Seventeen years later

“You need to sign here, and here. That’s it…yeah just there. Well alright then. I believe these are yours!” Martyn slid the keys across the window sill they’d been using as a substitute for a table and Clara pounced one swift hand out to cover them, dragging them towards her and tossing them lightly in the air. She turned and grinned at Martyn as she just about caught the keys and her eyes sparkled with the sense of adventure and the thrill of a childhood dream coming true. Clara turned to look at the lounge of the cottage – her new cottage – and her mind began to transform the peeling horrific flower wallpaper and dirty rotten floorboards into something much cleaner and much more her. She could already see the exact location of the big leather sofa she’d picked out in a magazine and already knew which wall would hold the bookshelf she was going to get custom made to hold up all her books. She laughed for joy, ran over and hugged a startled Martyn before taking centre stage, twirling in the dim glow of light let in by the filthy windows to the music in her head.

Martyn leaned back against the grubby wall and looked on with vicarious happiness as Clara regressed to a little girl again. Her blonde straight hair (through the magical power of hair straighteners) hung adjacent to the small of her back as she stared up at the mould-infested roof. He clambered up, casually, onto the sill, brushing the legal document aside and kicked his long legs to and fro. “You’re not going to be able to live in here for a while you know. The bathrooms need sorting out and so does all the mould.”

Clara stopped and turned to look at him with bright blue eyes. “I know.” In truth, she was actually amazed at the condition the cottage was in, she’d imagined it far worse with horrific floor structure and a caved in ceiling but the survey Martyn had made her get before he’d even consider letting her buy it had proved that everything was sound, a few rotten floor boards needed replacing and the plumping may need to be checked after years of disuse but that was all. It was almost as if something had taken care to ensure that the house was well preserved. She saw Martyn shake his head in utter amazement. He was a practical guy, ruled with his head and would never have gone for such a place.

When Clara had first come to him asking for help in finding some place to live he’d imagined a small, quite new flat in the heart of the village or even in the nearest town. He’d been amazed, when she’d said that she wanted something bigger seeing she had the money from her grandfather’s will to do so, even more surprised when she’d picked that cottage. He now waited patiently looking out onto the empty field surrounding the cottage that now also belonged to Clara as she wandered from room to room.

The cottage consisted of three bedrooms upstairs and a rather large bathroom. Two rooms looked onto the front and Clara was beginning to conjure plans on how to make them into the most perfect bedrooms, maybe she would see about letting them out for people to stay in until she settled down, then they’d be the rooms for her children. The other room had massive windows facing the rolling hills of North Yorkshire and it was already a sound decision that this was to be her room. There was a walkin closest against one wall and a small door at the other which provided attic storage space. The attic itself was found through a little trap door at the top of the stairs and Clara was already planning on getting one of her male friends to clear that out for her.

For now she stood by the window of her new room, gazing at the view in utter contentment.  All her life she’d wanted to experience the pleasure of standing within these walls, she’d dreamed of one day calling the place ‘mine’ and now she could. Her eyes glazed over as nostalgic thoughts from the past filled her mind. Being young and having to walk past the cottage gates twice a day, often standing to stare much to the annoyance of her mother. She remembers going home to a massive slap and grounding because her five year old brother had walked himself the mile home from school; his eleven year old sister too engrossed in the old building to have noticed.

Now it was hers and she was finally inside the gates, inside the door for that matter! She pictured all of her things spread out around the house, her books and dvd collection downstairs with her make up in the bathroom and her other things scattered around. There was a sense of completion in that her bedroom no longer was her solitary room. The joys of finally being away from student accommodation and sharing with her parents and brother were much longer overdue but there was a sudden sense of dread bought with them.

Clara realised that now owning this place meant she’d have to go and get the rest of her belongings from home. For the last two months she’d been living with Becky in a dingy flat and hadn’t been home after the blazing fight with her parents. Now she needed to get what was hers and what she no longer needed to ‘make do without’ and the thought was unsettling. How do you go about going home to get your stuff to leave after two months of no contact with your parents? She could just walk in and be like ‘yeah, I have a cottage now so I’ve come to get my stuff. See you all later!’ she could try and talk to her brother, arrange for him to get the parents out of the house so she could sneak in but that didn’t seem fair. “Ah well, you’re an adult now, Clara, time to start acting like one!” A chuckle came from behind her and she spun round to find Martyn leaning against the door frame, running a hand through his brown hair.

“Not even owned the place an hour and already you’re talking to yourself!” Clara rolled her eyes as Martyn came into the room, the expression on his face visibly changing to one of concern as he joined her by the window and looked out, Clara mirrored him. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright here? Are you sure you want to do this alone?” there was something weighty about his words and they made Clara’s hairs stand on end, a shudder ran through her body and a lump in her throat made the only response she could manage a nod. Martyn turned to her, “It’s just, you’re so young and this place is so big. It’s also pretty much in the middle of nowhere! I know the next house is only a five minute walk away but still, what if something was to happen?”

Clara hadn’t thought of that, and Martyn’s words began to arouse the primal fear of being alone. What if something was to happen? She shook them off; Martyn was one for worrying, not her! They’d met two years ago when she’d started gobbing off at his friend on a night out and been pretty good friends ever since. They were different in so many ways and yet it seemed to make them more capable of spending time together. Where she ruled with her heart and let a fiery personality land her in trouble he was calm and collected. The fact that he was an estate agent was a bonus for her, he’d helped her get a good deal on the cottage without being conned by the tight-fisted people who were selling the place and had been trying for almost a decade. Because of Martyn, Clara still had a good forty thousand left of her inheritance to spend on the place.

“I need to get my stuff from my parents’ house.” Clara broke the silence after a few minutes. Martyn only nodded, knowing very well what that would involve and having a full understanding one what had happened before. He gently reached across the gap and placed a supportive hand on Clara’s arm; she turned and smiled at him gratefully before turning back to the look at the view. They stood there in content silence for a while before an unspoken message between them both lead them back downstairs.  Martyn spoke about builders he knew who he’d get the details of for her so that she could get to work faster and together they gathered up their stuff and got ready to leave.

Martyn left first, having paperwork to sort out and Clara was left to take her first tour of the cottage completely alone. The true weight of the adventure she was about to embark on fully came down on her. This was it, living independently. There would be bills, cleaning, repairs and goodness knows what else that she would have to do and there would be no one to share them with. Not right now anyway. Sighing to herself she made one final round of the rooms, checking the windows were all closed before leaving, the door seeming a little too quick to close behind her, and she headed back for a few weeks in the crowded flat before she finally had the freedom of the place she’d always dreamed for.

The End

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