The Sealed Door Book four in The Seven Spell Saga
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Tessa Stokes’ Devon Ruthin and A Vampire in Love:
As he walked through the nightclub, he attracted lots of attention. He smiled at his companion, a pale lovely girl who did not draw as many admiring glances as he did. Then after kissing her on the cheek, he stood by the bar and scanned the range of hopeful female faces. His companion wandered alone onto the dance floor, where she started to sway to the music.
One girl in particular stood out for him as he looked around the crowd, she had very long hair and an elfin face. Her dress was barely there and he liked the way it clung to her thighs and showed off her pretty neck and shoulders.
The girl whose name he would instantly forget knew she was the one that had been chosen, even though as yet he had not approached her. She waited happily until he walked over, gracefully weaving through the crowded bar area. He knew he was being stared at and not just by women, and he flashed his eyes in his sexy inviting way as he returned their stares. His eyes were bright kingfisher blue in reality, but seemed silver in the special club lighting. He knew this gave them the shivers, his admirers, his future lovers. The one he was approaching would not be the only girl he ravaged that night.
As he came closer the girl was extremely impressed by his lovely face, he was very attractive, bordering on beautiful. His nose a perfect shape, his eyes, oddly silver and mesmerizing were fringed with long, dark lashes. He was tall, elegant, and muscular and wore a shirt that was reminiscent of one from the sixteenth century over black jeans. The cuffs ruffled and coming to halfway down the backs of his hands and the top four buttons closed with loops of satin. His hair was dark and long to his shoulders, thick, slightly wavy, and pushed behind his ears. His overall look radiated sex. He asked her name, and smiled charmingly. The girl was captivated by him as he leaned close and kissed her cheek. She felt the coolness of his skin and the softness of his lips and wanted them on hers.
He very soon obliged and took her hand to lead her to the outdoor area of the club. Couples were out there kissing. There was a woven wooden fence in which there was a door that led to the street, once out there after closing the door you could not re-open it from that side, and he knew this.
Once through the door he began to kiss her gently at first and then with little bites on her lips and cheeks. She was breathing rapidly with excitement as he ran his hands up and down her thighs and then along her neck as he continued to kiss her. It was over in minutes as soon as he had driven himself into a frenzy, he almost flew with her to the back alley of a row of shops across the street. He felt her body respond to his, even as she moaned in pain when his bite became harder on her breasts. He stopped and kissed her gently until her moan suggested another feeling, his hips against hers, his cool skin against her inner thighs, and then he bit down hard into her throat and drained her in seconds. There was a trash skip in the alley and he tossed her in it.
When he went back into the nightclub, he noticed the girl he had arrived with dancing close to a young man, her arms around his neck. She gave him their special look over this poor soul’s shoulder.
The silver eyed, beautiful man had begun tempting another woman and this next conquest had fifteen minutes of exquisite sexual pleasure in a nearby public rose garden before she too became his meal. He didn’t want to toss her into the trash with the other body. She had whispered his name against his ear as they had made love, if that was what it could be called. It had felt good, and so he put her in the boot of his car, which was illegally parked in the entrance to the gardens. He had already got a ticket that was tucked underneath a windscreen wiper. He left it there and went back to the club. He decided against telling the next girl he approached his name.
By the time he met up with his friend at their designated rendezvous time by his car, three other bodies were pressed into his boot. He was sated with blood and sex, he smiled all the way to the place they disposed of bodies and once there threw the parking ticket in with them.
It was nearly dawn, which came early in the warm June weather and he wanted to be in his cool comfortable house by the time that abominable sun came up. His companion was quiet as he drove home her hand on his thigh.
Bliss had always hated her name, but then, when she thought about it, she hated her sister’s name more. Which was Blessing. Especially since lately, their dad had been saying her sister was not such a blessing after all.
Bliss had always wondered what had prompted her parents to give her this name. Was it a reflection of how they had felt when they had conceived her, the love making that is. She hoped so, thinking that her dad had been very lonely since her mom had been killed in that car crash. She hoped they had shared some high-level lovemaking in the past.
Some of the kids at school had found out her Christian name, and so there had been a few extra unpleasant moments to add to the ones already in existence in her job. She described her job to her friends as crummy and soul destroying. It wasn’t meant to be so. It had held promise in the beginning, but as time went on, she had found herself at such impossible odds with the ethos of the system, that the shine had worn off more rapidly than she had expected.
It was going to be her birthday in three days. She would be twenty-four. She had tried to get a few friends together to celebrate, but most of them were busy. It was hard being the one without a boyfriend. Two friends were already married, one had a child, and two others jobs that meant they were going places, literally, as one of them was out of the country, and the other about to be.
Bliss lived in a rental house. A mews ‘cottage style’ build, which was seriously overpriced and always had one plumbing problem or another. She couldn’t afford much more. She was still paying for her studies and had to run a car. Seriously, she had told her dad you can’t do without one, and he had agreed.
On the morning it all started, she had pulled into the car park at work, parked next to Dennis’s new car, and taking her briefcase out of the back seat said hello to the teacher on playground duty. The other teacher stopped to commiserate with Bliss on yet another Monday. It was already warm and sunny, June so far being unusually hot. Bliss reluctantly walked into the staff room, and was making coffee when the head of the school, Dennis, came snooping around to check who was still in there, and not in place in a form room at this unbelievably late hour of eight thirty in the morning.
Bliss didn’t care anymore. She looked straight at him and said, “I like your new car Dennis, very chic”.
He enjoyed compliments of any kind, and this one deflated his pigeon breast, which had been puffed up ready for the encounter with the late comer. He smiled and nodding turned to go back to his ivory tower.
Bliss watched his back disappear down the corridor and then went to the form homeroom, where she would need to take the register.
As she walked into the form room, the students were in small groups chattering, some were in couples standing provocatively very close to each other, and one or two stood alone looking very bored. Although knowing this lot, it could have been a pose they had affected for the new school week Bliss thought to herself as she dumped her briefcase on the desk, and stood watching them as she drank her coffee. She noticed a particularly attractive girl had a new hairdo, lots of blonde streaks; it looked great. The girl was being worshipped by her group of friends, and as the register bell went, they groaned and looked around to where Bliss normally stood.
Bliss felt a sudden rush of empathy for them and smiled at them all, called the names, recorded absences, and then sent them off to their first lessons.
She walked down to where she would give a ninety-five minute session, English Literature. The theory behind the extended session was that students could fully explore the texts. They might start projects and concentrate on the subject in depth. It just made the ones who hated the subject hate it more and sometimes they would hang out in some hidey-hole for the period. Bliss knew what it was like, because she used to do it with gym and games. She no longer cared, let them miss their hated subject, maybe they put in double for the subjects they loved, she thought.
Having no appetite for the chosen text herself that morning, as the students wandered into the classroom, Bliss wrote up on the whiteboard.
‘As long as you are relatively quiet, you may do any work you have outstanding for any subject, or read, draw, etc. You choose. Any racket or ridiculous behaviour, and we have to go back to the usual for the whole ninety-five minutes’.
Bliss sat at the desk just to the right of the whiteboard. A desk designated for the teacher, and watched their expressions as they read the board.
No one seemed upset by the instruction and the students got on quietly with whatever they wanted to do. Bliss watched for a while and noticed a couple start writing notes to each other. Two or three students got out netbooks, iPods, or other gadgets. Bliss ignored it all she had her own agenda.
Last night she had downloaded an eBook she wanted to read, legally of course, having bought it from Amazon. It was not by an author Bliss had heard of and just idly browsing through various genres, she had seen the lovely book cover. It was a bluebell wood, it was sunny and the trees looked great. She had read the book description, it looked like a light-hearted romantic fantasy; Bliss had thought give the book a try, why not?
It had been too late to start reading last night, but today she got out her iPad and started the book. She was soon engrossed in the story, it somehow drew her into the main character’s life within minutes, and she was shocked when the bell for the end of the period sounded. The students quickly packed up and left the room before she could give them homework, not that she intended to do so, but they did not know that. Bliss had another class right then, younger students and poetry, but she simply didn’t want to do it. They filed in and sat down, most of them quietly staring at her, one or two boys already creating their own clown act at the back of the room. She ignored them and pointed at the board where the message to the last class remained. The loudest boy at the back exclaimed, “But Miss the lesson only lasts forty-five minutes” and his colleague in clowning added, “Right”.
Bliss erased the ninety-five minutes and wrote forty-five. There were a few, raised eyebrows and smirks, but then the students just did their own thing, even the loud boys settled down. One of them surprisingly took out an art pad, a large packet of Conté crayons and started to draw what looked even from a distance to be a good drawing.
Bliss sat down and turned her attention back to the book. The heroine had met the second gorgeous guy, who looked as if he was about to fall in love with her. The best thing so far was how Bliss could identify with this heroine. She too had no success with her love life and hated her job, but this character had decided to do something about it. Not just leaving the job, but also leaving the town she lived in, and going off on an adventure that led her to this lovely village and gorgeous guys.
Bliss did not usually read this genre. The romance within the book would normally have had her putting the book away, but Bliss was lonely. She was tired of being alone. She was very short on romantic moments, and places in her life. This time Bliss let herself go with the flow of the story, quashing the usual thoughts that real life could never be like this, she allowed herself to suspend disbelief and be entertained.
Throughout the day, Bliss read when she could. She left work straight away at three thirty, actually passing some students on the way out of the gate, a very unusual occurrence. On the drive home Bliss was thinking about what she had read that day, the life that the main female character had built for herself, Bliss wanted to do that too. She wanted to move away from where she lived, find a different life, love, different friends, and a different job. She was at the traffic lights when she made the decision; she was going to leave her old life behind. She would use the half-term holiday week, and drive off across country, stop when she liked her surroundings, no she told herself, loved her surroundings. It would be nearly ten days away from her real life at least. She smiled as she rounded the top of the road where she lived, and then entered the drive, to park in the carport assigned to her mews cottage.
As she unlocked her front door she felt a pang of impatience, how would she last out the week until Friday when she could leave school and drive away.
She started to make herself a cup of coffee, all she wanted to do was continue reading the book, but at the same time, she didn’t want it to end because then she would have exited that lovely world within the book.
Bliss had forgotten she was supposed to be celebrating her birthday that week, and it was a friend who reminded her. She was sitting in the back room, which the afternoon sun had warmed through the French windows. Bliss had opened one side of the doors and sat in her favourite chair with her coffee and iPad. She was disturbed in her enjoyment of the love scene, playing out between two of the book characters, by her phone ringing, the ringtone told her friend Lynn was the caller.
Sighing she put down her reading and answered her cell phone. Lynn was apologising for not being able to make it to the Friday evening get together, to celebrate her birthday. Bliss suddenly did not care, there was only one friend now that could make it, and she soothed Lynn’s apparent distress and rang off. After making herself another cup of coffee, she rang the remaining participant in her birthday plans and told them it was off, she had decided to get away, have a little holiday instead; she would leave straight after work on Friday.
Bliss picked up her reading; she read until the breeze coming through the door turned from warm to cool and made her shiver. She thought about making a sandwich as she closed the door and flicked on a lamp. The night was falling, there were red streaks across the sky that led her to believe the next day may be warm and sunny again. A flock of birds flew noisily overhead, obviously on their way to roost. She stood looking out at the potted plants on the paving. Should she water them, it had rained lightly yesterday morning before the sun had come up scorching, maybe they would be ok for tonight. She resolved to water them tomorrow night and allowed herself to make a salad sandwich.
Bliss had decided a few weeks ago that maybe, just maybe she was without a man in her life because she was a tiny bit overweight. She had not wanted to think this, but the friend who had just recently found herself a new boyfriend said categorically it was because she had lost five pounds. This had enabled her to fit into some sexy jeans, previously off-limits because of her hip size.
Bliss had shrugged it off at the time, not wanting this to be true, and thinking it could not be. What were five pounds? It was a small amount of weight; her friend must have just been in the right place at the right time to meet Colin, the new guy.
Later, the gender conditioning Bliss had been subjected to most of her teen years kicked in. She had looked at her own hips and then thighs; maybe she could lose a little weight too. Bliss worked in kilos not pounds, she considered her rear view in the bathroom mirror; perhaps she could lose two or three kilos. It had been hard to stop eating chocolate and it had only been this last and third week of her cutting down diet, as she had dubbed it, that she had not eaten any chocolate. It was only when she felt sad that chocolate took on a lure for Bliss. Her job and the lack of anyone close in her life would prick her and she would want the comfort of chocolate.
Bliss took her sandwich into the back room and put on her TV. She checked the channels. Not seeing anything she wanted to watch she muted the sound, and left the program about gardening on the screen as she ate the sandwich. It was not very tasty, and she left the crusts on her plate. A crow would come and sit on the carport roof looking for something to eat now and again. The crusts could be thrown out onto the communal lawn tomorrow for the bird, she thought.
Bliss took up her reading; it was midnight before she stirred again. The book had become hard to put down now. The heroine was in love with two men. There were adventures with time travel, strange happenings, offset by the love shared amongst the main characters.
Bliss wanted to picture the two love interests of the heroine; she could not, even though their descriptions were detailed and enticing. She had never met real men who approached the level of these characters in looks, or behaviour. People in the public eye, movie stars, and such, she could not think of any that she found attractive enough to picture as she read the book.
These characters were special for Bliss. She felt desperation as she finally showered and got into bed. She wanted to have something happen in her life that would lift her from the solitary existence that had befallen her.
Trying to sleep she imagined being with one of the characters. He would hold her close and whisper against her lips, the way she had read he did with the girl in the book. He would fall in love with Bliss and they would walk in the bluebell wood, his arm around her, talking about the adventure they had just shared together. Bliss sighed; she was not able to picture this properly. She could not believe any more that she would meet someone who would love her. It had been so long since she had been asked out, or approached at all by a man. Well four years actually she thought, counting back, and finding it closer to five years since she had a relationship. She had been nineteen. She had met him at a party, a slim hipped young man, dressed in black, his hair unfashionably long, his green eyes inviting her to fall in love, which she had. It had been eight months of pure pleasure. She had felt lovely in his gaze, sexy in the warmth of his arms, invincible as they did everything together, always inseparable. What had happened she thought, what had really happened? He had not let her down easily. He had simply dropped her, one day there, the next gone with a group of friends to Australia for a year. Maybe for good the letter had said. It had shaken her to the core; she could not believe he had done it. Bliss had rung him at once. The letter, pushed through her door by hand in the night, she expected him to be somewhere she could contact him. His mobile was off. She had rung his home, where his mother had said he had already left, that the plane taking him away had been at five in the morning. Maybe Bliss could email, because he would check that on his stopover in Singapore. His mother had sounded sympathetic as she told Bliss this; it had made Bliss cry.
Bliss remembered the email she had sent him, and how it had been answered. He had written back, ‘please accept that we are over. I will remember you because we had fun together, but I will not reply to any other correspondence’. That had hurt Bliss more than she could describe to her Dad, her sister, and any friend who would listen to her sad tale.
Bliss hugged herself right then as she shrank in her bed remembering this awful time, and then she lie straight again staring into the darkness of her room. It was close to one thirty in the morning and she sighed noticing this on the big face of the digital clock on her bedside table. How was it possible that she had met no one else, that not one guy had asked her out in four years. She knew she would be tired the next day when it was time to get up for work, and the more she tried to sleep, the more worried she became about not being able to cope the next day. This job had stripped her of her natural resilience and the vitality she could have enjoyed. She felt old, and then trying to stop this dive into melancholy she told herself twenty four was not even remotely old.
Sometime between two thirty and three in the morning, Bliss fell asleep.
Over a hundred miles away but at the same hour, the silver eyes were once more focused on a pretty girl. A group of girls had left a party and they fell into step with this gorgeous guy and his friend. A man not quite as attractive but sexy all the same, and it was this man who started the conversation telling them his name was Nathan. They were heading for a taxi but then agreed to go on to another party with the two men. They all got into Nathan’s luxurious car and began to kiss each other. The third girl who was not being kissed, but was crushed up against the door, was about to get out and leave the other two, when she felt a cool hand slide between her legs and start to give her such pleasure that she closed her eyes. When she opened them again, it was to see the man who had been kissing her companion looking at her over her friend’s shoulder with a smouldering look in his eyes. She wanted his kiss and moved a little forward to reach her mouth to his. Nathan started the car, the girl he had by his side was slumped in the passenger seat.
The sun came through the bedroom window straight into Bliss’s eyes. She did not want to get up as the clock sang out at seven thirty but she did, and found the strength to leave her iPad and so the book, at home.
She plodded through the day and at three thirty instead of attending a staff meeting, she told the Deputy Head that she was unwell, could they cover for her the next day. He had nodded his head in acquiescence but was clearly not happy about it, although Bliss found herself singing along with the songs on the radio as she drove home. Her happiness at the freedom she would have the next day buoying her spirits.
Once in her cottage, she threw open the door of the big, back room window to the sun. She settled down to read the book once more. It was like going home, a welcoming landscape, friends, lovers. There must be something close to this out there in the real world she thought, if only she could find it.
Bliss read half the night. The book was long, and when she had finished it she felt such a loss that she checked the author’s website, in the hope that there were more books with these same characters, and this same landscape. Her joy at finding there was another book and that it was available on the Amazon site surprised her. She made herself wait until mid-morning to buy it. She had grapefruit marmalade on a piece of toast, and remembering that she had not watered her pots of flowers the night before, she did that. The book came down on ‘Whispernet’ in a flash, and Bliss started to read it right away. Sitting there engrossed in the book, she suddenly realized she was moving a finger over her lips every time the heroine and one of the two guys who loved her were kissing. She sighed, oh my god, she thought, how bad is this, I didn’t realize I was so needy, and then she sighed again. She was needy, and she admitted it to herself. She stood up and put her iPad down. The little bookmark appeared at the top of her kindle application reader page as she turned away. Bliss made herself coffee and rang her dad. She was surprised when her sister answered the phone.
“Blessing why aren’t you at work? Is dad home, this is his day off isn’t it?”
She heard Blessing sniff, “I have a cold and anyway I am waiting for a new contract, the agency have something for me to start next week. Dad is at the supermarket. Why are you calling, why aren’t you in a class, it’s neither break, nor lunch time?”
Bliss looked up at the ceiling and then at her fingers as she coiled the telephone cable around them. “I wanted to tell dad I am going away for the half-term holidays, it’s just a little road trip. We were meeting for lunch on Friday after school finished, you know we get off at midday, well I was thinking dad would not mind if we had lunch another time. I was thinking to get away as soon as possible, miss the Friday traffic. When are you expecting him home?”
Blessing was heard to sniff again and clear her throat, “I don’t know he was gone when I got up, just call him back. Have you taken the day off work or what?” She was not giving up on her quest to know why Bliss was calling at a time she would normally be teaching.
Bliss smiled slightly at the tone of Blessings voice, it was kind of wheedling, like when they were children. “Blessing I took the day off, if you must know I feel really burned out by the place. I’ll be back there tomorrow”.
Blessing immediately took up her flag, “Bliss you should just pack it in, the job has been bad for you for the last two years, since you took it in fact, tell them to stick it, be a free spirit like”.
She did not finish because Bliss finished for her. “Like you, I know, and you have a point, but Blessing I have to work, I need to get another job before I pack this one in”.
Bliss heard something in the background of the phone call, and Blessing said ‘hello dad, hey Bliss is on the phone’ and then her dad’s voice came on the line.
“Bliss hello, what’s going on, are you calling from school?” He sounded a little harried.
Bliss was quick to reassure him. “Everything is fine Dad, I’m just having a day to myself, I was calling to tell you I am going off on a little trip for half term, do you mind awfully if we skip lunch Friday. I think it might be wise to avoid the rush hour if I can”. She heard her dad breath out.
“That’s fine Bliss if that’s what you want, is it still ok for me to pop over Thursday night, it’s your birthday, have you forgotten?”
Incredibly, Bliss had forgotten, it was that book, she thought. The book had helped her forget the lack of birthday celebrations with her friends. “Dad, of course I am expecting you on Thursday night”, she answered. It had been Friday night celebrations she had tried to organize with her friends. “It was just I thought I would give you advance notice of Friday lunch, you know, so that you could plan something else”.
Her dad had Friday afternoon off but worked every Saturday. He was the manager of a bookstore, a large branch in the nearby city; he often worked a four-hour shift on Sunday too. Apart from that, he only had the one whole day off a month. Today was one of those monthly days.
Bliss sometimes worried that he worked too hard, but he had told her, this was what kept him sane after her mother had died. He loved books, he always had; it was his sanctuary, the bookstore.
Bliss smiled down the phone, “Dad, I’ll see you on Thursday night then, I’ll let you go unpack the shopping before something melts”. Her dad said his goodbyes and they rang off.
Bliss went to make more coffee. She stared out of her kitchen window at a blackbird on the little stone birdbath as she waited for the kettle to boil. Poor dad she thought, I wonder if Blessing is a worry to him. Blessing and her free spirit stuff, she had declared herself this a few years ago, eschewing university and a permanent job. She went from one temporary job to another and had done the same with her accommodation. Mostly because she lived with one boyfriend or another, moving her few belongings in black plastic garbage bags, until the relationship broke down and she moved out.
Almost a year ago now, Blessing had gone home to her dad after she had lived for a week in her old Ford van. A cramped existence, which her dad had found out about from the boyfriend Blessing had left. Her dad had insisted Blessing come home for a couple of months until she found her feet again; a year later Blessing had not found her feet. Bliss had asked her dad if he minded Blessing being at home again. After all, it had been her choice to leave, and she had done so in a flurry of declarations about independence, free spirited behaviours, and growing up. Her dad had said that he minded Blessing sleeping in her little van, and that having her home was good in many ways, although he wished she were a little less messy and maybe a little more ambitious. Bliss had agreed with him. When Blessing had stayed with her for two weeks, the place had been almost intolerably messy after only two days. Bliss could not see how you could even know where any of your stuff was, when everything was just chucked everywhere.
She took her coffee into her back room and sat down with the book, the third in the saga. Bliss sighed as she continued to read the passage she had previously been reading. The author described that kiss between the characters so vividly they must have experienced a kiss like that themselves. Then she smiled, or maybe they just had a great imagination. Bliss let go of all thoughts and read the book, it was evening before she stopped. She had a couple of chapters left to read, she wanted to save them to read over the next two days, they would keep her going until she was free. Free from the job and off on her journey.
She determined to pack a little, thinking this would cement the idea that she was going away. She fished out her big holdall and checked the condition of her toiletries case. It needed wiping out, and so Bliss did this with dampened paper towel thinking about what clothes she would take for the week. It was important to have just enough, she did not want too much, she would buy something if she needed it; let this holiday change her in as many ways as possible.
Within a half hour, she had rolled a lot of underwear into plastic bags and lined them up at the bottom of her holdall. She put a plastic bag with some socks alongside a couple of T-shirts, a spare pair of jeans and a sweater. She looked around her bedroom, what else, she would take a towel just in case the ones where she stayed were horrid. She would take her netbook and iPad in the hard-shell case she had for them, her toiletries she would pack Friday before she left. Then she added a long T-shirt for sleeping in, again rolled in a little plastic bag. It was important to Bliss that her stuff was clean. She considered what shoes she would take, those canvas boat shoes she had and her long boots, plus her waxed jacket, and a scarf, because who could trust that it would not get cold.
Bliss was happy with her packing; she went downstairs and started to make some toast. She made a cup of tea and took her toast to the small table where she could sit and look out at the view from her little garden. The mews were built on a slight incline and the gardens had a lovely view of woods and farmland.
As she ate, Bliss considered the locations described in the books, she wanted to go to those places, she was convinced they were real places, disguised by made-up names. Thinking about this more, Bliss concluded that the places might even be relatively close, maybe in the next county or the one just after that. She decided to head slightly north and west on Friday when she left on her journey, go up country a little so that she was going along a route heading west from Oxford, a real city mentioned in the books.
Bliss dragged herself through Wednesday at school. She found a way to read a chapter in the middle of the day, when she was asked to cover a ninety-minute session with a lower sixth group.
Thursday dawned a little cloudy and it drizzled with rain at the morning break. Bliss looked at the sky during the lunch break hoping the weather would clear for Friday, and go back to the lovely warmth that had characterised the last few weeks.
That evening her dad arrived with Blessing in tow, they both smiled happily as she let them in, handing her wrapped packages. Her dad kissed her cheek as he passed and Bliss caught his arm and kissed his cheek in return.
The evening passed quickly as her dad told her little stories about a new employee he had at the bookstore. The young girl was always holed up somewhere reading a book. He thought it charming even though she was not pulling her weight in busy periods.
Blessing regaled Bliss with ideas for how she Bliss, could get temp work, and so escape the job she had come to hate. Bliss smiled and nodded throughout, her dad occasionally giving her a little smile of commiseration. It was a nice evening and their gifts for her had been well considered.
Her dad had given her a laptop case, it was neoprene and a vibrant fluorescent blue, she had exclaimed in delight, anything to do with technology was very welcome to Bliss. Inside he had popped a gift certificate for a clothes shop he knew she liked. Blessing had already been there, her present for Bliss was a cotton sweater, scoop-necked, and three quarter sleeved, it was just what Bliss would have chosen for herself, in a deep violet colour. Bliss kissed them both on the cheek saying she was spoilt. By the end of the evening, they were all feeling happy and relaxed. Bliss was going to read the last chapter of the last book available in the saga before she went to sleep. Tomorrow was her big day and she was so looking forward to it.
By the time the end of the term break-up bell rang out in school, all the students were, in Bliss’s opinion, crazed. She picked up her briefcase where she had already stowed her laptop in the concealed, padded compartment and walked out to freedom. Her beloved car in the car park was shining in the sun, even though it was black the sunlight bounced off it in spangles. She was on her way home, singing to the CD in the CD player. She loved this band, she loved her car; she told herself that job had been worth doing just to have bought her car.
At home, she changed into her jeans and short flat boots, her T-shirt that she had chosen to wear, and cleaned her teeth. She checked her light make-up, renewing her lip-gloss and then made sure she had all the toiletries she would need for a few days.
With her holdall in the back next to a blanket, her long boots, waxed jacket and sweater thrown beside it, she carefully placed her hard shell case containing her netbook, iPad, dongle and a flash drive on the back seat. Then she secured it with the seat belt and decided to cover it with the blanket. She put a box of tissues and a roll of paper towel on the floor behind her driver seat, and completed her packing with her toiletries case and a six-pack of bottled water, which she put in the trunk area with her holdall.
Satisfied with her packing, she ran back in her cottage and went to the bathroom, picked up her little shoulder bag containing her wallet and phone, and a bottle of water from her fridge happily. She locked her front door. As she walked to her car Bliss uncapped the water, took a small drink, and placed the bottle in the cup holder located below the transmission. She had maps and her satellite-navigation unit, but right then she was travelling by heart, and set off in the general direction of Oxford.
As she reached the outskirts of the city she lived near, the traffic became heavy and it took her half an hour to get out the other side, but then the road she was on cleared considerably after the ring roads; smiling to herself, she began to sail along.
Bliss soon reached the area of the next county that she considered a possibility for the location of the places in the books she had read. The countryside was beautiful, rolling green fields, hedges loaded with white blossom or banked with trees heavy with leaves. Leaves that formed a canopy over the road she was on and cooled the air before she came out again into the bright sun and the warmth of the early June weather.
She was in another county and had been driving for just about two hours. On reaching signs indicating she was approaching a country town she decided to stop there, find a café, eat, and boot her computer. She would locate a room for the night in one of the hotel chains that were frequent, inexpensive, and quite decent.
Bliss slowed down as she entered the town, the buildings were old, some lining the initial street she was on, were half-timbered, Tudor type, low and looked to Bliss to be very old. She entered the main street, the buildings were alternately very old and not so old, the pub, very old, the shop alongside not so old. She noticed a café and then another, to her great pleasure there was a river running through the middle of the town. She had to cross an obviously medieval bridge to continue on the road to the well signposted car parks.
There were traffic lights controlling the progress of cars over the bridge, which was not wide enough for two cars alongside each other, so first one side of the traffic got to drive over the bridge and then the other. Bliss stopped at the red light looking to the right ahead, where a large sign proclaimed the entrance to the main car park for the abbey. Excellent, Bliss thought, a river and an abbey; this place could be one of the places in the books certainly it was similar. When the light for the line of traffic she was in went green, she drove over the bridge trying to watch where she was going, but also looking at the buildings, another row of very old ones.
She turned into the abbey car park and found a space at the end in a little shade from a young oak tree. She found change to go and buy a parking ticket from the pay and display machine and got out of her car, locking it she started to walk towards the machine. A silver four-wheel drive vehicle stopped and a woman called to her from the open passenger window, ‘did she need a ticket’, and Bliss answered she was going to buy one. The woman held out a ticket to her, “Have this one; it’s valid until six thirty when the abbey closes; we’ve finished for the day”. Bliss smiled her thanks and took the ticket. She put it on her dashboard and picked up her little shoulder bag. She would go and look at the abbey and then go to the café just over the bridge.
Bliss had a small camera, a digital point, and shoot type. It was a good camera, and the latest version of the brand. She slid that into her back pocket and entered the abbey grounds. The trees cooled the air and leant an atmosphere of serenity and silence to the grounds. The outside of the abbey was impressive, though small Bliss thought for an abbey. She knew most of the central building was Norman she could tell from the style and stonework.
Entering the abbey through a massive dark wooden door, which was at the end of a short bench lined porch, the echoes of sanctity and age greeted her. Bliss felt peace as she looked around. A sign said she must purchase a photograph permit from the abbey shop located in the abbey near some of the most ancient tombs.
Bliss wandered down there slowly looking at effigies and Norman stone tomb canopies, she was enchanted with the place. High above the vaulted ceiling was painted with what the historians believed to be the colours originally used when the abbey was built, red and gold. A mirror gave the viewer a wonderful view of the ceiling all the way down the abbey.
When Bliss had bought her permit she set about photographing the wonders she had noticed, tombs and effigies, ancient floor tiles, stained glass windows, Norman font, she had spent an hour in there before she knew it. When she began to feel cold, she left the abbey, retrieved her netbook from her car, and found the street that would take her over the bridge and to the café for coffee.
Bliss was fascinated and happy to find the café had a small stream running in front of the paved area where tables and chairs were set up. This was just like one of the cafés in the book she smiled to herself. The stream seemed to come from alongside the main river but be separate from it. After being parallel for about the length of two buildings, it ran down a series of man-made steps to go at right angles and travel in front of buildings on the side street. Bliss found a table by the stream and sitting down looked around at the striped awnings, the matching sun umbrellas and the little terracotta pots of a purple flower, which she did not recognize. There was a small menu encased in a stand up plastic case and she was looking at this when someone came to take her order.
Bliss looked up, she saw an extremely thin boy of maybe seventeen, his green and white striped café apron wrapped almost twice around his pencil like waist. It was long for him too, reaching almost to his ankles where his jeans, cut off and turned up, showed his bony white ankles and his feet in white canvas espadrilles. His white T-shirt was spotless and so were his thin hands as he held a pad and pencil to take her order. Bliss asked for coffee and an Edam cheese salad roll, the boy smiled and a dimple appeared in his right cheek. Despite his extreme thinness, this made him attractive. Bliss thought if his hair was just that bit longer around his ears, it would disguise his thin face, and he would be attractive even without the smile and dimple.
The boy went off to get her order and she noticed a man with his back to her at one of the tables close to the café building. He was wearing a faded denim shirt and reading something in what looked like a folder in front of him on the table. Bliss wondered how old he was, what would his face look like, would he be someone to meet. She sighed at her fanciful thoughts, she had only just started her holiday she could not expect to meet anyone yet, and she may not meet anyone at all. As long as something happened to give her life a new dimension, maybe put her on a different path, she would settle for that if she could not find love or friendship.
Something about the man’s shoulders was attractive, just the way his shirt fit over them, the back of his hair, cut just short enough, fashionable, thick, and glossy, he must be quite young, she thought. Maybe he will turn my way when he leaves, he might see me, join me, and spend a few minutes talking about. Bliss stopped herself, this daydreaming was becoming weird, her loneliness was becoming tiring, depressing almost.
The thin boy arrived with her order and blocked her view of the man. Her plate was set down carefully and her coffee, then backing away a little the thin boy asked if she wanted anything else right then. Bliss smiled at him and said no she was fine. When he left and cleared the view to the table near the café building, the man had gone. His coffee cup left to be taken away by the staff, his seat pushed just slightly back from the pale wooden table.
Bliss sighed, oh well it had been silly of her to invest even a few thoughts in a complete stranger with his back to her, if he had turned around he would not have been interested in her, she thought. Somehow, life had taught Bliss to undervalue herself. She picked up her roll, and took a bite, it was fresh and tasty, and she realized she was hungry.
Bliss was wrong about the man; he had noticed her, three times in fact, if he counted this one.
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