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This is a continuation of The New Assistant and is about a grieving girl and the person who saved her. It does not matter if you have not read The New Assistant, but it might help a little. The story also introduces some new characters’ that become important to Milly.
My thanks to JPGmvny for taking a great deal of time to edit this work and provide helpful suggestions about plot points. I consider myself lucky that such a talented writer would help me and I strongly suggest you read their work.
It was combination of my internal alarm and the sun coming through the window that woke me that morning. I was reluctant to get up but knew that coffee would help so I brewed a pot and took it outside. Wearing a sweater over my pyjamas, it was warm enough to sit in the garden.
Warmer than the day four years ago, when it was miserable, cloudy, rainy and black. Not that I could remember much of that day. It was hard to believe that Alex had been cremated so long ago; it seemed that I had been able to see and touch her much more recently. Perhaps it was because I knew her so intimately that I could still imagine her close to me. I finished the coffee and reminded myself that I needed to have a positive day.
I went for a walk by the lake and sat for a while with my sketch pad, but it wasn’t really happening so I headed back home. After doing some housework to stay busy, I once again sat in the garden. My mood was still black. I picked up my sketch pad to try once again. My grief and anger had been close to the surface all day and I let it out with a pencil. After an hour of frantic drawing I set down the pencil and looked at my work. This was far removed from my norm; it was dark and very detailed. It was a kind of self portrait, but more of how I felt than how I looked. Some of you may be familiar with ‘Scream’ by Edvard Munch and it must have been that picture which inspired this one. It was a face, but filled with anger, sadness, despair and loss, a female face with every feature drooping downwards.
I went to wash my hands and decided to change. I stripped and went to the wardrobe, but caught sight of myself in the mirror. I was lucky I suppose, 5’06”, lots of freckles on my shoulders and legs, decent bust which was still fairly firm, flat stomach and good legs. Perhaps a shade too skinny because of the weight that I’d lost over the last couple of years. I had some faint freckles across my nose, blue eyes and long, very striking red hair, not too bad for 34 years of age. I pulled on pair of close fitting jeans, a red sweater and a pair of red heels. A little mascara, some lip gloss and I tied my hair back into a loose pony tail. I rubbed the bangle on my right wrist, the one that Alex had given me, it had been too small and I’d had to force it over my hand to get it on. It would need to be cut to remove it, never. I would never remove it.
I put my sketch pad into my shoulder bag and left the cottage for the five minute walk to the pub in the centre of the small village. It was unusual for me to go to the pub in the evening, but I felt that I needed to be around people this evening.
“Milly, hi we are honoured by an evening visit, what can I get you?”
“Evening Reg. Can I get a fish and chips and a half pint of bitter please. I just didn’t want to cook tonight or be on my own.” I went over and sat in a corner well away from the rest of the customers. The food was pretty good and the beer excellent. Beer was something that I’d acquired a taste for since coming to live in the Lake District almost four years ago.
I watched the other customers, listened to some men arguing about darts and for a few minutes closed my eyes and thought about Alex. She’d changed my life twice; we’d fallen in love and married despite us both believing that we were straight, until shortly after we met. The three and a half years that we had together as a couple had been magical, then she crossed the road in front of a car and my world crashed. I was barely recovered and tried very hard to remind myself that I’d experienced something very special, something many people never get to feel. But enough, I was here to stop feeling so sad.
The pub was filling up and I took out my sketch pad. I did a quick drawing of old Bob who seemed to sit at the end of the bar permanently and who rarely spoke. I went to get a refill and he nodded to me, I pointed to his almost empty glass, he smiled and nodded. Reg refilled it for him and he said, “Thanks lass,” and winked at me. I smiled as I returned to my seat.
There were four women, about my age, sitting on the other side of the bar. They were all leaning over the table as if hatching some secret plot and I decided to sketch them. No one would ever be able to identify them as I made them appear like witches. I was finishing it off when I became aware of someone standing close to me. All I could see was a black shape in shadow because of the light behind the person, but she spoke.
“Excuse me, are you Milly? Milly Morgan?”
I canlı bahis looked at her and got the feeling that I knew her from somewhere, “Yes, can I help you?”
“I’m Jenny, Jenny Nelson.”
That also sounded familiar, “I’m sorry….”
“About four years ago, I found you, you were missing.”
The penny fell into the slot, “The police officer, the one who found me and listened to me. Yes, I’m Milly Morgan, well Milly Scott.”
“It must be about four years ago. I often wondered what’d happened to you, how you were and here you are.”
I thought about that day. “It will be four years next week. Alex was cremated four years ago today, I wanted to be around people today,” I paused, “thank you for what you did that day, I think that you may have saved me.”
“Look, I hope I’m not intruding. I’m here with some friends and I couldn’t believe that it was you. As I said I’ve thought about you so many times, I had to come over.”
“Why don’t you sit down, the last time we met you were looming over me as well. Can I buy you a drink?”
“No thanks, I have one with my friends and I don’t want to impose. Did you come back here because of that day?”
“No, I live here now; I bought a cottage at the end of the village.”
“I know it from when I patrolled here.”
“Are you still in the police?”
“Yes, but I’ve been in the CID for two years now and I’m based at Windermere. It’s very different from uniform, but I enjoy it. I don’t want to pry, but what happened after you left here and what brought you back? You can tell me to mind my own business, I won’t be offended.”
“It might do me some good, as I remember you were a good listener, but I need another drink.”
Jenny went to speak to her pals and I went back to the bar to get our drinks. Bob looked at me and I told Reg to refill his glass. He winked again, “Thanks lass.”
I’d been bereft. I’d got in my car the day after the funeral and drove blindly until I ended up in the Lake District, it was an area that I knew of, but had never visited. I’d found a small hotel and sat staring at the nearby lake for a couple of days until Jenny found me, because my friends had become worried and reported me missing. Jenny had listened to me for over an hour and somehow I’d felt better afterwards. At least it made me go back home and face the things that I needed to do. I’d also decided to move home and thought that the Lake District would be the right place.
I sat down with the drinks and looked across to where Jenny’s friends were. I saw the blonde girl look over and I think that she said “Wow.” She saw me looking and gave a little wave.
Jenny walked back over and sat down, she was about my age, slim, a little taller than me and had a blonde pixie cut.
“I got the impression that your blond friend knows me, she mouthed ‘wow’.”
Jenny smiled, “She probably feels that she does know you. As I said I was struck by you the day that we met. I’d done plenty of missing person enquiries and delivered death messages, which were never fun, but there was something that day that shook me. You were so bereft, lost and afterwards I kept wondering what’d happened to you. My friends, those girls over there, have made fun of me ever since and when I told them that it was you sitting here they were a little shocked. Clare, the blonde, also thinks that you’re gorgeous.”
“That’s very kind of her. You spent a long time with me; I thought that the police were too busy these days.”
“I recognised a little of how you felt and I told my sergeant that I thought you may be suicidal.” She paused for a moment, “I was very close to my father, my mum had died when I was only six and it had been just the two of us, so we were very close and then he died about six years ago. I know that was different to your situation, but it was similar enough for me to have a little idea how you were feeling.”
“It made a difference to me; I went back and sorted things out, thank you again.”
“So what do you do now, are you working?” I paused before answering, but she carried on, “I’m sorry, it’s none of my business, I must be in investigation mode.”
“Actually after I came back here I was taking some time to decide what to do and I started sketching every day. Now I sell some and earn a little from that.”
“Shit, I don’t believe it! I thought that I was detective. You’re ‘Milly’ my uncle has your pictures in his gallery, Ben Anderson. All this time you’ve been right here, under my nose and I never connected the two things”
“Ben is your uncle?”
“Not a real uncle. My Dad and Ben were at school together and they were always close. He was the person who helped me out after my dad died; I think that we helped each other.”
“That’s a coincidence,” I paused, that was odd, “Not long after I moved here I wandered into his gallery by chance. I stood staring at the pictures, dozens of scenes, water colours and pastels, they all seemed to bahis siteleri blur into one image. He caught me looking and saw the sketch book in my bag, so he asked to see my work and that’s how it started. He’s a nice man and has been very kind to me; it seems that it’s a family trait.”
“Well he’s not really family, but as close as it gets.”
“He’s like family to me as well I suppose. Maybe it means that we’re related?” We both laughed. I felt good, so much better than I expected to feel on this day. We chatted for another hour before Jenny’s friends indicated that they were ready to leave and I’d stayed far longer than I’d intended.
I walked out of the door with Jenny and saw her friends standing at a car a few yards away. I turned to Jenny and said, “Thank for that day and for coming over this evening, you’ve helped me twice now.” I took her arm and kissed her cheek. I walked away down the lane and heard someone say, “Bloody hell Jen.”
There was a moon that evening and it was still pleasantly warm. That was a turn up and the day that I expected to be a difficult one hadn’t been so bad. I went straight up to bed and as I undressed I looked at the sketch of Alex, I did so long ago, that hung opposite the bed. “I still miss you and I still love you,” I whispered. I pulled on one of her old shirts that I’d kept and climbed into bed. The tears flowed again that night.
The next morning I awoke early, feeling refreshed.
“Bloody hell Jen.” I stared at Liz, but she didn’t say anymore.
I climbed into the back of the car, Clare and Liz who were in the front, turned round to look at me as did Susie who was alongside me. She said what they were all thinking, “You never mentioned that the ‘mystery woman’ was drop dead fucking gorgeous, you sly bugger.”
“In all the time that I thought about her and wondered what had become of her I never thought of her like that. The day that I met her she looked bedraggled, tired, unkempt and very sad.”
“I doubt if anyone that bloody gorgeous could’ve looked so bad that you didn’t notice. That’s why you fell in love with her.”
I stared at Clare, “What are you talking about? I didn’t fall in love with her.” I was defensive, I was irritated.
Susie laughed at me, “We’ve all known that you fell in love with her that day. That’s why we put up with you talking about her every few months, which is why you’ve not had a relationship that lasted more than a few weeks for over three years.”
Liz took my hand, “Jen, Susie is right you need to call that woman, you need to do it for yourself. Come on you lot, I need to get home and remind someone that I love them too.”
“You could tell me right now.” Clare gave her that look, the one that says ‘take me now.’
“I said ‘remind’ and that will not involve words, but when I’ve finished with you, you’ll know it.”
I sat back thinking about Milly, they were right, although I wouldn’t admit it to them. I’d fallen in love with her, but it seemed wrong, she’d just lost the love of her life and even now she was still grieving. She was gorgeous though.
Milly: The Vicar
After making a pot of coffee I took it outside. The air was fresh and it promised to be a nice day. I checked my emails and the news, then sat staring into the distance. Something about Jenny was bugging me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
It was a nice morning for a walk and after dressing I put on a cardigan, grabbed my shoulder bag and set off. I only got as far as the pub when I saw how the light struck it. I sat on a bench and spent fifteen minutes sketching before I carried on. I went along a path that cut across a field and headed towards a stream. I realised that the cows were following me and their inquisitive faces made me smile. When I stopped so did they. They came as far as the stile where I waved to them like an idiot. I stopped twice as I followed the stream, to sketch a rock pool and the road bridge, and then I took the path into the village two miles away from my own.
As I walked past the church I seemed to be drawn into the graveyard. I sat for a few minutes and then drew three gravestones from a very low angle with the church seemingly in the distance. It was odd and looked a little sinister. It puzzled me. It wasn’t my usual style, darker. I’d never had a proper art lesson. In primary school we’d painted a little but as I got older I preferred more practical arts like cooking and dressmaking. I’d picked up a sketch pad years ago and somehow, from somewhere I developed a skill. It made me happy, made me see details in things that I might otherwise have missed. It made me a little money and gave me a purpose.
I started to draw a more conventional view of the church with its bell tower and was almost finished when I saw the Vicar heading along the path. He paused and spoke, “Good morning, lovely day.”
“Good morning Vicar, it is. I was out for a walk and felt drawn here and decided to sketch bahis şirketleri your church. I hope that’s okay.”
“It’s not my church. It belongs to the community and I simply look after it. I’m Alan, by the way.”
“I’m Milly. I live in the next village.”
“Yes, I know who you are, Milly the artist from Rose Cottage.”
“You seem to know a lot about me Alan.”
“You’re one of my parishioners and I like to know my community.”
“I’m not a church goer. I used to be, but I lost my faith.”
“Just because you don’t attend church doesn’t alter the fact that you’re one of my parishioners. I’m here for everyone; I can’t favour those who attend every week over those who only come at Easter or Christmas, or never at all.”
“That’s how I remember church, from my childhood. But things changed. My parents changed and became…” I hesitated looking for the right words, “very dogmatic, more inflexible and perhaps less Christian in their views.”
“I understand that you’re a widow. You lost your partner a few years ago, is that right?”
I laughed, “A widow? I am I suppose, but you’re the first person to ever use that term. My wife died in a road accident four years ago and I’ve struggled since then to make sense of things. But life seems better these last few days.”
“If ever you want to talk Milly I’d be happy to listen. I may not be able to help you, but sometimes just sharing makes things easier. I have to go and see one of my flock now, but you know where I am if you ever want a chat. The building with the tower and cross.” He pointed behind him and smiled.
I stood up and touched his arm, “Thank you. These last few minutes helped more than you know.”
I walked back along the road towards home and found Bob sitting on the bench opposite the pub, the bench that I’d used earlier.
“Good morning. Waiting for opening time?”
“Door’s open lass, just enjoying the sun. Why’d you buy me a drink?”
“I don’t know, but it seemed like the right thing to do.”
“It’s kind o’ thee. You’re a loner, a bit like me.”
“My partner, my wife, died a few years ago and I’m still trying to move on. I must be doing something right. You’re the third person I’ve admitted that to in the last couple of days.”
“Bonny lass like you should be having fun and finding a new love.” He gave me a toothy grin and a smile that made me think that he had a devilish streak.
“Are you looking?” I was teasing him now and he laughed.
“If I were thirty years younger lass I’d be carrying you off right now.”
“Come, I’ll buy you a pint.” I took his arm as we crossed the road and went into the bar. The look on Reg’s face was a picture.
When Bob said, “Morning Reg. Look I’ve got me a date.” He burst out laughing. I bought Bob his pint and I had a coffee before heading home smiling. I hadn’t felt this good for a long time. Maybe even for four years.
It was some days later that I drove into Ambleside. After parking I walked to the gallery where I sold my sketches. The door bell dinged as I entered and Ben Anderson, the owner, was sipping coffee behind the counter.
“Good morning Milly. Very nice to see you. I hope that you’ve brought me more work to sell. We hard-worked gallery owners are as poor as church mice.” He grinned as he spoke.
“You hard-worked gallery owners? You mean the bandits who pay pennies to we starving artists? How are you?”
“I’m good; your work is selling well.” I looked round his gallery. Still full of water colours depicting scenes of the area, but they were all very similar to each another. He dedicated a section of one wall to my work, but had taken care to display just a small selection surrounded with lots of blank space. It made all of them jump out and it was clear that my work took pride of place. I shook my head every time that I thought about it. His doing that made no sense to me.
I opened my portfolio to show him some of my latest pieces and he went through them studying each one.
“Most of this will sell well and a couple should do well if you exhibit in London as Daniel suggests.”
“I’m still not convinced about that, but I’ll be speaking to him in a day or two.”
He flipped over to the drawing I did of ‘Despair’ the one that reminded me of the ‘Scream.’ “This is astonishing, it’s dark and moody. It’s you, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is. It was a black day and that was how I felt.” We both studied the picture and I heard the door chime. Ben went to speak to his customer while I looked at some of the other work on display.
I was in a daydream when Ben called me over. “This lady just purchased the sketch of a Herdwick sheep.”
The woman was well dressed and with a great deal of hair that only lots of hair spray could hold in place. She said, “I love this artist’s work. Very talented.”
“Thank you, I’m glad that you like my work.” Her jaw dropped so far it nearly hit her knees, both Bob and I laughed, “Is it for you or a gift?”
“It’s for me. I’m blown away. What a pleasure to meet you. Could I ask you to sign the back of the frame?”
I smiled, this would be my first. “Do you have a pound?”
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