Sorry the next part has been so long in coming. My headteacher at school asked me yesterday how my book was coming along. I told her that I needed more time to write and could she possibly make me redundant with a big redundancy package. She chuckled and left the room. Oh well, if you don’t ask you don’t get!

I’ve been investigating how to write a novel and then get it published. I fear that I may be getting this book writing malarkey all wrong as I haven’t a book with mins map things of plots, characters etc, nor do I have post its everywhere. Oops!

I apparently need to find an agent. How does one go about doing that. I wish I knew someone who has written a book and can help me. I have sent the first instalment to apublished writer who I follow on Facebook and Instagram and she was very helpful but I don’t feel that I can keep asking her.

But any thoughts of publishing are still a long way off. The book needs to be finished first.

Anyway, enough of me wittering on. Here is the next part for you to read and hopefully enjoy. Let me knowwhat you think. xx

Maggie Thornden, Where are you?

Part 6

Gordon sat at the kitchen table in his towelling robe with his elbows on the table and his hands nursing yet another cold cup of coffee. His abandoned bowl of bran flakes slowly turning into a pool of brown sludge had been pushed to one side. His appetite had abandoned him and although his stomach was protesting loudly to be filled, anything he tried to eat just tasted of nothing and felt like mouthfuls of paper that just refused to be swallowed.

Maggie’s text had perplexed him. What did she mean by needing space? Had something happened to warrant this uncharacteristic behaviour? She had seemed her normal self on the day they went to Land’s End and he had racked his brain ever since wondering what on earth had got into Maggie to suddenly take off. She had a nice home, access to their joint account as long as she wasn’t frivolous and she didn’t need to work as his income from his job was enough to allow her to be a “lady of leisure”. There really was nothing so bad in her life that required her to need “space”!

He had absolutely no idea where she would go for a few weeks. He had checked the drawer where they kept their passports. Both were still there. He looked in her wardrobe and drawers and as far as he could tell nothing was missing apart from the clothes she had taken on holiday which were still in the cases on the spare room bed. As far as friends were concerned he had no idea who they were. It dawned on him that Maggie very rarely mentioned any friends. It also dawned on him that he never actually asked her about them. Come to think of it, Maggie didn’t bother to find out anything about his friends at the bowls club either.

It hadn’t occurred to him until now that maybe she was staying at their daughter Susan’s house in Cheltenham. The two of them were often in cahoots and spent hours on the phone discussing baby stuff.

Susan was married to Tom who worked at GCHQ. He was a nice enough man but as his work was very hush, hush there was little that the two of them could talk about. His son in law was often out on a run when they went to visit and Susan would mention something about training for a half marathon. It seemed a bit of a coincidence that he had just left for his run minutes before they arrived. Still, it gave him time to go and examine Tom’s latest decorating project. Susan and Tom had bought a mews cottage in the fashionable Montpelier area of the town. It had been in a bit of a state when they bought it before the twins were born and Tom had decided to do all of the work himself rather than getting tradesmen in. Gordon had been quite willing to help Tom and offer advice but Tom always politely turned it down saying that it wouldn’t be fair to expect Gordon to give up his valuable weekends and spend them up a ladder or with his head under a sink.

Susan and Tom had twin girls, Lottie and Milly. They had not long turned two and both had recently discovered the word “No” and a habit of emptying drawers and pulling the contents out of cupboards. Susan said that they were just being inquisitive and it was good for them to explore their surroundings. Gordon thought it was a very bad idea especially when they visited their house. He had suggested that they buy some sort of pen to contain them which seemed to horrify Maggie and she refused to even consider the idea.

Gordon looked at the clock. It was eight o’clock so not too early to phone his daughter.

It took a long time before Susan picked up. She sounded a bit out of breath and he could hear the wails of one or both, probably both, girls in the background.

“Good morning Susan. Can I please speak to your mother?”

“Hi Dad. What are you talking about? Mum is with you in Cornwall. Is everything alright? Hang on a min whilst I go and put Peppa Pig on the telly.”

Moments later she had returned.

“Right, what’s going on? Where’s Mum?”

“Please don’t play games with me Susan. I know your mother is with you. I need to talk to her. Please put her on the phone right now.”

“Seriously Dad, she isn’t here. I haven’t heard from her since you went on your holiday. Why isn’t she with you? What on earth has happened?”

“Your mother isn’t with me. For some inexplicable reason she got on a bus at Land’s End and I haven’t seen her since.”

“When was that Dad?”

“The day before yesterday.”

“Where are you now?”

“Back home. There was little point in staying.”

“Are you telling me that you’ve left Mum in Cornwall?” Gordon noted a hint of panic in his daughter’s voice.

“Dad, where the hell is Mum?”

“Haven’t the foggiest idea” replied Gordon. He had been convinced that Maggie was sulking at their daughter’s house but she wasn’t there and now he had absolutely no idea where she could be.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake Dad. Stay there, I’m coming over. What on earth have you done?”

And before Gordon could admonish his daughter for her use of bad language she had hung up.

An hour later Gordon and Susan were sitting at the kitchen table whilst the twins sat on the floor engrossed in Little Baby Bum on their tablets. Gordon strongly disapproved of the children having their own hand held devices but on this occasion he was just thankful that the two normally boisterous toddlers were occupied.

Susan ignored the bowl of congealed mush still sitting on the table and the stubble on her father’s normally clean shaven face. She had made two cups of coffee and listened to Gordon’s account of what had happened at Land’s End. He then showed his daughter the text that Maggie had sent him.

“Did you text her back Dad?”

“Didn’t think I needed to. Do you think I should have?”

Susan looked at him exasperated. “Oh for goodness sake Dad. Of course you should have. I can’t believe that you never bothered to find out where she was and more importantly why she needed to get away. How do you think she must be feeling when her own husband can’t be bothered to check if she is ok!”

“Don’t you make out that this is my fault young lady. Your mother just up and left me at bloody Land’s End. Can you imagine what was going through my head when I thought that she had drowned when all along she was sitting on a double decker bus on her way to Penzance! That is the act of a selfish woman. I can tell you now, I’ve never felt so humiliated as having to be told by the police that your wife caught a bus! Why should I talk to her when it’s her decision to turn my life upside down!”

“Aren’t you in the least bit worried Dad? Please tell me you are.”

“Of course I’m worried. What do you take me for? I seriously believed that she was with you.”

“When did you think that?”

“This morning”

“But Mum got on the bus two days ago. I don’t believe you sometimes Dad. I’m not surprised that she’s upped and left you!”

“She hasn’t left me. She says in her text that she’s coming back in a few weeks. She’s obviously menopausal or something. She’ll come to her senses soon!”

Susan slammed her cup down hard on the table. The twins looked up briefly but were soon glued to the screens again whilst Hickory Dickory Dock played for the umpteenth time.

“Don’t you dare play that old menopause card Dad. This has nothing to do with Mum’s hormones. This is all to do with you!”

Susan regretted what she had said the moment the words tumbled out of her mouth.

“What do you mean by that Susan?” her father asked looking puzzled.

“Nothing Dad. I’m just worried. Ignore what I just said”

The two of them sat in silence momentarily.

“What am I going to do?”

It was the first time that Gordon had ever asked his daughter for her advice.

………………………………………………………………………………………

It had taken four busses to get to the small village where Maggie was to spend her first night. She had set out early that morning after checking out of the hotel and pulling her holdall behind her, she took the short walk down the hill to the bus station. According to Dennis she needed to take the number 18 to Truro, then on to Wadebridge and finally to Exeter. Well, that had been the plan but some event must have been happening in the city and finding somewhere to stay on Booking.com was either full or way too expensive. After splashing out on the hotel in Penzance, Maggie knew that she needed to budget wisely for the rest of the trip. Gordon may well deserve to have to discover what it was like to have to cope by himself for a few weeks and maybe in the meantime learn to appreciate his wife, but he didn’t really deserve to discover that their bank account was being drained of funds by expensive stays in hotels. Dennis had spent his first night in a village not far from Cullompton, so Maggie decided that she would head there too.

As luck would have it, Maggie discovered by Google browsing that the village of Winland had a pub with rooms and when she phoned the pub she was told that as long as she didn’t mind a shared bathroom and being woken up at dawn by cockerels in the neighbours garden then she could stay the night for £30. Perfect!

Arriving in the village, Maggie didn’t have to look far for the pub as it was opposite the bus stop. As she stood in front of the run down building with its pub sign hanging off its hinges, all expectations of an idyllic country pub quickly evaporated. The only vehicle parked at the front of the Star Inn was a battered old Land Rover with a faded sticker in the back window supporting country sports.

It was early evening but the bar was empty. The room probably hadn’t been decorated since the seventies. The walls were lined with orange flock wall paper and covered with faded photos of a man in hunting attire surrounded by hounds. All that could be heard was the load ticking of a mantle clock sat on the mantelpiece of a tiled fireplace. The room smelt of stale beer and something musty that Maggie couldn’t work out what it was.

Maggie waited for a moment at the bar hoping that somebody might appear. She was about to call out when she noticed a door bell on the wall with a handwritten note taped with yellowing sticky tape. Please ring bell if the bar is unattended. Maggie rang the bell and waited. She was about to ring the bell again when a portly man with a florid complexion and a halo of white hair like a giant dandelion clock came rushing into the room followed by the biggest dog she had ever seen which made a beeline for Maggie and almost knocked her down as it stood on its hind legs and proceeded to lick her face.

“Down Hero, get down right now and leave the poor lady alone. She doesn’t want you slobbering all over her. Don’t mind her my love, she’s a right old softie really. Aren’t you old girl.Come Hero, bed!.” With that, the dog obeyed her master and slunk off to the dog bed in the corner of the room. Maggie realised that the musty smell was coming from the blanket in the giant dog’s bed. It obviously hadn’t been washed in a very long time. She wished that she had remembered to buy a bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel.

“You must be our guest for tonight. Welcome to the Star Inn. I must warn you that you’ll have to take us as it comes. Your booking came as a bit of a surprise and truth be told I was using our guest room for storage so it’s been a bit of a mad dash getting rid of all the stuff. Don’t worry it’s clean and tidy but it is a bit basic and I must warn you that one of the window panes is missing but I’ve boarded it up with some cardboard.”

Maggie was beginning to dread what state she might find her room for the night. Still beggars couldn’t be choosers and there was nowhere else to go.

“And is your husband joining you? I noticed that there isn’t a car in the car park apart from my heap of junk.”

“No, just me I’m afraid. I came by bus from Exeter.”

“I see. Visiting relatives are we?”

From the look of the landlord’s puzzled face, Maggie could only think that people didn’t choose to stay in The Star on a weekend break. In fact, she had an idea that guests at the pub were few and far between. Maybe with hindsight she should have looked up the reviews on Trip Advisor.

“Do you do food?” Maggie was starving as the only food that she had eaten all day was a cheese and ham sandwich bought at Wadebridge hours ago. She was a bit dubious of the state of the pub’s kitchen and wondered if she would be better off eating crisps and pork scratchings!

“Not as a rule, but you’re in luck tonight. I bagged myself a rabbit earlier and it’s in the pot cooking nicely. As compensation for the room not being up to my usual high standards, supper tonight is on the house! I’ll throw in a slice of Mrs Partridge from the WIs’ apple pie with some lovely Devonshire cream for pud. Shall we say supper at 8?”

Maggie’s heart sank. She could hardly refuse the man’s generosity but the thought of eating a furry little creature that had recently been hopping around a field wasn’t something she was looking forward to.

Maggie followed the landlord as he puffed his way up the rickety staircase to her room.

“As I said, it’s not up to much but the bed’s comfortable enough. The bathroom is down the hall. Just to warn you, the lavatory chain is a bit temperamental. Give it a full yanks and that should do the trick! I’ll leave you to get sorted and see you later. Oops, forgot to say. We do have Wifi!” And with that he huffed and puffed downstairs and left Maggie to take stock of her room for the night.

He wasn’t kidding when he said that it was basic. The bed was covered in a candlewick bedspread, something she hadn’t seen since she was a child. A light switch cord dangled above the bed. Maggie assumed that it was for the light with the wonky fringed shade in the middle of the ceiling. Besides the bed, the only other furniture was a bedside table  and an enormous wardrobe that reminded her of the one her grandmother had that she used to sit in hoping that when she opened the door she would find herself in Narnia. She opened its door only to find the interior stuffed with copies of Horse and Hound.

Looking out of the window with the square of cardboard covering the gap where glass had once been, Maggie couldn’t but fail to be amazed by the glorious view across the valley. It was a beautiful evening and as she had been cooped up inside all day, she decided to go out and explore.

To be continued…..

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