Margaret reached forward and plucked a single yellow bloom from the sprawling rose bush, careful not to slice her fingers on one of the many thorns sitting like deadly incisors along the tangled stems. A brief smile traced her lips. The petals had unfurled like multiple sheets of thin almost translucent yellow silk, coaxed into radiant glory by the balmy touch of summer so that they glowed with a brilliance which echoed with the very strength of the sun itself.
As she looked up, glancing around the garden, a sudden anticipatory ache of severance came over her. There was such a sense of peace here in the way that it embraced the pretty cottage with its latticed windows and mellow brickwork. A climbing rose, like the long ivory train of a wedding dress, stood to the left of the back door, its hidden serpentine stems winding possessively about the trellis as it ascended purposefully towards the first floor of the house. All around her the birds serenaded from their unseen perches amidst the countless trees and shrubs, the still summer air upon which their melodious tunes danced wrapping about her like invisible gossamer imbued with a multitude of delicious scents. She breathed the fragrance in, feeling the heady somewhat exotic concoction invade her senses. She would not forget this moment, this one evanescent instant in time. She would cherish it just as fully as she did those mullioned memories that washed over her in warm waves of unashamed sentimentality.
Memories burnt through her, bittersweet and poignant, blazing with their own profound incandescence. Even now she could feel the painful wrenching at her heart as she thought of having to turn her back on the house. It was a strange, off-balance feeling; and yet, for all this, she could not bring herself to regret her decision to leave Helstone and move north to Milton. In her heart of hearts she knew that it was the right choice – perhaps the only choice to break those tenuous bonds with the past. Henry had gone; he wouldn’t be rushing back like a knight on a white charger to tell her that he’d made a mistake in leaving when he had decided to extricate himself from the parochial clutches of village life and move to London where the pace was faster and lustier.
No, she thought sadly. There would be no rekindling of that particular relationship.
Her parents had offered her the opportunity to go with them to Milton, she knew, with the very firm conviction that she would probably refuse their invitation, preferring instead to remain in the town close by where she could perhaps flat with a friend. Her mother’s visible relief, however, when she had agreed to stay with them initially while she found her feet had touched her deeply. Her father too had been pleased, perhaps feeling, as she herself had come to realise, that a complete change of scene and place would be the best thing for her in the aftermath of Henry’s abrupt departure from her life.
“Margaret!” The shrill tones of her mother pierced the tranquillity of the garden as she came to stand at the open back door. “For heaven’s sake, Margaret! Come on! Your father is already in the car waiting!”
It was time.
In that moment, Margaret found herself hesitating, her thoughts seeking reasons to linger a little longer. The butterflies that had sat so still and silent in her stomach suddenly lurched into frenzied flight, fluttering with anticipation. Letting her gaze slide from where her mother still stood expectantly in the doorway waiting, she took one last long look around. Then, with a conscious effort to quell those flapping wings within, she turned and walked purposefully towards the house, the rose she had picked still between her fingers.