Harriet popped into the kitchenette to check on dinner. With only a microwave, steamer and a single electric ring it was going to be a delicate juggling act. The turkey slices were fine as a cold meat but the microwave roast potatoes would need careful heating to stop them being soggy. The carrots, red cabbage, and sprouts were steaming well and the bacon wouldn’t take long now that the sausages were done and set to one side. She hoped the plates would be warm enough in the microwave under the potatoes.
All was well and she ran up stairs to her studio flat to check if Daisy was OK. Daisy had made the bed, opened the balcony door to freshen the room, and was laying the table. Monty was very attentive to the smells drifting up from below and his sniffing of the air. Harriet quickly gave Daisy a kiss and ran back down to turn the bacon in the pan. She couldn’t help but feel joyously happy about how things had worked out so well with Daisy so soon, last night was just amazing! Everything about it all gave her a warm fuzzy feeling inside as she carefully set out the food onto the plates arranging it in to a good representation of a traditional Christmas dinner for five. Adam, Amanda, and Sarah were due any moment to meet Daisy properly and she wanted it all to be a lovely meal. She reached across the kitchen for the jug of gravy, the kitchen seemed a lot bigger then she remembered and so it was just out of reach. As Harriet went to take the few strides across the kitchen floor her sleeve caught one of the plates and sent it flying. As the potatoes exploded on the quarry tiles the plate shattered noisily and fragments of white porcelain danced around making clattering noises. Daisy ran down the stairs having heard the noise and, looking at the mess Harriet was standing in the middle of, began to shout at her “How could you be so clumsy you stupid cow! We have friends coming and you’ve ruined everything! You have two minutes to get all this mess cleaned up and to think of an excuse why you are not joining us at the table!”
Harriet began to tremble and cry. At the sound of her sobs Monty was by her side barking at Daisy, warning her off. He was nearly a head taller then Daisy was and his barks were getting louder “Woof! GrrrrWoof Woof! GrrrWoof! WOOF!”
Harriet could feel Monty’s fur against her and the movement of his body as he barked.
“Woof woof woof woof!”
Monty’s barking roused Harriet from her sleep. For a moment she was confused and hurt, and very upset that for whatever reason she was dreaming Daisy into Marie. Her dreams often reflected her inner most fears and concerns, and so she had learnt to pay them attention. Harriet rubbed her eyes, looked around and found that Monty was on her bed jumping up at the window barking. Harriet put her hand on Monty’s head to calm him. “What are you barking at, Monty?”
She looked out of the window, “What?!! Oh Monty! Look at that mess!”. It was still dark outside but the security floodlights had been triggered. Harriet got up and put her jeans and her coat on over her night shirt. She and Monty went downstairs and outside to have a proper look. Someone had fly tipped a load of old broken furniture and rotten windows and glass into the road outside the workshop. It was the noise that woke Monty and featured in Harriet’s dream. Harriet took some photographs and decided to return to bed. It could be reported in the morning.
Harriet couldn’t sleep. It was mostly the annoyance that someone had decided to dump their rubbish on the road but also that she was afraid of returning to her dream and demonising her fantasy of Daisy with the horrors of Marie’s anger and bullying. Having only properly spoken with Daisy once, when she helped move the table saw, Harriet didn’t have that much to go on for Daisy’s personality, but she was comfortable, or at least wishful, that Daisy would be a decent and nice person, and as far from Marie as was possible. Unless she found out different she didn’t want to taint Daisy, or any other woman she might become close to, with her own experience of domestic abuse, that wouldn’t be fair. Harriet lay in bed awake for a while longer and then decided that as sleep would not be forthcoming she might as well put the light back on and read. Harriet’s current book was part of a well read series about a young woman detective in Victoria England. The protagonist was full of confidence and succeeded despite the restrictions of the societal norms of the day and Harriet related to that. She found that even in the twenty first century, being a woman woodworker was still something that many found difficult to accept, especially when buying tools and materials from the more traditional builder’s merchants.
By the time it was properly morning Harriet was tired and wanting to go back to sleep. She would have done too except Monty wanted to go outside, and was lying on his bed huffing and fidgeting. He didn’t understand why the sleep wake pattern had changed that morning, but his body had needs to be met.
Harriet got up and let Monty out while she was pouring some food into his bowl. After Harriet had a wash and ate her own breakfast she looked up the council website to report the fly tipping. On placing the report and uploading her photographs Harriet had to put a pin on the map to show the location. Despite putting in her post code and the map zooming into the right spot she found she couldn’t drag the pin marker there. “That’s odd, I wonder why it won’t let me do that? I wonder if…” She dragged the marker pin to the main road by the nursing home. it was happy to stay there. “I guess that will have to do.” Harriet edited her report to explain why the map pin was at the wrong end of her road. It wouldn’t be dealt with until Monday but at least it is done, she thought. She then emailed Mr Chow to let him know too.
Mr Chow’s reply was brief, and almost immediate. Apparently Wren Works End was never adopted by the Council and so they wouldn’t deal with it. Mr Chow said he would send a van over to tidy up later in the day as leaving it would encourage a repeat. Harriet sighed, but decided that it wasn’t really her problem now either, as annoying as it was.
Sunday was a day for household chores, not that there was much to do but Harriet like the routine of it if there was nothing more pressing. Her bed was made, laundry was done, worktops and floors cleaned, carpets vacuumed. The workshop didn’t miss out either as the cleaning schedule included dusting out the machines and sweeping or vacuuming the floors and surfaces. It was a chance to sharpen tools and put things away properly so they could be found again when needed. Harriet liked the sense of order, not so much for the cleanliness of it as the efficiency. At college Harriet noticed that a lot of time was wasted tracking down the tools that other students hadn’t put back correctly, or had used until dull and not resharpened. But that was college and this is her own workshop, and her own rules.
At the end of the afternoon Harriet took Monty out for his walk. She decided to walk into town to have a look at the Christmas lights that would be up in the high street. She hoped, being a Sunday, there wouldn’t be too many people about, and she was right. The twinkling lights wrapped around lamp posts, the garlands of lights strung across the high street with flickering Santa faces… it was all a bit naff and cheesey but it was also an attempt at normality, the town’s hope that tourists and shopping would one day return to pre pandemic levels. Harriet remembered the previous Christmas when the streets were crowded despite the cold, and the wet slushy pavements. To Monty it was just a walk along a different set of roads with new smells, and the markings from other dogs who had passed by earlier.
As it got late, and a chill started to set, in Harriet decided it was time to head back home. As they walked along the streets gradually changed from being mostly shops, to mostly residential. The lighting reduced in intensity as shops and advertising signs were left behind and the shadows caused by the street lights lengthened. Harriet spotted another pile of fly tipping in a passage between some terrace houses. She sighed and tutted under her breath but walked on. As they neared the green that marked the corner of Wren Works End Harriet saw something else dumped over the low wall surrounding the green. Her shoulders sagged. “What is it with people, Monty!” as they got closer Harriet noticed it was a Christmas tree, decorated, and lying on its side. It wasn’t in the best condition and only had a few decorations but it was just a Christmas tree in a small weighted pot! “Who would throw out their tree?” she said to Monty “It’s still, what just over a week ’til Christmas?”.
As Harriet approached the workshop she noticed that the fly tipping was now gone. Mr Chow must have been while she was out and cleared it. She opened her door to let Monty inside and had a thought. “Monty, if no one else wants that tree we should have it, we get a free tree and it clears up another bit of fly tipping. You go in, I’ll be back in a bit. Wait Monty. Wait.”
Harriet picked up the tree and the hand full of loose baubles and walked back home with it. She placed it outside her front door, as it was still damp and probably had slugs and other bugs on it, and rearranged the decorations. Harriet opened the door and let Monty out to investigate and admire her handy work. “That’ll do, won’t it, Monty!”.
Fran was sawing away at a cardboard box with the bread knife. She was carefully, with her tongue sticking out, following the outline she had drawn. This was her third attempt to get the shape she was after. Daisy had been bringing her work home and presenting Fran with copious quantities of cereal and packaging boxes to work with.
“It’s funny…” Fran said as much to her self as to Daisy “You know when you keep saying the same word over and over it stops sounding like a word and it doesn’t make sense any more? I am sure it is the same with cutting out things. Are you sure sheds are this shape?”
“Haha, yeah, but it’s your shed you can make it look any way you want. It doesn’t have to be perfect does it? I mean it could be a rickety and run down shed.” Daisy said helpfully. She was working on her laptop and did a quick image search of old sheds. “How about if it looked a bit like one of these?”
Fran leaned over to have a look. “Ha, so you’re saying I could just paint up the bits on the floor and call it ‘done’ then?” She looked back at what she had achieved. “Oh this is rubbish…”
“No, that ‘was’ rubbish, until I brought it home.” Daisy laughed.
“You know what I mean! I can’t do this, it isn’t how I visualise it. There has to be an easier option.”
“How about instead of making a box into something, maybe you could make something from the box as it is? You could use a box that is about the right size and shape and start fitting it with room walls and windows as it stands. I mean lots of houses and flats are already a boring box shape. Of course it needn’t be a house, it could be a workshop…”
“You mean like that one your ‘heart throb’ lives at?” Fran gave Daisy a nudge and laughed.
“She’s not my heart throb!” Daisy objected with good humour. “I just… I just think she is interesting, that’s all.”
“You didn’t stop talking about her after work last Thursday!” Fran teased, “But, seriously, you sounded happy. And it doesn’t matter if she is just someone you like for the moment, or if you end up snogging her face off! Just keep being happy.”
Daisy blushed. If it had just been a potential boyfriend she wouldn’t have been so uncomfortable about admitting how she felt but, as she thought that, she also realised that had it been a potential boyfriend Fran wouldn’t have been saying she sounded happy. Daisy understood why that was, but without testing it she couldn’t know if that would have been the case with a man who was much much nicer then the men she had known previously. How would she feel if it was a man she actually liked the company of, like Steve, or Phil, or at a push, Tom. She tried to imagine how she would feel, and found she just couldn’t. It wasn’t because they weren’t good men, she just didn’t, no, couldn’t imagine those feelings as none of them were single. She couldn’t imagine, even in a moment of fantasy, being that kind of interested in someone who wasn’t available. It was easier to imagine being with Fran, albeit only for a moment before a quick glance up reminded her that Fran was so young, and struggling to use scissors without poking her tongue out. Daisy had rules and those rules didn’t like being bent, never mind broken. So where did that leave her thoughts about Harriet? Daisy didn’t have a rule for how Harriet would, or wouldn’t, fit in her life. She was in uncharted territory and felt very insecure about it.
“Yeah. But I dunno, Fran, I hardly know her.”
Fran stopped cutting and looked up. “Is she pretty?”
“Umm, I suppose she might be.” Daisy pulled a face in confusion.
“Only might be?” Fran was pushing Daisy a bit. “Come on, what’s she look like?”
“Hmmm, short, well shorter then me. Glasses. Dark hair?”
“Is that it? So what was all that excitement about then?”
“I like that she was confident, she talked about her workshop, and that machine she had delivered like, I dunno, like you would talk about wearing a designer’s latest dress. I mean that thing was the size of our table, and scary looking, and to her it was like, nothing. Like if we picked up a new stick blender for the kitchen. And she just does stuff to bits of wood and they look beautiful, even before she’s finished with them. And she does it all on her own, not like she has a factory or a load of people doing… wood worky stuff. She just does it all herself. I mean what have we ever done? I mean really done? I go out and pick up a box of recycling and sort out the card, paper, cans, bottles, and then tip it into skips. We don’t make anything from it, we just collect it and then pass it on. We’re just a… whatsit thingy… a cog. She does the whole thing from a bit of wood to a piece of furniture.”
“You’re smitten, I can tell!” Fran laughed.
“I’m not!” Daisy slapped Fran across the shoulder with strip of cereal box. “She is just so different, and interesting compared to the people we normally meet! I bet she’s clever too, and been to college and got qualifications.”
“Unlike us ‘dumb blondes’ you mean?” Fran laughed and dropped the scissors on the floor. “But honestly, You have a point. She is her own boss and we’re not. Maybe that’s where I’m missing out in life.”
“Fran Hopwood, are you ‘escaping’ too?” Daisy whispered conspiratorially, “Have you got a plan?”
“Oh, I hadn’t really thought about it, not seriously, but given the way this year has been, and seeing how happy and contented you are in your new life now, it got me thinking. Maybe there should be more to life, or at least a back up plan, you know, just in case…” Fran laughed “…Dior hadn’t noticed me sitting here cutting up bits of cardboard!”.