At 47 years old, Kate is still adjusting to being a widow and still grieving for her husband of almost twenty-four years. Kate has been in the midst of writing her twelfth romance novel when he passed away. At her Editor’s insistence, she sets out to spend several months living abroad in England, in an effort to get back into writer’s mode. The Cotswolds offers Kate not only a chance to complete her novel – but a new start at life and new chance at love.
Neatly stacked piles of folded clothing, sorted by color, were arranged next to a small, empty suitcase. A larger suitcase lay open on the far side of the bed, also empty, with the exception of a favorite pair of rain boots. Katherine Parker, known as Kate to her family and friends, really disliked the chore of packing. She tended to be the type who packed for the “what if?” What if it rained? What if it was sweltering hot? What if she were invited to a fancy dinner? So many “what if’s” to pack for. So, as usual, Kate always overpacked. Each time, she promised herself she would not pack as many outfits for her next trip. Now here she stood, debating over six pairs of jeans, six sweaters, eight blouses, five tops and three dresses. That didn’t even include the stack of scarves and another short stack of blazers and jackets. The weather could be quite unpredictable. From rain to sun – to overcast and cool. How did one pack for weather like that? Frustrated, she walked to her window to gaze out at her private garden below. Kate started making mental notes of everything that needed to be done before her morning flight. Was it possible that just a mere four hours ago, she was on the phone with her Editor discussing the terms of Kate’s life for the next few months. Just yesterday, she had made a trip to the grocery store to stock her nearly depleted fridge.
Oh, that reminded her – she needed to carry the milk and juice and eggs over to dear Mrs. Patterson, the next door neighbor. If she had known, she would not have purchased all that wine, either. Good thing wine didn’t go bad, she laughed to herself. Here she was – not even twenty-four hours after her grocery shopping trip, preparing for a stay in England for several months.
Kate had not been to England in over three years. In fact, she wasn’t even sure she’d ever have the heart to return again. Time heals all things, they said. Give it time, they told her over and over. Even so, it was hard to forget that soon after she and her husband returned home from doing research for her last book, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The book, just like her life, was put on hold while they sought treatment.
Kate smiled and touched the window pane, feeling the cold against her fingertips. David. Her sweet David, and husband of almost 24 years. They had married right out of college and immediately started having children. David Michael was born less than a year later, followed closely by Jillian, a bouncy blue-eyed baby girl that was the sparkle of her daddy’s eye. David’s passing had been especially rough on her daughter, being a daddy’s girl. The one thing that almost prevented Kate from considering a trip to England was Jillian. Even after a year, Kate could still see glimpses of sadness in her daughter’s eyes.
Kate called both of her children immediately after she hung up the phone from her Editor. She could not possibly give a final answer about the trip until she had spoken to her children first. David Michael could not say “yes” fast enough when she told him what her Editor had proposed – a few months in England, living in a cottage in the Cotswolds, finishing the book she had been writing when David became ill.
“It’s time, Mom,” her son told her. “It’s been well over a year since Dad passed and you need to get back to doing what you love.”
“I know, ” she agreed reluctantly. “I have to complete the book per the contract extension, but I hate the thoughts of leaving you and Jillian for so long. Especially Jillian with a new baby.”
“Mom, Jillian is fine. She’s happier than I have seen her since Dad died. She would never ask you to put your life on hold for her. And it’s not like you will be gone forever – it’s just a few months.”
“I know – two months, maybe three at most.”
“So, go,” he encouraged. “Go and finish your book and maybe have tea with the Queen while you’re there.”
“Oh dear, that means I would have to add another complete outfit and you already know how much I usually pack,” she laughed.
“So it’s settled? You’re going?”
“It’s a maybe. I am going to call Jillian now and talk to her but if she is the least bit hesitant about me going, well – my Editor will just have to understand.”
“Ok, gotta go, Mom. I’m already late for a meeting. Call me later and let me know what you decide, but I hope it’s a big fat yes.”
“I will let you know. Love you, darling.”
“Kisses. Gotta run, call me.”
The call to her daughter played out pretty much the exact same way. Jillian did not hesitate for even a moment as soon as her mother told her the news.
“Oh Mom, yes, yes and yes. I think it sounds like a marvelous idea. When do you leave?’
“Well, that’s the other thing – tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, my. That soon?”
“Yes, that soon. They want a final draft of the first few chapters in two weeks. And I’d like a few days to get settled into the cottage and just get my bearings.”
“Where you will be staying?”
“The cottage is located in one of the most charming villages called Bourton-on-the-Water. Your father and I spent several days there a few years back. There is this idyllic little river that runs right through the middle of the village with houses and restaurants and shops right up to the water’s edge.”
“Oh, Mom. It sounds wonderful. Maybe we can come see you for a little visit while you’re there if Sam can get away for a bit.”
“I would adore that. What a great idea. It’s a three bedroom cottage so I’m told, so there is plenty of room. I have to go darling, but is it okay if I stop by later this afternoon to see the baby and say goodbye?”
“We’ll be waiting. Can you stay for dinner?”
Kate thought of one more person that she had to inform of her impending trip, and she kinda dreaded it. “Can I take a rain check? Mark and I already had dinner plans so I hate to cancel last minute.”
Kate had met Mark through mutual friends and had been dating him for the past four months. The word dating was a stretch. It had been more of a casual friendship to Kate, although he had hinted at wanting much more. Kate just wasn’t ready. It was one thing to go to dinners and the movies, but she just wasn’t ready for more than that.
“Does Mark know?” Jillian asked her mother.
“No, not exactly. Okay, no, not at all. I will tell him tonight.”
“Are you going to invite him to join you there?”
Without any hesitation, Kate replied no.
“I have to stay focused on the book, so that means peace and quiet. Even your dad understood when I was in the midst of a book. I think Mark would be in the way even if he didn’t mean to be.”
“Whatever you think, Mom. I just want you to be happy and I know being in England and writing your books will do that. I will miss you.”
Kate teared up. She wasn’t sure she could leave her children and her new grandson behind for so long. “I will miss you, too, darling. You just say the word and I will call my Editor this minute and explain I cannot possibly leave now.”
“Mom, you know I would never say that, just like you would never say that to me if the roles were reversed. You need this. Dad would want this for you. Go to England and immerse yourself in tea and crumpets and all things Union Jack. I am happy for you.”
“Ok, well I have to call my Editor and let her know it’s a go. I will see you later this evening before I meet Mark, okay?”
Kate hung up and wondered if she was really doing the right thing. She didn’t have to write this book. She was 47-years old and had everything she could possibly want in life as far as comforts were concerned. She could return the advance monies she had been paid for this book and simply explain she wasn’t ready. She looked back at her bed, piled with clothes she had to sort through. Writing was in her blood, she could not deny that. She loved to unravel the characters and create a story that came to life on the pages of her book. And she couldn’t deny that her heart longed to see England once again. She picked up the phone, and heard the voice of her Editor answer right away.
“Hi Nancy, it’s me. Okay, we’re a go. Can you have the car pick me up at 6am?”