Mae should be feeling excited. It wasn’t every day she found herself heading for Cornwall for a free holiday. She blamed her mood on the M5, driving wasn’t her favourite pastime, particularly when she had a lorry driver, with a death wish, almost glued to her bumper. She also had a niggling feeling that she had left her bra hanging on the washing-line. Not normally a problem, but when you suspect your neighbour of being a swinger and using single garments on a line to communicate to other with the same hobby, it did put another slant on things. She wasn’t into that sort of thing. 1) She was a one man kind of girl. 2) She didn’t have a man to swap if she was.
She had finally given Dave the boot and, in true “Dave form”, he blamed his infidelity on her. His parting jibes still cut deep. ‘You are too uptight and have no sense of humour …’ They were the traits a woman didn’t want to have, but feared they might. Her friend, Sally, hadn’t been particularly reassuring when she suggested she took a holiday ‘I have the perfect one for you,’ she said, waving a letter at her. ‘I won it in the hospital raffle, but I can’t go. The cottage is in the perfect location for you to chillax.’ The idea of escaping to Cornwall, with its shores, busy pubs and midnight beach raves, sounded appealing. Mae had quickly accepted before Sally changed her mind.
The journey finally came to an end. Mae stared at the holiday cottage as her heart sank. Situated on a windswept moor, it didn’t take a genius to realise there was not a shop, nightclub or beach in sight. Poldark came to mind, along with the lack of luxuries of the 18th century. She hoped it wasn’t infested with bedbugs. She glanced at her watch. It was too late to turn back now, besides, she was exhausted and beginning to hallucinate. She could swear that a woman was handing the keys to her cottage to Dwight Enys. In her haste to challenge them, Mae almost fell out of the car.
‘Stop!’ she blurted out. ‘There must be some mistake. This cottage is mine.’
The cottage owner and Dwight turned in her direction.
‘Actually it’s booked for Sally Forbes but I’m taking her place.’ She fumbled in her bag for Sally’s confirmation letter and waved it triumphantly in the air before giving it to the woman.
The cottage owner remained unfazed. ‘I’m afraid your friend told us she couldn’t come so we re-advertised it. This gentleman booked it.’
Dwight grinned back at her, the sort of grin that made it impossible to be angry, particularly if you had a soft spot for men with sandy hair and blue eyes. She must not let that get in the way, particulary as Dwight still held the keys in his hand. The realisation that she had no place to stay, in the busiest season, set off the familiar drum of palpations in her chest. Sally had been right, she really needed this holiday.
‘I have to stay here. I really need this holiday.’ She began listing the latest disasters of her life. They came thick and fast, from her cheating boyfriend, to staff shortages on the intensive care unit where she worked and her forced move to a basement flat with a chronic case of damp. She ended with a montage of lunatic drivers on the M5 and overcharging petrol stations. She had the uneasy feeling that somewhere in-between she had also mentioned her bra hanging on the line, but hoped he hadn’t noticed.
A slight grin curved his lips. ‘Well let’s hope the swinging neighbour hasn’t noticed.’
Mae winced; it seemed he had heard after all.
‘I have an idea. The cottage has two bedrooms, why don’t we share? You can have your holiday because, to be frank, you sound like you need one, and I can take my photos. I’ve been commissioned to photograph the moors for a calendar.’
Mae dared to consider it. Sharing a cottage with a Dwight look-alike was not such a bad compromise. He would be out most of the day and she may not see him very much. Although if she had to see him quite a bit, she was sure she would cope. There was just one thing …
‘You aren’t an axe-murderer, are you?’
His smile broadened. ‘No. I tend to shoot my victims.’
Mae found herself smiling. It seemed she still has a sense of humour after all despite what Dave had said.
‘You mean as in photography?’
He nodded, impressed. ‘Not many people get my dry wit. I promise I will be on my best behaviour. To be honest, I have never even received a speeding ticket.’
‘Your commission sounds interesting,’ said Mae, surprised she really meant it. She had always thought herself as an urban girl, not the sort who would wait hours for an animal to hop by a lens.
Dwight offered her the keys as the cottage owner made her getaway. ‘I’m Ben. Would you like to join me?’ His smile broadened slightly as their fingers brushed. A new set of palpations pummelled her heart, but this time in the most delicious way.
‘I would love to,’ said Mae, returning his smile.
During the days that followed, Ben’s sexy smile and easy company calmed her frayed nerves; from the moment the sun rose and cast a soft morning light on the moors, to the low hanging sunsets and blood red skies. They shared their life stories and deepest thoughts, while Ben taught her photography which had taken him around the world and finally to her. All too soon it was time to say goodbye.
‘Will you join me on my next trip?’ he asked as they kissed goodbye.
‘I would love to,’ replied Mae, smiling.
Suddenly her bra hanging on the washing line did not matter at all.