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Open Features: Going Home Part 2

...Kit stood up, walked over and gently held her hands. "Janey Grant, you're not going anywhere just yet. I feel as if I've known you all my life. We grew up together. It isn't only the house that brought me back; you were part of my dream too. You can't walk out of my life again, I won't let you."...

Betty McKay brings the story which she began last week to a most satisfying conclusion.

Turning round she looked up into the bright blue eyes and brown face of Mr. Courtney, their gardener. Then realised it couldn't be him. Mr. Courtney would be in his eighties by now. The man smiled, "Can I help you?"

Blushing, Jane laughed and said: "I'm not loitering with intent, or anything sinister like that. I used to live in this house. I was actually born here fifty-one years ago last week."

His eyes lit up in recognition. - He really did have the bluest eyes. - He held his hand out. "You're Janey Grant, I'd have known you anywhere. Come on in and tell me all about yourself."

"Kit Courtney!" Jane said, surprised and delighted, for only Kit had ever called her Janey. He nodded. "You looked so like your father that I thought I'd done a back-flip in time when you spoke to me. Is he still alive?"

"He and Mum are alive and well and living in Melbourne, Australia. They live with Eddie and his wife. We moved there in 1960, eighteen months after you and your parents left. The rest of the family took to Australia like ducks to water. Me - I longed for England. I was your original whingeing Pom. I used to drone on about this house, like Rupert Brooke did about his Old Vicarage. This isn't an Aussie accent you are listening to. It's an Oxfordshire one. I never lost it. It used to drive Eddie and Lee crazy."

The house was different. It looked better and wasn't shabby any more. Like the church, it was cherished and well cared for. This house shone with the loving care expended on it. It was all too much for Jane - her eyes filled with tears. Kit looked at her and said, "Come on, let's have something to drink."

She smiled: "I'd love a cup of tea."

By this time they were in the kitchen. Jane looked at Kit, realising he was taller than his father, and better looking. "What you said about the vicarage does sound romantic, Kit, but I do know what you mean. Ken, my husband, was in the Army and when we were abroad I used to dream about this house. After he died, I wanted to come back, just to look, you know. I thought it would be too late, and the reality would spoil all my wonderful memories. Mum never liked living in the country. When we moved to Chester, she loved it."

"Does she still live there, Janey?"

"No. After Dad died, Mum caught the travelling bug. In Seattle she met and married Al. That's where she lives now. She's seventy-five and looks about fifty. Al is sixty-eight and owns a boatyard and they still go sailing every week-end." Unable to contain herself any longer, she said: "How about you, Kit, are you married?"

He laughed. "I thought you'd never ask. No I'm not married. I'm widowed like you. Angela died when Simon our son was born twenty-two years ago, and somehow or other I never got around to getting hitched again. Too busy I suppose, and Angela was a hard act for any girl to follow. Same for you?"

Jane nodded.

"I'm an architect. I moved back to England after my wife died. Three years ago the Church authorities put the Vicarage on the market. Now I work from Little Blessant. I have a wonderful couple who look after the house and garden. They live in the old gardener's cottage. Simon, he's still at Oxford, which is near at hand." He sighed and stopped abruptly.

Jane looked at him, "What is it, Kit? Is it what I'm thinking as well? That you have never talked to another person about this house, because they would laugh or get bored, or just think you were - well odd! Because, that's how it is with me. Not Gemma, or even Ken, much as I loved him, knew quite how I feel about it. It goes beyond teasing or joking."

She stood up suddenly, "I'm sorry, I have to go now. I'm going back to the pub and then on to Gemma's." If she stayed one more minute, she would make a terrible fool of herself.

Kit stood up, walked over and gently held her hands. "Janey Grant, you're not going anywhere just yet. I feel as if I've known you all my life. We grew up together. It isn't only the house that brought me back; you were part of my dream too. You can't walk out of my life again, I won't let you."

Well, thought Jane, if this is madness, then I'm all for it. She laughed. "Come on Kit, let's do the grand tour. I want to see every inch of this wonderful old place."

So they explored. Kit pointed out the improvements made and the horrors overcome - the deathwatch beetle defeated in the attic and the dry rot eliminated in the drawing room. Jane was enchanted as they wandered hand-in-hand through loved and well-remembered rooms of her childhood. When at last she came to her old room, Kit flung the door open and made a low bow, saying: "Madame, pray enter the boudoir of Miss Janey Grant."

Jane laughed and said, "As was, Kit - as was!"

Kit smiled, "Oh! You'll always be Janey Grant to me. Anyway, aren't you going in? You'll be quite safe, I promise you."

"Kit, it's the prettiest bedroom I've ever seen. Fit for a queen, no less."

"A Princess - not a queen. When you were small I remember you saying that you'd much rather be a princess, because once they became queens they never seemed to have any fun."

"It's true though! Fancy you remembering that."

"We could always collect your suitcase from the pub after we've had dinner. Ted and Deborah won't mind, they're good friends of mine."

"No Kit, I have a much better idea, why don't you come with me tomorrow and meet Gemma and David and my little granddaughter. Then Gemma can put a face to a name, which she has known all her life."

When Jane said this, Kit gave her the most wonderful smile she'd ever seen.

"Do you mean that, Janey?"

"Oh yes, Kit. Yes I do, I mean it."

Then he kissed her for the very first time.

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