Chapter 1 – The Bigger Picture is Revealed

Leaving their beloved home confidently with Anna, knowing that she was more than capable of taking care of anything she might be faced with, Molly and Will headed out onto State Highway 1 towards Wellington. They sang along playfully with the music on the radio.  Both of them enjoyed the radio for its seemingly random selection in songs. They had decided to share the driving and do the trip to Wellington without an overnight stop. It was midmorning and with a few breaks in-between they should be there before dark. Will had sent a text to Tom, letting him know of their plan, to which Tom replied that he would have the house ready for them, the key to the back door under the garden gnome on the table in the courtyard, and that he was looking forward to catching up with them in the morning.

Tired but charged with excitement, Molly drove easily through the late afternoon city traffic, like she was on auto-pilot. Pulling up out the front of the house in Wellington, she sighed contentedly, “It actually feels good to be here again”. Unlocking the backdoor, they were met by a gorgeous, brightly coloured floral arrangement in the middle of the kitchen table with an envelope addressed to them. It was from Tom and Kelly, which read:

Welcome Home. Dinner is in the fridge. 

Breakfast at ours – see you at 10am xoxo.

Tired and grateful that dinner was taken care of, they unpacked the car and wandered around the house, saying hello to each of the rooms… and to Grace Simpson.

“Dinner, bath, bed…..sounds like the plan,” Will said as he danced Molly towards the kitchen.

Later that night, feeling relaxed, her head sunk into the soft, luxurious pillows and Molly fell easily into a deep sleep. Her dreams were vivid and brief, like the previews of movie trailers. Snippets of people she had not yet met, some of them from bygone days, and some from the future. Then a voice woke her with a start, “It is good to have you visit again, Molly Grace Ferguson!” The voice was so real it woke her. Lying in bed with her eyes wide open, Molly was unsure if she had dreamt the voice or did it belong to someone actually in the room. Or maybe it was both. Unable to sleep, she gently got out of bed and snuck quietly along the short hallway to her office at the back of the house, overlooking the gardens below. She smiled contentedly as she sat at the desk. Everything was where she had previously left it. Then she heard it again, that thick, mellow, almost husky voice, “It is good to have you visit again, Molly Grace Ferguson!” It was Grace Simpson! Molly turned to see Grace sitting on the bed behind her. Like seeing a long lost friend, the smile on her face told Grace just how happy she was to be here too.  She turned back to the desk and began to write….

Dear Grace, I do wish you were here to share this experience with me…

To which came an audible reply, “Oh but I am!”

Startled, Molly looked over her shoulder to see the two Grace’s sitting side by side on the bed. Molly shook her head and giggled, nothing much fazed her these days. The image shifted and the two Grace’s became one, Grace Simpson sat before her. She smiled at Molly and said, “You know that Grace Forrest is unable to leave The Attic, however, she can visit briefly, for just a glimpse, enough to remind you of who I am.” She chuckled lightly, her vision faded and Molly was left alone in the room. Opening the cover of her new journal, she stroked the first page, smooth, fresh and crisp, untouched by pen or pencil. Molly loved the feel of a new journal, and neatly wrote at the top of the page…

Dear Grace,

It feels so good to  be  here in Wellington again. The drive was fun and time passed quickly, it seemed like we were in the City in no time at all. The house is as we left it earlier this year….

Will woke alone in the bed. He knew instantly where Molly would be. He felt for the bathrobe on the floor beside the bed, wrapped it around his naked body and quietly went downstairs to the kitchen. He made a pot of tea and together with two cups and sauces on a tray walked quietly up the stairs. Grace Simpson could not resist a little ghostly intervention, and as he reached half way, the stair tread creaked loudly. He paused and stepped upwards in attempt to miss that step, but no matter where he put his foot or how lightly he placed it, the stairs creaked loudly. He could hear Molly chuckling, as she was able to see Grace standing at the top of the stairs, waving her pointed finger at Will’s feet. “So much for the surprise,” he sighed animatedly, placing the tray on the bed and pouring Molly a cup of tea. Molly giggled, unable to keep a sober face. 

“What?” He looked at her innocently. She leaned towards him and affectionately kissed his cheek, smiling mischievously, she replied, “If only you could see what I can see.” To which Will look cautiously around the room and said, “Grace? Was that you?” Then both of them heard  a playful giggle. 

* * *

Molly and Will arrived at Tom and Kelly’s home later the next morning, they were met by the barking doorbell. Then there was silence as they heard the shuffling of feet behind the door. The brass handle turned slowly, the door opened and they were greeted by an obviously pregnant Kelly, surrounded by her animal family, all waiting patiently with their tails wagging excitedly. “They all knew you were coming!” Kelly exclaimed cheerfully, “It is so good to see you both again,” hugging them around her baby bump. They all laughed about these changes in her body. It was such a transformation, Kelly looked radiant. She obviously enjoyed being pregnant. 

Sitting down to breakfast, Kelly was a little unsettled, her growing belly caused a slight discomfort which kept her moving until she found a more comfortable posture. Tom too, was restless, unable to sit still. At first, Will put it down to him picking up on Kelly’s restlessness, but he had gotten to know Tom well. “Ok man,” he said, “what’s the news?” To which Tom’s face lit up. “I have been looking forward to seeing you, there is something I have been wanting to share, but felt it needed to be in person. I know you guys have planned this trip to the South Island, but have you booked any accommodation as yet?” Tom asked.

“Nah, you should know us by now, we don’t book much at all these days! Haven’t even booked the ferry. Just make it up as we go along.” Will replied. “What’s up?” he asked.

Tom paused for a moment as he knew what he had to say could affect the timing of their trip south. “Well, you know how we created ‘In The Company of Friends’? (to which the couple both nodded in agreement), umm….well….the idea has gone a bit viral, and the concept has been accepted by some notable businesses in not just Wellington but also in London!” No longer needing to contain his excitement, Tom blurted out. “I need your help, both of you. What with Kelly having the babies soon and our work-load has increased, and I am needing to employ more staff and now there is a growing number of companies contacting me to create for them their own version of ‘In The Company of Friends’…..”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back up a bit…” interrupted Will. “Say that again? Did I hear you correctly? Did you say babies, as in…plural?” Tom looked down at the floor smugly, “Ah, yeah, we are having twins!” He replied looking up admiringly at Kelly, who rubbed her belly and said, “Yep, babies! Can you believe it? If it weren’t for the ultrasound pics, I wouldn’t be. Although it sure feels like it at times,  I feel huge! I still have another 5 months to go, although the midwife said it is not unusual for twins to be born at 8 months gestation. So maybe it will only be another 4 months. Still, I feel huge now. Can you believe I am only 16 weeks?!” Kelly being of a slender build made her pregnant belly even more obvious than most.

“When are the babies due?” Molly asked.

“By ultrasound calculations, 22nd May,” Kelly replied.

“Anyways, back to me!” Tom said teasingly, bringing the attention back to his news. “So I have a proposal for you guys. Would you consider postponing your trip south and giving us a hand? It will only be for a couple of months, to help configure a presentation to offer these interested companies. Then once you have returned from wherever it is that you are going, maybe you will stay on with us for another contract? Say….12 months? It will involve some overseas travel, as I won’t be able to do that part of it. You will be required to work the recipe we used earlier this year, you know, interview the staff in person and for Will to do the photography and artwork, and bring back the info for editing, layout and publication.”

“Wow! Umm…what do you think, Molly?” Will looked to her for some guidance. The reply was written all over her face. She loved the idea! 

“Oh yes!” Tom said as he did a little dance, unable to contain his excitement at their decision. “Let’s discuss the details later, shall we? (Both Will and Molly agreed). And for now, allow me to create an amazing brunch!” Tom whirled around the kitchen effortlessly as he put together yet another delicious meal. Molly mockingly said to Will behind her hand, “I don’t think it is really twins, it has got to be the amazing food Tom creates!” To which Kelly replied, “I wish! No, it is definitely twins. Oooh! Come feel this…” she took Molly’s hand and placed it on her belly. Looking up in delighted surprise, Molly felt as rippling sensation as the babies moved. It was the weirdest feeling, a light flutter beneath the skin. She had never felt a pregnant woman’s belly before.

The next morning, Will and Molly met at The Office with Tom and Delilah. Keeping the purpose of the meeting a secret was a challenge, not wanting to spoil the surprise for their staff they had not included anyone else in this meeting. They were both very excited about having this amazing couple join them in the growth of this new venture. The staff all loved the energy they contributed to their work. After several hours of discussion, they had a break for lunch. Up the stairs came a parade of smartly dressed hospitality students, each of them carrying a tray of food they had prepared.  Tom explained, “This is another of my projects. I am a mentor and sponsor for the local hospitality school. I help those students who may need some assistance financially to complete their studies, and I take a class with them once a week,” he smiled proudly at his students, as they stood at the head of the table and presented each tray. They then proceeded to practice their waiting skills, and served them lunch. 

That night Molly and Will dined alone. They needed some time together, just the two of them, to discuss the offer Tom had made. “Are you ready for this Molly? This could be bigger than it appears to be just now.”

“Yeah, I kinda thought that too….” she replied quietly, slightly taken by what Tom had offered. What he presented to them earlier that day, was that prior to their trip to the South Island, they would work with him to put together a package and do a live on-line webinar presentation, bringing together the five companies at the one time. Molly and Will had a feeling that originally they would be away for maybe 5-6 weeks. They would like to go home for a week and fly down to start the project by the end of May. 

“But what about the trip North Will? We are to go to Cape Reinga! I’ll need to have a chat with Grace about how we can do this. We must help Tom, I can feel it in my bones.” 

“Let’s sleep on it, you meet with Grace, see what she has to suggest, and we will work out the timing of all of this when we see Tom tomorrow afternoon. All good?” he asked. “Yeah, all good” Molly agreed. She decided she would get up early and meet with Grace, after a good sleep. No sooner had her head touched the pillow, her alarm woke her up again. “Already? You’re kidding!” she groaned, rolling over to get out of bed. She went downstairs to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. With a full cup in her hand, she turned to go out the door and came face to face with Grace Simpson! “Jesus! Woman! Don’t do that!” Molly exclaimed. Grace chuckled playfully. “Hmm, I guess you need to be getting used to me being around again! I believe we have some matters to discuss?” 

“I was on my way up to the office to meditate. I thought I was to be discussing this with Grace, I mean, the other Grace, oh… you know what I mean….” Molly looked a little perplexed. 

“Sit down, my dear. Drink your coffee. What do you think I am here for? Haunting the house?” Grace smirked and added, “although that could be fun!”  Molly sipped her coffee, giving herself a little time to settle her racing heart. ‘There was much here to contemplate, and one could quite easily get their knickers in a knot. However the solutions were easy. Breathe Molly and relax, you are all wound up. Your shoulders are so tight!” Grace’s hands massaged Molly shoulders. The sensation to Molly was ticklish, like someone using an electric massager on her tight muscles. But she did relax into it and allowed the tension to drain from her shoulders. “Keep breathing, and simply allow the necessary information to come to you,” Grace instructed. The sensation became warm and incredibly relaxing, Molly found her mind drifting easily. “What is it that I need to do next?” She heard herself saying. In her mind she saw gently swirling water lapping on  a shoreline of golden sand, forming a pattern of varying shades of blue, green and white. Partially submerged in the sand, as the water receded, was a large antique brass compass. First it pointed one way and then another. A voice said to her, “Everything has a reason and a season.” Mesmerised, the answers came easily. Jolted out of the relaxation with eagerness, she said, “I know what we need to do, I know! We can go to the South Island, back to Wellington for a catchup, on to Northland, and then overseas from Auckland. ” she prattled on excitedly to Grace. “Oh God! I must contact Anna! Thanks Grace!” Molly put the kettle on to make a fresh pot of coffee for Will, it was time for him to get this day started too. Whilst the kettle was coming to the boil, she sent Anna a text. Her fingers couldn’t keep up with her thoughts fast enough, so she rang her.

Later that morning the meeting with Tom brought everything into line clearly for them all. Together they mapped out the next couple of months, creating a calendar of events so that all the team members would be aware of everyones commitments, and deadlines. This included of course Kirsty’s due date the 22nd May, of when Tom would be unavailable at work.  Delilah would take care of his responsibilities for a month. Everyone agreed that Tom was not to be contacted during this time, that between them all they would have it totally covered.

Over the next few days, Will and Molly helped Tom put together a presentation and attended the on-line meeting with the five companies that had expressed interest in doing their individual version of ‘In The Company of Friends’. In the presentation, Tom was able to introduce Molly and Will, and suggested that they could come and interview in person  staff members from each company, and that an itinerary would be created as soon as possible, once acceptance had been received from those ready to proceed. Having no commitments and their circumstances enabled them to be flexible with their road trip to the South Island, Molly and Will were able to go overseas at short notice, if need be. Anna was over the moon with the idea. She was more than happy to stay on at the house for as long as they required. She was so excited for them and this an amazing opportunity for them all. And she was also very pleased with the excuse of being with Patrick at the house for a bit longer.

The replies came in quickly and by the end of the week, Tom had acceptance from all five companies, keen and eager to get the ball rolling.  To start off with ease, he organised the Wellington company first. Followed by one in Christchurch, then Auckland, then London and the final one in France. This meant that Molly and Will could incorporate the interviews with their road trip in both the South and North Islands, then depart for London from Auckland, and faction in a couple of weeks for themselves in England whilst they did the interviews there. Molly had a childhood dream of staying on a canal boat travelling the lochs, and a holiday in Provence. This was definitely the opportunity to do exactly that. And of course there was Beatrix Potter’s House…..

That evening, sitting out on the balcony watching the sun set, they shared a bottle of wine with dinner. It was a warm, calm evening, and around the house it was peaceful, with the traffic making just a slight hum in the distance. They sat in silence, enjoying each others company, void of words. There was a buzz in the air, the Wheels of Destiny were turning and they could both feel it. Tomorrow was New Years Eve, the End of Year Party and presentation of ‘In The Company of Friends’. The rest of the staff were oblivious to what Tom and Delilah had created with the help of Will and Molly. And the announcement of what the four of them had been busy creating behind closed doors.

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