Summer of Dreams

Cally moves into a villa by the sea, to spend some time writing and rediscovering a new direction for her life. She has recently lost her job and ended a relationship, the last thing she imagined finding was a man who could make her feel alive again... But he is secretive about his past and she wonders whether they will have a future together, after the lazy, hazy days of summer have passed...

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1. The Locked Door

Cally breathed in the fresh salty air and caught her first glimpse of the sea villa as she turned down the dusty lane leading to the beach. She paused and smiled to herself, kicking off her red sandals and embracing the sudden rush of freedom. At last, she felt the stress of the last few weeks receding into the distance, the recent redundancy from the journalist job she loved suddenly seemed less painful. The break up of her romance with the editor took on a sense of inevitability, as she realised she was quite happy to be here in this lovely place on her own. She had rented this writer’s paradise for the summer and she would savour every minute, while she finished a story she’d been working on.

The villa was perfect, its stone so weather worn, it almost looked like a painting. The setting was perfect; right on the edge of the sea, with big louvered doors the colour of sea holly that could be thrown open to let in the sunlight and sounds of the waves.

Pebbles outlined the path up to the villa and a tangled honeysuckle formed a sweetly scented arch over the entrance. Letting herself in, she was relieved to see that her cases had been left in the large hallway ahead of her arrival and a box of supplies – she couldn’t wait to explore the rooms, throwing open shutters and delighting in the views of turquoise sea and miles of shore.

On the galleried landing, the door at the top of the stairs was locked, which was disappointing, because surely that would be the master bedroom with exquisite views and access to its own private balcony. However, the other en-suite double bedroom was lovely with a cream, wrought iron bedstead and more shutters that opened onto a balcony of its own.

She decided to unpack everything straight away and then she wanted to walk along the beach and feel the sand between her toes.

The next few hours passed quickly and after her walk in the salty air; she made a bite to eat, and sat on a large homely swing seat watching the sun disappearing on the horizon and slowly turning the sky soft pink. Cally yawned and decided to turn in, after a lingering shower, she was soon asleep.

Much later, there was a sound that disturbed her sleep. She peered at the bedside clock – 3am – a strange half light filtered through the louvers, the sort of turquoise summer night sky that never really goes dark, but slowly melts into the breaking dawn.

Slipping out of bed, she went barefoot out onto the balcony, the waves gently lapping the bay below. A curlew called out to her, perhaps the mournful sound had disturbed her dreams. She turned back towards the bedroom and a startled gasp escaped her lips.

The master bedroom next to hers, with the locked door, had a soft, flickering light visible between the louvered window shutters. At first, she thought it was a television screen flickering, but it was the warmer, yellowy light of a candle.

Then, as though whoever was in that room knew they had been seen, the light was quickly extinguished. Cally ran through her bedroom, gathering up her thin wrap and out on to the landing.

“Who’s in there?” she heard her own shaky voice demanding as she stared at the closed door leading to the master bedroom. No answer came and the crack under the door remained in darkness.
“I’m going to call the police!” she shouted at the defiant door, before fleeing back into her room. She closed and locked the door, then fumbled around for her mobile. She was frantically trying to dial, when she realised there was no signal – she must be miles from a mobile mast. Swearing under her breath, the mounting panic in her suddenly stopped when she heard the unmistakeable sound of the front door slamming shut. Whoever had been skulking inside the villa, they were not going to wait around for the police and had made a hasty getaway.

Slowly, Cally came out of her room and saw the door of the master bedroom was now slightly ajar. She could hear her own breathing as she crept up to the doorway and pushed the door wide open. The bright moonlight shone in slatted light as she stared at the room. A large desk next to the window looked as though it had been built out of driftwood, a big captain’s chair pulled roughly aside. A seascape of the bay hung on one wall and a dreamcatcher tinkled on another. The smell of a recently extinguished candle was thick in the air, and a double bed with shabby white paint, had its covers thrown back as though someone had slept there.
Cally felt like an intruder, yet her curiosity was aroused. She crossed the floor to a wardrobe that complemented the faded white wood of the bedstead, she half expected to find it full of clothes, but it was empty, so had she interrupted a burglar or had someone been squatting in the property while it had lain empty?

She bolted the big old front door before going back to bed, but her sleep was uneasy and fitful.
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