“Well, I wish you would stop interrupting me while I fill in the empty pages of my pink notebook with gripping stories, I keep losing my thread. Most annoying!” Liz sighed. She wrote Liz snapped at first and then erased it and changed it to Liz sighed. Then she added Liz sighed with the very mildest slight irritation and then became exasperated with the whole thing and told herself to just leave it and try to move on!
But really, Finnley’s timing, as usual! Just as Liz had worked out the direct line to the characters fathers mothers fathers fathers mothers fathers mothers fathers father and mother, Finnley wafts through the scene, making herself conspicuous, and scattering Liz’s tenuous concentration like feathers in the wind.
“And I don’t want to hear a word about apostrophes either,” she added, mentally noting the one in don’t.
“Good God, Gordon, you’re smoking a pipe!” It was an astonishing sight. “What an astonishing sight! Where are your nuts?”
“Well, it’s like this,” Gordon grinned, “I’ve been eating nuts in every scene for, how long? I just can’t face another nut.”
Liz barked out a loud cackle. “You think that’s bad, have you seen what they keep dressing me in? Anyway, ” she asked, “What do you mean clever and you see what I’m doing? What am I doing?”
“The code, of course! I spotted it right away,” Gordon replied smugly.
Finnley heaved herself out of the pool and walked over to Liz and Gordon. (is it Gordon or Godfrey? Liz felt the cold tendrils of dread that she had somehow gone off the track and would have to retrace her steps and get in a fearful muddle Oh no! )
A splat of blue algae across her face, as Finnley flicked the sodden strands of dyed debris off that clung to her hair and body, halted the train of thought that Liz had embarked on, and came to an abrupt collision with a harmless wet fish, you could say, as it’s shorter than saying an abrupt collision with a bit of dyed blue algae.
“What was in that blue dye?”JibParticipant
‘What are you doing?’ asked Liz, horrified.
‘Don’t you know the price of a session at the Blue Algae Therapy Health Center?’ Finnley asked, her voice muffled by the mask.
‘Why the full bathing suit then?’
‘It’s a permanent blue dye for leather.’JibParticipant
Today the planets are aligned, thought Liz as she looked at the blue sky out the French door. The frills of her glitter pink Charnel bathing suit wiggled with excitement.
It was one of those rare days of this summer where rain wasn’t pouring somewhere in the garden. Every single day: clouds, clouds, clouds. If they weren’t above the mansion, they were above the pool. If they weren’t above the pool, they were flooding the lawn in between the mansion and the pool.
But today, the sun had risen in a sky free of clouds and Liz was determined to have that dip in the newly repaired swimming pool with a watermelon mojito served by Roberto in his shiny leather speedo. The pool had been half frozen half boiling for so long that they had forgotten the swimming part. Once fixed, the summer had turned into a mid season rainy weather.
Liz looked at her pink notebook lying on the coffee table. Resisting the temptation to fill in the empty pages with gripping stories, she hopped on the patio, flounces bouncing and her goocci flip-flops clacking. With a sparkling foot, Liz tested the grass. It was dry enough, which meant she would not inadvertently walk on a slug or a snail. She particularly hated the cracking noise and the wetness afterward under her feet.
‘What happened?’ she asked in front of the disaster.
Roberto shrugged, obviously overwhelmed by the goo.
‘Green algae’, said Godfrey popping up out of nowhere with a handful of cashews. ‘The ice and fire had kept it at bay for some time. But once it was back to normal the pool was a perfect environment for their development. I already called the maintenance company. They come next week.’
‘What? Next week?’
‘Yes. That’s sad. It’s the season. We are not the only ones to have that problem.’
That said he threw a cashew in his mouth and popped back to nowhere he came from.
“Not so fast!” Glor muttered grimly, grabbing a flapping retreating arm of each of her friends, and yanking them to her sides. “Now’s our chance. It’s a trap, dontcha see? They got the wind up, and they’re gonna round us all up, it don’t bear thinking about what they’ll do next!”
With her free hand Mavis felt Gloria’s forehead, her palm slipping unpleasantly over the feverish salty slick. “Her’s deplirious, Sha, not right in the ‘ead, the ‘eat’s got to her. Solar over dose or whatever they call it nowadays.”
“I’m trying to save you!” screeched Gloria, her head exploding in exasperation. She took a deep breath. Told herself to stop screeching like that, wasn’t helping her cause. Should she just let go of Sharon’s arm?
Mavis started trying to take the pulse on Glor’s restraining wrists, provoking Gloria beyond endurance, and she lashed out and slapped Mavis’s free hand away, unintentionally freeing Sharon from her grasp. This further upset the balance and Gloria tumbled into Mavis at the moment of slapping her hand, causing a considerably more forceful manoeuvre than was intended.
Mavis scrambled to her feet and backed away slowly, nursing her hand, wide eyed and slack jawed in astonishment.
Where was this going?
“I was ‘anging onto his bloody arm for dear life and the strangest thing you will never believe ….” Glor paused dramatically.
“If yer will both ‘ush, I’ll tell ya.” Glor folded her arms and looked at her friends sternly. “His arm didn’t feel right. It felt like one of them dolls they put in shops with the fancy clothes on. Wot do you call them?”
“Wot yer on about, Sha? Youse feeling alright?” Mavis slapped a hand to Glor’s forehead. “A bit ‘ot. Might be the bloody stress got to you. All this escaping nonsense that Sophie is on about. She’s lost ‘er marbles an all if yer ask me. Mind, she must be bloody ninety if she’s a day.”
Glor heaved a loud sigh. Why did she always have to be the brains? “Have you numskuttles ever thought to yerselves that Mr Andrew Anderson is a bit too bloody bootiful? That it ain’t natural?”
Before the others could answer, a loud siren shrieked followed by the doctor’s voice. “EMERGENCY. ASSEMBLE IN THE HALL. I REPEAT. EVERYONE MUST GO WITH HASTE TO THE HALL YOUR LIFE DEPENDS UPON IT.
“I’m not ‘aving this treatment, Mavis, I’ve booked meself in for the spirit chew all mender tations session instead. No need to loook at me like that, our Mavis, I aint going all new agey on yer, just thought I’d give it a try and see if it relaxes me a bit.”
“It’s not all about the body, y’ know!” Glor replied, feeling the futility of trying to make them understand the importance of it to her, or the significance in the wider picture.
“I’m listening,” a melodious voice whispered behind her. Andrew Anderson smiled and looked deep into her squinting eyes as she turned to face him (the sun was going down behind him and it was very hard to see, much to her chagrin).
Gloria, who knees had momentarily turned to jelly, reeled backwards at this surprising change in the conversation, and lost her balance due to her temporarily affected knees. Instinctively she reached out and grabbed Mr Anderson’s arm, and managed to avoid falling to the ground.
She retracted her arm slowly as an increasingly baffled look spread across her face.
Why did his arm feel so peculiar? It felt like a shop mannequin, unyielding, different somehow. Creepy somehow. Glor mumbled, “Sure, later,” and quickly caught up with her friends.
“Hey, You’ll never guess what, wait til I tell yer..” Glor started to tell them about Mr Anderson and then stopped. Would it be futile? Would they understand what she was trying to say?
“I’m listening,” a melodious voice whispered in her ear.
“Not bloody you again! You stalking me, or what?” Visibly rattled, Gloria rushed over to her friends, wondering why every time that weirdo whispered in her ear, she had somehow fallen back and had to catch up again.
She’d have to inform her friends of the danger, but would they listen? They were falling for him and wouldn’t be easily discouraged. They’d be lured to the yacht and not want to escape. The fools! What could she do?
“I’m listening,” the melodious voice whispered.
“Ladies! what are youse all whispering about, eh?”
So engrossed were they in hatching escape plans—although Mavis and Sha were not at all convinced it was a good idea but both agreed it was wise to humour Glor when she got one of her “bloody brainwaves” —they had not seen Mr Andrew Anderson approach. The ladies jumped guiltily apart from their whispering huddle.
“Oh, hello Mr Anderson!” Sha said brightly. She beamed at him, flicking back a stray piece of hair and wishing she had thought to wear her lippy.
“How many times, Sha? It’s Andrew” He winked at them. “What are you gals plotting, eh?” His eyes narrowed playfully.
“I just arrived yesterday. So excited of course to do the erm … treatments. What about you? To be honest, you don’t look like you need any beauty treatments.”
Andrew grinned. “You sure know how to make a fellow feel good, Sophie. Nah, I’m just here to meet up with me mates who live here.” He gestured with his head in the direction of the sea. “Got here a few days ago on my yacht. Take youse out for a spin if you fancy.”
Before Sophie could answer, a loud cry made them turn. It was Berenice, her face red and frantic as she jogged towards them.
“Ladies! Ladies! you are late for your treatment. Make haste please!” She turned to Andrew. “You’ll need to leave now, Mr Anderson,” she said sharply. “This is private property.”
Glor startled. She’d been watching Mavis and Shar through the day-room window. Against her advice, they had joined the outdoor CryoChi class and it really was a hoot watching them gyrating around. All of a sudden though, like a bloody sign, there was a butterfly! Landed on the window ledge and then bumped against the glass like it were trying to get in. Most peculiar. Anyway it had got her thinking about how she was a bit like a butterfly herself. And how she was going to flit around showing off her fine new face. Soon as she got out of here anyway.
“Wot are you pissting about? Gave me a fright you did!” Glor frowned. “I was doing me meditations.”
“Sorry,” said Sophie.
“Sophie, ain’t it? You’re new here?”
“Well don’t you worry. A few beauty treatments and you’ll scrub up alright.” She paused, wondering if there was a kindly way of mentioning the latex. “And maybe a brand new outfit to go with the new face!” It didn’t seem to cheer Sophie up any and Glor sighed. “What were you pissting about anyway, Sophie?”
Sophie looked nervously over her shoulder. “I’m here against my will. In fact, I don’t even know where I am.”
“I said I’m here against my will!”
Glor nodded. “Hubby book you in did he? My first were always threatening to do that if I didn’t tidy myself up. Bastard. He’ll be sorry now though.” She smiled, thinking of the butterfly.
“Go and put the kettle on while I think about this,” Liz instructed Finnley. “A vacation is not a bad idea. A change of air would do us good. Perhaps a nice self catering cottage somewhere in the country…”
“Self catering? And who might that self be that would be doing the catering for you, Liz?”
“I was only thinking of you!” retorted Liz, affronted. “You might get bored in a fancy hotel with nothing to dust!”
“Try me!” snapped Finnley. “You think you know me inside out, don’t you, but I’m just a story character to you, aren’t I? You don’t know me at all! Just the idea you have of a cleaner! I can’t take it anymore!”
“Oh for god’s sake stop blubbering, Finnley, no need to be so dramatic. Where would you like to go?”
“OH, I don’t know, Somewhere sunny and warm, with mountains and beaches, and not too many tourists.”
“Hah! Anywhere nice and warm with mountains and beaches is going to be packed with tourists. If you want a nice quiet holiday with no tourists you’d have to go somewhere cold and horrid.” Liz sniffed. “Everywhere nice in the world is stuffed with tourists. I know! How about a staycation? We can stay right here and you can make us a nice picnic every day to eat on the lawn.”
“I say, there is no need to be rude! I could sack you for that!”
“Yes but you won’t. Nobody else would work for you, and you know it.”
“Yes well there is that,” Liz had to admit, sighing. “Well then, YOU choose somewhere. You decide. I am putty in your sweaty hands, willing to bend to your every whim. Just to keep the peace.”
“You were listening, Finnley!” said Liz barely able to hide her surprise. It had been a long time since anyone had listened to her. Godfrey said it was because she mostly talked nonsense. He’d smiled kindly and handed her a doughnut to soften the harsh words, but it had stung nonetheless.
Finnley rolled her eyes. “I told you already, I’ve turned over a new leaf. Since my brush with … ” She lowered her voice dramatically as her eyes slid around the room. “… death.”
“Death! Oh, you really are ridiculous and very dramatic, Finnley. And why are you squinting like that? It’s most unattractive.” Liz paused. Should she mention the hair? Finnley could be so sensitive about her appearance. Oh dear lord, now the silly girl is crying!
“Speaking of leaves, you can wipe your nose with that. Now, Finnley, I always say, it does no good to cry over milk which has been spilled. The question is, where to from here?”
Ay, the framework knittin’ were ‘ard work, but it were our own, and better by a mile than what come next. We ‘ad the frame in our home and all the family helped, the girls’d be the seamers and the spool threaders and many a fine stocking we made in our cottages, until those industrialists and capitalists came to our fair dales with their factories and such and took our livelihoods from under our noses.
We ‘ad a needle maker in our village, a miller and a baker, and a dressmaker. We ‘ad farms and a dairy and a butcher, and all the old families in our parish ‘ad their place. There’s always those that find work hard, and those that find it rewarding, but even them as found the framework knittin’ ‘ard soon changed their tune about the framework knittin’ being hard when they was doubled over under gods green earth all the day long in the coal mines.
Ay, the changes wrought upon our fair parish wreaked an unholy disruption upon the face of village life. It were the inclosures act what started our downfall, when our common land was took from us, that were indeed the beginning of the end of our fine community of largely honest souls, and even the good nature of the gent from the hall and the Parish poor fund couldn’t halt the downfall.
Ay and I’ve traveled to the future and seen the ungoldy sight of it now. The old farm on the turnpike road surrounded now by house upon house and not an onion nor a carrot to be seen growing in their gardens, and the fronts all hardened floors for those contraptions they move around in, and empty all day long with not a sign of life until nightfall when they all come home and go inside and shut the doors, and never a one passing the time of day with their neighbours over the garden fence, and not a chicken or a cow in sight.
There’s no needlemaker now, and the mill’s been knocked down, and there are painted lines on all the hard roads, although I will say that ugly as they are they don’t get near so rutted and muddy when the weather’s bad.
I can’t stay long when I visit the future with that woman who comes to call upon us asking questions. I can’t stay long at all.
I hope all this social media as they call it stands the test of time because little things like this are priceless and so few and far between, and someday someone wants to know a little thing like this to paint a picture in their mind. I don’t know if this is one of ours as they say but but he was there too and could even have been one of you or another one of me, the possibilities are endless and the charm of the random snippet is boundless.
“The gallery stairs were honeycombed on
each side by old Jonathan Beniston’s spiked
crutches, and although Jonathan could not
read, he considered himself a valuable
addition to the choir, contributing a sort of
drone bass accompaniment to the melodies. after the style of a bagpipe ” chanter.”
Here’s another one I want to include in my book:
Mr. Joseph Moss, formerly a framework knitter of Woodhouse Lane, for several years kept a Diary of the principal events and incidents in the locality: a most commendable undertaking. It is much to be regretted that so few attempt anything of the kind, so useful, and always interest- ing. Besides the registration of marriages and funerals, we have notices of storms, removals, accidents, sales, robberies, police captures, festivities, re-openings of churches, and many other matters. His record begins in 1855, ^^d ends in 1881, Mr. Moss was a violinist of some ability, and was in great demand at all rural festivities. He was a good singer, and sang (inter alia) ” The Beggar’s Ramble ” with his own local variations^ in good style, and usually with much eclat. The following are a few extracts from his Diary : —
” — July. Restoration of Horsley Church. New weathercock placed on spire by Charles, son of Mr. Anthony Kerry, the builder, on the 31st. A few days later, the south arches of the nave fell down, bringing with it the roofs of nave and south aisle. The pillar next the tower had been under- mined by the making of a grave, and as soon as the gravestone over it was moved the column began to settle : a loud shout was made, and the workmen had only just time to scamper out of the building before the roof and top windows and all came down.”
They found me and locked me up again but I suppose it was going to happen sooner or later. I don’t mind though, I can always plot an escape when I’m ready but the fact is, I was tired after awhile. I needed a rest and so here I am. The weather’s awful so I may as well rest up here for a bit longer. They gave me a shot, too, so I don’t have to wear a mask anymore. Unless I want to wear it as a disguise of course, so I’ll keep a couple for when I escape again.
They gave me a computer to keep me amused and showed me how to do the daftest things I’d never want to do and I thought, what a load of rubbish, just give me a good book, but then this charming little angel of a helper appeared as if by magic and showed me how to do a family tree on this machine. Well! I had no idea such pursuits could be so engrossing, it’s like being the heroine in a detective novel, like writing your own book in a way.
I got off on a sidetrack with the search for one woman in particular and got I tell you I got so sucked inside the story I spent a fortnight in a small village in the north midlands two centuries ago that I had to shake me head to get back to the present for the necessary daily functions. I feel like I could write a book about that fortnight. Two hundred years explored in a fortnight in the search for CH’s mother.
I could write a book on the maternal line and how patriarchy has failed us in the search for our ancestry and blood lines. The changing names, the census status, lack of individual occupation but a mother knows for sure who her children are. And yet we follow paternal lines because the names are easier, but mothers know for sure which child is theirs whereas men can not be as sure as that. Barking up the wrong tree is easy done.
I can’t start writing any of these books at the moment because I’m still trying to find out who won the SK&JH vs ALL the rest of the H family court case in 1873. It seems the youngest son (who was an overseer with questionable accounts) was left out of the will. The executor of the will was his co plaintiff in the court case, a neighbouring land owner, and the whole rest of the family were the defendants. It’s gripping, there are so many twists and turns. This might give us a clue why CH grew up in the B’s house instead of her own. Why did CH’s mothers keep the boys and send two girls to live with another family? How did we end up with the oil painting of CH’s mother? It’s a mystery and I’m having a whale of a time.
Another good thing about my little adventure and then this new hobby is how, as you may have noticed, I’m not half as daft as I was when I was withering away in that place with nothing to do. I mean I know I’m withering away and not going anywhere again now, but on the other hand I’ve just had a fortnights holiday in the nineteenth century, which is more than many can say, even if they’ve been allowed out.
Reddening, Bob stammered, “Yeah, yes, uh, yeah. Um…”
Clara squeezed her grandfathers arm reassuringly. “We’re looking for my friend Nora.” she interrupted, to give him time to compose himself. Poor dear was easily flustered these days. Turning to Will, “She was hiking over to visit us and should have arrived yesterday and she’d have passed right by here, but her phone seems to be dead.”
Will had to think quickly. If he could keep them both here with Nora long enough to get the box ~ or better yet, replace the contents with something else. Yes, that was it! He could take a sack of random stuff to put in the box, and they’d never suspect a thing. He was going to hide the contents in a statue anyway, so he didn’t even need the box.
Spreading his arms wide in welcome and smiling broadly, he said “This is your lucky day! Come inside and I’ll put the kettle on, Nora’s gone up to take some photos of the old ruin, she’ll be back soon.”
Bob and Clara relaxed and returned the smile and allowed themselves to be ushered into the kitchen and seated at the table.
Will lit the gas flame under the soup before filling the kettle with water. They’d be too polite to refuse, if he put a bowl in front of them, and if they didn’t drink it, well then he’d have to resort to plan B. He put a little pinch of powder from a tiny jar into each cup of tea; it wouldn’t hurt and would likely make them more biddable. Then the soup would do the trick.
Will steered the conversation to pleasant banter about the wildflowers on the way up to the ruins that he’d said Nora was visiting, and the birds that were migrating at this time of year, keeping the topics off anything potentially agitating. The tea was starting to take effect and Clara and Bob relaxed and enjoyed the conversation. They sipped the soup without protest, although Bob did grimace a bit at the thought of eating on an agitated stomach. He’d have indigestion for days, but didn’t want to be rude and refuse. He was enjoying the respite from all the vexation, though, and was quite happy for the moment just to let the man prattle on while he ate the damn soup.
“Oh, I think Nora must be back! I just heard her voice!” exclaimed Clara.
Will had heard it too, but he said, “That wasn’t Nora, that was the parrot! It’s a fast leaner, and Nora’s been training it to say things….I tell you what, you stay here and finish your soup, and I’ll go and fetch the parrot.”
“Parrot? What parrot?” Clara and Bob said in unison. They both found it inordinately funny and by the time Will had exited the kitchen, locking the door from the outside, they were hooting and wiping the tears of laughter from their cheeks.
“What the hell was in that tea!” Clara joked, finishing her soup.
What was Nora doing awake already? Will didn’t have to keep her quiet for long, but he needed to keep her quiet now, just until the soup took effect on the others.
Either that or find a parrot.
“I’ll be right back!” Nora told Will, who was stirring a big bubbling pot on the stove. “Need to wash my hands.”
She had a quick look around the bedroom she’d slept in for her missing phone. Nowhere to be found! Maybe she could find Will’s phone when he went out to feed the donkey, and call her phone to try and locate it. Damn, that wouldn’t work either. Will had said there was no network here. That would explain why her phone stopped working when she was alone in the dark woods.
“Smells delicious!” she said brightly, scraping a chair back across the brick floor and seating herself at the kitchen table.
The home made soup was chock full of vegetables and looked and smelled wonderful, but it had a peculiar acrid aftertaste. Nora tried to ignore it, taking gulps of wine in between each mouthful to eliminate the bitterness. She wished it wasn’t soup in a way, so that she’d be able to surreptitiously palm some of it off onto the dogs that were waiting hopefully under the table. If only Will would leave the room for a minute, but he seemed to be watching her every move.
“Very tasty, but I can’t manage another mouthful, it’s so filling,” she said, but Will looked so offended that she sighed and carried on eating. He topped up her wine glass.
By the time Nora had finished the soup, she felt quite nauseous and stood up quickly to head for the bathroom. The room started to spin and she held on to the edge of the table, but it was no good. The spinning didn’t stop and she crashed to the floor, unconscious.
Smiling with satisfaction, Will stood up and walked around the table to where she lay. Shame he’d had to put her to sleep, really she was quite a nice woman and cute, too, in a funny elfin way. He’d started to like her. Plenty of time to get to know her now, anyway. She wouldn’t be going anywhere for awhile.
He picked her up and carried her to the secret room behind his workshop on the other side of the patio. The walls and floor were thick stone, and there were no windows. He laid her on the bench, locked the door, and went back in the house to fetch blankets and bedding and a pile of books for her to read when she came round. Probably not for a good 24 hours he reckoned, somehow she’d managed to eat all the soup. He would put much less in the next batch, just enough to keep her docile and sleepy.
It would only be for a few days, just long enough for him to find that box and move it to a safer location. He’d been entrusted to make sure the contents of the box were preserved for the people in the future, and he was a man of his word.
If they had listened to him in the first place this would never have happened. Burying a box was a risk: all kinds of possibilities existed for a buried box to be accidentally unearthed. He had suggested encasing the contents inside a concrete statue, but they’d ignored him. Well, now was his chance. He was looking forward to making a new statue.
“The same thing happened to me when I was planting trees in Normandy!” Nora laughed.
“Why am I not surprised,” replied Will with a smile.
It did seem to Nora that Will was less surprised that she was at all the similarities in their stories. The way the little anecdotes would bounce back and forth and spark another memory, and another, how many of them were unaccountably bizarre or unusual incidents, was enchanting to Nora. Spellbound and quite giddy with the delight of it. Will, on the other hand, seemed delighted but in a different kind of way.
Nora noticed, but didn’t think any more of it until much later. The ping pong stories continued apace, and she was was gasping for breath by the end of a somewhat longer story, as they made the final ascent to the top of the hill.
“This is what I wanted to show you,” Will said.
Nora woke to the sun streaming in the little dormer window in the attic bedroom. She stretched under the feather quilt and her feet encountered the cool air, an intoxicating contrast to the snug warmth of the bed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept so well and was reluctant to awaken fully and confront the day. She felt peaceful and rested, and oddly, at home.
Unfortunately that thought roused her to sit and frown, and look around the room. The dust was dancing in the sunbeams and rivulets of condensation trickled down the window panes. A small statue of an owl was silhouetted on the sill, and a pitcher of dried herbs or flowers, strands of spider webs sparkled like silver thread between the desiccated buds.
An old whicker chair in the corner was piled with folded blankets and bed linens, and the bookshelf behind it ~ Nora threw back the covers and padded over to the books. Why were they all facing the wall? The spines were at the back, with just the pages showing. Intrigued, Nora extracted a book to see what it was, just as a gentle knock sounded on the door.
Yes? she said, turning, placing the book on top of the pile of bedclothes on the chair, her thoughts now on the events of the previous night.
“I expect you’re ready for some coffee!” Will called brightly. Nora opened the door, smiling. What a nice man he was, making her so welcome, and such a pleasant evening they’d spent, drinking sweet home made wine and sharing stories. It had been late, very late, when he’d shown her to her room. Nora has been tempted to invite him in with her (very tempted if the truth be known) and wasn’t quite sure why she hadn’t.
“I slept so well!” she said, thanking him as he handed her the mug. “It looks like a lovely day today,” she added brightly, and then frowned a little. She didn’t really want to leave. She was supposed to continue her journey, of course she knew that. But she really wanted to stay a little bit longer.
“I’ve got a surprise planned for lunch,” he said, “and something I’d like to show you this morning. No rush!” he added with a twinkly smile.
Nora beamed at him and promptly ditched any thoughts of continuing her trip today.
“No rush” she repeated softly.
Clara breathed a sigh of relief when she saw VanGogh running towards her; in the moonlight he looked like a pale ghost.
“Where’ve you been eh?” she asked as he nuzzled her excitedly. She crouched down to pat him. “And what’s this?” A piece of paper folded into quarters had been tucked into VanGogh’s collar. Clara stood upright and looked uneasily around the garden; a small wind made the leaves rustle and the deep shadows stirred. Clara shivered.
“Clara?” called Bob from the door.
“It’s okay Grandpa, I found him. We’re coming in now.”
In the warm light of the kitchen, Clara showed Bob the piece of paper. “It’s a map, but I don’t know those place names.”
“And it was stuffed into his collar you say?” Bob frowned. “That’s very strange indeed. Who’d of done that?”
Clara shook her head. “It wasn’t Mr Willets because I saw him drive off. But why didn’t VanGogh bark? He always barks when someone comes on the property.”
“You really should tell her about the note,” said Jane. She was perched on the kitchen bench. VanGogh pricked his ears up and wagged his tail as he looked towards her. Bob couldn’t figure out if the dog could see Jane or just somehow sensed her there. He nodded.
“What?” asked Clara.
“There’s something I should tell you, Clara. It’s about that box you found.”
The wardrobe was sitting solidly in the middle of the office, exactly where they had left it.
Or was it?
“I was expecting a room full of middle-aged ladies,” said Star, her voice troubled. She frowned at the wardrobe. “Has it moved a little do you think? I’m sure it was closer to the window before. Or was it smaller. There’s something different about it …”
“Maybe they are inside,” whispered Tara.
“What! All of them?” Star sniggered nervously.
Rosamund was dressed in a silky yellow thing that floated to her ankles. Her feet were bare and her long hair, usually worn loose, was now neatly plaited. Encircling the top of her head was a daisy chain. She smiled gently at Star and Tara. “Peace, my friends.” Dozens of gold bracelets jangled as she extended her hands to them. “Come, my dear friends, let us partake of carrot juice together.”
“Knock, knock! Dinner’s ready!” Clara popped her head around the door to Bob’s room. “What are you doing?” she asked as Bob started and hurriedly put his hand over a small piece of paper.
“Er, nothing, just …” His words trailed off. He smiled brightly at her. “Dinner eh. Smells good. I’ll be right with you.”
Clara’s gaze travelled from Bob’s face to the cardboard box on the bed. “Are you okay? You look strange. What’s in that box?”
“Odds and ends. Just doing a bit of sorting.” He put the piece of paper in the box and placed the lid back on. “Nothing that won’t keep till after dinner.”
“If there are any old photos in the box I’d love to see them.”
“Tell her,” said Jane. There she was, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed near the box. “Go on, tell her about the number.”
Bob shook his head vigorously and Clara regarded him strangely. “Not to worry about photos then,” she said
“You were wishing I was here and now here I am and you aren’t even going to listen to me?” Now Jane was whispering into his ear and he imagined he could almost feel her breath like a feather tickling his cheek—it was all he could do not to laugh. “Tell her or I will.”
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