Chapter Forty-One

Harriet is outside her workshop and is holding a large timber up on end next to a pallet. The pallet already has three more piece of the same timber on it. The background is a walled garden with the stone wall of the workshop on the left. There is a grey roller shutter and a blue door that is open. Monty Dog is cocking a leg on a green wheelie bin on the grass.


Sally’s second memory of starting at school was the one that would carry her through to her teens and was one that she was both happiest remembering but also most self conscious about ever sharing, and so she never did. It was a secret that only she and Elle shared.
Sally and Elle were inseparable in school. They would wait for each other at the school gate and while their Mums chatted about the weather and the price of bread, they would hold hands and skip across the playground together until the bell went and they were lined up to go to their class, waving at their Mums as they went.
During playtime in the big communal playground the boys would play tag, or a simple game of football or cricket using chalked marks on the wall for the goal or stumps. The girls would form little groups of their own playing patty cake or skipping games together, or pretending to be Mums to their dolls. Some sat in corners away from the more boisterous activities to read comics and others like Sally and Elle hid under their coats to play in secret. That was when Elle kissed Sally for the first time.
Elle had talked about how she had seen her parents kiss each other and had explained to Sally that people who really liked each other kissed to prove it, and that because they were the very best of friends they should also kiss. Sally thought at first that they were only talking about it, but with that first kiss, at eight years old, Sally felt that nothing would be the same again, she now had a secret she had to keep. Though kissing was something Sally had seen her parents do with each other they were quick pecks on the cheek, and it was the same with her before bed. This kiss from Elle felt different. No one had said that they mustn’t do it with each other, but Sally instinctively knew it was not to be talked about, a secret that was not to be shared with anyone, ever.
Elle never talked about how her parents kissed after that but during the rest of that term at school every now and again when no one could see, under a coat, in a toy cupboard, going into the toilets together, during games of hide and seek, Elle would kiss Sally. Sometimes it was a quickly snatched peck on the cheek, other times it was on the lips. A couple of times Elle would say ‘You kiss me!’ and then tip her head expectantly waiting for Sally to do as she was requested, which she did.

They remained inseparable as friends until the summer holidays and, unknown to Sally at the time, that wave good bye at the school gate was the last that Sally would ever see of Elle.
Elle never returned for the next term.

Harriet put the book down “Blimey! That’s a side of Sybil I never would have thought of! Thank you, Sybil, what is it am I supposed to do with this?” Monty stirred from his slumber at the sound of Harriet’s voice and looked up at her. Harriet wasn’t doing anything different from earlier so he went back to sleep.
Harriet wasn’t sure what to do next. She was guessing that Sybil was writing about some kind of childhood awareness or experience, but as far as she knew, there had been no indications of a hidden side to Sybil. Maybe she had kept it a secret all that time and only decided, for some unknown reason, to share it with Harriet while on her death bed. But why was she writing about it back in then? It was all a bit too much to process so, again, Harriet put it all away in her bedside cabinet drawer and got up off the bed to take Monty out, and then do some work.


Harriet put her saw down and answered her phone. It was her landlord, Mr Chow, and that usually meant some more work on the railway.
“Hello, Mr Chow, how are you?”
“Oh I’m fine too. What can I do for you?”
“Oh, well yes, I am quite happy living here. Is there something wrong? Do you need me to move out?”
“Oh, that’s a relief. I do like being so close to the workshop and the area is nice for both me and Monty.”
“Yes, I agree. If I moved out there might be a risk of a break in or vandalism with no one here at night.”
“I see, first refusal! Well that is very kind of you. I am really happy here and I am not sure I could afford much more in rent, or a mortgage at the moment, sorry.”
“I am sure you will be able to sell it without too much trouble.”
“I don’t really know off the top of my head, but if I think of anyone I can put them in touch. What sort of place is it?”
“Hang on, let me make a note.” Harriet grabbed her pencil and a bit of off cut wood. “Okay.”
“So a one bed terrace…”
“Oh, end terrace…”
“On Lister Drive. That’s near by, by the slip road isn’t it?”
“So, it’s number six, and needs some work. And you’ll be putting it in the auctions in June?”
“I see. What work needs doing?”
“So just some joinery, bathroom, and the back garden is a mess, okay.”
“I can see why you thought of me for first refusal, haha. Well, if I think of anyone I’ll pass on your number?”
“A finders fee? Now you’re talking! Haha, I’ll bear it in mind. Thank you, Mr Chow.”

“Well, what do you make of that, Monty?” Harriet sat on the floor to play with Monty’s ears as he looked at her. “First I am a carpenter, then a railway modeller, and now an estate agent!” She laughed. “How am I supposed to find someone to buy a house that needs work doing to it? Never mind, Monty, I’ll just carry on as I am here.”

Harriet got up and went back to the work bench. The job wasn’t complicated, just another bit of work for Mr Chow, a simple chore to do as and when she had the time. There were eight new railway sleeper sized timbers that needed cutting in half and matched in length to the shortest pair. Harriet felt it was a good time for a bit of mindless exercise with the circular saw and hand saw. Once cut they would need to be cleaned up and a jig made to gauge rails to two foot gauge. For what reason Harriet didn’t know, maybe Mr Chow was building another little railway somewhere, but then surely he would need more then sixteen sleepers! Not that it mattered to Harriet, it was all work, if a little simple.

With the timbers cut and stacked outside on a pallet, and covered with a tarpaulin, Harriet let Monty out to have a run around in the garden. It was drizzling a little but Monty didn’t seem to mind as he happily chased after sticks and sniffed the scents of other wildlife that frequented the darker corners of the garden. Harriet took out her phone and hesitated for a moment, thinking. Then she sent Daisy a message and grinned to herself as she threw another stick for Monty.


It was funny seeing Fran struggling with a cargo bike in the town centre, she looked like fire and brimstone as she propelled the long tail bike up and over the bridge towards Higher Theraton. Her long hair was tied in a pony tail and draped around her neck tangling with the straps of her helmet. The panniers on the back of the bike were not too heavily loaded but Daisy could see that Fran had already discarded her coat and warm layers into the panniers making them look more full then they were. Fran’s bare shoulders and arms glistened with sweat and the back of her cycle jersey was likewise soaked.
Daisy gradually caught her up and tring tringed the bell on her trike before checking it was safe to overtake and taking advantage of the downward slope of the bridge. Racing cargo bikes over a bridge was never going to be an exciting spectator sport as neither were particularly fast but Daisy had the advantage of being unladen on her outward bound ride, while Fran was fully loaded. By the end of the morning Fran will be the one better off, tired but unladen, where as Daisy will be exhausted and fully loaded.

“Morning Fran!” Daisy called out as they were side by side.

“Ya fu… Ya… ca… fu… Huh… Ya… Bit…ch!” Fran managed to pant as she pushed on as best as she could. Fran wanted to say more but just didn’t have the breath to mutter any more insults at Daisy without the risk of running out of forward motion and falling over. Though she swore at Daisy each time their paths crossed she was only keeping up the pretence of annoyance at Daisy setting her up with the job in the first place. Though to be fair she did need a job and it wasn’t just that Nick had sweet talked her into it, Fran was more persuaded by Elías who volunteered to help her get started on her paid trial week. Fran had quickly found out that Elías was twenty seven, single, and had a voice and accent to die for. He was also fitter then anyone she had ever met, and had the build of an athletic rock climber, which also turned out to be his other passion. His lean sinuous body was all tight muscles under his olive skin and black hair, and he had the most annoying habit of finishing a ride and still looking effortlessly like a Greek God, as Fran described it, no matter how heavy a load was on his bike. It was almost as annoying as the number of times Fran felt the need to describe Elías to Daisy after her first day on her work trial! Daisy couldn’t see it herself, but what would she know.

Daisy took it in her stride, accepting that Fran did have a right to be just a little annoyed that she had been dropped in it. But also more then happy that she seemed to have been quite taken by Elías, and that was better then hearing Fran complain about her aches and pains. All in all getting Nick on the phone to Fran was inspired.

After her third day Fran got home and flopped onto the sofa and gave her thighs and calves a massage. She kicked off her shoes and socks and flexed her aching feet. “Oh hell, I ache so much!” But despite that she began to see both the good and bad sides of starting as a cycle courier. The good was that she was going to be paid at the end of the week, and that she will be getting fitter, and that she had started at the right time of the year as it was approaching spring. Then there was also Elías of course. The bad was getting up early again, though that would just be habit, her legs and bum hurt, and she was going to have to do more laundry to counter the amount she was sweating during the day. Also it was really hard work, physically hard, and she would need to get better clothes to wear while cycling. But overall, it was a good thing to be doing for now. And if Daisy could make the move to a more rewarding working life then maybe it would work for her too. It certainly beat trying to make things out of cardboard that would have no financial return in any foreseeable future.

The door clicked open and Daisy came home. “Hey Fran, you ok?”

“How long does it take for my legs to feel normal again?”

“Awww, poor you! Give it another week, Fran, and then you won’t notice your aching legs.” Daisy said reassuringly as she sat down next to Fran. They both sighed and sank into the sofa tired out. “By then everything else will be aching and your legs will be the least of your concerns!” Daisy laughed.

Fran glared at her. “What? Seriously? You’re joking with me. Tell me you’re just joking with me!”

“No, honestly,” Daisy was more serious, “It will be a bit like that and then it gets better. It is just your body adapting to the activity. You’ll be fine. Nick has you on lighter rounds I suspect, to ease you into the job. How are you finding it anyway, aside from the aches?”

Fran sighed, it didn’t feel like lighter duties, that would just mean it gets harder the longer she does the job. But she thought about the perks. “Oh, it’s actually okay. Completely weird compared to anything else I’ve done to be honest. But these are strange times I guess. It does feel good getting back out in the world and seeing and talking to people again. I am getting fitter I suppose. And Elías seems nice. And Nick too.” Fran added quickly.

Daisy smiled. “Nick is a good chap, if you are ever in any trouble he’ll pull out all the stops to help you. I don’t really know Elías that well, just to wave to as we pass. You a bit keen on him then?” Daisy was careful not to sound like she was mocking. “You look happier when you mention his name.”

“Oh he’s ok, he makes me laugh, and he’s… quite fit… if you know what I mean. He’s a bit flirty, but I’m not sure if he does that with everyone. Do you think I should ask him out then? He is single, and into women, well I think he is into women.” Fran gave Daisy an innocent look, and then grinned.

“I think you should finish the week’s trial, and see if you get to carry on working with them first. You can get to know him better that way and see if the interest is real and mutual. You wouldn’t want to be messed about with just because you think he’s a bit… fit.”

“Sometimes you are so serious, Daisy, it reminds me that you are almost old enough to be my Mum!” Fran reached across and gave Daisy a brief hug. “But I know you’re right. I don’t want to mess up another relationship before it’s already started.”

“And you want to be sure about the job too! You working as a courier shouldn’t be based on you fancying Elías!” Daisy heaved herself back off the sofa. “Anyway, I’m going for a shower, you should too. But after me! And I’ll get dinner started while you’re in there.”

(Chapter 40 here)
(Chapter 42 here)

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