tagRomanceDifficult to Reach Ch. 08

Difficult to Reach Ch. 08

bySarahFennel©

By seven that evening, most of the inhabitants present in Hawksbury Hollow were happily installed around the roaring fire of the Half Moon pub. Tim and Sally had arrived at Fen's house over an hour beforehand in order to get a few drinks under their belts, which they'd achieved very effectively. Putting her confusion about Daniel's behaviour firmly to the back of her mind, Fen shared her earlier concerns with the others that since moving into the village she seemed to be developing into a fully-fledged alcoholic. Sally's explanation was that desperate times called for desperate measures, at which point she had gone up to the bar to buy the next round, all of which were doubles.

Daniel, Olly, Mary and Madeline were the next group to arrive at which point Sally noisily ensured that Fen and Madeline were introduced. This fortunately eliminated any initial awkwardness Fen and Daniel might have felt towards each other. Although, glancing across at him, Fen didn't think Daniel looked embarrassed. Quite the contrary in fact. He looked directly into her eyes and smiled. It was most perplexing, given his earlier behaviour.

'So, who are we expecting tonight?' asked Molly, from behind the bar.

'Good question,' replied Daniel. 'As far as I know, nobody has recently returned to the village from their Christmas and New Year breaks. So that means we're still missing Betty and Stan from the shop, Reverend and Mrs Jones and Tilly. So, we're basically the same group as we were on New Year's Eve.'

'My dear friend Tilly was due back yesterday,' explained Mary to Fen. 'But the weather has prevented her from making the journey. She's better off with her family at the moment anyway. I managed to have a chat with her, the day before the phones went down.'

'And Betty and Stan weren't due back until the middle of January anyway,' explained Madeline. 'They're visiting family out in Florida. Missing the worst of this weather, lucky things,' she sighed.

'The Reverend and Mrs J. are on some month long Christian missionary trip in Africa, so I don't think they're expected back until even later,' added Jack from behind the bar.

'So,' continued Daniel. 'That just leaves the Harris-Jones's who we do expect, and Joan, who we don't.' As if on cue, the final four village members entered the pub with Charlie leading the pack. She seemed to have a scowl for all but Daniel, who she smiled demurely at. Daniel nodded politely back. Sally snorted.

'Silly Mare! My God, how obvious can you get? It will be a grim day indeed if she gets her hooks permanently into him, let me tell you!' Trailing at the back was Duncan. He blew a kiss at Fen causing Sally to tut loudly. He then sat apart from his family, as though trying to physically distance himself from them. Fen grinned back at him, much to the obvious annoyance of Belinda.

'Right you rowdy lot! Order!' shouted Daniel above the incessant chattering, tapping the bar with his hand. 'Let's kick this off.' Upon hearing his voice, the bar silenced and all eyes turned towards him.

'The shortened version is that, with the exception of Joan, we are the only people living in our village at present. We've lost phone and internet contact and we can't get out of the valley either by road or boat, given that our Landrovers and tractors have all failed to make it up the hill and the river has now frozen over. And if you believe the news and weather reports, we're unlikely to get any outside assistance for quite some time. Unsurprisingly, police and army resources are being focussed on the big towns and cities, not little rural backwater communities like ours. Therefore, I propose that we plan how we can work together and all get through this comfortably and safely.' Several 'Here Here's' were murmured from around the bar. Sally leaned towards Fen and whispered quietly in her ear.

'He's proposing so soon?' Fen felt a hot flush shoot across her body at the mere thought of Daniel down on one knee.

'So, I'd like you all to have a quick think and then tell me how many days' worth of food you think you have,' continued Daniel, oblivious to their private discussion. 'Whether there is anything you'll need urgently in say the next couple of weeks. How much fuel you have, medicine, that sort of thing. OK, Mary, do you want to go first?'

'Certainly, dear. Enough food for three weeks, I'd say. Then I might be forced into some really strange meals like rich tea biscuits, baked beans and custard, which I seem to have a glut of. I'm fine for my medication for a couple of months. I've got half a tank of heating oil and lots of logs for the fire.' Fen was so impressed by Mary's positive, make-do attitude that at first, she didn't hear Daniel's voice.

'Good. Fen? Fen?' Fen cleared her throat, took a deep breath and tried to emulate Mary's good old British fighting spirit. Images of Churchill and 'Your country needs you' posters flicked through her mind, set to the soundtrack of 'There'll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover'.

'Don't forget to include that quarter bottle of Crème de Menthe we never finished in your calculations,' stage whispered Sally quickly, causing Fen to grin and a wave of giggling to pass through the room.

'Well, I suppose, enough food for a couple of weeks...'

'Bollocks!' interrupted Daniel. Surprised looks and the sound of nervous laughter shot around the bar. 'Being now intimately acquainted with your kitchen,' continued Daniel, seemingly oblivious to the reaction he was causing, 'I'd estimate you've got enough meals for an absolute maximum of two days and enough digestive biscuits for the next six months!'

'Actually, the digestive biscuits are for Merlin,' explained Fen. Merlin's tail could be heard thumping against the floor, from under the table. 'And the cows too now, I suppose,' added Fen as an afterthought.

'The cows?' queried Daniel.

'Yes. The cows at the bottom of my garden.'

'Sorry. Just let me get this right,' said Daniel, running a hand across his stubbly cheek. 'You've been feeding my beef herd digestive biscuits?' he asked incredulously, amidst much sniggering from the locals.

'I might have. Anyway, if you knew how little food I have, why did you even bother asking?' retorted Fen. Daniel grinned whilst the residents roared with laughter. Fen noticed Sally's eyebrows vanishing up under her hairline whilst Charlie's mouth seemed to have disappeared altogether.

'We have so got to talk!' whispered Sally urgently. 'What the hell is going on with you two?'

'Nothing,' mumbled Fen, her face flushing. Fen was trying her hardest to ignore the scorching look of utter hatred that Charlie was now aiming at her but it wasn't easy. Instead she cast a look at Duncan who was grinning broadly, hoping for his support. Duncan subtly nodded towards Daniel and then, unseen by the rest of the gathering, mouthed what looked like the words 'You lucky cow' in her direction. This sent a further flush across Fen's face, whilst she desperately tried to concentrate on the serious life-or-death conversation that was continuing to take place around her.

Slowly, Daniel worked his way through all the residents, gently understanding where each one stood, without inducing panic. On the whole, most villagers were happy to muck in and help. At one point, Belinda Harris-Jones suggested that she would be looking after her own family and that everybody else could fend for themselves, until Peter reprimanded her for being so bloody selfish. Belinda looked visibly shocked at her husband's forceful stance, but after that outburst, she was noticeably more compliant.

'Right. Quieten down again please!' said Daniel. 'I think we've learned a lot from this exercise. In short, we don't individually have enough food to live comfortably on over the next few weeks, without taking some pre-emptive measures. Although it's clear that we are able to live on our own food supplies for various lengths of time, there will quickly come a time for some, that alternative sources need to be found.'

'We've got some pub grub meals made up and general supplies,' explained Jack. 'Not enough for the whole village for several weeks, but it would ensure we don't starve.'

'Great, thanks Jack,' replied Daniel. 'Plus, Stan and Betty aren't here at the moment, but their shop is. I suggest we make full use of the shop contents as required, obviously totting up anything we take from the shop, to pay the Green's back on their return.'

'Good plan, but how do we get in there?' asked Tim.

'We'll just have to break in,' replied Daniel. 'I'll pay for any necessary repairs, once we're back online.'

'No need for that,' said Madeline. 'I've got a spare key. I'm sure that, under the circumstances, they would more than understand. Perhaps I could take responsibility for the shop and for recording who has what?'

'Great. Thanks Madeline. I know it's only a small village shop and they probably ran the contents down before Christmas, but it should get us out a hole for a period of time at least,' explained Daniel. 'Right. I think that's us sorted. Let's have a celebratory drink!'

But as a cheer went up around the pub, the lights flickered and died. The background music spluttered and for a moment there was silence. The electricity momentarily flicked back into life again, during which time the fruit machine tried to reboot, before being permanently extinguished. All that remained was the orange glow of the fire which dimly bathed the beamed room.

'Oh shit!' groaned Duncan.

'I'll go and get the generator going,' said Jack, grabbing a torch.

'OK. This changes things somewhat,' said Daniel, his face now in shadow. 'Who is dependent on electricity for their heating or cooking? Of course, that includes those with oil boilers, which require electricity to run.' Sally, Tim, Olly, Fen, Mary and Madeline all raised their hands.

'We've got an Aga and a back-up generator, so we should be ok,' explained Peter. 'And we can run a feed to the stables and two cottages, so Tim, Sally and Olly will be fine too,' he added.

'In that case, I think it's best that Mary, Madeline and Fen spend tonight in their own homes, as there will still be residual warmth from the retained heat built up today. Then tomorrow, all three are welcome to move into Riverside Farm. I also have a generator and enough rooms to put you up. If you pack up what you need, as well as all of your food, I can pick you up tomorrow morning.'

'That is extremely generous, Daniel, thank you,' said Madeline.

'Thank you,' said Fen quietly. Mary beamed.

'Finally, I'll be spit roasting a lamb, 7 o'clock, this Saturday evening. Please do all join me for a party.' A cheer went up, which was doubled when the generator kicked in and light, albeit somewhat dimmer than before, was restored. 'And now, let's have that drink! We definitely deserve it!'

'You. Ladies. Now!' Sally stood up, grabbed Fen's wrist and frog-marched her out of the room. 'What on earth is going on?' demanded Sally, as the bathroom door clicked shut behind them.

'Nothing. Really!' Fen added, due to the incredulous look on Sally's face. 'What have you done to Daniel?'

'What do you mean, what have I done to him? I've done nothing.'

'He's joking with you. He grinned. GRINNED! Daniel doesn't do that. Never.'

'I helped him find his sheep. He cooked me dinner. He looked after me today when I got attacked by that mad Joan-woman. That's it.'

'Have you shagged him?'

'Oh not this again!' exclaimed Fen. 'Are you going to ask me the same thing every time any bloke under fifty talks to me?'

'So have you?' repeated Sally, clearly unwilling to relinquish her line of questioning.

'Of course not!' protested Fen.

'Snogged him?'

'No!'

'Well something's going on,' exclaimed Sally knowingly. The door of the Ladies creaked open and Charlie stalked in. Sally raised her eyes at Fen and leaned towards the mirror, pretending to rearrange her hair.

'What's going on?' demanded Charlie. She sounded so like Sally that Fen burst out laughing. This seemed to irritate Charlie all the more. 'Now look here. You keep your hands off Daniel, ok? He's explained it all to me.'

'My hands aren't on him,' replied Fen.

'Maybe not, but you'd obviously like them to be. You're embarrassing him,' continued Charlie. 'And he doesn't know how to turn you down gently. He's my partner, so you need to back off. Now.' Fen felt as though she'd been slapped in the face and physically took a step backwards.

'Oh, Bullshit!' retorted Sally. 'There's nothing between you and Daniel! The bloke's got more sense!'

'That shows how little you know,' sneered Charlie. 'And you should spend your efforts worrying about the strength of your own relationship, not mine. Tim needs to learn to keep his hands to himself,' she directed at Sally.

'Hey, that's well out of order!' exclaimed Fen.

'Just back off, Pikey!' said Charlie, turning her back on the girls. 'And keep your grubby, thieving, stinking hands away from my man. He's so far out of your league, it's laughable,' she added, slamming the door behind her with a flourish.

'Bitch!' seethed Fen. She turned to see an ashen-faced Sally.

'Do you think that's true? Do you think Tim's been...'?

'Of course not. He's batty about you. Any idiot can see that,' replied Fen. 'She's just trying to get to you and she's clearly succeeding. Don't let her!' Sally shook her head.

'You're right. I'm sorry.'

'Do you think she's seeing Daniel?' voiced Fen.

'It's possible, but I doubt it,' replied Sally. 'I'd be surprised if Daniel ever gets romantically involved with anyone ever again.'

'Why do you say that?'

'He was madly in love with his wife. They hadn't been married long when she died in a car accident. Daniel later found out she was a few weeks pregnant. That was five years ago. I haven't seen him look happy since. And he certainly hasn't been with another woman since; hasn't even looked at one. He told Tim that only a few months back. It's like that part of him died when he lost them.'

'Crikey.'

'Yeah. Exactly. Come on, lets go and get pissed.' Fen was happy to follow Sally's orders. She spent much of the evening talking to Duncan and gave Daniel a very wide berth as a direct consequence of Charlie's clear warnings.

*********************

Thank you so much for your voting feedback, comments and emails which I am very happy to receive.

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bySarahFennel© 8 comments/ 4329 views/ 11 favorites
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by Anonymous

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by SarahFennel06/08/18

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for your comment. You're obviously a clear-headed, logical person with plenty of self-confidence. But in the early stages of love (or even the later ones!), some of us have doubts and the gremlinsmore...

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by Anonymous06/08/18

Why listen to Charlie?

She's already learned that Charlie is not reliable. Why pay any attention to her with regard to Daniel. Makes absolutely no sense.

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by Anonymous05/27/18

Great stuff

5 stars. Keep writing!

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by Anonymous05/13/18

A must read

I won't give the plot away but I read this on Amazon and LOVED IT! thank you

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by Anonymous05/09/18

Thank you

Your reply to the comments explains a lot.
The story is really good so far, but obviously not finished.
Breathlessly awaiting the next chapter.

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