The next week passed by quickly with hard work and play at the helm. Under an ever changing sky and bedcovers the two youngsters satisfied the needs of the farm and each other, passion not interfering with commitment and most certainly work not interfering with desire. The fields took a soaking of nutrients, both organised and natural, the weather, in Walt’s words, frickin typical of an ever changing Pennine late spring.

“If ya want to see yon weather change round here lad, just take two breaths,” the elders voice bellowed up the grassy lane from where he watched out over his domain, leaning out of a bedroom window, a wry expression on the thin pale skin which covered his face this day.

The new farmhand was trudging through puddles and mud in an effort to get to the dryness of the fragrant hay barn floor and out of the sudden downpour. He had been finishing off castrating the last of the newborn in the bottom field by the stream when the first drops began to fall, pitter patter at first on the slow flowing crystal clear water of the brook. Then it began to fall heavier than was tolerable and having only a light canvas weatherproof, not at all suitable for the deceptive change in the weather, he had very quickly become soaked to the skin.

The hay barn was half way from the back field’s wooden gate to his own room up the steps but the rain was so nasty atop the hill, the driving wind at its worst up here, that the intervening yards seemed even a few paces too far for the moment. Mac and Margaret had used it’s rustic interior of nature for quite a different purpose one night in the week, but stood there now, wretched and cold, rainwater dripping from his chin as well as the blocked gutters of the building, that escapade seemed an eternity away.

“Red sky in the morn,” Mac spitted, chastising himself for not heeding the omen. Even so the storm did come from nowhere. One quarter the hour and the sky was blue with whisps of cloud, the next oppressive with as many shades of grey as could be imagined, and with these greys came the inevitable.

Over the past days Mac had searched his soul after all that had happened, Margaret and everything, and was still reconciled with the wormhole idea of his abduction. As ludicrous as it sounded he had unfortunately come across one and ended up here, at this moment taking shelter in this stone built barn with its creaking oak beams and blue slate roof. Whether all the dream related issues were true was far from conclusive, the imaginings may have some other explanation he was not quite aware of, after all switching universes was enough to comprehend at the present. Anyhow that is where he lye, a bed now partly of his own making, a bitter sweet bed of emotions and fantasies, Margaret, a saviour of his sanity in this world, Sal, his lost first love back in his own.

“A passage back might never be possible fella, all that dreaming of Aunt Bessie might never see ya walk down our garden path ever again.”

His emotion fell to the stone floor, made no bounce and stayed there, the correct place to banish all and any negativity, dropped and brushed away to the far corner of reality. Another thought came rushing back, a positive one this time, of why he had taken the decision to create a new life, identity and relationship here. Aunt Bessie in his dreaming might just be that, a dream.

Sat on a loose hay bail he licked at the moisture on his top lip, salty with tears mingled in with the rain and stared out the open barn door at the heavy drops falling into the puddles out in the yard, the ripples playing with each other as they danced across the surface, some enhancing where they met others cancelling one another out.

“Is it raining back home Sal?” he mumbled into wet hands, now holding a weary head by chin and a damp neck.

Fine, warm sunny weather was always a bonus in Mac’s life, it provided inspiration and encouraged activity, but come the dull and dismal day and that would occasionally find him wanting, searching, out of sorts if there was nothing to occupy his mind. It was not a melancholy but it had to be challenged nevertheless, confronted whenever it manifested. No good to man or beast subdued and introverted
he stood and wiped his face, shook the rain from out of his hair and made a dash across the slippery moss covered cobbles of the garth for the comfort of some dry clothes.

Tomorrow was Sunday. The Sunday. The one that mattered, the Sunday Aunt Bessie talked about. Today may be the last in Margaret’s company for a while. Perhaps that was the reason for his change in mood. Not visiting the bridge in well over a week had sort of put destiny far away from thought if that was at all possible, out of sight out of mind almost, and if it ought be attached a label of any description then perhaps idiocy would best describe the idea of going to the stonework tomorrow to walk under an arch in the anticipation of flitting universes. Even so he would still go down there and try.

Perhaps the life he had back with Sal was only an imagining, make believe, a twisted, cruel memory of his own minds eye, a torment for purpose of reminding him of a life less well spent, forgotten even. No, the wormhole was the thing, surely, the truth, the route out.

“Soon find out tomorrow lad,” he whispered under an exhale of breath. The rain caught him again, colder this time if that was at all possible.

If tomorrow was to happen, should he go without saying anything to Margaret? It was not his way of doing things, to not be honest. What should he do? Tell her! Oh yes that would certainly be an interesting conversation. “Margaret, I’m off back home for a while, sorry but you can’t come love, it’s in another universe and you won’t be able to get through the portal.” It was nothing to laugh about but he found himself doing so anyway. “Yes I’m a traveller of time and place Margaret, it’s my first ever travel, to here, I came by mistake but I’m told by my Aunt who I’m dreaming about that when I get back home I am to be given a bracelet to let me move between worlds, so I will be back.” Another laugh! Tomorrow was another day he decided, so enjoy this one and see what happens. More than likely nothing would.

Peeling off the t shirt, stuck to his body with the wet, that dream of the flood came back. Sal, the walk around Burdett Hall gardens. For a moment he recalled that thought as the last time he was as soaked as much as this, but then remembered it was a dream. A more careful thought brought back a memory from childhood, the time when the gang went canoeing and he capsized.

They had fashioned some canoes, well at that age that is what they called them. In reality they were no more than wooden rafts, but the summer holiday campaign of constructing the armada and the subsequent trip down the river to the old viaduct which used to carry the railway was at the time a massive undertaking. Anyhow Mac’s raft came apart because the rope had not been tied properly resulting in a ducking in the shallow river and a valuable lesson in preparation learnt. Dry at last and sat on the edge of the bed the memory of that long hot summer flooded his mind and warmed his soul.

The bedroom door creaked slightly, opened slowly and Margaret came into his room, a mischievous smile on her face. Though her raven black hair stuck to her face she looked every bit as beautiful as always.

“It’s not going to stop this afternoon by the looks,” she said, taking off wet boots to avoid spreading the field about his floorboards.

Now ought to be the ideal opportunity to talk about what the future might hold, and though attempting to start, the words choked at his throat. “I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring Margaret.”

“The same as today love,” she answered, “I’ve just looked at the forecast.” She had no idea what he was actually talking about and continued with a suggestion. “What about a drive to see the maypole dancers I showed ya if it does fine up?”

He owed her an answer. “Ok, yes that’ll be nice, I need to nip down and get some razors first thing though, it’s a ten o’clock open tomorrow ain’t it?”

Margaret nodded, asking, “I tried texting ya, to tell ya some family were coming over, is you’re phone dead?”

It was, again, he just could not get used to the plugging things in idea of finding electricity, back home it was all delivered wirelessly or charged by the sun.

“Sorry, yes it is,” he admitted wondering what the afternoon might bring. “Do you want me to do my own thing while your folks are over!”

Margaret, took off a wet chequered shirt, which quite frankly looked fabulous stuck to her body in all the right places, and as miserable the day looked outside it appeared to be on the up in the little bedroom.

She looked offended by his last comment. “Of course not Mac, you’re coming too. You’re part of my family now I hope, they’ll want to see ya.”

His attempt at an explanation felt lost now, and as the afternoon ebbed to evening, what with Margaret’s persuasive ways and the rain beating the window pane five o’clock came greeting without another opportunity to steer the conversation.

Feminine frivolity gave way to a surprise afternoon tea to celebrate some public holiday or other, Spring Bank he thought Margaret mentioned, but could not be sure, anyway it introduced Walt’s brother and sister, Alec and Maureen. They were both younger than him but no less opinionated about the state of the country and farming in particular. Mac had to place his subject on the back burner and not broach it again.

Silver in their hair and gold in their hearts Margaret’s Uncle and Aunt loved her to pieces and had obviously doted on her since always. Neither of them had any children of their own so they always showered Margaret with praises and affection by all accounts. Today both relations were more than thankful of her decision to stay at home with their brother as well as revelling in the new love she had found.

Both of them farmed the land, on separate smallholdings, one in the next valley, one in another town some five miles away. The youngest, and by some twenty years, Alec, was sorry to report that he may be off his land in a few years hence. He rented the farm from the local council, a satisfactory arrangement for many a decade, both for him and their uncle before, but now the authority was after selling off the asset for a lump sum rather than collect tenancy so as to fund the cutbacks and deficit the local government had encountered of late. The value of the property was far above his wealth so he could not afford to buy it. All this was his reveal as he sat gazing into the open hearth, a radiant blaze ripping through wood and coal alike and reddening Alec’s face on the left side as the flames danced and played about the black fire back.

The brother could not be any more different from Walt, a full head of mouse brown hair, portly midriff and amiable demeanour, although the latter had been in evidence of late in Walt himself, and Mac could see now what sort of a happy person Walt could become if Alec was anything to go by. Even faced with his inevitable eviction this man was still able to look to the future and not let it bother him.

Maureen too was a breath of fresh air. A rugged looking woman in who hard work had taken its price over some forty odd years of toil. For a woman she was quite muscular in frame but a sweet homely face nevertheless, crowned by a curly mop of auburn hair. Mo as she was nicknamed enjoyed some standing in the local community, having a seat on the council under the banner of independent issues, being a governor of the primary school and also a part time volunteer in the charity shop in town, where both she and Mac now realised they had already met, but up to this afternoon had no idea either was associated with Margaret. Her impression given off was that of a woman not to be messed with, her opinions were definitely her own but there were occasions when she thought they ought to be others too.

Mo’s own farm was not under any such threat as that of her brothers but she did wonder how long her husband could ‘cling on’ as she described it with the problem of supermarkets continually driving down the price paid them for milk. Milk was their main produce, and they struggled to get a decent pay now from the processors themselves.

“We used to have a big milk round Mac,” she explained, looking out the window of the lounge at a leaden sky and fog creeping up from the vale, “but now that’s been whittled away and we can’t produce it any cheaper than what we get for it. They’re knocking off two more pence in June and that gives us just twenty seven pence a litre. It costs us that to produce it.”

“Why the reduction?” Mac asked.

“There’s a surplus apparently.”

“Surplus!” Mac was off, then thought better of any further comment.

Mo turned around from the window. “The buyers claim to be building long-term relationships with us and customers alike, and they demand high standards to match their commitments, yet when an opportunity to cut farmers’ milk prices presents itself, it seems this all means nothing. I reckon around one in twenty, maybe more of us will finish in the next few years.”

Mac felt more than sympathy for Mo, her plight symbolised what he thought was wrong with their world, greed itself. There was an anger in his voice when he spoke. “Why a surplus? Milk is one of the staples. Everyone needs milk.”

“Well we’ll lose ’bout twenty thousand pound a year if they cut the price, and I think they will.”

Walt had been sat quietly, the patriach of the family, listening to and presiding over the clan meeting, nodding his head here and murmering some agreeable mutter there, unusual for him, to keep opinions to himself. Finally he snapped, slapping both hands on the leather chair arms, “I’m glad my working days are nearly done, then t’state can look after me in my dotage.”

Mo let out a belly laugh. “Eh! you’ll be lucky, they’ll take the farm to pay for any care ya ought know that.”

“Not this one.” Walt had a grin from ear to ear, a satisfactory grin, like the cream fed black feline asleep on the hearth.

Alec pricked up his ears. “Why what ya done Walt? How can ya be so sure?”

Walt told them all. “It’s all in Margaret’s name, bin like it sin’ ‘er mum passed.”

A reverent silence descended for a moment over the lounge, Walt broke it with further information. “I put it all over to Margaret, an’ she agreed. Just in case owt appens to me. So the bastards can’t get a penny.”

Mo was elated. “Good for you Walt, but I hope it’s airtight, for if yon lot in Westminster can get there thieving hands on it, they will lad.”

“Yon solicitor reckons on it being safe.”

Mo quipped in response.”That wa when he were taking ya money tho.”

“Well if he don’t know no beggar else does.”

“If they want to get some tax of ya lad they’ll change the laws again mark my words, there’s more than you ploughing that furrow,” Alec added. “They tax ya to die off these days haven’t ya heard?”

The family get together provided more learned information, a lot more than he would have liked. The elders’ opinion on central government
as well as local left a lot to be desired and suddenly kicked Mac’s own life into perspective. Having looked through rose tinted spectacles of late, opinions on the economy, politics and wealth within these new separate nations troubled him and if anything rekindled his lust for home. Perhaps tomorrow was going to provide a bonus after all.

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