Chapter 30 – On The Road Again…

With the interviews at Wanderlust Cafe completed, Molly and Will were on the road again, travelling north towards Cape Reinga. They had been so busy, the past 2 weeks were full on, each moment had held her attention. Molly did meditate each morning with Gabriella in the conservatory, but it did not allow Molly time to visit The Attic because the meditations were guided visualisations. She was looking forward to having the time and privacy to visit Grace. Will had arranged for them to stay for a couple of nights at a Motel in Orewa, to allow them to get re-centred and complete the work for Tom and Delilah before setting their focus on the trip to the North Cape. Molly loved the motel at Orewa, being right on the beach, she could simply walk out of the unit across the lawns and onto the beach. A small sheltered beach with golden sands and views to the city, it was such a pleasure to walk along. She was yet to visit there in the warmer months and enjoy swimming. For now Molly was happy to walk along the beach, feel the freshness of the wind and the warm sun on her face. It cleared her energy and revitalised her. The days here passed quickly and with the work for Tom completed, they were ready to drive further north to Dargaville. There was an old hotel Molly had seen on their last trip north that she wanted to revisit, hoping that the accommodation would be available, as it was closed for renovations previously.

The night before they left Orewa they had a video chat with Tom. It was so good to hear his voice and see his face, for Molly it felt like ages, so much had happened since they were last in Wellington and the arrival of the twins. 

“Hey guys,” Tom answered the phone, and they could hear the babies crying in the background. They were almost a month old.

“Is this a good time to talk?” Will asked, concerned by the background noise.

“Yeah, they are just fighting over the best boob,” he laughed. 

“Hi you two” they heard Kelly calling out, both their phones being on speaker. “Don’t worry about us, it’s all….under…..control…..and there we are!” She exclaimed, and Molly and Will could hear the sucking noises of two hungry babies feeding.

“I know that you are not due back at work until next week, but I just wanted to touch base with you, is that ok Kelly?” Will asked.

“For you guys, absolutely,” she replied.

Molly and Will went on to tell them about their stay at Wanderlust Cafe, and what an amazing place Jordan and Gabriella have created, and the plans they have for its expansion and improvement. They all talked over each other in their excitement. Finally pausing for breath, Tom managed to get a word in, “So when do you think you will be available to go to the UK? The company there are keen to get this done in time for their New Years Eve dinner party.”

“Jeez Tom, pushy or what!” Will teased. “I don’t know…Molly what are you thoughts?”

“Can we get back to you about that one Tom? Jordan is wanting us to help them with a project on our way South again. He did hint for this to be before we go overseas. Where are we now, what date is it Hun?” Will asked Molly.

“It’s the 18th May. I am guessing about a month from now? How does that sound Tom – end of June, beginning of July. Ooo, it will be summer over there, yay!” Molly cheered excitedly.

“Now there is something I have been wanting to talk to you both about this trip. It is a business trip, so therefore, a company expense. I know you  are employed under a contract, but as my appreciation of what you are doing for us, Delilah and I have agreed to pay for your airfares and accommodation for the days related to the  company interviews. Business Class of course and I know of a very sweet boutique hotel not far from the business you are to visit. How long you stay over there and what you decide to do beyond the two weeks required of you by us, will be up to you.” There was silence on the other phone, Will and Molly looked at each other not knowing what to say! “Umm… really Tom? You sure about this?” Will asked, feeling slightly overwhelmed by this generous offer.

“Absolutely! And why not? You both do an awesome job and we can easily afford it. Not a problem. And our pleasure. I’ll give you a call to discuss the details once I have caught up with everyone else next week. Please excuse me now, I need to give Kelly a hand. Oh and just to let you know, I will only be working two days a week as of next week, until Kelly is more at ease with managing her day. I kinda like being at home and I have faith in our team to take care of the business. Actually, there is no reason why I cannot do this from home with just a weekly visit for a day or two to keep in touch with everyone. Think I’ll chat to Delilah about this…” Tom’s voice trailed off, “Oops, gotta go! See ya!” Molly and Will sat staring at each other listening to the ‘beep, beep, beep, of the disconnected call. “Looks like we are going to the UK!” Will started laughing, and pulling Molly up onto her feet he danced her joyfully around the tiny motel room. “We’re going to London to visit the Queen,” he sang. Molly still a little stunned, let him take the lead and after several spins her energy started to catch up, his laughter infectious. He stopped and held her tight, “Can you believe it? We are actually going to England!” 

That night Molly dreamt of visiting The Attic. Grace was so happy to see her again. Even though she was able to keep an eye on Molly from afar, she was not able to visit her outside of The Attic. “Ah my dear, it is so good to see you,” Grace said as she hugged Molly. “I hear you have a journey overseas to do. Oh Molly, you must visit Ireland whilst you are there, you will be so close! You must!” She said, her voice raising an octave with excitement. Despite this,  Molly looked a little concerned. “But what of the house, and Anna and Patrick, and you, and Lucy, and….” Her voiced faded as she looked at Grace’s stern face. “Now listen here Mrs Ferguson! We will be fine here, as we have been up until now. And of course you will be able to visit here as you have always done whenever you travel, regardless of where you are physically. Now put all of those concerns behind you and look forward to this wonderful adventure ahead of you. For now….there is business to be taken care of here. Remember where you are!” This last sentence echoed in Molly’s head as she stirred from sleep, the physical world making its presence felt by the chorus of birds outside the window. With a smile on her face, she laid in bed staring at the ceiling, Will remained asleep next to her. The soft cloud-like bed and pillows were divine, and the cool cotton linen soothing against her skin. Contented, she contemplated their time in Auckland. After the busy days they had at Wanderlust Cafe, the past few had been just what they needed, a rest, good food, lots of walking and completion of another project for Tom and Delilah. This day they were driving to Dargaville, she was looking forward to being out of the city. It was about a 2 hour drive, so there was no rush to leave, and she thought they could have brunch on the way after checking out at 10am. 

They arrived at Dargaville after lunch. Molly was keen to see if the hotel was open for business. Pulling up in the driveway, she felt her heart sink…it looked closed up, not much had changed since they were there the year before. Although there was a recent noticed pinned to the front door. Intrigued, she got out of the car and read it. It simply said, “If you are wanting accommodation, please contact the number below.”

Molly rang the number which was answered by a slightly distracted woman, “Uh, hello, can I help you?” It sounded like she was driving.

“Hi, my name is Molly and my husband and I are wanting to stay a night in your hotel, is it open?” She asked looking around the forlorn gardens. 

The woman replied, “Ah…yep….I am just picking up some furniture and should be on my way home from Auckland after dinner. I’ll give you the code for the front door and you can have a look around and let me know if you want to stay. The room at the end of the hall up stairs will be ready if you like it.” Molly remembered the four digit code and told the woman she would call her back shortly. ‘How odd,’ she thought, shrugged her shoulders, and signalled for Will to join her. Opening the door, they both stepped into the entrance foyer of what was once a grand hotel. They felt a little odd walking around this building on their own. Everything seemed to be set up for guests inside, some of the rooms felt like they had stepped back in time. The dining room was all set up with the tables covered in red and white checked plastic table clothes. Molly giggled and squeezed Will’s hand. They walked back into the hallway and up the stairs to the bedrooms. It felt weird being on their own in this huge old place. At the end of the long hallway, to the left was the room they were looking for. Opening the door, they stepped into a simply decorated double bedroom with an ensuite, the interior of which was still in its original state, handbasin and shower decorated in 1920’s style.  Molly giggled again as she looked around. A door down the hall slammed shut, making them both jump. “It’s creepy here Molly, do we really have to stay?”

“Oh Will Ferguson, where is your sense of adventure?” Molly teased him.

“Waiting for me at the motel down the road,” he replied sulkily. “Oh but I can feel a story here Will, we must stay! Come on, it will be fun. Let’s phone the lady back and say we will stay.”

“Yeah, ok…if you insist. This story had better be good. Did you see there was no heating in the room Molly?” Will whined.

“We’ll just have to do other things to keep warm,” Molly suggested, looking at him with minx-like eyes and slapping his bum seductively. “Oh alright, if you insist….” Will moaned submissively, exaggeratedly, dragged his heals, shoulders hunched, head hanging down, he trudged down the long hallway. He turned to look at her with a naughty twinkle in his eye, and whispered, “Does it involved feathers and whips?”

After dinner in town they returned to the Hotel and waited for the owner to arrive. They waited, and waited and waited….finally, just after 10pm, her car pulled into the driveway. She was very apologetic and very hyperactive. Cutting short her rampage of complaining, Molly offered to pay her for the nights accommodation, which included breakfast, and excused themselves for the night. Breakfast was booked for 8am. But Molly was not to get much sleep that night. Ever since they had arrived, she felt like they were being watched. And they were, from the Spirit World. Sitting up in bed unable to sleep, she picked up her laptop and prepared to do some writing. Sitting back against several pillows, her head began to swoon and she felt herself spinning, there was a sensation of being pulled backwards at great speed. Before her she could see the dates on a calendar flicking backwards and she was aware of travelling back in Time. The calendar before her stopped on the 31st December, 1924. She could hear music coming from downstairs. Carefully placing the laptop on the bedside table, curiosity got her out of bed. Looking out the window she could see cars arriving out the front and already she could hear that there were many guests inside downstairs. There was the feeling of great excitement. Molly got dressed, quietly opened the door and walked down the hallway to the top of the stairs. She saw people eloquently dressed in beautiful slender ballgowns and well tailored suits, walking into what she knew as the dining room. The pull to join them was irresistible, and despite how she was dressed, no one seemed to notice her at all. The doors from the dining room onto the verandah had been opened, all of the tables had been removed to create a dance floor, a row of chairs lined the walls and a band was set up at the end of the room where the fireplace was. A warm breeze moved through the room, it was a balmy mid-summers night. Music played out across the river and was probably heard all the way into town, which was less than a mile away. There are lanterns lighting the river banks down to the wharf, and some people are even arriving by small boats from outlying properties.

The building was filled with laughter and playfulness, champagne flowed and the music played an uptempo beat suitable for the Charleston. The rooms were decorated with beautiful arrangements of exquisite flowers. No expense was spared as 1924 was during a time of great wealth and high living. Life was easy, the results of the hard labours of the previous generation, the pioneers who had carved their way through the land literally, in the Kauri timber and gum industries. The towns were thriving, industries growing, overseas trade increasing. The Wairua River, just across the road from the hotel was a busy trade route and provided a popular mode of transport. There had been much excitement that year around the All Blacks rugby team on their successful tour of Britain, Ireland, France and Wales, giving them the reputation of being the ‘Invincibles’. Most of the country had electricity available, the hydro electricity scheme had opened at Mangahao. Life was good and people knew how to celebrate. New Years Eve was always a good excuse to party in the grandest of proportions, and this night was no exception.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, Molly could see a young woman, dressed in dark clothes peeping through a window at the furtherest end of the verandah. Surprised, Molly was aware that  the woman was able to see her, signally to her to be quiet by holding her finger up against her lips, and not blow her cover. Intrigued, Molly walked into the ballroom amongst the people, still feeling invisible to them, out along the verandah and stood next to the woman she had seen from the stairs. She told Molly that her name was Margaret, or Meg as she preferred to be called, and that she was not quite old enough to join the party. Being under age, she was not permitted on the premises of a hotel. She lived one street behind the hotel and her curiosity about this party was insatiable. Her older sister had been invited to the party and she had followed her at a safe distance. Even her sister had to be chaperoned by their aunt, who, fortunately for Betty was a bit of a wild child herself. Peering through the window they watched in delight these eloquently dressed people. Neither of them had seen anything like this before, everything sparkled with magic, glistening in the light of the chandeliers and lanterns that lit up the outside area. Molly watched Meg enviously look on as the gorgeous girls flirted and danced with handsomely groomed young men, beautifully dressed women in the prettiest of gowns and distinguished looking older gentlemen. They were the high society of Dargaville.

“Perhaps you would like to join us?” A voice from behind startled them.

“Oh, oh….I can’t…I shouldn’t….I am not meant to be here….please, don’t tell Betty.”

“No one will tell Betty, besides, she can’t say anything as she is not actually meant to be here either, if they knew her real age. Come on, up you get, I’m up for a bit of mischief, aren’t you? Let’s go play dress-ups and join the party. I am staying upstairs with my parents, they won’t mind and I have plenty of dresses – I am sure something will fit you. Oh come on, don’t be a bore, there aren’t many people my age here. My name is Marie. I went to boarding school with your sister Betty. We’re not close friends as she is a class ahead of me.” Behind them stands an elegantly dressed young lady, only just in her 20’s. She took Meg’s hand and leads her along the verandah and up the stairs. Meg looked over her shoulder at Molly, pleading with her eyes to follow them, feeling somewhat out of her depth. Molly only visible to Meg, followed invisibly behind them. Meg’s face lit up with intrigue and excitement of the unknown night about to unfold for her.

Like the invisible observer, Molly watched as the girls had a wonderful time choosing a dress for Meg. Marie pulled her long dark hair neatly into a twist and secured it with pins. She applied a little rouge to Meg’s cheeks and a touch on her lips,  just enough to make them glow. Marie placed around her neck a pearl necklace and clipped onto her ears a matching pair of earrings. The dress hugged her body in a way she had never felt before and looking into the long mirror in Marie’s room, did not believe the reflection she saw, it took her breath away. What had Marie done to her? She looked beautiful! Feeling very much like Cinderella, the girls skipped down the stairs arm in arm. Meg glanced over her shoulder and winked at Molly. It was going to be a very interesting night.

And what a night it was to be! Meg tasted her first glass of champagne, danced with a young man who was quite sure-footed and confident, and even experienced her first kiss. James Campbell, a nephew of the previous owner of the hotel, had travelled up from Auckland for the summer holidays. He was tall, fair-haired and well built, being a member of the school rowing team. He had just completed his final year at college and was destined to be a lawyer. He would continue his studies at University in Christchurch when the school year resumed. Meg had never experienced anything like it, or him. He was polite, courteous, kind and most respectful. The night felt like a scene from the story of Cinderella. Not even her sister recognised her, bumping past each other on the dance floor. Meg felt like she was living a dream, her feet floating above the floor she moved effortlessly with her new dance partner. Taking a break from dancing, they stepped outside for some fresh air. James took Meg by the hand and led her down to the riverbank just below the row of lanterns hanging on a rope strung between the trees along the road side. Less noisy and a little cooler, they sat quietly by the water. Several times he attempted to kiss her and each time they were interrupted by frolicking partygoers running down the riverbank, which made them giggle nervously. And when the time was right, under the moonlit sky, they shared their first kiss. It made her head swim more than the champagne had, and the tingling of her lips was delicious. This sense of connectedness was a new emotion to her and she did not know what a kiss may lead to, nor was she to find out that night. Wrapped in the starlit night, as the clock struck 12, the crowd at the hotel sang Old Lang Syne and fireworks lit up the sky. The booming sound made her squeal and squeeze James’ hand. He kissed her again and she promised him that she would remember him forever. Eventhough she never saw James again, he had always been in her fondest of memories. 

As Molly looked on, the vision began to fade. Sitting quietly in bed, she closed her eyes and imagined visiting The Attic. Opening the door, she found herself back at the hotel in present time, where Meg was standing by the window overlooking the river, her back to Molly. “I knew you would come!” Meg said as she turned to face Molly. “You know, this was one of my most favourable nights ever. I had longed for years that I would bump into James again, in some random town whilst travelling across the country. I even looked out for him when on holidays in the South Island.”

Meg had chosen to be a nurse and this had kept her busy enough to not even contemplate getting married. Her dedication had distracted her family from the concept of her needing to be married. But not a day passed without a thought of her first and only love. Now she had found her way to The Attic in the hope of finding James in the Spirit World. Together they sit in the arm chairs by the fireplace, and Molly waited patiently for Meg to begin the conversation. “I had to share the story with someone,” she began.
“The Spirit World is such a big place. I thought I would have found him when I arrived, but I have not been able to locate him…” her voice trails off, despondently. 

Standing before Molly, as real as life itself, was young Meg. “I so would like to find him…all my life I had been longing to find him, but had resorted to the understanding that maybe it was all just a dream of a young girl coming of age…”

Molly stepped forward and took Meg’s hands in hers. She looked at Molly with a longing that could break a heart, a single tear lingered on her cheek, her eyes brimming. “Meg, I need you to close your eyes and recall with me that night of New Years Eve in Dargaville. Remember it like it is happening again now.” Her body relaxed as she drifted into the memory, a smile crossed her lips and her cheeks flushed, Molly glanced up to see standing behind Meg a handsome young fair-haired man with a fondness on his face as he looked admiringly at her. He too had dreamt of her each night. He too had longed to find her again. But life had taken them in very different directions, until now. He placed his hand gently on her shoulder and she smiled in recognition of his touch, thinking that she was in a dream. Startled by the sensation, her eyes opened, and  she turned to see her long lost love. With adoration in his eyes, he gently turned Meg around and took her hands, kissing the back of them both, pulled her in close and kissed her lips. With a magic that filled the room, a glowing light surrounded them, and with a bright flash, they were gone.

Molly heard sniffling behind her. She turned to see Grace! “Grace?” She asked not believing what she is seeing. “I am here,” she sniffed back a tear of emotion. “Beautiful…just beautiful,” she blew her nose loudly and very unladylike. “I just had to come and see it for myself.” There was a look of reminiscence in her eyes. And just as quickly as she came, Grace was gone. Opening her eyes, Molly looked around the room. The dawn light was filtering through the curtains, with the laptop  on her knees, she was still sitting up in bed, Will softly snoring beside her. ‘Sleep now? I don’t think so,’ she thought. But it was another three hours before breakfast would be ready. She gently placed the laptop on the floor beside the bed and snuggled down under the covers beside Will, watching the changing colours of the morning and listening to the bird chorus welcoming another day.

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