Come and Stay

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Viola climbed out of the cab and walked along the pathway leading to the front door. The snow on it was surprisingly thick, and she wondered if neither of the Holyoake men had visited recently. She rang the doorbell and pulled off her gloves. She could hear the chime echo through the cottage, and then the door opened slowly.

"Viola, darling! Oh just look at you!" her former sister-in-law exclaimed and gestured all around Viola. "You're so– so–"

"Old?" Viola offered with a small laugh, and Maisie waved her hands at her.

"Don't be daft!" She opened the door wider and stepped aside. "Come in! Come in! My goodness, how long has it been?"

"Six year at least," Viola said. "I think we last met at Diana's birthday party, right after her wedding."

Viola started taking off her coat.

"How have you been? How's Theo? How are the girls?" she asked.

"Everyone's well," Maisie answered. "Theo is still with the same company, the girls are at school." She took Viola's coat and hung it in the closet. "You're still the same, look at you! And the same lolly stick! And just before, so elegant, goodness me! Except the hair's new of course. I love it, by the way."

Viola tucked a stray curl behind her ear.

"I've been so busy in the hospital it's been easier to just let it grow and put it away in a ponytail," she gave her usual half-true answer.

"It looks amazing!" Maisie said.

Viola threw a glance around.

"I visited Nana a few months ago, but I still can't get used to being here," she said with a soft chuckle. "Before the whole story with my move started, I hadn't been here for almost ten years."

"Not since your divorce?" Maisie asked in shock, and Viola nodded. "Blimey! And when did you last see Rhys?" Maisie exclaimed.

They walked into the drawing room. Viola kept turning her head, trying to take in the familiar surroundings. The furniture, the knick-knacks, the antique rug on the floor - she knew it all! She saw the Christmas tree in the corner, with the familiar miniature village decorating the mantelpiece. It had been almost a decade since that last Christmas she'd spent here, when the woman who lived here was still officially her family.

"Sorry, what was the question?" 

"I asked when you last saw Rhys," Maisie answered with a laugh.

"Three years ago, but in passing," Viola answered grudgingly.

"I can't wait to see his face when you meet," Maisie said and rubbed her beautiful plump hands. "You two living in the same village! That's exactly the kind of an awkward situation he can't stand!"

"He was never your favourite, was he?" Viola asked, and Maisie burst into loud laughter.

"I forget your sense of humour," she said. "And no, he's definitely not my favourite brother."

Viola shook her head in amusement. She knew better than anyone how much the Holyoake siblings loved each other - but making fun of Rhys was too easy.

"How's she feeling right now?" Viola asked, and they both looked up at the ceiling.

The principal bedroom was right above them.

"She's not herself," Maisie said. A deep frown furrowed her eyebrows. "As you know, Dr. Fenton has been treating her, but– But he expressed concern," Maisie said slowly. "He said she wasn't listening, didn't take her heart medicine as he prescribed. Normally they get along brilliantly, but she seems to be in a rather low mood these days."

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