Chapter Twenty-One


Christmas with Adam and Amanda and their various visiting families was a very happy week for Harriet. And as much as she tried to help with the arrangements, the cooking, the washing up, there were always enough willing bodies that she didn’t need to do any more then pass around the cheese and crackers, and make a few rounds of tea. It was such a relaxing way to spend the holiday. Amanda’s Mum, who was staying for the duration, doted on Harriet in a way her own mother never did. Making up for lost time since they last met in such relaxed and comfortable surroundings, talking easily and openly, asking questions and sharing answers, and being genuinely interested in Harriet’s woodwork and design ideas. They were often to be found almost head to head leaning against the kitchen worktop looking at a page in a book and discussing in great detail some small fact or idea. Sybil was very chatty and talkative at the best of times but following a glass or two of wine and she was almost unstoppable. Harriet enjoyed their conversations together as Sybil often asked the sorts of friendly but challenging questions that really encouraged Harriet to consider her answers and the reasons behind them.

Harriet felt that she gave a good account of herself to Sybil about her reasons for taking on the workshop and making a go of something so frightening as being a professional carpenter. More importantly Sybil had lead Harriet in to giving a good account to herself, to dig a little deeper into her own true feelings and reactions to all the changes in her life. It tested her conviction and certainty in herself in an unknown future.

Harriet’s little presents were very well received by her friends. They appreciated the thought and sentiment that Harriet had put into each one and understood her trepidation when handing them out. They were accepted as much more then trinkets, simple tactile wooden objects that carried more in memories and love then precious metals and technical gadgets ever could. Among the gifts presented to Harriet were some nice drawing pencils, sketch pads, and a pocket multi-tool that not only gave her most of a workshop in her pocket but was also illegal to carry around as the blade, ironically, had a lock on it for user safety!


During a lull later on Christmas afternoon Amanda beckoned Harriet into Adam’s study. “Harriet, I’ve got a little something for you.”

“Oh, but you have given me so much already!” Harriet protested

“Well, technically I’m not really giving you anything that isn’t yours already.” Amanda said cryptically, as she got out her phone and started swiping and tapping the screen. A moment later Harriet’s phone buzzed in her pocket. “Have a look.” Amanda said encouragingly.

Harriet took out her phone, unlocked it and saw that she had a payment in her banking app. She glanced up at Amanda and, with encouragement she signed in and had a look. “No, no, I can’t accept that! You have all done so much, I should be giving you money for my staying here. This can’t be right, No honestly I couldn’t!”

“I don’t see why not, it’s not as if it is my money. It was your stuff I sold for you, all that jewellery and stuff that you didn’t want. I kept hold of it for as long as I could before selling it in time for Christmas. I knew it would get more that way as people would be looking for presents, and certainly much more then I would have got if I just took it all to a jewellers at the price they offered.”

Harriet gaped a couple of times and looked at the numbers on her phone. “I’d forgotten about that, I had no idea it would be so much… But then again, Marie liked ‘fixing things’ by throwing money at it instead of doing the right thing.
Thank you so much for doing that for me. Thank you so, so, much!”

“So what would you like to do with it? Buy that saw thing?” Amanda asked.

“I think I can afford to buy one now. I think I can afford a few more things! I am going to wait though, and not rush into anything. Once I am in the workshop I can see what the best thing to do is.
Maybe one of those big four by four pick up trucks like other carpenters have?” Harriet laughed.

Amanda started to laugh too, “Haha… Hang on, Harriet, I’ve had a drink! How much did I transfer to you? Did I get that decimal point in the wrong place?”

They carried on laughing as Harriet hugged Amanda. For a moment Harriet just enjoyed the closeness of contact and wondered what it would be like to be close to someone special again. The hug seemed to linger just a little longer then necessary and she could feel Amanda’s hands gripping at her back before Amanda let go. Harriet’s mind raced ahead a little confused at what might be going on, and then realised there were tears running down Amanda’s face.
“Amanda? What’s the matter?” Harriet was concerned as well as just a little more confused.

“Oh, I’m sorry, a little too much to drink I think. I just got a little emotional. Sorry…
“Oh hell, I might as well tell you.” Amanda’s voice was shaky as she tried to force a smile through the sadness.

“Tell me what? What’s going on?”

“It’s Mum. She has cancer, it’s terminal. Don’t tell anyone! Mum just wanted things to be normal, people to be normal, and to not be treated differently. We’ve been thinking of maybe her moving here so we can look after her. It’ll mean her using your room, for the space and en-suite. We didn’t want to say anything because we don’t know if that is what Mum would want us to do for her. We are still ‘dancing around’ it all a bit but it will probably mean you moving into the box room, or moving out if you’d prefer. We don’t want you to go, but it might mean a few big changes for you. Oh God, this is an awful time to lay all this on you, I’m sorry, Harriet.”

Harriet looked at her friend, a lump in her throat, and instinctively pulled Amanda close and held her. “Don’t worry about me. You have done so much to help me and… and your Mum has to come first now. If she wants to move in then that will be fine. I am really sorry… I don’t know what to say… But don’t worry about me, I will be fine in the box room or where ever. We can talk about it all later when things are clearer.”

“Thank you. And I am sorry you got this to deal with right now. I suppose… I reckon it will be the last Christmas with Mum, and it’s just, I dunno. It’s just… I can see how well you and Mum get on together. It’s like she is passing on the baton, you have a lot in common with Mum, more then I have…. And that’s fine, it’s not something I am jealous of, I think it’s why I think a lot of you, I see a bit of Mum in you.” Amanda smiled a little at Harriet. “Sorry. Come on. I’d best sort myself out and rejoin the others.”

“Awww, I feel very honoured by that comparison, your Mum is wonderful. Thank you. Let me help you get sorted.” Harriet helped Amanda tidy her hair and make up.
When she was ready Amanda gave a big sigh, and gave Harriet an understanding nod and a smile before rejoining the post Christmas dinner snacking and snoozing.


“Merry Christmas, Mum, Dad! Awww, it’s so wonderful to be back home.” Daisy hugged both her parents as the taxi driver unloaded her bags from the boot of his car onto the path. Daisy had travelled down by train, from Market Theraton station that morning and hailed a taxi for the fifteen minute drive to her parent’s house. The only other option was by bus but that would have taken nearly ninety minutes and involved a change in town and a long walk.

Her parent’s house was the one she grew up in, the one her parents bought as newly weds, their first home together, the only one they ever owned, and the only one they have lived in away from their own parents. It made them slightly unusual both then and now.
It was a large farmhouse, already nearly two hundred years old when they bought it as an unwanted and unvalued wreck. During the 1970s big old houses were often seen as a scourge on the town, run down, unloved, and often run by unscrupulous landlords as cheap slum accommodation. The farmhouse, though on the outskirts of town, was also an unloved eyesore on the corner of farmland that had later been sold for redevelopment. It stood in isolation as the land around it was traded with ever more extravagant planning permissions over the following decades, each time with with a hugely inflated price tag, but not a brick was laid. Meanwhile the tenant farmer carried on growing beets and cereals around the farmhouse, year after year on a two year notice period.
The newly married Margaret and Edward Bell, bought the house with a small mortgage, funded by his well paid and blossoming career in engineering. They had invested time, money, and effort into making it the comfortable house, and half acre of garden, they wanted and loved, and felt no need to move on despite offers from development companies to purchase it.

Daisy’s parents were surprised but not shocked at her change in appearance, they had known already that she had changed jobs, direction, and was pursuing local historic research. Daisy felt it pleased them more then it should, but could understand that as they had always hoped that she would follow a more academic path in life. Both her parents were well educated in comparison, Margaret was a technical editor for a publisher while Edward had spent most of his life designing engineering equipment before he took early retirement and made it his passion to read every book ever published, or so it seemed by the growing stacks of books piling up around the house!

“It is lovely to see you!” Daisy’s parents beamed at her, “You look so… different!”

“I know, Mum, but I’ve never felt better about myself. I’m really enjoying the job, and the friends I have made there are so interesting to talk with.” Daisy settled into her childhood chair in the place she always sat at in the kitchen, with a cup of tea, and told her parents all about her job, her research, her house hunting, and her dramatic change in wardrobe.
“I know it isn’t much of a job, the pay is less and only four days a week, but it is oddly satisfying. I am doing something that is actually useful to society, and I am fitter too. Certainly saved me a load in gym membership! The people I am working with are really nice and so highly educated too. I am learning so much, and studying too, not for a qualification yet, but for the fun of it! And that is one of the really good things, the job is permanent and I just have to walk there. I don’t need to spend all my time chasing agents for work for the following week and I don’t need to chase being paid either. That gives me loads of time to spend at the library and the museum, and just finding stuff out.
It’s funny. I’ve not been in the job that long but I can’t imagine going back to the agency work and modelling, it all feels so alien already!
I do miss having pretty clothes to wear, and the attention a bit I suppose, but I can now just get on with enjoying life, and stuff, and not worry about it.”

“Oh that nice for you, dear. And how is the house hunting going?” her Mum asked.

“I still haven’t found anywhere I like yet, lots of possibles but either more then I want to spend, or they are modern and boring. I want somewhere I can learn something about, a place with its own history and interest. Ha, I guess the sort of interesting house I am looking for was also once modern and boring, but I am not going to live long enough to make a new build interesting.” Daisy laughed. “I feel like I want to do what you did here, make it your own and live in it forever.”

“Do you need any extra money, or can you manage with what you have? We have savings if you need any.” Her Dad offered.

“Oh, I should be ok. I have enough, and I don’t want to stretch myself too far. If it was just a house then I’ve had the choice of many, but I am…. fussy, I guess. I want something in particular and I will know it when I see it.”

“Well, if you find that special place and just needed a bit extra, do ask. Your Mum and I aren’t going to turn you down if you really needed it.”

“And, changing the subject a little, is there anyone special in your life? To share your future home? Your father and I have often wondered if the people you met modelling were going to be right for you, you never really settled with any of those men, have you? And now you have a new life and a new group of friends and people around you…”

“Mum! The people I work with are all in relationships already and I haven’t really met that many new people in that sense. It’s not like I am going to knock on a door and say ‘Here’s your recycling box with all the stuff we don’t take. Fancy a night out with me?’. So, no, no one, special or otherwise.”

“Well, maybe not like that, but you haven’t had a boyfriend for a while, and well, your father and I were already married and living here at your age.”

“It doesn’t have to be a man you know.” Daisy said innocently, and testing the waters a bit.

“Daisy!” Margaret was more surprised then anything else. This wasn’t the sort of thing that was generally talked about at home! “Well, if it comes to that, Daisy love, we wouldn’t mind, not in the least. Not that it would be up to us to mind or not mind, but I suppose it isn’t as odd as it used to be. There was even a Pride event in town earlier this year, rainbows everywhere….”

“Ummm, yes, if that’s what will make you happy, just so you know, it is something we are ok with.” Edward placed his hand on his daughter’s arm reassuringly.

Daisy sighed. “Oh kay, I’m not, you know, but I was just saying? Anyway, with that out of the way can we just have Christmas now please, Mum, Dad, you know, tree, turkey, presents, the usual sort of thing? I can think about my non existent love life in my own time.”

“Yes, sorry love. That got a bit personal.”

With that out of the way the Bell family quickly settled back into the old routines of Mother, Father, and Daughter, and Daisy felt like a child at home again. It was a good comfortable feeling of belonging and childhood innocence. There were presents to unwrap, food to eat, entertaining films to watch, and time to catch up with other visiting friends and relatives in the area.

(Chapter 20 here)
(Chapter 22 here)

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