Last week the new Cunningham and Petrov story went live with chapter one, where Bill pops in to see Anatoly on his way out of work for his nice, quiet Welsh holiday.
After the long drive to Wales, a huge meal and the children finally out and exploring the farm before bed, Bill sat back in his chair, his arm resting on the back of Allie’s chair as he puffed on his pipe. “What are the bets that Philip comes back with a farm animal as a new friend?” he asked Allie with a twinkle in his eye.
“I certainly won’t bet against that,” she laughed. “I know I’ll lose. The question is, which animal will he come back with? I know Mrs Evans doesn’t mind the hens roaming the house but she might draw the line at a cow!”
“Or a pig,” Bill chortled. “Shall we take a stroll Allie?”
Allie stifled a yawn. She was tired from the long journey, but a gentle stroll to stretch her legs would probably do her good. “Yes, all right. Let’s go before I fall asleep right where I sit!”
Bill nodded, stood and helped her up. He wedged his pipe in his mouth. They strolled out of the kitchen and into the farm yard. “It’s so peaceful around here,” Allie said with a smile.
“Well, it is when the children are at a safe distance,” he chuckled, taking her hand and tucking her arm into his free one. “Have I told you lately that you’re a saint for taking them all on at once?”
She blushed and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I didn’t have much choice, Bill,” she said gently. “I couldn’t leave Lucy-Ann and Jack in the situation they were in. It wasn’t fair.”
“No, it sounds like they were pretty miserable,” Bill agreed. “But still, you didn’t have to double your workload and take them on, too. A lot of married couples wouldn’t do what you did.”
She shrugged. “I’m just a kind person,” she said with a slight smile. “And it was good for Dinah and Philip.”
“You’re not just kind,” he corrected her. “You’re simply wonderful.” He smiled as she yawned again. “Maybe we’ve done enough for one day, let’s get you up to bed. Your bed. You’re next door to me, I believe.” He stopped, aware he had let himself get flustered after inadvertently saying what could have been construed as an inappropriate remark.
Allie smiled at his embarrassment. “I am, it will be nice to know you are close by for a change,” she said quietly, giving his arm a squeeze to let him know that he was alright and she hadn’t taken any offence.
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you if Philip’s cow decides to start wandering in the night,” he grinned.
As it turned out, Philip had adopted a baby goat, and not a cow, but as Bill said goodnight to Allie at her bedroom door, he said the offer of protection still stood. “You just give a shout and I’ll come fend off any manner of farmyard beasts for you.”
She laughed a little, “You won’t like it if I shout at 3am!”she smiled, looked around and kissed his cheek before heading towards her room and closing the door.
Bill watched until she closed her door then turned to enter his room. He knew he would get up at any time of night no matter what. If Allie needed him then he’d be there.
The next day was rather relaxed. Allie and Bill went for a walk while the children went to see Trevor and the donkeys. They walked up the mountain a short way and then turned around to head back down to the farm and their dinner.
They both found the fresh mountain air refreshing and invigorating, allowing them both to relax. Even the children seemed easier to deal with then there were acres of space for them to explore; they were always at their worst when cooped up.
The arrival of the donkeys had everyone excited, although Allie viewed them with more trepidation than anyone else, even quiet Lucy-Ann. She was touched when Bill rode alongside her that first day, solicitously making sure that she was all right the whole time. There had been nothing he could do to stop her being stiff and sore the next day, however.
She soon got used to the donkeys, and they had several pleasant rides into the mountains through the first week of their holiday, carefree days where they rode where they wanted, stopped to picnic and then rode on past the beautiful scenery that seemed to fill every inch of their visions.
Allie wasn’t quiet as thrilled as the others about the idea of camping – she was thoroughly enjoying the comforts of the farmhouse and Mrs Evans’ cooking – but she would never have considered not going. She knew how much the children wanted her and Bill to come along, and she knew it would be fun. Her husband had loved being in the wild, he had been every bit as obsessed with birds and animals as Philip was, and so it wasn’t as if she wasn’t used to camping, although it had been a long time since she had done it.
Bill was looking at her a little concernedly while they were talking about camping, hoping she would be all right. Allie always seemed to take challenges on the chin but he knew how much more comfortable she was in the farm house.
“You know,” he said as they wandered the farm yard, trying to work off at least a little of their enormous dinner. “The children could very much take themselves off for a few days, camping and leave us here. I very much doubt that even they could get mixed up in anything out here.”
“No, even they couldn’t find trouble in a place like this,” she agreed. “But no, I can’t let them go off anyway. It would disappoint them so if we weren’t to join them. And I see so little of them during term-time it would be a shame to miss out on spending time with them in the holidays.
Laughing, Bill held his hands up in defeat. “If you want to go, then of course, we’ll go.”