I've shared this story before, a long time ago and I have new followers now, plus I'm working on the story to edit it. If you've read the story and have no interest in reading it again - with or without the improvements and commentary - please feel free to move on and ignore it.
If you've not read the story or you feel you'd like to re-read it and are perhaps curious about the comments and adjustments I'm making, please, grab a cuppa or a glass of wine, sit down, and enjoy the journey.
The cover image for Deadlier Beginnings as seen on Amazon.com Link
William looked at Ruth and Hazel and they all went quite quiet. The small rapping came again and Mika's tail was still swinging, like a giant, hairy pendulum. William got up and went to the door, opened it a little way and stood with his shoulder behind it so that the visitor could not open it easily. William was wary, as if his own story had set him on edge. Then his body language altered and he swung the door as wide as it went, allowing the visitor inside.
Mika almost flattened Ruth and Hazel in his eagerness to get to the late caller. Luke removed his hat and greeted Ruth and Hazel with a nod and a smile. He turned and shook hands with William, and then he petted Mika who was still trying to spring about the small room. The cottage was far too cramped by then; four people and a very large dog took up a lot of the space and with Mika turning in circles excitedly, no one could sit back down. William let Mika outside, at least until Luke had finished visiting. Ruth gestured Luke to sit in her chair.
"Good evening to you Ruth. I apologise for calling at this late hour and I did not realise you had guests. I have been to Hazel's cottage to see if she's feeling better after last night's - ah - adventure. Although when there was no answer, I became concerned and thought that you may know of her whereabouts. I see that you do." Then, facing Hazel, he said "You must not be feeling very safe if you needed to lodge with William and Ruth, Hazel. I am glad you have somewhere to stay, however." Luke sounded a little peeved to Hazel.
He remained standing and waved his hand to Ruth to sit back down.
"I feel responsible in a small way for your discomfiture, Hazel, I'm afraid I didn't help you very much last night. I had a word with the innkeeper's wife and she would be happy to prepare a room for you, and Mika could stay in the stables. I would be more than happy to pay for your stay at the inn for a few days if it will make you less afraid."
Hazel looked at William and Ruth in turn; all three were puzzled.
Immediately, Ruth bristled. "Hazel is more than welcome to stay here as long as she wishes. It's true that we are cramped into one room, but whilst she wants to stay, she can! After she does return to her own home, Hazel can be assured that she can call on us if ever she feels unsafe! It is not exactly a proper suggestion of yours to pay for a room, especially at the same inn that you are lodging in, is it?"
"Calm yourself woman!" William stopped Ruth's tirade. "Luke was making a kind offer in order to make sure Hazel didn't get any more frightened than he supposes she is already. In fact, Luke, she did not want to stay here at all, we insisted just for tonight as she was distraught over the slaughter of her chickens today"
"May I be allowed to speak for myself please?” Hazel said. “I do not feel particularly scared. I have no wish to impose on William and Ruth's hospitality, especially as Mika is such a big, clumsy animal to house, but I do feel happier that I'm not spending tonight alone. I will no doubt be returning to my own cottage tomorrow though. I need to get back to normal. Nothing very unusual happened, my dog went astray and I had a scare in the woods, nothing more.”
“Well, I suppose so, but last night…” Luke started speaking but Hazel interrupted.
“I'm beginning to think my worst enemy last night was my own imagination. I appreciate your kind offer, Luke, but I do not think it is appropriate for me to move to the inn. As Ruth says, it wasn't exactly a proper suggestion, but I understand why you felt you had to make it. Please don't feel bad. What more do you think you could have done last night? You did enough, and you were very kind."
Hazel then walked to the door to shout for Mika. As he hadn't moved from the doorway, he took her by surprise when he bounded in as she opened the door.
Mika fussed over Luke again, snuffling his hands and sniffing round his feet. Luke looked at Mika with a bemused expression and then put his hat back on.
"I'll bid you all a good night and please don't take offence at my suggestion; it was made with the best of intentions, Ruth."
"Yes, I realise it was, I'm sorry I reacted with hostility, but Hazel is my best friend’s daughter and I don't think her mother would have liked the suggestion you made, that's all," Ruth said.
She smiled at Luke but her smile broke into an embarrassed half-laugh when Mika stuck his snout right in Luke’s crotch, making Luke double up, if not in pain, then in a defensive reaction.
"Mika! Don't!" Hazel was mortified as William grabbed Mika by the scruff of his neck and dragged him from Luke.
Luke laughed though and waved goodnight, closing the door behind him.
William's story was forgotten for the moment, and after such a hectic and exhausting day, the only thing on everyone's mind was sleep. The arrangements were a little strained, as William didn't think it right that he slept in the same place as Hazel and he had to be assured that she was happy for him not to spend the night in her cottage instead. The end result was that none of them slept well at all and they agreed that Hazel return to her home the next day. Mika slept on Hazel's bedding for the most part of the night, she did not try to get him off for fear of waking William and Ruth.
By dawn, no one had had much sleep and everyone was trying hard not to be irritable. Hazel had not outstayed her welcome, but it was serving no purpose her being there. There had been no dreams and her fears had dwindled so that she had no problem passing them off as coincidences. She let Mika outside and took her bedding back home. William went over there first to ensure there were no nasty surprises awaiting her return. "Better safe than sorry," he claimed.
Hazel busied herself all the morning by repairing the hen-coop and making a start on a new fence. At the back of her mind she knew she was putting off the inevitable, delaying her visit to the landlord to discuss her father’s land and the cottage that went with it, and therefore, her eviction from the only home she had ever known, but while she kept busy, it was easy to forget.
Images are from Google
The more I learn about current writing and storytelling practices, the more I realise this will not do and how much work I have left before it will be anywhere near close to good enough to send to a professional editor so I can then submit it to an agent.
I can see my summer mapped out before me and it's going to be hard work!
Are you staying for the journey?
I hope so, I enjoy reading your comments and advice.