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Country Living Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

Their destination came into view as they reached the top of the narrow lane. Peri sighed in contentment. Moving-in day had finally come; the converted shepherd’s croft was her dream cottage. Life might begin at forty for some, but Peri’s new life was starting at sixty.

 

Glancing at her wife, Peri could see no signs of enthusiasm as Karla parked the Range Rover near the front door. Perhaps she was just tired from the long drive. Not surprising with their early start.

 

They’d set off from their home in Putney at daybreak. At least the four-and-a-half-hour drive from South London to this part of West Yorkshire had been fairly stress free at that time of day. They only made one brief stop at a service station near Nottingham.

 

Karla’s silence had seemed to deepen the closer they got to the cottage. Maybe I should have taken up Dana’s offer to make the journey with me. There would have been no shortage of conversation with her best friend. Although Peri was looking forward to the move, she knew she would miss the weekly coffee sessions when they would meet up to put the world to rights.

 

Peri climbed out of the car and gave her legs a shake, stiff from sitting so long. She found the key lock case by the kitchen window and gained access with the code she’d been sent on completion of the sale. Taking out the key, she used it to open the front door. With only a quick glance at the kitchen, Peri moved through to the living room that opened onto a patio.

 

A stunning view across a tree-lined valley gave no hint of the busy road below. Peri threw open the patio doors and took in a deep breath of fresh air.

 

“Isn’t it just simply gorgeous, K?”

 

Karla grunted as she dropped two large suitcases by the sofa. “Yeah. Nice. Grab a box. Let’s get everything in before the rain starts again.”

 

Emptying the boot of the Range Rover didn’t take long. The large vehicle looked out of place on city streets but would be perfect when Karla finally joined her at the cottage. Six months wasn’t too long to wait for her wife to finish the various projects she was working on. Then they could start this new phase of their life together.

 

The rain started again, as predicted, just as Karla carried the last box inside.

 

“The water’s running okay. I’ll put the kettle on when I find it,” Peri called out from the kitchen.

 

Karla leaned against the doorway and brushed a strand of her long dark hair away from her face. “I won’t stay for coffee. I’ll just use the loo and head back.”

 

“Seriously, K? You need a rest after that drive.”

 

Finding the kettle was easy. She’d labelled the boxes herself and made sure one with the kitchen supplies was the first box carried into the cottage. Karla relented when Peri handed her a mug after she emerged from the bathroom.

 

Peri led the way into the living room and stood by the patio doors again. “Look, a rainbow.” The rain had stopped, and the brightly coloured arch spanned the gap between the valley tops.

 

Karla stood next to her, gulping her coffee. “Mm. Nice.”

 

Not sure whether her wife meant the view or the drink, Peri wrapped her arm around Karla’s waist. “It’s a sign. We’re going to be so happy here.”

 

Anything Karla might have added was cut off by her phone’s ringtone. “That’ll be Aldo. I’d better take it.” She pulled the device out of her back pocket in one swift move and walked back into the kitchen.

 

It wasn’t unusual for Karla’s boss to call her on a Sunday. As a senior manager with the international IT company, when Aldo Templeton called, Karla responded. Peri was used to the lack of set working hours and days, but she would be glad when they could both be settled in the country.

 

“I really have to go now. You’ll be okay with all this, won’t you?” Karla returned from the kitchen and waved her hands in the direction of the boxes piled up in front of the fireplace.

 

“Of course.” Peri reached up and stroked her face. “Drive carefully and call me when you get home.”

 

“I always drive carefully.”

 

“Says she with six points on her licence.”

 

“They come off next April, so I’ll be fine.”

 

After extracting a promise that Karla would stop at a service station before she got too tired, Peri waved her off and went back inside to survey her new domain.

 

The furniture left by the owners was adequate for her needs. The sofa and accompanying armchair both looked a bit lumpy, but they would do until Karla was ready to move. Then they’d sell the London house and furnish the cottage properly. Peri looked forward to having her favourite recliner there.

 

With another mug of coffee in hand, she wandered over to the patio doors to check out the state of the garden. Even through the rain sheeting across the valley, she could visualise the potential. In preparation for the change in her lifestyle, Peri had taken a practical gardening course over the winter months and stocked up on back issues of Homes and Gardens.

 

Giving herself a mental shake, Peri put her mug down on the window ledge and gazed back into the room. What to do first? Kitchen, bedroom, set up laptop. If only Karla could have stayed to give her a hand. Peri had known in advance that wouldn’t happen. She would have to settle for Karla’s weekend visits for the near future.

 

Best to get connected to the world. Peri had marked out the alcove at the side of the fireplace for her work area. There was a handy telephone point and convenient sockets. Amazingly, everything worked at the first attempt. The strength of the signal was as advertised and would make her plan of working from the cottage entirely feasible. Smiling at the success of the installation, she picked up her phone and sent Karla a message to let her know.

 

There was a text from her best friend, Dana, checking to see if they’d made it. Peri sent her a smiley emoji. Seconds later, her phone rang with Dana’s face lighting up the screen.

 

“So, all good?”

 

“You bet. It’s raining at the moment, but I know it’s going to be fantastic.”

 

“Is Karla helping you settle in?”

 

“No, she had to go straight back.”

 

“Shit. I should have come with you. Will you be okay on your own?”

 

“Of course. I’ve got loads to do to make it shipshape.”

 

“I can’t believe she didn’t stay at least for your first night.”

 

“Honestly, it’s not a problem. This place has a great vibe. I’ll be fine.”

 

“Well, you certainly picked the right part of the country to settle in. Hebden Bridge is touted as the lesbian capital of the north.”

 

“The cottage is a few miles down the road in Heron Ridge. Probably easily confused. Anyway, not really relevant, as I’m not looking for anyone else. I’m happy with my wife. And I’ll miss her like crazy during the week.”

 

“You’ll need to get to know some folks, though. Let us know when you’re ready to receive visitors, and we’ll plan a weekend of debauchery in lesbo heaven.”

 

“How will Sharon feel about that? I thought you two were still in the passionate throes of new-relationship love.”

 

“Call it the seven-month itch. Just kidding. We are still in that whatever you just said.”

 

“Hey, you’re the writer. I’m sure you can come up with a better name for it.”

 

Finishing the call with a burst of shared laughter, Peri felt energised enough to tackle the bedroom. Once she’d made up the bed and put her clothes away in the wardrobe, she knew it was all going to work out as planned. Karla was so often away at conferences or on business trips that Peri was used to nights alone. In Heron Ridge, she would have the benefit of beautiful scenery and the delights of nature on her doorstep.

 

Karla’s text arrived just as she was sitting down for a break.

 

Home and working on a report for Aldo.

 

She’d try and call her after her meetings on Monday. Peri knew that might not happen. Once Karla got caught up in her work, days went by before she communicated.

 

Karla’s job with ADIT gave them the lifestyle they enjoyed. The mortgage on the house in London was paid off, and the cottage was paid for too. No mortgages to worry about, only the council taxes covered from their joint bank account.

 

Karla enjoyed her work, and Peri did worry whether or not living in the country would suit her wife. They hadn’t really discussed the change in depth. Karla just said she was happy for Peri to follow her dream. Perhaps, like Peri, she would be able to continue working online. Or maybe Aldo would agree to setting up a satellite office in Manchester or Leeds. That could be a solution.

 

The rain had stopped again, and it looked like it was going to turn into a fine evening. Deciding to give her lungs an airing, Peri stepped outside to survey the garden more closely. The previous owners had put in some flowering shrubs by the wall, separating her property from the farmer’s field. She would leave them in, as long as they didn’t grow too much and obstruct her view.

 

There was plenty of room around the side of the house for a vegetable patch. The sun would reach there during the day. The best site for the chicken run was something she might need advice on. Once she was settled in, she would walk up the hill and introduce herself to the farmer. Hopefully, he would be a friendly native. Peri had heard stories about locals not being too accepting of townies whose arrival pushed prices up out of reach of local, first-time buyers. Once they knew she was staying, not just a weekender, that would surely go some way to upgrading her newcomer status.

 

In bed by nine thirty, hours earlier than her normal time, Peri read for a while before turning out the light. As she snuggled under the duvet, she thought how her routines would change. Early to bed, early to rise. Perhaps she would be woken by the sound of a rooster crowing. She thought of Karla, probably stretched out on the sofa with a glass of Chablis within reach. Peri hoped she’d remembered to eat. She had left a serving of casserole in the fridge to defrost that morning. Instructions for heating were on the counter by the oven. Would Karla even know how to turn it on? She might decide it was too much effort and just order a takeaway.

 

Peri smiled to herself in the fading light of the strange bedroom and closed her eyes. Sleep overtook her before she had time to make any plans for the morning.

 

 

Karla hummed to herself as she removed the small case from the back of the bedroom cupboard. With all the packing up of the last few days, Peri hadn’t noticed Karla’s preparations.

 

Placing the case on the bed, she unzipped it and threw back the lid. Only a few more personal items to add. For the fifth time, she checked the contents of her small backpack. Passport, euros, phone charger. “No need to bring any toiletries,” Syd said. The villa had everything they would need. Sun and sea for ten days. And sex.

 

Too keyed up to sleep, Karla went into the kitchen and poured herself another glass of wine. She’d binned the casserole in favour of a sushi takeaway. She plopped back on the sofa and started trawling through her Facebook timeline. The thought of Peri mouldering away in the wind and rain-swept cottage in Yorkshire flitted by and disappeared. Peri had her dream, time to start living her own.

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