Though the young woman held a sock with a rather forlorn gaping hole where the heel should be in one hand, and a darning needle, threaded with wool just a shade or two darker than the sock in the other, her attention was not on her mending. And though she was gazing out of the window, she barely saw the pretty garden which surrounded her aunt and uncle's house, glorious and fragrant in the late afternoon sunshine.
She was, instead, somewhat preoccupied with daydreaming about the holiday from which she'd returned just the day before.
Bridgemouth was a quiet place, even in the height of summer. Mr and Mrs Grayson and their niece, Kathie, had first visited the town when Kathie was a small child of four or five, and had returned to the resort every year since. As a child, Kathie had adored the place, for a child only needs a bucket and spade or an unruly troop of transient holiday friends in order to turn a holiday into an adventure. But Kathie was now a young woman, and this year, she realised guiltily, there was something sadly lacking about the place. After the whirlwind of final exams, of job interviews and of punting and parties that had characterised her last weeks in Oxford, a genteel Regency resort populated by an aging demographic was rather...well...dull.
And though Kathie loved her aunt and uncle dearly, and she adored spending time with them, at times she was starting to feel herself regressing, as if she wasn't the young woman who'd been to Oxford and lived an independent life, but still a rather heedless child. It was so easy to slip back into those patterns of behaviour that had persisted throughout her whole life, in which she played the role of a slightly silly and incompetent young thing, and her aunt, the wise and watchful maternal influence. This was comforting up to a point, but Kathie could feel herself starting to chafe under its restrictions.
And so, after a day or two of the holiday, Kathie had started to become bored and rather fractious. She read her own book - she read her aunt's book - she contemplated reading the weighty historical tome that her uncle had brought with him, but seeing that even he could only make it to page thirteen before slumping to one side and snoring heartily, she didn't think it would be a very good cure for her own boredom. She considered taking a sketchbook down to the water's edge and drawing the glorious view out across the headland, but she knew from experience that she lacked the patience (and the artistic skill) for such an endeavour. She thought, briefly, about starting a piece of embroidery, but rapidly dismissed this as quite tedious and too closely reminiscent of mending, a chore which she hated. She tried swimming in the sea, but oh, it was cold, and not much fun on her own, and neither her aunt nor her uncle could be persuaded to join her. She had proposed exploring the various interesting cliff-top walks in the vicinity, but again, her aunt and uncle could not be cajoled into joining her on anything more strenuous than a stroll along the promenade. Kathie was a sociable young creature, and the prospect of a long walk on her own did not fill her with enthusiasm.
A week into her holiday, then, Kathie was starting to despair. This was her last holiday - her last chance of freedom - before the world of adulthood irreversibly claimed her as one of its own. When she returned from holiday, she knew that she'd find out which - if any - of the applications for teaching jobs that she had made had been successful. And with such a life-changing consideration weighing heavily on her shoulders, she was desperate for a little bit of excitement before adult responsibility engulfed her.
They'd been in Bridgemouth for a week, and a quiet, steady routine had developed, each day beginning punctually at eight with breakfast in the pretty room that looked out over the bay. But one day, a week or so into the holiday, the quiet and soporific murmur of chatter in the breakfast room was joined rather startlingly by a louder, clearer, youthful voice. As she was sipping her breakfast tea, Kathie couldn't help but turn and look at the owner of such clarion tones. They belonged to a girl, who, she guessed, was about her own age. There was something rather compelling about the girl, Kathie thought - a considerable self-possession which combined curiously with a touch of vulnerability whenever she looked towards the woman she was with. She wasn't conventionally pretty but there was something distinctive about her: when she came into a room, people noticed. Well, Kathie did, at least, and she was fairly sure she wasn't the only one.
The air of tired sullenness which Kathie had felt stalking her in recent days immediately fled. In their quiet hotel, the appearance of such an intriguing young woman at breakfast was a remarkable occurence, and it was perhaps unsurprising then, that throughout the day, Kathie found herself returning to the thought of her, wondering if she could make her acquaintance, and contemplating just what a jolly thing that would be.
The following afternoon, while her aunt and uncle chose to stay at the hotel ("This heat, my dear - it really is too much!") Kathie went for a walk along the beach and a surreptitious paddle in the sea. Returning sometime later to the promenade, she paused a moment to empty her plimsolls of sand, and as she did so she saw the girl from breakfast, leaning on the railings and looking out to sea.
Deciding to test out the efficacy of one or two proverbial cliches - notably that fortune favoured the brave, and nothing ventured nothing gained - Kathie quickly undid her watch and stowed it safely in the zip-fastened pocket of her shorts. Wearing her most friendly demeamour, she strode up to the girl, and asked,
"Excuse me - I'm sorry - do you have the time?"
After exchanging pleasantries about the time, the glorious weather, the beautiful view, and finally, the relative dearth of young people in the resort - Kathie and the girl had started to get the measure of each other, and both liked what they saw. And so, when Kathie mentioned that she was planning to continue her walk along the headland, the girl - in a peculiarly bold-and-no-nonsense manner which Kathie found rather attractive - announced that she would like to go with her.