The large, dimly lit sign appeared momentarily through the driving rain.
WELCOME TO OUR TOWN
PLEASE DRIVE CAREFULLY
WE HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY
Carly Mitchell pulled her car over to the grass verge at the side of the road. Indecision gripped her as her heart hammered against her ribs. Did she drive on into the town, back to the place where she believed she was hated, or should she drive straight through and not stop?
Darkness shrouded the long road across the bleak moors. A thick swirling mist was broken only by the beam of her car’s headlamps. The windscreen wipers were the only thing which moved, as if bored, by the effort of clearing the rain. She stared at the sign until the glare of oncoming headlights made her blink and bite her lip. This is it, her decision, her choice. Could she do this? She nodded to herself. She knew she could now. Twelve months ago she’d have been in pieces at the thought of what she intended to do, but not now. She had changed, grown-up, learned to stand on her own two feet. The old Carly Mitchell wouldn’t have dared make any decision, like this, for fear of upsetting someone. But her life had changed and for the better, and so had she.
Taking a deep breath, she slowed down her heart beat and controlled her shaking hands. A few minutes to recover her equilibrium were all she needed. Then she would drive into the town. She would do what she had come to do and leave. After that people could say and think what they wanted. She wouldn’t care.
It was past midnight when she drove into the quiet town. The wet road glistened under the street lights. Driving down the empty streets of the old Yorkshire mill town, her stomach churned. How well she knew all of these buildings.
A large Victorian mill loomed up before her. The grey stone walls and rows of neat windows were highlighted by the street lamps. It almost resembled a barricade, another warning. Slowing down to look at the building, she smiled at her own foolishness. You’d never know inside were some charming tourist and gift shops and the little tea shop. She drove over a stone bridge where the road crossed a small river. In the dark she could hear the water as it babbled and gurgled over the boulders that lined its path.
Would she ever be able to walk through this town and into the shops again and receive a warm welcome? What sort of greeting would anyone give her now? What sort of greeting did she deserve? Yeardon had been a wonderful place to grow up. It was one of those towns where you knew everyone and they knew you.
Her mind a maelstrom of anxiety, she tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Who would have believed anyone’s hands could shake so much?
On the far side of the town she turned into a drive, which led down a short, narrow lane to an hotel, a converted mill owner’s house. After finding a space in the car park, she switched off the engine, but remained in the car for a few minutes. Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes.
The drumming of the rain on the roof was not re-assuring. The weather seemed to be giving a further warning to leave now while she could. She peered through the rain- splattered screen at the sign above the front door. In copper plate script, it read ‘Resolution Hotel’. The building looked well-kept and fresh. Business must be going well for Jim and Abi.
“Well, here goes.”
Her words, spoken out loud, helped to break the tension as the knots tightened inside her. After all she couldn’t sit there all night, could she? Inhaling deeply, she grabbed her overnight bag and willed her legs to move. Her head down against the biting rain; she ran up the five steps and pushed open the heavy oak front door.