Friday, 16 November 2007

Jane Part Two

YOU CAN LEAD A HORTICULTURE, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE HER THINK. Dorothy Parker

That quote is courtesy of Shelagh, my sister in law, but I post it here because it’s the sort of thing that would have made Jane roar with laughter.

I haven’t heard anything from the owner of Jane’s cottage, so here is a version of what might happen. Don’t tell Himself. I’m supposed to be having a break from any writing for a few days as I’ve been very down recently and he thinks I need a rest. But I just had to write this .....


ARTHUR'S STORY

Arthur heard the cough of the postman’s van outside and lifted his head, heard a raucous greeting with the ginger haired lad who always cleaned the public toilets at this time of the morning. A burst of laughter, a bark from next door’s collie and a knock on the door. Arthur started, head lifted like a gun dog. Wouldn’t be for here. Not for Jane, after so long.

Another rap on the door. ‘Oy. Mister! Letter for you.’

Arthur froze, wondered whether to hide as he had done for the last few weeks. He shivered as the call was repeated. Curiosity got the better of him. Could it be the girl writing? The boy? How old would they be now? Mid forties – fifties?

He heaved himself to his feet, crossed the tiny dark room and pulled at the top half of the stable door. Stuck, as usual. It swelled with the rain. He tugged again with such might that he feared for his blood pressure and the door swung outwards and hit his cheek with a dull thud. He cursed loudly.

‘You’ll get a nasty bruise if you’re not careful,’ said the postman, his nose ring glinting in the winter sun.

Arthur forced himself not to sock him in the jaw, grunted and took the letter, now wet, from the outstretched hand. Before the lad could talk any more, Arthur shut the door smartly, listened to the disappointed footsteps retreat down the path.

Satisfied that he’d gone, Arthur returned to the smoking fire which cast a dim glow round the room that had always reminded him of being on a ship. The ceiling was low and covered in nicotine, the room filled with a permanent haze of woodsmoke. Everything was just as she’d left it – the walls lined with Penguin classics, photographs of the children when younger – in their twenties, he supposed. A handsome young man with a proud chin, an attractive girl with her mother’s huge fun loving eyes.

A selection of demi-johns in the corner of the room. He dimly remembered her rice and raising wine. On the mantelpiece a collection of postcards from all over the world. Some that he’d sent, he saw to his relief. She’d kept those, then. A calendar, now sadly empty. In strange writing he saw Hospital visit on a Tuesday. Day Centre one Friday. And Pip and Sue in what must have been her writing.

Glancing down at the envelope he wondered how anyone else knew he was here. Had the agent in London heard? Surely he would have rung. The phone was still working. Was it one of the kids? His heart beat faster, but as he turned over the envelope, he saw it was addressed to The Owner, Farthings, and he breathed a sigh of relief. Safe. For now.

He tried to warm his hands on the fire, wondered how Jane had ever kept sane, let alone alive in this place. And yet how she’d loved it. He had a sudden image of her lying in his bed, her hair rumpled, mascara smudged under her eyes. A mini skirt lay on the floor, two empty wine glasses and a half full bottle. His white shirt, lying in a crumpled heap by her stockings. Her shoes, discarded on the floor, waiting to get up and go.

He hated it when she went. Kissed him hurriedly with a mouth that smelt of those French cigarettes she smoked. Leaving him with an empty bed and an empty heart. While she hurried back home to Harry.

He shook his head to clear the image, so bright. That was fifty years ago, felt like yesterday. That was the trouble with getting older. The past was so much clearer than the present. He looked down at the envelope and frowned.

The writing was strange. Not young. Hurried. Careless. Female at a guess. He felt a prickle of fear. Intrusion threatened. He got up, peered out of the window, careful not to show any signs of his presence. Apart from the kitchen window at the back, that he’d had to break to get in, there was no sign of his presence. Apart from the postman and the lavatory cleaner, no one knew he was here. He’d said he was looking after the place, which he was. Just not in the way that they thought.

He sighed and ripped open the envelope. Inside was a postcard, a picture of St Mawes Castle on the front. On the back a short note scrawled in untidy, almost illegible writing.

We were good friends of Jane’s and visited her often. Having heard of her death, we wondered who had bought the cottage and hope it will be loved as she loved it. If you would like to get in touch, here are our details.
There followed an address in Falmouth and a couple’s names.

Arthur sat down in the old armchair and swore as a spring poked through, piercing his right buttock. Friends of Jane’s. He was glad she’d had friends, especially towards the end. She needed them. Perhaps this was the couple she’d mentioned? The husband so much older than the wife. They brought presents and took her to the pub.

Or was this a ruse? A trick. He couldn’t afford that. He stared at the postcard, shrugged and flicked it onto the fire. Watched as the smoke spiralled upwards, shooting flames of bright blue, tongues of green and orange. He felt a sudden pang, which he stifled. Too late now.

Or was it?

END OF PART ONE

Unlike my usual writing, where I have to know what’s going to happen, this time I have no idea where this is going, so please leave suggestions as you think of them.

13 comments:

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Sounds like a ghost story is emerging - but I would say that wouldn't I?
Great writing btw
Crystal xx

Flowerpot said...

well I wasn't thinking along those lines, but I'm sure you can provide teh spectres!!

LittleBrownDog said...

Intriguing - there's lots of atmosphere there. Well, they've got the address so if they don't hear from Arthur, they could just turn up anyway, and the suspense could build, and they could turn out to be...

Oooh, can't wait to hear what happens!

Totty Teabag said...

I'm looking forward to more about the levitating demi-johns in the corner...

Totty Teabag said...

...I was of course referring to the "raising" wine..

Rebecca Taunton said...

Sounds like a crime story FP. A great piece of writing.

I'm very sorry to hear you're having to give writing a break for the time being.I hope the rejections aren't going to stop you writing altogether, there's still hope you know. You're a good writer, and I'm sure there's a market for your work.

I do hope your friend's house hasn't been bought as a second home. It would be lovely to hear that it was lived in, full of life.

I'm looking forward to hearing more of your writing.

Take care,

RT

Flowerpot said...

LBD - I don't think they'll just turn up anyway that would spoil it for me. But who knows?

totty teabag - good to meet you and please call again. Jane's raisin wine was qutie something (hic).

RT - No I'm just having a break because of my bad back (she says, sitting here writing!) - teh rejections did knock me but I need a breather for my head as well. Too much going in recently and it needs time to breathe. Back at it on Monday never fear!

Akelamalu said...

I think he's going to get another letter from the same authors as the postcard. I don't think they should give up!

Great writing Flowerpot. x

elizabethm said...

This was interesting - I really want to know what happens next so keep writing! Loved your post below too.

laurie said...

oooh brilliant.
you need no suggestions from me! just keep going.

Miss Understood said...

Ooooh, romance ans suspense. I love it! I hope the new owner gets in touch.

Flowerpot said...

ak - now I hadn't thought of that. Thank you!

elizabethm - glad you enjoyed it. Now I have to get thinking!!

Flowerpot said...

laurie - thanks for the encouragement. I ahve to keep writing so I know what's going to happen!

MissU - well, he might....!