|Last Taxi to Kensington, by Helena O'Rall
This short novel, purportedly written by Ellen Hall, one of the last family residents of Stoney Grove is presented here in 14 parts.
Upon stepping off the train at Victoria Station, Loretta felt like she had awoken from a long sleep. People hurried past her, jostling and speaking in a thousand different voices. Sour-faced women rushed by carrying bundles, old men shuffled past her, leaning heavily on their sticks, young ladies struggled to maintain their dignity in the hustle and bustle of the crowd. A group of American army officers clustered beside a tea shop, their eyes tracing her steps as she headed for the street. She ducked into a waiting taxi, and was soon deposited in front of her flat.
Her fortnight in the city passed quickly, a whirl of business and unavoidable social engagements. The two young women agreed to sell the flat; Sylvia to return to her familyís house in Richmond and Loretta to free herself of the memories that the place invoked. She went to see her solicitor to sort out the details of the sale, and to attend to another, more important matter having to do with Wilverdean Hall itself. She arranged for the contents of the flat to be packed, her furniture sent to storage at her fatherís house in Windsor. She would be leaving the south of England. Her future was taking shape. Her time in the city drew to a close, and she returned to Puckering to await the summons that would change her life.
One fine morning in June, the telephone rang. It was Maxie Bigges, the postmistress. A letter was waiting for her. Loretta resolved to pedal into Puckering at once to collect it. It was time to let go of the past.
Entering the village, she wound her way down narrow, cobbled alleys to the post office where the letter, marked with the official insignia of the government, awaited her arrival. Thanking Miss Bigges, she snatched it from the countertop and placed it, unopened, in her pocket.
She cycled on, through the winding streets of the village to the graveyard beside the old stone church. Leaning her bicycle against an ancient wall, she removed from the wicker basket a bunch of spring blossoms that she had gathered earlier in the day. She carried them to her auntís grave, laying them on the soft earth. Then she spread her coat on the ground and sat to read the letter. She paused, read it again, then folded it thoughtfully and returned it to her pocket. An hour passed, and then another as she sat quietly in the dappled sunshine of the graveyard.