Authors: Rebecca Shaw
The door opened abruptly. Peter was standing there looking at Caroline, his face as white as the snow outside. He didn’t need to speak; they could all tell by his demeanour that something had happened which none of them would want to hear. Caroline studied his face, the colour draining away from her cheeks even before he spoke. ‘Darling, I’m afraid you’ll have to come home. There’s … there’s been an accident. You must come.’
Rebecca Shaw is a former school teacher and the bestselling author of many novels. She lives with her husband in a beautiful Dorset village where she finds plenty of inspiration for her stories about rural life. She has four children and eight grandchildren.
Retired widow and mother of Harriet Charter-Plackett.
Verger at St Thomas à Becket.
His wife and housekeeper at the rectory.
Sir Ronald Bissett
Retired trades union leader.
Lady Sheila Bissett
Louise Bianca Bissett
James (Jimbo) Charter-Plackett
Owner of the village store.
Fergus, Finlay, Flick and Fran
Barman at The Royal Oak.
Village school caretaker.
Dean and Michelle
Licensee of The Royal Oak.
H. Craddock Fitch
Owner of Turnham House.
Revd. Peter Harris MA (Oxon)
Rector of the parish.
Dr Caroline Harris
Alex and Beth
Runs the post office at the village store.
Archaeologist and Choirmaster.
Manager at Turnham House.
Village school headmaster.
Head Gardener at Turnham House.
Sir Ralph Templeton
Retired from the Diplomatic Service.
Lady Muriel Templeton
Cleaner at nursing home in Penny Fawcett.
Caroline slammed the rectory door behind her and tramped through the snow to the church hall. They were holding the first committee meeting for the Village Show tonight, and if she knew anything at all about village committees, it was bound to be a lively evening. Now that the kitchen there had been renovated, she didn’t mind quite so much having volunteered to make the coffee. She shuddered when she remembered the old kitchen with its antique water geyser and smelly cupboards – and one never-to-be-forgotten night when she’d found a mouse nesting in the cardboard box they kept the packets of biscuits in!
While the kettle boiled she went through the members’ names, counting them off on her fingers to make sure she had enough cups out. People so soon took umbrage if they felt you’d forgotten them. There was Jeremy from Turnham House (‘the Big House’) in lieu of Mr Fitch who couldn’t find the time, Jimbo from the Store who’d be doing the food, Michael Palmer from the school for the children’s entertainment, Barry Jones, the estate carpenter, in charge of building and erecting the stalls, Bryn from The Royal Oak, Caroline herself representing the church, Sheila
Bissett for the flower, fruit and vegetable competitions – she’d need to be kept in check or she’d be telling everyone what to do – Linda for the first-aid tent, and last but not least Louise as she called herself now, as the secretary. So that made nine.
The kettle was coming briskly up to the boil as Caroline heard the sound of early arrivals. It was Sheila Bissett with Louise, stamping the snow from their boots before they came in.
‘Mother, please! I’m the secretary – I
know what I’m doing. I have taken notes before.’
‘I just want things to go well, dear. It’ll reflect on you if it isn’t properly organised.’
‘Well, it will be, so there. And don’t forget
about my name.’
‘I don’t want to change it. I’ve always loved the name Bianca.’
it, Mother, I’m simply using my first name. I’ve never known why you called me by my second name. Louise is so much nicer.’
‘Well, it’ll take me ages to get used to it after all these years.’
‘You must, Mother, otherwise no one else will use it.’
Sheila tried to imprint the name on her brain. ‘Louise. Louise. Louise. Heaven knows what’s made you decide to do it.’
‘New place. New start. I’ve always wanted to do it and now’s the right moment. I need an entirely new persona,’ Louise pleaded quietly. ‘It matters to me, it’s really important.’
‘All right, then I’ll remember. By the way, if there’s any talk about the sizes of the marquees, don’t forget I want a really big one for the competitions. I shall need lots of space
for displaying the exhibits, you see. That Mr Fitch has plenty of money so he can dig deep for this Show.’
‘The marquee for the food will be the biggest, I expect.’
‘Oh well, naturally, what else can we expect? Some people, namely Jimbo, have more influence than is good for them. But let’s face it, the competitions will attract the most people; they won’t come all the way to the Show just to eat Jimbo’s food, good though it is.’
Caroline came out of the kitchen carrying a tray of cups and a big pot of coffee. She put it down on a table. ‘Hi! Would you like coffee? Milk? Sugar?’ Sheila and Louise went to collect their cups.
Sheila sipped her coffee and to fill the silence said, ‘Your parents have gone home today, Caroline?’
‘I met them in the Store the other day. You’re so much like your mother. I didn’t realise she was a doctor too.’