Helping Hand - Part 5

The remainder journey home seemed to take forever. I could tell that Kylie was tired because on several corners she either didn’t lean with me or leaned the other way.

When we finally arrived home, neither of us was in the mood for anything other than going straight to bed. It had been a very long day.

I crawled out of bed knowing that it was late but not sure how late it was. My first thought was to hit the shower and use that to wake me up.

Almost half an hour later I staggered downstairs. Riding close to five hundred miles with a pillion in a day is not my idea of fun still we’d done it safely and without incident.

Kylie was sitting in the kitchen reading the local newspaper.

“Morning sleepyhead,” she said grinning.

“Any Coffee on?”

“Coffee? Why not your usual tea?”

“Because I’m still half asleep.”

“Fair enough, I’ll make some.”

“Great. Have you fed the hens yet?”

She grinned.

“All done. Eggs collected and washed.”

“Then there is nothing for me to do then is there?”

“You must be knackered after yesterday. Sorry for making you bring me back last night. It was a long slog especially the bit after we turned off in Carmarthen.“

“There I was thinking that you were sleeping?” I said with a grin on my face.

“My eyes were only closed honest,” she replied innocently.

Over my third cup of coffee I asked,

“Ok, give me the lowdown on William and have you two got something going on?”

Kylie went red in the face.

“No we haven’t but…”

“I could see that last night. I thought for a moment that you were going to leave me and go off with him.”

“Was it that obvious?”

“Yes.”

“So, what’s the history between you two? How did you get to meet him?”

Kylie sighed and smiled back at me as she remembered back to when they first met.

“As you know, I was sleeping rough and for a couple of days, the weather was really horrid. Horrid like cold, wet and with a strong wind from the North East. Uck!. Anyway, I was wet and fed up when I saw this old railway bridge near the road and decided to shelter there. When I got to it I saw a load of straw bales piled up acting as a barrier. I made a bit of a windbreak out of a couple of them and settled down for the night. In the morning, I went to the other side of the bales and found myself on William’s farm in the middle of a flock of sheep. He was feeding them. I smiled and he smiled back.”

“Really?”

“Yes. When he finished, he came over to me and said, ‘did you spend the night under the bridge?’ I said that I had and that I was sorry for any damage to the bales. So, to cut a long story short, he said that it was ok for me to stay there but if I wanted to help out on the farm I could and he’d pay me in cash for what I did.”

“Pull the other one!”

“No really. It turned out fine. A week later he moved an old caravan into the bridge. He said that it was to deter rustlers but I didn’t really believe him. Anyway, not long after that I was joined by another ‘Lady of the Road’ named Diana. She was on the run from her abusive ex-husband. We stayed there for a month helping with the lambing and stuff. I even learned to milk goats and sheep.”

“What happened then?”

“I got itchy feet so went walkabout again. Six months later I ended up here. The rest you know.”

“Really?”

“What else is there?”

“William. When did you get the hots for him? Isn’t he married?”

“He isn’t married and I didn’t realise that I fancied him until I went back the second time. This time he made me stay in the house with him. I had a small room at the back. It was an awful lot better than even the caravan. After a week or so, he offered me a proper job on the books and everything. I said yes on the spot. Then events conspired to nip anything we might have had then in the bud. A month or so later, my Father appeared. You know the rest.”

I smiled. A lot of the missing pieces to the jigsaw of her life had just been found.

“But running into him again had rekindled those feelings then?”

“Is that so wrong?  Rekindled isn’t really the right word for it. He treated me just like you, as part of the family and everything. I
realised that he was genuinely a nice man. Oh, I don’t know. Am I being totally stupid again?”

I thought for a second or so before answering,”

“I don’t know. Only you can answer that and not here. May I humbly suggest that you go to visit him and see what transpires. Remember that you always have a bed here if things go pear shaped. You know that, don’t you? If you come back yet again with your tail between your legs, I might give you a bit of a hard time for a bit but I’m your family remember that.”

I’d hardly spoken the last words before I was being hugged.

“I wish my old family was as nice as my new one.”

“Can you let me go, I do need to breathe from time to time you know?”

She let me go and both of us started to laugh.

Kylie called William that evening and arranged to travel over to his place once she’d had her new identity sorted out. I could tell that she was getting a bit impatient so I tried to reassure her that it would happen.

“These things take time if they are to be done properly. Mine took almost three months. Charlie is a perfectionist in these matters and that is as it should be.”

“I know but…”

“Well then we should go and burn off some of that frustration. What do you say?”

“Oh, you mean go out for a run on one of your pocket rockets?”

“A run yes but on two feet, not two wheels.”

She groaned.

“Ok. But…”

“Yes, I know, the short route.”

Half an hour later we started out on our run. The earlier drizzle had left off and the sun was breaking through the clouds.

The last part of the route took us along the beach. The tide was out so we made short time across the sands. As we neared the shore I noticed a familiar figure walking along the sea wall in the direction of my home.

“It’s Ruby. Let’s stop and see what she wants.”

“D… don’t forget to introduce me as Holly.”

“Yes Kylie,” I replied grinning broadly.

We came to a stop near where the path along the wall turns away to lead towards my home.

As we caught our breath, Ruby came towards us with a smile on her face.

“Hello Ruby,” I said.

“Bore da Monica, mae'n ddiwrnod braf i redeg,” she replied.

“Yn sicr mae,” I replied.

She laughed.

“You accent doesn’t get any better does it?”

“I’m trying but it isn’t easy.”

I let out a little laugh.

“Ruby, this is Holly. She’s staying with me for a bit.”

“Pleased to meet you Holly. How are you liking this part of the world?”

“It has its moments. When it is wet, it is wet. Today? It is beautiful.”

“It is a nice day but by the looks of things it is not going to last?” she said pointing at a big black cloud that was heading in our direction.

“I think we should head home,” I said.

“Do you want to come too?” I added to Ruby.

“Have you any Cake?”

I laughed,

“What do you think?”

“Then it is a deal besides I have a favour to ask from you.”

“In that case, I’d better go on ahead and put the kettle on,” volunteered Holly.

“Don’t forget to get the cake out!” I replied.

Holly trotted off with a smile on her face off while I walked with Ruby.

“What is this favour that you were going to ask of me?”

“I have a big Wedding coming up. The problem is that my oven isn’t big enough to bake the bottom tier of a four-tier cake.”

“And you’d like some help with the baking?”

“If that’s not too much trouble?”

“You know is isn’t. When do you want the oven?”

She looked a bit coy.

“Would tomorrow be too soon?”

I sighed.

“Ok, as long as we can help with the mixing?”

When we reached my front door, it opened and a grinning Holly stood there holding two mugs of tea.

“Well? Deal struck? What do you want me to do?”

I knew that I was going to really miss her when she left. At that moment, I felt as if I’d just pranged my car and it was all my own silly fault.

I put my disappointment behind me as we went inside and tucked into the fruitcake I’d made a few days earlier.

The following day Ruby turned up bright and early. She’d dropped her son off at his ‘Pre-School’. That meant we had four hours to get the cake mixed and baked. Holly was still in bed so the two of us buckled down and got going.

True to form, we’d just put the bottom tier into bake when a sleepy Holly poked her head around the kitchen door.

“Can I do anything?”

I looked at Ruby who just smiled.

“What do you think?”

“I guess not?”

“Wrong answer. There is a pile of washing up to be done.”

Holly groaned but she rolled up her sleeves and started the washing up without complaining.

Three and a half hours after we’d started to bake, the last tier was removed from the oven and left to cool.

“They look pretty good,” said Holly.

“That’s only the start,” said Ruby, “I have about twenty hours of decorating to do yet.”

“When’s the Wedding? Will you have enough time to get it done?”

“It is next weekend, and yes I will if I can persuade my mother to look after Owen then I will,” replied Ruby perfectly calmly.

“Why not bring him here? I’m sure that we can keep him entertained?” I suggested.

I looked at Holly who gave me a dirty look.

“I can get him to help me wash one of my bikes in return for a little ride up the drive. How about it?”

Ruby grinned back at me. I knew that there were times when her son got her really down. It was good that a little help from time to time would really be appreciated.

Two days of hard work by Ruby and ably supported by myself and Holly and the four-tier cake was done. Ruby did all the hard stuff. Holly mixed the icing, did the washing up and made the lunches. I entertained her son which was no hardship at all.

The cake looked wonderful. We all hoped that the bride would appreciate it and all the work that had gone into it.

“You should do this full time. You are very good at this,” said Holly as she admired the finished item.

“I’d love to but there are the small matter of premises and money. I can’t keep on ‘borrowing’ friend’s ovens. If I do it full time instead of ad-hoc then I really need my own oven and a place to work. Even though your kitchen table is big, it is yours.”

Then she stopped before saying.

“Sorry. I was rabbiting on about my problems. The two of you have helped me more than enough as it is.

“Who’s the lucky bride?” I asked trying to change the subject.

Ruby smiled back.

“Guess.”

Then I knew who it was for.
“You must mean Angharad’s daughter Gwen? She hasn’t stopped telling the world about how wonderful it was going to be and how much it is going to cost.”

“Yes. You got it in one.”

“But she’s marrying someone from Cardiff, in Cardiff.”

“She is but their original cake maker decided that Angharad was being too demanding so she told her and her snooty daughter to get stuffed.”

“But? You don’t like Angharad either.”

“That’s true but when she waves a thick wad of twenties in front of me and agrees that I can design the decoration myself as long as it looks something like a picture that she gave me then I could get on with it, it was hard to say no. So, I took the money and … well here we are.”

“Who’s this Angharad?” asked Holly.

Ruby and myself burst out laughing.

“Angharad thinks her family own the village. She and her sister won the W.I. Christmas Cake competition every year until Monica here had the temerity to win it a couple of years back.”

“I know, I saw the trophy,” replied Holly.

“But I haven’t won anything since so it was a bit of a flash in the pan.”

“Monica, stop spouting rubbish. You make great cakes so and don’t let anyone say otherwise,” said a slightly angry Ruby.

“Thanks for the support but I’m really an amateur when compared to some others in the Village. So, stop talking rubbish and you know it,” I replied.

“Ladies, ladies! Can we just agree to disagree?” interrupted Holly.

I looked at Ruby who smiled and then both burst out laughing.

“Good. Now don’t you have a cake to deliver?”

“Yes. Thanks for reminding me,” agreed Ruby.

When she’d gone, Holly and I sat down in the kitchen.
After a period of quiet, Holly said,

“You could help her you know?”

I grinned back at her.

“Already under consideration my dear. Part one was done a while back and part two is a work in progress.”

“Oh! You!”

Then she hugged me.

Charlie came up trumps with her name change so a few weeks later. This meant that Holly was officially ‘Holly’. It was also time to for her to go to William’s. I took her to Swansea so that she could get the London Train. William was going to meet her at Bristol Parkway Station.

Our goodbyes were rather tearful and it was only the blowing of the whistles that announced the departure of the train that forced her to get on board. Even so, I stood there for a good five minutes after the had train disappeared. Then I remembered that this was the second time in a few short weeks that I’d done this.  This had to stop before my heart gave out.

Once home I called Robert to talk things over with him. When he called me back he just laughed.

“That’s why Gloria said that you were a natural. We both know that you have all the instincts of a Foster Mother. Holly is your little baby. You rescued her and now she’s fleeing the nest. All perfectly normal.”

Despite his kind words, not having Holly around hit me hard. In order to get over her I went running. Ten miles every day for a week seemed to get her departure out of my system for the time being at least.

~o~O~o~

Gradually life steeled down once more to something approaching normality. I say approaching normality because I was off on one of my ‘let me help you’ trips.

Ruby’s comment about wanting move from a part time business to something closer to a full-time career had kick-started my philanthropic juices going. It didn’t take long for me to realise that there was nowhere really suitable for her to work in the Village apart from the kitchen at the Village Hall or the local Primary School. Both of those were naturally out of the question so I had to start casting my net a bit wider.

The next Friday I went into Lampeter for my weekly shop as usual when I saw what might have been the solution to Ruby’s problem.  There was a ‘For Sale’ board outside the old Bakery shop. My heart leapt when as I peered through a grimy window and saw all the ovens still there. I could see both bread ovens and a large more conventional range cooker with a double oven. I moved on a side alley and peered in through another even grimier window. This time I saw some stainless steel benches and a large walk in Fridge. At that moment, I felt that my prayers had been answered.

Once I was back in the main street, I took a quick picture of the ‘For Sale’ board before carrying on with my shopping with a definite skip in my step.

As soon as I returned home, I called the developer who I used for maintaining my properties and engaged them to contact the agents handling the sale of the bakery and gain entry and have a full structural survey of the property done as soon as possible.

With that done, I went into the kitchen where I started to make some Rye and Spelt bread.

As I kneaded the dough, I felt that all was well with the world.

~o~O~o~

Armed with a still warm loaf of bread, I walked down to the Village in search of Ruby. It was just about time that her son would be leaving his ‘Pre-School’.

On the way, I tried to work out what I’d say to her about the property and my offer of a partnership in the Bakery.

I’d just about worked it all out when I arrived outside the school and saw Ruby waiting patiently with the other mothers for their offspring to be let out for the day. She saw me as I walked through the group of Mums.

“Hi Monica. What brings you here at this time of day? Have you suddenly produced an offspring that none of us knew about?”

I laughed. She seemed in a good mood today.

“No such luck besides, I’m not really the mothering sort.”

“Really? You seem really at home looking after Owen?”

“That might be true but it is the baby bit that turns me off besides I have my own babies to look after.”

“Eh?”

“My hens.”

This caused Ruby to laugh. She knew how I loved them and their eggs even more.

Just then her son Owen came running out of the school. He grasped his Mothers hand and said,

“Mummy, we did painting today. I got a gold star!”

“Well done. Now say hello to Monica.”

“Hello Monica. Look, I painted your Hens.”

Both of us laughed when we saw his masterpiece.

As the three of us walked towards her home, I started my story.

“I was thinking about what you were saying about your cake making.”

“Forget it Monica. I was just rambling.”

“Really? You sounded as if it was something you wanted to do if you had the chance?”

“That’s it. The chance. Who’s going to give an unmarried mother with no assets the chance?”

“How about me? I need something to do with my time and I think we work well together. Fifty, Fifty.”

Ruby stopped dead in her tracks.
“Are you kidding me?”

“No I’m not. What’s more, I may have found some premises in Lampeter that might be suitable for the business.”

“What am I going to do for Money? All this costs money. Money that you know I don’t have.”

“But I do.”

“What? Did you win the lottery or something?”

“Yes.”

Right away, I knew that I shouldn’t have said that but now it was too late.

Ruby just stood there looking at me.

“You wouldn’t be telling me porkies now would you?”

“No. I won a decent amount on the lottery a few years back. That’s how I got out of a Yorkshire pit village. After a couple of years of looking for the ideal place to live, I ended up here. You know the rest.”

“If I accept what you say as the truth, I want to know why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“Helping me. That’s what.”

“Why not. Why shouldn’t I help someone who wants to make something of her life?”

This caused her to think a bit.

“I don’t know. I need to think about this for a bit.”

“That’s exactly what I’d hoped you’d say. I’ve arranged for the place to be surveyed. That will take at least a week. Take your time and we can talk about things a bit more in a week once I get the results of the survey. How does that sound?”

“I don’t know. I have the little one to think about. This is a big step to take.”

“It is and I know that you have to put your child’s security first.”

Then I added, “Here, I baked this for you,” I said handing over the loaf.

“Trying to bribe me into accepting your offer?” she said smiling.

“Nothing of the sort. I know you like a Rye and Spelt Loaf. So, as I was making some for myself I made enough dough for two.”

“Very well, I’ll accept it but don’t think that this is going to make me say yes!” she replied smiling.

“I won’t,” said grinning from ear to ear.

~o~O~o~

About a week after I’d put the business proposition to Ruby, she came to see me. I was up a ladder cleaning some rubbish from a gutter when I saw her coming up the drive.

“Hello Ruby,” I said.

“Hi Monica, I’d like to talk over a few things with you if that’s all right?”

“Yes. No problem. Let me finish this last bit and I’ll be with you. Why don’t you go into the kitchen and put the kettle on? I’ll be down in a minute or two. I want to get this done before the next shower hits us.”

Ruby looked out to sea. There was a band of rain heading this way.

“Ok. Is there any cake?”

I chuckled.

“Anyone would thing you came to visit me just for my Cake?”

She laughed and went inside my home.

When I’d finished clearing the rubbish from the gutter and after putting the ladder away, I went into the kitchen.

Ruby was sitting at the table stone-faced.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“This!” she replied picking up a sheet of paper.

Instantly I knew what the problem was.

“Ah, that.”

“Yes this. What do you have to do with this company?”

Just then, the kettle coming to a boil saved the day.

“Let me make the tea and I’ll explain,” I said hoping to buy a minute or so to think things through.

Ruby just sat there stony faced. I knew that I’d have to come clean.

I made the tea and set the pot down on the table. Ruby had already put two cups and the milk jug on the table so there was nothing left for me to do but start my explanation.

“The simple answer to your question is that I own the company. Yes, I’m your landlord and have been since the property was auctioned.”

“When were you going to tell me?”

“That’s where it gets hard. I never meant for you to find out this was. I wanted to remain in the background and not draw attention to myself until the time was right to tell you everything.”

“So, when were you going to throw us out and get someone else in at double the rent?”

“I’m not and never have been. It is your home for as long as you want it.”

“So, what’s this bit about a change in the tenancy mean?”

“That’s part of the hard and complicated answer.”

“I’m waiting…”

I poured us a cup of tea and then began to tell her about my aims and ambitions.

“The change in the tenancy was something that I was working on with the managing agents in the event that you accepted my offer to become my partner. The change was to be in the amount of rent you would pay for the next two years. In effect, you were going to live there rent free while you did all the hard work in getting the business off the ground.”

She sat silently for a few seconds before answering.

“I’m not a charity case you know.”

“I never said you were. Isn’t is a bit silly for you to be my partner and then for you to pay me rent out of the earnings from the business when that money may well be better spent investing back in the business or paying off my initial capital injection into the business.”

“That was something that I wanted to talk to you about. You will be expecting interest on that investment. What rate do you expect me to pay?”

“Zero.”

“Oh come on Monica, pull the other one. No one in their right minds would do that.”

“Well perhaps I am not quite right in the head? I don’t know but you have someone with the same name as you to blame.”

“What do you mean the same name?”

“The first part of your name anyway. There is a very rich Malaysian socialite called Ruby Khong[1]. She decided to give up attending charity balls and the like and work directly with the homeless in Kuala Lumpur. She’s worth millions yet spends all her time working with the homeless to help themselves. She’s what’s called a Philanthropist. I read about her in the Malaysian edition of Vanity Fair that I picked up somewhere in my travels. What she was saying about her life and how she helps people really struck a chord with me. That’s when I decided to do the same with my life but in a different way. I’d use my money to help people get on in life but only if they were willing to help themselves.”

“But why aren’t you living in some tropical tax-haven and enjoying all that money then?”

“Maybe it’s because I don’t want to? I’ve never been much of one for the beach and all that. I prefer the quiet life.”

“What if I don’t make a go of it?”

“Then I lose some money. Until you try, you won’t know now will you?”

“What about repaying you?”

“You won’t have to. That’s why I proposed an equal partnership. If the business fails, we both just walk away a little bit wiser and either do something else or start again.”

“It’s alright for you to say that you don’t have any money worries. I just have my son.”

“Which is more than I’ll ever have. Some things money can’t buy you know. I was once in a position where people I’d known for all my life suddenly turned against me just because I’d come into some money. They drove me away from my home. Some people helped me get my life back together again and in payment for that help I helped them. They have not asked for a penny in repayment for that help. That's’ because they wanted to help themselves just like you.”
I swallowed some tea.

“If I can help you make life for you and your son better then that’s what I’d like to do. Am I so wrong in that?”

She shook her head.

“But I’ve done nothing to deserve this?”

“Yes, Ruby you have. You didn’t judge me like some others we can both name when I came here. When we made that wedding cake, both Holly and I could see that you had talent and I wanted to help you exploit that. If you don’t want to do it then nothing will happen. It is all up to you.”

She sat silently for a while.

“Are you for real?” she asked eventually.

I laughed.

“Well, I’m skin and bone like you. I suppose that makes me real.”

Then I added,

“If you want, I can put you in touch with someone else who helped me out and who I’ve helped to grow their business. I’m sure that if you visited her she will give you a new hairdo at the same time.”

I added the last bit because Ruby was always complaining about never being able to find the right Hairdresser who didn’t charge an arm and a leg.

“I spent almost a year as her assistant a few years ago. She helped me sort myself out when I suddenly came into all this money. She kept my head screwed on when some other people may have gone out and gone on a spending spree.”

Ruby finished her tea and sat back looking at me.

“I guess you are my fairy godmother after all,” she exclaimed.

“Hey, who are you calling a Fairy?”

We both laughed.

[To be continued]

[1] Ruby Khong is a real person. Here are two links to articles about her
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29939573
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29986205



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