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Authors: Josephine Cox

The Journey

BOOK: The Journey
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Dedication

For my darling Ken, as ever

In September 2004, I was honored to be asked if I would officially open a meadow in memory of all the many generations of Brogborough families. It was so wonderful to see all the familiar faces who came along for the occasion.

This small, nondescript estate in Blackburn, where I first came when my parents split up, was a haven for me as a young girl. My late husband Ken grew up there, as did many of our friends and members of our families.

For me, Brogborough will always be special. Memories of that magical place will stay with me forever, not least because of the people who have moved on or moved away, and are always remembered in my heart. Brogborough was where I met my Ken; it’s where I grew and flourished; and it’s where every member of every household was family.

I still have family there, and part of my heart will always be there.

I hope the meadow gives the children and families great joy over the coming years.

A big “well done” to everyone involved, and a heartfelt thank you to Tracey, Claire and Madge, for making me part of that very special day.

God bless. Love you loads,

Josephine

Contents

Dedication

PART ONE

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

PART TWO

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

PART THREE

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

PART FOUR

Chapter Twenty-One

About the Author

Praise

Also by Josephine Cox

Copyright

About the Publisher

PART ONE

January, 1952
The Sad Woman

One

Salford, Bedfordshire

H
e had seen them twice before, and each time his curiosity was aroused. Arm-in-arm, the two women would come softly into the churchyard, place their flowers, and linger awhile before leaving in the same discreet manner in which they had arrived.

Today, as his bumbling black Labrador Chuck tugged on the lead, the dog’s nostrils twitching at the secret scent of rabbits in the churchyard, the women came again. He tried not to seem interested, but the moment they walked through the gate and passed him by, he could not stop himself from sneaking a glance. They acknowledged him with a polite nod of the head, then moved on, intent about their business. It was almost as if he was not there.

In her own way, each of the women was beautiful. The taller of the two, who looked about fifty, had long chestnut-brown hair, gray in places, tied back with a ribbon, and lovely golden-brown eyes, a smart though ample figure and softly rounded features. Today, the bouquet of evergreens cradled in her arm seemed to accentuate her beauty; though it was not a virgin beauty, for the crippling seasons of time and emotion were deeply etched in her face.

She walked with a stick, long and slender with bone-handle and silver-capped toe. It was obvious that she was crippled in some slight way, though this did not detract from her air of dignity and sense of purpose. With her somber mien and her carefully-measured steps, she made a striking figure.

He knew they were headed for the same headstone, where he himself had paused many times. In the shape of a cross, the headstone was small and nondescript, yet the words written there were so powerful, they raised that humble stone above all others. The words, carved deep, read:

BARNEY DAVIDSON

1890–1933

A MAN OF COURAGE

HE MADE THE GREATEST

SACRIFICE OF ALL.

Having read the inscription and been intrigued by it, Ben knew it off by heart. It had set his thoughts alight with all manner of questions. What had this man done to deserve such an accolade? What did the words mean? And who had ordered them to be inscribed? Somehow, he didn’t think it had anything to do with the heroism of war. This Barney Davidson would have been twenty-four when World War One broke out—and no doubt the young man had played his part—but he had died well before the second lot.

His attention was drawn to the two women.

With such tenderness that it took him aback, the older one stroked the tips of her fingers over the dead man’s name. His voice broke with pride as she murmured, “Oh, my dearest Barney.” In that moment when she lifted her gaze to the heavens, her brown eyes glittered with tears. So much pain, he thought. So much emotion.

He sensed that, somewhere deep inside, she carried a terrible burden. What was that old saying? “The eyes are the mirror of the soul.” He wondered what sorrowful secrets were hers.

The man’s discreet gaze went now to the younger woman. Smaller, with a neat, if slightly plump figure, her fair hair was bobbed to the shoulders, and even from where he stood, he could see that her pretty eyes were the deepest shade of blue lavender. He imagined that normally, those eyes were quick to smile—but not today. Today her concerned gaze was trained on the older woman.

The two visitors were sensibly dressed. Like himself, each wore a long coat and sturdy shoes, for the weather had been foul of late, and in places the ground underfoot was treacherous.

In the early hours of this January Sunday in 1952, ditches and paths had run high with the melting remnants of a heavy snowfall. By midday the wind had heightened and now, judging by the darkening skies, it seemed a new storm was gathering.

“Here, Chuck. Here, boy!” he said in a harsh whisper, and tugged on the leash, quickly bringing the dog to heel. In a burst of affection, the animal jumped up and licked him, nearly sending him flying. Recovering, he patted the dog, then set off for the lych-gate and home.

He was only a few strides away from Barney Davidson’s tomb when the women left it and began walking on, merely an arm’s reach in front of him. Slowing his step, he continued to follow, the dog plodding obediently at his side.

They were almost at the gate when the older woman’s stick slipped in the mud and she fell heavily, seeming to twist her leg as she did so.

As her young companion gave a cry of distress and immediately began struggling to bring her upright, he ran forward. “Please … let me help?” Sliding his two hands under the older one’s arms, he gently hoisted her up. When she seemed steady, he let go, recovered her walking stick and handed it to her. “No real harm done, I hope?” he said politely.

“Thank you.” Her dark eyes appraised him.“As you can see, I’m not as agile as I once was.”

A softer voice interrupted. “Yes, thank you, Mr….?” The young woman frowned. “How can we thank you properly, when we don’t know your name?”

His warm gaze enveloped her pretty face. “The name’s Ben,” he revealed. “Benjamin Morgan.” Holding out his hand in greeting, he was pleasantly surprised and thrilled when she put her small hand in his. Surprised, because he found her grip firm and strong, as though she worked with her hands in some way. Thrilled because she seemed to hold on just that moment longer than necessary.

Having witnessed his reaction, the older woman gave a pleasant laugh. “My daughter Mary has a strong grip for a little one, don’t you think?”

Mary tried to explain. “It comes from gardening,” she said shyly. “A few years ago our old gardener retired, and rather than take on someone new, I persuaded Mother to let me have a go at the job.” Her face flushed with pleasure. “It’s hard work, mind, but I love every minute of it.”

“Mary is a worker, all right,” her mother declared. “When she’s not up to her eyes in the garden, she works five days a week in her flower-shop in Leighton Buzzard, and whenever the chance arises, she’s out and about delivering the flowers herself, driving the shop-van.” Tutting, she finished quietly, “I don’t know where she finds the energy!”

“A busy lady then?” Ben looked down into that bright lively face and wondered why she was not married. “And may I ask what you do in this garden of yours?”

It was the mother who answered. “She spends every spare minute she’s got in it, that’s what she does!” From the reproachful glance she gave Mary, it was apparent that she thought her daughter should be enjoying her life and doing other things while she was still young. “She grows all our own produce,” she said proudly, “and she’s completely redesigned the garden, made it into a little Paradise with delightful walkways and colorful blossom round every corner, except,” she glanced at the ominous skies, “of course, on days like this.”

BOOK: The Journey
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