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Authors: The Wardens Daughters

Anne Douglas

BOOK: Anne Douglas
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A Selection of Recent Titles by Anne Douglas
CATHERINE’S LAND
AS THE YEARS GO BY
BRIDGE OF HOPE
THE BUTTERFLY GIRLS
GINGER STREET
A HIGHLAND ENGAGEMENT
THE ROAD TO THE SANDS
THE EDINBURGH BRIDE
THE GIRL FROM WISH LANE
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A SONG IN THE AIR
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THE KILT MAKER
*
STARLIGHT
*
THE MELODY GIRLS
*
THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTERS
*
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available from Severn House
THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTERS
Anne Douglas
This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
 
First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by Anne Douglas.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Douglas, Anne, 1930-
The warden’s daughters.
1. Fathers and daughters–Fiction. 2. Widowers–Fiction.
3. Villages–Scotland–Highlands–Fiction. 4. Youth
Hostels–Scotland–Highlands–Fiction. 5. Hotelkeepers–
Fiction. 6. Fishers–Fiction. 7. Love stories.
I. Title
823.9′14-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-104-0 (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8049-9 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-361-8 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
One
The letter had come. From the bottom step of the Edinburgh tenement stair, Monnie could see it, lying on the long deal table in the communal hallway. There were other letters, of course, for other tenants, laid out as usual by the postman, but Monnie was sure that the large, buff-coloured envelope she could see was the one her father was waiting for. And not just her father.
Up the stair, in the first-floor flat that had been her home for all the twenty years of her life, she’d left her father, Frank Forester, quietly having his breakfast. Bacon and tomatoes, dished up by Monnie’s sister, Lynette, who would also be wondering now what might be in the post. For, of course, they’d been looking every day since their father’s interview in Inverness a week ago, always hoping there might be news. Sad thing was, whichever way it went, they couldn’t all be happy.
Contemplating that possibility, Monnie stood for a moment without moving, a tall, slender girl with a cloud of dark hair and clear grey eyes, until two cheerful neighbours hurried down the stair towards her.
‘Morning, Monnie!’
Mrs MacEwan and Mrs Logan, who worked in a department store on the Bridges, smiled at her as she moved aside to let them pass.
‘Looking for letters, dear?’ asked Mrs Logan. ‘No point me doing that, eh? The day I get a letter I’ll fall flat on ma face!’
‘You’ll get your bills,’ Mrs MacEwan told her with a laugh, as Monnie, gaining courage, dived down into the hall and snatched up the envelope she’d spotted.
‘It’s for Dad. He’s expecting it.’
‘Nice it’s come, then. Bye, dear. Oh, my, will you just look at this weather?’
As the outer door banged behind the two women, not before a freezing January wind had blown in a flurry of sleet, Monnie slowly climbed the stair, feeling the envelope as she went. It was bulky – must contain forms and such – which meant . . . which must mean . . . Oh, help!
Hesitating for a moment, she faced the impact of the news she was certain the envelope contained. Knew that it would present a crossroads, for all of them, all three Foresters. Then she took a deep breath; told herself, Go on, then, get it over with, and went into the flat.
Here was the centre of her home, the main room that was part living room, part kitchen. Warm, comfortable, where life was easier now than in the old days, at least in this tenement, now that an electric cooker supplemented the big black range, and a small washing machine had been fitted in beside the sink. There was a television set, too, and a wireless and bookshelves by the easy chairs grouped in the sitting area. All very modern, all very pleasant, but this was after all, 1959, and some progress had been made since the ending of the war. Enough to make the Forester girls happy in their home. And not want to leave.
Now Monnie, avoiding her sister’s questioning look, slid her eyes to her father, still sitting at the scrubbed kitchen table in the centre of the room, though he appeared to have finished his breakfast.
‘Dad, it’s come,’ she said quietly. ‘Your letter’s come.’
‘Has it?’ Putting on an air of calmness, he pushed away his plate and raised his eyes.
‘How d’you know it’s the one?’ Lynette asked, throwing aside the apron she’d worn for cooking, her blue eyes very bright on the large envelope in her sister’s hand.
‘Got the Hostel Association address on the back. Think it’s good news for you, Dad.’
A tall, lanky man in his forties, he slowly rose from the table, pushing aside a lock of sandy hair from his high, benevolent brow, letting his eyes – blue like his elder daughter’s, but less bright, more deeply set – rest on the envelope.
‘Good news? You’re a mind reader, Monica Forester?’
‘Sherlock Holmes, no less.’ She laughed. ‘No, it’s just that the letter’s too big to be a rejection.’
‘So, I’ve got the job, have I?’ He gave an uneasy smile as he took the envelope from her. ‘Who says I want it?’
‘We know you want it,’ Lynette said firmly.
‘I’m not sure – I’ve been thinking . . .’
‘Why don’t you open the letter?’ Monnie asked quietly. ‘See what they say?’
Lynette nodded. ‘Then you can make up your mind.’
Still, he hesitated, looking from one to the other of his daughters. Honey-blonde Lynette, the older by two years; smart and bubbly, always sure of herself, yet not unlike her dark-haired sister, whose manner was uncertain. It was the features, of course – their small, delicate noses, generous mouths, pointed chins – all gifts from their mother, Frank’s dear Ellie, gone from them these three years past.
How he still missed her! Especially here, in this flat, this living room, she’d made so much their home. Which was why he’d begun thinking just lately of a move. Had even got as far as applying for a post as a youth hostel warden in the Highlands, and been knocked sideways when he’d been given an interview. If successful, what would happen? Could he do this to his girls? Could he leave them? Take them with him? Maybe it was all too much, far too much . . .
But then he might not have been successful.
‘Oh, come on, Dad!’ cried Lynette, snatching at the envelope and opening it with her thumbnail. ‘Let’s know the situation, eh?’
‘Sorry.’ His smile had become apologetic. ‘Think I must be nervous.’
As he took out the folder of papers the envelope contained and smoothed out the top sheet, the girls standing close together, watched. And waited. This was it, this was the crunch. From here, life changed out of all recognition. Or, stayed as it was. Everything depended on what their father was reading now – and what a time he was taking to do it, wasn’t he?
Lynette, fiddling with the flicked-up ends of her hair, couldn’t help sighing, while Monnie standing very still, appeared to be scarcely breathing.
‘Well?’ Lynette asked at last, ‘what do they say?’
Frank lowered the sheet of paper and shook his head.
‘You didn’t get it?’
Monnie, astonished, was ready at once to comfort him; ready, as well, to let out her breath in a sigh of relief for herself. Too soon, though, as her father’s eyes told her.
‘Fact is,’ he answered huskily, looking at her and then away, ‘I did. I did get the job.’
And, sinking back into his chair, he laid his letter on the table.
‘Oh, Lord, lassies,’ he whispered. ‘What do we do now?’
Two
Lynette didn’t waste any time.
‘What we do now,’ she said decisively, ‘is look at the map.’
‘We’ve already looked at it,’ Monnie murmured. ‘When Dad first thought of applying, we all looked, didn’t we? To see where the hostel was.’
Remembering that chill December evening when Frank had come in with the Hostel Association’s advertisement in the
Scotsman
, the sisters exchanged glances. At first, they’d thought their father couldn’t be serious. Suggesting he might leave Edinburgh for a warden’s job in the Highlands? He wasn’t serious. Was he?
Seemed he was. Seemed he’d never been more serious about anything since their mother had died, and as they’d returned his level gaze, they’d suddenly understood why. And it wasn’t for the reasons he gave them.
Such as, getting out of Edinburgh’s smoke into the clear air of the Highlands. Or, maybe climbing hills again as he had climbed in his youth. Or, taking a boat on to a glassy loch and not hearing a single noise except birdsong. No, and it wasn’t even the hope of working with ordinary, healthy young people, rather than the difficult youngsters he worked with at present. All these were good reasons, and believable, but the girls could see that what was driving him was none of them.
It was a wish to turn a page in his life. It was a deep desire to move on. Not to forget their mother – he would never do that – but to try to adjust to life without her, as he had never been able to do. That was why he would not put his reasons into words, but then he didn’t need to. Because they were so close to him, because they knew him so well, they understood the reasons, anyway.
‘Dad, do you really want to apply for this job?’ Lynette had asked him straight out, and he had given one of his rueful grins.
‘I want to, but I’m not going to.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because I could never leave you lassies.’
‘Dad, I’m twenty-two, Monnie’s twenty. We’re not children. We can manage.’
‘I tell you, I could never leave you. I’d miss you both too much. It was crazy ever to think about it.’
‘No, it wasn’t, if you want it,’ Monnie told him quickly. ‘I think you should go for it. And I think Ma would have said so too.’
‘You do?’ Though Frank’s tone was eager, his expression remained unsure. ‘You think she would?’
‘Yes, because it’s time, Dad, isn’t it? Time to move on. Ma always knew when it was the right time to do things. So, apply and see what happens.’
‘If I got it, though, it’d be too hard to go.’
‘Not if we go with you.’
He stared. ‘Go with me?’
‘Aye, why not? You agree, Lynette, eh? We couldn’t let Dad leave on his own?’
After only a fraction of a second, Lynette cried, ‘Of course, I agree!’ And flinging her arms round her father, she gave him a quick hug. ‘Why, it’d be fun, eh? Moving to a new life?’
‘No, no!’ Frank’s face was twisted in protest. ‘No, I couldn’t ask it. I couldn’t ask you girls to go up there, change your whole lives for me. You’ve no idea what it would be like – well, I’ve no real idea myself.’ He hesitated, briefly touching Lynette’s hand. ‘And then there’s your young man, Lynette, to think about as well.’
BOOK: Anne Douglas
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