Giselle Marks

Regency Romance and Fantasy Author

Granny Atkins’ Cottage

on October 20, 2016

witch

In the Isle of Man Halloween is celebrated as Hop-tu-Naa.  Jinny the witch is a song all the children are taught to sing before knocking on doors and asking for sweets for Halloween. There are several versions and the one used here is popular. I apologize but this is a longer story than I intended to write.

There was only one topic of conversation in the Green Man that night.  The Hesterley bypass, it would go through their village, splitting their community into two forever. All the regulars were horrified about this looming disaster which was being planned to devastate Eleigh St Margaret. Mine host, Jake Barritt was distraught.

“Inconvenient, Jim? It will be more than inconvenient. It’ll add twelve miles to the journey into the village for the south-siders. The Green Man will have to close, we’ll lose half our custom as it’ll be quicker to go into Hesterley,” he said answering Jim Clarke’s comment and serving up his pint.

“Ah, you’re right about that, most of the locals just walk here, what with the drink driving laws an’ all,” Jim counted the exact coins for his pint and then took the froth off it.

“Will you be going to the meeting, Jim?” the publican asked hoping as many of his customers would attend as possible.

“I’ll be there, can’t have our only pub shutting, can we?” Jim said before joining his older brother Henry, who was playing dominoes with old Tom Partridge.

“Was Jake bending your ear about the meeting?” Henry said as Jim sat down. Jim took a swallow of his beer before replying.

“To be expected, it’s his livelihood and St Margaret’s won’t be the same without the Green Man. Why should we be inconvenienced for them Hesterley people? Our village is lovely as it is,” he stated profoundly. The other two nodded their heads in reply.

“That it is,” agreed old Tom. “This bypass won’t happen, though.”

“What do you mean, Tom? We have to fight it, because the County Council is in cahoots with the government over building this monstrosity. It’ll destroy the peace of the village,” Jim declared heatedly.

“Of course, we have to be seen to fight it, Jim, but it won’t happen. Granny Atkins will make sure of that,” old Tom insisted placing his last domino. Then lifting his pint and knocking it back in triumph, placing the tankard back down with a clink. Henry got up looking dismayed. He picked up both tankards and headed to the bar. Tom sat looking triumphantly smug.

“Playing for pints, Tom? Not really fair on Henry, no-one can touch you at dominoes. What can Mrs Atkins do? She’s a nice old lady to be sure, but she must be eighty at least,” Jim said.

“Athena Atkins is not a nice old lady, but Eleigh St Margaret is lucky to have her. You don’t want to get on her wrong side. She’s far more powerful than you think. This won’t be the first half-cocked project she’s put a stop to. I wouldn’t like to speculate as to how old she is, but she was old when I was just a lad.” Old Tom cackled, showing some missing teeth and then coughed as he rolled himself a cigarette twisting the end. He pulled himself to his feet and tottered to the pub’s rear garden where other hardened smokers were enjoying a puff.

***

Athena Atkins lived in a picturesque half-timbered cottage built originally in Tudor times. The cottage was reached by an unsurfaced lane which connected with the main road through Eleigh St Margaret. The entrance to the lane was opposite the village primary school, which had been built fifty years ago. The lane cut through Eleigh Stand Woods and ended at the gates of Wishing Well Cottage. There were expansive gardens at the front of the cottage, with an orchard, ponds, a quaint old well, colourful flower beds and pristine lawns. One of the elderly apple trees had a tree house built high with a rope ladder to reach the platform. Within the orchards there were swings, a slide and a comfortably furnished Wendy house. To the rear of the house there was a sizeable conservatory, a vegetable plot and a wild garden area. A path through the wild garden led down to the Ele stream and a small bridge over the stream allowed access to Tangle Woods.

The local children loved to play in the woods and in the cottage’s beautiful garden. Usually Granny Atkins would bring out home-made lemonade and some cakes, biscuits or candies which she’d made. If it rained, she’d invite the children inside to shelter. She’d feed them while they waited for the rain to pass to go home. If it did not, she would ring their parents to confirm they were safe and their parents would drive down the lane to fetch them.

Granny Atkins did not mind if they ate the fruit and berries she grew in her orchard. On sunny days she would be pottering around her gardens, followed by her three sleek huge cats, a ginger tom, a blue Persian and a black cat with brilliant green eyes. She called them Lockie, Smoke and Emerald and they seemed to follow every word she said to them. Most days they would sun themselves on a garden bench in the warmest spot in her front garden.

Despite the cats, other animals played in the garden. Badgers, squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes and even otters had been sighted on her lawns. Birds of every kind fed on the bird table peacefully together. The cats showed no interest in the birds or the squirrels, nor did they pester to be fussed by the children. Nut bags were hung from the trees but the squirrels never pestered the birds or tried to climb the bird table. Even when the weather was dry and all greenery was browning around the village, Granny Atkin’s lawns were lush and green. Granny Atkins welcomed visitors and was a good listener to those that took the trouble to walk or drive to her cottage.

In her garden was a shed which no one was allowed into; it was kept padlocked. It had a cat-flap in the door and the cats would be sighted wandering into the shed, or reappearing through the flap. Gossip said there had once been a Mister Atkins, but he had died long since. Occasionally visitors arrived in the village for Granny Atkins, well dressed in designer clothes, with expensive cars. Sometimes the visitors stayed, driving their cars through the cottage gates to park beside the house. Granny Atkins was seen in the village from time to time to post a letter or parcel, but she rarely shopped. She did not attend church, but would send cakes for the fete and produce for harvest festival which the older village children would be asked to deliver.

Halloween was only a week away and the village children would cycle down the lane to Mrs Atkins. Her home-made toffee apples and other candies were well worth the dark ride and Mrs Atkins would have turnip and pumpkin lanterns lit. Mrs Atkins remembered all the children’s names and gave then extra sweets for younger siblings, who could not manage the ride or were sick at home. If any village children could not come, then their neighbours were asked to deliver their shares.

***

Eleigh St Margaret’s was a quiet charming village. Families had lived happily there for many generations and the community was close-knit, taking care of each other. There was one part- time constable, but Fred Barritt was a local man. He policed village events, although the most excitement he had recently was a scrap between the Clarke brothers after one pint too many over an argument over a football match, watched in the Green Man. He did not bother to report Jim and Henry’s fight. Eleigh St Margaret’s rarely featured in crime statistics.

Fred forcibly pushed Henry off his brother Jim. Fred had said, “I don’t care if Robsey fouled Abrams or not. If you fight any more I shall tell your wives,” he had let the threat sink in and the brothers had thought better of it, shaken hands and no more was said.

Police cars drove through the village, but always on route to somewhere else. Some years before Fred became community constable for the village, two teenage lads had gone missing. They’d never been found, but they had been troublemakers, whom most thought had run away to a big city. The only crimes that Fred had reported had been a spate of vandalism, when he had first taken on the job. The vandalism stopped after the marriage of George and Mary Manning broke up. Both George and Mary had left the village. Their teenage son Dean had gone to live with his mother in Hesterley.

Fred and most of the other villagers believed Dean had been the vandal. Dean had bullied the other kids at primary school, so few villagers had been sorry to see him go. Fred had heard from some of his colleagues in Hesterley that they’d like to see the back of him too. Dean had palled ups with another pair of bad lots. His new, best buddy, Robert Basham, known as Bob, had already had got a long sheet for vandalism, underage drinking, petty theft, and a couple of nasty assaults. Basham was suspected of burglary and joy riding, called TWOK-ing by cops. The offence was officially ‘Taking Without the Owner’s Consent’ to everyone else.

There was not sufficient evidence to charge Bob, but several cars had been stolen and two found smashed. Dwayne Thurgood was Basham’s gofer. If Bob said jump, Dwayne would ask, “How high, Bob?” Dwayne was not very bright and the cops suspected he did whatever Basham told him to. The gang of three were becoming a problem in Hesterley and neighbouring towns.

The first the village had heard of the bypass plan was over a year ago. To start with, the route planned was not revealed. When it was, the whole village wrote objecting to the road being driven across their village. Replies to their letters had been officious, stressing the importance and benefits of the project. The village protests had been ignored and plans for compulsory purchase had been approved. Planning notices were attached to the front lanes of the farms along the route and each farmer received notices informing them that portions of their farmlands would be purchased. The farmers had also objected, so there would have to be a public inquiry. The public meeting was supposed to appease the village and make some of those persons complaining withdraw their complaints.

Most of the villagers liked Granny Atkins or respected her, but Dean Manning had been an exception. Fred had heard Dean had been rude to her and had damaged plants and bushes in her garden. Fred visited Mrs Atkins to get her to press charges, yet he could see no damage in her lovely garden. Fred wondered if he had been misinformed.

“Mrs Atkins, is it true Dean Manning vandalised your garden and caused trouble?” he asked her.

“Some of the kids must have exaggerated, Constable. I’m sorry you’ve come this way unnecessarily. Please stay for some tea. I have just iced a chocolate cake and I believe there’s some shortbread,” she offered, bustling to put the kettle on.

Fred had enjoyed talking to her over tea and cake, but Mrs Atkins wouldn’t be drawn over Dean Manning. Fred had wondered how the damage to her garden was fixed so quickly, but he couldn’t charge Dean, if she wouldn’t admit to the damage. But he heard she banned him from her gardens. Not long after that incident, the Mannings moved away.

***

The Parish Hall began to fill up early. There was no support for the bypass within the village so the locals were turning out in force. Jim Clarke tried to catch old Tom to find out more about Granny Atkins. But Tom carefully stuck with two cronies and avoided Jim. Old Tom had recently celebrated his 84th birthday himself and Jim had thought him the oldest inhabitant of the village. The government officials had not yet appeared, but a table had been set up with chairs at the front of the hall. Granny Atkins had not arrived either and Jim watched for their arrival. Jim’s wife Sylvia slid in, having put the younger kids to bed, their teenage daughter Michelle had a pile of revision for her exams, so had agreed to babysit.

“I’m in time then, Jim,” she sat sitting in the chair next to him. He looked at her and thought she had never looked better. Not long ago, she’d been so ill and looked ashen. The doctor had ordered tests for her and they’d been really worried. Jim found his mind wandering to when he and Sylvia had last seen Granny Atkins.

They’d been watching TV one evening, trying not to put the dreaded ‘C’ word to Sylvia’s symptoms when there was a knock on the door. Jim answered the door grumpily wondering who’d be calling so late, only to find Granny Atkins at the doorstep.

“I’m sorry to call so late. But I made some cakes for visitors, but they rang to say they couldn’t come. I’m all alone so I can’t manage to eat them all. I thought with you having a family, you might manage to eat them for me?”

“It’s very kind of you to think of us, would you like to come in?” Jim asked not really wanting to invite her, but Granny Atkins was in and he shut the door behind her, politely ushering her to the sitting room. Sylvia hadn’t managed to eat supper because of the stomach pain and the worry.

“Don’t get up Mrs Clarke, you look a bit peaky. I’ll just stay for a cup of tea. I am sure Jim will make us one,” the old lady said beaming at him.

“Yes, of course,” Jim bustling to do her bidding. Somehow things didn’t look so bleak, even Sylvia managed a wavering smile.

“It’s very kind of you, Mrs Atkins, to come all this way,” Sylvia said as Mrs Atkins bustled about unpacking all kinds of delicious looking cakes. “Yes I’ve been not feeling well, the doctor is going to arrange tests so they can figure out what’s wrong with me.”

“I don’t hold with doctors myself, never had any time for them. I swear by my special tonic though,” she declared pulling out a small brown bottle. “A drop of this in your tea will soon put you right.”

Jim could hear the conversation from the kitchen because Sylvia switched the TV off politely. He’d thought as the kettle boiled it was nice of Mrs Atkins to try and cheer Sylvia up. As he laid a tray he could not see the cakes from the kitchen, but Granny Atkins’ cakes were always the best. His mouth was watering just thinking about her cakes, perhaps they’d even tempt Sylvia to eat.

The kettle boiled and he filled a teapot.  Somehow mugs never seemed right for Mrs Atkins, she had the carriage and manners of an old- fashioned lady. He lifted the tray, carriying it through to the sitting room. He looked at the cakes on the table and then up at Sylvia who was chatting animatedly to the older lady. Mrs Atkins was so elegant and tiny in a lavender jumper and deeper purple skirt, for a split second she looked like a young woman and a beautiful one at that. He blinked his eyes and there she was wrinkled but unbowed.  He admitted she must have been a great beauty when younger.

Jim put the tray on the coffee table and Sylvia poured the tea. Granny Atkins poured a small amount from her brown bottle into Sylvia’s cup.

“There you need a bit of a tonic,” she said handing the cup to Sylvia. “You drink that up and you’ll be feeling more the ticket.” Then Mrs Atkins drank up her tea and chatted about the late summer flowers and then she was taking her leave and on her way. 

Sylvia drank her tea and was tempted to eat a chocolate fairy cake. Then a slice of fruit cake; and she seemed much better. Jim thought company and someone caring had helped. Mrs Atkin’s cakes could tempt St Peter himself. The next day Sylvia said she felt better, the day after that she rang the doctor leaving a message she had recovered, so please cancel any tests. The doctor rang to try to persuade her, but Sylvia was adamant she was fine and so she was.

Jim thought about how strange it had been, because Sylvia had seemed so ill, but then Reverend Cressingham, the vicar of St. Margaret’s asked for quiet.

“Lovely to see such a good turn-out, if you’d take your seats and quieten down, I think we’re ready to start the meeting,” he declared pompously.

There was shuffling and stomping as everyone tried to get comfortable. Then the Government men traipsed in, all dressed formally in pinstripe suits carrying briefcases. They dimmed the lights and put on a slide show, while one man explained with long words and statistics why the bypass was essential. The villagers sat and listened mutinously. When the suit finished and sat down, the fattest man stood and asked for questions. Several villagers were on their feet at once. One by one they objected to the bypass and asked why the village must be inconvenienced. They also demanded compensation and a lowering in their community charge bills.

The government men answered hesitantly, not promising any form of recompense, but declaring the bypass would bring benefits to the wider community. They seemed stunned by the unanimous vehemence and rage of the villagers. They shuffled their papers nervously, looking at each other and wondering how soon they could escape. Most of the villagers had had their say when Jake Partridge stood up.

“This brilliant plan of yours,” he bellowed sarcastically, “will destroy the village. It will add over twelve miles for most children to reach the village school and it’ll close the Green Man, leaving me bankrupt and my family destitute and homeless. I don’t want your platitudes about it being for the greater good. I want you to know I and Eleigh St. Margaret’s will fight it all the way.” The rest of the village yelled “Aye,” and “Here, here,” to that and there was a lot of shaking of fists. One of the government men stood up trying to answer him.

“You are scaremongering, Sir, the benefits to Eleigh St. Margaret’s will be more than enough compensation for any minor inconvenience caused. Our advisors report the village will profit from the bypass. It will encourage further development and a business park is planned which will bring jobs.” He sat down and put his papers away as if getting ready to run for it.

“I’ll be seeing my lawyers to take an action for damages against all of you.” Jake practically yelled at the government men before sitting down. The officials looked uncomfortable and the fat one went crimson in the face. Jim feared he’d have a heart attack while the villagers muttered among themselves. It was clear nothing had been said had appeased them and they were angrier than ever.

“I believe the government men are correct, Eleigh St. Margaret’s will benefit from the road,” a new voice declared. Jim Clarke twisted around to see Granny Atkins addressing the speakers. “I viewed the plans, because it was clear the bypass would take most of my garden and a large part of Eleigh Stand Woods. But I don’t understand why I’ve not received notice of compulsory purchase for either Wishing Well Cottage or for the Stand Woods. Nor has any notice been erected. I thought notification and a notice were required by law?” she enquired calmly.

The government men whispered between themselves looking through their papers. The man on the left of the table brought out a number of files and leafed through one. He inserted a marker and then moved on further before turning to whisper to his fellows.

“You had better deal with it, Rathbone,” the fatter man declared, rubbing his hands together.

The man addressed at Rathbone stood and cleared his throat. “Am I addressing Mrs Atkins, of Wishing Well Cottage?” He asked respectfully.

“That I am,” Granny Atkins declared, sitting down.

“A recorded delivery letter was sent three months ago concerning Wishing Well Cottage. The Eleigh Stand Woods are the property of the Hesterley Town Council, and they support building the bypass, Mrs Atkins,” he stated.

“I’ve not received or signed for any such letter, Mr Rathbone. Hesterley Town Council has informed you incorrectly of the ownership of the Stand Woods. They are owned by the W.W. Trust, of which I am the main beneficiary. My solicitors, Clutterbuck, Clutterbuck, son and Hogwood have written to you to complain no such notice has been received, either by them on my behalf, or to the Trust in respect of the woods and the affected farms, which they act for.”

Mr Rathbone went red and shuffled through a second and third file of papers.

“This is very irregular, Mrs Atkins. I haven’t got copies of your solicitors’ letters. You are correct, the notice wasn’t delivered and was returned as undeliverable. I must apologize most sincerely over that omission. The Royal Mail is usually very good about these things.”

“I have copies of Reginald Clutterbuck’s letters to you, Mr Rathbone and receipts for their delivery,” she replied walking down the hall to present him with a large brown envelope, from which he extracted a thick sheath of photocopies, most headed with the distinctive Stag and Boar letterhead Clutterbucks had chosen. Mr Rathbone swallowed as he read the dating of the letters and the copied Royal Mail receipts proving junior clerks in his office had signed for each of them.

“I apologize, ma’am, you are correct. This will delay matters considerably,” he said to the government men.

“There is one other matter. I’d like to be informed of the details of the Act of Parliament which cancels the Royal Charter of James I. That charter granted the lands held by the W.W. Trust to my family, in perpetuity, was written in 1617. I have brought a copy with me as the original is stored carefully in London. You’ll see from young Reginald’s letters that he tried to discuss the problems of compulsory purchasing Trust lands or any part of them.”

She handed him a large roll of paper which when rolled out revealed a facsimile hand written document, half a metre long and slightly narrower in width. Several signatures were written at the bottom of the document, large among them, was James R. and the royal seal.

“I have consulted Christopher Sutton, QC, who’ll be acting on behalf of the Trust. He was of the opinion it would be practically impossible to break the Charter for a road bypass. Until the Charter’s terms are broken the bypass won’t be able to pass through Eleigh St Margaret’s. Mr Sutton, who I believe is well known, will seek expenses over this preposterous scheme.”

The fat man blanched at Christopher Sutton’s name. He was a famous barrister who had repeatedly taken the government to the cleaners with suits concerning malfeasance and incompetence.  The government men shuffled their papers and put them away. The fat man stood up, “Until this matter is rectified, the plans for the bypass will be postponed. Under the circumstances I declare this public meeting over,” the government men grabbed their briefcases and rushed from the room, refusing to answer any more questions.

Old Tom walked past Jim Clarke and mouthed the words, “I told you so,” before disappearing through the door heading towards the Green Man. Jim looked for Mrs Atkins but she’d already left. A rather stunned group of villagers headed out into the night, discussing amongst themselves the bombshell Granny Atkins had dropped.

***

The village stopped worrying about bypass and looked forward to Halloween. Parties were planned. The parents helped the children carve lanterns and checked their torches and bikes’ lights. The children were excited as they dressed up to go visiting. They visited their neighbours with children first and then left their haul of goodies at home with their smallest brothers and sisters. Michelle Clarke, Jason Willis and David Partridge were considered old enough to supervise the younger kids who could cycle to visit Granny Atkins. Michelle took her little sister Alesha in the child seat on her bike, but Eddie was seven and could now ride his own bike. They were dressed up as witches, vampires, monsters and similar. Washing the face paint off would take some time before bed.

The older kids supervised the younger children crossing the road to the lane through Eleigh Stand Woods. They waited until the last kid had crossed, before setting off down the lane.  It was a bit frightening cycling at night down the lane. The trees seemed to loom threateningly in the dark, but the clouds shifted and the nearly full moon shone down. Two boys were dressed as werewolves and let out blood curdling howls. Everyone laughed. When they reached the wide open cottage gates, the garden was lit up with lanterns. The three cats were sitting waiting beside the front door and then there was Mrs Atkins bringing out bags of sweets for them all.

“Welcome children, Happy Halloween. Thank you, Michelle, Jason and David for taking such good care of the smaller ones.” Mrs Atkins handed the sweet bags to the smaller children first.

“We learnt a song they sing in the Isle of Man for Halloween at school, can we sing it to you?” Jason asked.

“I would love to hear it, children,” Granny Atkins said smiling.

“Hop-tu-Naa

My mother’s gone away

And she won’t be back until the morning

Jinnie the Witch flew over the house

To fetch the stick to lather the mouse

Hop-tu-Naa

My mother’s gone away

And she won’t be back until the morning

Hop-tu-Naa, Traa-la-laa,” the children sang in unison.

“That was lovely children, thank you. Now who is missing? Where are Charlie Willis and Sarah Clarke, are they not well?” Mrs Atkins asked having made sure the younger children had the party bags she’s prepared.

“Cousin Sarah has got chicken pox,” Michelle declared.

“Charlie has a cold, Mrs Atkins and Mum said he couldn’t come,” Jason said.

“Make sure they get their bags, please?” Mrs Atkins asked. “The young Brown twins are also your cousins, Michelle. Little Chloe Partridge and there are the three Cleater children who’ve just moved into the village. Do their parents not approve of Halloween?”

“No, they’re disappointed they couldn’t come, Mrs Atkins, they’ve family visiting so had to stay home,” David piped up because the Cleaters were his neighbours. Mrs Atkins handed over enough sweet bags for the missing children and then gave a special wrapped favour to each of the three older children. The children thanked her politely and Mrs Atkins waved them off. She shut the gates and once they were out of sight, carried the lanterns to the porch, but she did not blow the candles out.

“A good batch of children, this year’s don’t you think, Smoke?” she said picking up the large cat and stroking her gently. “Michelle will make a good nurse, Jason hopes to become a fireman eventually and young David aims to become a solicitor. All of them will be useful citizens. So tell me, Lockie,” she said to the huge ginger who was rubbing up against her legs. “Tell me why I think there will be more visitors tonight. The cat said nothing but stared at her. “Very well Warlock.”

She snapped her fingers and a shower of pretty sparks flew in the direction of the cat. The cat vanished and was replaced by an attractive, but slightly sinister looking young man. He brushed his clothes down and shook himself.

“I asked you a question Warlock, are more visitors coming tonight?”

“Yes, ma’am three young men. You know one, that Dean Manning you forbade visiting the gardens,” the young man said, deferentially bowing to his mistress.

“I don’t suppose he’s learnt his lesson then. The boys have grown up now and won’t cause more trouble. Dean was a big strong boy, I’m sure he’ll learn to be a good gardener,” she remarked absentmindedly.

“I’ll make sure of that, ma’am. They’ll be here soon.”

***

Bob Basham was not happy, it was Halloween and he was skint. He’d thought about burgling somewhere so he could get drunk. Houses in Hesterley had improved security as there’d been many burglaries. He’d been looking around for a suitable house to try, but when he sent Dwayne into their back gardens, security lights came on or dogs had barked. Modern double glazing was harder to open from outside. Most of Hesterley’s residents had listened to police advice making their houses harder to get into. Recently he’d only stolen from a couple of cars, gaining him a leather jacket, a bottle of vodka and some chocolate. They’d eaten the chocolate and drunk the vodka but they still had no cash.

“It’s Halloween, so what are we gonna do?” Dean asked.

“Dunno, we’re all broke, you ain’t got money off yer Mum, have you?” Bob demanded, patting his mates’ pockets but finding only a few pennies.

“You know I’ve no money, Bob. Mum says I’ve gotta get a job. She won’t sub me or let me near her purse,” Dean muttered.

“I’d been looking for an old codger, whose house be easy to get into, thought we’d found one yesterday. Sent Dwayne round the back and there were a couple of Doberman ruddy Pincers in the garden. Dwayne barely got back over the fence, before they were jumping up to bite him,” Bob complained. Dwayne started to say something and thought better of it.

“Townies are more suspicious than country folk,” Bob thought aloud. Dwayne and Dean nodded, muttering something that might’ve been affirmative. “We could nick a car an’ go out of town. Deano, you came from some village with a daft name. Were there any oldies with money and no damn dogs?”

“I know one old bag who’d do nicely. No dogs or neighbours either. I owe her a bad turn,” Dean stated. They nicked a car and Dwayne was in the driving seat. Dean had insisted Dwayne drive as he had a licence and Bob had crashed the last couple of cars they’d nicked.

“I don’t see why I can’t drive,” Bob moaned a while later.

“Because we won’t get there, you drive like a nutter. You can drive on the way back,” Dean said directing Dwayne.

***

Dwayne drove following Dean’s directions. He was concerned about this jaunt. Bob had sounded off, talking rot about bashing the old bag’s head in and giving her a good kicking. Nicking some dosh or stuff they could fence was one thing, but beating up old dears he didn’t like.

“There’s a lane on the left, turn up it and turn the lights down low, Dwayne,” Dean said. “Old Mrs Atkins has got it coming to her, you got anything to hit her with, Bob?”

“Yeah, I brought me crowbar. You have yer hammer with you, don’t ya?”

“Course I do, Dwayne that’s the turning, drive slow and turn at the bottom so we can get away quick. It looks like she’s turned in for the night, only the lanterns are lit,” Dean said.

Dwayne turned the car, parking it pointing back down the lane. They got out of the car quietly and crept up the garden path. On the lawn in the moonlight, some baby foxes were playing rolling about together. The cubs stopped and watched the boys on the path, then fled into the bushes. The young men reached the front door, but it was slightly ajar. Bob went first, marching into the house. Dean had been wrong there were lights visible under one of the doors leading off from the entrance hall. They were more nervous now creeping to the door to listen. No noise came from the room and Bob was unsure what to do. Something brushed his leg, but it was only a black cat. Granny Atkins heard Bob’s yelp of surprise.

“Come in boys,” she called from inside the room. The boys looked at each other, hefting their weapons. Bob turned the door handle and they entered the room, but he was feeling nervous. Granny Atkins was seated in an armchair warming a glass of brandy. Smoke was draped across her lap, but got down as Granny got up. Across from her, still seated Warlock watched, clearly amused by the lessening of their bravado.

“Ah Dean, I don’t think I’ve met your friends. I see you didn’t learn anything from our last little talk,” she said calmly. Dean gawped because the elegant lady in the black evening gown was definitely not old. He knew she was Granny Atkins because it was her voice. There were three of them and the man did not look like he wanted to fight.

“We want money, bitch. Where’s your purse?” Bob growled at her.

“You definitely haven’t learnt how to behave, behave like a brat and you might as well be one. You too Dean, I warned you I’d teach you a lesson if you dared return here. Warlock, would you fetch the other boys, please?”

“Certainly ma’am,” the strange young man said vanishing. Bob had raised his arm threatening Mrs Atkins but he was beginning to feel rather funny. He looked up at Mrs Atkins who seemed to be getting bigger, the arm chair was bigger too, or he was smaller. Dean had shrunk too. They did not reach knee level. Dwayne stood by the door, but he was much bigger than them.

Bob screamed as Warlock entered with the black cat herding two men who were no bigger than they were. The black cat licked his face. It was much larger than Bob. He tried to move to the door though where he would go now he was only tiny, he had no idea.

Dean was on his knees. “Please Mrs Atkins turn us back to normal, we’ll go away and never bother you again.”

“I warned you Dean, you’ll learn your lessons, you’re going to be my new gardeners.  Emerald, Smoke, show Dean and his friend to their quarters.”

The cats moved behind the two little men, nudging them through the door, along the hall to the front door and then lifted them by their collars down the porch steps. Then the cats pushed them across the lawn to the locked shed. They aimed them towards the cat flap. Bob and Dean bent but managed to get through. They found themselves in a tiny lit apartment fitting their size. Two small beds were made up and chests with tiny working clothes in them, there was a small bathroom leading off the room and a fairly large settee which the black cat sat on, clearly intending to sleep there. Smoke nuzzled Emerald then departed through the cat flap. The black cat would guard the cat flap. They hoped Mrs Atkins forgave them soon.

They knew they would learn their lesson. Dean had something to hope for, Mrs Atkins would feed them and he didn’t think she’d ever cook badly and even with a feline jailor, their room was pleasant.

“We had better wash and get to bed, Bob. We’ll be working on the garden as soon as it’s light,” Dean said, heading to the bathroom and running a bath.

“Dean, did we take something to give us a strange trip? Tell me none of this is real, please?” Bob implored him.

“It’s all as real as that big cat over there. I think there’ll be pyjamas somewhere in this chest.” He sorted through finding a pair which he held up that looked a perfect fit. “My favourite colour too, Granny Atkins won’t hurt us, so long as we do what she says. It’ll be better than prison,” Dean said.

“My Mum will go mental, Dean,” Bob wailed but he was beginning to accept the situation.

***

Smoke returned to Mrs Atkins in her sitting room. Granny Atkins beckoned over the two small men.

“Come here Chris and Richie,” the cat nudged them forward. “Have you learnt your lesson now?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the two little men squeaked bowing.

“If you ever forget, you’ll be brought back here” she said waving her hand gracefully in their direction. They began to grow and soon towered over Mrs Atkins’ slender figure. They were neatly if not fashionably dressed but had full beards and long hair.

“You, young man by the door, come here and tell me your name,” she said addressing Dwayne. He found his feet were moving.

“It’s Dwayne, ma’am,” he whispered, shaking like a leaf.

“Have you learnt your lesson, Dwayne?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said trying to be respectful.

“Good, you’ll take Chris and Richie into town with you. Drop them off outside the police station. Return the car to where you stole it. I’ll give you a gift.”

Warlock handed Chris and Richie red party bags, but he gave a blue one to Dwayne, then he sat back down.

“Your real failing was stupidity, Dwayne. My gift should help. Don’t eat the candies until you leave the car, or you’ll find yourselves back here. Now off you go, before the car is missed.” The three young men left the room, the cottage and the gardens. They climbed into the car and drove to Hesterley.

***

The news reported the re-appearance of the two missing boys, who had turned up several years older in Hesterley. They had beards, but were still recognisable. Their hands had callouses and they were well tanned having grown into strong young men. The doctor found them in perfect health apart from their missing memories. The Doctor was quoted as saying, “Amnesia is very rare. I’ve never heard of two people getting it together before. I hope they’ll manage to fit back into their families and community with time.” Their parents arrived and took them home, pleased to get their missing sons back.

Dwayne ate the delicious goodies in the bag as he walked home, wondering as he went. He finished the bag as he neared his house and carefully put it in a bin. He tiptoed off to bed, not really believing anything that had happened that evening.

When he woke the next morning he remembered going to bed early with a headache. He hadn’t gone out to meet Bob and Dean. He didn’t recall anything else, not even the candies. He looked at the clock. His Dad would have already left for work. He dressed more smartly than usual. He noticed his Mum hadn’t washed up so he did it. Dwayne laid the table for breakfast and put the kettle on. When the tea was made he called upstairs to his Mum.

“Mum, I’ve made tea, come downstairs.” Eventually he heard noises and his mother came down in her dressing gown.

“You’re up early son. Are you all right?” She said sitting at the table and sipping her tea as Dwayne put on toast.

“I feel fine Mum, do you think Dad would mind if I went to college and studied?”

“I am sure he’d be pleased if you did, but you struggled at school. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“Yes, I feel I can do it now if I work really hard. If I took my exams, perhaps I could do a computer course. There are always jobs for computer bods,” Dwayne said as he brought the toast over.

“You were good at those computer games. That sounds a good idea,” she said smiling.

If you enjoyed the story then please leave a comment. If you want to read more of my writing , then The Fencing Master’s Daughter is available on Amazon:-

UK Amazon link – http://preview.tinyurl.com/jjoz2eb

US Amazon link – http://preview.tinyurl.com/hjjg5eh

This is being included in a blog hop so if you want more halloween stories and articles go to:-

halloween-holiday-blog-hop-for-twitter-final-1

 http://francishpowellauthor.weebly.com/halloween-holiday-blog-hop.html

 

Advertisements

7 responses to “Granny Atkins’ Cottage

  1. bhalsop says:

    Brilliant! I need a Granny Atkins here in Burlington. Can you send one to me?

  2. Stacy Reid says:

    Good story Giselle. Though I feel a bit sorry for Dean and Bob. LOL.

  3. I am writing, but Warlock has to be the first chapter….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: