The snowfall during the night had completely covered the For Sale sign.
Jilly went to brush it away, but her gloved hand hovered in mid air. Just for a moment longer she wanted to look at the house as her home.
She looked up at the beautiful bow window where her dressing table had been. She had sat there brushing her dark brown curly hair and putting kohl eyeliner round her beautiful brown eyes thousands of times. Their first party, back from the honeymoon and eager to have their friends round as a married couple. The house had seemed far too big for a young couple but Tom had inherited it along with the business from his parents. It was her refuge after her traumatic miserable childhood, at last a haven. Tom wanted four children and lots of animals. It had been so exciting knowing that they would close the door at the end of the evening and go up to their bedroom, freshly decorated by Tom . She had bought a new pink satin baby doll for the occasion. Carole King had been singing on the radio, 'Tapestry'. She'd loved that song , she'd never really listened to the words just let herself be cradled by the soft melody. She only knew the first few lines.
My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue,
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.
Jilly walked across the garden enjoying the crunchy noise her boots made in the snow. She looked up at her son Ben's bedroom window. No-one who met him now, a charming dedicated vet with a busy practise in Exeter, could possibly guess what a difficult baby and toddler he had been. All those sleepless nights, his terrible colic and then his learning difficulties that were due to an undiagnosed hearing problem. It had been a challenge for them both, left on their own all the time. She had poured all her patience and humour into bringing him up. His love of animals had saved them both, the little dogs and cats that had been a constant source of joy, hamsters, guinea pigs, they had loved them all. Tom was so busy at work, often travelling away from home for weeks on end, when he came home tired and exhausted she had always tried to create a happy atmosphere to make him want to come back, it seemed that she had spent her whole marriage worrying about losing him.
Jilly stood still breathing in the crisp air and savouring the tingling sensation on her cheeks. She looked at the flower bed where all their various pets had found a final resting place. She thought of the baby she had lost before Ben was born, maybe that's why she had had so much patience with him, she felt so lucky to have him. Her phone rang startling the few birds who were looking for food in the garden hedge. It was Tom.
'I'm nearly there now, won't be long, sorry I'm late.'
It was a sort of mantra that she had heard so many times when he was away on his trips. She replied as she always had,
'That's alright, take your time, I'll be waiting, love you.''
With a sigh she walked up to the kitchen window and peered in. How many times had she sought solace at the large oak table, going through the motions of putting the kettle on and making tea, her mother's solution to all problems.. When she'd lost the baby, when her mother had died, when her father had told her that he was off to live in Scotland with a girl from work, and whenever Tom rang to tell her time and time again that he wouldn't be home after all, he would be late, something had cropped up, he had to stay overnight.
The phone rang again, this time it was her friend Cathy.
'Hey there Jilly, all ok? Your bed's all ready and I've made a Thai curry.'
'Thanks Cathy, 8 o clock ok for you?'
'Great,, and I've got a dvd for us to watch.'
Jilly shivered as a few snowflakes started to fall. This was going to be another white Christmas.
She thought how different it would be this year and felt an unexpected thrill of excitement. She started humming Carole King's song.
When Ben had left to go to uni she had gone to the doctor thinking she had empty nest syndrome. She was crying all the time and felt like a black cloud was hanging over her. Without looking up the doctor scribbled a prescription for some pills. Then two years ago a new doctor had taken his place. He suggested that Jilly could talk to someone and stop taking the pills.
The next thing she knew she was sitting in a comfortable armchair talking to a well-groomed young woman called Mary. Through a mist of tears Jilly told her all about her childhood, how she had had to act as go-between with her angry aggressive father and her mum who never had the strength to do any housework or put a hot meal on the table. How she had hoped to have such a wonderful marriage and family with Tom, but he was always away and she was so afraid he would leave her, about coping on her own with her son Ben, about her disappointment at having left school at fifteen with no qualifications, .
Mary made her a cup of tea. She listened carefully but didn't say much. It was only afterwards on the way home that she switched the radio on and there was Carole King. At that moment she saw her life as a shining gem radiating energy and possibility that no-one but she would ever possess no matter what its deficiencies. Her relationship with Tom and her own father might have cracked but perhaps new pathways could be navigated, winding their way round the obstacles and forging better ones.
That evening she told Tom that she loved him , she only wanted him, and did he want her still ?
He looked at her in amazement.
'You see Tom I was listening to 'Tapestry' and I thought of something I read once, I think it's by St.Paul. He says our lives are like a tapestry.. At the moment we can only see the broken threads, the loose ends, the bits where the colour changes and the slipped stitches, but one day it will be turned over and then it will be a picture and I want mine to be a good one.'
Tom's mouth hung open.
' Ben is opening an animal sanctuary with Misha his girlfriend and says I could work there. There's a cottage for sale nearby. This house is too big for us and I feel lonely being so much on my own. I' d like to see a new family living here. It needs to be filled with laughter and muddy football boots and loud music coming from the bedrooms.'
Tom put his arms round her.
'Jilly, you and Ben are all my world. It's you that have kept me going all these years. I know it's been hard for you but I couldn't have done it without you. Ben told me about the animal sanctuary and I think it's a great idea. I'm looking into early retirement. We'll have a new start.'
He kissed her tenderly.
I want to be the star of your tapestry, I want to be a golden thread. We'll make it magnificent.'
He kissed her again. This time with all the passion of a new love as though they had met for the first time and were drawn by an irresistible attraction. Then he drew back and wiped away a tear from her cheek.
' We'll find a nice family to carry on the torch here,'
Jilly hugged him tight and tried to stop the tears. Tom held her away from him and he saw her as the lovely young woman who had sat at the dressing table on the night of their first party. He grinned at her.
'Have you still got that pink baby doll ?'
The snow was falling thick and fast and Jilly went round to the front of the house. Tom would be here soon and then they would go to Cathy's for the night and drive down to the cottage tomorrow. Misha was preparing a special Christmas lunch. She was from Belarussa and was delighted that they would all be living near each other.
She put her hand up to the sign and with a swift movement brushed the snow off to reveal the word.
Tom drove up and parked with a flourish in the drifting snow. As she walked towards him she made a Christmas wish for the new family moving in full of hopes to make a beautiful tapestry of their lives.