26 Years Ago
Benjamin Pickering led his new bride down the aisle of the small church. Annette Pickering was dressed in a flowing white wedding gown, adorned with pink flowers.
“I love you, Mr Pickering,” Annette said as they stepped out into the sunshine and down the front steps of the church.
“I love you more, Mrs Pickering.” Benjamin kissed his wife.
“Hold it right there, you two,” they both heard a familiar voice say. Valerie Pickering held a camera up to her face and took a few shots. “You both look beautiful,” she said.
“I’m so glad that you were able to make it today, Val.” Annette gave Valerie a hug.
“I wouldn’t have missed my brother’s wedding for the world,” Valerie said, smiling at Benjamin.
“How long are you planning on staying in town?” Annette asked.
“I’m not sure yet, but I just feel so at home here.” Valerie wound the film on her camera and took a few more shots of the newlywed couple. “I’m in no hurry to return to Holgate just yet.”
“Well, you can stay with us for as long as you want,” Annette offered her new sister-in-law.
Benjamin smiled at his new wife, before grabbing his sister’s hand. “Well, maybe for a little while.”
Annette slapped her hand gently across Benjamin’s arm. “Don’t listen to him, Val. It will be great to have you around. I’m sure you and Benjamin have much to catch up on.”
“That we do.” Valerie took another photo. “I have much to tell you.”
“Happy birthday!” the small congregation shouted as Valerie Pickering walked in the front doors of The Grand Hotel. Benjamin and Annette Pickering, along with a few other locals had gathered at the bar to help celebrate Valerie’s 30th birthday.
Valerie held her hands up to her mouth, letting out a small gasp. “What a surprise. I didn’t expect any of this.”
“You deserve it, Val.” Annette held her hands out to offer Valerie a hug. “We’re all so happy for you.”
In the four short months since Benjamin and Annette’s wedding, Valerie Pickering had made herself at home in the small town of Peppercorn Patch. She loved living in the small town, so much so that she had purchased The Grand Hotel along with her brother.
“You two are going to make a great team,” Annette said, referring to Benjamin and Valerie’s new venture together.
“Val will do a great job,” Valerie’s younger brother said. “When I start my new job in the local council next week she’s going to be flying solo.”
A pregnant Constance Helling joined the trio and gave Valerie a hug. “Welcome to my town,” she said. “I’m sure we’re going to be best friends.”
Valerie caught Annette roll her eyes, before turning away to mingle with the other guests.
“Have you owned a bar before?” Constance continued. “Do you know what you’re doing?”
“I managed a bar in Holgate for the last 5 years,” Valerie replied.
“Here,” Constance said, passing Valerie a glass of champagne, “have a drink.”
“Oh, no.” Valerie pushed the glass away. “I don’t drink.”
“That’s unfortunate,” Constance remarked, turning from Valerie suddenly, and facing Benjamin. “Annette told me.” She grabbed a hold of his hands.
“It’s okay,” Benjamin said. “I’m sure there are other options.”
“Life is just not fair sometimes,” Constance pouted. “The two of you should be able to have a child together.”
After months of trying to have a baby, Benjamin and Annette had only recently found out that they would not be able to have one. Annette was unable to conceive her own child.
“They could always adopt,” Valerie offered.
“No, you need a child of your own, Ben,” Constance persisted.
“But we can’t have one,” Benjamin said solemnly.
“There are ways, Ben. Come and see me at the hospital. There’s a new doctor in town and apparently he has done some great things.”
“I’m so glad you came to see him,” Constance Helling said excitedly to the couple in front of her. “It’s going to be great, I just know it.”
Constance looked at her watch before giving Benjamin and Annette a smile. “I’ve got to get back to work. Let me know how it goes.” Nurse Constance disappeared down the hospital corridor leaving the Pickering couple sitting in the waiting room.
“What are you thinking?” Benjamin turned and asked his wife.
“If it’s possible to have our own baby, then I’m willing to try anything,” Annette replied, as the office door opened.
“I’m Doctor Peter Smith,” the new doctor in town introduced himself to the couple. “Nice to meet the both of you.”
Doctor Smith talked the couple through having a child using IVF. Benjamin and Annette were very excited about the prospect of being able to have a baby of their own.
“All you need is an egg donor,” Doctor Smith continued, “and I have someone in mind for you.”
“I think we’d like to meet anyone who we decide to do this with,” Benjamin said.
“Of course. I can arrange for her to meet you both.”
Sylvia Jessop leaned over the table to shake Benjamin and Annette’s hands. Her red hair fell down over her face, before she brushed it back with her other hand. “I’m so excited for you both,” she said.
“Thanks for offering to help us out,” Annette said.
“Don’t mention it.” Sylvia smiled at the couple. “I’m happy to help out.”
“It would mean the world for us to have our own child,” Benjamin admitted.
“You both deserve it,” Doctor Smith said. “Let’s capture this joyous moment.” He picked up a Polaroid camera and took a photo of Sylvia Jessop flanked on either side by the happy couple.
Sylvia Jessop’s red dress dominated the photograph.
Thomas Elias Helling was born in December of 1989. Constance Helling had named Valerie Pickering his godmother.
“He’s beautiful,” Valerie said as she held the small baby in her arms.
“I still can’t believe he’s mine,” Constance whispered from her hospital bed.
“He looks just like…” Valerie started to say, before stopping herself.
“Looks like who?” Constance asked. “What were you going to say?”
“Nothing,” Valerie handed baby Thomas back to Constance. “He just reminds me of another baby I once knew.”
“Whose baby?” Constance was ever the inquisitive one.
Valerie sat down slowly on the chair next to the bed, held her hands steady in her lap and closed her eyes.
“What is it Val?” Constance asked.
“It was my baby,” Valerie confessed. “I had a baby 10 years ago.”
“You have a child?” Constance said, surprised.
“Yes, I couldn’t take care of it myself. I gave it up for adoption. I’ve never told anyone before.”
“That must have been hard,” Constance said, holding her own baby closer to her body.
“That’s why I’m here.” Valerie stared down out of the hospital window over the small town. “I’ve come to Peppercorn Patch to find my child.”
Next Episode – Monday October 26