Abby Ch. 33byKezza67©
When Mavis and Sam came into the Combe that Saturday night, Mavis immediately looked around for Abby. She looked enquiringly at Mary, who had a very smug look. "Abby?" she asked Mary.
"Gone up to the House."
"Will she be back a bit later?"
"Don't think so," replied Mary, "had an overnight case with her."
"Oh!" In that exclamation, Mavis had invested more meaning than a sentence fifty words long could have described. Mary nodded as if she had understood every word of that sentence. Sam looked from one to the other, and that look carried a warning that neither of the women could mistake. "That's nice." Mavis dared not say anything more
Abby was sitting down to a Lasagne that looked and smelt superb. She held a glass of Valpolicella and waited for James to sit down. He wiped the sweat from his brow, washed his hands and sat. He grinned at her. "This is going to be the best meal I have had in ages."
"Oh, boasting are we? Shouldn't you await my judgement before you can say that?" Abby protested.
"Doesn't matter what the food tastes like. You are sitting opposite me, and that would make any meal exquisite." Abby blushed. James did not say this with his usual flippant tone. He was quite serious, and she felt warmth spread though her body.
She lifted her glass to him. "Food and Love. What more could a girl want." She hesitated a moment. "Except possibly some Parmesan, if you have any?"
James looked over the table with horror. "I thought I put some out." He dashed off and came back with the packet. "I meant to put it into a dish. I am sorry."
"Doesn't matter, James. Everything else is right. I would hate to think that you are completely perfect. Wouldn't do at all." James had that lascivious look on his face.
"No not perfect, in fact I can be very bad at times."
"Oh good. I feel like being very bad myself tonight."
The Lasagne was very good, the wine was very good, and the company was also very good. Relaxed and with her appetite satiated, Abby sat back nursing her glass, and anticipated the rest of the evening with excitement. James suggested a tour of the house, as Abby had never before ventured further than the ground floor. They took their glasses and James picked up the bottle of wine. The staircase creaked as they went up, the wide steps allowing them to walk side by side. She toured the first floor with interest, James apologising for one or two of the rooms, which to all intents and purposes did not seem to have been used for years. At one end of the upstairs hall was another staircase, which James explained led down directly to the kitchen. Opposite another ascended towards the second floor, a steeper, less generous in width staircase. Uncarpeted their footsteps on this stair sounded loudly and hollow. The rooms up here had angled ceilings as the gables of the roof encroached on them. They were smaller and utilitarian, with just one toilet and bathroom between the four bedrooms. The servants; and these rooms had obviously been staff quarters; had been accommodated in the most utilitarian circumstances.
Her tension mounted as she realised that James was saving his bedroom until last, knowing that once they reached there, they would not be leaving until the morning. They went back down to the first floor and finally he opened the last door. She was surprised, having expected a very masculine room. Instead she walked into a well appointed room, shades of lemon and cream gave a warm and peaceful atmosphere, whilst the furniture of naturally stained Pine was a good classic but not antique style. A large two seat settee and a club chair, gave her the impression that James would spend quite a lot of time here. The double bed was Pine, with a simple slatted headboard against which the pillows rested. She stood taking this in, when James stepping up behind her wrapped his arms around her, his hands neatly cupping her breasts. Her wiggle let him know that this was encouraged, and he adroitly unbuttoned her blouse, and slid his right hand in, surprised that he was suddenly touching bare skin.
"Abby, my Darling, you seem to have forgotten something." She nodded; her eyes closed as he caressed her.
"Yes you seemed to have a problem with my bra clasp in Torquay so I thought I would save you the problem." She turned in his arms and smiled up at him. "Aren't I a thoughtful girl?"
"Totally." He murmured as his lips descended to hers.
Although Abby no longer felt that she had to keep her relationship with James a secret, she hadn't counted on her movements being discussed throughout the valley. Abby had not thought of Lizzie's contribution to the local news. Lizzie had come up to Lyney House early to feed and muck out the horses, and was surprised to see Abby's car at the front. It was covered in dew, so had not been used since the day before. At first she imagined that James and Abby were out somewhere in his Land Rover, but upon seeing that in the yard, also covered in dew, her over active imagination went into overdrive and a little smile came to her lips. Later that day the gossip was disseminated to whoever she met. Lizzie was naturally friendly, and having grown up in the valley knew everyone. Lizzie was also an incorrigible gossip so within twenty four hours the news that Abby had stayed overnight at the house had spread for miles up and down the valley. She enjoyed the success of passing on original news, but was dismayed that her grandmother and grandfather did not seem to be interested at all. It was almost as if they knew already, thought Lizzie despondently. There was another farm where this news was greeted with less than satisfaction. Most families being happy that James and Abby were getting together. There was no censure for the couple, it was Nature's way and they anticipating with pleasure the marriage which they felt sure would follow. The one area where the pleasure of that event was greeted with less than a smile was at Lower Valley Farm, where Abe and Sheila had worried faces. "We shall pray for the young couple," decided Abe with Sheila's agreement, "That they will see the error of their ways, and seek the Lord's blessing on their union with a marriage." His hand was laying on the large Bible, as it always did when he felt the need to invoke his Lord to strengthen his argument. He would not think any the less of Abby, nor James. His interpretation of his Methodism did not allow for pointing the finger at Sinners, as he believed that it wasn't his place to accuse nor judge. The Good Lord would do that at the day of Judgement. It gave him a jolt when Sheila suggested that this may be the Lords way of bringing the young couple together. He had to think about that. He was usually so certain in his opinions, and was used to his wife agreeing with everything he said. That she should disagree was a surprise but not upsetting. In his philosophy God had not set him as the superior in this marriage. He would not argue with her, as usual he left it to the Lord to decide.
"The Lord does move in mysterious ways. We cannot hope to fathom His reasons. We shall pray for them, and for guidance." Abe was usually long-winded in his prayers, today was going to be a bit of a marathon.
Her work on the co-op could be put on hold for a while, as she was waiting for the registration of the enterprise to come through. Abby decided to go down to her house on Monday morning to see what was happening. George Walker was there and was pleased to see her. "I was going to phone you. I have had the specification for the station from Ms. Eaton, which basically confirms what we discussed. So I want to get a crew in there soon." He handed her a letter. "That is an estimate for you. I have tried to pare it down as much as possible, but I have to stick with the specification."
Abby quickly ran her eye over the costs, and looked up saying. "Go ahead, Mr. Walker. Shall we say the same terms and stage payments?"
"Thank you, Miss Abby. It will be a first rate job I assure you. Now about the Goods Shed. I had a look at it last week, and it seems to be in sound condition. They built well in those days. So what I was thinking." He paused.
"Yes?" Abby encouraged him to say his piece.
"I can just do a tidy up job if you want. Check the roof, point and paint. Funnily enough it hasn't been listed, I can't understand why, but it hasn't."
Abby also thought that strange.. "Do you still have the photograph from Mr. Brasher?"
"No, the heritage people have it, but I can get it back. Why?"
"I wanted to check if the barge boards were carved like the station."
"I can answer that. Yes they were. If you are going to ask me to replicate those as well, it can be done but it will cost you a bit more."
"Let me know please. I will probably have it done, as it's going to be part of the atmosphere here, so it ought to be exactly as it was."
"Ok. I'll work it out as soon as possible. Then if you agree I will get my carpenter started on the whole lot. That will take him two or three months I reckon."
They turned back to the house. "I am finishing off inside. Everything will be done except the cold water tank and the bathroom. The bathroom suite will not be here for a couple of months anyway, so it seems best to do that and the cold water tank at the same time." They walked in. The change was enormous. The fitted unit with a Belfast sink gleamed. Cupboards had been built along the wall over the sink, and the walls were totally smooth, with the electric sockets flush with the surface. "I have put in the boiler for the central heating; it's in this cupboard here." He opened one of the wall cupboards just to the left of the sink. "The balanced flue has gone through the wall and vents outside. It will not be seen when we put the veranda up. Now, have you thought about the colour you want on the walls?"
Abby blushed a little. "No I haven't given it any thought at all."
George was humming. "Well I would like to get some paint on when the plaster skim has dried completely. If I may make a suggestion?"
"If I get a good coat of cream on, you can over paint it easily when it suits."
"Yes. It's quite traditional round here. It has a hint of Yellow in it, like Clotted Cream. With only the two small windows the lighter colour will brighten the rooms as well."
"I like that, Mr. Walker. Would you do that, please?" They continued about the house. Abby was very pleased with all the work that George had done. He did seem to be in tune with her ideas and pre-empted her thoughts. He did this again when they started to go up stairs.
"Miss Abby, these stairs are going to be very dark most of the time. I have put in wiring for a light, but I would like to run an idea past you, if I may."
"Go on Mr. Walker."
"As we have to remove some of the roof to get the cold water tank in, I could at the same time put a sky light in. It comes with a polished aluminium tube about two feet in diameter, so light will travel down the tube to a domed reflector, which we would put into the ceiling at the top of the stairs. Then you will only need the electric light when it's dark. They're very good and bring a lot of light in. What do you think?"
"Brilliant idea. I like it, Mr. Walker, yes please do that."
"Ok. Won't cost too much, as we have to get part of the roof off anyway, and that's already costed in."
Leaving the station site, Abby thought ruefully that people, supposedly identified as simple country folk, were anything but. George Walker seemed able to persuade her to spend more on her house every time she met him. Sam seemed to grasp her ideas for the co-op very quickly, and Harry was always on the lookout for an angle that would benefit him. James was the one who did not have an eye for a fast buck. Yet Abby admired him for his integrity, and his patriarchal concern for his tenants, which she now realised had cost him dearly. The means to help him, lay on her desk when she returned to the Estate office. A letter from Peter Adams lay on her desk. She read it carefully, making sure she understood his comments and suggestions. James' Shares would not realise a tremendous amount of Capital, but Peter had suggested a spread of investments, which would bring James a much needed boost in income. Abby went online to check the latest bid-prices. Now her City brain kicked into gear, she was sure she had heard rumours about one of the Companies. If this was so a takeover was a distinct possibility, and a better price could be had. She quickly scribbled down her thoughts to present to James, certain that he would be around soon.
Abby wandered into the house to make coffee, setting out two mugs as she did so. The complaining engine and the spitting gravel announced James' arrival. He came straight through to the kitchen, where Abby was sitting sipping the freshly made brew. He came over and bent to kiss her. It was a lingering kiss and left them both a little breathless.
"Well, hello James. Now that is how a girl likes to be greeted in the morning. The only way to improve on that is for the Kissee to be in bed with the Kisser."
"That can be arranged." James grinned.
"We shall have to talk about that, perhaps later." Abby eyed him slyly lowering her eyes. "The kettle's just boiled, if you want coffee. Then sit down, there is something I want to discuss with you."
"Yes Ma'am.' He saluted theatrically, then went and made a coffee. Once he was seated, Abby pushed Peter's letter over to him. He read it twice yet still seemed unsure of the meaning. He pushed it back to her.
"I told you I know little about investments. I think I get the gist of it though, and if you recommend this guy, I shall go ahead with it."
Abby felt she ought to explain a little more. "I believe that Peter has got it about right. I do have some thoughts on that one." She pointed to the listing. "I did hear some rumours. It wasn't something that would make any difference in my job. But I believe that Company will be the object of a bid shortly, so it would be worth hanging on to those and see what transpires. Keep them until the next Tax year at least, it will reduce the Capital Gains on the sales at the least, and may net you a lot more to invest." James looked gloomy.
"I knew the Taxman would be getting a share somehow or other. I will take your advice anyway. What else."
"I like Peter's suggestions, he knows his stuff." Abby had been amused to see that Peter had proposed some of the investments that Abby had included in her Portfolio. "From what he has suggested, I would say you would be in the region of twelve thousand a year better off." James was cheered significantly.
"That's brilliant. I shall be able to start some repairs to the cottages." Abby sighed. How typical of James. Duty and obligation first, his own welfare coming second.
"Don't start spending before you get the money, although anything you do spend on repairs to the cottages, you should be able to set against income tax." James looked up in surprise.
"Can I do that?"
"I should think almost certainly."
"That's tremendous." Impulsively he got up and kissed Abby.
"What will I do without you?"
"Make certain I never go away." James made no reply, however his usual grin vanished and he looked pensive. Abby looked pensive as well. The comment had come out without thought, yet had served a purpose in a way. Letting James know that her continuing to stay in the valley depended on him. Sam would nod his head in approval, he advised her that she would have to push James. Well Abby told herself now is the time to start pushing.
James had a lot to think about. He had no doubts about his feelings for Abby, and wanted more than anything to have her as his wife. Thereby hung the problem. She had never said how she felt about him; it didn't occur to him that he had never confessed his feelings; and without some indication of her feelings he could not ask her to marry him, fearing that she would believe that her wealth was the object rather than Abby for herself, he sometimes regretted having been so open about his financial position. Yet this apart, the real truth, the actual reason he could not ask her was that he would be totally crushed if she were to reject him. Therefore he tried to maintain the status quo, keeping the relationship alive and hoping that somehow by circumstance the situation would be resolved without his having to tempt fate. Her supposed wealth; which Abby had never denied nor confirmed; was of no consequence to him. This woman had come to the valley and brought sunshine into his life. All the remaining depression from the Falklands had gone, and he knew that if she ever went away, the clouds would hang over him once more.
The object of his quandary was back in the Estate office. Abby realised that she had dropped a small bomb on James, so she left him to stew for a while. Her putting pressure on James was acceptable, pressure from anyone else was not. Would she accept him? Of that Abby had few doubts, of course she would. His company was never dull, their conversation always flitting along that middle road which could easily flip from serious to laughter. He was protective of her, but never possessive. She had proof of that at the Ball, when she danced with someone who obviously felt that dancing was merely the foreplay to some other activity. James had suddenly appeared to claim her. He had said little merely commenting that Abby had promised this dance to him. The man looked set to argue, but the look on James' face and the uniform had decided him against. There was of course their nights of love. Abby smiled secretly at the memories, and her skin heated. That was very special, and the prospect of sleeping next to James for the rest of her life was very, very appealing. She couldn't understand how this relationship had changed her. She had suddenly become an exhibitionist, and a voyeur! On Sunday morning she had sat in front of the mirror, to put some lipstick on. She was nude, and very aware of James watching her. It was thrilling! She loved showing herself off for him. In the mirror she could see him laying on the bed, he was naked too. It took a long time for that lipstick to go on. The lines of his body excited her, the taut stomach, the strong arms, but most importantly the look of desire in his eyes as he watched her. Not to mention the physical desire which was much in evidence. It was very late that Sunday before they came down to make breakfast.
Her idyll was interrupted by Sam, who poked his head round the door and asked if it was alright to come in. "Of course, Sam. You should know I am pleased to see you anytime."
"Well I didn't want to disturb you if you were busy." Abby had been smiling when he entered, and her next words gave him a clue to why.
"No not busy, Sam. Just thinking about something." The smile strengthened and she blushed. Sam chuckled.
"Well I won't ask you what you were thinking of, I can tell it was nice thoughts by your blush." Abby blushed even more.
"Sam! I wouldn't tell you anyway. You would think me terrible."
"Good weekend?" He teased her. Abby was now the colour of Beetroot.
"Stop it, Sam. Would you like a coffee? I can go and make some." Abby tried to change the subject.
"No, not for me. But thank you anyway. I just came to tell you that there is enough carcasses in the cold room for the first delivery."
"That's good. Quicker than I thought. I will ask the Club when they want to accept it and get the transport organised. Who supplied them?" Sam wasn't absolutely sure who had supplied what. "I shall write to all of them and ask that they let me have a list. They will need to do this every time."
Sam grinned. "No need to worry. The despatch list will have all the information on it, and that will give you the originating farms. It's good job too, as otherwise all you would get is a grubby little note. Not particularly good on paperwork, farmers." Abby was relieved that it was Sam to whom she was revealing her ignorance.