Harriet was in her room, lying on her bed, reading. She found it a nice way to escape, to lose herself in a fictional world unrelated to her own so that she could, for a while, forget her life and the world around her. She had been reading a lot when she was with Marie, consuming books wholesale, and trying to read at every opportunity. Harriet found herself reading a lot less since she had been living with Adam and Amanda, though she had a few up and down days to cope with she wasn’t escaping any more and the need to read lessened into just the desire to read. When she read now it was more for the joy of reading a book and enjoying the ‘change in scenery’. This book was a simple contemporary science fiction story about a woman on a space ship working with other alien species, and a long way from home. She related to the strengths of friendships made, the creative solutions to problems, and the unexpected relationships that developed as the story unfolded. Harriet had read the book many times before and it, and its sequels, had become firm favourites.
There was a knock a the door. Brought back to reality, Harriet flicked her bookmark, and old tatty train ticket, onto the page and closed the book. “Yeah.” she called out.
Amanda opened the door and stepped in with a cup of tea and placed it on the bed side table.
“I was making a brew and thought you might like one.” Amanda said.
“Thank you, I was just thinking of a cuppa, but was engrossed in my book.” Harriet smiled at Amanda. “It’s so nice to be able to just switch off and read.”
“What are you reading?”
“Old just this old thing again” Harriet showed Amanda the book cover.
Amanda took the book and read the synopsis on the back, and then flicked in a few pages and had a quick scan read. “Oooh, sounds interesting, I’ve not heard of the author. I might have to borrow that when you are done.”
“Of course, I should be done in a few days, and then on to the next one. She is a fairly new author. Apparently it is her first book and she couldn’t afford to finish writing it and was going to abandon it. But she crowd funded for it so she could get it finished and published. She is on her forth book now as a professional author.”
“That’s amazing! I will look her up. If I get on with this one I might have to buy her books to support her.
Anyway, Adam was telling me how long you still have to wait for the workshop to be ready. I know it isn’t worth making a fuss about it taking so long given the arrangement, but we were wondering if you wanted to have some space to be creative in, in the mean time.”
“It’s ok, don’t worry about the workshop, now I know it is legally mine to move into, and there is nothing dodgy or risky about it I can relax and wait for it. I can’t afford to rent somewhere else anyway, even if only short term, and it wouldn’t be worth it for a couple or so months anyway.”
“Not to rent, no, that wouldn’t make sense, besides rent will tie you into a long contract anyway. No, we were thinking of our garage. It’s not very big and we don’t really use it at the moment. Not since Adam sold his motorbike to be honest. Also being at the end of the garden and accessed by the back alley it was never that convenient. We just thought that if you wanted to put a bench in there and a few tools it would be somewhere you could work in, and be creative again. There’s lights and a plug socket, and it’s dry.
Worth a thought?”
Harriet took a deep breath and was about to refuse the offer again, but paused with her mouth open. She really didn’t like taking advantage, but Amanda was offering, and genuinely trying to be helpful. The words stuck in her throat and her mind refused to stop pondering the offer. In the end Harriet felt she shouldn’t refuse.
“Can we go and have a look at it, please?”
“Of course! It’s raining at the moment, but the path won’t be too muddy. And you’ll get to see that it is dry inside.”
They put on coats and shoes and wondered down the garden path. Harriet had forgotten they had a garage, she wasn’t even sure she had even registered they had a garage. The garage was hidden from view from the house by a wall of tall shrubs cutting off half the width of the garden making the garden appear shorter then it really was. When they got there Harriet saw that the garage was nestled into the corner of the garden behind the shrubs. It was a very solid brick box with a door and window on it’s long side facing the side of the garden, and a tiled roof on top with a gutter feeding a water butt. The roof sloped towards the long side of the garage and Harriet noticed that, like the house the garage was a semi-detached structure sharing a party wall and the ridge of the roof with the garage next door.
Amanda took out a key and opened the side door and beckoning Harriet to go inside. Inside she looked around at the bare brick walls, concrete floor and timber roof beams. At the far end there was the up and over door, in line with the back wall of the garden. Amanda pulled a catch in the lock and tugged at the handle to encourage the door to rise up on its springs. The rollers squealed in their runners as the door opened, Harriet took a look outside at the bumpy narrow access track. All the houses on the street seemed to have a similar set up. The access road was bordered by brick walls, concrete panels, and timber fences quite randomly as fashions and needs changed over the decades. Each pair of garden walls was separated from its neighbour by an assortment of pairs of old and new garage doors on both sides. Many looked like they hadn’t been open for decades as they were covered in ivy. Others seemed to have an over abundance of security chains, and locks. Harriet wondered what secrets they hid.
Inside the garage though, it was a clean space, not big for a workshop, but big for a garage. It would certainly take a large car and still have space for a work bench, and a shelf of spare parts for whatever car project someone might have had in mind.
She really missed having access to the college workshops, and to be able to pop into the shed, when she was at Marie’s, as and when she could. She didn’t know what she would do in the garage but to be able to have some of her tools, and some wood and her bench would be so comforting if nothing else. All those hours of absent minded doodling could be channelled into something more creative and productive.
A big grin spread across Harriet’s face. “Sold!” was all Harriet said to indicate her enthusiasm for the idea.
“Excellent! Amanda said, “We can ask Robbie to bring some of your stuff from Sarah’s storage and we can get you set up. It will be great to have you actually making!”
“You are both so good to me.” Harriet said “And you seem to know what I need right now. Thank you. Thank you so much! I am really looking forward to this now.”
Fran had finished work and was heading home. An annoying venue for a shoot really, she thought. Lovely though it was to be in an autumnal knitwear shoot in the National Trust woodland outside of Theraton it did mean having to cope with damp leaves on the trees, spiders webs, and those annoying little flying things that always seem to want to investigate ears and noses. Still, it was better then beach wear when it was still freezing cold in the sea.
The minicab dropped Fran off near the end of her road, and she watched it leave before she turned and walked home. He shoes squeaked a little on the damp pavement as she kept a look out around her. Curtains were being drawn, cars were being parked, and she could see her neighbourhood slowly settling into a quiet evening at home.
The scooter buzzed past her, it had a big insulated box on the luggage rack. It stopped near the far end of the road and in the falling light Fran saw the rider quickly handing over someone’s evening meal at their door before jumping back on the scooter. The scooter then buzzed a quick ‘U’ turn and left, weaving and buzzing back the way it had come, passing Fran without noticing her. As Fran arrived home she sighed, I should have thought of ordering a takeaway. As she opened the front door she could hear voices in the kitchen. She went in she saw the table laid with knives, forks, plates, and glasses. A steaming carrier bag of food graced the centre of the table. Daisy was unwrapping the first portion of chips as Ingrid smiled at Fran and began to open the wine, her wine!
“Fish and chips? With wine? What are we celebrating then?” Asked Fran as she reached in to unwrap some fish.
“Daisy’s not into men!” Replied Ingrid.
“Oi! That’s not what I said!” Objected Daisy as she shared out the chips.
“Oh! Congratulations! Of course some of us have known for a while.” Said Fran, helping herself to ketchup.
“Known what?” Daisy protested.
“That you’re not into men.” Fran said, matter of factly. “We just didn’t want to say anything until you did. We can all stop dancing around it now. Can you pass the ketchup please?”
“I’m not… Hang on! We?, What do you mean we?” Daisy passed over the bottle.
“Cheers. Oh, most of the girls we’ve worked with together have known. We just couldn’t figure out why you still messed about with the men. We figured you were keeping it quiet for some reason. We weren’t going to ‘out’ you or anything, and we won’t say anything outside of the three of us if it is still a secret.”
“There’s nothing to ‘out’! I’m not… I’m…
I’m just not that into relationships and stuff and I’m happy in my own company. I don’t need a man in my life to feel complete.”
“She doth protest too much!” Ingrid laughed.
“Oi!” Daisy play slapped Ingrid on the arm.
“Well, none of us need a man, but we still fancy them…” Fran winked at Ingrid.
“They have their uses.” Ingrid added.
“Ha, about that much use.” Fran laughed, holding her fingers a short distance apart. Ingrid nearly choked on her fish suppressing her own laugh. “Anyway, you don’t look at the men the way you often look at women.” Fran continued.
“What’s that supposed to mean? I mean, of course I don’t, men are just, well men, a bit boring looking, all hairy and making stupid jokes. Most of the women we’ve worked with are fascinating, and interesting, and you get some really good hints about how to stand and correct posture for the shoots, and they talk about interesting stuff when they’re not thinking about work stuff. Anyway I notice them because they just look ‘right’. But I don’t mean… no, not like that! I mean, I know a pretty or attractive woman when I see one, we all can, right?”
“Well, yes, but not that way.” Ingrid replied “I see a beautiful woman and I know she is beautiful, but my eyes don’t light up the way yours do. I didn’t think anything of it until Fran said just now. It wasn’t the sort of thing we were concerned about in Germany. Not where I grew up.”
“Don’t blame me, you started it when I got home!” Fran reached across and gave Daisy a brief hug. “Sorry, honestly I don’t think anyone minds one way or the other, you are happy and you know what you want in life, and you are a good person regardless. Sorry for messing with you about it.”
“Ha, I’d have thought you were being serious if we weren’t all half pissed.” Daisy sighed. She resigned to treating it as a bit of fun not wanting to spoil the mood of the evening. “Anyway, now we’ve turned my private life upside down and reinvented me as a lesbian bin man, what was your day like?”
Conversation shifted to Fran’s working day.