A Little Piece of Paradise.
Victoria had gone back to the Bath Spa after her meeting with Eden.
She was pleased that she`d found somewhere to spend the next few months. Her comment to Eden that she was going to be working in Bath had annoyed her. It wasn`t a lie as such, but it wasn`t the whole truth either. For some reason she felt a great shame because of a small white lie.
After leaving the centre of Bath she`d driven for a while looking for a suitable pub to have lunch in. She found herself on the same road she`d taken only an hour or so previously. Going past the the turning for Summer Cottage she continued down the hill toward Midford and Hinton Charterhouse. There were two pubs in Hinton Charterhouse, but she carried on until she came to Norton St. Phillip.
The streets were ancient, the houses facing directly onto a road that, in an earlier age would have been fine for the occasional horse and cart, but was now too narrow for the amount of traffic that traversed the road.
At the crossroads the spied an inn called The George. Parking behind the pub she went through the thick oak door. Above it was a plaque which announced, `You are entering the oldest pub in England.`
Victoria sat on a high stool by the bar and ordered a cider, then asked for the menu. After ordering her food she engaged the bar tender in a discussion about the history of the pub.
"This place is old then?" She asked. It was quiet in the bar. Most of the lunch crowd that used the pub for their midday breaks had returned to their offices in the city.
"It is," he said, examining closely the glass he was polishing. "The earliest date we have is 1230. It was a guest house then, run by monks. They were from Hinton priory, which is about two miles from here."
"I wonder what the monks would think now?"
"They probably wouldn`t notice too much difference to the exterior, but they might get a shock when they saw the juke box." He placed the glass on the shelf and retrieved another from the glass washing machine.
"When did it become an inn?"
"About 500 years ago. In those days the cellar was the village jail. During the civil war, around 1685, eight men were held for almost a year in the cellar. There was a big battle fought nearby. When they were eventually found guilty the eight were taken an orchard and burned at the stake. But nine men were executed that day." This was obviously not the first time the barkeep had told the story.
"Who was the other one?"
"Some poor fellow who was holding the gate of the inn open when they were brought out. He just got caught up in the crush and they executed him too."
"That was bad luck."
"It was," said the man, another glass finding its way onto the shelf. "There are people living in the village that are direct descendants of the guilty men. In the church records there is mention of the parish paying 12 shillings for faggots for `ye execution`." He finished with a flourish.
From a side door the landlord`s wife appeared with Victoria`s meal. She`d decided on chicken kiev and a side salad.
"Shall I put you here dear?" She said, indicating a seat near the window with a nod of her head.
"That`s fine, thank you." Victoria slid from her stool at the bar and followed the woman, who put her meal and cutlery on the table.
"Is there anything else I can get you? Sauces, another drink?"
"I`ll have another half pint of cider please, thanks." Victoria handed her the empty glass and started her meal.
An hour and a half later she exited the warm friendly establishment into the darkening afternoon. She got back into the Shogun and sat for a while, wondering what to do.
Starting the car, she left the carpark but turned right, away from Bath. "Might as well see some of the countryside I guess." She said to herself.
It was five thirty when she parked outside the Bath Spa hotel. She walked to the desk and asked for her key.
"Miss Conrad, you have a message." Said the hotel manager, who was manning the front desk.
Thank you." She said, taking the slip of paper from him.
It was a message from her father, asking her to ring him as soon as she got in.
She went to her room, sat on the bed and picked up the phone. Ringing the number, she waited for it to be answered.
"Victoria. Where have you been?"
"Looking for somewhere to live." `Hi to you too Dad.` she said to herself.
"Have you found somewhere suitable?"
"I think so." `But you`d turn your nose up at it.`
"Well, have you or haven`t you?"
"Yes, I have."
"Good. Have the details sent to me and I`ll sort everything out."
She picked up the folder she`d been given by Eden Gallagher.
"I have the name and address of the owners here if you want it."
"Right, let me get a pen." A pause. " Go ahead."
Victoria gave her father the details.
"Is there a fax number?"
She gave him that too.
"I`ll forward six months rent, but I trust you can sort yourself out before then."
"Give me some time Dad. I just need some time on my own."
"And I need some answers from you girl. You can`t just run away from your responibilities. Call me on sunday."
Victoria held onto the phone even though she`s heard the click as her father terminated the conversation. she sat and listened to the steady hum of the dialling tone.
Putting the phone down she lay down on the bed and closed her eyes.
She must have fallen asleep, because she was woken with a start when the phone rang. She looked at her watch. It was ten to seven.
She picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Miss Conrad, we have an Eden Gallagher wishing to speak to you."
"Ok, put her on."
Victoria found herself smiling as she listened to the girls voice. "Is there a problem with the cottage?" She enquired.
She was assured there wasn`t. Lying back down she listened to the girl trying to overcome her nervousness and ask her out for a drink. `Why are you here Tori? Isn`t it to be alone, to sort yourself out?` She asked herself.
"Great." She heard herself say. "There`s a fountain at the bottom of, um, Pultney Street, I think it`s called. I`ll meet you there. Eight o`clock be ok? Good. See you then."
Victoria put the phone back on the cradle.
"Why not?" She said to herself. "Why the hell not?"
Just under an hour later she was walking down the long drive way of the Bath Spa hotel. She decided to leave the Shogun behind. She`d already had a pint of cider earlier in the day, so anymore alcohol would put her over the drink/drive limit. Pultney Street was a long wide street. At one end the Holbourne Museum, at the other Laura Place, with Laura Fountain in the middle. As she walked along the elegant Georgian street she could see the outline of Eden Gallagher sitting on the low wall of the illuminated fountain.
She pulled her coat snugly around her and walked towards the light.