With some surprise at being the only vehicle there, Ken parked his Suberu 4x4 on the landing stage for the Caulderwater Ferry. He stretched and yawned. After driving over 150 miles towing a small caravan that kept his speed down, with the last twenty even slower along a B class road, he was glad to arrive and relax for a hour before the crossing and the final leg of his journey. Now he just wanted to get aboard the ferry that would take him to Quaithwaite where he could get a meal before continuing for the last fifteen miles to the Beacons Caravan Park, high in the hills above the lake. Having stayed there three or four times a year for several years, he knew the area well.
"There's still an hour before the ferry is due and mid April is not part of the tourist season, so maybe there's not much traffic, usually there's a queue of cars waiting whatever time of year it is." He climbed out of the car and walked to the public toilet, the only building on the quayside. "Looks like they refurbished it over the winter and they've replaced the plank seat in the shelter." The brick building had a recessed front wall with a good overhang where passengers could sit in inclement weather while waiting for the ferry but no one sheltered there that day. He walked to the Mens end and with a sinking feeling, saw the notice protected in a plastic covering, taped to the ferry timetable board.
Due to a mechanical problem
the ferry service is suspended
until 8 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday)
My apologies for any inconvenience
For further information Tel: 01234 456 789
Silently he cursed and then weighed up his options. "To go the long way round the lake means travelling most of the way back along the B road to the main road and then a long loop around the north end of Caulderwater, back along the other side on small narrow roads to Quaithwaite and then on to the campsite. Not worth the effort and it will be dark long before I get there. I'll set the caravan here for the night. Not the same conveniences as the campsite but at least there's toilet facilities and water. I've enough basic food even if I cannot make a proper dinner. Good job I ate lunch in Welldringham."
"Looks like the ferry isn't in yet, but there's a car waiting so it shouldn't be long, not if it is to leave at five," Sue Canham remarked as she helped her friend from the car and took the girl's rucksack from the boot, "I've got to dash if I'm to make it to my aunt's before seven, that tailback on the M6 lost us a lot of time but we got here before the ferry. See you at the end of the week and try to regain some of your spirit. She gave the girl a hug, and sped off back along the country road.
Kathryn shouldered her rucksack and headed for the shelter but halted when she saw Ken standing and waiting for her. He and she were the only ones around. For a few moments, fright took over and she stopped, looked around for her friend but the car had disappeared from sight. "Get a grip of yourself," she told herself remembering Sue's words, "Not all men are like that Ben Marshall."
"You'll have a long wait, I'm afraid." Ken showed her the notice. Warily she stood alongside him and read it several times and tried not to cry. "Can you phone your friend to come back and pick you up?" Sue shook her head and headed for the Ladies.
Through the window of his van, Ken saw her emerge twenty minutes later and sit on the seat and her red eyes showed she'd been crying. Ken made mugs of tea and a couple of cheese sandwiches each, even cutting them cornerwise like many women preferred and added a slice of cake to the plates. To his amazement, when he placed them on the seat next to her and sat down too, she immediately moved as far end as the shelter allowed. "Hey," he smiled and tried to diffuse her alarm, "I'm no serial killer or a rapist, just a guy who's stuck here for the night, like you seem to be. At least I have a place to sleep and I'm able to make a hot drink and have some basic food that I can share. I'm Ken Bristow."
Still wary and a little frightened she murmured, "Kathryn Lambert. Thank you, but please, you don't need to go to any trouble on my account. I'll be okay." Although he tried to engage her in conversation, she almost didn't acknowledge his presence and only repeated her "Thank you," when he collected the plates and mugs.
By seven o'clock the twilight began to fade into darkness but in the orange glow of the one streetlight, Ken saw her huddled in the corner of the shelter and tried to approach her again. "Kathryn, there's a spare bed in the van and you're welcome to use it with no strings. You'll freeze out here and even inside the loo it will get pretty damn cold. A sharp frost is forecast for tonight. You won't be harmed or molested in any way if you take the bed and at least you will be relatively warm." She shook her head, no. "Think about it and while I'm having a wash and use the loo, go and have a look inside the caravan. The bed you'll have is covered with my coat and stuff at the moment, but I'll quickly move that out of the way. You might also like to note the number plate of my car and phone it your friend and say you'll phone her again in the morning to say you're okay. You'll be in a far worse state if you stay outside all night." Kathryn did take his car number but didn't go inside the caravan in case he trapped her in there.
Worried about the girl, Ken turned in early. Without being hooked up to mains power, he used battery operated LED lighting but couldn't use the small TV he'd installed or the heater but heating a kettle on the gas ring raised the inside temperature of the well insulated van. On his last visit to the toilet, he saw the huddled, shivering form of Kathryn and without approaching closely, repeated his offer of a bed, but didn't receive a reply. "I can't force her in here but I wish I could convince her that I mean her no harm. Wonder why she's so afraid? It's not as though she's a teenager, more like mid or late-twenties, almost my age." He tried to sleep but his thoughts kept his mind active.
"Tap, tap, tap." Ken switched his bedside LED on, noted his watch read 10:28 and, dressed in his pyjamas with thermal vest and long-johns underneath, went to the door. "Come in Kathryn. I cleared the bed just in case. Dump your rucksack in the corner and let me put the stove on and make you a hot drink. That will help warm you up and the heat from the stove will warm this place up a bit. Take your coat and boots off and wrap the duvet around you and soon you'll warm up. Without electricity, I can't use the fan heater."
The hot chocolate did help, and while they sat opposite bunks, each surreptitiously studied the other but without her saying more than polite words of thanks. Ken reassured her again of her safety but, because of the cold, she only took her outer clothes off before crawling into the bed and pulling the blankets and duvet over her.
"I wonder why she's so scared? Must have had a traumatic experience, fairly recently I would guess. She's attractive enough, medium height much like me, brown shoulder length hair, round face with brown eyes, slightly stocky build and fair size tits from what I saw of them before she pulled the duvet around her. Strange woman. Hasn't smiled once. Am I so frightening? I know it must be scary to have to sleep in a room with a strange man, but she's taking it to extremes." Ken tossed the little he knew about the woman around in his mind before finally falling asleep.
Kathryn's mind too whirled at the little she knew of Ken. "He seems genuine enough in trying to help me but is it all a ploy to get into my knickers like Ben bloody Marshall? I guess he's a bit older than me but not much and has a nice car so he's probably got a good job. Better than mine at the call centre. He's presentable looking and about my height and slim with it. Not a Mr. Universe but who wants one of those. So far, he's not even made a pass at me. Her mind then harked back to the trauma of her last boyfriend and she cried softly, not wanting to wake Ken. Eventually she too, drifted into a light sleep.
Kathryn woke when a shaft of early morning sunlight flashed across her face. Ken sitting up in bed, pulled the curtain back a little to peer out at the white frost. "I'd better make a move before she wakes and I need to pee. Can't help having a hard-on but that'll go down before I get back." He swung his legs to the floor and slipped his shoes on, wrapped his padded coat around his shoulders and picking up his toiletries, headed for the Mens.
Through slitted eyelids, Kathryn watched him, half alarmed at the protrusion in his trousers but knowing all men had this in the morning, she tried not to be unduly concerned. "I need to pee too and I'd better get dressed while he's out of the way." Their paths crossed as Ken returned and she noticed the tent in his pyjamas had disappeared.
"There's no hot water," Ken called as they passed, "If you want some, I'll boil a kettle. I need to because I want to have a shave."
"I'll make do." Ken noticed that before she entered the toilets, she took out her mobile phone and made a call and rightly assumed she'd told her friend where she'd spent the night.
Over a simple breakfast of toast and cereals, Ken again tried to get her to talk. "Kathryn, do they call you Kate or something shorter?"
"Has the delay upset your plans for the day?"
"Yes, the hostel is only a few miles from the ferry terminal so I'll walk around the area for a bit. Unfortunately it will affect the route for the rest of the week so I don't know what I'll do until I study the maps." She packed her rucksack.
"Put it on the backseat of the car and if you sit with me, you'll get across for free. They charge enough for a car and a caravan anyway."
"I'm sorry Sir, but the engineer brought the wrong part yesterday but promised he'd be back today so we'd be ready for the Monday morning service. They've broadcast it on local radio but I 'spect you're from out of the area."
Kat looked close to tears when Ken informed her of the phone call and the ferrymaster's message. "Damn, damn, damn," she swore softly, "Just when I needed to get away from it all, this comes up and I can't go anywhere."
"Can I offer a suggestion? There's a path to the south of here that goes over that shoulder," Ken pointed to a gap between two hills, "To Boremanton. Only a village but it has a small supermarket which is probably open on a Sunday and a pub that does meals. It's about seven miles and a nice walk through woodland and open moorland. If the distance isn't too far for you and if you don't mind my company, we could do that today. If we take light rucksacks we can bring some food that only needs heating on the gas ring for a meal tonight."
At first she said, "I'll just stay and walk around the lake here and let you walk on your own, like I expected to."
"I'll be pleased to have your company, Kat, and if you walk on your own you'll only brood and become depressed over whatever it is that is troubling you. It's a nice day and we can have a decent midday meal. Stay here and it's sandwiches and cake again."
Both enjoyed the walk and Ken noted it wasn't the first walk she'd been on. She'd proper walking boots and strode along with an easy gait that easily kept pace with him. Returning tired and a little weary, Kat had to admit she'd enjoyed the day and her reticence began to fade, not that she mentioned the cause of it. He did learn she lived twenty miles from him and shared a flat with Sue Canham, the girl who brought her.
Friends at the camp site
The sound of heavy rain drumming the metal roof, woke them at 4 a.m. and later the local weather forecast predicted the rain to persist at least until Midday or even later, making driving tedious and walking impractical.
Another car arrived as they cleared away the breakfast things and readied the inside of the caravan for departure. Kat helped more than Ken expected. "Put your rucksack on the back seat of the car and sit inside while I wind up the legs of the van. No need for both of us to get wet."
"So 'kay. I don't mind helping. You helped me. Thanks."
Ken insisted though and swiftly donned his wet weather gear and prepared the caravan for moving. "Typical April weather, one day gorgeous, the next wet, windy and cold," he commented as he sat in the driver's seat.
"What do you intend doing now?" They'd finished their 'second breakfast' at the café in Quaithwaite and sat looking at a map while drinking their tea, "You won't walk far in this without getting soaked to the skin."
"I could hang about here and visit the church or something until the rain stops and then walk the few miles to the hostel."
They discussed a few alternatives before Ken brought up the one they both thought about but didn't wish to voice it. "Please don't take this the wrong way, Kat, but you could stay with me for another night and move on from the caravan site. You'd have to plan a different route but with the network of paths in the area, that should be feasible, and it would be with no strings attached, same as the last two nights."
Kat sensed he wanted her to stay but made a token show of reluctance. Finally when in the supermarket they bought food to last the several days, she realised she intended to stay with him for the whole week. How did I let this happen?" she asked herself as she watched the hypnotic wipers keep the windscreen clear on the drive to the caravan site. "I intended to have a week by myself and I've not had a single day so far. Apart from the time I spent in the cold on the first night, I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed his company and, unlike Ben, he's not tried anything but I saw him peeping when I got out of bed. Could be a ploy but I don't think so and if he does, I can scream and on a camp site there should be others close by to rescue me. Doubt if it will come to that. Actually I'm beginning to like him."
Similar thoughts went through Ken's mind as he drove along the quiet back road. "She seems nice enough now she's beginning to open up towards me but I wonder what caused her fear in the first place. Who or what did she want to get away from? Something traumatic for a woman. Rape? Being dumped by a boy? Divorce? Possibly. No ring on her finger though. I thought I'd done with women after Denise dumped me five years ago but she only wanted what she could get and for the year we lived together, she spent more of my money than I did. Kat insisted on paying for her meal and paid a share of the food we bought in the supermarket. From what we bought, I think she half intends to stay the whole week. I won't mind that even if there's no sex. It will be nice to have her company. She knows I plan to go walking and photographing each day and after our trip to Boremanton yesterday, I expect she'll want to accompany me. Not like Denise who never walked further than the post box."
Ken finally broke the silence by asking, "Can you drive?"
"Oh, yes, I've had a license for five years but the clutch went on my car and I can't afford a replacement yet. Really need to change the car. The old Ford Fiesta is on its last legs. How come you can afford a posh new car like this?" She almost bit her tongue after she blurted out the question. "Sorry, that's none of my business."
"No problem. I'm a financial adviser. I make money by using other people's money. I work from home at the moment and can more or less take a holiday when I feel like it."
Gradually the rain eased and patches of blue sky appeared. "Nearly there now and it looks like the weather is changing for the better." Kat sat up and peered ahead to catch a glimpse of the site.
They'd hardly parked on the plot next to a larger and expensive looking caravan, when the two occupants, a couple in their late fifties, emerged and greeted them. "Hi Ken, so you finally made it with that toy van," the man joked, "And you've brought a bird with you, that's a first."