Two-Hundred Steps Home Volume FourAmanda Martin / Humor / Actions & Adventure
TWO-HUNDRED STEPS HOME
Amanda Martin was born in Hertfordshire in 1976. After graduating with first class honours from Leeds University she wandered around the world trying to find her place in it. She tried various roles, in England and New Zealand, including Bar Manager, Marketing Manager, Consultant and Artist, before deciding that Writer/Mummy best summed her up. She lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, two children and labradoodle Kara and can mostly be found at http://writermummy.wordpress.com or on Twitter or Facebook.
Copyright © Amanda Martin 2013
Amanda Martin asserts the moral right to be
identified as the author of this work
Also by Amanda Martin:
Two-Hundred Steps Home: The Complete Journey
Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes
This novel is entirely a work of fiction although based loosely on the YHA Hostels of England and Wales. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About the Author
“Excuse me, is everything alright?”
Claire looked up at the concerned face trying to peer under her shield of hair. Her eyes met two sapphires sparkling amidst a sea of wrinkles.
“The school is closed today. Were you meant to meet someone?”
The words sank in through the fog in Claire’s mind. Closed? “The school isn’t open? But I was supposed to collect my niece. Ruth – my sister – she clearly said today at 3pm. I thought I was in the wrong place. But it’s definitely here. She’s going to be so cross, and she’s ill and I’m meant to be helping.” The words tumbled out until Claire’s voice broke and she sank her head back into her hands.
A gentle patting on her shoulder reminded Claire that the old lady was still standing in front of her.
“There, there, my dear. Don’t cry. Have you telephoned your sister? I am sure there has been some misunderstanding. I believe there is a training day today and therefore the children finished for the Easter vacation yesterday.”
Relief washed through Claire like a spring breeze, followed by an arctic blast of anger. That’s just like Ruth to scare the hell out of me. She must have Sky home with her: why didn’t she call me?
Claire looked up and smiled ruefully at the helpful passer-by. “I’m sorry; I don’t mean to be a watering pot. It was quite a struggle to get here for 3pm through the snow – I’ve come from the Derby Dales – and now, to find…” She shook her head. No point unburdening herself to a complete stranger.
The lady raised a hand as if to brush away Claire’s apology. “I quite understand. These things happen. Why not come with me to the café? You can settle your nerves before telephoning your sister. Everything will seem better after a cup of tea.”
Pushing herself off the wall, trying to ignore the numbness in her bottom from sitting on the cold stone, Claire smiled gratefully at the woman. “Thank you, I might do that. No need to come with me, I’ll be fine. I haven’t had lunch, that’s all. As you say, I’m sure I’ll feel more the thing after some food and a hot drink.”
The woman hesitated, as if unsure whether to leave Claire alone.
What must she think? I’m a grown woman, I shouldn’t be sat sobbing outside a primary school. Grow up and stop being pathetic, girl.
“I’m fine, really. I appreciate you stopping to tell me about the school. I know where the café is – I’ve been here before – and I don’t want to hold you up any longer.”
“Well, if you are certain?” Claire nodded. “Alright then, my dear. You take care.” The lady gave a little wave and walked away.
Claire filled her lungs with freezing air and brushed the hair back from her face. She knew she should call Ruth, to confirm that her niece was safely at home, but she was still too cross. That’s just like her, to have me race across the country on a wild-goose-chase without so much as a text message. She stomped towards the coffee shop, remembering all the times Ruth had let her down or forgotten to tell her something important. Just because I’m the youngest, doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave me out all the time.
She could almost sense her bottom lip jutting out as it had done twenty-five years ago, when such behaviour was just about acceptable.
It was only when she was tucked into a window seat nursing a cup of Earl Grey that it occurred to Claire there may be another reason for Ruth’s lack of contact.
What if she’s had complications and had to go back into hospital? What if she wasn’t able to call me and Sky’s been left with Dad?
Her empty stomach twisted in fear and the blood drained away from her face until she thought she might faint. Placing the cup down on the saucer, spilling her tea in the process, Claire pulled out her phone and selected her sister’s number. She listened to the endless ringing as she waited for the phone to connect.
Come on, come on, just pick up the phone.