‘Here’s to Anna Harris. The next Catherine Zeta Jones to head for Hollywood from Wales.’ Bob Evans, the richest farmer in Llan, lifted his glass to an eye-catching blue-eyed blonde. Anna was sitting, surrounded by other women, at a corner table in the bar of the AngelInn.
‘Thank you, Mr Evans.’ Anna lifted her glass in return and every customer in the bar followed suit. ‘But I have three years in Drama School before I can think of Hollywood.’
‘You’ll get there, love.’ Rita James, the landlord’s wife, bustled over and collected empty glasses from Anna’s table. ‘I was only saying to Tyrone the other day, Anna’s too pretty and talented to live out her life in a small village like Llan.’
‘You deserve your scholarship, Anna,’ said Judy Oliver, the vicar’s wife. ‘Although I don’t know what I’m going to do for a leading lady in the Dramatic Society after September.’
‘Slap more greasepaint on the older members,’ joked her sister-in-law, Angela George, a police officer’s wife. ‘That’s a stunning watch, Anna. It’s like yours, isn’t it, Judy?’
‘Similar,’ Judy agreed.
‘Isn’t it gorgeous?’ Anna held out her hand so they could admire the gold and diamond bracelet watch.
‘Birthday present?’ Angela asked.
Anna winked. ‘From a secret admirer.’
‘Say no more,’ Rita said. I don’t like romantic – stories they make me realize what I’m missing.’ She carried the glasses into the kitchen where her plump, middle-aged husband Tyrone was refilling the ice bucket.
‘Bob Evans is a dirty old man.’ Rita dumped the tray on the sink. ‘He watches every move Anna Harris makes.’
‘As does every man around here, love.’ Tyrone shook more cubes into the bucket. ‘There’s no harm in looking. Anna’s pretty enough to set any man’s hormones raging, even one on the brink of the grave.’
‘Which Bob Evans soon will be, if he carries on drinking at the rate he is.’
‘Be glad he decided to spend his retirement here. Half our weekly profits are down to him.’
‘Anna Harris is young enough to be his granddaughter.’
‘And she’ll be gone from here for good in a couple of weeks, more’s the pity.’ Tyrone returned to the bar. Anna had finished her drink and was draping her shawl around her shoulders.
‘You’re not going? I was just about to get in another round,’ Angela complained.
‘My parents are away at an antiques fair. I promised I’d open the shop in the morning.’
‘Let’s hope the fine weather brings out the tourists. The church fund could do with a boost.’ Judy set up a stall every Saturday outside the church gate and sold honey and donated local produce to raise money.
‘So could the shop. The more money Dad makes, the more generous he’ll be to his poor student daughter. Goodnight, everyone.’ Before Anna closed the door she heard Bob Evans, say, ‘Nice girl, that one. Got a kind word for everyone.’
She shuddered. She’d never liked Bob Evans. Even as a little girl she’d felt he was mentally undressing her.
She walked through the car park. The night air was warm, still and scented with roses and lavender. Lights shone in the rows of cottages and shops that bordered the road, but the village square was deserted. The medieval market place was shrouded in darkness beneath its slate roof. She loved Llan, its picture postcard prettiness and friendly neighbourliness. She’d been fortunate to have been born and brought up in the place but it was time to move on. July was almost over; another month and she’d be living a new life in a city. If she was successful, she’d never spend another summer here.
Laughter from the Angel echoed behind her as she crossed the road. She rubbed a smudge from the corner of the glass in front of the church notice board and saw her mirrored reflection. Her long blonde hair shimmered silver in the moonlight and her pastel calf-length frock floated lightly around her slim figure. She pictured herself on stage – Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or even better, Juliet …
She looked up and down one last time. Seeing no one, she opened the gate and ran up the path that led between the tombstones to the church. It was a shortcut the whole village used. The church had been built between the pubs and shops on one side and rows of cottages on the other. It was easier to walk across the churchyard than around it.
Lost in thoughts of her glittering future she passed the small shed behind the vestry at the back of the church. Suddenly, from nowhere, a hand shot out and clamped over her mouth. Helpless, unable even to scream, she was yanked into darkness beneath a yew tree too deep for moonlight to reach. The man whispered her name into her ear and lifted a finger to his lips before releasing her.
She locked her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. He swung her off her feet and carried her to a raised tomb built against the church wall. Their figures merged and slipped low into the darkness.