The walk to The Harbour was by no means a long one but after the events of the previous day Jenny felt a strain on her calf muscles and an ache in her back that she could only put down to stress and worry. It certainly wasn’t the amount of exercise she had done. Jamie had already checked in confirming that although Pip was feeling a lot better thanks to a combination of strong painkillers and bubble baths, he was still the worst patient in the world and Jenny was to find who was responsible for making the Holland-May household a misery. Sundays were the complete opposite of their weekend counterpart in Boroughford Upon Tweed. The High Street was near deserted and the only shop open was the twenty-four hour grocery that everyone only used in the middle of the night when there was a craving for something fattening after a few too many dry ales in The Mariners. Jenny had ventured out on a Sunday more times than she could remember. Other than a Saturday, it was her favourite day to kick back and contemplate. However, this Sunday she was on a mission, so gone were the running clothes and in their place were her beloved winter jeans, boots and thick cream jumper, all encased in her waterproof winter coat. January was a harsh and unpredictable month when living on the coast and Jenny knew that all too well and was taking no chances.
As Jenny approached The Harbour she slowed down as she always did to take in its surroundings. It was the one place in the village where life was never at a standstill. The fleet of fishing boats were being prepared as normal with their riggings being thoroughly checked, decks cleaned and nets inspected for any damage that may have been caused during the previous trip. In the midst of all the madness stood The Rainbow Sun, the pride of Boroughford Upon Tweed. The impressive ship boat stood firm amongst its smaller counterparts, almost radiating its importance. Jenny smiled at a memory she thought of frequently, when she, Alex, Jamie and Pip, barely out of their teens, had gotten a little merry on The Mariners homemade cider brew during the annual Spring Fete Celebrations, in which the village had won the coveted Tweed County Cricket Match. The Rainbow Sun had been decked out in the finest fairy lights for the occasion and as the drink had taken them, the gang of four had decided that they wanted their photograph taken on the only fishing boat that mattered and so perched themselves on the edge of the deck with worried faces looking on. The image of them laughing, plastic pint glasses in hand and in Jamie’s case, a Captain’s hat on his head stood proudly on Jenny’s work desk next to her wedding photo to this day. In fact, it was the only photograph that all four of them had at their respective work places.
‘A fine day Miss Jenny.’ Captain Archie tipped his hat towards Jenny who waved in return.
‘That it is.’ She smiled, having to shout slightly in order for her voice to carry over the impressive blue hull of the Rainbow Sun. ‘Hope it stays that way.’
‘Aye I say it will.’ Captain Archie replied, puffing his chest out and pulling on the braces of his fishing trousers. ‘A keen wind coming in from the East though, one to watch I reckon.’
‘I will do.’ Jenny smiled again. Captain Archie was almost at retirement age but the man simply refused to leave his ship. He was still a stout figure, standing six foot high with an impressive bulk built up from years of wrangling nets by hand before the “infernal mechanics” as he called them were brought in. He was a craggy old sea dog who could tell instantly if there was a change in the air. Jenny had known him her whole life and would sit for hours listening intently to stories of heroism and bravery at sea, although now that she was older, she wasn’t sure how many of them were actually true.
‘Right, best get this old thing out on the waves.’ Captain Archie tapped the side of his beloved vessel before turning once again to Jenny. ‘Almost forgot, that young man of yours is due at the Lifeboat Station for a drill tonight. Nothing major, just a practice run. Can never be too careful in these winter seasons Miss Jenny.’
‘I will be sure to remind him Captain.’ Jenny waved a brief goodbye to her old friend before she continued on her journey past The Harbour wall.
Beyond the stone buildings that housed the Lifeboat, the offices of the Fishmongers and the various crews personal items that they didn’t wish to take with them on board, lay a vast gravel courtyard adorned with pots of multi-coloured winter flowers all framing the classic flame red Jaguar E Type that stood proudly in the driveway. Jenny stood and raised an eyebrow; impressed by the gleaming condition of the car she had learned to drive in. She put in her hands in the pockets of her coat, suddenly feeling the chill from the breeze that Captain Archie had predicted. Jenny took a deep breath and looked up at the house that began where the courtyard ended. The white stone-faced Georgian style home looked down on Jenny with a warm glow. It hadn’t been her childhood home, but she had spent enough of her younger years there to know it all too well. She walked up the side of the car, brushing a hand along the paintwork as she did so before reaching the stone steps that led up to the brown front door and its brass knocker shaped like a ship’s anchor. Jenny took a deep breath and pushed her blonde hair behind her ears before she knocked three times exactly. A slight breeze whipped Jenny’s hair around her face as she listened carefully to the building’s occupant huff their way to the front door. And then it opened…
‘Do you realise it’s a Sun…’ The old gentleman who opened the door immediately stopped mid sentence when he saw Jenny smiling.
‘Morning Granddad.’ She said, shoving her hands in her pockets and immediately feeling five years old again.
‘My darling girl…’ he replied, holding out his hands, a wide smile spreading across his white moustached face. ‘Come inside immediately, you will catch your death out here.’ Before Jenny could change her mind, she was being ushered inside the door by a strong and comforting arm.
Thomas May was not only a stalwart of village life, he was also the Mayor of Boroughford Upon Tweed, a position he held with the esteem it provided. As Jenny threw her scarf and coat onto the hat stand by the door, she glanced up at the portrait that stood in the grand hallway; her grandfather in full Mayoral dress holding a scroll reportedly containing the deeds to the village. Jenny didn’t know if this was true or not but it was nice to think that Granddad Tom had some standing in the community. Going through into the living room, the first thing Jenny felt was the heat and glow from the large log fire that was the centrepiece of the room. The youngest member of the May family knelt down and rubbed her hands to regain some of the feeling in her fingers that she had lost on the walk to the house. When she felt her face start to burn, Jenny stood up and looked at the photographs on the mantle piece. Granddad Tom felt that photographs were the way of keeping memories alive when your mind wasn’t at it best. Jenny couldn’t help but smile as she saw her childhood, teen years, wedding day and adulthood spread out in what seemed like a perfect timeline. The one photograph that always caught her attention was the black and white A4 portrait of a woman held in an ornate engraved copper frame and stood in the middle of the small handmade gallery. Jenny reached out her hand and touched the photograph gently.
‘Looking after you as always.’ Granddad Tom’s voice floated into Jenny’s head causing her to turn around. The old man stood proud with two steaming mugs in his hand. His white hair and moustache were groomed to perfection as always and even though it was a Sunday with no work to be done, Granddad Tom still had to wear his best trousers and shirt, just in case. Jenny smiled and took one of the mugs from her grandfather and sunk into one of the brown leather armchairs that had been placed by the fire. Even though the room was full of dark wood, old-fashioned bookshelves filled to the brim with the classics and antiques that would cause the Antiques Roadshow to go into melt down, the house still had a warm feeling about it. Jenny let herself relax as she sipped her tea and waited for Granddad Tom to start the inevitable questioning.
‘So what brings my only granddaughter to see me on this fine day.’ He said, picking up his pipe. ‘It’s a cold one out there from what I can gather.’
‘Well, it’s a long story.’ Jenny sighed, wrapping her hands firmly around her mug to claim its warmth. ‘Something happened yesterday which was… unusual.’
‘How so?’ Granddad Tom sat forward taking his now lit pipe out of his mouth, causing Jenny to cough slightly as the smoke wafted in her direction.
‘Well,’ Jenny waved her hand in front of her face slightly hoping her Grandfather wouldn’t be offended. ‘I thought Jamie would have told you but obviously he hasn’t.’
‘That brother of yours never tells anyone anything unless it’s one big drama.’ Granddad Tom sat back and crossed his leg on his knee as he resumed his pipe smoking. ‘What’s he gone and done now?’
‘Umm…’ the chiming of the Grandfather Clock only added to Jenny’s sudden sense of foreboding. She took a long sip of her tea, before she placed it on the thick, dark wood coffee table that stood in the middle of the living room. She then took a deep breath and brushed a stray hair behind her ear before straightening up and facing a concerned looking Granddad Tom.
‘Pip had an accident yesterday…’ Jenny began, raising her hand when Granddad Tom went to jump put of his chair. ‘He’s ok, just a bit shocked and banged up. Nothing broken and Jamie’s looking after him.’
‘What on earth happened?’ Granddad Tom puffed out his chest with some authority. The mere mention of his “kin” getting hurt or maimed as he called it would send him into a rage worthy of Winston Churchill himself.
‘He was cleaning the outside of the shop. He was up a ladder polishing the sign when…’
‘Oh the daft boy.’ Granddad Tom interrupted Jenny before she had the chance to say anymore. He stubbed out his pipe, much to his Granddaughter’s relief, tapped the arms of his chair and chuckled. ‘So he fell and knocked himself out of alignment then did he?’
‘Not exactly.’ Jenny took a deep breath. ‘It seemed that a car came through High Street, scared him out of his wits and he lost his balance.’
‘A car!’ Granddad Tom shot up, his cheeks flushing red. ’An actual motor vehicle in a pedestrianized area of my village! Damn fine cheek of it all!’
‘Granddad…’ Jenny stood up and placed her hands on her grandfather’s shoulders. ‘Remember your blood pressure.’
‘Yes I bloody well do and right now it’s through the roof!’ Granddad Tom broke free of Jenny and began pacing up and down, arms behind his back like an old general ready to go into battle. Jenny was afraid of this, even though she had to get some answers as to what happened, the last thing she needed was Thomas May, Mayor of Boroughford and decorated Army Officer to take up arms once again.
‘So I take it that you wouldn’t know why this would happen.’ Jenny ventured an intelligent guess, trying to restore some calm. Granddad Tom looked up and waved his hand.
‘Of course not my darling girl, but I tell you that this has got those over there written all over it. Those damn fiends haven’t forgiven us for the last Spring Fete.’ Jenny rolled her eyes. “Those over there” could only refer to Boroughford’s neighbouring village, Lowermore under Tweed; self styled rivals of the tiny little fishing industry. Their Mayor Reginald Farmsworth and Granddad Tom had a long-standing feud; so long in fact that no one could really remember what it started over. But as ridiculous as Granddad Tom was sounding, he did have a point. The rivalry between the villages had gotten to the point now where anything was possible.
‘Look, I will go into work tomorrow, get something on paper and maybe we can find out exactly what is going on.’ Jenny ventured in the hope that her Grandfather would actually listen and not go on mentally planning the second coming of Agincourt.
‘Yes, you do that.’ He said, as he continued pacing and pointing at thin air. ‘I will go into the Council and get the cabinet to declare this man, woman or whatever a wanted felon. We will catch the hooligan if it’s the last thing we do.’
‘Yes Granddad.’ Jenny sighed, as she flopped back into the armchair, completely and utterly defeated by the old solider at work.
Not being able to take any more of Granddad Tom’s battle planning, Jenny made her polite excuses and with a quick hug left her old childhood home rather quickly. Her first instinct to go home was quickly over taken when she felt the urge for peace and solitude especially after the hour that had just occurred. Having gleaned no valuable information other than her Grandfather knew nothing of what had occurred, Jenny decided to go to the one place that she would always get answers. The wind had picked up like Captain Archie had said but that didn’t deter Jenny from making the climb up to the cliff top just beyond the Harbour. She had climbed the hill many times and in all weathers and at all times of the day. The cliff top was her safe place, somewhere she could be alone and unwind and breathe in the ocean air she loved so much. Thankfully the ground was pretty dry due to the lack of rainfall since before Christmas so hiking up the hillside was fairly easy compared to some of the other times she had undertaken it. When she reached the top, Jenny took a moment to stretch her body and release the muscles that had tightened up. After she finished stretching, Jenny made her way over to the stone bench that had survived almost ten years of storms and gales that Boroughford had thrown at it. Jenny smiled and ran her hand over the inscription and read it aloud just as she always did.
‘…For my darling Clemency, finally at one with the sea you loved so much. Sleep well, your beloved Tom…’ Jenny then sighed and sat down slowly facing towards the sea, watching the winter sun send its reflection across the water, bouncing over the waves in synchronised ripples. For the first time in twenty-four hours, Jenny finally felt relaxed. She closed her eyes and let the wind blow through her hair and sting her cheeks to bring some life back into them.
Jenny didn’t know how long she was sat at the cliff top but it was only when she heard a voice calling her name did she even realise that the sun had started to dip below the sea. She turned around to see Alex trekking his way up to the cliff top.
‘Thought I’d find you here.’ He said when he reached his wife. ‘Your brother thinks you’ve gone AWOL.’
‘Oh God…’ Jenny rubbed her face, suddenly feeling tired again. ‘I promised I would call him after I finished with Granddad.’
‘It’s ok.’ Alex smiled, taking a seat next to Jenny and sliding an arm around her waist. ‘I told him where you were and got it right obviously.’ Jenny side-eyed her husband.
‘Lucky guess.’ She stopped herself from grinning.
‘So how did the old boy take the news?’ Alex asked shifting closer to Jenny.
‘His tin helmet and rifle are on standby.’ Jenny sighed, looking out at the sunset. ‘He didn’t know anything about what happened so naturally went ballistic.’
‘Well you can’t blame him.’ Alex titled his head slightly. ‘He’s known Pip since he was five years old, he’s as much family as we are.’
‘He certainly is.’ Jenny smiled lovingly. ‘Although I don’t think anyone was prepared when Jamie said that he and Pip were more than best friends.’
‘Finding the love of your life in primary school is what’s done around here.’ Alex laughed pulling Jenny into him. She laughed and nuzzled into Alex’s neck.
‘I don’t think Clemency would approve of this.’ Jenny said as she felt a set of lips on her cheek making their way slowly downward. Alex looked up at Jenny with a raised eyebrow.
‘Your Grandmother let you get away with murder so don’t give me that one Mrs Hill.’ Jenny giggled and cuddled into Alex even more.
‘God I wish she was here now.’ Jenny sighed. ‘She missed out on so much.’
‘Not to mention she would have got this mess sorted out within an hour of it happening.’ Alex continued. ‘She would have chased that car down High Street, dragged the driver out of the window and impaled him on the Village Hall clock.’
‘That would have been the mild reaction yes.’ Jenny agreed. ‘Just wish I had some answers right now. It’s so frustrating.’
‘Don’t beat yourself up.’ Alex said, hugging Jenny just a little tighter before standing up. ‘Come on, you need to get home and get warm.’ Jenny opened her mouth to protest but realised that Alex was right. Despite her many layers, she was actually freezing and the light was almost gone. So instead of protesting, Jenny just held out her hands and allowed Alex to pull her up. Alex pulled her in for one final hug, kissing her gently before leading her back down the hill letting the sunset over Clemency’s Point.
As soon as they got through the front door, Jenny was ordered upstairs to take a hot bath to warm herself up whilst Alex prepared the dinner. Again Jenny didn’t argue. She merely trudged up the stairs of her little cottage pulling on the bannister willing herself up. Jenny and Alex loved their tiny little home from the wooden beams that decorated the celling throughout to the fireplace that took up most of their cozy front room. Jenny didn’t really know how to use the agar that graves their kitchen as Alex had began an affair with it when they first moved in and it was still ongoing. Jenny knew of this and didn’t mind coming second to something that could produce delicious amounts of food seemingly by magic. As she entered the bedroom Jenny resisted the urge to completely collapse face down onto her king size bed and lie there just as she had many times before. She did allow herself to sit on the edge of her bed to remove her coat and jewelry. Almost methodically Jenny placed each item in their correct boxes not that there were many today. Her sliver earrings that had been a birthday present from Jamie and Pip went into the small red box, whilst her engagement ring went into its brown leather box and sealed until the following morning. That ring had come after the one she never took off. She twisted the gold band around her wedding finger wiping off tiny smudges so that it would be perfect once again. After she undressed and pulled on her toweling robe, Jenny sloped towards the bathroom, entered and turned on the taps to fill her 18th century bathtub. She sat on the edge and poured in her favorite bubble bath smiling as she listened to Alex singing badly as he pranced around the kitchen in his own little world. As the bath filled, Jenny swirled her hand in the water letting her body warm up and her mind wander. Hopefully Granddad Tom wouldn’t be storming the barricades of the Council Chambers on Monday morning ready to give Churchill a run for his money and hopefully Pip would be feeling well enough that he could escape Jamie’s overprotectiveness. These were the thoughts that were going around in circles in Jenny’s brain, almost causing a flood in her bathroom. Turning off the taps before the bath overflowed, Jenny removed her robe and sunk into the bubbles, causing a little to splash over the edge. Promising herself that she would mop it up later, Jenny closed her eyes and let her body relax in the water, the tension in her muscles slowly ebbing away and her head clearing it’s cloudiness. She knew she still needed answers, especially with what happened to Pip but for now, this was her own time and no one was going to interrupt that.
‘You look better.’ Alex smiled as Jenny entered the kitchen, pajamas firmly on, wet hair piled on the top of her head.
‘I feel better.’ Jenny replied, snaking her arms around Alex’s waist. He smiled and continued to stir whatever creation was on offer for tonight’s dinner.
‘Well Mon Cherie, you sit down and I will serve you the greatest thing ever to come out of the Hill Family Kitchen.’ Alex patted Jenny’s hands as she released him and sat on the wooden bench that accompanied their table in the kitchen. The cottage was way too small for a dining room and the table was there when they bought it, so Jenny never complained and went with it. As Alex placed a bowl of what looked like simple tomato soup and a chunk of rustic bread in front of her, Jenny’s stomach grumbled in anticipation of warm food. For the next hour, nothing of the last twenty-four hours was spoken about apart from the obvious laughs about Granddad Tom reliving his glory years as an Army Captain. Despite never seeing any real conflict during his time in the forces, Granddad Tom was a little like Uncle Albert Trotter when it came to the war stories. After dinner, Alex took Jenny into their living room, which was pure Jenny May-Hill. From the bookcase, to the vintage typewriter sat on the little desk in the corner, everything screamed of her childhood and her passion for her work and the village. If the kitchen was Alex’s domain then the living room was Jenny’s. As she cuddled into her husband who’s brain was now being occupied by some random cookery program, Jenny felt her eyes grow heavy. She knew that the morning would bring new challenges because if Granddad Tom had his way the whole village would know about what happened by sunrise, which meant a hell of a lot of work for Jenny. The mere thought of it made her too tired to resist sleep anymore. She cuddled in tighter to Alex, took a deep breath and let her eyes close falling into a deep and restful sleep. So deep in fact that she didn’t even wake when Alex decided to scoop her up and carry her to bed, tucking her into the covers and kissing her gently before saying goodnight and switching off the bedroom light. Alex knew as well as anyone that despite the calmness Jenny was not going to let this one go. She was too much like her grandmother for that.