“Do you have any plans for the day, Harriet?” Adam asked as he brought some tea into the living room.
Harriet had spent the last few days reading and doodling in her sketch book. Some days she was in her room on the bed, other times curled up on the living room sofa. Harriet was slowly retreating into herself and though she was vaguely aware that it was happening she wasn’t fighting it.
“Oh, I don’t know really. Oh, sorry, am I in the way? Would you like me to pop out for a while, or something? I can go and sit in the library, I don’t mind…”
“No, no. Not at all. I was just worried in case you were feeling a bit low, you’ve been fairly quiet, though that’s not surprising. If you were bored, we could find something to do, or if you wanted to be left on your own that would be fine. We’re just a little worried.” Adam sat at the other end of the sofa.
Harriet sat up, and then looked down at the floor thinking. “Quick answer? I’m fine, I suppose. Honest answer?” Harriet paused and considered her words carefully not wanting to make Adam’s concern worse. “I’m lost, I think. It has been so long since I was… since before… since I was myself! I don’t know who I really am, and what I am supposed to be anymore. You and Amanda have been so kind and wonderful, you have done everything, thought of everything, dealt with everything… And I am really really grateful, don’t think I am not, but…”
“But? But you need to do something?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know what. I would have been going to work, cleaning Marie’s house, cooking, ironing, getting the shopping in…” A sadness crossed Harriet’s face. She sighed deeply and composed herself. “That’s what I was, that’s all I did, that’s all I was worth. Marie said I was boring… I guess that’s why she let me go to college. I don’t have college anymore either. I don’t know what I am now…”
“What did you qualify in? When you left college, what did they say you could do?” Adam knew, but wanted Harriet to say it.
“I’m a furniture maker. I can make furniture. Except I don’t have any pieces to make, or anyone to sell them to. I can’t afford to just buy timber and make furniture if no one knows about it, or no one wants it. Anyway, there is nowhere to store it, or show it. And I can’t mass produce for shops, I’m not a factory. Marie was right this is a waste of time.”
Adam could see that in the lull following Harriet’s rescue, as he saw it, Harriet was gradually falling down a hole, despairing of her life, and becoming miserable, maybe even depressed.
“Lets go out!” He announced.
The three of them walked out through Lower Theraton towards the ring road tracing a path that Harriet had set in her mind. Though she had only been a couple of times the location, and the route there, was etched into her mind as any carefully planned escape route would be.
“But I don’t have an appointment, we can’t just stroll up and have a look in there. It’s not my place yet!” Harriet protested but continued to lead Adam and Amanda to the workshop. It wasn’t far to walk, but far enough that she could both protest going and also get excited about seeing if the place was as she remembered it while hoping it wasn’t just rose tinted glasses and desperation.
“Are you sure you know where it is?” Joked Amanda “I’m sure this is just where the big posh houses are! I can’t imagine a workshop being here!”
They were walking through the one area of Lower Theraton that could be described as ‘posh’. The large grand Victorian houses here were all built around the same time as Theraton Road station and was intended to house wealthy trading families. The area never grew beyond a dozen or so streets in a small cluster as Theraton Road Station, and the old Northern Hills Railway Consortium, were unable to compete with the bigger and more popular Market Theraton Station of the Great North Rail Company.
“When I was a kid we’d come around here, when we came to see my nan,” Adam said, “And we’d play games guessing what sort of people lived in the big houses. We stopped coming after she died but then also a lot of the big houses stopped being so grand and they just started looking decrepit. A lot of them became cruddy bedsits and flats. Bit of a waste really, just at the time ordinary people could afford them no one with any sense would want to live here unless they had to.” Adam waved his arms at one of the houses that had big electric gates and a shiny four by four in the driveway. “Then suddenly it all became posh again! Even the ones that are still flats are luxury flats and cost more to rent then our mortgage.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure I got the right place at first either but it’s not in with the posh stuff, more on the edge tucked away just where it isn’t quite so nice near the ring road junction. It’s over there, down that track.” Harriet pointed to a gap between a residential nursing home that had been converted from a couple of the big houses, and a scrappy copse of trees. The track was laid in stone sets but was more pot holes and tarmac patch work. Muddy holes and leaf litter lined the edges and over hanging self seeded saplings formed their own barricade to visitors, taking swipe just at eye level to the unweary visitor.
As they picked their way to the end of the track they saw an opening in a partly collapsed stone wall, looking not unlike the entrance to somewhere that should have been grand but should also have been demolished long ago!
A short way behind the wall, at the end of small courtyard was a buff stone building, cubic in appearance, with a big roller shutter door, a normal doorway and a row of windows on the upper floor. Some later additions were just visible on the side of the building outside of the courtyard walls.
“Is it safe?” Amanda asked.
“Well, that’s the thing! Mr Chow, the Landlord, said he was having a load of renovation work done before I get to move in which is why I wasn’t sure about coming here. It might not be safe, or polite, to just walk into his building site unannounced.”
“We can just stand outside and look can’t we. It is a public road isn’t it?” Adam look around for any ‘Private keep out’ signs but saw none.
“Well, I think it is public. I’m not sure. Not past the wall, of course, but outside I think it is. What do you think of it?”
“It’s bigger then I thought, and that is a lot of stone work.” Amanda let her eyes take in the facade. “Imposing might be the word for it. Do you know what it was before?”
“A gatehouse? Not stables, but maybe a for coaches? Maybe just a workshop or some other industrial use. I dunno really.”
“Looks like a small corner of an old mill that didn’t fall down after the dynamite went off! Maybe its what’s left after war damage? It is odd and unexpected. Maybe we should get a satellite view of the site…” Adam got his phone out and started swiping the screen to do a search. “Well, that’s helpful, the whole site is hidden by trees! I can’t see a thing!”.
On the walk back home Adam and Amanda chatted with Harriet about her plans for the workshop, and the future, and life in general. It was a good way to raise Harriet’s spirits as she became more animated and enthusiastic talking about the workshop, a little less so about life and her future, but that was to be expected.
Harriet struggled to picture her life, especially in the future as she still felt that it was lost to her. Even if she could drag up the memories of her life before Marie, to remember who she was then, how she was, and where she felt her life was going, it was all in the past. Life and the world had moved on and changed. Harriet had changed too, in some ways for the better, she could see that, but the trauma of an abusive relationship was not so easy to let go of, nor to see around. Harriet worried it would colour her view of life for a long time, if not forever.
After two days working on the collection round, Daisy’s work trial had gone well. Daisy had enjoyed the exercise and a fresh view of the town. She had quickly understood how the recycling needed to be segregated for maximum value, and the mess and smells was no where near as much a problem as she might have thought. Phil had asked Daisy if she would be interested in continuing with the job and Daisy had accepted.
That was as much a surprise to her as it was to the rest of the team. Not that they thought she wasn’t suitable but more that the offer was accepted immediately.
As it was not quite the end of the working day Daisy decided to phone her agent there and then.
“Hi, It’s Daisy.
“Yeah, I’m good.
“No no, that’s fine, I know it’s been a bit quiet recently. No that’s not why I was calling.
“I’m going to be doing something else for a….
“Oh, no, no, I’m not signing to another agent.
“It’s just a change of direction.
“No, nothing has happened, just decided to…
“Yeah, that’s great. I’ll keep in touch.
“Yeah, you too. Bye.
She had almost said ‘Jump before I’m pushed’ but decided to not burn that bridge herself. It will burn itself in a couple or so years when I hit the big four-oh! she thought.
As she left the Environment Centre Daisy’s immediate priority was to go shopping. Proper shopping. She needed food, she’d never felt so ravenous after a day’s work. A day modelling tended to end with eating less, not more, especially as often there was someone thinner, and younger, in the sidelines waiting to take ones place.
Daisy also needed shoes! Not work boots as Phil promised to get some ordered, but proper shoes or boots for the walk to work, and to train her feet too not expect heels. And practical clothes that were not inspired by the catwalk. Daisy felt the need to raid all the charity shops as soon as possible, both to keep costs down and to keep to the ethos her new environmental career.
Daisy arrived home, grocery bags in hand, and made her way to the kitchen.
“Ugh, what’s that smell?” Jenny turned her nose up. “Daisy? Is that you? What have you trod in?”
Daisy put her bags down and checked her shoes. “Nope, not me, shoes are clean.”
“It is you! You’ve been doing the bins again today, ‘aven’t you! God, you stink! Couldn’t you have had a wash or something?”
“I had to get myself some shopping first, I’m starving, I’ll have a shower after I’ve eaten.”
“Not with me in here, not with that stink! What’s got into you anyway? You used to be cool, now you’re a fucking bin woman! Is it midlife crisis or summat? Is that what happens when you get old?” Jenny stood, with her arms folded and turned away from Daisy. “Geez, you had some good gigs and you pack it in to carry shit about.”
“It was your shit I was carrying about this morning, Jen.” Daisy snapped back. “You do know that we can’t recycle make up and cotton buds. You should put it in the land fill bin. I had to do that for you.”
“You getting all Greta Thunberg now? Save the planet from my old lippy?” Jenny mocked. “It all goes in the same place anyway so it don’t matter which bin it goes in”
“It doesn’t. I had to sort that so that it can be properly recycled….”
“Yada yada yada… You’re getting so boring now you’re in your old age, Daisy!”
Daisy fumed, but decided to go for a shower first, given that Jenny, despite her protestations, wasn’t leaving the kitchen any time soon. “Amazing how some people suddenly don’t seem so young and sorted of a sudden.” She grumbled to herself as she took the stairs two at a time.
Daisy had assumed all young people knew about the environment, and recycling nowadays. I guess some slip through the net.
As Daisy showered she thought that perhaps it was time to move out and get a place of her own. It is what she had been saving for after all, rainy days, emergencies, her life after modelling.
As Daisy got out of the shower she could hear raised voices downstairs.
Jenny was still complaining about the smell but Fran seemed to be defending Daisy.
“Look, we all create waste, and someone has to deal with it for us.” Fran was saying.
“Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be one of us! That sort of thing is for those…” Jenny waved her hand in the general direction of outside of the house. “Those people to deal with, not people like us!”
“Can you hear yourself, Jen? Daisy is doing a job. She is doing a job that benefits all of us. She is cleaning up after us, picking up the mess we create. Have you not noticed that before? It’s a thing she been doing for you for as long as you’ve lived here!”
“What are you talking about?” Jenny snapped back.
“Look, you’re a nice girl, you’re pretty, you’ve got prospects, of all of us you might actually be the one to be the next face of Dior, or Gucci. But, hell, you’re a slug! Everywhere you go you leave a trail and Daisy has been picking up after you, we all have sometimes, but she’s been the one making it possible to live with you! And you’re giving her a hard time because she made a choice and is moving on with her life. We all have a ‘use by date’ and Daisy is… is… reinventing herself before she’s too old…”
Daisy took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen. She needed to eat.
“Fran’s right, Jen, I made a choice to take that job, and the rest of that choice is to move on and get my own place.
But you? You need to stop and take stock, you’re not a child, you have a chance, but with your attitude… I dunno, I’m not your mother, I shouldn’t need to pick up after you, none of us should. Maybe you’ll notice that if we all stopped cleaning up after you!
I’m going to eat now, if you can’t stand my ‘smell’ you know what you can do about it.”
Jenny stomped out leaving Fran and Daisy in the kitchen.
“Sorry about that, Fran…” Daisy sighed.
“I’m sorry too. But we shouldn’t be, it needed saying. And the opportunity arose. You really moving out then?”
“I think so, not like tomorrow, got work tomorrow.” Daisy laughed “But yes, I’ll start looking for somewhere this week.”
“You don’t have to go, you know. It’s good having you here. And, yeah, your work clothes do whiff a bit, but no worse then I do after I get back from a run!”
“I don’t know if that is a good or bad comparison!” Daisy joked as Fran faked throwing a tin of soup at her.
For the rest of the evening Fran and Daisy laughed and joked and browsed estate agent websites on their phones with mock horror at some of the interior photos in the million pound and over range in Higher Theraton.