The Empty Nest – she’s 21!

Family Check:-

Eldest – mini crisis – where to put next tattoo. Having a small one myself I can’t complain. My thoughts are that placement is essential. It shouldn’t matter but it can affect job opportunities – and… she’s too young to worry but old, crinkly, tattooed skin can lose its charm.

Middle:- no crisis– looking forward to up and coming birthday.

Youngest- no idea if any crisis – had limited contact.

Memajor crisis –trying to book Middle’s 21st birthday celebrations.

Other Half – usual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time and wanting to get in the garden to tidy up veggie patch but being dragged round the shops by me to choose a sofa.

For the last 20 years the 5th November has been a special celebration for us. No, not because of bonfire night, but because it is the day that I produced Middle (who aptly shot out like a rocket, but perhaps that’s too much detail).

We usually spend the evening with 30,000 revelers who brave the cold, autumn air to watch the biggest celebrated 5th November event in the world –  Lewes Bonfire Night.

For anyone who hasn’t witnessed this spectacle don’t be put off by scaremongers who tell you it is dangerous, too crowded or wild. You will see families with young babies enjoying the revelry and I have taken various children over the years, always counting them out and counting them in again with none lost, injured or scarred to date. ( I would recommend taking some ear plugs though as often firecrackers are let off right in front of you. Although leaping a foot in surprise does give you an added vantage point.)

For such a huge amount of people packed into a small town, there is usually very little hassle. Yes, you get jostled. Yes, there are drunken revelers vying for a good spot to watch the bands, magnificent costumes and large effigies that are pulled up and down the streets and yes, one year a woman turned into Miss Trunchbull and told me off for pushing (in a crowd of 30,000)! But the party atmosphere is enticing.

This year Middle wanted to do something different on the 5th.  So I got the jungle drums beating and sent out a request for a family gathering.  I’ve learnt a sure way of securing the offsprings’ presence is to offer to pay. To offer to pay for a birthday meal and night in London is guaranteed to bring the chicks roosting – maybe not as far as the nest but definitely in the vicinity. Result!– I get my desire to see them all and Middle has a birthday to look forward to.

To do list:-

Book hotel: check. Have you tried staying at this chain? The Hub. Small rooms, fantastic beds but not outrageously priced. Perfect for a quick stay in London. They’re popping up all over.

Book restaurant: check. Our favourite of the moment is Brasserie Zedels Wonderfully opulent, staff who are attentive but not overbearing, delicious food and again, not outrageously priced for London.

zedel

You won’t be disappointed.

Book pre-dinner drinks for meeting place. Nearly unchecked. My first choice the Skygarden couldn’t accommodate the 10 of us for a cheeky early evening cocktail, even with plenty of notice, so I returned to my favourite  Bar American. Even when put on the spot, they delivered spectacularly.

So the stage was set with all the ingredients for a great night of celebration.

cake

As it turned out, I managed to keep going until 2 am (for a girl who likes to be in her PJ’s by 10 pm that is a major achievement), the birthday girl ended up having many in-depth conversations she can remember nothing about with her hangover the next morning but  ‘had the best birthday weekend anyone could wish for’, and our numbers swelled as the evening progressed by the unexpected but wonderful arrival of more friends…
21st

…although we didn’t quite make it to our usual 30,000.

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The Empty Nest- Where’s the laundry fairy when you need her?

Family check:-
Eldest minor mini crisis – presentation at work – always scary but good for development.
Middleno crisis – having an excellent time in Jo’burg bonding with elephants.
Youngestminor crisis– girlfriend is visiting and laundry needs to be done.
Other Half usual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time and wanting to get in the garden to tidy up veggie patch but being asked (?) by me to organise new flooring.
Me – major crisis – accounts week. Need to stop being distracted by the Internet and knuckle down otherwise no one will be paid.

Two Skypes to Youngest  in 3 weeks – pretty good going I reckon. Knowing he had 14 pairs of pants with him and the deadline for laundry was looming it was a pleasant surprise to see in the background of the screen the airer we had squeezed into the car. And it was covered in clothes.
‘Done some washing then I see,’ I try to casually remark.
‘Yeah. Lights and darks.’
Result! First lesson on sorting laundry into similar colours accomplished.
‘Powder’s expensive.’
‘But I packed you some.’ I replied. ‘Tablets, in case the machines don’t take liquid easily. I left it on your shelf.’
‘Oh, those.’ I could see in his eyes the penny drop. ‘I thought they were for the dishwasher.’
It’s at times like this my heart sings. Where would I be without these gems in my life? Why Youngest thought there would be a dishwasher in his student accommodation I don’t know.
Is it my fault? I’ve made him too comfortable?  Whatever.
Note to self: don’t be complacent and think laundry lessons for Youngest completed – revise basics:-  ‘washing detergent comes in many forms.’

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The Empty Nest – Bobble Head

Week Two

Family Check:-

Eldestno crisis – excellent, if busy week at work contributing to major work event.

Middlemini crisis – first trip was a success, learning to live out of a suitcase and adjusting to new lifestyle as cabin crew. Arrange to meet her for cinema trip when off duty.

YoungestMajor crisis. Locked himself out of room at Uni  –  only limited contact, all about money. His lack of it, not mine.

Other Halfusual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time and wanting to join mates for golf but being asked (?) by me to fix car.

Meno crisis – attended excellent cinema evening learning much about fraud in the wine industry.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/sep/18/sour-grapes-review-vintage-wine-rudy-kurniawan-documentary

I must confess to feeling odd. Not sad-and-crying odd like a friend who keeps looking at her daughter’s empty bedroom, nor a-nothing-to-do odd like another friend who has lost her purpose now her son has gone to Uni. I have more than enough to keep me occupied. Day to day I work running our construction company with Other Half; for the other moments my latest manuscript is calling me after completing the Curtis Brown Writing for Children’s course and all the usual boring, house stuff is still following me around to which I’ve added decorating rooms and cleaning out cupboards just for the hell of it. The dog still needs to be walked daily, tennis played and attempts at getting fitter tried.

Discombobulated. That’s how I feel. A wonderful word and favourite of my late father’s.

I’ve been feeling menopausally odd for a while now. To quote a dear friend who invented the term, I often have my bobble head on. It feels like my brain is filled with a fluffy cloud. Sparks of electricity, like a lightning storm, are trying to make contact and get through but there are vast pockets of…nothingness. Ask me a question and I try and retrieve the answer but can’t quite bring up the right file from the backroom in my brain. Last time I felt like this was when I was pregnant so it must be hormonal. I am at that age. Usually my bobble head results in nothing too harmful. I’ve put strategies in place. I check the bank payments three times to make sure I’ve not added an extra 0 to someone’s bacs payment and recheck any orders I make to prevent the guys on site who wanted a tonne of sand ending up with a skip instead.

But for all my efforts the odd faux pas does sneak in. My latest involved suitcases. I went out to buy this:-suitcases

 

 

and came home with this:-

suitcase-lime

 

In the context of world problems it is minuscule but I have no explanation for it. The assistant asked me what colour I wanted and I pointed to the lime one, paid for it and came home proudly announcing I’d done the deed only for OH to question my choice of colour when the blue one I wanted to match it with was sitting upstairs.

Maybe I’ll solve my confusion by focusing on redefining my role. After 26 years hands on bottom wiping and knee plastering, I now see it more as part- time life tour guide; there to point out interesting possibilities, listen to the after-adventure tales and smooth over any problems. That’s all very well but as I’m realising we usually get one of two offspring having a crisis but (thankfully) not too often or all three at the same time. So, it’s now my time. But what does my time mean exactly? What do I want to achieve in these coming years? First on the list is finding a way to tame this bobble head. The energy is there it just needs connecting properly to make the sparks fly.

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The Empty Nest – Fresher’s Flu Strikes

Week One

Family check:- So much easier to keep an eye on things these days. As number 5 of 6 children, how my mother kept her empty nest symptoms under control without the aid of the internet I don’t know.

Eldest – No crisis – thankfully (me not her, as she would be off again tomorrow if possible) returned from travels around the world and happily working in central London.

Middle – Mini crisis but containable – just started new job as cabin crew out of Heathrow. New job nerves.

Youngest – just started first semester at University at the other end of the country. Probably having multi crisis daily.

Other Half – usual mini crisis – too much work – not enough time.

Me – major crisis – working out how a creature this small

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Cannot successfully get its arse over a litter tray this big.

 

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One week down and Youngest is still alive! Just.

I know this because:-

  1. He’s asked for more money.
  2. Eldest confirmed it and…
  3. When we did eventually Skype (apparently freshers’ week is just too busy to find 10 minutes) he was sneezing into a tissue.

Fresher’s flu is apparently all it’s cracked up to be.

‘Use the paracetamol I packed for you,’ I offered. ‘And the antiseptic throat spray.’

‘Oh,’ came the reply. ‘I found the paracetamol. Where’s the throat spray?’

Now it’s beyond me how he can open the Tupperware medicine box I lovingly supplied to retrieve pills without seeing the small green bottle nestling beside it. But then Youngest’s thought processes are one of life’s mysteries to me. Apart from some plasters, antiseptic cream and cold relief powder there weren’t many other ailments I thought he would get in the first few minutes except his signature sore throat so the box was half empty. (I purposefully left out supplying the condoms – there are some things a boy must be responsible for himself.)

I’m still amazed we got him to Uni. Not because I didn’t think he’d make the grades but having had Eldest and Middle super organised needing little assistance navigating their way through the Ucas process – (but then, I may be biased, but that’s girls for you) I dipped my toe into the Ucas water, just to see if Youngest would be ok.   On touching the edge I was awash with confusion. Woah… So many forms, so much information. I couldn’t find a course entitled ‘How to navigate your way through Ucas’.  I think this would be an excellent addition followed by a Masters in ‘Student Finance’. Hats off to those of you who made it though and out the other side. Knowing to leave Youngest to his own devices would mean his staying at home for the next four years, I had to plunge in. Some might call this helicoptering mothering, I call it self-preservation.

Thankfully Youngest knew what course he wanted to take. I despair for those parents whose offspring have no idea.

We made our choices.

His father and I took Youngest to one Uni.

His father drove him to another.

Was it unfair to insist he got himself to his third? The last weekend before he had to make his final decision? Even if it meant flying up north? Alone?  If he’s ever going to be pushed out of the nest, a good way to start is to travel. Ok, I confess, he may have gone on his own but I did organise the journey for him – buy the tickets, print out city maps to plan how he would get from the airport to the Uni and supply my credit card ( for emergencies only, NOT a  cheeky Nandos). I know, I’m weak and can hear you tutting and shaking your heads. But to my dying day I will still ask how much should I do? I know in my day we packed the car and took ourselves off without a backward glance but he’s my baby

Anyway, even with the railways trying to thwart best laid plans by cancelling trains Youngest made it to Scotland and back with only an encounter with the Hare Krishnas to worry him. (Fair enough, he reasoned it was easier to give them a couple of pounds for their dodgy CD to get them to leave him alone than listen to them.)

So with firm and reserve choices of courses made, he then had to decide on accommodation. When I say he, you know I mean, I, had to prompt him before the deadline ran out. How difficult is it to choose 5? Well, it didn’t seem to matter as in the end he didn’t get any of his 5 wishes. After contacting the Uni he was offered 3 more, each had drawbacks.

But here he was. On the other side of the screen. Snotty, headachy and sniffing. Should I drop everything and rush to his side to nurse him? Get a grip woman, I could hear Eldest saying. He’ll be fine. He refused to show us his (untidy) room (nothing changed there then) and continued to lob tissues at the out-of-view waste paper basket while regaling how the offered food was either stodgy or watery and how he couldn’t abide Pot Noodles at the weekend like his flatmates. No worries I reply. You can make a wonderful roux sauce.

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The Empty Nest – and so it begins

It wasn’t meant to happen to me. The Empty Nest.  I’ve already shipped Eldest and Middle off to University… and beyond. I know how it feels to drive with coat hangers stuffed into the last available space down the side of seats; how they scratch your hand when trying to manoeuvre the seat back to accommodate the box of kitchen essentials. The ‘must have’ shoes squashed into cup holders and the duvet having a hissy refusing to squish down so you can see out of the back window. More importantly I’ve perfected my brave ‘goodbye’ face enabling me to wave happily until the car turns around the corner just far enough out of sight to allow my throat to constrict and a small tear to drop silently.

On D-day this time around, I was prepared.

Sunday 5.30 am. Only the birds should be awake. ETD 06.00.

06.10. Silly me. Of course, it’s possible to fit two speakers, a boom box AND a desk top computer into an already bulging car.

07.15. First stop. An hour in. Why not multi task and deliver the shared car to Middle who needs to borrow it to start work? Only 350 miles to go, what’s a few more along the way? Unexpected bonus; full English breakfast curtesy of my thoughtful sister.

08.15. Back on the road driving through London on our way ‘up North’ to deliver Youngest to his chosen University, I wasn’t going to let the fact three bedrooms now stood empty at home distract me. I would not turn around in my seat to picture rose tinted visions of a curly haired toddler riding his truck around the garden. Instead an 18yr old, mouth open and snoring, sandwiched between a holdall and a rucksack but still with headphones in place, was the reality.

12 00. We’re eating up the tarmac. Time to stop and eat up plastic motorway food.

‘Embrace the change.’ I’d been told. ‘It’s the natural order of things. It makes them grow up. This is a time to enjoy the silence.’

Not just the silence in the car but the new silence of my life. No more grime music blasting out until bedtime (mine not his). No more calls for clean underwear. No more banging the front door on his arrival.

All wise words but my mind kept wandering. Have I done enough to prepare him for this momentous change in his life?

Would he still eat?

Stupid question. I’ve taught him how to rustle up a roux sauce even Mary Berry would be proud of. Of course, he’d eat. Maybe pasta and mushrooms with every meal but if anything made Youngest muster himself, it was being hungry. Anyway, he’d ticked the half-catered accommodation option.

Could he do his washing?

He’s been on my ‘How To Ensure Your Son Is Ready For The World’ course since birth. Admittedly he’s had to repeat the foundation stage a few times but I feel progress is being made. He knows that you can only turn clothes inside out once before they need to hit the tub. And what was the worst that could happen? Multi-coloured tie dyed clothes? His t-shirts end up looking like they belong to a younger brother? Probably not the best fashion statement but that could add interest to the crumpled look from their storage place on the floor.

More importantly would he be happy and make friends?

Of course, he would. He’s made friends at primary school, secondary school and ever since. He’s even charmed the old ladies in the village who stop me on my dog walk to ask after his welfare. Why would that change now? I must rest assured he will not be sitting on his own night after night crying for his mummy.

This is a time to be positive. He’s not the only one who’s life is going to change. I must man up – I have things to look forward to:-

  1. Food will stay in the fridge for the meals I’d planned – just where I’d left it.
  2. I can slump on the sofa without fear of finding a half-eaten sandwich patterning my trousers or of knocking juice balanced on the arm.
  3. The house will stay tidy. No coat and shoes left on the floor where they’ve been taken off.

And that’s just for starters.

15.30 Arrive at destination to find campus awash with youngsters aimlessly leading their parents laden with bags, bed linen and hope to find matchbox sized rooms. And that’s not a Swan Vesta matchbox we’re talking. Three trips later of squeezing ourselves and our lovely student helpers into the lift (which thankfully was working) up to the 7th floor we dispatch Youngest into his cell. Making his bed up was my last nurturing duty. Dumping his clothes out of the bags onto his bed was his father’s. This was love. Tough love. He’s 18. He can unpack his clothes.

My goodbye face in place we left him to his fate.

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My Writing Day…

‘ My writing day reflects the way I like to cook –spontaneous and scrambled with never the same result twice. As no day is typical here’s a recipe to be adapted as needed.’

Ingredients:-

Fifty something woman with all the hormonal uncertainty that that age brings!

Employment – Admin/ordering for construction company/writer and owner of online home accessories company.

Children (1 flown the nest, 1 on the edge and 1 about to make the climb upwards but mouth still very wide open expecting to be fed).

Method: – Position of laptop is essential for a good result. Try and stay calm at all times.

  1. If laptop is situated in home office: – open post, order materials, complete spreadsheets and make coffee for boss (husband). This can continue all day or part-time depending on commitments required by HMRC /accountant/and / or said husband.
  2. If laptop is positioned at writing desk in conservatory: – Word is open with WIP = 3rd novel, bubbling away. Sticky notelets to be placed around the house – inspiration can strike at any time.
  3. If phone rings while doing either of 1 or 2 above and child needs attention or a lift from bus stop ( there’s only 3 a day to our village) then simmer task slowly especially if  2, using the chauffeuring time to kneed out any lumpy parts in plot. The daily dog walk is also a good time to marinade these issues.
  4. If at any time an order arrives for home accessories company while in office or conservatory, mix packing item and trip to the post office in smoothly. Be aware that marketing time must be tossed in at some point.
  5. Remember some situations can get out of control and the whole shebang may boil over rapidly – the WIP is always the first to be removed until the mixture is returned to its smooth consistency once again. WIP can then resume even if late at night or early morning as long as 1, 3 and 4 are completed.
  6. Resist every attempt to remove laptop from the conservatory short of nailing it down, ensuring that sentences can be modified at short notice, dialogue addressed and characters spoken to if consistently nagging.
  7. At no time lose your sense of humour – sometimes the mixture will turn out correctly other times it will be a disaster,but there will always be something to salvage, even if it is a little over cooked.

 

Kitley Renovation and Construction ( KRaC)  at info@Kitleyrac.co.ukwww.kitleyrac.co.uk
East is East is info@eastiseasthome.co.uk, www.eastiseasthome.co.uk@eastiseasthome

Find more from Teresa at www.teresahamilton.co.uk , @THamiltonwriter, teresahamiltonwriter.wordpress.com

Suzi Final cover jpg

Click to my latest book LOVE,SUZI x  –  Book trailer Pages of people watching …
www.teresahamilton.co.uk https://teresahamiltonwriter.wordpress.com
http://www.eastiseasthome.co.uk
Twitter: @THamiltonwriter
@eastiseasthome

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Journey – Beneath the Surface

This is a my latest project and WIP.  Journey – Beneath the Surface is an adventure story for children aged 9 +.  Nathan and Erin, twelve-year-old twins are on the run, pursued by their Mother’s kidnappers. They need to find her – fast!

Chapter 1

A crash came from below.

Nathan dropped his book and torch. The thin beam of light disappeared as it bounced onto the sheet next to him. He wrenched the duvet from over his head and blinked. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the darkness in his bedroom. He turned his head towards the door to hear the noises coming from the room beneath.

WHAT was going on?

Nathan threw the covers off and tiptoed across the room. He pulled the door slowly towards him. The light from the beaded lampshade cast a strange shadow making the spindles from the stairs look like the bars of a cell on the floor of the hall below.

His mother’s voice.

Not unusual, except it was joined by the deeper tones of a man’s as well. Ordinarily he would have been pleased to hear another man’s voice in the house. There was only his twin sister Erin, and Mum at home and Mum rarely had visitors.

Certainly not this late anyway.

He heard the familiar squeak as the living room door opened.

‘WHERE IS IT?’

There was the sound of a slap followed by a muffled yelp. Nathan drew his head back slightly behind the door and clutched his fingers together. He glanced towards his bedside table for his phone. It wasn’t there. He remembered it was still sitting on the kitchen counter attached to the charger. What should he do? Maybe he could cause a diversion? But what? Something noisy. Enough to give Erin time to escape? If she could get away she could fetch help.

‘Where is it?’ He heard the man bark. ‘Upstairs?’

Through the narrow gap he saw Mum pushed towards the front door by a man dressed in a dark uniform, the light bouncing from the reflective strips across his chest. Mum’s hands were handcuffed. Strands from her normally tidy ponytail clung to her face. She turned her head. Her cheek was crimson and blood was running from her nose. Nathan put his hand over his mouth to shield a gasp.

‘No! Not upstairs!’ Mum replied. A little too quickly. ‘It’s not here.’ Nathan saw her glance up the stairs in his direction.

The man pushed past her, his foot on the first step. ‘What about the kids? They up there?’

‘No! Nobody’s up there! They’re at their grandmother’s.’ Mum pleaded, tears running down her cheeks. The man paused, his hand on the hand rail and turned to look at her. ‘It’s at the lab. I’ll take you.’

‘You know what we’ll do if you’re lying,’ he threatened. He turned back towards his accomplice. His next words caused Nathan’s heart to beat so fast he thought it would explode. ‘I’ll have a quick scout around up here. You get her in the car.’

Nathan shot across his bedroom and lifted up the padded top of the latticed window seat scattering the few books piled neatly on the top against the ledge. It had been a favourite place to hide when he and Erin were smaller, but now it was only used for storing games. He climbed in and closed the lid, wishing he’d cleared out more when Mum had asked. It was a tight squeeze. The corner of a box pressed into his ribs. His eyes scanned the dim room through the wooden slats. The light from his fish tank gave an eerie glow. He heard his mother’s bedroom door open. Nathan sunk lower and pushed his leg against the cardboard. His heart was beating rapidly and his throat felt as though he had a band wrapped tightly around it. A marble rattled against plastic and he placed his hand on his thigh to stop it shaking. He heard drawers being opened and shut. He wished he was invisible. If the man came and did the same in each room, he would quickly be discovered.

He heard footsteps. Erin’s door crashed against the wall. Nathan’s mouth was dry. He licked his lips trying to find something to wet it. His pyjama top was twisted and clinging to his sides.  He’d had no time to go and warn her. Had she been awake too, listening like him or was she sound asleep? What if she hadn’t had time to hide? What would the man do when he found her? If he was prepared to hit Mum, there was nothing to say he wouldn’t do the same to Erin. Or worse? He would be angry Mum had lied.

Nathan clenched his teeth to resist the urge to straighten his leg and clear the tingling in his toes. He took a deep breath. He would spring out of the seat and shout. Loud. Loud enough to be heard in the next village. He would. One…two…

Nathan heard footsteps approach along the landing. Three bedrooms. The next one was his.

His mind raced. How on earth had this man missed Erin asleep in her bed?  He fought for an explanation. He tried desperately not to move but the tingle of pins and needles had reached up his shin. He dug his nails into his palms.

His door flung open. Nathan held his breath. The image of a large man stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the landing light. He took two strides into the room. He paused outside the closed cupboard doors at the foot of the bed. With a force that left the wooden doorknob in his hand, the man jerked opened the cupboard door. Nathan’s cricket bat and three, hard, red balls fell from the top shelf, just missing the man’s foot.

‘Bloody hell! What the …’ the man swore as he hopped to avoid them.  He picked up the rubber handle of the bat and aimed a sweeping blow at the fish tank on top of a chest of drawers. Nathan heard a cracking sound as the glass splintered.

‘What the hell are you doing up there?’ A voice came bellowing from the hall. ‘Get a move on. We’ve got to get back.’

‘Okay, okay. Why have you left her alone? Get back to the car. I’ve finished up here anyway.’

Nathan held his breath and waited. The man bounded down the stairs, slammed the front door and crunched over the drive to get into the waiting car. The wheels spun firing gravel into the air. Nathan kicked open the window seat and clambered out. He stamped his foot to get rid of the numbness and looked around his room. The cricket bat was flung on to his bed, the balls had rolled under the chair. The glass fish tank had a long, jagged split across the corner. He rushed to the landing window just as the car tail lights disappeared around the corner of the lane.

Erin! Nathan open his sister’s door and scanned the room. The room was a tip. Erin was the untidiest person he’d ever known.  Clothes, books and make-up were strewn on every surface and all over the floor. He kicked a bag by his foot.

‘Erin, where are you?’ Nathan called as he rubbed the back of his neck. He opened the pine wardrobe door, brushing aside the dresses to rummage through the magazines and shoes that filled the bottom. There wasn’t room for a twelve-year-old girl. He scanned the room again. There was nowhere else that a body could disappear. If she was hiding she must have vanished into thin air.

‘Erin?’ He called louder. ‘Where the hell are you?’

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