Thank you for your continued interest 🙂
Here is Chapter Two of my new story (New Fiction Inspiration) – links to Chapter One… I am slowly getting used to WordPress, so, apologies if things are a little ‘all over the place’!
I wrestled with the last paragraph for a few days, after my brother, being an excellent proofreader, along with his fantastic encouragement, pointed out that my original closing sequence gave rather too much away.
We then thought that the revision didn’t quite give enough, so therein lay the problem. After much brainstorming and a good deal of hair pulling, I think it’s now OK and ready for you to have a look at…
Your thoughts and views are most welcome and deeply encouraged 🙂
Again, I will remind the more discerning reader that these are unedited versions and, therefore, likely to have missed capital letters, apostrophe’s etc etc of which I am fully aware and will not publish in ‘real life’ 😉
New Story – Untitled
Olivia gasped as Justin swept her up in his arms and carried her over the threshold of their new home, causing Amber to laugh. Once inside, he set her down and together they looked around them. The photos of the hallway had not done justice to the place.
It was a large hall with a beautiful parquet floor, covered only partially by an enormous rug, old and worn, but clearly of excellent quality. There were several, beautiful, oak doors, all closed and set into the heavy panelling that cladded the hall from floor to ceiling.
In front of them, a magnificent, polished oak staircase, beautifully and ornately carved, rose to the first floor and offered a glimpse of the landing with its matching panelling and open balustrade, before elegantly curving away to the left.
There was a mustiness in the air, an obvious consequence of a house closed up and unused for some time, but it wasnt a damp smell, which Justin, marginally the more sensible of the couple, noticed and was glad of. He had been concerned, to say the least, after learning that the house had been unused for ten years. It was in remarkable condition, someone had clearly been cleaning and airing the house regularly.
“So far, so good” he said, smiling at his wife and the small Amber, who was halfway up the staircase, tapping her shoes on the polished wood.
“This way, honey-pie!” he called to his daughter, not wanting her to run off just yet, until he had had a chance to check the place out and make sure there were no gaps in the bannisters or missing floorboards for her to fall through. There had been no photographs of any of the upstairs rooms in the listing, very few photographs at all, in fact, so they had little idea of what lay ahead.
“Stairs” objected Amber defiantly, and they both laughed at their small daughter, who clearly had designs on the upper floors.
“You go” said Olivia, “I really need a cup of tea” she added, eying the bag of groceries he had dropped on the threshold. “I’m going in search of the kitchen” she winked.
“OK” said Justin, quickly and without argument. He kissed her on her nose and followed the rapidly disappearing Amber up the stairs. She noted the excitement in his voice and smiled; it was like having two children sometimes.
Olivia picked up the bag and scanned the hallway, mentally picturing the layout of the house and deciding which door to choose first. She was struck by the condition of the staircase. It seemed well-cared for, having no dust, as if someone had lovingly polished it daily.
She gingerly turned the round, bakerlite doorknob on the first door to her left, and found herself in a huge room with the same parquet flooring as the hallway. She immediately recognised the lounge from the photograph on the listing, but realised with a gasp, that the agents’ picture didn’t even come close, as she gazed at the enormous window that filled most of the far wall. The view was magnificent, showing an old orchard, wide lawn and the expanse of the sea beyond a low, picket fence, from one side to the other. .
She perched on the window seat and took in the view, a lump in her throat. For several minutes she just stared, not quite believing her eyes, or her luck, in finding this jewel on the very edge of the country.
A slight chill in the air distracted her and, reluctantly, she dragged her eyes from the window to look at the rest of the room. She noted the massive fireplace with a convenient stack of firewood, already picturing the roaring fire in the hearth. The carvings on the plasterwork were exquisite, the drapes rich and heavy, her disbelief at their good fortune made it difficult to take it all in in one go and she had to pinch herself to be sure she wasn’t dreaming. She had almost forgotten that the house was fully furnished; everything covered over in dust sheets and teasing her with their etheral shapes, only giving hints as to what lay beneath.
She was suddenly spurred into action and whizzed around the room like a child, uncovering the furniture, whipping off the sheets and sending little flurries of dust flying into the air. She laughed, gleefully admiring the sofas, occasional tables and a decadent chaise longue, all old but of good quality and luckily, in very good taste. The room began to take on a haze as the sunlight coming through the huge window made shafts in the swirling dust. She began to cough, the dryness in her throat reminding her of her original purpose – tea.
She was sure she remembered, from the listing, that the kitchen was off the hallway, so exited the room, deliberately ignoring the tantalizing door at the other end of the lounge.
Plenty of time for exploring, she thought, hearing, for the first time, the footsteps of her family on the upper floor. Amber would be getting hungry soon, she thought and, retrieving her bag, made her way across the hall to the door opposite the lounge on the other side of the staircase.
The kitchen was glorious, a far cry from her modern, convenience-filled shoebox in the city. Pale oak cupboards part-lined the room, the wall cupboards with glass fronts, clearly showing that the furniture was not all that the previous owner had left behind. There was a sad air of abandonment in this room that she shook off in the firm belief that it wouldnt be long before she made it her own.
A long, oak table sat in the centre of the room, clear except for a large, glass fruit bowl in the middle, thankfully without fruit. On the far wall, there was a huge range cooker, towards which she now headed with her bag of essentials; milk, teabags, bread and beans. Justin, being practically minded, had also included their mugs and Ambers’ little plastic ‘Dora the Explorer’ plate and beaker which she unpacked with a smile.
She was glad to see gas burners on the top, now knowing that she wouldnt have to light a fire for a woodburner, although, upon closer inspection of the various little doors, she saw that she could light one if she wanted to. She hugged herself, delighted, as she had always wanted a range cooker.
She had found her way around the kitchen quickly, crossing the quarry-tiled floor and opening doors to find a larder pantry complete with cold slab, another small storeroom and a lean-to verandah, providing access to the garden.
The house sat in the middle of its grounds, with gardens all around it. From this side, she could clearly see the access lane through the border of trees and shrubs that were thin and all but leafless at this time of year. She guessed that during the Spring and Summer months it would be quite secluded when the garden was in full bloom.
Within a few minutes, after rummaging through the cupboards and finding what she needed, Olivia had a kettle filled and on the boil, tea bags in the mugs and toast under the grill. Beans on toast, although basic, was Ambers’ favourite and perfect for a day that had been so busy and exciting. .
She stirred the beans and flipped the toast, her thoughts turning to the agent and his sudden departure. She had found him quite friendly on the phone and during his emails and wondered at his strange rudeness. Perhaps he had grown tired of waiting for them and needed to be elsewhere, she excused; then feeling a little guilty, having stopped for a break after the visit to the solicitor.
Someone without children wouldnt understand that they had needs that wouldn’t wait. She made up her mind to call him and apologise, perhaps send him a bottle of something.
A smell caught her nostrils and she jerked out of her thoughts as the toast caught on one side. “Oops!” she said aloud and rescued it from the grill, scraping the burnt bits off into the belfast sink. She spun round as she thought she heard a laugh behind her and hoped to catch Amber sneaking up on her, but the kitchen was empty.
The sound carries well in a house of this size, she thought, as she stepped out into the hall and called her family for their dinner, hearing their excited laughter drifting down the stairs. She had to call a couple more times, but, before long, she could hear the clattering of their feet coming down the stairs and they dashed into the kitchen just as she ladled the beans onto the scraped toast. She would get used to the cooker, she promised them as they eyed the toast and then each other. Olivia retrieved some cushions from the lounge, for Ambers chair and they all sat down to eat.
“Oh my goodness, Liv, you have to go upstairs, this house is incredible!” Justin spoke with his mouth full, his eyes shining. “what a kitchen!” he added, as if noticing for the first time the large room in which they sat.
“This table is bigger than the whole of our old kitchen” he observed, smiling broadly. Olivia suddenly wasnt hungry anymore, as an eagerness to explore gripped her. She pushed her plate away and stood up. “You should see the lounge” she said. “Its going to take us a week, just to find all the rooms!”
She laughed, feeling better than she had in years. She watched her family eating as she wiped the surfaces. She loved watching Amber eat. She always seemed to get more toast in her fists and beans in her hair than she did in her mouth. “Someones going to need a bath!” she exclaimed, fluffing her small daughters’ hair. “What’s the bathroom like?” she asked and was rewarded with a rolling of eyes from Justin accompanied by a large grin. “Oh my god” was all he said, but she could tell from his expression that it was as impressive as the rest of the house.
“Come on, lets unpack the car” he said.. “I think i can drive up to the gate if you watch me in, then we’ll get this one into the bath”
“Sounds like a plan” Olivia answered, sighing with happiness.
She had had a feeling about this place since the minute she had seen it. She thanked their lucky stars that no one had snapped it up before them. The agent had said it had only just come on the market, weird how she had found it; a bit of spam mail that she never usually opened, had led her to the website.
She followed Justin and Amber out of the front door and breathed in the fresh, early evening air. Dusk was falling and she hurried down the steps, hearing the tide coming in. The little beach had disappeared and the waves were crashing against the boulders. What a lullaby for Amber tonight, she thought. Life is good again.
It took Justin only a few minutes to reverse the car up the narrow slope, with Olivia guiding him from the gate. A small movement caught her eye and she turned to look at the house, breaking her concentration for a moment. She scanned the windows and guessed Justin had left a window open upstairs. Perhaps a curtain was blowing in the breeze that had whipped up in the last half an hour.
She glanced back at the reversing car, but was just too late to stop him in time; she called out, but the scrape was inevitable, a rock at low level beside the wall, which she hadn’t noticed before. She cringed “sorry!” she shouted.
“Liv!” came the reply through the open window of the car, stern, but not angry. Nothing could dampen their mood this day. Justin climbed out and took a look at the scrape.
“ah, its not that bad” he said mildly. “silly mommy” said Amber
“Hey” said Olivia, scooping Amber up into her arms and blowing a raspberry on her belly. “Mommys not silly” she laughed into Ambers hoodie, muffling her voice and making the child giggle.
Justin lifted the boot lid and grabbed a box “Come on, you two” he said and turned to go inside.
“Lets help Daddy” said Olivia and passed a little bag to Amber, who took it in her small hands and repeated “Help Daddy”
Olivia pulled a large holdall out of the car containing Ambers’ bedclothes and followed them up the stone steps. She breathed the fresh air and gazed across the sea, knowing in her bones she would never tire of this view.
From the attic window, a shadowy figure watched the small family climbing the steps before turning away with a small smile. Only time would tell, she supposed, gradually fading into nothing as she moved silently across the floor.