The sun shone on them as they walked down the path to the Church. Meg stopped for a moment to look at the old stone church Ben said quietly. "I used to think it was so large and imposing, when the sun shone through the main window with all the different lights it felt as though God was smiling on us and He was shouting at us when the trees swayed and rustled in the wind and rain on stormy days. Shall we go in?"
She nodded they had come to England specially to visit Ben's home town, they had seen the new development which had taken his home, and were in the old part of the town or village as it used to be at the very beginning. Their footsteps echoed round the church as they walked up to the alter, he was right it was beautiful, the different colours sparkling and shinning through the stained glass window onto the walls, dark wooden pews and alter rail all making the church feel warm. They stood before the Alter in silence with their own thoughts and memories broken only by light footsteps coming from the side aisle where the organ and offices were. The man stopped and waited till the couple were ready, as they turned he smiled recognising the man.
"Welcome Ben, I don't think you will recognise me, my father was the Vicar when you and your parents were here. You must be Mrs Evans I'm glad to meet you."
They all shook hands Ben was quiet for a moment. "Your father helped organise my protection if I remember rightly, I hope he is well."
The Vicar laughed "Yes he is and it was a village thing Ben, and in the past now. Thank you for your gift I know you did not want very much made of it. We put your quotation in the book of remembrance as you asked but we also put up a small plaque with your quotation. You are helping to protect us for the future and it shows your love for your parents.
My father said they liked the way the light shone though the windows so we put it on this wall, there are some others messages to loved ones already there, giving details of births and deaths and they all catch the sunlight." As they walked over to it he carried on. "We have as you suggested set up the trust and a small committee to make sure it does everything you want it to. There it is." He stopped to let them read the inscription.
'To Mum and Dad
Along with my love I would have given you, your house and garden but you are in God's House and Garden now. So with love and what I have I will protect them for you.
With love forever Ben Evans.'
"I hope that's all right." Ben nodded and let the Vicar carry on. "A local firm has added an inscription on Sophie Johnson's grave to include her twin brother and the details have also been added in the book of remembrance and village history magazine. I'll show you the graves, we can afford a full time warden come gardener now so people are visiting the churchyard more and using it as a quiet place to think and remember. The Village Hall is safe from closure so lots more clubs are opening and we can offer help to people rather than asking all the time."
They walked out of the church along the path into the graveyard to the row of graves in the corner. The sun flickered through the leaves on the trees as they moved gently in the breeze, when they came to the Sophie's grave the Vicar moved away to give them privacy. With Meg beside him Ben read the simple inscription giving details of Frederick's death and Meg handed him a bouquet of red, white and yellow roses, which he put in the vase on the grave and had a quiet moment remembering the cave and the captain as well as the family photos.
They walked past the other graves and stopped at his aunt's grave; again he was quiet for a while with all his childhood memories gently running through his mind then placed an identical bouquet in the vase, on her grave.
He then took the basket from Meg and placed it on the ground taking another bouquet from it and put his arm round Meg's waist leading her to the final grave in group and said quietly his voice nearly breaking.
"Mum, Dad, meet Meg my wife and soul mate. You would have liked her; in fact I know you do. Sorry I missed the goodbye, but I guess you know I never could have said it because you're always with me. Thanks for everything you gave me."
They both put the bouquet of flowers in the vase on the grave and Meg said quietly. "White roses are my favourite and for peace, the red are love everlasting from both of us and yellow is thank you for having your son, my soul mate who I will love forever."
They stood quietly for a few moments full of thoughts and memories till the silence was broken by laughter of children running down the lane. Meg gently let go of his hand and moved away from him to get her basket then returned close but not too close so he could have a private moment she could see his was speaking but could not hear his words.
Ben said quietly almost feeling them beside him. "Mum, Dad, I have a nephew, your grandchild who is a joy to know. I know you love Derek, he is safe and what ever happens I will make sure he is looked after and returned to your care if necessary. You had the same love as I do for Meg so I know you are happy together, rest in peace now."
He stepped back away from the grave and felt her presence, then her hand on his arm. He looked at her and smiled then gentle kissed her on her forehead, before giving the grave one last look and a quiet "Mum, Dad," before walking hand in hand down the path towards the gate out of the Churchyard.
The Vicar was waiting for them he could see the tears but peace as well. He shook their hands and said. "If you are going to the old cottages then go by the village pond." He smiled at Ben's reaction of surprise. "Yes, it's been put back. Your parents left a legacy so that after their death and/or it was thought safe the pond could be reinstated. There's a small sign just giving your parents name and date nothing else."
He turned to Meg who was looking puzzled and explained knowing instinctively she knew about Ben's past and he wouldn't mind. "All the prominent adults got together one weekend and filled the village pond, having found homes for all the wild life that lived there. That was the easy part; a new pond was being formed in a village several miles away.
There were some objections but most of the adults who mattered knew Derek and Ben were getting too old to be watched all the time. Having found Ben tied up behind the cycle shed a couple of nights previous, no one wanted to find him in the pond face down. So they filled it in, put a pump on the spring to cap it and gave Derek a warning to stop harassing Ben, needless to say it didn't work.
Not that we could have done much, Ben here was too depended on his brother. If his Aunt had lived things would have been different." He sighed "But that's in the past and you came through it. I wish you luck for the future, especially when they have the trial, I think some people have been asked for statements. Anyway we will keep in touch to let you know how things are here and I hope to see you again."
Ben shook hands. "Thank you and your family for everything I know it was not easy." The words were few but they both knew the meaning of them. The Vicar watched them go smiling to himself he had been puzzling over the sermon for the Sunday now he knew what it would be.
As Meg and Ben walked back to the car Meg asked quietly. "Would he really have put you in the pond?"
Ben knew not to lie and said lightly. "Oh Yes that was to be his next trick I got locked in cupboard instead, which was much better. If we walk, we can go by the pond which is just round the corner then the cottage is along a lane I think the road to it is further on and ends up at the bottom of the garden so walking would be easier."
Meg shivered at his words and knew he felt it and said. "Walking sounds good if you are all right with it. Anyway I think the driver's enjoying a chat, is he local?"
Ben waved to the driver of their taxi to indicate what they were doing and they would ring him later. "Umm yes... but I think it's better if we pretend not to recognise each other. He was one of Derek's friends I don't think he wants to remember too much. I managed to get my own back on him once, … umm in the pond before they filled it in actually, he was so shocked he told everyone he fell in while larking around, his kicks were lighter after that."
Meg giggled she could not help it, his tone was light cancelling the bad memories he must have as they walked she realised that everything they did on this trip had good and bad memories for him. But knew it was giving him closure on the past making him more relaxed in many ways and it was so different from home.
They both stopped when they saw the village pond, she had imagined a small pond with the odd duck on it but this was fairly large, and a small waterfall down a rockery in the middle, there was a small white fence round it, just high enough to deter a crawling child, trees, bushes, flowers and ducks in and around it, people sat on the benches on the green watching and talking while the children they had heard earlier played on a couple of swings or ball. There were a couple of shops as well cottages old and new in a half circle round the pond with a road or pathways separating them.
Carrying on they walked towards and then along one of the pathways which lead away from the pond, and between two of the cottages. The path carried on up a slight hill, a low hedge to a field on one side gave them the view over the countryside and the new town nearby, cottages and gardens were on the other.
They past a group of fairly modern houses and a small orchard, then he stopped outside a large old fashioned cottage. A tree straddle the boundary of the orchard shaded the front windows of the cottage and the garden was full of mixed flowers and bushes. Ben smiled lost in memory till Meg put her hand on his arm his voice was gentle as he explained. "It looks small just like the Church did; I remember huge rooms you could get lost in, and a long path to the front door. The back garden seemed endless with rows of vegetables. A neighbour used to help my Aunt with it and we used to raid the orchard it was part of the farm at one time."
"You've grown a bit since then." Meg said smiling remembering how her home seemed to shrink as she got older. "It's so beautiful just like country cottages should be."
The front door opened and a lady came out to the gate to greet them. "Mr and Mrs Evans I'm glad you could come. This way please." She stopped opening the gate and laughed "But you know the way don't you Mr Evans. We have kept most of the house as it was, modernised a few bits and the furniture has been replace but kept in style. We can have tea in the garden when you are ready. Oh yes I must warn you the cat has been moving her kittens all day so watch your step, she has sharp claws and teeth!"
She finished opening the gate allowing them into the garden as she carried on. "I'm Betty by the way the children and husband are out for the day."
"It's Ben and Meg, Betty and thank you for letting us come." He handed her the last bouquet of roses the same as the others. Betty took them smiling.
"Thank you Ben they are beautiful, I was so pleased when the Vicar asked if you could call. I don't know too much of you family history, but this house has always given us love, you can feel it as soon as you walk in the door. The village pond is a lovely meeting place for everyone your parents did us proud. There I will leave you to your memories there's lemonade on the table if you wish, I will make some tea in a while take as long as you wish. The bathroom is upstairs next to the box room which is now a computer room for my son, your welcome to look up there if you wish."
"Thank you, as you say the welcome is still here, I used to feel it every time I came." He walked along the passage into the room and stopped, the chairs were the same style only different in colour and a couple of cosy chairs had been added. The fire in the grate was now an imitation one, but a good one waiting to be switched on when needed. He was thrown back into memories and felt Meg beside him, they talked quietly together, he reached for a drink to find it was home-made just like it had always been in his childhood.
After a while they wandered into the other front room, which was kept as a study/library and then into back room which was a dinning room and into the cosy kitchen, it had been modernised but still kept an old fashion look and feel. Meg went into the garden and over to the table and chairs where Betty was watching the cat moving her kittens again. "She's a beautiful cat, Ben just popped upstairs, the feeling in the house is amazing and so full of memories for him. Thank you."
"That's all right Meg. The teas ready if you wish." Meg nodded and Betty gently shooed the cat away it had come towards them as they talked, its back was slightly arched and ignored Betty making its way towards Meg. Who listened to Betty but kept one eye on the cat. "It's the thing that attracted us to the house and we have never regretted it. Sort of cosy safe haven from the world. Milk, sugar. Candy leave Meg alone!"
The cat's back was not arched now it was just rubbing her side along Meg's legs, her tail in the air and a gentle purring sound coming from her. "Just milk please and the same for Ben." Meg looked up as she spoke because she had felt Ben's presence. She was startled by his expression as he watched Candy who was still round her legs.
"Ben are you all right?" She called gently not to startle him.
"Y.. Yes Did you say Candy?" He came forward and started to bend down to stroke the cat.
Betty said quickly "Yes, be careful she has her litter nearby, and then she is all claws and teeth. I'm surprised she's round Meg; she usually hides when strangers are here. I think she knows that all but two will be going to new homes in the next couple of days."
Candy shot away from Meg towards her litter, then after nuzzling them carefully picked one of the kittens up by the scruff of the neck and started to walk back towards Betty and Meg. Ben took the opportunity to sit down but watched Candy carefully remembering the other Candy of his childhood.
Betty laughed "I think she's going to move them again don't be offended Ben, she came with the house apparently there has always been a ginger cat around whether the owners want it or not and it's always called Candy. But then you know that. We love her so she's been with us as part of the family and had a couple of litters. This time although we know her partner was all ginger like she is, strange thing is one of them has dark almost black ears and she is the smallest of the litter. No one wants her so I think she will stay with the other sister, the vet thinks this should be her last litter and we thought it would be nice to keep one for her to look after and keep her company."
Candy came over to Ben, seemed to hesitate for a moment then sprung in the air over Ben's lap half dropping and knocking the kitten into his lap and using his legs to steady herself so she half tumbled and jumped to the ground. She landed a little away from him and turned to walk back so she faced him and sat down.
The whole thing was a surprise blur and two thumps on his lap but as she sat down in front of him now Ben could have sworn she was smirking, well definitely pleased with herself at any rate. He could feel her watching him as he looked at the kitten. Carefully he put his hands and arms round the kitten so she would not fall off his lap. His hands shook as he noticed the dark ears with a couple of white strands of fur showing, he gently started to stroke her and looked down at Candy as she looked back at him and said.
"So you think she should come home with me, be with her master's spirit although he's passed on."
Betty said amazed "You don't have to Ben... I mean.."
Meg replied for Ben but watching the three together, noticing Candy though still watching Ben was relaxing as she understood his words or tone of voice. "Betty it's all right. We would love to have the kitten that is if we can take her home with us. It will give us a family link with the past, the original owners of the Cottage and farm had a cat ginger with black and white ears, maybe she knows they are part of Ben's past. I always believe cats find their owners. We are staying in the area for a couple of days, she can stay with you while we check details about flying her home, we have a private plane so there should be little problem. That is if it is all right with you of course?"
Betty was amazed especially at the talk of private plane. "Oh yes, look at them it's as though they are talking to each other and the kitten is so comfortable with Ben." Her tone changed a bit. "Candy, Ben's cup of tea is getting cold; you've got what you wanted so take the kitten back to the others."
Ben realised what was going to happen as Candy gently leapt up onto his lap and managed to stay for a moment to pick her kitten then gently jumped down again to take it to the others. Ben and the others sat for a moment watching the kitten play with the others then had their drinks, scones and chatted.
In the hotel room that night as they lay in each others arms after making love, Meg started to giggle. Ben said half teasing half hurt. "Hey I wasn't that bad was I?"
"No in fact it was the best ever I think we should do this more often." she snuggled closer.
"What so funny."
"You falling head over heals in love with a kitten. What are you going to call her?"
"Umm.. are you going to get jealous."
"No she's brought the best out in you. So are you going to carry on the tradition?"
"What get a kitten then make love to you... Need a bigger house..." He was stopped by a playful swipe from Meg, they looked into each others eyes though they were laughing, which was soon smothered by a kiss...
When they broke for air a while later Meg said playfully. "Not answered my question."
Ben sighed. "You've not told me what set you off laughing. How about being very adventurous and calling her Candy."
"That's what I hoped you would say. She will have to sit in her box beside us though, I had a sudden vision of you crawling round the cabin trying to find her before we land."
Ben looked at her smiling. "You mean you saw that after I?"
"Yes" she replied giggling.
"Ok then let's see if I can find her after all we cannot leave her lost on the plane can we, poor little ..."
The rest was lost as she snuggled up closer and ran her fingers down his back...
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