The mission to move Harriet was going well.
Marie stayed in the café, mainly because she was short staffed without Harriet but also because Amanda had made sure that those of Harriet’s friends who were not needed for the move were in the café being difficult customers and keeping the place busy with low value but awkward orders.
Robbie had his van ready, a tidy white Mercedes Sprinter with side doors. There was a hint of its previous life in the remaining outlines of some stick on lettering and logo. The van was parked across two of the permit bays, hazard lights on and scrawled note in the windscreen that said ‘LOADING, BACK SOON.’. Robbie and Adam emptied the tools and timber from the shed, Amanda and Sarah emptied drawers and wardrobes, and other personal items, into boxes. Harriet only had to point at an item and it was packed and boxed.
“Take the bed please, It’s a bit rough but I made that before I met Marie! First big thing I ever made.” Harriet requested. The bed was quickly dismantled, wedges knocked out, the head and foot board carried out to the van, followed by the side rails slats and centre rail. The mattress and bedding left on the floor, and walked over.
Overall the move didn’t take as long as they had thought. Most of the stuff was tools, machines, timber, a couple of pieces of project work, and Harriet’s sketch pads and notes. Of the clothes, though most of it was Harriet’s bought for her by Marie, much of it held painful memories. Amanda was completely fine and understanding about unpacking carefully packed items and dumping them in a pile on the floor, as they sought out the more practical jeans and tee shirts. Similarly, make up, jewellery, hair care products, if Harriet didn’t need it to live, she didn’t need it any more.
“You could always sell the jewellery.” Amanda suggested helpfully.
“The money would be useful…” Harriet admitted “…But I really don’t want to touch it any more, nor feel like I am being bought out for all I have been through.”
“I hear you, but I could do it. I could sell it. It would be the pay you are owed, for all the extra shifts you’ve done.”
“It doesn’t matter, honestly, I don’t want it.”
“But you did say you wanted a… whatsit… saw table thingy…”
“Table saw. True, but…”
“But nothing! It’s your stuff, if you don’t want it then give it to me, I can sell it and buy you a table saw, or whatever else you need. Let me soil my hands with it so you don’t have to. Deal?”
Harriet thought for a moment, and heaved a resigned sigh and said “Ok. Deal! And thank you so much!”
Harriet took one last look around the house. The bedroom looked like a robbery had taken place, the living room a little less so. The bathroom and kitchen were barely touched. There was a trail of saw dust and foot prints along the hallway from the back door to the front door. At least it wasn’t raining so not muddy. Despite everything, the untidy mess in the rooms could be sorted out but Harriet would feel bad ruining the carpet and causing actual damage.
Amanda made a quick phone call and in Café Marie an exodus occurred. Customers suddenly began to leave tables, and even walking away from the queue mid order, dispersing back into the general busyness of the high street.
Everything that Harriet didn’t need immediately was placed in Sarah’s storage box leaving just a rucksack and a carrier bag of clothes and personal items. Amanda had pocketed the jewellery and took a bag with a few other collectable ornaments that might have resale value for later disposal.
All of Harriet’s friends reconvened at Amanda and Adam’s house for a little party. Amanda poured wine while Harriet had orange juice. Harriet hadn’t had alcohol for many years, a self imposed exile from hang overs and sordid memories.
There was much hugging and catching up of stories and affirming of mutual love and support for each other. There were apologies, sadness for not being able to act earlier, anger at Marie for all Harriet had lived with. Harriet’s friends were only just hearing of the details of the relationship, beyond the pain and stress they could see from the outside. Harriet was both happy for having her friends around her again and sad for the time she had lost with them. She hadn’t realised how much she had missed them, not just when she had missed their company and friendship day to day, but how much she missed them when she had thought they were gone forever. She was grieving for those lost friends while they were there with her. But they were with her now, a supportive, protective huddle of warmth and love, raising glasses, laughing, hugging, consoling.
Another round of cheers for Harriet was suddenly punctuated by a long blast on a car horn outside followed by Marie’s shout!
“YOU FUCKING LITTLE BITCH! YOU’RE NOTHING, NOTHING WITHOUT ME!”
There was silence in the house for a moment. Harriet began to tremble, Adam wondered about going outside, then Sarah started to laugh. She glanced at Amanda, and then at Harriet, and at the others, and almost telepathically the same thought occurred to all of them. Rushing to the window they all put their right hands to their foreheads, index finger and thumb readied, and in unison shouted “LOSER!”.
Then falling about laughing at Marie as she fumed in her car. More laughter burst forth as Marie stalled the car as she tried to drive off and had to apologise to the car driver behind that was trying to get past!
Amanda gave Harriet a hug and the others all joined in forming a massive bundle of bodies protectively encasing Harriet in the middle.
“She won’t be back, Harriet, you’re safe and free now!”
Daisy arrange to meet Steve at the Environment Centre at the end of his working day, at around four-thirty. The centre was at the edge of the old town, a little oasis of green jammed in between Lower Theraton and Theraton business park. Originally a landfill site that was covered over and made into a green space, it was taken over and managed to form a recreational wild life reserve with nature walks, and a visitor and learning centre. As an additional source of income the centre bid for, and won, a contract to collect recycling from the town centre using an electric vehicle and cargo tricycles, in keeping with their environmental concerns.
Daisy arrived early and took the opportunity to explore the nature reserve. It wasn’t a place she had been to before, though she had heard of it. Being ‘out in the wilds’ didn’t feature much in her life probably, Daisy decided, mostly down to inappropriate footwear. She really should get sensible shoes one day and was hoping that her red court shoes and dress firstly wouldn’t be completely ruined by the mud, and secondly wouldn’t give the impression of not being up to a physically active job. Many of the paths around the nature reserve were properly maintained hard packed gravel, but it was an ongoing job so there were still areas where the paths had become muddy and pot holed, and the edges had softened and merged into the vegetation.
Daisy worked her way around to the large white building at the edge of the nature reserve where the Environment Centre staff were located. It was a curved building designed to capture the sun’s energy for passive heating and had solar photovoltaic panels on the roof. The building wrapped itself around a third of of the circumference of a circular pond where bulrushes grew and dragonflies darted back and forth.
“Hey Daisy, you found your way here then!”
“I didn’t chicken out, you mean!” She laughed.
“There was that.” Steve led Daisy inside the building, “Anyway, Daisy, this is Tom, Ann, and Linda. We’re the recycling team, Mike isn’t in this shift but he is looking to do more other work for the environment centre anyway. This is Daisy, she is an escapee looking for a change.”
The team shook hands with Daisy, offered her tea, coffee, left over cake from the conference that took place earlier, and advised her which bits of left over lunch and biscuits were found on the round that morning!
Daisy baulked a bit at the ‘bin food’ but was reassured that it was clean, still sealed and only just after its best before date. Daisy accepted their reassurances that food was still edible even if not at its absolute very best and accepted a cookie! Then they all had a disgruntled moan at the box label, branded for a high street store, that stated ‘Baked in the UK, Packaged in China’! Food wasn’t supposed to be put in the recycling but if it was still safe to eat the team took advantage of the free calories.
“Ahh, Phil! This is Daisy, she has come for her interview.” Steve introduced Phil, the centre manager, to Daisy.
Daisy shook hands, and noted that Phil was not like any manager she had been interviewed by before. Phil wore grubby jeans, and a green faded sweatshirt with the centre’s branding on. He had soil on his cuffs and the backs of his hands and signs of twigs and leaves in his hair. He was a practical man, mostly confined to a managerial position and clearly keen to get out and about whenever he could.
Daisy suddenly felt over dressed for the occasion!
The interview took place in the Environment Centre’s lobby, very informally, within earshot of the rest of the team, and no personal information seemed to be needed. It was more intended to find out if Daisy was keen and able to do the work, and more importantly, if she would fit in with the team.
It was agreed that Daisy would do a couple of shifts to start with and to see how she got on.
“We’ll put you with Steve and Beryl to start with…”
“Beryl?!!! Who’s Beryl?” Daisy was more then a little confused as she looked around at Ann and Linda, the only other women on the team.
“Beryl is our electric truck, you’ll be a passenger in her, so that Steve can take you around the routes we cover first off. You can then just focus on the collection aspect and not worry about getting lost or missing any streets. Do you drive?”
“Yes, I can drive, but I don’t have a car right now. Do I need one?”
“No, you won’t need a car, but if you have a licence we could add you to the insurance for Beryl.
Oh, also, have you ever ridden a trike?”
“A trike? I have been on one at a shoot, they’re a bit fast and noisy, I didn’t really feel that safe on it but I was only getting my photo taken, wind in the hair sort of thing. I wouldn’t have thought they’d be that practical.”
There was a ripple of giggles from the team as Phil briefly looked away to dislodge the laugh that was slowly erupting from his throat.
“Err, different sort of trike I think. We use pedal powered cargo tricycles for some of the rounds…”
“Oh.” Daisy blushed and was about to apologise for her foolishness but quickly realised that she wasn’t being laughed at but laughed with as it was a simple misunderstanding. “I think Steve had mentioned the trikes before, I hadn’t made the connection.”
“That’s ok, they are a bit unusual even for people who cycle. You do cycle I take it?”
“I do, I have done, not often, probably more at the gym then to go anywhere.”
“I guess, then that you have never ridden a tricycle?”
“No, not since I was a kid. But cycling is cycling, yeah?”
“It should be but it is so different that many serious cyclist never manage it. You can have a go later if you get on well with the job. It will be a laugh, if nothing else.”
That seemed to be the underlying feel of the team, everyone laughed, openly, together, without judgment. There didn’t seem to be any competitive aspect and everyone ‘mucked in’ even the boss took his turn at emptying the composting toilets. Compared to the agency and modelling jobs Daisy was used to, where there was a definite hierarchical structure, that level of ease was going to take a little getting used to.
Before everyone left to go home Phil and Steve took Daisy into the teams staff room and had a rummage around for overalls, high viz coats, boots and gloves that Daisy could fit into. It was then that Daisy realised that she was a good head taller then Phil, the high viz trousers were all too short, and the boots all a little big. It would do for the trial shifts but Phil promised to get other sizes in if she was staying on.