The day of the Chutney wedding anniversary bash had arrived.
Joyce, who had offered to stay behind to look after Agar Hall and the dogs, waved her husband and aunt off from the doorstep.
As predicted by Cedric, he and Isla were not invited and so Ophelia had kindly offered to give Rabbie a lift down to Cambridgeshire.
Ophelia had carefully packed her ‘designed-to-make-the-ladies-of-Greconville-green-with-envy-outfit’ and it was just as well that Rabbie didn’t have any luggage at all – he would be wearing his usual full Scottish regalia for the wedding and it wasn’t as if he needed a change of underwear…
As Ophelia’s little car disappeared off into the distance, Joyce remained on the doorstep a moment longer, taking in the beauty of the early morning light on Grecondale and wringing her hands anxiously.
How would Rabbie take the news? It had been a blessed relief that one of them had had to stay behind to take care of the ex-military personnel who attended Agar Hall each day, relying on them for a good solid, hot meal and a spot of company, and she had volunteered readily.
Better to stay at home than to have to tell little white lies to her husband and others as to why she wasn’t joining in with the champagne toasts that would undoubtably play a big part in the celebrations.
Nevertheless, she thought to herself as she went back inside, she would have to come clean to Rabbie soon: only yesterday she’d thought that Mrs Owens was giving her knowing looks as they worked together in the kitchen and it wouldn’t do for Rabbie to hear the news from someone else first.
Meanwhile, Ophelia and Rabbie were wending their way along the bizarre country roads around Grecondale.
Unfortunately, Rabbie had never been in a car with Ophelia before and he was beginning to wonder if it had been wise to accept a lift from her. For starters, her blathering was non-stop and, with a decidedly captive audience, her blush-inducing tales of scandalous long-ago exploits seemed to know no bounds.
And then there was the lack of attention to the road. Ophelia’s hands constantly left the wheel as she emphasised her points with hand gestures. Coupled with this, the speed of the car seemed to slow almost to a stop as she concentrated on her narrations and to speed up alarmingly on the rare occasion that her attention returned to the task of driving.
Rabbie’s nerves were becoming increasingly fraught and the only thing stopping him from reaching for his hip-flask was the thought that Ophelia might want want to join him in a wee nip.
Some time into the journey, Rabbie looked out of the window and was alarmed to note that the scenery looked very familiar.
Boldly interrupting Ophelia mid-flow, Rabbie waved his arm in the direction a field of Long-horn cattle he felt sure they’d passed some time earlier, ‘Eh, Ophelia hen, ah ye sure wi’ve nay bin this way afore?” he asked.
“Sorry? This way before did you say?” said Ophelia, peering towards the field that Rabbie had pointed to.
Suddenly the car swerved and came to a sudden and violent stop with a loud thump. If the pair hadn’t been so firmly wedged into the car they might have been thrown through the windscreen.
Shaken but unharmed, they got out of the car to assess the damage. Ophelia had hit a deep pothole in the road and they now had one very flat tyre. “D’nay worry, Ophelia, just tell me where ah can find the spare,” said Rabbie, undaunted.
“Does she look like she has room for a spare tyre, Rabbie?” Ophelia replied somewhat crossly. “Aye, noo ye come te mention it, ah suppose ne. Ah, but that’s noo the worst of it…” replied Rabbie, looking over Ophelia’s left shoulder.
Ophelia turned to see what on earth could be more worrying than a flat tyre with no spare. She gasped as she saw the road sign – they were literally miles from anywhere and, as far as she could recall, they hadn’t passed a building or a single soul for at least an hour.
Suddenly, hot tears sprang into Ophelia’s eyes as the full import of the situation dawned. After weeks spent poring over fashion magazines, endless shopping trips, countless mail-order purchases and untold damage to her savings account, she would never make it to the Chutney bash now.
Ophelia, though sprightly for her age, couldn’t possibly walk fifteen miles to the train station and so, she sat sobbing quietly by the roadside as Rabbie set off alone on foot. If he was quick, he might just make the midday train to Greconville and at least enjoy part of the celebrations.
Though Felix at Grecondale Motors would be called out to repair Ophelia’s tyre as soon as Rabbie reached the train station, he knew that it would be too late for her to make it to the party, either by road or rail.
Having seen the look of utter dejection on Ophelia’s face when he’d left her, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for the crazy old bat – though not sorry enough to have left her his hip-flask, he thought to himself, as he unscrewed the cap.
© 2017, Zoe. All rights reserved.