He awakes with a start. His eyes blink as he struggles with the unfamiliar surroundings. The woman next to him stirs and murmurs softly. Hearing the noises from her, he looks at her with desire, his body begins to respond and he reaches over and grasps her hand. She squeezes his and smiles in return, as they look into each other's eyes.
A woman's voice dispels the moment. Rudely announcing they will be starting their descent and would be soon landing at Heathrow and they should fasten their seatbelts. A half hour later, they are walking down the moving walkway toward passport control.
They pass through the gate without incident, both pleasantly surprised with the lack of overzealous TSA interference that is par for the course all over America. They walk through towards Baggage Reclaim and wait for their luggage to come to the revolving carousel.
"I'm frightened Dave." Olivia announces as as they wait for their luggage to arrive.
He takes her in his arms and hugs her. "I felt the same way when I flew out nine years ago, but unlike me, you are not alone. Besides England is nowhere near as scary as America, I have often heard it described as "quaint", I really think you'll get used to it, our way of doing things fairly quickly. Don't worry, you've got me."
As he reassures her, he hopes he sounds convincing. He too is apprehensive, it has been a long time since he left home and as much as he wanted to see the people he knew and loved, he also feared the changes he expects to see in them, and the changes they would see in him.
After collecting their luggage, they begin moving toward the exits.
"Is he waiting for us?" Olivia asks loudly, pointing to a man holding a card with "Mr and Mrs Hunt" written on it.
"I hope so." He replies as they walk toward the man.
"Blackthorn Königin Plastics." David asks him.
"He nods. "Mr Hunt."
Dave nods as he speaks again.
"I trust you had a pleasant flight, welcome to England."
David Hunt smiles as he recognizes the familiar twang of the Essex accent in the man's otherwise impeccable diction.
"My name is Stephen, would you prefer to go straight to your home, or would you like to get some refreshments first?"
Dave looks to his wife, ready to discuss the choices with her, he knows she wants to get to their destination but he has been dreaming of a good English pint of bitter and he knew just where he wanted it.
Before he had the chance to voice his opinion Olivia demanded loudly that they go straight to "the company flophouse."
The astonishment Dave feels at his wife's words and manner show on his face. He excuses her to himself, putting her uncharacteristic aggressiveness down to fatigue and apprehension.
"As you wish Madam." Stephen answers, his words echoing the sarcastic tone of PG Wodehouse's Jeeves, combined with the accent of Parker, from the Thunderbirds.
"Excuse us a minute, please Stephen." David says, pulling his wife to one side.
"I know you're tired, I know you want to put this journey behind us, but we need to eat and I don't fancy cooking when we get to the house, even though I know they have stocked up the larder."
"I couldn't face a restaurant darling, please. Lets just get to that hovel and maybe we can make a sandwich."
"We could do, but I fancied something proper, something hot."
"But darling, we will enjoy it more once we are rested." Her words frosty and spoken through a forced smile.
Too tired to argue Dave nods and rejoins Stephen.
As they had pulled away from the airport, he felt he understood his wife's attitude. He remembered his arrival in California. Even though he had an idea of what to expect from the countless american TV shows he had watched he had not been able to fathom how alien american culture, the whole way of life, is to a young man from a small English town.
The drive to Emmingford begins without conversation, but as their journey progresses familiar clues remind David that he is home.
Driving on the left, road signs, place names and once off the motorways, the architecture. Each reminder grows in it's significance, slowly raising his excitement and pushing back the jet lag and with it, some of the affinity he had been feeling with his wife's situation.
As much as he wanted a proper English pint, it was only as the sun started to rise the thought of the different time zone hit him, then and only then did he realise how stupid, the petty argument they had at the airport was. They had left LAX just after eight in the morning, it would be past seven GMT when they arrive at their temporary home. The only places they would find to eat other than the airport were service stations or Joe's cafe in Emmingford.
Noticing that his wife is asleep he speaks to Stephen.
"Has it changed much? I've been gone about nine years."
"The town itself, not much, but there's a lot of new housing and industrial areas on the outskirts."
"Nags head still there?"
"I believe so sir, but I can't say I've ever been inside. If I may say so sir, it may have changed since you lived here. They have music, the kind that attracts umm, well there are often motorcycles outside. It has been like that since we moved here."
"Where from, Harlow?"
"No sir just outside, Nazing."
The two men chat for a while, as they near Emmingford, David asks whether they would be going through the town.
"Not unless you would like to sir."
"Would you mind? I would like to see my old haunts."
"No trouble at all sir."
David restrains himself, but as they drive down the High St inwardly he is jumping up and down with excitement, some shops had changed, but the buildings are all there. Especially the Nags head. He wakes Olivia and she too watches the old buildings as they pass by.
Shortly after, Stephen pulls into a cul de sac and then into the driveway of a small house.
"Here we are Sir, Madame, your new home. I am led to believe there is food and a letter for you inside." He hands David a key. "I believe you already have the code for the security system."
"Thankyou Stephen." David said as he climbs out of the car without waiting for Stephen to open the door.
Stephen opens the door for Olivia, then opens the boot and starts to pull out the luggage.
David stretches and Olivia runs to him.
"Give me the freaking key, I need to go." She hisses.
"You can wait, I want to carry you over the threshold."
"Just get the door open, that can wait, I can't."
David walks to the door, unlocks it and scoops her off of her feet as she screams. He opens the door and carries her through, entering the code in the panel before kissing her protesting lips and putting her down. He laughs as she opens and closes doors as she frantically runs around looking for the toilet.
Stephen and he then carry the luggage in. After placing the last cases down, Stephen looks at David.
"Will there be anything else sir, or would you prefer I left?"
"Uhh, hang on." David says reaching for his wallet. Opening it, he pulls a couple of notes out.
"Shit, dollars. Sorry, yes can you take me to an ATM, I've got no English money, I can't give you a tip."
"That's quite alright sir, I do not need, require, or expect one."
David wrestles with the situation. Although tipping is not the English way, he has gotten used to it.
"If that is the only reason sir has to go out again, please, not on my account, remember it's the thought that counts."
"If you're sure, and you would rather be off." David says with resignation.
"Yes sir, goodbye and welcome back to England."
David extends his hand for Stephen to shake. Stephen looks surprised at the gesture but readily reaches out to grasp his hand.
"Goodbye then Stephen, thankyou for all your help. Again, I am sorry about the tip."
"No need sir, thanks for thinking about it, goodbye."
David watches as Stephen backs out of the drive; he notices he is not the only observer. A woman several houses away stands watching him. Nothing strange in that, except that she is naked, apart for stockings and suspenders. Seeing him notice her, she waves and smiles. David waves back, although puzzled by the display closes the door.
"Liv." he calls out. Hearing nothing, he goes looking for her, finding her in the second bedroom that he checks.
She lay on the bed, still dressed. He smiles and closes the curtains before carefully undressing her. Pulling the cover over her, he leaves her sleeping and explores the house.
The lounge sports a moderately stocked drinks cabinet. He pours himself a large Jamesons then he looks in the kitchen. He finds fresh bread, butter and ham and makes a doorstep sandwich. On the kitchen table, he spies an envelope with his name atop of other papers. He notes they were menus for various food establishments, none of which appeared to offer delivery. As he eats his sandwich, he opens the envelope and sorts through the contents. Keys, a clip-on identity card and a letter.
Welcome to your new home. I hope that I have managed to stock the larder with suitable foodstuffs, at least until you are able to sort yourselves out. We do not expect you in until 0900 Monday, but feel free to drop in at anytime before then. I have arranged for your car to be made available at anytime after your arrival. Just call Alex at Emmingford motors ****387 and they will deliver it soon afterwards. The WI FI code is on the back of the modem. Any questions please call, you have my number. Looking forwards to seeing you again.
Martin Coles. M.D.
With the letter, sandwich and whiskey finished he heads up to join his wife, fighting the memories now bombarding his mind.