Last time Allie injured her hand and Bill took her to the hospital.
The next day, the four children were packed off with the donkeys and David while Bill and Allie waving from the farm gate. When they were out of sight, Bill put his arm around Allie’s shoulders and hugged her close, minding her hurt hand. “How are you feeling?”
“Absolutely fine,” she said firmly. “Remember what I said about no fussing?”
Pulling his arm away, while laughing, Bill said, “You did. So I should be mean to you, then?”
“There’s no need to go quite that far! You could just treat me as you normally do, rather than as some sort of invalid.”
“Yes Ma’am!” Bill says saluting and turning to lean on the gate.
Allie leant carefully on the gate too, using her good arm, and looking along the path that the children had disappeared down a few minutes ago. “They will be all right with David, won’t they?”
“Of course they will. Come on, let’s get you inside so you can start relaxing and enjoying the peace.”
The day passed quietly, Bill and Allie wandered around the farm, holding hands and talking. They had lunch and then just sat in the sunshine reading their books. Bill’s arm was resting over the back of Allie’s chair, a sign of affection that he hadn’t been able to show around the children.
“This is nice,” Allie commented after a long and comfortable silence, broken only by the bleating of the goats on the hillside nearby and the turning of their pages.
“Very nice indeed,” Bill agreed with a nod. “I could do with stretching my legs shortly however. What do you say?”
“You’re not very good at relaxing, are you Bill? You always need to be doing something or going somewhere,” Allie said, putting her book down. It was quite bothersome trying to read with only one hand to hold the book and turn the pages.
“I’m not,” Bill admitted. “I haven’t ever had anyone who could persuade me to relax and stay still long enough, Allie. I’m trying to learn!” he added with a fond smile at her.
“Well, maybe I can teach you, but I won’t hold my breath,” she said. “You’ve had far too long to pick up bad habits already.”
“Am I that bad?” Bill laughed.
“You’re quite bad,” she said, struggling to keep a straight face herself.
Bill grinned at her, as he lit his pipe. As he waved out the match he winked at her, “Well, you chose to come on holiday with me!”
“Yes, you’ve got me there,” she agreed, unable to think of any sort of argument against that logic. She changed the subject after another comfortable silence. “You don’t mind that we’re keeping things quiet from the children?” They had already discussed this briefly, but she wanted to check that his feelings hadn’t changed since spending so much time with the children this past week.
“No, I don’t mind,” Bill said honestly. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No, I’m not ready for them to know. It puts too much pressure on us to make it work, I think. I don’t like being dishonest with them, though,” she admitted.
“We aren’t being dishonest,” Bill said knowledgeably. “Being dishonest would be denying anything was happening if they asked us.”
“We’re not being entirely honest either, though, are we?”
“Well no,” Bill agreed. “But we aren’t being entirely dishonest.”
Three days after her accident Bill took Allie back down to the hospital for her check-up. Thankfully they saw a different doctor, and Allie took care to introduce Bill as a ‘dear friend’ to avoid any misunderstandings. On their way back they stopped to enjoy the picnic Mrs Evans had packed them.
“It looks like there’s enough to feed ten of us,” Allie remarked as Bill unpacked the large hamper.
“Where are four hungry children when you need them?” laughed Bill as he put down the sandwiches and reached for some drinks.
“Off having a wonderful time, hopefully,” Allie replied. “There’s probably only just enough food here for them, mind you. They eat such a lot, especially the boys! I can barely keep up during the holidays.”
“Growing boys do eat a lot,” Bill agreed, remembering that Anatoly used to shovel food down in the work canteen when his father would bring him in during the school holidays.
“It seems that it doesn’t always stop when they are grown up,” she said, laughing as she watched Bill take an enormous bite of a thick cheese and tomato sandwich.
He grinned as he chewed, swallowed and said innocently, “It isn’t my fault I have a big bite!”
“Does that make your bite worse than your bark?”
Bill laughed loudly, “Maybe! You’d have to ask my work mates!”
“I didn’t know they were allowed to speak of things like that, I thought they’d be sworn to silence on all work-related matters. Not that I really ever see any of your colleagues! They do like to keep to themselves,” she said, thinking of the few occasions she had seen any of Bill’s fellow agents. They had always stayed in their car or had dragged Bill away for a private word after the briefest of acknowledgements to her. The only one she’d said more than two words to was the boy, Anatoly, and even he was tight-lipped.
“They aren’t really,” agreed Bill. “It seemed like a fairly normal thing to say! The boys would have just laughed.”
“Drat,” she murmured. “There goes my hopes of finding out all your secrets.”
“My boys wouldn’t tell you anyway,” Bill teased. “They think I’m the bees knees!”
Allie gave a somewhat unladylike snort and then covered her face with her good hand in embarrassment. “Is that because you’ve ordered them to think that?”
“Oh yes, my brain washing techniques are world class,” Bill laughed.
They say back to relax and eat, taking their time. Bill drove them back a couple of hours later, with Allie dosing in the front seat.
They enjoyed another peaceful few days before a sudden arrival threw everything into chaos. It was just after lunch, Allie had gone upstairs to lie down for a short while, when the sound of hooves clattered into the farm-yard. At first she thought of horses, but then heard the braying of donkeys.
‘That can’t be the children back already,’ she thought to herself, and glanced out of the hall window as she made her way to the stairs. She could see David, dismounting from his donkey, and five others gathering around him, sides heaving from their brisk trotting, Mrs Evans and Bill moving to intercept him. She held her arm in its sling tighter to herself as she hurried downstairs and burst out the front door, into the clamouring noise of Mrs Evans, Bill, and the donkeys all shouting at once.
“Where are the children?” she demanded.