Authors: Connie Monk
Table of Contents
SEASON OF CHANGE
REACH FOR THE DREAM
A FIELD OF BRIGHT LAUGHTER
FLAME OF COURAGE
THE APPLE ORCHARDS
BEYOND DOWNING WOOD
THE RUNNING TIDE
ON THE WINGS OF THE STORM
THE SANDS OF TIME
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD
ECHO OF TRUTH
MISTRESS OF MANNINGTOR
FAST FLOWS THE STREAM
THE LONG ROAD HOME
TO LIGHT A CANDLE
A SECOND SPRING
HUNTERS' LODGE *
A PROMISE FULFILLED *
BEYOND THE SHORE *
WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS *
THE HEALING STREAM *
FULL CIRCLE *
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First published in Great Britain 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
First published in the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS of
110 East 59
Street, New York, N.Y. 10022
eBook edition first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by Connie Monk.
The right of Connie Monk to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Full circle : love and friendship in the 1950's.
1. Women accountantsâFiction. 2. Female friendshipâ
Fiction. 3. Triangles (Interpersonal relations)âFiction.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8345-2 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-486-7 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Whatever Louisa had expected when she read the letter from the firm of solicitors regarding the death of her aunt Violet Harding, it certainly hadn't been this. âAll that I possess I leave to my niece, Louisa Ann Harding.'
âBut I didn't even know her.' She spoke her thoughts aloud. âI only met her once and that was years ago, before I even started school. Are you sure she didn't make a more up-to-date will?'
âPerfectly certain. I didn't know your aunt personally â she usually dealt with Mr Hayward, our senior partner â but, unfortunately, he is indisposed. Of course, there will be things to attend to before her affairs are finalized and you are in possession. There is the house in Lexleighâ'
âHouse? You mean the landlord will hold me to giving notice? Surely her death must automatically terminate any agreement.' Louisa took it for granted that her spinster aunt must have lived in rented property, for what sort of work could she have done to earn her the money for anything else?
âThere is no landlord. We hold the deeds of the property here and have done since she became the owner in nineteen thirty-one, twenty-six years ago. See, I have all the papers relating to Miss Harding here.'
âDo you know how she died? Was she ill a long time?' Then, speaking out of character but knowing it was the only way to make him understand, âYou see, she was estranged from my father â her brother. They'd had nothing to do with each other for years.'
âAh, I see. So you aren't aware of the accident. Miss Harding was returning from a trip to London when she was knocked down by a fast travelling car. Her death was instantaneous, I believe. The young driver is in trouble.'
âWas she alone or was anyone else hurt?'
âQuite alone. She lived alone too, so I understand.'
âHow dreadful that she had no one to leave her things to except a niece who was only four when she last saw her. I can't even remember her clearly.'
Earlier in the week the letter from Hayward, Knight and Gibbins had arrived, having been sent to the one-time family home in Reading and re-directed to her parents' new address in north Cornwall before being put in a second envelope and posted on to her. She hadn't thought then of her aunt's brief visit so many years ago. Now, sitting in this dreary office facing the junior solicitor, she remembered the few hours of a sunny afternoon in June, 1931. She seemed to hear the echo of raised voices as she approached the house from the garden where she had been playing and clearly remembered the tight, knotted feeling in her tummy as she heard the unusual sound of her father's voice raised in anger. Her parents had never quarrelled; in fact, neither had they ever actually laughed aloud, but to the four-year-old she had been at that time they had represented calm and stability. The appearance of this uninvited visitor, however, made strangers of them.
As she had turned from the closed door, meaning to retreat to her secret hiding place in the garden, her father had come out, slamming the door behind him and seeming not to see her as he'd brushed past her on his way back to work. Then the door had opened again and her mother had called her.
âCome here, Louisa. This is your father's sister, your aunt Violet. She has an hour or two to wait until she goes for her train and I shall be out this afternoon. You will have to look after her. Now I'm going up to get ready so I'll say goodbye, Violet.'
âAnd you won't wish me well?'
âI wish you what you deserve.'
âYou and Victor are happy; surely you can understand?'
All these years later Louisa remembered the cold expression on her mother's face as she answered, âYou ask me to condone your wickedness? Yes, Victor and I are happy; we are also decently joined in wedlock. You are no sister of his if you continue on the road you are making for yourself.' And with that she had turned away and started up the stairs to get ready to go out.
Not understanding her mother's crossly spoken words, Louisa had felt ashamed. How could they treat this lady so rudely? If
had behaved like that to a visitor she would have been sent to her room in disgrace. So she had smiled at this new-found aunt and held out her hand to draw her into the garden.
As the afternoon progressed she had wondered again and again how her parents could have been so nasty to someone who was such fun. They had played wheelbarrows, and when she had demonstrated how she could turn somersaults her aunt had done just the same. That she was a proper grown-up lady was hard to believe, especially when she had performed a perfect cartwheel displaying the prettiest, laciest knickers Louisa had ever seen.
Yet despite being sure she would never forget those few hours of fun, as time went by the memory had receded further into the back of her mind. Only when the letter had come from the firm of solicitors had she realized how many years it had been since she'd spared a thought to the woman whose name was never mentioned in her parents' home.
âI take it you don't know Lexleigh?' the solicitor was saying. âIt's a small village some fifteen or so miles from Gloucester. There is a railway halt and as you come through the gate from the platform turn left. You'll see the village street. Walk straight on and you'll come to the house â a walk of less than half a mile. The Retreat; it's on the right-hand side of the road facing a short terrace of cottages.'
âI shan't keep the house. My work is in Reading, so of course I shall put it on the market. But I must go and see what's involved. I don't know the district at all â can you advise me on an estate agent and, I suppose, house clearance people?'
She might have been surprised if she could have read his mind, for it was seldom his work brought him a client so attractive. Louisa Harding was a good-looking woman, her tailored skirt and jacket classical, her make-up immaculate, her hair well cut in the fashionable pageboy bob. Little did he guess that her faultlessly groomed appearance was a ploy to cover up her lack of confidence. The only child of parents who had been in their forties when they had married and with pregnancy no part of their plans for the future, she had definitely been a âmistake'. Nevertheless, her upbringing had been kind, if cheerless, with rules not made to be broken. At school she had been looked on as something of an oddity: clever and hard-working, but withdrawn. Only one of her classmates had broken through her barrier of reserve and that had been Jessica Wilmott, who had lived with her grandparents. Jessica had known without being told that Louisa could never invite a playmate to the house â she had known it because her own circumstances had been the same. And as they'd progressed to senior school and their peers talked and giggled about crushes on film stars, their lives had been very different. Saturdays had been spent on their bicycles with a packet of sandwiches and two coppers for a bottle of lemonade while they made plans for their future. Childish dreams carried them to far-flung places and, indeed, as the years had passed Jessica had carved a life away from Reading. Both girls had been hard-working and ambitious, and had gained their school certificates. At that point Louisa's father had insisted she should leave school and find work locally, whereas Jessica had been allowed to stay on and matriculate so that she could go to university. A degree had led her to a teaching post, but those early plans couldn't be forgotten. It was five years since she had made the decision of a lifetime and emigrated. In Australia she was living the adventure she had dreamed of. But the friendship remained just as important with half a world between them as it had been when they'd cycled the lanes of Berkshire.
Now, as the young solicitor wrote down the names of two estate agents and a house clearance firm, Louisa's thoughts took a journey of their own. This evening, as soon as she got home to Reading, she would write to Jessica and tell her the news; in her mind the sentences were already forming.
âI believe you'll get all the help you need from these people.' The words cut across her straying thoughts. âIf I give you the key to The Retreat perhaps you'll put it in the post to me when you get back to Reading or, better still, I'll put my name on a label and tie it on and you can put it through the letterbox here if you have time on your way to the station.'
âYou've been very helpful. I'll go and have a look at the house and whoever I decide to contact I'll let you know.'
âI'll look forward to hearing from you. I'm confident you'll have no trouble in selling the property.'
And so they parted. Dennis Huntley watched from his window as, on her ridiculously high heels, she walked effortlessly and fast in the direction of the railway station. Once away from the building she forgot the man who had given her such life-changing news. âAll I possess I leave to my niece, Louisa Ann Harding.' All Violet Harding had possessed wasn't a mortgage, wasn't an overdraft; it was a house, a motorcar and a surprising amount of money in the bank. But how? Surely if she'd done anything really outstanding, even though the family had fallen out with her, someone would have been interested enough to mention it.