Today I have an extract for Willow Cottage by Bella Osborne. I can only apologise for this being a day late, but I had a date with Gary Barlow, so it's his fault!!
Part one: meeting Jack
Willow Cottage from the back was no prettier than the front. More boarded up windows and more galloping greenery. Beth left Leo, who was frantically waving grass at the horses who were observing him mildly as they chewed their own plentiful grass supply. She stood by the back door; it was a stable door, split in two and sturdy. It was unusual and she liked that. Beth stepped back and took in the old tired building. It was in a state but perhaps it was better inside. She decided she wasn’t going to give up just yet as she felt a sprig of optimism take root.
‘Come on Leo, let’s find somewhere to have a drink. That tearoom looked good and I bet they do a good scone.’
‘Yay, cake,’ said Leo, throwing the grass over the fence and wriggling his way back through the gap at the side of the cottage. Beth followed and was taking Leo’s hand as they reached the Willow when the bush-like branches of the tree parted and an old man stumbled out towards them. His face was red, he was waving his arms and looked rather cross, a little like a baby who had been woken from a nap.
‘Argh!’ shouted Beth as Leo screamed and ran towards the gap in the fence where the gate had once been. Beth ran after Leo and didn’t look back until she had hold of his hand and they were safely on the village green. Leo started to laugh. Fear and adrenalin mixed inside her and, whilst Beth was now frantically looking back towards the Willow tree, she was laughing too.
‘Does he live in our garden?’ giggled Leo.
I really hope not,’ said Beth with feeling.
They were still chuckling as they entered the tearoom. Having not seen many people about the village, the tearoom held the answer – it was packed. There was one small table left near the door that appeared to be where the other customers had deposited used cups and plates. Leo sat down and Beth automatically handed him her mobile phone to play games on. Beth piled up the empties as best she could, creating a bit of a teacup tower and turned with the laden tray to return them to the counter.
As she turned, the door swung open and caught her elbow. As the heavy tray started to tip its load towards her son she countered the effect and promptly deposited the entire cargo over the person entering. The crash was quite spectacular as everything smashed on the floor.
‘Oh, for Christ sake!’ yelled the man who had failed to dodge the impact.
‘I am so sorry,’ said Beth, feeling the prickle of sweat on her chest as a violent flush engulfed her. Leo giggled behind her.
‘Look at the state of me!’ declared the teacup tower victim as dregs of tea and coffee dripped off his otherwise pristine white shirt. Beth surveyed the man who was now trying to kick cake crumbs off his shoes. He was in his mid to late twenties, clean-shaven, his dark hair had a hint of auburn and under neat dark brows were the palest grey-blue eyes she’d ever seen. Right now they were glinting like ice crystals as he grumbled to the fully tuned-in audience who all sat in silence staring at the floor-show.
A big haired woman came bustling from behind the counter wearing a floral waist apron. ‘Oh, Jack, whatever happened?’ she said, attempting to dab at his suit trousers with a sponge.
‘Your new waitress threw a tray at me.’
‘Excuse me, I don’t work here,’ said Beth, feeling her temperature go up a notch with indignation.
‘Then why did you have a tray of crockery?’ asked Jack with a frown.
‘Yes, why?’ added the aproned woman.
‘I was helping, well trying to … ,’ said Beth her voice now a lot smaller than it had been.
Jack huffed, ‘Yeah, great help.’ He shook his head and then watched the aproned woman as she continued to dab at his lower half.
‘Err, Rhonda, that’s not helping.’
Rhonda appeared to be in her own little world for a moment. ‘Oh, um, sorry. Here,’ she offered him the sponge.
‘Could you get me a double espresso to go please and I’ll be back in five minutes when I’ve changed.’ He aimed the last words in Beth’s direction and turned and left.
‘I’ll pay for that and the broken crockery,’ offered Beth.