Things are starting to get, shall we say, “interesting” for Kate. Let’s see what life brings her this week.
Thanks for reading along with me…
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Kate locked her parked car and made her way back to the pub. She would have to find someone who could give her a jump or figure out what was mechanically wrong. This was not what she had planned at all. Kate would have to call the proprietor of the B&B she had hoped to visit and apologize for the delay or reschedule for another time. Glancing at her watch, she realized the market would be wrapping up soon. The crowds were clearing out when Kate entered the pub where she and Imogen had just had lunch. She hoped the proprietor could advise her on someone that could assist her with her now defunct vehicle.
“Excuse me, Sir, my car seems to have some issues starting. Could you please tell me who I can contact to take a look at it?” she asked.
“That would be Harley’s Automotive Services over on Weddington Road, ma’am. He’s the closest around,” the bartender said.
“Do you have his number by any chance? I’m not from around here.” As soon as she spoke the words, Kate felt rather silly. Of course he knew she wasn’t from here. Her American accent was a dead giveaway that she wasn’t a local.
“Hang on a bit, miss, I’ll give him a call myself,” he offered.
“Thank you, sir, that is kind of you.” After a few minutes the bartender returned. “Miss, he said he will be at least an hour and half or more before he can get here. He’s making a run for parts.”
“Oh dear, well – I guess I will just have to wait it out. Is he the only mechanic in town? Is there anyone else I could call?” she inquired.
“No, miss, not unless you call over to the next town. That would be Sidbury’s Motors, but I wouldn’t send my goat cart to him for repairs.”
Kate laughed. “That good, huh? Well, if you recommend Harley’s I will take your word for it. Is it okay if I sit over there and wait?” she indicated to a table.
“Not at all, miss, can I get you anything? How about a pint?”
“Could I possibly just get some tea, please?”
“You go sit down and it will be right out,” he suggested.
Kate slid into a small table near the door. The market tents were almost completely cleared away, and only a few shoppers milled around visiting with neighbors. A small group of tourists stood by the river posing for selfies and group shots, laughing and enjoying their surroundings. They were happy, and it brought back lots of memories of she and David when they were tourists. It was strange that Kate no longer felt like a mere tourist, but at the same time not a citizen. What a peculiar feeling, indeed.
While Kate was waiting, she placed a call to the B&B proprietor and rescheduled for another day. She made a mental note to contact the rental car company and inform them of her need for an alternate vehicle, one that did not leave her stranded in the middle of another town. There was no telling how long that process would take since she had rented the vehicle at Heathrow Airport in London. Exchanging rental cars could take a full day or more. Kate glanced at her watch again, wondering if she should give Imogen a call to ask for a ride home as a backup plan, should the mechanic take longer than expected. She had been advised it would be at least an hour and a half or more, but there was no guarantee of the exact timing.
“Katherine? Hello, this is quite unexpected,” came a familiar voice. Kate looked up.
“Lord Weston…Andrew! What are you doing here?” she said standing. “It’s so nice to see you again.”
“I had a meeting with the local Cotswold Sheep Farmers Association and decided to stop in here for a pint. May I join you?” he asked her.
“Oh, please, I would love that. You’re probably wondering why I am sitting here in the middle of the afternoon, huh?” she smiled.
“Well, kinda. I assume you came to market,” he paused and looked around. “Either that, or you have a secret liaison with a handsome stranger,” he joked.
“Actually, you’re halfway right about the stranger part at least. I cannot say if he is handsome or not as I have never made his acquaintance,” she replied, sipping on her tea.
“Now I am totally intrigued. Do tell,” he replied.
“My car broke down and I am waiting on the repair guy to come take a look. I’m sorry there is nothing more exciting to my story. I told you I lead a pretty boring life,” she joked.
“How long have been sitting here waiting? Why didn’t you call me on my mobile?” he asked. “I could have given you a lift home.”
“I was told it was just a 90-minute wait, so I decided to sit here and enjoy some tea,” she explained. “I am sure he will be along soon.”
“Who did you call? Hopefully not Sidbury’s?” he inquired.
Kate smiled. “No, the proprietor warned me away from him. Am I to believe his reputation is not very good?”
“Hmmmm….well, let’s just say I am relieved you’re not waiting on his services. Did you call Harley’s per chance? That is whom I usually employ if Mr. Alfredson cannot make the repairs himself.”
“Yes, the nice proprietor made the call for me himself. So here I am. Waiting patiently,” Kate said.
“I have an idea. How about I give you a lift home now. We can call Harley and tell him to transport your motorcar back to his shop. I can bring you back tomorrow to retrieve it. There really is no sense in you waiting here,” he offered.
“Oh, no, that would be far too much trouble and I don’t want to bother you. Really, I am fine sitting here waiting.”
“Rubbish. I have a stop to make along the way and would love a second opinion, or should I say an opinion from the female persuasion,” Lord Weston smiled.
“Really? Now I am the one intrigued. What mayhem are you getting yourself into?” she inquired jokingly.
“My daughters have talked me into expanding the line of beauty products. Rosethorne is currently offering a Honey and Sea Salt Scrub and it’s doing quite well. I need to make some inquiries in regards to some other products. I would love the pleasure of your company and -” he paused, looking around, “- you seem to have some time on your hands.”
“I just purchased a jar of your Body Scrub this afternoon at the market. It sounds like your honey empire is about to branch out. How exciting,” she added.
“So, what do you say? You mind going along with me? I promise to deliver you to your front door safe and sound at a reasonable hour,” he grinned.
“Ok, but I will call a taxi to bring me back tomorrow to retrieve the car. I will not inconvenience you, Andrew.”
“Well, we can talk about that. Are you ready, I am parked just outside,” Lord Weston said.
A few minutes later, Kate was belted into Lord Weston’s sporty British motorcar careening down narrow, hedge-lined lanes. She felt much more confident with his driving abilities over her own. He proved to be a safe driver, and it was one of the first few times she had allowed herself to relax while traveling down the road since she had arrived in England. No doubt, the reason was because she was not behind the wheel. Kate looked out her window and marveled at the English countryside. She loved America, and her heart belonged to Charleston and the South Carolina coast, but part of her soul was imbedded in this region of the world, as well. It was something she could not explain. It always felt surreal when she traveled here, like a former life kept drawing her back. She looked out at the rolling hills and green farmland plots, framed by low stone walls as far as the eye could see. Sheep dotted the countryside as they grazed contentedly in the meadows.
“I love this countryside,” she said aloud. “It’s thrilling to go to London, like any large city, but I always lose myself when I am in the country. Every turn offers a different sight.”
“I agree. I travel to London often but I am always happy when I get back home. I am at peace when I am here. My sisters were quite the opposite. They couldn’t wait to leave the countryside and actually loathed it, I think.”
“I can’t imagine loathing something so peaceful and pastoral. You know my late husband and I traveled all over the world, but for some reason we always found ourselves longing to return to England. You must find that strange,” she admitted.
“Not at all. I enjoy hearing when others love my country as much as I do. Did you and your husband ever consider moving here?” he inquired.
“Actually we did. Well, not permanently of course, because I don’t think I could ever leave South Carolina, but we did inquire about a few small cottages several years ago. Our intention was to use it as a vacation home. In fact,” she remembered sadly, “we toured a cottage I had found online during our last visit here.”
“I assume the purchase did not go through?” he asked.
Kate was hit by a rush of melancholy. She glanced over at Lord Weston, not quite sure what to say. She glanced back out at the window, hoping her face did not portray the sadness which had enveloped her. “We decided to go home and think about it. We both really liked it and the location was perfect. It was in Tetbury. But not long after we returned home and before we could make an offer, David started feeling sick and several months later he discovered he had cancer. My husband passed away over a year ago.”
“I’m so sorry, Katherine. I didn’t mean to bring up sad memories for you,” he apologized.
“No, it’s okay. It is sad but it’s also unusually comforting, if that makes any sense, to talk about him and remember our travel days here. We both loved England so much. He would be thrilled I was here writing my book,” she added. “In fact, he would love the cottage as much as I do. Oh, speaking of, I purchased a few herb plants to add to Widow Riley’s garden, I hope that is okay.”
“Absolutely. Please make yourself at home while you are there. Widow Riley would be thrilled to know someone was looking after her garden. She was quite dedicated to it,” he said.
“I have no doubt. It’s one of the prettiest cottage gardens around. I can’t let it go to the weeds while I am here.”
They drove a few more minutes when Lord Weston slowed and turned into a small lane with a sign that read “Dorton Farms.”
Each side of the narrow lane was sowed with what appeared to be rosemary and thyme and other plantings she could not recognize. It was beautiful, and Kate wanted nothing more than to walk amongst the rows and smell the various herbs and flowers.
“This is amazing,” Kate said impressed. “I have never seen anything like this.”
“It is amazing isn’t it? The Dorton’s are one of the largest growers of rosemary and herbs in England. I am negotiating terms of a contract with them to use their products in Rosethorne’s honey and future beauty products. You cannot beat their quality anywhere, and I won’t settle for anything less if my family name is attached,” he conceded.
Lord Weston parked the car near a large barn, and both he and Kate made their way towards the entrance. Kate paused prior to going inside, totally consumed by the fragrant smell emitting from the fields of aromatic rosemary. It reminded her of her own garden back in Charleston. She loved herbs and especially rosemary, and planted it amongst the perennial beds and potted flowers, as well. In fact, Kate preferred to mix herbs within her landscaping rather than have a more formal herb garden.
Lord Weston introduced her to Mr. Dorton. “Hello, miss, glad to make your acquaintance,” he said shaking her hand. “Welcome to Dorton Farm.” He had a variety of herbs, cut and bundled and tied with strings, laying out on a small bench.
“Thank you, Mr. Dorton. I am so fascinated by your farm. It is quite spectacular,” she added.
“Why, thank you, Miss. I am quite proud of our little farm here,” he boasted proudly.
“Norton, you’re being modest. Your operation is anything but little. You and your son should be very proud of what you have built here in just a few short years,” Lord Weston announced. Mr. Dorton smiled, proud that his hard work would receive such an acclamation from Lord Weston.
“Well, Sir, we do our best. I have gathered some of the herbs for you to inspect. These were picked fresh right before you arrived. Oh, where are my manners? Could I offer either of you tea? My missus would think me barmey if I didna’ offer,” he winked.
“None for me, chap,” replied Lord Weston. “Kate?”
Kate shook her head. “No thank you, I am fine. May I?” she asked, indicating the bundles of herbs. She picked up a bundle of rosemary and the scent was intoxicating. She listened in on the ensuing conversation between Mr. Dorton and Andrew, intrigued by all of their ideas. Kate loved using natural products, and was captivated that Rosethorne would be developing a new line of honey, goats milk and herb products. The two gentleman talked for about forty-five minutes. Lord Weston would pause every now and then to get Kate’s opinion, which she would eagerly answer. She was by far no expert in the production of beauty products, but she was an expert in the usage of them. Natural and herbal products were huge in the States. Kate’s mind went to the small shop in downtown Charleston that carried a line of local products.
“You know, I think you could offer multiple products in a pretty package. For example, a scrub and a lotion with the same scent,” she offered.
“That’s a great idea, Katherine. I knew having you along was a good idea,” he winked.
They concluded their visit and Mr. Dorton wrapped the bundles of herbs into a newspaper and presented them to Kate. “For your Missus, Lord Weston.”
Kate blushed. “Oh, I’m just a friend,” she corrected. “But, thank you, this is very sweet of you.”
Their drive back to Bourton-on-Water was made even more enjoyable by the intoxicating scents coming from the back seat wrapped in paper. The afternoon sun was starting to wane. Kate never expected that she would arrive back at her cottage so late in the day when she left this morning .
“I assume you received your invitation to the Rosethorne Garden Party?” he asked.
“I did. It’s very sweet of you to invite me. Imogen insists I must go but I have nothing appropriate to wear to such an event,” she admitted.
“Imogen is correct. You must come and I would be highly dispirited if you did not. I am sure Imogen can recommend some shops in the area to assist you with your wardrobe needs. Or, you can wear those flashy yoga pants Thomas told me about,” he said, amused.
Kate laughed aloud. “That is not nice. I was just out of the bath. And besides, those are my most comfortable pants,” she confessed. “If you tease me again, I will show up wearing them to your party.”
“Go ahead, who am I to question American fashion trends,” he returned, smiling.
Kate was once again happily charmed at how easily she and Lord Weston conversed and bantered with each other. It had been an enjoyable and completely educational afternoon. Much better than wiling away the afternoon drinking tea, waiting on a mechanic to arrive. They arrived at her cottage, and Kate gathered her market basket and package of herbs. “I can’t thank you enough for this afternoon and especially the ride home. But, really, I can make my way back to retrieve my car tomorrow. You have enough to do to get ready for the Garden Party.”
“No trouble at all. Call me on my mobile when you hear back from Harley’s. Promise?” he requested. “Oh, and promise me you will come on Saturday. I’d like you to meet my son and friends.”
“Oh, will your daughter’s be there, too,” Kate asked.
“Not this time. Say you’ll be there, Katherine.”
“Okay, I’ll be there. Besides, I need to model my oversized GAP sweatshirt to impress all of your guests,” she joshed.
“And you will look perfectly charming, I’m sure. I will have my driver pick you up at two o’clock?” he announced.
“Driver? Oh, no, really. I don’t expect that at all. I can drive over myself,” she replied insistently.
“Nonsense. You’re my special guest. See you Saturday.”
Before Kate could argue more, he pulled away. Kate stood outside the cottage a bit dumbfounded. “Well, I guess you will be arriving in style, Kate Parker,” she said out loud. “Let’s hope I can find a suitable outfit.”
“Kate, you simply must try this frock. The color is perfect for you,” Imogen exclaimed while holding up a teal colored dress.
Several other dresses hung on a nearby rack which Imogen and Kate had selected as possible options. Imogen was indeed right about this boutique. Not only did the exterior and interior decor resemble a formal English Garden party, the majority of the clothes catered to such an event. Actually, Kate was in heaven. She loved dresses, especially feminine dresses made in soft colors or floral patterns. An entire wall of the shop was dedicated to hats and fascinators. Another area of the shop offered an assortment of gloves. Kate tried on several dresses. Most were a bit to froo-froo for her own taste. It was an English garden party, and the fashion needed to reflect such an event. Still, Kate needed to feel comfortable with her chosen outfit at the same time. In the end, both she and Imogen decided on a dress with a flowy A-line hem made of a pastel-toned floral chintz. It was absolutely incomparable to anything which hung in her closet back in Charleston, and to say it was an unexpected choice for her was an understatement. Kate loved the off-the-shoulder style and the details of the dress, such as the piping along the sweetheart neckline. Next, they chose a matching hat. The shop owner insisted on a hat with a variety of large, pastel feathers. The floral dress was a bit more dramatic than Kate had imagined herself wearing, but that particular hat was pushing her fashion limits. Instead, she chose a more simple hat with a satin ribbon trim. After choosing gloves and a basic set of dress pearls, she felt she would look acceptable and not embarrass her friend at his event. It really was important for her not to stand out as an American who had no prevailing sense of style. In a silly way, she felt she was representing not only America but the South, as well. Kate was not a stranger to garden parties, as Charleston boasted its own high society events. But, the fashion there was much more subdued than here. She felt a shiver of nervousness in her gut for some unknown reason.
The shopkeeper wrapped all of her purchases in soft, pink tissue paper and placed them in a pretty pink and white striped bag. Surprisingly, Kate had enjoyed her and Imogen’s shopping excursion immensely. In some ways, she felt like a young girl again preparing for her first foray into Charleston society as a debutante. Nervousness aside, she was also excited. She would have felt better knowing that Imogen was by her side, but her friend assured her she would be nearby. The two ladies made their way to a small tea room across the street. Chipping Campden was another idyllic town at the upper end of the Cotswolds.
It’s elegant terraced High Street dated back to the 14th century where a wool industry from the Middle Ages had attracted rich merchants selling their goods. It’s streets were lined with honey-colored limestone buildings, with the old Market Hall sitting centerstage, where it had stood since 1627. Kate and David had only spent a short afternoon in this particular town on their way to York, so it was nice to be able to see it more fully during this particular visit. The tea room was abuzz with ladies. It was High Tea time, and finger sandwiches and scones were liberal.
Kate and Imogen sat at a table for two, covered in a starched white cloth. Floral teacups with matching saucers graced the table, as well as white, folded napkins. Charm oozed from every corner of the room. It definitely had a feminine quality, and it matched the boutique from where they had just come.
“This place is lovely, Imogen. What a delightful tea room,” Kate announced quietly as they looked over the menu.
“Well, it’s owned by Mrs. Lancaster’s sister,” she replied.
“Mrs. Lancaster from the boutique we just left?” Kate asked.
“Indeed, one and the same. They used to be in business together, but several years ago they had a little, how do I say it, misunderstanding, and Mrs. Willoughby left the boutique and her sister and opened this tea room. But that is all in the past now. In fact, the tea and biscuits we enjoyed while we were shopping came from here.”
“Well, the two sisters certainly do appreciate all things feminine, I can say that for sure,” Kate said, looking around at the delicate curtains and dainty teapots. Kate ordered the “Ladies Afternoon Tea Tray” and allowed Imogen to personally select their options. She ordered watercress and smoked salmon sandwiches, strawberry scones with clotted cream and jam, and an assortment of tea cakes. It seemed like an awful lot of food to Kate, but once it arrived she couldn’t wait to dig in.
“Okay, Kate Parker, out with it. I want to hear all of the details about your afternoon the other day with Lord Weston,” Imogen jokingly demanded.
Kate looked at her friend, completely shocked. “Imogen? How on earth do you know about that?” she asked confused. She had not told anyone about their afternoon together.
“Well, Mrs. Stafford next door saw you when you pulled up to your cottage in his motorcar. Then, Lord Weston explained to my Jasper why he was taking you to retrieve your car in Bibury. My Jasper assured him that he had plenty of time to take you over to Bibury, but Lord Weston insisted on taking you himself. Okay, mum, out with it. Do you have your eye on Lord Weston?”
“Imogen, don’t be silly,” Kate laughed. “I hardly know him and it’s not as if I am a school girl searching for her next beau. And trust me, even if I were, which I am not, I’m pretty sure Lord Weston’s next wife will be someone within his own peerage,” she replied.
“That’s just a load of cobblers, it is. Our dear Prince William married someone out of the peerage so there is hope for you, too,” Imogen insisted. “Besides, you two would make a jolly good couple if I do say so myself. And someone needs to put that prissy Lady Easterly in her place.”
Kate sipped her tea, amused at Imogen’s matchmaking machinations. “Lady Easterly? Whom might that be? Or do I even want to know?”
“Lady Caroline Easterly is, to put it plainly, a snob. And if I wasn’t a lady myself I would even go so far as to say a bloody snob,” she whispered, as not to be overheard by the ladies sitting nearby.
Kate reached for another finger sandwich. “Okay, I’ll bite. How does she fit into the picture with Lord Weston?” she asked, curious.
“Well,” Imogen started, “she imagines that she will be the next Lady Weston of Rosethorne. She started hunting him down the day after his wife left him, showing up at the estate with wine. Wine! Like it was a party or something,” she tisked. “The day after!”
“I take it they are now dating? Are they serious?” Kate asked.
“She is serious. Lord Weston – not so much. She won’t be satisfied until she is the mistress of Rosethorne. But, I just don’t see the compatibility between them two,” Imogen stated.
“Then why does he have her around? He must care for her some.”
“They have known each other since they were children,” Imogen explained. “Her first two marriages failed miserably, so she has her sights set on number three. My Jasper says she has been slowly weedling her way into his life more and more. She is friends with his oldest daughter. The two of them are a lot alike, I’m afraid. Unlike his youngest daughter, who is sweet and so delightful to be around.”
“Andrew, oh – I mean Lord Weston, said his daughters wouldn’t be at the Garden Party. I take it Lady Easterly will be playing hostess?” guessed Kate.
“She will certainly be trying. Lord Weston made the mistake last year of asking her to serve as hostess when he entertained the Assistant Prime Minister, and it all went to her head, it did. Now, she acts like she is wearing an imaginary wedding ring on her finger,” laughed Imogen. “You watch her, Kate. She won’t like hearing that Lord Weston has had any interaction with you, another beautiful woman. She has a sharp knife in place of a tongue,” Imogen warned. “If she gets any hint whatsoever that you have any fondness for Lord Weston, the blade will come out. She is a snake, that one.”
“My friend, you don’t have to worry about me. Lord Weston and I are nothing more than friends. I enjoy talking to him and he’s easy to be around. But, I have a confession. I left a gentleman friend back in Charleston. His name is Mark. We have been dating not even six months.”
“Oh, I see. Is it serious?” Imogen asked, disappointed to hear of this man in Kate’s life.
“Well, Mark would like for it to be. But, it’s not. He was not very happy with me for coming here. We had a few words the other day on the phone,” Kate shared.
“Oh dear, I am sorry to hear that,” Imogen offered. “Do you love this Mark?”
Kate thought before speaking, trying to find the words to explain their relationship. “I care for him. A lot. But, I can’t say exactly that I am in love with him. We’ve dated less than a year, and in many ways I feel like I am still in mourning for my husband.” Kate paused, thinking about how to explain Mark. “He’s a kind man. He’s a successful Attorney in downtown Charleston, he’s handsome,” she added. “But…”
“I knew there was a ‘but’ – I could hear it in your voice,” Imogen stated.
Kate stared at her almost empty tea cup. There always seemed to be a “but” whenever she thought of Mark and she could not figure out why. “I don’t know, Imogen. I’ve asked myself if it is because I am still mourning my late husband or is there some kind of connection between Mark and myself that is missing?”
“Follow your heart, mum. Your heart knows the truth. I knew instantly when I met my Jasper that he was the man for me. Did you know with your late husband, that you would marry him?” she asked.
“Oh yes, it was love at first sight. It was a blind date and when he walked into the room I lost my heart right then and there. I guess that is what bothers me about Mark and I. As much as I enjoy being around him, and I know he would treat me kind and would love me, I don’t get butterflies in my stomach like I did with David,” she revealed. “You must think me awful, that I am dating a man who I am so unsure about.”
“Oh, mum, the heart can’t be rushed. Just because it wasn’t love at first sight doesn’t mean you can’t be happy together. Maybe you just need more time to let love grow between you. Or maybe he’s not the right man for you and your perfect Prince, or should I say, your Lord – is right in front of your eyes,” Imogen joked.
Kate laughed aloud. “Imogen! You’re simply wicked. Don’t you go getting any ideas of a romance into that sweet little head of yours where there is none. Besides, it sounds like he’s taken,” she smiled. “And I am deathly afraid of snakes. Nasty critters!”