RESTLESS SOUL is the story of Elizabeth Davies, a young Oxford graduate with a sensitive Celtic nature. She attempts to balance romance and a call to the ministry. As a further complication, Elizabeth stumbles onto a crime pointing to someone within the hierarchy of the Church of England.
Restless Soul - Chapter One
One letter can change a life.
The stark white envelope lay on a weathered table by the front door. Pursing her lips and tapping her foot in indecision Elizabeth Ann Davies regarded the return address on the envelope. No mistaking the prominent seal of the Bishop of Chester. “Why open it? I know the answer. No!”
Beside the letter lay a novel. On impulse, Beth scooped up the book on her way toward the back of the house. The smell of cooking bacon hung in the home. She heard her parents’ voices rising and falling in animated conversation as they shared their first cups of tea.
Beth paused for a moment in the doorway of the kitchen, enjoying the familiar scene. An old oak table dominated the center of the kitchen. A small bay window with faded curtains offered a vista to the outdoors. Clouds flowing in from the Irish Sea hid the early morning sun over northwest England.
Her mother, a short robust woman in a tattered apron covering her simple dress, stood at the stove turning bacon. Sitting at the table Charles Davies held a steaming mug of tea in his ruddy working hands. He looked up smiling with emerald eyes matched by his daughter. Beth walked into the room.
“Going out before I catch the train to London,” Beth informed her parents.
“Beth, just what did Mr. High and Mighty over in Chester have to say? Am I going to have a minister for a daughter?” “Mum, I haven’t opened it yet. I’ll do it when I get back.” Grabbing a couple of scones from a plate, Beth wrapped them in a napkin and put them in her jacket pocket.
“Daughter, I’m almost at the end of my tether. You march back and get that letter!”
Beth and her father exchanged a knowing smile as Beth walked out of the kitchen.
At the front door, she turned and shouted, “I’ll do my marching as soon as I get back.”
A large white dog with wagging tail stood on the front porch. The two set out on their usual morning adventure. Manna ran ahead. No need to follow. She knew the destination. Engulfed in light fog, a deserted footpath led to the Gately estate grounds.
“One of those velvet mornings. The best for being out,” Beth whispered.
Dressed in jeans and wellies she climbed a fence with a weathered sign, “Gately Estate. No Trespassing.” The dampness on her hair was of no worry. Dark brown curls always fell into place, no matter how she brushed it. Her long stride was silent on the damp leaves. Trees, the oldest in this part of northern England lined the path with branches intertwined far above Beth’s head.
On the path ahead, an archaic stone bridge hid the ever-flowing stream below. Passing over with a smile on her face, not daring to look right or left, Beth remembered the childhood words of her mother.
“Leprechauns and fairies live under the bridge in the woods. If a wee child should look down and see them, that wee one belongs to them. The old crone will gather them up at midnight of the next full moon, never to be seen again.”
Beth knew it was just a story to keep young children out of the woods without their parents, but still, she never looked down.
Massive rhododendrons of vibrant pink greeted her as she came out of the woods. Hesitating for a moment, she looked back at the stream. The overhanging fronds of ferns danced in the water. Walking on, she glanced up the hill to her favorite spot.
“Must be the best place in all the world,” she told Manna. “So peaceful. My kind of church.”
She hurried up the incline at a half run, trying to race past Manna, but as usual the mass of white fur stood waiting at the top. Reaching the summit, she turned around to survey the scene before her. In the east the sun struggled to peek through the clouds. The fog pulled back, leaving dampness on the surrounding vegetation. She filled her lungs with the fresh air. Birds chattered from distant trees, while white boulder-like objects dotting the hillside started moving. The lambs bleated, signaling an empty stomach.
Beth settled comfortably on a log, taking her breakfast from her pocket. The scones filled with currants melted in her mouth, reminding Beth of the bakery in Oxford during her university years. She devoured the pastry, wiping her hands on her jeans. Taking the book out of her pocket, she opened it at random. “The choice must be made,” the passage began. “It would affect the lives of countless others for years to come. After listening to all his advisors, the prime minister left the room and retreated to his private office.”
Closing the book, Beth put it back in her jacket. Why am I reading this? Trying to escape from the real world into the world of fiction?
Beth felt she knew these characters better than she knew herself. This afternoon she’d meet the author, the real Bala Foresight.
As Beth sat thinking of the trip to London, she studied the stirrings of life in the valley below. The sheep had fully awakened and assembled in a loose flock. A dog worked the fringe, a constant reminder to those who dared to stray.
Her thoughts turned to the unopened letter waiting back home and the labyrinthine circumstances that had shaped her life to this point. She was now at a crossroads. Her eyes closed tightly as she opened her heart for an answer.
During the prepublication period, some who read the full text remarked: