by Maggie Scout

‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to week and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.’ ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The few offices and shops on the High Street were closed and there was little activity as Maggie and Jan made their way along the narrow pavement, walking briskly, on their way to Golly Gosh for some cosy cheery chat on what was turning out to be a surprisingly autumnal day.

Their attention was drawn to two men exiting the local lawyer’s office; Mr Fraser, always Mr Fraser, was accompanied by a stranger, a younger man. They were deep in conversation as they stood by the side of a black shiny Range Rover parked outside. The younger man’s hand rested firmly on the door handle demonstrating his eagerness to be gone. Mr Fraser waved and smiled in their direction but the stranger appeared to be distracted by his own thoughts and paid them no heed; he opened the door and disappeared into the blackness. As he did so Jan thought she recognised him as the man with the sunglasses and dishevelled hair who’d helped Noah with his kite on a blustery day at the beach. He’d looked different then, more approachable. There had been no time for any meaningful introductions and now she wished she’d at least asked his name.

Mr Fraser was well known in the village; a respected man, not only for his brilliant legal mind, but also a generosity and willingness to share his expertise with individuals for very little remuneration. Rumour had it that sometimes he provided a crucial service to people in need for nothing in return.

Mr Fraser could only be described as the jolliest of men with a cheeky sense of humour that won him friends easily; a raconteur of sorts who held court masterfully whether as an after dinner speaker or in entertaining the few people gathered in the hall for tea after church on a Sunday. He was small and portly in stature with plump rosy cheeks and sparkly blue eyes that looked playfully through round silver-rimmed spectacles. He preferred three piece grey suits with a splash of colour, today in the form of a red handkerchief to match his tie, the colour alternating depending on the day of the week, his mood and what was in his diary. In his waistcoat pocket hung a watch and chain that belonged to his great-grandfather of whom he had endless stories to tell. On occasion Mr Fraser’s silver curly hair got a little wild when a visit to the barbers was due and Maggie had teased him about it only last Sunday. In contrast, his now silver moustache, a remnant from his army days, was always neatly trimmed and tickled when he wished as many ladies as he could ‘happy new year’ or ‘happy birthday’. Maggie had grown fond of this older gentle man particularly over the last eighteen months when she sought his counsel.

This stranger seemed incongruous to his surroundings. He didn’t fit in. Maggie rolled her eyes as Jan, predictably, was drawn to the well-groomed dark head and smart suited appearance not to mention the height and confidence of his gait and the tanned skin. At ease with himself. He knew he looked good. Not that she’d noticed, not really.

There was also something familiar about him; indefinable from the distance and the smoked coloured windows of the vehicle as he drove passed them. She was hardly going to peer in now was she.

Maggie also thought he looked a bit too full of his own importance.

That was the first time she saw him.

The second time she saw him she was in a hurry. Always in a hurry. But she had to make the post office before it closed. She had to post the letter. Her smart working shoes clippety clopped on the concrete and she tried to concentrate on the red postbox at the end of the street. Inside her head a conversation was happening and she feared, for a moment, that she had spoken aloud. Nearly there. People are right. I need to slow down. Make time for myself. Catch my breath. I will. But I need to get this posted. She’ll be waiting for it and I promised her I’d write.

An important letter to an important person and the one she loved most in the world. Her grandmother.

But her beloved grandmother was of the old school. No internet or email for her. No, she preferred to receive mail in the form of beautifully handwritten notes, on ivory paper tucked inside matching ivory with chocolate lined envelopes; to be savoured and opened with care for therein lay fragile secrets. Quintessentially romantic and very sweet and Maggie loved her for it. She also loved that, despite her hurried life, her grandmother’s wishes made her take the time to sit down and write a letter. Like the old days. And Maggie obliged, every month, updating her on her progress and the goings on in the village her grandmother had left many years ago as a young wife and mother.

Maggie’s mind was racing with purpose as she brushed passed him. Had she taken time to notice she would have seen a glimmer of recognition and a smile in his eyes, the floral fragrance she’d sprayed as she left the office playing with his senses and evoking distant memories. But she didn’t want to notice, didn’t want to look, didn’t want to see.

Maggie made it just in time and as the postman picked up the mail and she was able to place the precious communication inside the big grey bag. At least that was something ticked off the ‘to do’ list. She could visualise her grandmother; rummaging around to look and find lost spectacles, making herself some iced tea then settling herself in the shade in the garden before opening Maggie’s much awaited envelope with tenderness and anticipation.

Today, of all days, hadn’t been the day she’d expected. Nevertheless she needed to clear her head. The anticipated swelling of grief, associated with an anniversary of the most defining moment of her life, hadn’t arrived. She felt confused, perhaps relieved but definitely not numb. Putting the key in the lock she could do nothing but smile.

She took the stairs two at a time and headed straight to the wardrobe, changing into jeans and warm walking socks, pulling a navy jumper over her head as she made her way downstairs. She hurried, stepping into bright blue wellingtons with bursting yellow suns, grabbed an orange waterproof and slid her arms inside. She made her way along the beach and soon stood at her favourite place beside the waves, wrapping the oversized jacket, his jacket, around her to protect from the wind and light drizzle. It had been a full day and people had kept her busy. Now she needed time on her own; to be.

Maggie stood staring into the distance enjoying the sound of the waves and feeling them splash against her boots. She looked down and saw the sand cover her feet.  It was then the tears were released. Silently she allowed them their freedom.  Memories of what had been and what there could now be. Not for what she’d lost but for the life she’d now gained; filled with potential and opportunity, grace and love.

If she’d only known she was being observed and protected from a distance. A stranger from a house on the hill.

The third time Maggie almost missed him.

Kate had offered her an old fashioned bicycle with a big basket on the front that she used to carry groceries and books from the library.  Maggie enjoyed cycling but couldn’t afford a new bike so thanked Kate for the offer.  This would certainly help perpetuate her reputation and image further.  It even had a bell!  What else could a girl need?  As Maggie pulled the old white bike onto the pavement and opened the gate she heard barking in the distance. But her attention was drawn to the window where Maggie, Sally and Alice stood. Like schoolgirls they giggled and pointed towards the beach, enjoying the show; a man throwing a stick and a dog doing what dogs do. Remarkable.  Is that it?

She noticed that the dog could have been Harry, Mr Crawford’s boxer. But that wasn’t possible because Mr Crawford, the retired headmaster, had died recently and she’d heard someone had inherited his dog.   It was definitely Harry.  Now curious she rested the bike against the wall and stood just for a moment.  That moment turned into five minutes, then ten minutes, rooted to the spot, spellbound.

A summer memory exploded into her mind in glorious colour and excitement; a bouncing dog and throwing sticks, taming kites and chasing the wind, laughter and new friendships, a wonderful voice and dark brown hair, a place in her heart and never forgetting.

He looked up and began to walk towards her and the knot that had dwelt so long in her stomach lost its power and supremacy. It gave way to something else; something new and old, something unknown yet known, something far away but within reach.

She knew him.


And she thought her heart might just burst!