Polly Babbington

Boat House test

Boat House test

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Synopsis

Look Inside Ch 1

Chapter 1

Sallie sat looking out the window, turning the bangle over and over on her arm. The bus had slowly emptied out the further it had gone along the coast and she’d spent the last hour of the journey, since she’d changed at Rydd-on-Sea, looking out at the beautiful old houses and listening to tunes on the bus driver’s radio. 

She looked through the pictures of the Boat House again on her phone, as the bus slowly made its way to her new home. The Boat House looked tired and unloved, the once white walls dingy and uncared for, an unkempt driveway to the front, the sea in the background, and an old, seen-better-days roof. She could just make out the little cottage to the side and the two jetties to either side. 

Signs for Pretty Beach had been getting more and more frequent. She had watched the miles count down until the big brown sign announced, ‘Welcome to Pretty Beach, Twinned with St. Amer.’ The bus swerved around the last of the coastal road and came to an abrupt halt at Pretty Beach bus stop. 

Catching the bus was a longer route than the new train, and she’d had to change twice, but weaving its way in and out of the beaches all the way down the coast to Pretty Beach had been a lovely ride. She walked down to the door of the bus with her basket over her arm, pushing a suitcase on wheels and carrying a large backpack on her back. Just a few things for a new life by the sea. 

She tapped her travel card and said thanks to the driver. 

‘Have a lovely stay in Pretty Beach,’ the bus driver called out to her as she got off.

She stopped and turned around to say that she wasn’t on holiday, but decided it was way too complicated and left it at a smile. The bus driver turned the engine off, pressed the clock on the dashboard, took out a flask of coffee and poured some into a cup.

‘Not a bad stop for a coffee break, is it?’ The bus driver laughed and gestured out to the sea, the lighthouse and the view as Sallie stepped off the bus and put the basket down. 

‘We don’t get many holidaymakers up here at this time of year,’ the bus driver said, taking in the slim, honey-haired woman in the white jeans, tennis shoes, a floaty sandy coloured camisole top and blazer. The bus driver was friendly and probably just making conversation on her break. You didn't get that in Freshlea. 

Sallie couldn’t be bothered to go through the entire story. How would it go down if she had told her, “Well no actually, I am pretty much homeless, have no money, and I’m on my way to a rat-infested building which I haven’t even seen for thirty years.” She thought that might be quite the conversation stopper.

‘Staying up there at the lighthouse?’ The bus driver pointed to the towering blue and white lighthouse all the way down the beach and up on the cliffs in the distance.

‘I wish,’ Sallie replied; she’d seen it on Airbnb and it was two thousand a night. ‘I’m staying over by the wharf at Seashells Cottages.’

The bus driver sucked her teeth, took out her ponytail, ruffled her fingers through her hair, smoothed it to the back of her head and tied it back up. She leant forward on the counter, resting her chin on her hand and smiled, lighting up her unbelievably pretty face.

‘You should've jumped off at the Lavender Bay stop then, not the lighthouse end - that’s nearer to old Pete’s places if you walk down the hill. Even that’s a bit of a walk though, especially with that lot.’ She waved her hand at Sallie’s big bags. Sallie looked back into the bus at her. 

‘Oh, I’ve planned to have some afternoon tea here, have a look around, see the lighthouse and then I’ve got an Uber booked.’

‘An Uber? Wow, you were lucky. Must be Rory up from St. Louisa’s then. See, we’ve got two Uber drivers down here at the moment. Holly from the bakers but she doesn't do the Winter season usually, so no go there, and then there’s Tony but he’s in Bali at the moment. So yep, it must be Rory, I didn’t know he was back yet.’ She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. 

The bus driver, whose badge said her name was Janelle, said it was a lovely day for an afternoon picnic and told her about a little sheltered warm spot down by the breakers.

‘Walk over there, see those two enormous trees? Through that park and then do a left along the boardwalk, there’s an area there with a bench and picnic tables, completely sheltered, your very own sun-trap in the afternoon. Warms the cockles of your soul, that’s for sure.’

Sallie smiled back at her gratefully. ‘Thanks so much, that’s just what I’m looking for.’

‘It gets quite chilly though later, you’ll be surprised - the afternoon winds come in and will pick up from the West and there won’t be a soul around by the time the sun goes down. You’ll be fine with Rory, dark blue Toyota with the Uber sign in the back window. A good looker, that’s for sure.’ 

She looked at Sallie and lit up the electric smile again, started up the bus and put her hand up.

‘I’ll be seeing you then,’ and she left a pause as if asking for Sallie’s name.

‘I’m Sallie, thanks so much for the tips.’ 

‘Nice to meet you Sallie, welcome to the wonderful world of Pretty Beach.’ 

She turned on the engine, looked in the mirror, indicated right and smiled as she pulled away. 

Well, that wasn’t a bad start - a nice bus driver who had told her about a picnic spot, you didn’t get that in Freshlea and the only Uber driver in town was a good-looking man who just so happened to be a doctor.

Main tropes

  • Small town
  • Sweet romance
  • Escape to the coast
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