The pandemic was already getting very trying, for everyone. Harriet was going to her workshop as often as she could, there was stuff to do, some of it for her Landlord’s garden railway, some for the health and safety of her workshop. But at home Amanda was struggling. Adam carried on as usual with his work, maybe he was more focused on his work then he needed to be. His clients certainly seemed to need a lot of support as the nature of moving their business to being more online shops and services, wasn’t a simple process for many of them. Amanda was supposedly working from home but was bored to tears and irritable. This wasn’t helped by her Mum, Sybil, also being in the house. This was supposed to be a short term arrangement for a brief duration lockdown so that she could be supported in her illness before being moved to a hospice to see out her final days with full nursing support. It was becoming clear that not only was lockdown not ending soon, but care homes were struggling and many of their residents and staff were becoming very ill indeed from the virus.
As much as Harriet loved and supported her friends, and was grateful for all the help they gave her when she needed it, this felt like a time for family as it became clear that Sybil will be there, needing nursing care and without access to any external support, for the foreseeable future. Harriet felt bad about moving out, but it had been arranged with Mr Chow now, and an intimate caring role with Sybil wasn’t something that Harriet was confident, nor comfortable, with. There had been enough moments of difficult embarrassment for Harriet and Sybil without Amanda’s irritable scolding at Harriet as she tried to cope with her Mum’s ailing health, her own lack of work distraction, and her fear of actually losing her Mum at some point in the near future. Amanda was understandably worried about Sybil catching Covid and Harriet was the most likely one to bring in an infection from coming and going each day.
Despite all that it was a sad day when Adam loaded up his car and moved Harriet to her workshop to live. None of the difficulties were personal, the pandemic was getting to all of them, but reducing the risk of Harriet bringing a deadly virus in to Sybil was sensible given the option.
“I’m sorry Harriet.” Said Adam. “I’m gonna miss having you around, but you can see how awkward it has gotten. Amanda is struggling quite a bit.”
“It’s alright, Adam, I understand. But to be fair, you haven’t helped much either. Amanda needs your help, not mine, and you are just burying yourself in your work leaving Amanda to deal with her Mum on her own.”
“There isn’t much I can do! And I have a lot of work happening right now. And…”
“No, Adam. Amanda needs you, she needs to know that you are there. She needs to know that she can talk to you when…”
“But we do talk, we talk all the time!”
“Adam, Amanda talks about her Mum, her fears, she’s hurting. You talk about work, when you talk. She needs you to listen, and to be there for her. She’s afraid she will be on her own when her Mum dies. She’s afraid you will be so caught up in supporting other peoples websites and stuff that you won’t be there to support her.
“Thank you for bringing all my stuff, Adam. I think things are gonna be really weird for a while, with this pandemic, I hope you can all stay safe now I am here instead. And, look, I love you Adam, but go home and talk to Amanda, really talk to her, and listen to her most of all. She’s hurting without you.”
“Yeah, you’re right, Harriet. I’ve just not known what to say, or do.”
“No one knows. And Amanda isn’t expecting answers, she just needs to know that you understand she is going though a hard time. Now go, go home. And thank you, and Amanda, for everything. I’ll always be grateful for everything. Now give us a hug, and go home!”
Harriet now had a home of her own, albeit a studio flat tied to her work and her workshop. She had a council tax bill, utility bills, and a household waste bin to look forward to. Robbie had dropped off her stored furniture earlier and a mattress had been delivered, the benefits of internet shopping and the ongoing invaluable services of delivery drivers and couriers. It should have been a happy time, moving into her own home, but there was to be no house warming party, no visiting friends, she had no idea how long it would be before she would next see Adam, Amanda, and Sybil again. Or if she would ever see Sybil again at all. Harriet sighed sadly and got on with the process of sorting out her belongings, taking everything up the stairs, and putting her bed together. The mattress needed a couple of days to fully inflate from it’s vacuum packing, and longer to loose the chemical smell. Her first night wasn’t going to be comfortable, she hadn’t factored for all that, but it would be indoor camping and she could sleep fully clothed on the carpet. Another slight issue was the lack of curtains, but Harriet decided that as she wasn’t overlooked by anyone except the birds in the trees, the local police helicopter, and anyone who owned a big telescope, she wasn’t going to worry too much about that for the time being.
Harriet’s world now felt smaller and lonelier, she was almost permanently inside the workshop or in the garden at the back working on the railway. The only people she might get to see would be delivery people, if they stuck around after ringing the door bell, and the bin collection operatives.
Every now and again she would get an email from Mr Chow saying that he was coming in to do some work and that she was to stay out of the way for Covid safety. This was awkward. Harriet wanted to be in her workshop as much as possible being busy, but ‘out of the way’ confined her to her studio flat. But it did result in a patio being laid and a new wrought iron balcony and spiral staircase put up outside as a fire escape. It was fun watching from her bedroom window, seeing the workmen with scaffold towers and small hoists, and trying not to damage the new patio flag stones.
Daisy was feeling fragile after her confession with Fran and Ingrid as she headed out in the morning to the library. She was glad it was her day off, though she could do with the distraction of work she was grateful not to have to go in and to have the option to do something else instead. Both Fran and Ingrid had been really kind and supportive towards her but she could still feel the shame of her own ignorance and innocence when it came to relationships. That she was only trying to fit into what she misunderstood others were doing. That she had got things so wrong. That it was her fault. That she was rubbish at understanding people.
She wondered about how she thought about the men in her life, were they all like that? Was she right to see them that way? Or were they the unusual ones, and that she just happened to have them all in her life. Maybe she didn’t attract the nice ones. Was that her fault too? Did she even want to attract them? And the girl who advised her to go along with it all. Was she wrong, or had she done it deliberately to get her in trouble? Daisy had liked that girl, though she couldn’t remember her name now, and had thought…
Had thought what? Had thought she could get the girl to like her back by doing what she said? They were so young then, still kids really, and just starting out in fashion modelling. Daisy just wanted to fit in but now couldn’t really remember what it was she wanted to ‘fit in’ to or what it was that she had liked about some of the people she met then. Maybe that was her problem. Daisy became a model because someone said she ‘looked right’. She met who she was told to meet, did what she was told to do, took the jobs she was recommended to take, avoided the ones she was told to avoid, went with the men she was told to go with. She even saved money and had a pension because her parents told her to. Daisy was approaching forty and it was only now that she decided to leave modelling, researching local history, and collect recycling that she was doing the things she chose, though even leaving modelling and taking the recycling job was Steve’s idea, but they weren’t bad ones, and she had thought about it herself before choosing to follow that advice.
With all these thoughts going on in her head Daisy suddenly found she had arrived at the library on ‘autopilot’ as she walked into the locked door banging her head against the glass. Confused, it took her a moment to realise the library was closed. A sign on the door simply stated ‘Closed due to Covid Lockdown’.
“Oh, poo!” Daisy said to herself, before looking around to see if anyone else had seen her walk into the door. No one was around. Of course no one was around, it was a national lockdown. Daisy felt foolish. She had hoped to clear her head of all her confusion and upset by doing some more research but that was not going to happen today. At least not here. She took out her phone and checked the Museum website, and that was closed as well. She sighed and felt dispirited, and thoroughly fed up.
For a lack of anything else to do Daisy walked to the Environment Centre, she knew someone would be there, there might be something else to do as a distraction. She found Phil in his office. The few essential office staff were taking turns working in the Environment Centre, a day each, for the work they couldn’t do at home.
“Hello Daisy. Are you late for work today, or really early for tomorrow?” Phil laughed.
“Hi Phil, no, not in for work. The library was closed, so is the museum. I was going to do some research, now I am out and at a loose end. I was looking for a distraction, something to do.” Daisy’s voice was a bit shaky. She hadn’t realised until she heard her own words, how shaky she was.
“Is something on your mind? Sounds like something is troubling you. Are you OK?”
“No, not really.” Daisy choked back a sob. “Don’t worry about it, I was just looking for something to do.”
“You can have this job if you want.” Phil indicated the pile of survey forms on the table. “But it seems something is upsetting you, if you want to talk you are welcome to, in confidence.”
“I don’t want to disturb your work…”
“Daisy, I am your boss, and so I am concerned for your welfare, but I also consider you as a friend, if you are happy with that. My time is yours as I think you need it more then the wild life survey results do right now.”
They went back downstairs and sat in the entrance lobby where the doors were opened. It was as good as outdoors without being outside. Daisy told Phil what had happened the previous evening, what she had told Fran and Ingrid, how she was feeling, the confusion she felt. Having opened up once already it was easier to do so again. It was a little more ‘matter of fact’, more organised in her head. Daisy looked at the floor as she spoke, punctuated with sniffs and tears. The tissues she had in her pocket were gradually shredded in her hands and screwed up into a damp ball. Phil listened and offered a little reassurance. He told Daisy that it wasn’t her fault, and that she wasn’t rubbish, that no one was judging her for what happened. He reminded her that the friends she had around her now were very different to the people she thought of as friends back then, and that she was leading a very different life. That it was something she was now recognising and could move on from, with support from her friends and family.
“Thanks for the chat, Phil. I just feel silly and stupid after all this time. And thank you for keeping it confidential. I’m sorry for bringing it into work for you to deal with.”
“That’s alright, Daisy. Look, if you need some time off, or if you want to talk to someone professional, we do have a scheme where you can receive support with a counsellor at the Health Centre, though I am not sure if that still works given the lockdown.”
“I think I will be ok, for now. Thanks, but I’ll let you know.”
Daisy felt better after that, she was still troubled but felt a little more perspective had helped.
“If you still want something to do there are a load of recycling leaflets to go out to remind people we are still collecting. You can deliver a few streets if you like, and book an hour or so as overtime. They are all in street piles so you can take the ones that are on your way home if you want.”
Daisy decided to do that, the monotony of walking door to door would keep her occupied until she got home.