Having fled a relationship and a previous life she would rather forget, young teacher Jennifer Stevens throws herself into a demanding new job at Brentwell Primary. Charged with marshalling a group of unruly eight-year-olds to the autumn harvest festival, her only solace is the peace of nearby Sycamore Park.
As the evenings draw in and the leaves begin to fall, will new friends, delicious autumn treats, and a possible new man on the orange-tinted horizon help Jennifer finally come to terms with her past and begin to look forward into the future?
Autumn at Sycamore Park is another delightful romantic comedy from CP Ward, author of several popular seasonally themed novels. Set against a backdrop of warm autumn days, it offers everything fans of CP Ward’s other books have come to love: laughter, friendship, good times, and a hint of newly discovered love.
Jennifer meets Angela for the first time
From here you could see the whole park. The main walking path made a complete circle, with numerous other pathways leading to monuments or secluded play areas. To the south and east, the surrounding streets were residential, with the thickest patch of trees and the theatre over to the west. To the north, a small car park stood beside the library, a two-storey Georgian building. Outside were a newspaper stand and a couple of other stalls, now closed. Down a small, tree-lined side road on the library’s right, tables and chairs were set out on a pedestrian-only street, a signboard Jennifer couldn’t read at this distance standing among them.
‘Shall we go and take a look?’ Jennifer said to the little dog, who had sat down on the grass and was watching her, tongue lolling. ‘Might be a bit more interesting than dinner out of a plastic packet. Do you think James will mind?’
The dog gave her a little bark and wagged his tail. Of course the cat wouldn’t mind.
‘Let’s go, then.’
She attached Bonky’s harness again and headed down the slope. The library was closed—at six p.m., a sign on the door said—but the little café appeared to be open, even though no one was sitting outside. Jennifer paused, looking at the sign over the door.
Oak Leaf Café.
The front was wood paneled with the name carved into a larger piece over the door. The tables were also wooden, and while Jennifer suspected they were pine rather than oak, each had a little vase of autumn twigs and leaves in the centre, adding to the quaintness. Next to a triangular menu, salt and pepper pots were also made out of wood.
‘What do you think?’ she said to the little dog, who appeared insistent on inspecting each chair leg in turn. ‘Although, it’s a little chilly.’
‘Feel free to bring the little guy inside,’ came a voice from the doorway, and Jennifer looked up to see a middle-aged woman leaning on the door frame, wearing a maple leaf-designed apron over jeans and a white t-shirt. Grey-flecked light brown hair was tied back into a ponytail. Bright green eyes sparkled through the glasses she wore, and a face that still retained a hint of youthful beauty gave Jennifer a warm smile.
‘Oh, would that be all right?’
The woman waved. ‘Sure. I’ve even got some food out the back somewhere if he’s hungry.’
‘Well, thank you.’
‘Come in and have a look at the menu if you’re interested. I love the wind off the park in this season, but it gets a little chilly once the sun goes behind the theatre.’
Jennifer went into a pretty, wood-paneled interior. Six wooden tables stood neatly arranged in front of a countertop. In little nooks and alcoves, pots of dried flowers stood, giving off a gentle lavender aroma. On the wall, framed posters identified various varieties of pumpkins and squashes. Antique cooking pots and utensils lined shelves in front of the windows delicately framed with lace curtains.
One table by the window had a view of Sycamore Park. ‘That one,’ Jennifer said. ‘I’d like to sit there, please.’
‘Take your pick,’ the woman said. ‘We’re not exactly bursting at the seams.’ She smiled again. ‘My name is Angela. Angela Dawson. With only the two of us here, I don’t think it would be proper to remain strangers, would it?’
‘I suppose not. I’m Jennifer. Jennifer Stevens. I just moved to Brentwell. Yesterday, actually. I work at the local primary. Today was my first day.’
‘Busy times! I don’t know how you young people handle it. I get tired just walking around the park in the morning. And who’s this little guy?’
Angela bent down to pet Bonky, who lapped up the attention with a frantic wag of his tail.
‘Ah, his name is Bonky. He’s two years old.’
‘I had a toy poodle as a child, many, many years ago. Lovely little things.’ Angela stood up. ‘Bonky? That’s … interesting.’
For the first year or so, Jennifer had always felt a flush off embarrassment telling people the name of her dog, but she had got used to it. After all, it was just a name, albeit a little unusual.
‘Yeah, the kids at my old school chose it. I was having a few issues with some of them, and I thought getting them to choose the name for my dog would be a form of bonding. I was expecting something generic like Harry or Rover, but … nope. Bonky. They came up with Bonky.’ She shrugged. ‘And so it stuck.’
‘Well, it’s kind of cute, isn’t it?’
About the author
CP Ward is an author from the UK who currently lives and works in Japan.
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