The Wish

By: Alex Brown

Prologue


Tindledale 1976

As the hot evening air furled around their bare bodies hidden among the medley of wild flowers in the meadow, the two young lovers lingered for one last kiss before parting and hurriedly pulling their clothes back on.

‘We can’t carry on like this,’ the man murmured, catching a frond of the woman’s wavy blonde hair and twiddling it between his fingers. Nuzzling the side of her neck, he drew in the sweet, sultry scent of her new Blasé perfume, knowing that, no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to resist her. And it had been this way since the very first time he had caught sight of her, when he’d started at the senior school in nearby Market Briar. Thirteen years old and pulsing with teenage boy hormones, he had fallen for her beguiling ways, the teasing, lingering looks, letting him think he was in with a chance, when all the while he never was. Not really. He knew that now. But that had made him want her all the more, so when she had eventually given him a kiss behind the old abandoned caravan in the Tindledale Station car park, he had thought he’d died and gone to heaven … and he had been kept dangling, trapped in the never-ending cycle of lust and loathing ever since. Simply unable to resist coming back for more whenever she wished.

‘Why not?’ she pouted and pulled her hair away from his fingers before pushing it back over her shoulders. After slipping her clogs on, she dashed over to the layby to retrieve a packet of Player’s cigarettes from the glove box of a coffee-coloured Ford Cortina.

‘You know why …’ he started, swiftly swiping the Afghan coat that they had been lying on out of the grass and going after her, vowing to call it a day. He lifted her wrist and traced his thumb over the big, shiny engagement ring on her finger. ‘You’re getting married.’

She snatched her hand away and flipped open the Zippo lighter, sucking on the cigarette until the tip sizzled and glowed flame red. ‘And you’re not! So stop worrying.’

She made a circle shape in the air with the cigarette before blowing a couple of smoke rings into his face. ‘We’re having fun, aren’t we?’ She handed him the cigarette and he managed a couple of puffs before she gestured to get it back.

‘Sure,’ he shrugged, slinging the coat onto the back seat of the car before pushing his hands deep into the pockets of his flared jeans. ‘But—’

‘No buts! Come on, why spoil the moment?’ They stood in silence, side by side, resting their backs against the car doors as they took in the view. Tindledale. The little village they had both grown up in. ‘Help me with this,’ she instructed, lifting her hair and indicating for him to fasten the buttons at the back of her floaty blouse. ‘I deserve a bit of fun. And you … my love,’ she paused and gave him a lingering look, ‘are far too nice. That’s your problem! Always has been,’ she laughed, almost mockingly.

And as the golden glow of the sun dipped down on the horizon, framing the fields full of strawberries, sheep, cows, apple, pear and plum trees, he knew that it was time to face the truth. She was about to marry someone else and he needed to tell her straight. He had to, because he couldn’t carry on feeling this way. It was wrong. And he needed to be free. Free to find someone else. Someone to love, properly, and not in secret, feeling brimful of shame and confusion.





Chapter One


Present day

Sam Morgan pulled over into the muddy gap beside a five-bar gate that led into the fields behind Tindledale Station and switched off the engine of his tank-like old Land Rover. He undid his seat belt and tried to relax as he sat in silence, watching a plump robin perched on the gate, its stout crimson breast in stark contrast to the virginal white of the spring evening frost. Sam was sure he’d read somewhere, years ago, that robins signified ‘new beginnings’ … well, he sure hoped that was true. He wound down the window and inhaled, drinking in the surroundings, as if drawing strength from the familiarity of the sycamore trees that led down to the train track. The place where he had always come to think, right back from when he was just a young boy.

Peering into the rear-view mirror, he pushed a hand through his messy dark hair and then pulled his lower eyelids down to inspect his conker-brown eyes, which were bloodshot and dry after the ten-hour flight from Singapore. But it was going to be worth it – a new job, a year-long contract, which he hoped would be more than enough time to fix things. He would be right here, redeveloping the Blackwood Farm Estate. He’d have less responsibility than he was used to, but it meant being back home in Tindledale. And it would be the perfect opportunity to put everything right with his family. His daughter, Holly, would be fourteen soon. Her birthday was just around the corner, so he really wanted to do that … more than anything.

His phone buzzed in his pocket, making him jump. Since when did Tindledale have full mobile coverage? Things sure have changed since I was last home. He couldn’t believe it was almost a year. Why on earth had he left it so long? On seeing that it was Dolly, his gran, he pressed the button to take the call.