Chapter Forty-Five

Inside a house in the open plan living room. The walls are magnolia, and there is a pale carpet on the floor. Daisy is wearing a burgundy coat and coming down the stairs at the back of the living room. Harriet is standing in the doorway to the kitchen, at the bottom of the stairs. She is wearing a black coat and is calling up the stairs to Daisy. There is no carpet on the stairs, there are lengths of skirting board laid across the living room carpet, and there are lampshades on the ceiling lights.

Harriet and Daisy

“…and as congestion builds around the Ultimo Centre the police have set a diversion around the incident to allow for recovery to take place. The ring road is expected to be closed for a number of hours and drivers are advised to seek alternative routes for their journeys home. And that is the traffic report at four fifty-five on Radio Theraton at the far end of your radio dial.”
“Thank you, Sam, for that report, and for all you drivers stuck on the ring road we have Winner Today, the new single by Can Guru as we lead into the five oh clock news…” 

“Ooh, I like that song, they’ve been plugging it all week and it’s grown on me. ‘Lose it all today… Could win it all tomorrow! Never giving up… together we can grow…’” Daisy sang along.

“Oh yeah, it’s a good song. Do you know his early stuff? When he was Maxwell Watts? I loved his ‘Out Of The Blue’ album. I could name drop and say I met him once, back then, he was playing a gig in a café and I got him to sign the CD for me.” Harriet smiled proudly.

“Oooh, get you!” Daisy laughed as she remembered having met a few minor celebrities in her previous life. Suddenly being a clothing model seemed such a long time ago. “Anyway, I was wondering what all the sirens were for, while I was walking back from work. I hope no one’s hurt! With all that traffic it’s a good thing we’re only walking to the house.” Daisy swung a set of keys around on her finger as she picked up her mug of tea. “Thank you for offering to come with me.”

“How could I not! I suggested it to you, so if it is rubbish at least I can be there to see it for myself. Besides, if I can convince you it is lovely, I get a commission!” Harriet laughed as she rubbed imaginary money in her fingertips, mockingly.

“Which you will share with me and help me set up home? Anyway, it’s my money that I would be paying over and above the price so that your landlord can give you a commission.” Daisy winked and put her arms over Harriet’s shoulders pulling her in for a kiss while trying not to spill tea down her back.

Harriet enjoyed the kisses, especially as Daisy had recently been more generous with them. “You’re getting very affectionate nowadays.” Harriet leaned in and rested her head on Daisy’s chest, breathing in her scent and stroking her back. “Not that I’m complaining, so long as you are happy.”

“I am, very happy.” Daisy toyed with the words that felt comfortable in her mouth the other day, and hoped she wouldn’t feel nervous about using them. “I’m in love you, Harriet, so why shouldn’t I be?”

A warm feeling rushed through Harriet, and she looked up. “Are you sure? I mean… I just didn’t want to… rush you, or anything. You know the feeling’s mutual. I hope you know that.”

“Oh, really?” Daisy pretended to look surprised. “Well I never! What with you being so distant and avoiding me!
“Yes, I think I knew that, I think that’s why… why I think I… why it was easier for me to… you know… understand how I am feeling. I only realised it the other day going to work. It just kinda dawned on me that this wasn’t just a… a ‘thing’ I didn’t understand any more.” Daisy pulled a face as she tried to find the right words to describe her growing awareness of her own feelings. “It’s comfortable to feel this way about you. And I had to work that one out for myself before I could…”

“That’s what I love about you.” Harriet smiled as she interrupted. “You think about stuff. Sometimes a bit too much, but better then not enough. You are taking us seriously as a couple.”

“Well, I am serious! I’m serious about you. I am serious about where this is going. I am serious about giving us the best go of it!”

“I know, Daisy.” Harriet touched Daisy’s cheek and brushed her hair back from her face. “You don’t need to explain, unless you… errr… need to. Hmmm…? Well, you know what I mean…
“If it matters to you to think it though and tell me then that fine. It is good to hear how you feel, and to know you are not hiding anything. And yes, I’m in love with you too!” Harriet kissed Daisy’s neck and nibbled at her ear lobe as Daisy relaxed into her caresses. “But before we get too carried away…” Harriet took a deep breath to clear her head. “We have a house to view.” She uncoiled herself from Daisy and sighed. “Come on gorgeous, lets get it looked at.
“Monty, you stay here, we won’t be long.”

“Awww, poor Monty!” Daisy bent down to ruffle Monty’s ears. “Can’t he come with us? He’d enjoy the walk.”

“We can take him out when we’re back. Just thinking that Mr Chow might not want dog hair in the house in case you decide you don’t like it. Also it might still be a building site.”

“Oh yeah, okay, sensible I suppose. Sorry, Monty, I tried. But there is always later.”
Monty cocked his head, knowing that he was being talked about, and waited for some indication of what, but none came. The pack was going out again and he was guarding the den.

****

“Crumbs! You can really see the traffic backed up from here!” Harriet was looking up at the ring road as they walked towards the underpass towards Lister Drive. The afternoon rush hour had frozen in its tracks as blue lights flickered in the distance. “Whatever it is it looks serious for the ring road to be closed. I’ve not seen that happen before, not here anyway.”

“Well at least it is over that way and not here.” Daisy replied optimistically as they rounded the corner into Lister Drive. She looked down to the end of the road where more stationary traffic could be seen atop the ring road slip road, unable to detour to another route. “Maybe I spoke too soon! I guess that might be why your landlord wants to sell the house, it’s a bit rubbish with all the traffic!” They carried on walking down the road towards number six.

“You still have the key, don’t you?” Harriet asked.

Daisy put her hand in her pocket. “Yep, I still have the key.”

“Ahh good, cos I left my phone behind! Monty will be all over over it ordering fancy dogfood and a bigger bed.” Harriet laughed. “At least one of us has their act together. Right, I guess you’d better open up and have a look then.”

Daisy walked up the path and unlocked the front door. There were two locks, a mortice and a rim lock, she unlocked each in turn. The yellow paint and brass fittings looked new and the door opened easily, and then wedged to a stop. “Ugh, something’s blocking the door, we’ll have to squeeze in.”

They got inside and Harriet had a look behind the door. “Oh, I see, the stack of skirting boards have fallen over behind the door. Hang on, I’ll pile then up again.” Being long boards they were lying diagonally across the carpet. Harriet shuffled the boards and left them in a more tidy stack in the hope that they wouldn’t tip over again.

Daisy looked around the living room, it had a pale carpet that looked new or recently cleaned, magnolia painted walls, the big double sash window at the front, and a sideways staircase at the back. At the foot of the stairs there was a plain brown door leading to another room at the back. “It’s not very big inside!” Daisy exclaimed. She had grown used to the larger rooms of the Victorian town house she was living in.

“Well, it’s not very big on the outside, so unless you were expecting to bump into Jodie Whittaker…” Harriet laughed.

“Now there’s a thought!” Daisy paused and looked wistful before shaking her head. “Anyway, being open plan makes it feel a bit better. I do love that curve on the stairs though!” At the back of the living room the staircase leading to the upper floor had winding tapered treads sweeping around to the landing. She reached up and stroked the curved underside of the winding staircase where it met the ceiling. “I’m going to go up and have a nosy.” She trotted up the stairs.

Harriet opened the other door in the room and found the kitchen. She went inside and had a quick look around. A tile effect flooring, half glazed back door, a sink unit under the window, a couple of cabinets opposite with a gap for a cooker. There was also a space for a fridge to go in the corner next to the sink. “Hey Daisy! The kitchen is bigger then mine at least!
“Daisy?” Harriet stuck her head back out of the door and called up the stairs. “Found the kitchen! What’s it like upstairs?”

Daisy came back down the stairs. “Bedroom and huge bathroom! I reckon it was once a two bed with an outside privy or something. The layout is odd. This staircase wouldn’t have been here originally so it could have been three rooms up here at one time. Have you seen the garden?”

“No, door’s locked. And the window is overgrown with shrubs. Can’t see a thing! Have you got the key?”

“Nah, just got the two keys for the front door.” Daisy joined Harriet in the kitchen and peered through the window. “You any good with a machete? Or a chainsaw?”

Harriet grinned as she pulled random kitchen cabinet drawers open. “Ahh, found a key!” She opened the back door and had no better idea of the garden then their view from the window. It looked like a wall of ivy had died and fallen over the door. “Mini-digger? Always up for a bit of garden plant… ing.?” She grinned.

“I think I am going to have to factor in skip hire against the cost of the house when I negotiate!” Daisy sighed. “Come upstairs and have a look at the rest of it” Daisy went back up the stairs, with Harriet following.

“Oh! I see what you mean about the bathroom. It’s the same size as the kitchen, and could be a large single bedroom.” She looked at teal coloured bath, basin and toilet. “You might want to replace the suite, with something more modern. And white!”

“Oh, I quite like the colour, it’s different, and saves a bit of money and waste. Besides it matches the floor tiles.”

Harriet glanced at Daisy but decided not to challenge her about the colour of the suite and went on to inspect the bedroom instead. “Hmmm, Two windows in the same room, maybe this was two rooms once. A box room above the front door would have been possible. At least you can get a standard double in here, I wouldn’t go bigger then that.” Harriet stretched her arms out across the room to gauge the space for a bed.

Daisy lay on the carpet where she imagined the bed to be. “Nothing wrong with a standard double bed. We don’t all need a monster sized bed like yours.”

Harriet looked at the space and then lay down next to Daisy. “We’d end up this close.”

“And there’s a problem with that?” Daisy reached across and squeezed Harriet’s hand.

“No… but space to… move? And stretch.” Harriet rolled over to look at Daisy and stroked her face before leaning in for a kiss.

“So, what do you think of the place?”

“Looking good from where I am.”

“Behave! There’s no curtains! No, seriously, the house, what’s your thoughts?”

Harriet sat up. “Well, it’s small, and it is oddly renovated, and still needs a lot of work. Odd that it has been decorated and has carpets, but half the skirting boards and architraves are missing! It all seems to have been done in the wrong order. Anyway, nothing that can’t be sorted out I suppose. It depends on what you can negotiate on it. Then there is the ring road…” Harriet got up and looked out of the window. “It might be a little noisy, but you can watch all the traffic, if you’re into lorry spotting.
“Oh, look! You can see the recovery going on! That’s a lot of tow trucks, and a crane!”

“You do like your machinery don’t you! Daisy teased.

“We all have our vices.” Harriet laughed, “I try to keep mine on my workbench!”

“Haha! Okay, lets go back to yours and have a chat about ‘your vices’, and maybe talk about the house a bit too!” Daisy got up from the floor and they headed to the workshop.


Adam and Amanda

“Greene IT, Adam speaking.”
“Oh hello Ritu, how are you?”
“Oh no! How is he?”
“In Theraton General?”
“Oh heck, how are you doing? Can we help at all?”
“They won’t! That’s a bit… Well, Covid I expect. They’ve gotta let you in to see him at some point!”
“Yes, of course. Look, whatever you need that we can help with just ask. We can make some calls and sort a few things if you need.”
“Okay, do what you can and if you need to talk we are right here. We can take over some of the admin and stuff if you need.”
“Okay, I’ll tell Amanda. You take care, yeah, and let us know if anything changes.”
“Yeah, bye for now.”

“Hey, love, it’s me.”
“No no, everything is fine here.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to disturb you at work but I just had a call from Ritu.”
“There’s been a big crash on the ring road, did you hear about it?”
“Yeah, that one. Robbie was there.”
“Yeah, well, no. He’s in intensive care.”
“I’ve not got the full picture, I didn’t want to ask, but it seems that a tanker lorry rolled over onto Robbie’s van.”
“Yeah, Ritu’s in bits.”
“Yeah, you could do. I’m sure she’ll be grateful for the support.”
“No, not sure, I’d try their warehouse first, the staff will know where she is”
“Okay, let me know.”
“Yeah, see you later, love.”

“Ahhh, ‘kin shit!” Adam shouted in frustration. He closed the spreadsheet window on his laptop and did a search for the hospital enquiries number and phoned it. The number was busy. Hardly surprising given the size of the crash, there must be other people injured. He walked over to the window and looked outside. The streets were no longer as quiet as they used to be as people tried to return to some level or normality. He tried to make sense of the world outside, people going about their business oblivious, the queues of traffic… Of course the traffic would be from people diverting around the ring road. As he leaned against the glass his eyes screwed up, his face crumpled, and his knees weakened. He lowered himself to the floor, gripping the edge of the window ledge, his shoulders began to shake and the tears welled up. He had been holding it together for Amanda’s sake but this tipped him over the edge. Robbie was a friend, not his closest friend, but someone he knew and trusted. They had worked on Ritu’s website, visited each others homes, had dinner together. He had listened to Robbie’s hopes and fears about Ritu’s business expansion. Robbie was first to offer to help with moving Harriet out of her old life. He was the first port of call if you needed something moving, even if it was just the extra hand. He was one of life’s good guys, generous to a fault. Adam couldn’t come to terms with all the pain. Having just lost his beloved mother in law and now his friend, Robbie, was in intensive care. It wasn’t fair. Life wasn’t fair. The world wasn’t fair!

As Adam curled up in a ball and cried, he wished Amanda was there. But he was also glad she was not. She didn’t need to see him like this, nor have to cope with him like this. He needed to get the crying out of his system and steady himself again before Amanda came home. He usually did his crying in the shower, the sound of the water masked his sobbing as it washed away the tears. The pummelling hot water on his back comforted him. And no one would know how often it happened as he composed himself while towelling dry. Amanda will be upset, especially if she has been able to talk to Ritu and…

…and he needed tissues to clean up the snot and tears on the carpet. Adam looked around for them, barely able to focus through his tears, and decided to pull off his tee shirt to wipe his face, and then the carpet. He would have to change and hope that Amanda didn’t notice. Despite sobbing and shaking uncontrollably on the carpet Adam couldn’t help noticing the cocktail stick lodged in the edge of the carpet, unseen against the skirting board. He reached out a hand to pick it out but it wouldn’t come. It was caught in the carpet fibres. He would need a knife, or scissors to cut the fibres. No, he would need nails scissors as they were smaller. Adam wasn’t sure if they had nail scissors, surely Amanda should have some. He’d have to get up off the floor to find some. Except he couldn’t. Every time he tried to stand up his body shuddered and he began to cry again. He could feel his back getting cold and his skin tightening as he hugged his damp and snot covered tee shirt to his chest. He tried again to get up but as he sobbed he lost his balance and rolled onto to his side on the floor. He gripped the tee shirt and held it to his face as he cried at his own incompetence, his whole body shaking.
The front door clicked open. He should have had hours yet. Why is Amanda home? Adam didn’t have the strength to understand…

“Hey Adam, I was passing anyway I thought I’d pop back in and…” Amanda opened the living room door and saw her half naked husband sobbing on the floor. “Adam! What’s happened?” She knelt down beside him and found the sodden tee shirt against his face. “Adam?”

Adam couldn’t look up at his wife.
He sobbed shamelessly.
He sobbed in shame at his own inability to cope.
He sobbed because his wife was gentle with him as she helped lift him and cradled him in her arms as he cried.
He sobbed as she understood and told him he didn’t need to explain and that she would get help.
He sobbed because he knew she was right and would get help for him.
He sobbed because he knew needed to be helped.
Because he wasn’t coping.
Because…

Because…

Because depression was shit.
He sobbed…


(Chapter 44 here)
(Chapter 46 here)

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