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Monday, December 7, 2015

that he was just playing for fun. And you’re not even that fun, had been his final insult before I’d stormed out. Why couldn’t I just get over it? And why was I still bloody lost in the middle of nowhere?
Just as I had that thought I rounded the corner of a huge hill that I’d been skirting for some time, so huge I wondered if it was actually a mountain, and ahead of me lay a cluster of buildings. Civilisation! At last! I’d really started to think that I might be about to find myself in some kind of The Hills Have Eyes horror situation – it would certainly have been a fitting ending after the day I’d had! The settlement that that my little car was trundling towards wasn’t exactly a vast metropolis, maybe just about big enough to be considered a village, but all I really cared about in that moment was that I could see lights in the growing darkness. Lights meant people, and warmth, and food! It would also offer me the chance to get out my map and figure out where the hell I was, and how to get to where I was supposed to be going. If I could remember how to use one, that is. I was suddenly aware how reliant I was on technology and GPS to guide my way.
As I drove along the windy little road into the village, I searched for a name sign but to no avail. Surely the place couldn’t be so small it was nameless? It was pretty though, there was no doubting that. For a moment my anger subsided as I took in the quaint stone cottages set against a backdrop of rolling hills silhouetted against the indigo twilight sky. I passed a spattering of cozy looking homes, a church, a general shop, and a pub. The Moon and Stars looked extremely inviting, not just because of the blackboard outside declaring home cooked winter warmers. I sighed with relief when I noted another sign declaring that there were rooms available for the night. Phew! I would at least be able to hole up here for the night rather than getting myself even more lost in the dark wilderness, and make a fresh start in the morning light after figuring out my whereabouts. I had the number of the guy who’d rented me the cottage, I would just call and let him know to expect me in the morning instead.
I pulled my little car into the small parking area at the front, grabbed my handbag, and climbed out, stretching my aching limbs gratefully after the long drive. The cold hit me immediately. Sure, it had been cold in London, but it felt at least ten degrees colder here, and it was a biting, raw kind of cold. I wrapped my coat around me tighter and hurried towards the front door, noting that there were only a couple of other cars parked outside.
The pub was just as inviting inside as its exterior had suggested. Traditional but not over-the-top pub décor that managed to look quite fresh and vibrant. Cozy booths lined the edges and mahogany tables were scattered in the main area of the room, just a few of which were occupied. The bar, currently being propped up by a couple of farmer looking types, was straight ahead of me, but the absolute best thing was huge the roaring open fire to the right of the room. I could feel the heat hit me as soon as I entered the room, and was delighted to realise that the table right by the fire was free.
First things first, I needed to book myself a room and order food. I headed to the bar, and a pleasant looking woman in her sixties appeared from the back room as if by magic.
“Hello love, what can I get you?” She asked, her rosy cheeks shining as she smiled.
“Actually I was wondering if you had a room free for the night?” I smiled back. Her face registered surprise for a second, as if she wasn’t used to strangers walking an off the street and asking for a room. Then again, she probably wasn’t.
“Why yes of course duck, no problem at all. You’re very welcome, just the one night?”
“Yes just tonight thanks, I’ve rented a cottage for the week, but it’s a little late now so I’ll finish my journey in the morning.”
“Oh lovely, a holiday is it?”
“Yes, kind of… a writing retreat actually, I’m an author, well, I will be very soon.” I almost blushed as I said the words, but as Jenny kept telling me, I had to own it if I was going to ever make it my reality instead of just a far off dream. Mary’s eyes lit up.
“Well well well, an author under our very own roof! What are you writing? I love a good mystery myself.” You’d think I’d announced myself as royalty the way she reacted, and I had to admit it did feel quite nice. I was starting to thaw out – both on the outside and the inside. She turned to the open doorway behind her before I could answer her question and shouted “Helen, go and prepare room 1 for our guest please,” before turning back to me. “The room will be ready for you in no time dear. My name’s Mary, anything at all you need you just ask. Can I get you a drink? Do you have some bags you’d like taken up?”
“Oh that’s ok, I left my bag in the car, I’ll go and get it in a bit. I was actually hoping to get something to eat first. I’m kind of starving.”
“Well then, let’s get you a menu and we can get you all fed up.”
I ordered lentil soup with crusty homemade bread and a bowl of sweet potato chips on the side. Well, I was hungry! Then I decided to have a glass of white wine to go with it. Well, I wasn’t going to be driving again tonight and after the day I’d had, I deserved it. While waiting for Mary, who’d got caught up in a debate with the two men to my left about whether someone called Annie was going to labour tonight, I pulled my phone out of my bag and turned it on to check for messages. Okay, okay, to check for messages from Greg.
I was diligent about keeping my phone turned off while driving – I’d seen one too many devastating videos on Facebook and the news about horrific accidents caused by the distraction of a text message or notification. It just wasn’t worth the risk. A message pinged in once my phone had fired up and found a signal. It wasn’t from Greg, I noted with a sinking heart. It was from Jenny, asking me to let her know if I’d arrived safely, she was concerned that she hadn’t heard from me. Honestly, I was twenty five years old – did she not think I was capable of finding my way across the country on my own? I disregarded the fact that I evidently couldn’t find my way across the country on my own and that she was probably very justified in her concern. I would reply once I was sitting down by the fire. First I wanted to speak to Greg.
I’d managed to push him out of my mind for the last half hour, barely keeping thoughts of panic at bay, but now I was here I had to speak to him, I had to be sure. If there was a chance of him changing his mind, I wanted to take it. I moved to the farthest edge of the bar, away from where Mary and the farmers were still discussing Annie, who I’d figured out was probably an animal of some sort, and not a someone after all). Their voices were loud, and the other few groups of people at tables were all engrossed in their own loud conversations – maybe being loud was a Derbyshire thing? Added to that the music playing in the background, I didn’t think my pathetic begging would be overheard.
Finding him in my contacts, I clicked connect, and waited with a pounding heart.
“Hey Prim, what’s up?” He answered. I was too stunned to speak for a second, and I realised that after the way we’d left things, I hadn’t expected him to answer at all, let alone so casually. Maybe the fight hadn’t been as bad as I’d thought. Or maybe he hadn’t meant the things he’d said, just like I’d convinced myself in the car. A glimmer of hope sparked inside me.
“Hey Greg. So I arrived at the place. I just wanted to let you know. I’m just grabbing some dinner in a cute little pub.” See, I can be independent, I’m not scared of being alone was the implication under my words.
“That’s great Prim. Listen, I’ve got to go, I was on my way out. Enjoy yourself.”

to be continued....