Racing for Love Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Reception was filled with people who’d come to say goodbye to the longest serving member of the Golden Ice cream empire, Barney Smith.
“Best of luck, mate,” Nathan shook Barney’s translucent, brown spotted hand, and gave him a friendly pat on the back.

Chapter 7
Reception was filled with people who’d come to say goodbye to the longest serving member of the Golden Ice cream empire, Barney Smith.
“Best of luck, mate,” Nathan shook Barney’s translucent, brown spotted hand, and gave him a friendly pat on the back.
“You too, son,” said Barney, his voice cracking. “Forty years I’ve worked for this company, the Golden’s are my second family,” he wiped his face.
“I understand how hard this must be,” said Nathan sympathetically. Barney inhaled deeply and composed himself.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Time to enjoy the rest of my life – what’s left of it.”
“You’ll have a smashing time. If you need anything just call us,” he shook his hand again, then walked him to reception where everyone had gathered to say goodbye to him.
“Good luck Barney,” came the repeated well-wishers. “We’ll miss you.” Several people gave him gifts, kisses and hugs. Their looks of pity hadn’t gone unnoticed by Barney, everyone knew the real reason was he was being let go: Nathan Harnes had decided he was too old to fit into his youthful company. Except it wasn’t his company, it was Harriets.
“I am not putting up with this!” raged Barney’s wife the previous night. “I’m going to speak to Harriet, how dare she say that! You’re like a father to her.”
“I know,” he smiled, gently placing his hand on top of hers. “But perhaps it’s for the best, I’m tired now, I want to enjoy the rest of my life with you, perhaps this can be a new start for us. Plus we’ve always loved Scotland.”
“What are you suggesting?” She stared at him quizzically.
“I’m suggesting we move to Ayrshire, closer to your sister, we’ve always loved our holidays there.”
“But Scotland is such a big move, dear. I’m not sure.”
“It could be good for us dear, just think about it, no pressure.”
“At least speak to Harriet, she’s got no right saying such dreadful things about you,” she frowned.
“Joan, we’ve known Harriet all her life, those were the words of that awful Nathan Harnes, I could never understand why she left him in charge of her company. Anyway, let’s open a bottle of wine to celebrate.”
“What exactly?”
“New beginnings,” he grinned.
*
“Thank you,” Barney choked and turned to Nathan, “I can’t believe this is it.” Tears pricked his eyes. “Are you sure Harriet said I had become incompetent?” Nathan nodded, swiped his card and opened the main door. 
“I knew Harriet even before her mother started to show, she’s always been like a daughter to me. I’m devastated.”
“I’m so sorry. Um.”
“Yes, of course, sorry, I’m holding you up.” He turned around and looked everyone’s sad faces.
“Thank you everyone,” he whispered, and left.
“Right you know what to do,” yelled Nathan, and the three hundred employees went back to work.
Nathan had arranged for a spread in the boardroom, with a select invites sent to Frieda, Belinda and Mr quiet – Timothy. 
“Thank fuck he’s gone,” said Nathan, popping the cork. He adopted an old man’s voice “I remember when…blah blah.”
“Harriet’s not going to like this, she dotes on that old man like he were her father.” Said Belinda.
“She’ll get over it,” he smiled, and offered to pour champagne in her glass, then filled everyone else’s. “At least there won’t be anymore boring stories of the little Welsh ice cream shop that turned into the factory.”
“Aww, I liked those stories,” smiled Frieda. “What do you think, Timothy?” He smiled, but didn’t reply. Frieda was the only one who tried to make conversation with him. Everyone else had given up.
Nathan tapped his glass, bringing everyone’s attention to him. 
“I just want to say you’re all amazing. Join me in a toast to new beginnings!” 
“To new beginnings!” They all echoed.

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Chloe Richards

Chloe Richards is a former stripper turned Christian. Her long term volatile partner Rick Hargreaves sponges off her, however she believes her prayers will change him, so when he proposes she is thrilled. As the weeks pass, Rick still hasn’t bought her a ring, and is more concerned with his film project “The World we Forgot.” and spending time with his friends.

Chloe has a Sunday face, but spends most of her Christian walk in isolation, always opting to sit at the back of the church, and escape as soon as the service ends, she regularly feels uncomfortable with people trying to befriend her. However when the Pastor preaches on “Do not be unequally yoked.” She starts questioning how healthy her relationship is with Rick and wonders how true his sob stories are.

Faced with eviction, Chloe has to decide whether to confide in Rick or secretly work for Silver Belles and pay off their debts.

After doing a “one off job” she soon realises their financial problems will return, so she begins her secret life as a Silver Belle, and develops an infatuation for the club owner, Alex Forster, who takes advantage of her.

With the help of her brother Matthew and best friend Lucy, she turns her life around.

Racing for Love Chapter 6

Chapter 6
Lucky’s agency had put Frieda on hold, so he impatiently drummed her desk with her manicured nails. Belinda strolled in with two coffees and a bag of doughnuts. 
“Any luck?”
“Nope,” replied Frieda, then muffled the phone to her chest, just in case they answered it at that moment. “Do you think that’s her real name?”
“Her real prozzie name,” snarled Belinda. Frieda snorted a laugh.
“Hello?” Said a nasal voice into her chest. 
“Hello, my name’s Frieda Elliot, I’m calling on behalf of Golden Ice-creams, I’m sure you’ve heard of us?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Is your client Lucky Belle?” She burst out laughing. “Sorry about that.”
“I should think so.”
“Is your client available?”
“For the right price.”
“I bet,” Frieda mouthed to Belinda, who coughed away her laughter. “Okay, I won’t keep you long, it’s basically a million pound contract to advertise our new ice-cream.”
“We’ll think about it and get back to you.”
“Okay, well can you do that by one pm today, as we have several other models lined up, but Miss Golden wanted Lucky, for some reason.”
“The CEO of Golden Ice-creams requested my Lucky Belle?” He clasped his hands to his heart.
“Er, yeah.”
“Then she accepts! When do you need her?”
“Saturday please.”
“Consider it done.” He ended the call. 
“So?” Asked Belinda, offering her a doughnut. 
“We’ve got ourselves a dairy cow.”
“Nice,” she replied, taking a bite out of her doughnut. “I hope she isn’t a bitch.”
“She probably will be.”
“Give her a chance, you two,” said Nathan. “She’s probably lovely.”
“I’m sure you’d like to find out, would you?” Smiled Belinda, leaning into him, but he moved away.
“I’ve told you many times, I’m seeing someone.”
“Yeah, your mystery woman?” said Frieda, now also sitting on his desk. “Come on Nathan, you can tell us,” she leaned closer and whispered, “she doesn’t exist does she?”
“Oh she does, she just requires a pump and double A batteries.” Cackled Belinda. 
“Whatever,” he rolled his eyes, and turned back to the spreadsheet on his desktop. The women got off his desk, returned to their own ones, and exchanged jokes about Lucky Belle. Their voices disappeared into the background as Nathan thought about Harriet and wondered how long was he supposed to keep their romance a secret? He liked the idea at first, secret kisses and touches in the workplace, but now their secrecy felt as though they were doing something wrong. It felt as though she was ashamed of him, and he didn’t like that at all.

It was now ten past seven and people were becoming restless, Liam knew he couldn’t stall the meeting any further, so he began with a recap of the damage caused by the storm.
“Now does anyone have any fundraising suggestions?” he asked hopefully, glancing around the room. Nervously, two little arms went up. “Yes.” He smiled at the young brothers.
“We could do a sponsored silence.” Without them noticing, their mother rolled her eyes. Liam muffled the urge to laugh. They were the chattiest children in Sunday school. They wouldn’t last a minute. 
“That sounds like a wonderful idea, thank you.” 
“Eh?” Mouthed their mother, Tina. But Liam continued the meeting.
“Anyone else?”
“Well, we could do another jumble sale?” Suggested Deirdre. A few people groaned. 
“We had one three months ago.”
“Then it’s time for another, isn’t it?” she snapped back. 
“Well, I’ve got nothing to give,” grumbled the farmer. “The storm took everything from me.”
“Except your big mouth,” Deirdre nudged him in the side. Liam was so distracted by trying to dissolve the disagreement between the two that he didn’t notice when Harriet slipped in and sat at the back. 
“Now, can we get back to business?” sighed Liam defeatedly. “Does anyone else have any ideas, good or bad?”
“We could have a sponsored bike race?” Called Harriet. Liam brightened when he saw her. He wanted to greet her with a hug, however he restrained himself from thinking so absurdly. What possible reason did he have to touch her? He bit his lip. What on earth was wrong with him? 
He started to speak, but was interrupted by farmer Bruce sharply turning around to face her.
“Or you could just donate it, couldn’t you?” He grumbled.
“That’s enough,” scolded Liam. “Harriet that’s a wonderful idea.” He looked around the room to see folded arms and grouchy faces. “So who’s interested in signing up?” A few people scoffed. 
“She’s rich enough to pay for the whole village.”
“I am, but what should I?” 
“Because that’s the least you could do,” said Garth. “When your father left, so many of us lost jobs, including me, and I haven’t been able to work since.”
“For crying out loud, that was 20 years ago.” 
“And I remember it like it was yesterday,” he seethed. “And now you think you can just move back here like nothing happened?”
“My father gave all his employees opportunity to work in Birmingham.”
“How gracious of him.”
“And many took him up on his offer,” she snapped.
“Have a vote, all in favour of a sponsored bicycle race, raise your hand.” Smiled Liam nervously, hoping his influence as a pastor would change the atmosphere. He waited for a few seconds, then repeated himself. 
Harriet stood up, “It’s quite alright pastor, I’m sure someone will have a better suggestion than me.” 
“Yeah I do,” said Farmer Bruce. “You could spare two grand, couldn’t you?”
“I’m going to go now,” she said to Liam. “My presence is only antagonising certain people.”
“Thank you for attending.Will you be in church on Sunday?”
“Not this week.” She noticed Patsy and Deirdre smirking at her. What on earth had she done to make them dislike her so much? She decided she didn’t care enough to find out. 

Summary of Life Changing Magic of not giving an F by Sarah knight.

I was recently asked in a group I belong to, to summarise this book, so thought I’d share it here too.

Disclaimer: The F bomb is dropped repeatedly throughout the book, however for the sake of Lifebook notes, I will simply write F.

At first the title of this book appears selfish, even narcissistic, after all we have all been conditioned by family, schools, religion and society at large to give an F about everything, from climate change to your Facebook friend’s new start up. Congratulations you’re the second person to buy their over-priced mascara.
The opening line of the audiobook, “How to stop spending time you don’t have, with people you don’t like, doing things you don’t want to do.” Is pure gold, and Amen worthy. At first Sarah’s words made me giggle, then as my day progressed I reflected on these words, where was I giving away my valuable time by choosing to give an F?
Giving an F is a choice, if someone disagrees with your religious or political beliefs, you can argue, or gently attempt to convert, or simply not give an F, and be grateful that you live in a country where your views aren’t subject to life or death, only a bruised ego.
The title of this book is strikingly similar to Marie Kondo’s title, and whilst Miss Kondo help us to deal with our physical clutter, Sarah Knight helps us to deal with our mental and emotional clutter.
“With all the job quitting and sock tidying, I found myself in a life changing – mood. I felt more peaceful…It was the freedom I felt from leaving a job that I wasn’t happy in and being able to add people and things..that truly ‘sparked joy’.” Sarah Knight.

So who gives an F?
If you are a perfectionist, needy person, nice person, or an evangelist, you have way too many Fs to give out. “I was a born F giver, maybe you are too.” Sarah Knight.
The ‘Perfectionist.’
We all know families where ‘perfectionism’ apparently runs in the genes, like eye colour, as though we have no choice. However, just because your mum gave an F about which way coat hangers face, doesn’t mean you have to, does it?
The ‘Nice person.’
Nice people finish last…’ because ‘nice people’…’ have too many Fs to dish out (to everybody). In the following quote, Sarah points out something that plagues many ‘nice’ people
“I tackled numerous projects…in order to prove myself worthy of respect and admiration.” In the past I have been guilty of saying, ‘yes’ to things far too quickly. She continues, “I ate things I did not like (want) in order to appear gracious.” It’s easy to sabotage diet plans when your aunt brings out the tin of biscuits.
The ‘needy person’
Their life’s are full of Fs, and they expect everyone in contact with them to give an F as well (like we haven’t got our own problems.) This isn’t to say you shouldn’t help others, but with ‘needy people’ their demand on your time, energy and money (the trinity of F giving) is totally out of proportion, and rarely reciprocated.
‘The Evangelist.’ This individual has way too many Fs on their hands, therefore feeling the need to share them out.

So who doesn’t give an F?
1: Children – they haven’t been conditioned yet.
2: A-holes – The world revolves around them. They happily cut into traffic; break wind as they pass you; or shove their religious ideologies down your throat.
3: The Enlightened. These people prioritise their Fs, and understand their list is unique to themselves. They won’t argue if your list is different, because they know it will be.

Obviously we can’t reverse time and become children again, and it’s best to avoid the second category. So that leaves the enlightened. Is this actually a book about enlightenment? Surprisingly, yes.

The Not Sorry Method.
Is a two step process
1: Decide what you no longer give an F about.
2: Stop giving an F about that thing.
(Write a list)
My list includes Eastenders, Golf and algebra.
Everyone’s list will be different.
At first dropping so many Fs will create a void in your life, but it’s actually creating space for the Fs that matter – like going to the gym three times a week, getting that massage, or enjoying your child’s piano recital without the need to upload instantly to Facebook.

Budget your Fs (Time,energy and money)
Case study: Geoff.
According to Sarah, Geoff was well-liked and sociable, but he reserved his Fs for things that mattered to him, like spending time with his children or watching Jeopardy. He didn’t show up for your 16th 5K race, but that was fine. Giving away your Fs will cost you time, energy and sometimes money.

Money.
Your friend is selling home made peanut butter at $20 a jar, you don’t give an F about peanut butter, but you do care about your friend’s feelings, so you buy a jar (that’ll probably end in the bin.) But if you paused and gave it some thought, that $20 could’ve gone towards the snowboard you’re saving up for; towards a meal out; or even towards an online tarot reader (your money, your choice.)

Now create your give an F list.
Mine includes 1: Health 2:My children 3: Friends 4:Money 5:Macbook

The Death Bed List
They’re all over the internet, typically done by ‘centenarians’ to anyone younger than themselves. Many of us think, we’ve got decades left, however we all know that death is no respecter of age. Thinking in terms of I could die tomorrow sounds morbid, but this mindset which will free you from “spending time you don’t have, with people you don’t like, doing things you don’t want to do.”

According to the Internet there are 5 things you should probably give an F about (in no particular order.)
1: Travel
2: Health
3: Learning another language.
4: Planning for retirement.
5:Fun.

In closing, “Everyone’s path to enlightenment is paved by a unique combination of Fs given and not given. And that one person’s joy (all night raves) could be another person’s annoy.”
Sometimes your F list will change over time or adapt to a situation, you might not give an F about karaoke, but if you’re merry enough and the atmosphere is right, then you might belt out an off key tune to make your friend’s laugh.

Special mention
The Haters.
Sarah warns us to be prepared,“These people are baffled or grievously offended by your decisions.” For whatever reason, they cannot accept not sorry into their lives, and therefore expect you to explain your decisions, just so they can disapprove of them, but don’t feel the need to pander to their narrow-mindedness (tell them to F off!)

The life changing magic of not giving an F has the potential to set us free from wasted Fs, and turn our attention to the Fs that actually matter, therefore helping us to live our best lives.

Summarised by Annmarie Chanel Harrison

Racing for Love Chapter 5

Chapter 5
When Nathan turned the key into the ignition, he casually asked her if she would like a quick drive to Birmingham.
“Why?” She asked amusement. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
“No reason,” he muttered.
“Well, if you haven’t got a valid reason for me to traipse all that way, then can I suggest we go home?”
“You mean your home?”
“Okay, my home.” She huffed. She knew he was still angry with her for moving, but being an only child to a successful businessman had taught her to put herself first at all costs, and if Nathan had a problem with that he could easily be replaced, something which she often reminded him of.
“Home sweet home,” he smiled, giving her a peck on the cheek. 
“Aren’t you coming in?” She softly asked.
“Time is getting on, and I don’t want to be stuck in traffic.”
“So you can’t even spare five minutes?” she frowned. Understanding the frustrated look on her face, he quickly unclipped his seat belt and said he could spare ten. 
*
“I wish you would drop this hard nose, don’t give a shit about anyone attitude,” sighed Nathan sitting up in bed. “I know you love me.” 
“You wish!” She snorted. “I’m not changing for anyone,” she grinned, pulling the duvet over herself. “I’ve missed you.”
“Same here,” he smiled sympathetically. “I better be going… traffic.”
“You’re not serious?” 
“Oh, come on, Hatty? We’ve always done things this way, just because you’ve moved to the countryside, we’re not suddenly going to play ‘happy families’, are we?”
“No, but you’ve come all this way?” He interrupted her with a kiss. 
“And I’ve had a lovely time. The hills were alive…” he burst into operatic song until she threw a pillow at him and giggled. 
“Now this is the woman I like so much.”
“Just like?” she teased, masking her wounded feelings. 
“Naturally,” he winked. “I’ll see myself out.” He finished buttoning his shirt, kissed her and left. She laid back on the bed, contemplating whether to just let him go without causing a fuss, or to run down the stairs and throw herself into his arms. She raised her eyes. The very idea was ridiculous. But as she heard his engine rev, she dashed over to her window, in time to see him drive away. 
On Sunday, she sat in the garden listening to the church bells. It had been four days since Nathan’s visit, and he hadn’t contacted her. She knew his emotional distance was his way of tempting her back to Birmingham. After all, if no one spoke to her, she would be driven barmy by loneliness and therefore would have to return to her old life. She sipped her raspberry iced tea. Loneliness wasn’t going to drive her barmy, but rocketing blood pressure, and a heart attack scare, most certainly would. 
Her doctor diagnosed her with chronic anxiety. She laughed. 
“Me? Anxious? What about?”
“You have more on your plate than a lot of people. You need to rest, otherwise next time it might not be a false alarm.”
“Are you saying I could have a heart attack, for real?” she gasped. He nodded. 
“Fuck! I’m only 27.”
“Doesn’t matter. Stress is stress. I need to see you in two weeks.” He handed her prescription. She twiddled it in her fingers.
“Could you recommend anything else? I mean, what would you do?”
“Personally Miss Golden, I would get as much fresh air and rest as possible.” He stood. “Remember to call and book your appointment. I’ll see myself out.” She nodded, as the doctor left her apartment.
She opened her eyes, ignoring the sting inside them. The bells were still ringing. 
Patsy and Deirdre made their way to the front aisle and sat down. Soon the church was filled with the residents of Clolwybaneangho, and Pastor Jimbo eased himself out of his chair, and with the aid of his ornate cane ascended the two steps to the stage and slowly thudded to the podium. 
“I’ll be glad when Pastor Liam finally takes over,” whispered Deirdre.
“Ssh,” said Patsy, noticing a few people staring at them. When they turned their attention back to their pastor, she replied,
“Definitely.”
“Now it is not for us to question the will of God, but I do sympathise with all the hurt and disappointment this storm has caused all of you. However, we must take a lesson from Noah…”
“It was hardly in the same league as Noah’s flood,” grumbled farmer Bruce. Although no one replied, they all agreed with him. He stood up, squeezed past a few knees and went outside for a cigarette. 
When Pastor Jimbo finished opening the service, the worship team went to their instruments and led the church through praise and worship. 
“No sign of our newest resident?” asked Pastor Jimbo, and Liam glanced around. 
“Doesn’t look like it.” When the song finished, Liam took the microphone and read out the announcements. 
“As suggested by someone, I have contacted the insurance company about the damage, and naturally they don’t make things easy for us.”
“Pray about it,” insisted Patsy, folding her arms sternly.
“I am,” he said with grit in his voice. “But in the meantime, I am planning to host a meeting in the church hall on Tuesday at 7pm. Everyone is welcome, so spread the word. Come with good ideas and open minds of how we can raise the money to repair the church.”
“Some of us could solve this problem with a blink of their eye,” sneered Deirdre.
“You mean with a bank transfer,” replied Patsy. Deirdre nodded furiously. 
“The good Lord reminds us to not covert thy neighbours ox, does he not?” frowned Liam with a precarious smile. He finished reading the rest of the notices, then took his seat for Pastor Jimbo to deliver the sermon. 
Harriet Golden could solve their problems, everyone’s problems. Liam rebuked himself. It appeared he was also coveting someone else’s ox. 
As Liam drove towards Harriet’s cottage, he fully intended to go straight past, down the hill, round the bend, up the hill, round another bend, drive another two miles and park inside his gated gravel driveway. But he felt compelled to stop and see if she was in. He wasn’t going to bother her, as he realised she preferred her own company. This level of solitude was alien to him, but he respected that God had created a variety of people. 
“Hello,” she said croakily, then coughed to clear her throat. Did not speaking to anyone for days on end dry your throat that much? “Is there something you want?”
“No, I just wanted to see how you are.”
“I’m fine,” she went to close the door, but he put his foot in the way. She stared at him with amusement. He quickly removed his foot and apologised.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“It’s just that no one has seen you around for a while now, not even at the shops?”
“I’m realising why my mother wanted to leave, this place sure is nosy.”
“No, it isn’t, we just care about you.”
“Care about my money, don’t you mean?”  She let out a huge sigh, then said “Would you like to come inside? But no preaching, I don’t fancy being saved today.” He stepped over the threshold and followed her into the kitchen. 
“You have a beautiful home.”
“Thank you,” she smiled warmly, thinking how Nathan pretended to like it, only to criticise it moments later.
“It’s a perfect family home.” He said. She turned sharply. “Sorry.”
“I’m not as alone as you think I am. I have a partner.” She sat opposite Liam and wondered if she should bestow such an important title on Nathan. A man who often forgot to return her calls, a man who had visited her once since she had moved into her new home.
“Well, that is wonderful,” he beamed over enthusiastically, and wondered why his tone came out so charged. 
“Would you like lunch? It’s nothing special, just salad,” she offered. 
“Sounds lovely.” As she chopped the cucumber and diced the carrots, he mentioned their lack of luck with the insurance company. “So basically, we’re looking for other ways to raise funds.” She turned around and raised her eyes. “Oh no! I didn’t come here to ask for your help, but if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.”
“I’ll think about it,” she said, turning back to the chopping board. “How about a sponsored bike race?”
“Wow, that sounds interesting,” he said, hiding the fact he hoped her ice-cream company would’ve made an anonymous donation to the storm fund. “Where would it take to place?”
“Around here, of course. We could turn it into a regional, or even a National event.”
“Don’t jump the gun,” he chuckled. She passed him his bowl of salad. 
“It was jumping the gun that made my family our fortune.”
“A sponsored bike race seems quite showy, I’m not sure the villages will agree to it.”
“So it’s a no?” She asked, popping a cherry tomato in her mouth.
“I didn’t say that.”
“So it’s up for discussion?”
“Yes, we’re having a meeting, Tuesday at seven, in the church hall, you’re welcome to attend, no pressure, and there won’t be any preaching.”
“I’ll consult my diary,” she said, knowing full well it was empty. Liam took out his mobile and gave her his number. 
“In case you need it,” he said slightly wounded at the fact she hadn’t taken it. 
“Thank you.” 
“Anyway, I better be going. Say hello to your partner when he gets home. I honestly assumed you lived here by yourself.”
“And would you have liked that?” she asked with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, suspecting he would blush. 
“Of course not,” his cheeks pinged pink. “Hopefully see you on Wednesday, um I mean Tuesday.”
“You brought me lilies one day, didn’t you?” Now he was blushing. “Where on earth did you get them from?”
“The church garden,” he whispered awkwardly. He paused and caught her eye. Her mouth cracked open into a wide grin as she laughed. Her laugh was so infectious that he couldn’t help but join in. 
“And now you work for the church, life sure is strange, isn’t it?”
“I guess so.” He composed himself and left.       

Racing for Love Chapter 4

 Chapter 4
Four days later, the storm finally ended, and people gathered in the church hall to discuss loss and damages. 
“I see Miss Golden is too important to join us.” Sneered Patsy. Deirdre nudged her and pointed to Harriet cycling towards them. She stared at the surrounding debris.
“Wow, the storm’s done quite a bit of damage, hasn’t it?” No one replied. She shrugged her shoulders and sighed. She could’ve stayed home away from the meeting, but she felt she needed to display some solidarity with her new community. She caught Pastor Liam’s eye and they both sharply looked away at the same time.
What kind of minister is he? She grumbled. How rude!
“The damage has been extensive, especially to the church.”
“Sod the church!” Grumbled Farmer Bruce. “What about my farm?  My livelihood, and the very reason you don’t all bloody starve to death.”
“Language please…” Liam gently rebuked. It was strange how the roles had been reversed. When Liam was a child, farmer Bruce would often scold him and his friends for swearing at his cows, and now Liam was telling him off. The farmer folded his arms, hostility across his chest. No doubt if he had straw he would be chewing on it right now. 
“I’m no expert, but I think the damage is around £2000.”
“For the village?” asked Patsy in alarm. 
“No dear,” smiled Liam, “That’s just the church.”
“Where on earth are we going to get two thousand pounds from?” She shrieked. “Anyway, my fence is more important than a few missing church roof tiles.”
“And my flowerbeds…” added Deirdre
“And my windows.” grumbled Garth. 
“And my car!” Shrieked Patsy.
The complaints from villagers morphed into one alien sound. So much for peaceful Welsh living, thought Harriet. She stood to leave, when Liam asked her if she has any damage to report. All frowning eyes were on her. Surely the resident millionaire had not come to the meeting to grovel for finances.
“One broken window, and a felled tree.” 
“Sorry to hear that.”
“It’s nothing,” she hesitated. “I’d better be going.”
“Obviously before we ask her to contribute,” hissed Deirdre loudly. Harriet didn’t leave immediately, but walked over to the two women and confronted them. 
“Actually I will help,” she said firmly.
“Oh no, there’s no need,” interrupted the Pastor, masking the hope of financial assistance from his voice.
“I was going to suggest that you contact your insurance company,” she said coldly. “It seems the most logical thing to do rather than having a meeting to bitch and moan.” With that, she flounced out, swinging the door back on its hinges. 
“Well!” huffed Patsy. “The nerve.”
“The absolute nerve,” Scoffed Deirdre, folding her arms. 
“Okay, everyone the meeting is now adjourned, thank you all for coming.” Liam headed to his office, annoyed with himself that he hoped Harriet would contribute to the repair fund. Although he couldn’t deny that what she said was true, he should contact the insurance company. His pass dealings with them has proved unfruitful, and he didn’t want to spend the next several weeks grovelling and interceding, only to get another ‘no.’ He cracked open a can of cola and called the insurance company. And was put on hold to Moonlight Sonata.
Are they trying to depress people on purpose?
Twenty minutes later. Beep. Beep. Call answered.
“Hello, my name’s Liam Caddell, I’d like to make a claim.”
“I’ll just get someone for you. Please wait.”
Moonlight Sonata.
                                                                         *
Nathan pulled up in his red Porsche and took a large gulp of fresh air. It had been two weeks since he last saw Harriet, and he only had one thing on his mind. Seeing him from her bedroom window, she ran downstairs, composed herself by fixing her appearance, and out into the front garden as though she had planned to.
“Nathan!” She said in Surprise. “You didn’t tell me you were coming over?” 
“I wanted to surprise you,” he grinned, swinging her into the air and kissing her. “It’s been two weeks.”
“That long? I hadn’t realised.” He lightly tapped her shoulder. He loved it when she tried to mask her disappointment in not seeing him. 
“So how are you settling in? And what’s with the train wreck?”
“I’ve settled in perfectly,” she beamed. “And all of this is storm damage.”
“Crikey, better you than me,” he laughed. She smiled lightly, Nathan wasn’t dependable in a crisis, hence why their relationship never progressed past the physical.
“So do I get the grand tour?” He asked, picking up a fallen branch and swinging it back and forth.
“Sure, you’ll love it.” She took his hand, and for a split second she glanced over her shoulder, suddenly wishing that nosy Pastor Liam would drive by, and finally realise she wasn’t alone. She quickly caught herself. Why on earth were his words still bothering her? 
Harriet grinned from ear to ear as she led Nathan over the threshold, hopeful that in time they would be married with two perfect children running through the hallways – quietly and undangerously, of course. He looked around with a smirk on his face, then finally said.
“You’re not serious, are you?”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a bit kitsch.”
“In what way?” He pointed to the floral wallpaper, and oak cabinet containing various copper items. “The wallpaper can easily be changed, but the cabinets and ornaments are part of the house.”
“Get rid of them,” he said picking up a little copper dog and briefly examine it, before putting it back. “Tacky,” he mumbled.
“I know they are not to our usual taste, but I’ll like them.”
“Okay,” he smiled, kissing her again. “So what do you do around here?”
“I was about to go for a walk in the hills, fancy it?”
“Sure, just direct the way.” 
They got into his car and headed for the hills. Harriet closed her eyes. She had missed this so much. Nathan could be abrupt and inconsiderate at times, but deep down he was a sweetheart. 
“Park over there.”
“Will I need a permit?”
“I don’t think so,” she giggled, getting out of the car. “I’m so pleased you’re here.”
“Me too.” He took her hand, and they ascended to the public walkway. When they reached the top, they stared at the view of rolling emerald hills touching the light blue sky.
“This place is perfect,” smiled Nathan, closing his eyes. 
“Glad you think so.”
“People would pay thousands to breathe in this air.”
“Probably.”
“It just has to be marketed right, that’s all.”
“Can we please not talk about business?” She replied. He sat down and plucked a few daisy heads. “Can’t you just picture it? A luxury spa over there – a meditation and yoga retreat. Ah, it would be bliss. And naturally there would be a complimentary bowl of Golden vanilla deluxe.”
“Naturally,” she giggled. “With a choice of tempting toppings.”
“Now you’re talking.” As they lay on the grass, he whispered in her ear, but she sat up.
“No one’s going to see us,” he chuckled.
“That’s not the point.” She stood. “Anyway, it’s not my style.” She walked off.
It’d be my luck that Liam’s around the corner.
She cringed at the thought, she couldn’t take the risk.
He rolled his eyes, pulled himself up and ran after her. 
“Sorry babe.”
“Let’s not spoil our day,” she said firmly. He nodded and took her hand. 
“It’s beautiful here isn’t it, just like you.”
“Flatterer,” she grinned, knowing she couldn’t stay annoyed with him for long. They came to a stile and leaned onto it, staring at the field of cows.
“What do you think they’re thinking?” she asked. 
“Probably steak or burgers.”
“Stop it,” she laughed, lightly punching him.
“Saying that, I am starving, where’s the best place to eat?”
“I’m not sure to be honest, I haven’t been out much.”
“Don’t tell me you’ve been cooped up in that pokey kitsch cottage for two weeks?”
“Hang on mate, I love my cottage. My home.” He put his hands up in the defence and chuckled. 
“Calm down Hatty, I’m only teasing you, you know I think the cottage is beautiful.” She shrugged and headed back to the car. 
*

When Liam almost quit, he was treated to twelve bars of Beethoven’s seventh Symphony, before his call was answered. He explained the situation to an unresponsive man, who eventually said,
“It was an act of God.”
Heathen!
“But surely insurance covers some of the damage?”
“Was it all caused by the storm.”
“Yes, but…”
“If it was a regular storm – a few hours tops, then yes you would have a claim…”
“That’s ridiculous!”
“But as it was a storm of Biblical proportions, it’s beyond our control.”
“Thank you for your time,” Liam ended the call.
“Crap,” he mumbled to himself, and wonder what he was going to do next.

Annmarie Chanel Harrison

Happy New Year. New Years Resolutions?

I’ve seen so many memes about not making New Year’s resolutions, which is fine, however I have joined the silent majority and have made mine, because they are a source of hope. I’m not interested in what the Debbie-downers, or Moaning-Michaels have to say, whilst you have breath, you still have responsibility to create a life that makes you happy.

Racing for Love Chapter 3

Chapter 3
 By the afternoon, the storm’s intensity had increased, and Harriet became restless. As much as she loved yoga, meditation and affirmations, she wanted to do something that wasn’t so introspective. She wanted to go to a walk in the hills, or a bike ride in the valley, she wanted Nathan; she wanted to escape the cabin fever. 
By 4 PM, she couldn’t take it anymore and had to get outside. If she was wearing a skirt, it would have blown over her head. She set her pedometer and ran against the wind. It was difficult, and painful, as deluge drenched her. She had wanted to do this all week, having missed her daily runs around Cannon Hill Park.
“This isn’t running weather,” yelled Pastor Liam, leaning out of his car window.
“Oh, fuck off,” she said under her breath and continued running.
“Could I give you a lift home?”
“Go away!” she snapped, then turned around and tempted to run in the storm’s direction, however she was blown backwards and landed on the floor. Liam got out of his car and rushed slow motion to her aid. 
“My hero,” she said sweetly with a snarl on her face.
“There’s no need for that,” he retorted bluntly. “Let me take you home.”
“Fine, but you’re not coming in.” She leaned on his shoulder for support.
“I don’t want to.”
“Oh?” 
“There won’t be any cake, will there?” he replied, opening the car door for her. 
“Thank you.” She climbed into the silver Ford. “So have you been spying on me?”
“No.” 
“Are you sure? It seems a little suspicious that you were here exactly at the same time as I was running. And you happened to arrive at the shop at roughly the same time as me.”
“It’s just a coincidence.”
“A very big one,” she scoffed, drying her face with the back of her hand. He passed her a box of tissues.
“Thank you,” she sneered.
“Miss Golden,” he began in a serious tone. “I have not been spying on you, and neither would I want to. I’m a very busy man, okay?” She didn’t reply. The rain pelted against the windows, and hammered on the roof. There wasn’t another car or person in sight.
“Um, you said we knew each other?” She asked in a weirdly timid voice. She coughed to clear her throat. Harriet Golden was not timid.
“We were in the same class, that’s all, but it was a long time ago, I’m not surprised you forgot,” his voice was absent of bitterness. “I had blond hair then,” she scrutinised his side profile. Sensing this, he briefly turn to face her.
“Oh god, I remember you now. What happened to your hair?”
“I always hated it. As soon as I turned eighteen, I dyed it black.”
“Different,” she mused.
“Why? Women dye their hair all the time.”
“Did you used to bring me flowers?”
“Dandelions actually, but you thought they were pretty.”
“I did?” she giggled as she went through her memory vault. “And I gave you a jar of worms?” He nodded. “I had totally forgotten about that.” She got out of the car. “Thank you.”
“No problem.”
“Would you like to come in?”
“No thank you, I’m on a house call, and I’m already twenty minutes late.”
“Another time maybe?”
“Yes,” he smiled.
“Sorry I was rude to you.”
“It’s forgotten. Get into the safety.” She smiled and said goodbye. 
He turned the bend and went down into the valley, therefore missing his chance to rescue her from being blown into the hedge.

Chapter 2. Racing for Love. Annmarie Chanel Harrison.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Liam was heading home, but as Harriet’s cottage was on route, he decided to still pay her a visit. Harriet was listening to Nathan boast about the latest profit increase, when she cut him short.
“Sorry babe, someone’s hovering outside.”
“So?” he growled.
“Well, it’s distracting,” she peered through the window. “It’s the guy from the shop.”
“What guy?” he frowned. 
“No one. God, I can’t believe he’s here, and he’s soaked.”
“What?”
“It’s raining.”
“I told you it would,” he chuckled.
“Very funny.” 
“Give it another week, Hatty, and that Welsh weather is going to piss you off.”
“If you say so,” she replied, as she watched Liam struggle to her front door. 
“Hang on, I’ll see what he wants.” She put her mobile on the sofa and didn’t see that Nathan ended the call. 
“Hello?” She said with polite frostiness. “Can I help you?”
“Harriet, you might not remember me, but I remember you. I’m Pastor Liam.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sakes. I’ve barely moved in and the god squad is already trying to brainwash me.”
“No!” he said in alarm, hoping she wouldn’t close the door. “I only wanted to say hello.”
“You already did.” 
“May I come in? I promise to not preach at you.” She hesitated, then stepped aside.
“I take it you won’t be staying long?” She frowned, staring at the puddle on her oyster coloured, stone flag floor. He shook his head. “Hang on, I’ve got someone on the phone.” She walked into the living room and saw that Nathan had ended the call. She guessed she had left him waiting too long. She returned to the hallway where her unexpected visitor stood, dripping wet.
“So, what gossip are you after?”
“None actually, I came to give you this.” He presented her with a box containing the cake. She glanced at it with a smirk on her face.
“Gee, thanks,” she put it down on their table.
“Open it,” he smiled, refusing to be discouraged by her standoffishness. She flicked open the lid to find a squashed slice of soggy cake. She closed in it again and said she didn’t eat cake.
“Oh, come on,” he chuckled. “Who doesn’t eat cake?”
“People who take care of themselves,” she retorted, handing the box back to him. “If there’s nothing else you need, I’m busy.”
“I assume your brittleness is to protect you from busy-bodies wanting to know about your father and the ice cream shop? Deep down, I think you’re probably very warm-hearted.”
“You assume much?” she gave a hollow laugh. “And I’m not brittle.”
“Of course.” He headed for the front door to let himself out. “If you have a free Sunday, it will be lovely to see you in church.”
“Hah! I knew it. You came here to preach to me.”
“No, but I know how hard it is to settle into a new place.”
“How do you know? You’ve probably lived here all your life, what do you know about starting a new?”
“Nothing I guess,” he sighed. “Take some friendly advice, this wall you’re putting up will keep you very lonely.” He stood back out in the storm.
“And you’re assuming I’m lonely?” She scoffed from the safety of her hallway. “You don’t even know me. I have hundreds of employees and many business partners. I know the people you only see in magazines.” He nodded politely and walked away. She closed her door firmly, although she felt like slamming it. The nerve of the stranger barging into her home and forcing his charitable friendship on her. 
She made herself a camomile tea, and whilst it was brewing she did Pranayama breathing, this always seemed to help reduce her anxiety. When she announced to her staff at the Golden Ice cream factory that she was moving back to Wales they all thought it was a joke, and as the weeks went by, she would hear passing harmless yet sarcastic comments about her new life amongst the rain and cows. However, when everyone finally realised she was serious, panic emerged, as everyone assumed their jobs were in danger and that the factory would relocate to Wales with her. However, she reassured everyone about their jobs were safe, and that she would manage business from her new home.
In the morning, after thirty minutes of yoga, followed by a hot to cold to hot to cold shower, Harriet prepared herself an alkaline green smoothie and signed into Zoom and waited for her team to join the meeting. Her father always told her that an excellent leader always arrived before anyone else as it sets the tone. Which meant there was no time for any of her employees to engage in bickering or gossip before the meeting. It was strictly professional. If they wanted to act in childish after the meeting ended, then it was up to them. 
“Hello everyone.” Her team greeted her in various ways through waves, nods and smiles. “Before I begin I just want to say there is a dreadful storm outside, but hopefully this will not interfere with my Internet connection.”
“That’s the Welsh weather for you,” said Nathan, the advertising director/ acting CEO/secret lover of Harriet Golden.
“Okay, I just want to congratulate everyone on the recent three percent profit increase. Our aim is to see that number rise to five over the next two months. Belinda, what do you have?”
Belinda and Ryan presented the storyboard. 
“Okay, can you explain it to us?”
“The advert will start with words like: (she adopted an overly sultry tone.) ‘irresistible, tempting, wicked’”
“How about romantic?” offered Frieda.  
“What about horny?” Suggestion Nathan.
“No,” snapped Harriet. “Please continue Belinda.” Once Harriet put her work hat on, her sense of humour vanished.
“We’ve auditioned several models to be in our campaign,” she showed the photographs of several beautiful people. 
“Will they be speaking?”
“No, we’ve already approached Gino Tuldra to be the voice over.”
“Ooh, sexy!” Giggled Frieda. 
“I couldn’t agree more,” fanned Belinda.
“Ladies?” said Harriet in a mock, disapproving tone, however she fully agreed with them.
“Did you pass this by Harriet first?” asked Nathan, feeling a little perturbed. After a few seconds of silence he said, “Well, maybe Harriet wants someone else’s voice in her advert?”
“No, Gino is perfect!” she snapped excitedly, then regained her composure with a sip of smoothie. “Belinda email those photos to me now, so I can see who’s the best fit for our new campaign.”
“Okay,” she headed towards the scanner.
“Dairy Free Delights have used the Jenkin’s trans model agency, and it’s bumped their gourmet ice lolly sales, so we need to up our game,” said Harriet.
“Don’t you think using a gorgeous model to front your campaign is too old-fashioned? Looks don’t impress people like they use to.” Said Nathan, taking his coffee from his PA. Harriet looked through the photos. All six models were gorgeous. 
“Not if we make them look ‘normal’” she replied. 
“And how do you plan on that?” Asked Frieda..
“Simple, no makeup, no hair stylist, clothes from the high street, maybe a couple of kids. Could you arrange that with the agency?” 
“Sure. Will the children belong to the model, or random squirts in the background?”
“Definitely the model’s fake children. Once I’ve made my selection…” she paused as she saw an enormous pair of sapphire eyes and plump pink lips staring at her. She uploaded the pic. “This is our model, contact her asap.”
“And how are you going to get her to look normal? Just look at her tits for crying out loud.”
“Trust you to notice, Nathan,” hissed Belinda.
“With due respect, you can’t miss them,” said Ryan.
“Then we’ll bind them,” said Harriet.
Frieda snorted a laugh. 
“This is a million pound contract, Miss Elliot. I’m willing to bet she’ll bind her breasts, or even shave if I request it.”
“Too much information,” said Belinda covering her face.
Nathan cackled with laughter, and when he finished choking, he gasped, “Whatever Harriet Golden wants, Harriet Golden gets. Right?” She ignored him.
“Belinda or Frieda, I don’t care who, but call this woman ASAP.”
“Righty-Ho,” said Frieda. 
“Please let me be in the same room when you tell her about the binding,” mused Nathan.
“Right, meeting is adjourned, I will see you here same time tomorrow at 9.” She signed off, and Nathan saluted. 
“Fuck, another meeting?” grumbled Belinda. “What about?”
“God knows, I’m going for coffee, anyone wants to join me?” Asked Nathan putting on his coat.
“Sounds good to me,” replied Belinda.
“You can’t just take a break whenever you want,” said Ryan, getting behind his desk.
“I’m acting CEO – so I guess I can. Frieda, you coming?”
“Sure, hey can I leave work early today, my boyfriend’s coming over.”
“Ooh sexy!” He grinned. “Sure you can.”
“Miss Golden won’t like this,” sneered Ryan. The three scowled at him and walk out of the office.
“What a weasel,” hissed Belinda. Tim quietly left the room.
“Agreed,” replied Nathan, removing his tie and putting it in his pocket.
“Perhaps he’s jealous that you’re acting CEO and not him,” said Belinda, then stopped in her tracks. “Hang on a minute why are you CEO? You’re just a glorified dogs-body.”
“Gee thanks!” He said, pressing the lift button.
“I guess HG likes me better than everyone,” he said, allowing the ladies in the lift before him.
“Since when?” Scoffed Frieda, pressing the ground floor button. “She hardly speaks to you.” He shrugged and said it was a gift from the gods.
“A likely story,” smirked Belinda, being the first to step out of the lift.
“We’re just going for coffee, see you soon.”
“Okay,” replied Tilly, the rainbow dread-locked receptionist. “Bring me back an almond chai with honey, or unsweetened if they only have poison or other chemicals.”
“And she works for a mainstream Ice-cream co-operation?” said Belinda as soon as they stepped outside.
“Yes, the hypocrisy is bemusing, but even hippies have mortgages to pay.” Said Nathan.
“Tilly has a mortgage? Perhaps on a park bench somewhere,” snorted Belinda, and the other two laughed.
                                                                *
Harriet closed her laptop and curled up onto the sofa. Despite living in a cosy cottage, she didn’t want to turn into a cosy person. She looked down at her fluffy slippers and sighed at her own irony. She justified wearing them by saying she couldn’t wear heels indoors, or even outdoors by the looks of it. 
When is this infernal weather going to stop? Her phone flashed with a text from Ryan.
They’ve gone for coffee!
She pressed delete, was the exclamation mark necessary? What was she going to do? Sack them? Ryan felt smug with his own ratting and awaited her reply. When it didn’t come he sent a further text.
They’ve been gone half an hour and Frieda is leaving work early to spend time with her boyfriend.
Now that was a message worthy of notice.
Ok she texted back, and said to herself she would deal with Frieda and Nathan later, after all it must have been him giving her the permission to leave work early. Ryan sat back in his chair, clasped his hands behind his bouffant blond curls and grinned. 
Harriet sat at the kitchen table and watched the rain thrash against the sash windows. It was at this precise moment she voiced her daily gratitude list:
1: “I am grateful for the air that I breathe, because it keeps me alive.”
2: “I am grateful for my heart, because it keeps me alive.”
3: “I am grateful for my lungs, because they are strong… and keep me alive.”
She paused, how did people not sound like robots when giving thanks to the bountiful Universe? She filled the kettle and continued. 
4: “I am grateful for all my employees’ hard work.”
5: “I’m grateful for my bank account – woohoo! Okay, I know that was shallow.” 
6: “Um, I’m grateful for my friends…”
The only faces that popped up were her team. Surely she wasn’t that neglected in the comradeship department. Think harder, Harriet. Nathan briefly appeared in an interesting predicament. After several seconds of dreamy distraction, she continued.
6: “I am grateful for my friends because they are nice.” This time Pastor Liam’s smug face appeared.  Without realising she clenched her mouth and fists, his arrogant assumption that she was lonely hit a nerve, and she couldn’t continue. 
Deep breaths. 
She made herself an avocado and brie salad and cursed the pastor for ruining her list. She wasn’t lonely, or even alone. She had hundreds of employees, and a gorgeous boyfriend, and a beautiful home. Life was perfect. She didn’t need some limited thinking preacher trying to convince her that her life was empty.
                                                                    *
“Maybe we should go back?” said Belinda, staring at the clock.
“True, the weasel has probably reported us by now,” replied Nathan. “I’ll just get the hippy her drink.”
“I’ll wait outside.”
“Nath, are you sure it’s okay for me to finish early?”
“I wouldn’t, the weasel would’ve told the boss your plan,” offered Belinda. Frieda clasped her hand over her mouth.
“The shit, god I didn’t think of that.”
“You’ll have to wait for few more hours,” smiled Belinda, patting Frieda’s shoulder.
“Do you have honey?” Asked Nathan when it was his turn.
“Er, not sure,” she turned and yelled in the kitchen’s direction and out came a waiter.
“We have organic, blossom, Manuka, or bog standard.”
“Bog standard please,” he looked over his shoulder and said to Frieda and Belinda, “Just in case she can’t afford the better stuff.”
“Wise,” replied Belinda and turned back to Frieda. “So is it serious between you two?”
“Well, he’s driving down from Newcastle for the first time, so it must be.”
“Why don’t you find a boyfriend around here, I’m sure there’s plenty of single men in Birmingham.”
“Not the ones I’d like to date.”
“Tim’s single,” grinned Belinda.
“Are you at all surprised?” She laughed.
“Not really.”
“Come on slackers, let’s get back to work,” said Nathan and followed them out. “What’s your plan Frey?”
“I’ll finish at my normal time,” she grumbled.
“Wise move, but in future don’t make requests in front of the rat. How long’s your boyfriend staying?”
“Only two days.”
“Including today?” 
“Yes,” she choked.
“But isn’t it your annual leave tomorrow?” He smiled.
“No, it isn’t,” she replied sharply, then realised he was giving her permission to take time off work. She threw her arms around him, almost causing the chai to scold him.
“Sorry,” she breathed excitedly. “We’ve not been together for four months and…”
“Why don’t you date a man that lives closer?” He frowned, suddenly thinking of the distance between himself and Harriet. How was that going to work in the long run?
“Exactly what I said,” replied Belinda, swiping her card and holding the heavy-weighted glass door open for them.
“Here’s your drink, sweetie, complete with honey.”
“Manuka?”
“Only the best!” Tilly pulled her rucksack onto the kidney-shaped glass desk. Nathan furrowed his brow. But what did he expect? A leather handbag, like a normal woman would possess? She fumbled in her bamboo purse for change, and passed it to him.
“Harriet knows, I’ve told her everything,” said Ryan, stepping out from the shadows like a cockroach.
“We’re entitled to a coffee break,” replied Nathan. Ryan pursed his thin dry lips together and sneered, 
“But you’re not entitled to leave work though, are you?”
“Who’s leaving early?” Asked Frieda innocently. 
“You are,” he squinted.
“Well, that’s news to me. But in case you go all special detective, I’m on annual leave tomorrow.”
“Really?”
“Yep, it’s been in the diary for weeks,” said Nathan.
“I’d like to check that.”
“Fuck off,” laughed Nathan, and headed back to his office.
“I’ll confirm it with Miss Golden.”
“Get a life loser.” Called Nathan over his shoulder.

Chapter 1 from Racing for Love.

Book available to download from Amazon.

Chapter 1
Harriet Golden propped her bicycle against the laurel hedge, removed her helmet and brushed wisps of chestnut hair from her face. She paused for a moment to take in a generous inhalation of the crisp Welsh air. She was sure she could feel the oxygen flooding into her lungs and having their own little wellbeing party. She did a full turn and took in the picturesque scenery before her. It had barely changed in her twenty-year absence. How was it possible for a place to remain so unspoilt? There wasn’t a single high rise, supermarket or factory in sight. The school was recognisable by its huge bell and walled playground, and the church looked like a church, as opposed to the trend of coffee shop, or warehouse churches.
This was her new home, and what a beauty it was. Over there she saw rolling lush green hills, and over there she saw a dense forest, behind her were more hills, and in the far distance she could see the horizon line over the sea. 
“Morning Farmer Bruce,” she chirped.
Wow, he’s aged badly.
She took in his balding grey hair, huge gut, and bulbous nose. He frowned slightly, curiously taking in her suited appearance and nodded, but didn’t reply. 
“You don’t recognise me?”
“No,” he grumbled and walked towards the shop, without asking who she was. Harriet let this slip, after all she was now a stranger to him, and perhaps the welly booted, pot-bellied man was suspicious of newcomers. He would soon get used to her, everyone would. 
When Harriet entered the shop, a bell rang, announcing her arrival. The shop was filled with mahogany, from the counter to the rows of Welsh dressers which contained tins and packets of unknown brands, homemade jams and pickles, and baskets of probably homemade bread and pies. The only modern looking item was a fridge containing cans of soda and beer. It looked out of place. She picked up her wicker shopping basket and looked around for what she needed. 
“Another tourist,” sneered Patsy, a broad shouldered, generously hipped, thick-ankled woman, as she inconspicuously once again pulled up her waistband. 
“She’s probably on the way to that dreadful caravan site,” replied her friend Deirdre, whose proportions were slightly more feminine, however her chin had a few blond whiskers, which seemed to grow back thicker every time she shaved, so she gave up.
“Good morning,” said Mavis, the shopkeeper, as Harriet walked past them. 
“Hello,” she smiled, and continued browsing. 
“BTW, have you two heard, Harry Golden’s daughter has bought the old cottage. I never thought I’d see that family again.” Said Patsy. The shopkeeper put her finger to her mouth and urged her to be quiet, however she didn’t take notice and continued in a gossipy tone.
“I wonder if she’ll be reopening the ice cream shop?” Said Deirdre. “And it’s ‘by the way’ not ‘BTW’.”
 “So many people, including my Denny, lost his job because of the relocation,” continued Patsy, ignoring her friend’s correction. She knew it was ‘by the way.’ But she also knew that unnecessary abbreviations irritated the retired schoolteacher. “If Denny hadn’t lost his job, he may never have been tempted by that hussy.”
“You can’t blame his infidelity on that, I offered him work several times, but he wasn’t interested in working for a woman,” said Mavis.
“Huh! Well a man must have some pride, and that dreadful Golden family stole it from him.”
“I agree,” replied Deirdre. “They were a selfish lot, only thought about money. Heathens.”
The shop keeper coughed to interrupt their conversation, and they both frowned in unison, then looked in the direction of her eyes to see Harriet Golden pretending to ignore them. 
“Harriet Golden,” mouthed Mavis. “How are you settling in, dear?” She called.
“Fine thank you,” she replied civilly, as she browsed the shelves. 
“Is there anything you need in particular?”
“I’m sure I’ll find it.”
Patsy and Deirdre stared at each other and reading each other’s minds. “Rude.” One mumbled under breath and the other nodded.
“Where do you keep your washing powder?” Asked Harriet.
“Over there.” Mavis leaned her ample frame over the counter and pointed to the left. 
“Thank you,” Harriet strolled over to the aisle, picking up bread and eggs on her way.
“She could help so many of us if she wanted,” whispered Patsy loudly. 
“When someone’s that rich, they should help the more unfortunate. I would.” 
“I couldn’t agree more,” said Harriet, putting her basket on the counter. She put her hand out for Patsy, Deirdre and finally Mavis to shake. “Harriet Golden, Harry’s daughter.”
“You’re Harriet? We didn’t realise.” Said Patsy.
“We weren’t gossiping about you, we were just saying how wonderful it is that you’ve moved here.” Said Deirdre, leaning on Patsy’s shoulder.
“Thank you.”
“Will you be staying long?”
“That’s the plan.” She watched in amusement as Mavis used paper and pencil to calculate her shopping. 
“I take it you’re not busy often?” She mused, handing over a twenty pound note, and painstakingly waiting for Mavis to calculate her change.
“Thank you,” she replied, taking her money.
“Will your parents be moving back too?”
“No,” she replied bluntly and left. 
“Talk about high and mighty.” Scoffed Patsy, planting her large, red knuckled hand on her hip.
“If she wants to live around here,  she’ll have to get off her high horse,” hissed Deirdre. 
Harriet placed her paper shopping bag inside the basket and clipped her helmet on. Just as she precariously swung her leg over the seat; another cyclist stopped near her. 
“Harriet Golden!” beamed the tall stranger, dismounting his black and silver bicycle, propped it against the hedge and stuck his hand out to shake. She awkwardly took his hand in hers. It was warm and strong, and he preceded to shake her hand with jubilant force. 
“It’s so good to see you again, I was thrilled when I heard you had moved back home.”
“Thanks,” she replied, rescuing her hand and giving it a not so discrete rub. Perhaps that would encourage him to have more self-control. “Sorry, who are you?”
“Crikey,” he pulled his hand through his black hair. “You don’t remember me?” She wondered why he blushed. Did they have a romantic past she had callously forgotten? But considering she left when she was seven, she knew it wouldn’t be anything more than exchanged daisy chains or buttercups. 
“Sorry, I don’t.”
“Liam,” he smiled. “We went to the same school together?” He said, hoping it would jog her memory. 
“Sorry, I don’t remember you.” She prepared to cycle away. 
“If there’s anything you need, anything at all, please let me know.”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine. Well, I’ve got important washing to do.”
“Okay, I guess I’ll see you around?” He called as she peddled off.  “Be careful on the bends, a storm is brewing.” She briefly raised her eyes to the heavens and tutted. 
Liam walked into the shop to be greeted by adulation from the three women. 
“Pastor!” Cheered Patsy. “How lovely to see you.”
“You too, Patsy.” He picked up a basket. “I’ve just spoken to our new resident.”
“And?” they replied frostily.
“She seemed a little flustered, I’ll drop in on her later.”
“Maybe let her settle in first?” Said Mavis gently.
“She’s been here for almost a week, I’m sure she could do with a friendly face.”
“Well, we tried to give her a friendly face,” hissed Patsy, “but she practically ignored us and Mavis.” Mavis took the opportunity to check the stock as she clearly wasn’t included in the intimate  ‘us.’ 
And Mavis? How thoughtful to be remembered. 
“Give her a chance,” smiled Liam, picking up three large dirty potatoes and a bunch of carrots with their tops on. “Mavis?”
“Coming right over.” She got behind the till, turned to a fresh sheet of paper and began her scribbled calculations. 
“When she’s settled in, I’ll invite her to church,” he said brightly as he read the blackboard behind the counter. “What’s the special today?”
“Glad you asked,” grinned Mavis, raising the cake to sight. “Chocolate truffle and raspberry cream sponge.”
“Sounds heavenly, I’ll have a slice. Actually, I’ll have two, I think I’ll call on Miss Golden sooner rather than later.”
“And you think you’ll be welcome?” Snorted Patsy.
“Cake’s always welcome.” he smiled. “I’ll see you wonderful women on Sunday.”
“Bright and early,” Chirped Mavis. Liam paid for his shopping and attempted to leave the shop when a gust of wind slammed it shut.
“Oh dear, the storm’s arrived sooner than I thought.”
“What storm?” asked Deirdre. They all stared at her in surprise. 
“It’s been all over the news dear.” Patsy showed her phone indicating the arrival of the storm. “Don’t you read the news?” Asked Mavis.
“Too depressing.”
“But highly useful. I’ve prepared sandbags outside my house and tapped up the windows.” It was now Patsy’s turn for everyone to stare at her. 
“Better to be safe than sorry,” she grumbled.
“I guess so,” replied Liam, and tried to leave again. 
“Be careful pastor, go straight home, no dropping of cake to anyone.” He smiled and left the shop. The wind blew him in several directions before he finally reached his bicycle. He balanced the two shopping bags on the handles and swerved down the road, leaves swirling towards him.
“I hope he’ll be okay,” said Patsy, watching him from the window. 
“I hope so too. Listen, ladies, I don’t think anyone will come out in this weather, I’m going to close early for today.”
“Yes, of course. Deirdre would you like a lift home?”
“You’re a mind reader.”
“Drive safely,” said Mavis, opening the door for them. Rain burst into the shop, soaking the floor. They buttoned up their woollen coats and fought their way out of the shop to Patsy’s car. Mavis turned the sign to ‘closed’ and locked the door.