Authors: Emma Bennet
The Green Hills of Home
Copyright 2013 Emma Bennet
Emma Bennet asserts the moral right to the identified as the
author of this work.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted
without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book
in any format.
Table of Contents
Gwen did a
little jump of joy as she exited the doors of Black Horse Publishing’s imposing
Georgian building. She could have squealed with happiness, but had to be
content with hugging herself tightly and grinning slightly manically. She just
couldn’t believe that she, Gwen Jones, had secured herself a three book deal
with one of the best-known publishing houses in the country, and that they’d
been so sympathetic about the situation with her mother. She almost didn’t
trust her own fantastic luck. But then, of course, it wasn’t all luck; Gwen had
worked incredibly hard to get to this point.
For once in her life Gwen cursed
the fact that she didn’t own a mobile as she searched for coins to use in a pay
phone. She simply had to spread the good news. She really wanted to speak to
her mother but she was usually asleep at this time and Gwen wouldn’t want to
wake her. As she couldn’t call her best friend Sarah, who’d be out picking her
children up from nursery, the next obvious choice was her cousin, Sian, in
whose flat she was staying whilst in London.
Gwen ended up having to empty her
bag out onto the pavement before she could find some change and the crumpled
slip of paper on which she’d scribbled Sian’s mobile number as she left the
flat that morning.
Gwen didn’t notice how many
appreciative glances her slim figure received as she crouched down; and while
she could never be described as classically beautiful, Gwen was certainly
extremely pretty with a wholesome, homely charm. To the office workers leaving
after a long day stuck behind their desks she was like a breath of fresh
mountain air amongst the city smog.
Gwen’s long brown hair shone as
she bent down to search through her belongings. Her dark eyes danced with
happiness. The fitted shirt, A-line skirt bought that morning especially for the
meeting, and knee-high boots gave a good idea as to the toned body underneath.
The shirt showed just a hint of cleavage as she leant forwards.
When Sian didn’t answer her phone
Gwen felt her feeling of elation come down a notch, but quickly ordered herself
to stop being so silly; she’d be seeing Sian at the flat in only half an hour
and she would call her mother to tell her the news before supper.
As Gwen resumed her journey back
to the apartment she became worried about losing her way and found herself frequently
checking her whereabouts in the A to Z Sian had lent her. The London streets
were certainly very different from Gwen’s rural home in Wales.
Gwen felt a little nervous
walking around the busy city with so many people pushing past, all of them in such
a hurry, and she thought back to leaving her home the day before. She’d sighed
deeply when locking the door of the farmhouse that had been her family’s home
for many generations, and allowed herself one quick glance at the beautiful
hills surrounding the house, hills which were as familiar and as dear as
childhood friends. Gwen was anxious travelling to London alone; she’d never
been to the city before and didn’t like leaving her mother with no one to visit
her, but when she’d explained that a well-known publishers were interested in
her manuscript, her mother had insisted that Gwen go: "I would never
forgive myself if you let such a wonderful opportunity slip through your
fingers," she’d added.
As she began to recognise
landmarks and was confident she was going in the right direction, Gwen was able
to relax a little and took her time strolling back to the flat, revelling in
her own joy and replaying the meeting over and over in her head. She smiled to
herself, remembering the first books she ‘wrote’ and presented to her mother
and father when she was just six or seven. The only blot in her happiness was
that her father hadn’t lived long enough to see her published. Her mother would
be thrilled though and, more important than any prestige that might come from
being an author, was the help the money would be in dealing with her and her
mother’s very pressing financial problems.
These money worries were the
reason Gwen had been working practically non-stop for the last three months to
get her manuscript ready to send out to publishers. It’d been the only thing
she could think to do to raise enough money to buy her precious family home.
Gwen had been as devastated as her mother when they discovered their landlord’s
plan to sell the farmhouse, and all Gwen’s efforts had been put into finding a
way to save it.
Gwen became so carried away in
her thoughts that she almost walked straight into a very harassed looking woman
pushing a pram at quite a dangerous pace. She came to and stepped out of the
woman’s way only to crash into something else - the solid bulk of a perfectly
proportioned man. Gwen dropped her bag in the collision, and stooping down to
retrieve it, she heard the stranger sigh in exasperation as he did the same.
Gwen looked up and locked eyes
with the man. She was so taken aback by the intensity of his gaze that it took
her a moment to gather her wits enough to murmur "So sorry."
"It’s fine," replied
the man as he passed her the purse that had fallen out of her bag.
Gwen took the brief opportunity
to examine him further: he was tall, certainly over six foot, with a strong
physical presence projecting an aura of masculinity. He was dressed in a suit,
but his jacket was open and Gwen could tell through his shirt that the body
underneath was used to exercise. She took in his dark hair and was drawn back
down to his deep chocolate brown eyes, the sort that Gwen could easily lose
herself in given half a chance.
His inviting eyes seemed to be
evaluating her with similar awareness. Returning to the moment with a start,
Gwen felt a little embarrassed by her brazen scrutiny of the stranger, but
warmed by his reciprocal appraisal.
Gwen smiled at him shyly but, as
suddenly as it had formed, the spell broke. He stood up and straightened his
tie self-consciously before moving past her with a nod and taking off at a
"They certainly don’t make
them like that back home," murmured Gwen a little regretfully to herself
as she checked that everything was safely back in her bag. She didn’t bother
glancing after him: at the speed he was going he’d already be out of sight. She
felt a little foolish for being disappointed by his swift exit and for her
misreading of his interest.
Gwen was so caught up in her
thoughts that she almost missed the door to the building containing her
She let herself into Sian’s basic, but artfully decorated home, and decided to make herself a cup of tea before
getting out her battered old laptop and attempting to get some work done. She
heaved the laptop onto the coffee table in the sitting room and switched it on
whilst she hunted in the kitchen cupboards for a biscuit or two to go with her
drink. She didn’t hurry; she knew the computer would take a while to start up.
Her father bought the laptop for her several years ago; it had been second hand
then and was so heavy that she could never rest it on her lap to write on for
long. It also had a tendency to heat up rather suddenly and so needed a ten
minute ‘rest’ every hour or so. But Gwen, the eternal optimist, always claimed
the heat kept her hands warm in winter and the break it needed gave her a
chance to go to the toilet and get a fresh drink.
Sian got back to the flat only a
quarter of an hour after Gwen, just as Gwen was settling herself down to work,
and was demanding to know how the meeting had gone before she’d even closed the
door. Sian, who could become over-excited at the tiniest thing, was almost
beside herself when Gwen told her about the book deal. She bounced around the
apartment with excitement.
"We must go out to celebrate’,
she declared. "Go and get changed. I know a brilliant place; a friend of
mine is a doorman there."
"Oh, I’m not sure,"
Gwen replied. "I’ll have to be up early to meet my editor tomorrow and I
really need to call Mam, she’ll be dying to know what happened."
"Don’t be such a bore! Look,
you needn’t worry; I’ve got an audition for a teabag commercial tomorrow
morning so we won’t be out late. How you care for Aunty Edith is absolutely
amazing and all that, but you really must let your hair down sometimes! You can
borrow something of mine to wear and give your Mam a quick call before we go."
Gwen didn’t put up much further
resistance; her more frivolous side had in fact been bursting to celebrate
since she’d left the publishing house, and she did feel obliged as Sian’s guest to fit in with her.
She’d put so much pressure on
herself to succeed in her writing, not for her, but for the house and her
mother. It would do her good to relax now.
Sian hunted through her wardrobe
for something for Gwen to wear. The cousins were the same dress size even
though they looked very different: Sian was several inches shorter than Gwen
and had dyed her brunette locks platinum blonde.
"You must recommend me for
the lead if your book becomes a huge success and some Hollywood director makes
a film of it! I’d be absolutely perfect," called Sian from the depths of
her wardrobe. Gwen smiled wryly; Sian was Sian: her cousin would always have an
ulterior motive for any compliment or favour, but Gwen knew she meant well deep
down, though in this case if Sian had read the manuscript first her support
might have appeared a little more genuine.
Sian finally presented Gwen with
a very pretty, if rather short, black dress. As Gwen’s feet were larger than
her cousin’s, she decided to carry on wearing her boots rather than attempt to
force her feet into a pair of Sian’s high heels.
Gwen hurried to get ready so
she’d have time to call her mother before Sian wanted to leave. When she was
all set to go she gave herself a quick check in the hallway mirror. She decided
to put her hair up in a high ponytail and gave the dress yet another tug in an
effort to add at least another couple of inches to the bottom of it.
Knowing she had a while before Sian would emerge from her room, Gwen picked up the phone and called the hospital her
mother had been staying for the last two months. She knew the number off by
heart and recognised the voice of the Sister when she was transferred to the
correct ward. She was told her mother was comfortable and the phone was taken
over to her bed. Gwen heard her mother thank the nurse and then clear her
throat before putting the receiver to her ear.
Gwen was so grateful that her
mother’s speech hadn’t been much affected by her stroke; at least even when she
was at her worst she’d been able to explain to Gwen and the hospital staff
exactly what was wrong and what she needed help with. Gwen tried to remind
herself every day that it was a small mercy that only her mother’s physical
mobility had been severely affected; she was still exactly the wise, loving
person she’d always been.
"Hello Mam, how are you
feeling?" asked Gwen anxiously.
"Hello darling, don’t you
worry about me, I’m fine. I’m so glad you called. How did the meeting go? Did
they like your book? Are they interested in publishing it?"
"Oh Mam, it was fantastic!"
said Gwen, her excitement almost bubbling over. "They love the book. They
want to give me a deal for that and two more. The advance added to what I’ve
saved will more than pay for the deposit on the house and the mortgage company
must surely be happy to take me on!"
"Sweetheart that’s wonderful,"
replied her mother, "I’m so proud of you!"
"Thanks Mam. I’ve got
another meeting with them tomorrow to be introduced to my editor. His name’s
John Thatcher, he’s supposed to be very good. I expect I’ll find out the rest
of the details then."
"Are you still planning on
coming straight home?"
"Yes, I’ll probably catch
the two o’clock train so I should be back in time for the end of visiting."
"Don’t be silly love, you’ll
be exhausted with all that travelling. Come and visit me the day after."
"I want to see you Mam. I’ll
pick the car up from the station and then go home with my stuff afterwards."
"Well, it’ll be lovely to
"You too. I’d better go now.
Sian’s taking me out and I don’t want to keep her waiting."
"OK love, have fun,"
said her mother cheerfully.
"Bye, and thank you Gwen.
You saving our house means a lot to me."
"I know, love you."
"Love you too."
Gwen put down the phone and
closed her eyes. She hated being away from her mother whilst she was in
hospital. Gwen was an only child and she’d felt responsible for her mother
since her father died two years before. Though a naturally independent person,
looking after her mother was such a large part of Gwen’s life that it felt
peculiar to have a couple of days with only herself to think about.