Reunited in Wishcliffe - Chapter 1

The Wishcliffe Fire Festival was a local institution, a way marker on the path from summer through to winter, a celebration of all things autumnal and, well, appley. And having neatly avoided it for the past five years by sheer dint of being in a different country, Jon Abbott decided that since he was in Wishcliffe this autumn, he might as well go.

The fact that Wishcliffe cider was the best he'd ever tasted was just an added incentive.

He didn't, however, want to be recognised. Since he'd returned to the area two days ago, staying in a small cottage on the outskirts of the village down by the sea, he'd kept a very low profile. No pints in his old local, no popping to the corner shop for the paper—he'd driven out to the nearest town supermarket for all his essentials. Even his rental car was nondescript—he'd left his top-of-the-range, cherry-red pickup truck back in Nashville, for obvious reasons, and the flashy convertible he'd bought with the proceeds from his first hit folk-country-rock fusion album was still garaged at the house he'd bought his mum, twenty miles away.

But he really wanted a cup of Wishcliffe cider and the chance to relax by the fire and take in the ambience. So he pulled on a dark beanie hat, turned up the collar of his black coat and hoped that the darkening evening would help him blend into the crowd for once.

The Wishcliffe estate bordered the village of Wishcliffe itself, meeting where the stone chapel that served both the Wishcliffe family and locals stood. It was a good forty-minute walk from his cottage up to the fields by the house where the festival was held, but Jon decided he could do with the fresh air. And probably the exercise, come to that. He'd left his private gym back in Nashville with the pickup truck and what was left of his career.

I just need a break. Then I'll be able to work on the new album.

The path he took led him along the cliff, looking out over the crashing waves of the British coastline, then dipped in through a small copse of trees at the edge of the estate. The fresh sea air filled his lungs and, for the first time since he'd arrived back in the country, he finally felt at home again.

Then he broke through the tree cover, out into the festival field, with the giant bonfire at the centre, the stalls selling cider and hog-roast stands with hot pork and apple and stuffing rolls, the sweet stalls for the kids and the man dressed as a magician telling fairy tales—

And just across the way, a familiar, brightly painted caravan with instrument cases leaning against it, and, in front of it, the most beautiful girl he'd ever known arguing with a guy in a neon orange bobble hat.