Originally published in MHU Magazine.
Chapter one, the storm.
The night of the terrible Winter storm at Havillands, Gareth and Jenny were valiantly trying to get the horses in, but there was hideous thunder and lightning which spooked even the boldest equines. Every time they managed to get close to a group of horses in the paddock there would be a clap of thunder which would cause them to ping off in all directions. After much chasing about, bribery with buckets of oats and sheer brute force, all but the hardy Native ponies were in the stables and rubbed down. The stables were locked and two shattered people wandered off to get some rest.
Jenny occupied a room in the attic of Havillands house, the grand old building that the stables were attached to. Gareth had an elderly caravan parked under a tree in one corner of a paddock -good for keeping an eye on Meredith!- Jenny wandered round to the back of the house and let herself in through the tradesman’s entrance. She went into the old stone flagged kitchen and warmed herself in front of the Aga. After making herself a cup of cocoa, she traipsed upstairs to her room- which was part of the old servants’ quarters from the days when grand houses had hoards of staff- for a hot bath and a soft bed.
Gareth squelched his way across the sodden ground to his van, let himself in and took off his wellies. The shower he had rigged up was no use in bad weather since it was basically a hose pipe with a watering can head attached to it, dangling over the branch of the tree he was next to. An outdoor shower is nice on an early Summer’s morning (before everyone else gets up or you really will frighten the horses!) but no good on a cold, wet and rainy night. Gareth boiled himself a kettle of water on the gas stove and proceeded to use it to have a good wash with. He hung his wet clothes on a rack to dry and put on his pyjamas. Pretty soon both Gareth and Jenny were fast asleep. It is hard physical work running stables.
The storm continued into the night, the thunder roared and the lightning split the sky with great blue forks. Rain lashed down and the wind blew furiously.
Gareth woke up in a state of confusion coughing profusely, there was a funny noise which he could hear above the howling of the storm, there was a strange flickering hazy light and some one was yelling his name!
“Gareth! Gareth! Get out of there!” it was Jenny bawling at the top of her voice. Gareth realised to his horror that the caravan was on fire!
He grabbed his anorak, stuffed his feet into his wellingtons and hurtled out of the door of the van. Jenny grabbed his hand and pulled him away from the van just as the flames reached the gas cylinder in the cooker. There was a theatrical explosion as the caravan went up in a fireball.
“One minute later and that would have been me!” gasped Gareth “I’d have been toast!”
Jenny and Gareth stood in the rain helplessly watching the blaze as the fire brigade arrived. They put the fire out, Jenny took Gareth to the kitchen of Havillands house to dry out and have a cup of tea.
“What happened?” asked Gareth from the depths of a steaming mug of English Breakfast
“Well, “ replied Jenny “I was woken up by an enormous clap of thunder. I went to the window to see if I could see any of the ponies and I saw that the big oak by your caravan had been struck by lightning and was on fire. I ran down to warn you but by the time I got outside the fire had spread to your van. You got out just in the nick of time.”
“I think’ said Gareth slowly, “That you saved my life.”