Claire was standing looking out of her workshop window. In one hand she held a blow torch and in the other a mug of freshly brewed coffee. The sky was a lovely light blue tone, very reminiscent of the Blue Topaz gem stones that she was working with this week.  The sun, above the island, was shining and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. So why was it that she could only see dark clouds?  Those damn clouds had been with her since her husband’s gambling had wrecked her live.

All she wanted was a nice normal life.  She had never loved Mark, really loved him, but that didn’t matter. She wasn’t looking for a life full of romance. She was much more practical than that.

Mark had seemed nice enough. He had a good job in the finance sector, which had help them secure all the trappings of a successful life. The country house, the cars, the exotic holidays, a good education for their daughter. That’s all she ever wanted. If he had continued to provide that, then she would have been the best wife ever, but he was a fool.

He had destroyed her dream of a contented and secure life. His gambling habit had came rushing into their lives like a tornado, indiscriminately wrecking everything in its path. Their lives had fallen apart. Like a stack of cards, once one had fallen the others followed suit until the very last one had fallen flat on its face.

She took it badly, blaming herself for his failings. For a while she struggled to cope, staying in her bed for day after day.  Life was bleak but her daughter Elizabeth visited every day and did her best to help her.

Eventually she agreed to see her GP. Although she had known Dr Plumbley since she was a girl, she still found it difficult to talk to him about how she was feeling. But he had seen the symptoms before and knew that she was suffering from anxiety and depression. He prescribed anti depressants and sleeping tablets.

She didn’t like taking pills but there didn’t seem to be any alternatives. She couldn’t go on like this. The constant sadness, lack of sleep and frequent bouts of crying were taking their toll on her. After a few days the sleeping pills started to help. She was getting some sleep now, not a lot,but a couple of hours a night was much better than before. She wasn’t sure about the Prozac, she had hoped that it would make her happy but it didn’t. but it seemed to help her get through the day and slowly, very slowly, she started to feel a little bit better.

Dr Plumbley referred her to a counsellor and it was she, Dr Dyer who introduced her to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). It seemed all a bit strange to her at first, talking to a stranger about her life for an hour every Thursday morning. She thought that she would struggle to find things to say but the hour came and went before she knew it. The sessions became the highlight of her week. She had something to look forward to. Someone to share her thoughts with and to help guide her along the path to recovery. She learned new ways to cope, to shut off the external world and focus on herself. She was introduced to mindfulness and body scans, techniques which would help her to keep the demons at bay for years after the twelve week course had finished.

Fortunately  Elizabeth had left University  before his gambling came home to roost.  She was proud of her daughter, she had a good job in a bank and had last year had moved in with Peter, her partner. He was lecturer at Southampton University in Civil Engineering and seemed like a nice man . Although she had thought the same about Mark.

never  the family house had been repossessed, she had moved in with Lizzy and her partner. When she had improved enough, it was Lizzie that had suggested that she attend the Silversmithing and Jewellery Workshop being held by the Peter Symonds College in nearby Winchester.  She was surprised at how much she enjoyed the workshop and had then signed up for the evening classes.  It took a while for her to accept that she was actually quite good at something and enjoyed doing it too. Apart from that she also found it therapeutic.  When a classmate told her that she had noticed  a cottage with a jeweller’s workshop for sale, when on holiday on Skye, her mind had went into overdrive. She had been wise enough to have got into the habit of saving, when still at school, and had continued to pay money into her own Building Society account over the years.  She was amazed that she could afford the cottage in Skye and still have enough set aside for a rainy day.  A was a big step to make but she really did need a fresh start way from it all.  She put a bid in for the property and was amazed when her first bid was accepted. Others were interested in the cottage but Claire had been the only cash buyer and that had swung it in her favour.

Ten months later and she had loved every one of them.  She knew that she had made the correct decision. She still struggled with depression but she was coping and had learn to laugh again.

She knew that she looked comical as she stood in her workshop in her working clothes. The leather apron, that she had bought off the internet, was way too long for her 5’4 frame, but it protected her favourite blue and white hooped t-shirt and faded jeans. Her magnifying visor had been pushed back over her head, revealing an attractive freckled face, blonde hair braided tight and blue eyes but if you looked just a little closer you could see that life was starting to take its toll.  The plaited hair had more than a few grey strands. Laughter lines and crows’ feet encircled her eyes and if you looked just a little bit closer you could see that within the blueness of her eyes were deep pools of sadness.

To keep the sadness at bay, Claire liked to keep herself busy. That’s one of the reasons that she had become self-employed. She now no longer had anyone to tell her to go home.  She could spend as many hours as she had making her hand made jewellery.  Of course she couldn’t spend 24 hours a day in her workshop but there were so other aspects which also helped her pass the time: research; design; sourcing materials; marketing; sales; packaging and keeping on top of the paperwork and book keeping all gave her something to focus on. She like to read or to listen to the radio with a glass of white wine or a G&T, as a way of relaxing at the close of day but as she did, her mind would wander back to her husband.

How he had conned her, kept his gambling hidden from her until it was too late. They had lost everything: their lovely Hampshire house; both their cars; his job; their close friends; and she had lost her self-respect. How could she have been so blind?  She didn’t want to think about it but she often did and worse still, she still blamed herself.

But overall she knew that things were getting better, she had more good days than bad ones. Recently she had noticed that she had begun to feel more confident about herself. So much so, that she had decided to attend the craft fair and workshops being held on the mainland. She thought it would be a good way to get to know some of her fellow jewellery makers, yes to sus out some of the competition but also to talk to them about common issues and see if there were anyways that they could help each other.  She had turned down commissions in the past, maybe if she could pass them on, then others would do likewise.

The fair and the workshops had proved worthwhile and she had learned some new techniques and exchanged business cards with a number of, potentially useful, contacts.  She had even met a fellow jeweller who could alter her wedding ring for her, to make it look, well less like a wedding ring.  To ensure that she wouldn’t miss any of the Fair she had booked a guest house in Marchtown for three nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She wasn’t sure how she would cope with being around so many people and had decided to give herself plenty of time to relax and recover on the Sunday before returning home on the Monday.

After the fair finished at 2pm on the Sunday, she packed away all her materials and had a bit of a nap before borrowing a couple of random books from the guest library and placing them in her favourite blue rucksack, together with some hand cream, paper tissues and a small bottle of drinking water.

The landlady had informed her that there was a new coffee shop ‘Jilted Joe’ near the exit of the local park and, after having explored the park and it’s beautiful and fascinating Poets’ Rose Garden, she gently strolled towards the exit. She turned right and after less than 200m she arrived at the town’s new coffee shop.

There was a picture of the famous American Baseball player, Joe DiMaggio and his wife for a total of 274 days, Marilyn Munroe in the window, which explained the shops, rather unusual name. She couldn’t help thinking, that things might have been better for her if she had also got divorced after nine months.

There were plenty of free tables when she arrived,  She ordered a skinny soya latte and tucked herself away in the corner at a small table with four chairs squeezed around it. She opened her rucksack and looked at the first book that she put her hands on. It had a bright pink cover and was, rather amusingly, entitled ‘How to Kill Your Husband’

Absentmindedly, she left her rucksack on the table.  Whilst the coffee was being prepared, the waitress wiped her table clean and placed the rucksack on one of the free chairs. Claire thought no more of it. Her coffee came with a little piece of shortbread on the side.

‘That’s nice’ she thought. It doesn’t cost much to add something to make an experience slightly better and she appreciated the effort.

Claire sat back enjoying the great tasting coffee and started to read the book.  She hadn’t really noticed the place filling but she soon noticed a stroppy looking guy walking towards her table. For a second she thought it was her ex and her pulse quickened.

‘Don’t be silly, it’s not him, it’s not him, relax’ she told herself as she started controlling her breathing.  A deep breath, in through the nose and then out of the mouth, nice and slowly. ‘Calm, calm, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, 10’.

She could sense him towering above her looking down his nose at her ‘May I?’ he snorted.

‘Why not sweetie’ she answered, trying to be friendly.

Claire placed her book down and moved her rucksack to the seat across from her. He almost sat on her rucksack!

‘God what is his rush?  Chill out, it’s meant to be a lazy Sunday afternoon, calm, keep calm’.

She was trying her best but he was sitting there staring at her. She buried her head back into the book but she could still sense him sitting there judging her.

‘Just who the hell does he think he is?  Leave me alone, leave me alone!’


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