“I can’t believe we just did that,” she said.
“Our little princess is on her own now, eh?” his left arm reached out to squeeze her hand reassuringly, then reached over to tweak the radio off.
They had another hour on the road before they would get home.
“Part of me wants to go back and make sure that she is really ok,” she started sniffing.
“Hey… come on now.”
“Well… another part of me just wants to scream for joy. You know, just like in that Mel Gibson movie. Freedom!” she screamed the word out loud with a fake Scottish accent and winked amidst her tears.
He chuckled in response, relieved that she is taking it better than he expected.
“Damn,” he exclaimed.
“I forgot the check the petrol gauge before we left Nottingham. Looks like we’re nearly empty.”
“Fancy a detour?”
“Sure! Now that we have our freedom back.” They both started laughing freely now.
They turned into Littleover and drove into the small village, looking for either a place to park or a petrol station.
“Why don’t we grab a bite at that pub?”
“Looks cute…,” she nodded at the building, “love the colourful flowers. Must be a woman who runs that place,” she adds with a nod of approval.
“Sexist,” he teases.
They head towards the pub, walking across a fairly quiet main road. There was a little stall set-up just around the back of the pub, decorated with all sorts of curious trinkets.
“Let’s have a look, Dave.”
“Huh? Ok. Funny place to have a stall, seeing as it is so quiet around here.”
They slow down as they approach the stall, slowly taking in all that they are seeing. There was a table, covered in a cheap red and white chequered cloth. On top of the table was an array of things; from a birdcage to mismatched candlesticks to an old compact mirror, it felt like nothing belonged there.
As they snapped out of their reverie, they were suddenly aware that someone was looking at them from behind the table. It was an old lady, with the widest and most toothless smile they have ever seen.
“Hello, welcome to Tania’s Magical Store.”
Dave and Angeline looked at each other incredulously.
“Oh, do humour an old lady, won’t you?” the old lady remarked at their reaction. “I was just joking,” she giggled.
“Ohh…” was all Dave and Angeline managed to stammer, still unsure about their surroundings.
“Hmm, you two must just be visiting Littleover then?”
“Yes,” Angeline replied. “We were on our way back to London when we ran out of petrol. We fancied a stroll, so thought we would drop in here to have a look around.” Dave still had his jaw somewhat hanging, gobsmacked.
“Call me Betty, love,” the old lady smiled. “Tania is my best-friend, since we were children, I might add. Imagine that…” she seemed to drift off into her own thoughts.
“Hi Betty, I’m Angie and this is Dave, my husband. We had just dropped our daughter off at her first year in University of Nottingham!” Not sure why she was babbling, Angeline added, “it’s burning a hole right through our pockets, but I’m sure it is worth it.”
“H…h…hi Betty,” Dave managed to stutter out.
“Well, Angie and Dave, why don’t you pick something from my little store to commemorate this milestone? Don’t worry, every item here is under a fiver,” she winked.
Whilst Betty busied herself elsewhere, Angeline and Dave mulled around the store, turning over most items. As they were trying to think of a polite way to excuse themselves, they both stumble over a lovely teapot. It is a porcelain teapot with intricate designs of cherry blossoms painted on the body.
They looked at each other and within moments, they nodded in agreement. Betty appeared at that moment, as if she could sense a sale approaching.
“You found something?” she asked, putting her glasses on.
They handed the teapot over to her and asked, “Is this really a fiver?”
Staring at the teapot, she mumbled, “Curious. Very curious indeed.”
“Erm, Betty?” Dave asked.
“Yes, love?” Betty snapped her head upwards. “Sorry, I was in a world of my own there.”
“This teapot looks really expensive, so we would understand if it is costs more.”
“Oh no. It was just that I hadn’t seen this lovely teapot in a long long time. I was just surprised that it had found it’s way to you, really.”
“Oh… kay….?” Dave started getting uncomfortable.
“Don’t worry, it is a fiver like everything else. Here, let me wrap it in some newspaper for you.”
“That’s wonderful. Thanks so much.”
They exchanged a fiver for the little parcel and headed back to the car, forgetting the need for food. It was only when they got onto the motorway that they realised they had not bought petrol and turned into the next service station, which thankfully was not that far off.
It was only a few weeks later when Angeline thought about the teapot. She searched through the cupboards and found the small parcel, still wrapped up.
Opening it, she was happy to find that it was exactly as she remembered. She brought it to the sink to wash and when she took off the lid, she was surprised to find a wad of cash stuffed in the teapot. The opening is quite small, so the cash looked snug in the crevice. Reaching in, Angeline delicately pulled out the wad and was even more surprised to find that it was a roll of fifty-pound notes. Not sure of what to do, she gently placed both the teapot and the cash on the kitchen worktop and inhaled deeply.
“Dave!!!” she screamed. “Come here please!!!”
“What is it?” Dave was panting when he got to the kitchen.
“Look what I found in our little teapot,” she pointed at the money.
“You found this?” Dave asked as he thumbed through the roll of cash.
“Yes, it was just placed in the teapot. It was so snug that it didn’t make any noise of movements when you shook it.”
“Hang on, let me see… 10…. 20…. 30…. ” Dave’s hands started to shake. “40…. 50…. 80…. 98, 99, 100. That’s five grand, Angie.”
“What should we do? You know, that’s half of the loan we took out for Fran’s fees.”
“But Angie, it’s not right. Especially if this belongs to that little old lady.”
“You are right, Dave. Let’s return it.” They agreed.
Dave suggested that they try to call Betty first, to let her know that they found her money. So they searched for a phone number. They couldn’t find any references to Tania or Betty when they searched for businesses in Littleover. They then called the pub, which they remembered is called the White Swan. The publican had told them that the only time he had a stall set-up outside his pub was over thirty years ago and that the lady who ran the stall had been killed by a speeding vehicle, which rammed into the stall. He had never had any stalls set-up ever since. They tried asking more questions and telling him that they had just been to the stall last week, but he thought that it was a sick joke and hung up the phone.
Flustered and confused, Angeline and Dave decided to make a trip back to Littleover a few weeks later.
It was a lovely sunny Spring day. They set out at mid-morning after a coffee, feeling refreshed and with purpose. They knew in their hearts that they had to do this or will always be bothered.
Though it took an hour to get there, which was the same as the their drive home before, it felt much longer. Both were feeling tired and grumpy when they got to Littleover. They found the pub and saw that there wasn’t a stall set-up at all. After the call with the publican, they decided that they shouldn’t bother him again.
They drove around a bit more when they came across the village library. They decided that they should try and look through the village records for a Betty or Tania, so that they can at least get an address or telephone number.
With renewed energy, they informed the librarian of their task at hand and she helpfully showed them where they could search. The records were all computerised, so they thought to start the search by typing in ‘Betty’ and ‘Tania’. After pressing the search key, it took a few seconds and a page full of search results came up. The first was an article in Littlover Local of an accident at the White Swan Pub in April 1970.
Curious, they clicked into the article and slowly read through. The end of the article read, “The victims of this unfortunate accident are Ms Betty Windsor and Mrs Tania Jones. Mrs Jones’ husband had died a year earlier of a heart attack. Both have no other family.”
In shock and not knowing what else to do, Angeline and Dave thought that driving around town might help calm their nerves, whilst they digest the information they just received.
After driving aimlessly for half and hour or so, they seemed to have driven down a really quiet street with trees lined on both sides of the road. The road did not seem to lead anywhere.
That was what they had thought when they came up to a little opening between the trees, where they could see an open grass field peering through. It was the red and white chequered cloth that caught their eye. Laid out in the middle of the field, they saw two old ladies having a picnic, with their white hairs glistening in the sun. As if they could sense that they were spotted, both ladies looked up towards Angeline and Dave’s car and smiled. They waved, gesturing for them to join them.
Angeline and Dave were not scared, nor anxious. They parked their car and slowly made their way towards the ladies.
The sun glared into their eyes as they walked through the grass, which were as high as their waists. Slowly wading through the grass, they started to relax and laughed, as if they had both just shared a joke.
“Hello Angie, hello Dave,” Betty greeted them. “How nice of you to join us for a picnic.”
“Thanks Betty,” said Angeline. “You must be Tania. Lovely to meet you.”
They exchanged handshakes and smiles and settled down onto the red and white chequered cloth.
“I told you we picked well, Betty,” Tania whispered, just loud enough for Angeline and Dave to hear. “Such a lovely couple.”
“Erm… you picked us?” asked Angeline meekly.
“Yes, love. Now do you remember why you came looking for us today?”
Suddenly embarrassed, Dave exclaimed, “the money!”
“Oh goodness, yes that’s right, we found five thousand pounds in the teapot and we came to return it.”
“Don’t be silly, love. Finders keepers.”
“We can’t, Betty. That money isn’t ours.”
“It is now, love. What do you think Tania and I are going to do with money? We have no need for that now.”
Angeline slumped forward as the reality hit her, “so you two really are… not here anymore?”
“Well, we are here alright. You’re talking to us right?” Betty and Tania winked at each other.
“I don’t get it,” said Dave. “Why aren’t we scared? We’re supposed to be scared.”
“Oh dear. This is not a movie, Dave. I’m guessing that you’re not feeling scared because this feels natural. And this feels natural because it is. Anyway, you’re here for a picnic, so enjoy it!”
They tuck into the strawberries and cream laid out on the red and white chequered cloth, enjoying the sunshine. Angeline and Dave laid on their backs and closed their eyes to rest. When they woke, it was nearly sun down. Betty, Tania and the picnic were nowhere to be seen.
With a nod of understanding between the two, Angie and Dave head back to the car, hand in hand, knowing in their hearts that they have just been blessed in the most extraordinary way.