“Hello Adam, how’s things?”
“What? No! When…?”
“Oh no, I am so sorry. How’s Amanda coping?”
“No, I don’t suppose she is. Shall I come over and help with stuff?”
“Well, okay, if she wants a break I can come over.”
“Oh no! That’s awful, can’t they…?”
“No, well Covid isn’t making anything easy so I’m not surprised.”
“Okay, I’d better let you go.”
“Yes, and give my love to Amanda and tell her I am thinking about her and…”
“Will do, and if I can come over and, I dunno, help deal with the day to day stuff, just say and I’ll be there.”
“Okay, look after yourselves.”
Harriet sat down on the side of her bed, Monty came over and sat looking at her. He sensed there was something wrong and laid his head on Harriet’s knee. “Oh Monty, Sybil’s died.” She stroked Monty’s head lovingly as tears ran down her cheeks. “You never knew Sybil. She was a lovely woman, Amanda’s Mum. She would have liked you.”
Harriet sat a while longer reminiscing about Sybil to Monty, how well they got on together, their conversations, the time lost when she was with Marie, and the oh too brief reuniting last Christmas. It helped to talk, but how much of it Monty took in was immaterial.
Harriet sighed, got up and went to the bathroom to wash her face and refresh herself. She then busied herself tidying the bed and clearing up her lunch things. She let Monty out into the front garden and sat herself on the doorstep still stunned by the news. Her world suddenly felt both heavy and empty. Harriet felt Amanda’s frustration at not being able to do anything after Sybil’s body was taken for post mortem and the long delays that would now follow. She was just losing herself in chores for lack of anything else she could do. She realised that is was very nearly a year to the day that she and Sybil were talking in Amanda’s kitchen and discussing her future workshop just before Christmas dinner. She couldn’t imagine how Amanda was going to cope now that there was another lockdown. She and Adam were going to be so isolated in their grief for the coming days and there could only be so much ‘distraction’ that housework would provide.
“Adam! I just cleaned that!” Amanda grabbed the cloth that she had just put at the side of the sink and cleaned the kitchen table again where Adam had left a cup ring.
Adam picked up his mug and wiped the bottom of it with his hand and cradled it in the crook of his arm as he watched his wife wiping down the table. “I’m sorry, it was just a drop…”
“We have coasters! I can’t keep cleaning up after you if you can’t be more careful. There’s too much that needs doing and you’re not helping!” She chocked back those last words. Amanda knew that Adam was helping. She knew that she wasn’t being rational, but through her pain and frustration Adam was also the only one there she could lash out at. She looked at the cloth in her hand, and at the table, and the shiny worktops with the mug tree arranged ‘just so’ except for the one mug that Adam was holding. The kettle had a drip of water running down the spout, about to roll down and land on the worktop, her clean worktop. Amanda’s hand, her arm, her whole body tensed in readiness to wipe that drip. It dried from the heat of the kettle before it got to the work top leaving a trace of limescale. Amanda closed her eyes and tried to take a breath. The kettle will need descaling, again! It was too much. It was all too much. All of the chores had fallen by the wayside as her Mum lay dying. And now she was gone, there was too much to catch up on. The cloth fell from her hand and crumpled on the floor. Her knees gave way. As she fell she felt Adam’s arms around her lowering her gently to the floor. Amanda sobbed. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s happening to me.”
Adam held Amanda close with one arm as he carefully set his mug down on the floor behind her, conscious of the small splash of tea that was there. But for now Amanda needed holding and he wrapped his arms round her. “It’ll be okay, I’ve got you.” He gave her a squeeze. “You’re grieving, and it’s normal, and it will be okay. I love you and I am here for you.” He held back his own tears. It grieved him as much that Sybil was gone, but also that Amanda was hurting so much and he couldn’t save her from that, not with words, not with actions, not even with hugs. But he would try. Amanda’s sobbing slowed and she relaxed into his arms as he cradled and gently rocked her. Silently he kissed her hair and nuzzled her until she was cried out. He felt her body go limp against him and her grip on him loosen.
Adam slipped his arm under Amanda’s knees and lifted her up, she didn’t resist but held on gratefully. He stood with her in his arms leaning back against the fridge door to steady himself before carrying Amanda into the living room. As Adam lowered Amanda onto the sofa he realised how little she weighed. With the last few months of them both intensively focused on Sybil’s failing health he hadn’t noticed, not really noticed, how frantically busy Amanda had been, how on edge for any call for assistance, how little she slept, how little time she spent eating, resting, taking care of herself. He felt his face flush with the guilt of not noticing and he remembered Harriet’s words to him about really being there for Amanda. Had he done all he could? He didn’t know but he hoped whatever he had done would be enough.
Amanda lay still on the sofa, crying gently again until she fell asleep in Adams arms. Adam carefully released his hold and stood, his legs tingling as the blood flowed back into them. He placed a blanket over Amanda as much for comfort as for keeping the chill off her.
Harriet was busy in the workshop testing out planing a period moulding into a scrap of wood before risking it on the job itself. She could have used an electric router but as she had, in her small collection, an antique moulding plane that was the right profile it made sense to try and use it. It wasn’t a tool Harriet was familiar nor comfortable with and so she had looked for an online tutorial to make sure she had it properly sharpened and set up to use. The first few shavings were inconsistent, but with a few more practice strokes she got the feel for the proper technique and the right placement for her fingers. One more test run to be sure she thought, and turned the scrap over in the vice to work on the other side of it. Then her phone rang, it was a withheld number. Harriet cautiously answered it.
“Oh, right, sorry, with the withheld number I was readying myself for yet another spam call. What can I do for you?”
“Okay, so a sideboard unit for your TV and sound system, built in. That’s sounds quite a project, yes, I can do that!”
“Yes, that shouldn’t be a problem, I can probably order in the hardware for that, but will check first.”
“And no cables showing, okay. You have the TV and the sound system for me to measure up?”
“I can’t give you a price until I have visited and measured up, so when could I come over?”
“Okay, Monday the twenty-eighth at ten AM. That will be a nice something to do after Christmas. And what’s the address, please?.”
“Twenty Seven, High Mill Road, Higher Theraton. And your name again?”
“Sarah Matthews. Great, I’ll see you then. Thank you.”
Harriet danced a little jig in her bedroom much to Monty’s bemusement. “I – have a – com – miss-ion! I – have a – com – miss-ion!” Harriet sang as Monty jumped around with her. It was only a potential commission for a sizeable bit of work but it was enough to lift her spirits after hearing about Sybil.
“Right, let’s check out this this address.” Harriet opened the maps app on her phone and entered the address. The road was right at the very top end of Higher Theraton, as it would be being called High Mill Road! “That’s going to be a hard ride on the bike to get there. But work’s work!”. Harriet zoomed in to have a look at the house from the street view and saw that it was being renovated with a skip outside and scaffolding across the front. The image capture date was a year ago and so that seemed to make sense for commissioning a built in bit of furniture. It all looked good so Harriet added the appointment to her phone diary.
“So, just how did your date go yesterday?” Fran was teasing. Daisy had been adamant that it wasn’t a date, just a friendly dog walk but hadn’t said much about it the previous evening, but it was too tempting to keep teasing, and besides, Daisy wasn’t objecting that much.
Daisy placed her breakfast things in the sink and gave them a quick wash. “It wasn’t a date! But I think we got on. Harriet’s nice.”
“Just nice?” Fran nudged Daisy’s arm.
“Early days! Early days, but yes, just nice. Maybe a few things I need to get my head around and get used to, but I guess that’s the same whenever you meet someone you’d like to know more about.”
“So, like what, come on, spill…”
“Well, okay, she’s single and she likes does women. I don’t know if she likes me that way, but given I am not that sure if it is what I really want myself… But…
“You remember that awful café woman I told you about? The rude one at Café Marie’s?”
“Yeah, what about her?”
Daisy looked around conspiratorially, and said quietly as if invisible bystanders might overhear. “Harriet’s ex!”
“No!” Fran sat up with interest.
“Yeah, though that’s not a mark on Harriet though, she says she is well rid of her, apparently it wasn’t a good relationship by any means.”
“So you have stuff in common… Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, I mean… Well… you both know what… Oh you know what I mean, sorry.”
“No, yeah, you’re right, we have that in common, both suffered, no! Survived! We both survived bad relationships. Hopefully it means we won’t repeat them, but maybe she might be a bit weary of me. I mean she doesn’t really know me, and I don’t even know how, well you know, with women anyway. So she might think I am a bit weird, you know? Anyway, gotta go, work beckons!” Daisy put her coat on and shouldered her rucksack.
“Have a good day, and bring me back some decent cereal boxes please.”
“Will do if I come across any, see you later!” Daisy headed out for her morning warm up walk into work.
She still needed to think about what she was doing with regards to Harriet, and the walk into work was a good time to spend thinking. Few people were around and those who were were also minding their own space and busy going to their own destinations. Daisy wanted to dig a little deeper into her interest in Harriet. She accepted that she was interested, but she wasn’t sure if that interest was based on any more then meeting a woman who was independently working in a trade that Daisy had always associated with men. She couldn’t even remember ever seeing a woman working with tools when she was modelling or temping. Daisy hoped it wasn’t just the novelty of a woman carpenter that had captured her interest. ‘Interest’ and ‘Interesting’, Daisy suddenly realised, were terms she found herself using a lot about Harriet. Hmmm, I need better words, more words, to describe how she felt she thought.
Also, on the assumption that Harriet might even be interested (there’s that word again), Daisy wondered if she was even physically attracted to Harriet, and what that meant in the reality of a relationship, if it ever happened with Harriet, or anyone else. Would reality be anything like the way she tentatively fantasized that it might be like.
“Morning, Daisy!” Ann’s greeting broke Daisy’s train of thought and she found herself at work already.
“Morning, Ann! How was your weekend?”
“Pretty good. Getting ready for Christmas, could do with some more cheer given the year we’ve had! How about you?” Ann being first in had opened up and started getting Beryl out of her shipping container lock up.
Daisy held the lock up door open against the wind as Ann drove Beryl out. “Oh, not too bad. I was here going for a walk on the reserve.”
“Can’t keep away from the place?” Ann laughed.
“I don’t get to see the reserve very often, not really see it. I just see the compound and the few paths I walk along to get here. It’s a nice place to be!”
“It is, I have walked around often, both in work and out of it.” Ann started her walk around checks. “I’d say it is one of the nicest open spaces in Theraton, but I am biased. On your own or with someone?”
“I was with a… a friend. Well, getting to know a new friend. Seemed like a good neutral place to do that. Hi Steve!” Daisy waved at Steve as he cycled in.
“A friend, or a ‘friend’?” Ann was teasing a little, just for fun.
Daisy thought for a moment, “I don’t know yet. Honestly, it could go either way and I just don’t know.”
“Well, that’s cryptic! Either way so long as you are comfortable with them then that is okay. Anyway, to work. See you later!” Ann set off in Beryl to do her round while Daisy closed the lock up doors and secured the padlock.
“Which round do you fancy, Daisy?” Steve reappeared from inside the Environment Centre with two clip boards, one for each trike round.
“Oh, I’ll take Therry Station if you’re happy with the centre?”