“How are you going to find a decent husband if you don’t go to the right places?” My mother was almost incandescent. “History walk! What a lot of nonsense. All there will be is the unemployed and pensioners.”
“It’s not all about getting a husband,” I said. “I run my business, I take care of you and dad, I have my hobbies…”
“Your hobby should be finding a husband!” Mum waved her hands in exasperation. “And look at you. I know how much you are earning these days – and an unmarried woman at that! – but you don’t look it. You should go to a decent stylist, perhaps, and dress a little better.”
“I dress fine in the office,” I said wearily as I dragged my coat on. “And there’s nothing wrong with what I wear.”
“I want grandchildren,” Mum snapped. “And with a nice young man, not some old fogey that’s older than me. Why won’t you meet with Darren Sharp? He’s a barrister and I’ve known his mother for years!” I let her voice trail into the distance as I dashed out.
I had been looking forward to the history walk for months. It took me a few minutes, but I managed to shake off my mother’s mood and join the group. I had not been allowed to forget that I was nearly thirty and had been single for over a year. Today I was going to put all that behind me. I had been fascinated by the old church for years and I wasn’t going to miss the chance. I had had enough of my mother’s complaints.
I was one of the last to arrive and found myself next to the only one in the group who was near my age. He was a quiet looking man, perhaps two or three years older than me, with dark, short hair and an athletic build under his hoodie and jeans. He smiled wryly as I stood next to him. “Thank goodness I’m not the only pensioner here.”
I chuckled quietly as I looked at the rest of the group. I guessed that most of them were thirty or forty years older than me. I knew a few of them, and they were great fun, but I agreed, it was fun to have a contemporary around.
“Listen up, everyone,” an elderly man at the front called out. “I’m Vivian, and I’m the guide for today. Can everyone hear me at the back?” He looked around carefully and then, with some ceremony, pulled out some handwritten notes. “Right, thank you for coming to this guided walk. I’m sure that you all will find it educating and entertaining. I’m Vivian and I have been the churchwarden here for forty three years. Let me introduce you to this beautiful building. St Cuthbert’s church has been standing on this site since the Anglo Saxons, but the current building was erected on this site later, starting in the reign of King John, the one who signed the Magna Carta in 1223.”
“1215,” I muttered automatically, then glanced, embarrassed at my companion.
He nodded. “John died in 1216, before the church was started.” We grinned at each other.
Vivian cleared his throat and gave us a dark look. “As I was saying, the church was started 1223 with money from the local lord, Lord Robert, during the reign of King John, son of the famous Richard the Lionheart.”
“Brother,” I murmured. “John was Richard’s brother.”
“Hasn’t he even seen the Disney cartoon?” my companion said.
We hushed quickly after catching Vivian’s expression, and trailed after him as we passed through the lych gate and up towards the church porch.
We deliberately fell behind. As an architect, I could talk easily about the building, and he was wonderfully knowledgeable about the religious side. We could hear Vivian butchering history but let it drift over us as we marvelled together at the beautiful late Anglo Norman stonework and the Victorian stained glass. Time seemed to fly by as we talked and talked, and we had to hustle as Vivian led the rest of the group back to the church door and waved his keys pointedly.
We walked back to the car park. He raised an eyebrow at my Range Rover. “Nice car.”
“I’m not always in the office. I do site visits and I need something reliable.”
He nodded. “I’m always in an office, so I just go for comfort,” he said, as he waved a hand at the Volvo parked next to me. He smiled. “I’m glad you were here. I think I would have murdered the churchwarden if I’d had to listen to him.”
I nodded. “He meant well,” I said, “But he missed so much.”
“I’m going to a talk on Medieval Crosses next Tuesday evening,” he said. “Would you like to come? I’ll even buy you dinner afterwards.”
He had a lovely smile, and I smiled back. “I’d love to. I’d better give you my contact details, just in case.” I pulled out a business card. “I’m Kylie Brenner.”
He stared at me. “Kylie Brenner? Kylie Brenner the architect? The one who’s mother is a great friend of Imelda Sharp?”
I nodded slowly. “That’s right.”
He grinned. “I’m Darren Sharp. I’ve been hiding from you for months.”
I laughed. “I can’t believe it. Well, despite all the efforts of my mother, I would still love to come to the talk and dinner,” I said. “But perhaps we shouldn’t tell our mothers.”
“Perhaps not,” he agreed.
My new book, King’s Silver, a medieval fantasy, is coming out on 8th February 2022! I cannot tell you how excited I am. This is the first hint that things are getting medieval here. Watch out for further stories, article and character spotlights coming up over the next few days. King’s Silver is available for pre-order now.