She entered the lively public house with an air of caution, and as she made her way to the bar she was aware of attracting more than one curious – or interested glance.
She climbed onto one of the tall stools, and leaned on the counter for some much needed additional support.
"Hey there ... what can I get for you?" the big man asked in a friendly voice.
She licked her dry lips. "Are you still serving food?" she asked as she suddenly realised that she was absolutely starving.
"Aye ... I'm sure that we can fix something for you ... as long as you're not too fussy." He turned around and mumbled something through the hole in the wall, which obviously led to the kitchen area.
"Cook says she's got some casserole left and a nice bit of apple pie?"
She smiled gratefully. "That sounds just heavenly," she sighed.
"Food won't be but a minute ... what can I get you to drink?"
She paused for a moment. "Can I have a glass of white wine please?"
"Sure thing ... if you want to go and find a table, I'll bring it over to you."
She scrambled down off the stool, and walked over to a small table just under one of the large windows.
The darkness outside meant she couldn't see anything, but it kept her a little apart from the rest of the – curious clientele.
She looked out into the darkness, not yet recognising the reflection of the lovely young woman with the beautiful blue eyes.
"Ere you go love!" the glass was placed carefully in front of her and she smiled up at the bar man.
"Food will be right with you."
The girl had been very shy and awkward looking, and unable to meet his gaze, when she'd first entered his establishment; but as she looked up suddenly, her eyes met and locked with his.
He felt like a thunderclap had roared inside him, like the world suddenly sucked in a breath, and then waited ... like someone had just clipped him round the back of the head.
He forced himself to swallow, and his shoulders relaxed.
"I'm George ... the owner of this 'ere place ... you look new to these parts?"
Her smile wavered ever so slightly. "Yes I am," she whispered softly.
"Got a name? A place to stay? Do you know anyone from around here?" he prompted lightly.
"My name is ... Lucy, and no I don't know anyone ... and no I've not had a chance to find a place yet..."
He opened his mouth to speak but someone shouted from behind the bar, and he walked back the way he'd come with a resigned shrug, but without speaking to her again.
Sitting there with a glass in front of her, and a meal on its way ... and a need for a roof and a bed; it suddenly occurred to her to worry about how she was going to pay for any of it.
'Everything you'll need for a new life is in this bag... '
The voice of the witch echoed back to her, and Lucy slipped the little backpack off her shoulder and dumped it down next to her on the curved, padded seat.
She opened it up slowly, and the first thing she saw was a black wallet like purse – long and fat looking, almost like it was bulging.
Lucy took it out and keeping it under the table so that anyone who might be watching could not see, she opened it up.
Inside was a serious looking wad of cash, all in a variety of larger and smaller notes. There were also two credit cards, and a bank debit card.
As Lucy looked at each card, a series of numbers flashed behind her eyes, and she realised with a little gasp that those numbers were the security 'PIN' numbers for each card.
Lucy clipped the purse too and put it down next to her, so that she could take another look inside the bag.
An envelope caught her attention, and again she cautiously took it out, making sure that it was kept out of sight under the table.
She flipped the envelope open and just contented herself with peeking inside.
Some folded papers; a little red book which she realised was a passport, and a couple of bank books.
Lucy pressed the lip of the envelope together again and shoved it back into the bag.
She picked up the purse and pulled out a couple of the smaller notes, and then shoved that inside her little backpack as well.
"Ere's your food luv!" George placed a plate in front of her and Lucy took an appreciative sniff.
"Oh that does smell good!" she exclaimed with a smile.
She picked up the knife and fork and conscious of George standing over her, she took a cautious bite of the food.
As the casserole melted in her mouth, Lucy closed her eyes for a moment simply to savour the taste of it.
She chewed for a second and then swallowed.
"Delicious!" she sighed opening her eyes again.
George beamed at her. "I'll be sure and tell the cook ... it'll make her day, and keep her temper sweet for when we get home."
"She's your wife?" Lucy guessed with a little chuckle.
George laughed with her.
"That she is ... for twenty years now!"
He hesitated for a moment, looking a little awkward.
"You said that you'd not had a chance to find somewhere to stay yet?" he asked carefully.
Lucy nodded as she loaded her fork for another bite.
"I'm assuming that you can pay for somewhere to stay though?" he asked in a low uncomfortable voice.
Lucy looked up at him in surprise for a moment, but then her smile was warm, sincere and reassuring.
"Yes ... of course."
George looked more than a little bit relieved, but his tone when he spoke again was friendly enough.
"There's a woman just over the road ... she runs a bed and breakfast ... I could give her a quick call and see if she's got any rooms vacant?"
Lucy was in the middle of enjoying another mouthful of food, and so it took her a moment to reply.
"That would be really ... helpful..." she murmured with a shy little nod.
George smiled and patted her shoulder. "I'll go and give her that call."
Left alone to enjoy her meal, Lucy did just that ... conscious of the occasional curious look from some of the other patrons.
She had finished the casserole, and was sitting enjoying her wine, by the time he got back.
"Mrs Bates says that she has a room going spare at the moment..." he said jovially as he walked across the room.
Lucy blushed as the murmur of voices suddenly cut off, and she just knew that all eyes were now on her.
"Thank you," she mumbled quietly as she nursed her glass awkwardly.
George, picked up her empty plate, and grinned at her cheerfully. "No worries ... an' I'll just get you that apple pie ... that's if you're ready for it?"
"Please..." she nodded.
As George left; the hum of conversation resumed and Lucy sat back with a relieved little sigh.
"So ... you'll be staying over at Mrs Bates's then?" a chirpy male voice suddenly boomed over the muted sounds of the pub.
Lucy looked around in surprise, to see a nice looking young man, standing just a little away from her.
"I hope so yes," she nodded shyly, not quite meeting his eyes.
"Do you know where to find her?" he persisted cheerfully.
Lucy looked up at him, catching his eye and locking on. "I'm not sure but..."
The young man blinked as though he'd suddenly been struck, his eyes ever so briefly went blank, and then his shoulders seemed to drop a little as he swallowed as if his throat had gone dry.
"I can show you easily enough..." he offered slowly.
"Thank you ... that would be kind of you."
He met her gaze again and his smile was warm and friendly. "No worries..." he shrugged.
George came back with her dessert, and the young man moved away.
"I'll leave you to finish your meal then, I'll be over near the door when you're ready to go."
Lucy nodded and gave him another shy little smile, and the young man turned and walked away.
"That's young Tom, he's a good lad so you'll be in safe hands with him," George murmured as he placed the apple pie in front of her.
"Thank you." Lucy nodded with a little smile, and left George to decide for himself whether she was referring to the food or the reassurance.
As George looked like he was going to loiter and embark on a few 'friendly' questions, she forestalled him.
"Can I have a cup of coffee please ... and the bill?"
"Sure thing," he nodded as stepped back and then turned to leave.
Lucy made her way over to the door, to find young Tom waiting patiently for her.
"All ready then?" he asked cheerfully as he stood up and tugged his jacket over his shoulder.
"Yes thank you."
They left the lively security of the pub, and walked down the quiet darkened streets. Lucy thought that she should have felt nervous, walking out with a stranger on strange and dark streets, but she didn't, she felt as safe with Tom as she had ever felt in her entire life.
"It's not too far..." he murmured suddenly as though to reassure her, "just around this next corner."
Sure enough as they turned the corner the first thing Lucy saw was a low sign, swinging in the gentle breeze.
'Mrs B's B&B – Rooms available to rent by the night, ' the sign told her.
Young Tom pushed open the cast iron gate and moved aside so that Lucy could enter first.
He guided her up the long dark path, and then stepped forward again to thump loudly on the front door.
They waited for a few moments, and then the light just inside could be seen from the high arched window of the door.
Seconds later there was the sound of a lock being turned, followed by the door being pulled open a little.
"I've got your new lodger 'ere Mrs B!" Tom called out cheerfully, as the door remained on its security chain.
Lucy briefly saw a pair of beady eyes peering out, before the door closed again, and they listened as the security chain was removed with a clinking grating kind of noise. The door swung wide and Mrs Bates looked out at Lucy with a suspicious gaze.
Lucy allowed her eyes to drop submissively.
"Well you'd better get yourself inside then!" the woman snapped impatiently.
Lucy hesitated long enough to turn and smile gratefully at Tom.
"Thank you for bringing me here ... Tom," she murmured softly.
"You're quite welcome – miss, I'll be seeing you around..." he looked up to grin at Mrs Bates. "Night then Mrs B – now just you make sure, that you look after your new guest!"
"Huh!" was the only response that he received, and he gave Lucy a quick wink as he turned back the way that they'd come.
As Lucy stepped over the threshold Mrs Bates looked her over.
"You haven't got any luggage?"
"No," Lucy shook her head as she looked around her curiously.
The hallway where they were standing was long and narrow, and gloomy looking; and just to the left there was a winding darkened stairway which spiralled up out of site.
There were several doors down towards the bottom of the hallway, but they were all closed, so Lucy turned her attention back to the woman standing beside her.
"You have a room that I can rent?" she asked in a low firm voice.
"Yes; that I have ... providing you can pay for it!" Mrs Bates nodded.
"I'd like to see it first, and then we can discuss the rent."
Mrs Bates nodded her head once.
"It's right this way," she said a little grumpily.
She led Lucy up the stairs, up past the first floor, then the second floor, and then the third floor. She led Lucy all the way up to the attics.
"This room has its own private bathroom," Mrs Bates explained. "I've several male guests staying on the lower floors, and I don't think it'd be right expecting you to share a bathroom with them."
"Thank you Mrs Bates." Lucy smiled gratefully as she looked around the long low room.
The walls were papered a plain beige colour with the odd little flowery picture to break up the blandness.
The single bed which was set against the far wall had a deep red duvet on it; which drew the eyes straight away.
As Lucy looked around she saw a chest of draws, with a little portable television set sitting on top of it, and just to one side was a large comfortable looking arm chair.
The window in the far wall was actually a little set, consisting of a round one in the middle and two small square ones on either side of it.
And just to the far side was a small cubicle which Lucy assumed was her en suite bathroom.
"So will it do?" Mrs Bates asked as Lucy finished looking around.
"Yes I think so," Lucy nodded. "Now how much are you asking for it?" she asked in a business like tone.
Mrs Bates shrugged her shoulders a trifle defensively. "I rent this one out for Twenty eight pounds a night ... and that includes your breakfast."
Lucy looked around her again.
"I might need to stay here for a little while ... until I can find my own place ... I'll pay you up front for the next four weeks, at Twenty five pounds a night."
Mrs Bates gave a little hiss. "Okay!" she finally sighed.
"And I'd like to be able to use the kitchen facilities to prepare my other meals," Lucy added.
"Dinner only," Mrs Bates cut in firmly. "You'll have to find somewhere else for your lunch."
"Very well." Lucy nodded in resignation.
She walked over to the bed and dug out her purse.
"Twenty eight days at twenty five pounds per day..." she had been about to hand over some cash, but then decided against it and pulled out her cheque book. "Who shall I make the cheque out to?"
"You're obviously a woman of some means..." Mrs Bates murmured begrudgingly as she glanced over at Lucy in her good quality clothes.
"There you go Mrs Bates, Seven hundred pounds exactly!" Lucy declared tearing out the cheque and holding it out to the older woman. "I'll let you make out who it's for."
"Thank you." Mrs Bates took it from her and held out the key before turning to leave. "Breakfast is seven thirty 'til ten thirty ... most of my other guests have theirs between seven thirty and eight thirty, before they leave for work."
Lucy nodded her understanding of the unspoken message. Lucy should go down AFTER eight thirty – after everyone else had left.
It had been a long and emotionally draining day, and Lucy realised suddenly that she was shattered.
Left alone, she made sure her door was locked securely; before she slipped out of the smart padded jacket and the thick jeans, and slipped into the little bed – wearing only a tee shirt and her lacy little briefs,
'Tomorrow, ' she thought sleepily, 'she really would have to do some shopping ... clothes ... toiletries... ' her eyes became heavy and little Lucy – once a victim of a tyrannical, abusive step father, and almost a victim of a starving vampire ... little Lucy – beautiful Lucy fell into a deep sleep.
Her memories of her old life were slowly fading; within a few days there would be nothing left of that poor brutalised girl. As Lucy made a new life, and a new identity – then the old one would cease to exist...