A Staggering Psychological Narrative with Numerous Unanticipated Twists

We just needed a place to get away from it all. That was the reason why I decided to book a night’s stay at the converted barn house in the Kent Downs, a part of England designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a part of the country that plenty of other people have enjoyed a quiet getaway in over the years.

I’ve never been so far down south before, spending all my thirty-nine years of life well north of Birmingham, excluding several trips abroad to sunnier climes.

But I’ve well and truly hit the road today, as has my husband, Aidan, as we’ve made our way along the motorway from Yorkshire, navigated a few of the chaotic roads leading in and out of London and eventually, made it into the county nicknamed ‘The Garden of England’. Such an illustrious title conjures up images of colourful flowers and rolling green hills, and that’s mainly what I’ve seen through my passenger window as our car has moved through this area.

There were plenty of pretty towns on the way that the pair of us could have stopped at for a snack and a chance to stretch our legs, but we kept going, and now we are very close to our final destination, which is the barn house we have rented for tonight for what could be considered quite an extortionate price.

Then again, you get what you pay for, and we are more than happy to pay a little extra to get the kind of accommodation that suits our fairly demanding needs. This trip has been undertaken as more of a necessity than a random splurge, borne of a desire for my partner and me to get away before things got too much and life consumed us.

But doesn’t everybody feel like that from time to time? Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Desperate for a change of scene and eager to disconnect from the real world for a limited amount of time. Aidan and I certainly felt that way, which is why I made this booking, and I’m glad I did because I feel better already, and we’re not even there yet.

We’re currently about twenty miles away from the barn house, having stopped at a service station to refuel and have a comfort break. Aidan has filled up the tank with petrol, and we’ve both visited the bathrooms here, but I’m the only one who is ready to get on the road again.

My husband is still inside the service station because, much to my chagrin, he decided to go into one of the shops inside and buy snacks. I told him we didn’t need them, but would he listen?

Apparently, he has gone as far as he can on this journey before he needs to load up with calorific crisps and chocolate, and I’m sure that whatever he brings back to this car will work wonders in adding a few inches to his ever-expanding waistline.

But the food will most likely do the same to my waistline, too, because even though I don’t want anything to eat, I know I’ll be unable to resist tucking into something when Aidan is back in the car and gorging himself in the driver’s seat beside me.

Keeping a lookout for him, I see several people exit the service station and make their way to their vehicles, but my husband is not among them. I have no idea what is taking him so long in there, but there’s not much I can do to speed him up, so I’ll just have to wait. At least we do have a little time to spare because we’re not allowed into the barn house for another half an hour.

I’m glad that I opted for the early check-in because otherwise, we would have had to wait until 3 pm to go inside.

But by selecting the midday option, it means it won’t be long until we’re inside the barn house with our feet up and a very quiet afternoon and evening ahead of us, which is just what we both need.

Aidan and I have worked too much recently, and we have both reached the point of burnout, that deceptively dangerous state of exhaustion caused by spending far too long a period being subjected to mental and physical stress. We run a business together, and while it seemed like a good idea at the time we started it, little did we know just how much it was going to take out of the two of us.

What started out as a seemingly good idea quickly descended into far too much time spent dealing with finances, clients and paperwork, and while it crept up on us, it reached the point when we both realised we couldn’t carry on as we were. Something had to change, and that something has led us here, to the Kent countryside, not too far from the white cliffs of Dover, a sight I might catch a glimpse of during our time in this part of the world.

Booking a night at the barn house that comes recommended by friends and has such good reviews has been long overdue, but now it’s finally happening. But it’s not only the comfortable interior of the barn or the idyllic setting it is placed in that has us looking forward to being there so much. It’s also the fact that it is known as one of those places that are ‘technology free’.

That means there are no electronic devices in the property, making it impossible to be in contact with the outside world or be contacted by anybody else in it. No phone calls. No emails. No text messages. No internet. No television. No mobile phone signal. Complete and utter quiet. Fully off the grid. Proper peace. Such a thing was important to us.

Truth be told, it was a non-negotiable rather than an added extra. The only way Aidan and I will be able to enjoy ourselves is if we can’t be reached by anybody else, nor find ourselves picking up our mobiles and looking for something to occupy our tired minds with on there.

The main reason a night at the barn house is so expensive is because of how much effort has gone into making it a place where guests can truly unwind, and the couple who own the property certainly struck gold when they had the idea, that’s for sure. It’s not easy to reserve a stay, but we’re about to join the lucky few who have managed to get in, and soon, we’ll be experiencing all the barn house has to offer.

‘Come on, what are you doing?’ I say under my breath as I continue to wait for Aidan to emerge from inside the service station. He’s taking an awfully long time, but there might just be a big queue at the checkout, and there’s always somebody who slows everybody else down by taking an age to pay for their goods. I’m sure he’ll be out any second now, appearing with a shopping bag in hand and a big smile on his face. That’s one thing I envy about my husband: his boundless positivity.

He can find something to be happy about in the worst of situations, whereas I’ve always been more the kind of person who constantly worries. Sometimes, I am more than entitled to be worried, but I’m the same even if things are going well because in those moments, I’m wondering how long it will last until things go wrong again.

But Aidan has a relaxed, optimistic way about him, believing things will always work out well in the end, and as I suddenly spot him walking out behind a rotund man in an unflattering green overcoat, I am right with my prediction. He does have a shopping bag in his hand and a big smile on his face.

I would laugh at his silly grin if I wasn’t so irritated at him for taking ages in the service station and making this long journey last even longer than it should, but that would only encourage him, and he certainly doesn’t need any more encouragement. He knows he’s a handsome guy and that, mixed with his chirpy demeanour, has meant that he has gone through most of his life with other people not only liking him, but doing whatever he says.

But while he did admittedly charm me when we first met, I’ve built up somewhat of an immunity to his personality and looks, admiring them when I want to but also having the choice to not be swayed when I choose not to be. Maybe that’s why it’s me sitting in this car now with the wedding ring on my finger rather than any of the other women he was with in his past.

He can’t control me as well as his exes. I give as good as I get, and I challenge him as much as he challenges me.

At least, that’s what I like to think anyway. Then again, maybe I’m the one he ultimately chose to be with forever because I looked good in a minidress and turned his head the night he met me as I breezed past him in a blur of blonde hair, white teeth and red lipstick. However, one thing is for sure as I observe Aidan crossing the car park towards me.

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