw the state of Carl’s face and instantly felt sorry for him. ‘He was a damn fool’ thought Mark ‘why didn’t he tell Jemma he loved her?’

’They’re not Jemma’s, babies Alice, they are Jemma’s brother and sister, and ’he smiled comfortingly at Carl, trying to cheer him up. Alice stared hard at her father, and then pulled at Carl’s shorts, leg.

‘See Carl, babies.’ Carl took the photos solemnly off Alice, and proceeded to scan them, his face gradually returned to its normal colour as the pounding in his heart slowed.

’Thank you Alice, they are very pretty,’ and barely smiling at the child, he handed the photographs back and continued to walk through the kitchen. Nodding as he did so to Mark in gratitude for relieving the terrible feeling of hurt that had nearly floored him. ‘I’ve experienced some hurts,’ he thought as he walked into the hall, ‘but never anything as bad as that, thank God, Mark, told me. I must find the courage from somewhere to tell Jemma, that I love her, and only hope that she will forgive me the wrongs I have done her.’ His mind totally obsessed by thoughts of Jemma, he headed for the shower. Jemma’s eyes followed Carl’s disappearing figure from the room, her heart beginning to slow down to a regular beat. The feelings that had assuaged her body as he entered the room convinced her she would never leave the winery voluntarily. The alive and wholeness that she experienced whenever he was near, took over her whole being, as if life before was just an existence. Carl was here and life was once again a wonderful the vineyard was a wonderful place to be in.

Gathering the photos together she smiled at her companion’s and picked up her bag. ‘Just take my bag upstairs and I’ll start on our meal shall I?’

Quickly she adjusted to life at the vineyard again, taking Alice to kindergarten filling the house with flowers and taking care of the caravan clientele although there weren’t great many customers at this time of year. Pup stayed close for the first few days but as the days progressed he soon returned to normal, attending to his own business. Jemma watched Abbey in amazement, the last two day’s she had seen her wash and iron all the baby’s clothes, and carefully put them away, even though they were all clean already she had had to make sure that everything was perfect. She’d cleaned wardrobes and cupboards out, and now she wanted to start on the sitting room. ‘Do you think the Xmas tree will look well in that corner this year Jemma?’

’Yes Abbey, but you shouldn’t be doing all this work you know. The baby’s due any minute isn’t it?’

‘Yes, yes, I know, but I have this terrible urge to get everything ready.’

’Huh! I’ve noticed you haven’t stopped for the last few day’s you’ll make yourself ill. Now sit down! And take it easy, I’ll make us a drink,’ said Jemma, pushing Abbey into one of the chairs, as she remonstrated with her.

’Okay, my back does hurt a bit today,’ she said sighing, as she tried unsuccessfully to move her body in the chair to find a comfortable position.

’I’m not surprised,’ answered Jemma trotting off into the kitchen to make tea. Returning after a few minutes, she placed the cup on a table at the side of Abbey and went to sit in a chair opposite her friend.

’You all right Abbey? You look a bit pasty. Have you got any pains?’ ‘Ah! Well I’m not sure really I feel very sort of achy,’ she said pulling a face, and then doubled up as a pain shot through her body. She gasped, and gazed at Jemma wild eyed startled by the suddenness.

’I think, maybe your right. I think it’s starting Jemma,’ she said panic entering her voice.

’Right, now don’t worry. According to mom and the books it takes a while. Sit back, and do your breathing exercises, while I fetch Mark.’

Running down to the winery to collect Mark she went over the things she needed to do in her mind, take the meat out of the freezer for tea, collect Alice from nursery. She must check caravan number seven, to see if the occupants had left yet. Make sure Mark had prepared Yvette’s wages.

She entered the winery puffing, and Mark looked up from where he was helping one of the men to cork the wine.

’What is it Jemma? Then noticing her out of breath appearance, ‘Abbey has she started?’

‘Yes, I think so Mark, her back’s been aching all morning and just before I came down here she had a pain.’

’Have you phoned the hospital?’

‘No Mark, not yet, I thought one of us could do that when we got back. It will be some time yet, I understand that, first babies take a while to arrive Mark.’

’Yes, yes, I know, it was sometime before Alice was born,’ he said, shuddering at the memory of Sonya that it evoked, and how she had reacted over the birth.

’Abbey, looks so frail sometimes, I must admit to being worried about her.’

‘Abbey’s much more robust than you think Mark, everything will go fine you’ll see,’ said Jemma thinking ‘yes everything will go fine, somehow, I just know it will.’

‘This time tomorrow, you’ll have a new son or daughter Mark.’

Carl was walking back from the vine fields, where he had been examining some of the vines with one of the gardeners. When he spied Jemma, hanging on to Mark’s arm smiling, her face alight it made his heart ache, why couldn’t she smile at him like that.

He turned away walking between the rows of vines so that he wouldn’t see them.

Jemma sensed his presence, and turned her head, to watch him as he walked away through the field. Mark felt her sadness, as she drew her arm away, and wished there were something he could do.

Reaching the house, Jemma became her usually efficient self. ‘You telephone the hospital Mark, and tell them you’re bringing her in. I’ll fetch her case, and let Abbey know your here, and phoning up the hospital.’ Popping her head around the sitting room door as she was on her way up stairs, she watched sympathetically as Abbey grimaced with pain, waiting for her to get over it before she spoke.

‘Abbey? Mark’s, here, he’s just phoning the hospital, back in a minute, are you all right?’ Abbey nodded. ‘I’m just going to get your case,’ and she dashed off.

She helped Mark to get Abbey into the car, and then wished her well as Mark placed her case in the boot. ‘Drive carefully Mark, and please phone.’ She said waving them off, she gazed at her watch it was time to collect Alice.

‘Come on Pup, time to go for Alice.’ Pup dashed to her side, bouncing up and down. He enjoyed his walk to the nursery, everyone fussed him, and he would give them his paw and sit up and beg for Alice and her friends. Alice came out of school with three of her friends, and ran straight into Jemma’s arms. She knelt down to give her a hug.

’Did you have a nice day Alice?’

‘Yes, I’ve been painting. See!’ and she held a large piece of paper up for Jemma to look at.

‘I painted you, and babies,’ said Alice, showing Jemma a picture with heads with big eye’s and long stick arms.

’Oh, that’s lovely Alice, Daddies gone to the hospital with Abbey this afternoon, to have her baby.

’Will it be a boy?’

‘I’m afraid we won’t know what it will be, until it’s born Alice, but we should know by tomorrow.’ Alice sighed and looking up at Jemma said.

’Baby’s take a long time to make, don’t they?

Returning to the vineyard, Jemma took Alice to her room and redressed her in dungarees and a tea-shirt. ‘There you are sweetheart, do you want to play outside in the garden with Pup?’

‘Yes, then I help you cook tea.’ She picked up a ball and ran down the stairs, shouting. ‘Come on Pup.’ The dog followed her willingly.

Following in the child’s wake, Jemma made for the kitchen to begin the evening meal. Wishing she knew what to cook that might cheer Carl up. ’What had she done to upset him she thought wearily? If only she knew, she might be able to put things right between them.

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