Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Actually, yes, I can recall the day that I decided things couldn't carry on as before. Not just the day but the hour, the moment that I finally snapped.

Spring had begun in earnest in the Valley and the fields were full of newly sprouting tomatoes and curly watermelon vines. The fruit trees that gave my farm its name were bursting into blossom, even some of my experimental trees. Everywhere the world was waking up from a cold, frustrating Winter and I should have been full of hope but my heart was heavy, my future blocked at every turn. Yesterday had been a wonderful day, a wedding shared with the whole valley. We'd all congregated at Vesta's farm to witness the marriage of Marlin and Celia. At long last he'd woken up to Celia's quiet devotion and recognised where his true future lay. The groom walked around in a happy dream hardly able to come to terms with the fact that such happiness was his, Celia positively glowed with love and I could tell from the way her hand strayed to her stomach that she'd taken to heart the talk we'd had that Winter by the Goddess pool. Vesta nodded at me and smiled when she noticed where I was looking, a man with such a stake in the future had less of a tendency to look to the past. The day was warm and relaxed, full of good food and even better company but as the day wore on my husband began to show his true colours. As usual he couldn't bear not being the centre of attention and the free bar proved too much of a temptation. Inevitably as the drink flowed his voice became louder and louder and his actions became more embarrassing. I could feel people looking at me in that pitying way I'd come to know so well since the birth of my son, Joel. Ruby and Tim had had years of this but for me it still rankled. Nami came over and tactfully suggested she could do with some fresh air and I followed her out into the tiny garden Celia had planted beside the greenhouses. Gustafa brought out o chair for his heavily pregnant wife as well as cool glasses of lemonade. We sat quietly watching Joel play in the grass and talking. As the evening drew in I took my son home to bed but by this time my braggart of a husband had disappeared. It was in the small hours of the morning that I heard him stumble in, banging into things and slamming the doors. He was really full of himself that evening. I tried to pretend that I was asleep but he wanted to continue his fun and the one thing I could say for Rock was that no matter how much he had to drink it never affected his performance or his self belief. So, I put a smile on my face, went along with him and made yet another big mistake.

I woke about 6am and stumbled from the bed. I could see Rock sprawled next to me, his blonde hair spread out on the pillow, the smell of liquor ripe on his breath. Quickly, I dressed and went in to check on Joel. He was awake and grizzling, a sweet child but, at that moment, wet and hungry. I scooped him up and moved into the kitchen, put on some porridge and went to change his nappy in the bathroom. We both had breakfast and then I settled him in a playpen in the barn while I milked the cows. Our jobs done by eleven we returned to the farmhouse but Rock was still where I'd left him. Not that I'd expected any less! Wearily I bent down to pick up the clothes he'd strewn all over the floor. They were yet another expensive new outfit and they were ruined. The trousers had mud and grass all over them but as I picked up the jacket my heart froze. There were traces of make up on the sleeve, two long strands of shiny, dark blonde hair were wound around the top button but, more than that, was the perfume that wafted from the folds of cloth. Not my perfume, the gentle scent of lilies that I kept in the tall purple bottle but the heady perfume of Moon Goddess flowers that only one woman in Forget-me-not Valley could afford. I recognised it straight away and sat down heavily on the bedroom floor. And that was it that was the moment when I cracked. NO MORE! Something had to be done.