The Wait

Ginny was vaguely aware of the children’s laughter all around her but, she wasn’t really watching them. They were playing cricket, football, tag and any number of other playground games; a small group quite close to her were simply rolling down the slope which led to The Lawn, squealing with delight as they descended. She sat on the bank, cuddling her knees, lost deep in her thoughts, her presence barely registering with those around her as she nursed her broken heart. Matthew Felton had not arrived.
She had met Matthew at her first Greenbelt, six years previously. She had stopped her car in ‘the lanes’ on that first Friday morning, and the old banger had refused to move another inch. Everyone was very lovely, very polite. Assuring her it was no problem as they quietly manoeuvred their cars around hers and made their way onto the campsite. She had been distraught. She’d been looking forward to the festival for months, secretly saving her house-keeping so Jeffrey wouldn’t notice. Getting more and more excited as each new speaker or band was announced. But now it was all ruined. She’d never be able to hide a brake down from him, not to mention the cost of the repairs. Ginny had been terrified and wondered why she’d let Gerry talk her into coming in the first place. Never mind that the timing of the festival had been perfect.
Each August bank holiday Jeffrey visited his mother in Taunton, she wasn’t allowed to join him – his mother couldn’t cope with her childish sense of humour. Jeffrey thought she was at home doing the annual ‘autumn clean’ in preparation for Christmas. She had worked almost non-stop so his expectations wouldn’t be disappointed just so she could take the three days off for the festival, but she had decided it would be worth it. It had been her friend Gerry’s fault. She’d popped round for coffee one day at the wrong time and caught Jeffrey telling her off for not having completed her day’s tasks. Gerry had been appalled but, worse than that, when she had asked Ginny if his behaviour was normal it had been like a scab coming off a particularly nasty, festering wound. Ginny had poured out all the pain and frustration caused by the previous three years of marriage to the sophisticated older man, who had been so loving and considerate whilst they were dating but had become manipulative and cruel behind closed doors.
Gerry had urged her to leave him. She’d even given her a phone number she could ring to get help but it hadn’t felt right to Ginny. She had made promises to God that she would stay with this man for life and she intended to keep those promises and trust God that things would work out for the better.
Matthew Felton had been her first glimpse that God was planning on honouring his end of the bargain. She’d been sitting on the bonnet watching the other campers slowly drive pass, acknowledging their well-wishes and exhortations it would all be okay when he’d appeared. He’d asked her what the problem was and, when she’d admitted she hadn’t got a clue, he’d offered to take a look for her. He was an RAC man in real life, he’d told her as he rooted under her bonnet. He had diagnosed the problem as a broken spark plug, disappeared to buy her some and then had her car purring like a kitten in under an hour. That first Greenbelt he had been her knight in shining armour, vanquishing the dragon of her fear and making it possible for her to enjoy setting up her borrowed tent. She’d met him again dancing for all she was worth in the mosh pit at the Delirious set Saturday night and bought him a drink at the YMCA to say thank you for rescuing her.
It was the beginning of a wonderful, annual friendship, which they renewed each Greenbelt. Ginny wished she’d had Matthew’s listening ear and advice through-out her year, but she daren’t contact him outside of her secret festival. Jeffrey monitored their computer and refused to allow her a mobile phone of her own, his growing jealousy meant even her contact with Gerry was suspect. As the years went by Jeffrey wove his web tighter and tighter around her life, leaving her with no one to confide in, apart from the one week in the year he ignored her and devoted himself fully to his sainted mother.
On her second year they met, by accident, in G-Source as she was enjoying the freedom, knitting a little square for a peace blanket at the Quaker’s stall. He seemed genuinely pleased to see her, even trying his hand at the new craft so he could join her. It was here that he first suggested Ginny volunteer so she could get her ticket for free. He told her if she volunteered in a pre-festival team she could still enjoy the whole festival and have some of her food paid for. When she explained she had to clean the house before she came he suggested she use some of the money she’d save to pay for a cleaning service to do it for her and it had felt very naughty, the third year, when she did exactly that.
As her marriage reached its seventh year, Greenbelt became her retreat, her place of safety. The space where she could remember who she was, be reassured God hadn’t forgotten her and revitalised into caring about the things going on in the world around her. Her friendship with Matt became the cherry on the icing on the cake of her joy. She looked forward to telling him all about what she had done in the previous year. The stories she had written, the letters she’d had published (using a pen name, obviously).
The eighth year had been particularly bad. Jeffrey’s jealousy had reached new heights. He’d even taken them out of the church where they had met and joined an online house church, based in America which piped its services and teachings direct to their house via the internet, meaning her one opportunity to speak to other people was removed. Greenbelt had enabled her to renew her fellowship with God’s wider family, helped centre her mind and reassured her she was correct in her assessment of the teaching she was now being fed. Matthew and she devised a prayer diary for the year so she would know that at least one person was praying for her as she held onto the vows she had made. She found Greenbelt that year the hardest to leave. She and Matt had packed up her tent with heavy hearts, which they tried to hide from each other. They had joked about the weather, and the amount of gas cylinders she had packed. They had walked down to the race-course one last time to donate her left over food and then he had helped her lug her things up to the car park and, somehow, squeeze it all into the boot. She was grateful for his support, especially as she knew he didn’t agree with her decision to remain in her marriage, but it did make driving away almost physically painful. She knew he could feel it too. In the end it was focussing on the next year’s festival, and their next meeting, which had made it possible for her to start the car.
Then in October she had checked the Greenbelt website and seen the news the festival was moving. The building work at Cheltenham had been impossible to miss and she, Matt and almost everyone else had enjoyed speculating as to what it might mean for the festival but still, it was a shock. It brought so much uncertainty into her mind, where would they go? Would she be able to get there? Would she still be able to volunteer? And the question that kept her up at night, would Matt be there? With no safe way of contacting him she wouldn’t know; she’d just have to wait and hope.
During the run up to Christmas Jeffrey became obsessed with finance, even more than usual and, as part of his economy drive, he finally found an excuse to take her car. After all, she no longer worked and he could always drive her to the shops. Ginny wondered how she would ever save up enough for the train fare for Greenbelt.
In February she was able to check the website again and found that the festival would be moving to Boughton House, close to Kettering. Her heart sang; it was so close to home. Not even two hours away. She started to plan just how light she could travel then, in March, her world disintegrated.
Jeffrey arrived home from work, barged past her and locked himself in their bedroom. He ignored her pleas to talk and refused to open the door. She could hear cupboards and draws banging, he was obviously packing. Not wanting to wake his anger she left him to it and went downstairs to wait until he was ready to tell her what was going on.
The doorbell rang.
Jeffrey crashed out of their bedroom and yelled at her not to answer it so she stayed in the front room.
A few minutes later the charming, sophisticated Jeffrey she had married entered the room, closely followed by a tall, smartly dressed woman with brunette hair and large brown eyes. He had told her that he had left her bags by the front door. That their marriage was over and he would be filing for divorce in the morning. She was stunned. He steered her forcibly to the door and closed it firmly behind her, leaving her on the doorstep with her cases.
Those first few weeks had been a blur. Gerry had taken her in, found her a Christian solicitor who refused to let Jeffrey Smythe have things all his own way and generally helped her to put her life back together again.
Before she knew it the August bank holiday was looming large and, with it, Greenbelt. Gerry insisted on lending Ginny her car so, for the first time in six years, Ginny had felt carefree as she headed down the A14 to the festival’s new home.
She had unpacked her tent in the beautiful new parkland surrounded by trees under large, empty clouds. The volunteers’ field was almost empty; it was, after all, only Tuesday. She had half expected to find Matthew already there, though, and she felt slightly deflated as she crawled into her sleeping bag later that day, but consoled herself with the knowledge he’d definitely be there tomorrow.
It was with a spring in her step that she went up to the volunteer lounge for her team briefing the next morning. Volunteers’ Reception was the best team in the world, she had decided long ago. The guys who led the team always brought copious sweets and made sure they all had coffee coming out of their ears and she got to spend the day welcoming the people who really wanted to be here as they arrived. They had a natter about the changes the new site dictated, like the need for six hour shifts and larger teams, but all Ginny could think about was getting to the front desk and being there as Matthew arrived.
She was momentarily distracted when they went for a walk-round of the site; it was stunning and majestic. The grand house smiled down a long, plush lawn just to the side of the big top and the main village street. The mirrored surface of the lake reflected the beautiful blue sky and the symmetry of The Mount and Orpheus were breath-taking. All in all, Boughton seemed to be saying ‘welcome home’.
Finally it was time for her shift to begin. She perched eagerly on top of her stall, happily welcoming familiar faces, signing them in and bubbling over with enthusiasm for the new site, all the while anticipating the moment when she’d see Matthew.
She was surprised when Sophia came to relieve her, she hadn’t realised she’d been there six hours for one thing. She hung around for a little while but, space in the box office was short, split between so many teams as it was, and it soon became apparent to Ginny that she was in the way. She began the long walk back down to the campsite, the country air and beautiful views reviving her spirit to such an extent that by the time the tents came into view she had convinced herself Matthew may well have decided to pitch first and register later. He hadn’t, but the other friends she’d made year after year had and, having found her tent, had camped around her. Her evenings weren’t lonely anymore, she had good friends she knew she would now be able to stay in touch with all year round.
Thursday and Friday came and went by in a rotation of eating, laughing and working but still no Matthew. By the end of her final shift she had almost succeeded in convincing herself that even if he wasn’t volunteering this year, he’d still come. She’d be bound to bump into him.
Close by a boy yelled at his parent’s to watch him roll down the hill; his insistence broke through her thoughts. As the year had progressed Ginny had realised that her feelings for Matthew had progressed too. Was God punishing her for her suppressed desires she wondered. It was Sunday afternoon. She had had a wonderful festival. For the first time she’d been able to swap phone numbers and email addresses; G-Source had held new meaning for her as she realised she could finally commit to getting involved in some of the campaigns close to her heart. She had enjoyed buying little fairtrade trinkets to furnish the flat she knew she’d have by this time next year; she’d drunk hot chocolate at The Tank, whose four clocks still shouted the time, and hot apple and cinnamon at the Tiny Tea Tent. She’d discovered new music and revisited old favourites. She had cried at Martyn Joseph’s new song, Half A Man, which had made her want to hug him. She had shared wine with her friends and enjoyed the communion service immensely but, for her, Greenbelt was incomplete.
“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” A familiar voice behind her asked.
She turned and her happiness was complete.

http://www.hellenriebold.com

@hellenriebold

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