Vesta’s Hearth Chapter 21
Copyright© Frances Penwiddy 2012
Vesta’s Hearth is a work of fiction, the characters and the Café are fictitious and any resemblance to places or persons living or dead is coincidental.
Vesta’s Hearth is not considered suitable reading matter for minors
In the final chapter of Volume 1, Helen goes home to the Café, buys a case of champagne, dances with Adam and buys a nest.
I was so alive on the way back, I heard every bird sing, felt every breath of wind, I wanted to fly with every cloud in the autumn sky and I sang and as I sang, so the girls sang with me. I let my ponytail down whilst I guided the Zodiac into bends, pushed it down straights and the car picked up on my mood and hummed its way home.
Adam was waiting to greet us at the Café, “How did the photo shoot go?” he asked.
I blushed “Exciting,” and hurried round to the boot to start unloading.
“Exciting? A photo shoot, I thought it would be tiring.”
“That too,” I grabbed the box containing the prints and lifted Maria’s picture and still blushing furiously I said, “Be back in a sec, I want to hide this portrait, it’s a surprise.”
“Oh right, I’ll help.”
“I’m okay but the girls have stuff to carry to their rooms,” and I almost ran to the front of the car, grabbed my bag and went through the reception door before he had a chance to ask to look at the prints. Barbara held the door open, “Got the flasher drive safe?”
I put the portrait at the top of my bed leaning against the wall where it wouldn’t be sat on, the box of pics went into my wardrobe at the back and the flash drive I hid in a lingerie drawer, right at the back and under my knickers. I checked the mirror, I was still a little flushed, God if Adam saw those pictures of the jive he would either rape me or vanish from my life forever. I ran a quick brush through my hair checked my make-up and finally, feeling calmer I went back to the car. Adam and the girls had unloaded everything and he was closing the boot. “You okay?” he asked, “You seemed hot and flushed when you arrived.”
“I’m fine, it was the excitement of the drive home and I wanted to hide the portrait before Maria saw it.” ‘Oh what webs we weave when first we practice to deceive,’ I thought.
“You look really nice in that dress.”
“It’s a skirt.”
“Don’t care it looks nice and the flushed face went with it really well.” He smiled, “Kidding, did you all have a good time, get the pictures you wanted?”
“Boy-oh-boy did we get pictures,” said April before I had a chance to answer, “And videos.”
“Really?” Adam turned back to me, “You must show me.”
I glared at April who was now my-bestest-ever-enemy. “No time at the moment, I’ve got to start work on the finished layouts for the programme. Later.”
“Yes later,” Maria said firmly, “Daughter is tired and must rest before dinner.”
“Yes of course, I’m sorry Helen, you must think me a bore.”
“Never that,” I said before I could stop myself. “You can’t see the pictures, they’re top secret until the concert.”
“And then they go viral on You Tube,” said Maeve carrying off her shopping and chuckling.
Adam looked at her and then back to me a puzzled expression on his face, “What did she mean?”
I shrugged, “Probably thinks the concert will be a big hit, it’s being filmed.” ‘What was that about weaving webs?’
“I’ll park the car if you’ve finished with it.”
“Thank you, I’ll see you at dinner.”
Maria picked up her bits and pieces and as soon as we were out of earshot I said, “Mummy, book me on the first flight to Australia, anywhere in Australia.”
“Daughter is too shy, Adam will like the pictures and film and you will be irresistible to him.”
“Don’t you start, you said I needed to rest.”
“Too shy, you must make Adam realise you are most desirable woman in world.”
“Not by flashing my underwear, well not until after we are married, then I’ll flash away.”
“Good girl always wait until married but you not be too good, be interesting. Other daughter in Mexico be interesting and show legs. Now important brave, Chief’s son, follow her all time and soon she marry and be a princess.”
Maria pushed my door open with her backside and we placed our bags and parcels on the bed. “I stay at Café tonight and tomorrow go home after lunch, girls prepare dinner. I put these two parcels in my room and help girls with dinner tonight.”
“Leave the parcels here if you wish, they won’t be in the way.”
“No, for daughter’s trousseau, you be tempted to peek so I take them home and put them in your bottom drawer in my home.”
“Mummy, you don’t trust me!”
Maria smiled and went to the door, “Maria might be old now but was daughter once and I would have peeked,” and then she went.
I opened the laptop and retrieved the flash drive and spent a half hour copying the pictures into a password protected file and replaced the flash drive in its hiding place beneath my lavender scented lingerie. At least if anybody pinched it I would know the culprit by his or her scent.
I unpacked the rest of my purchases and put them away and moved Maria’s portrait to the wall next to the door, I was tired and needed my bed for an hour’s rest before dinner and then I would have to get back to work on my programmes. I had all the material I needed and with luck, I would have the programme and posters completed by Friday evening. I had to push along because Saturday we were having our first complete rehearsal of the concert and that meant at least five hours, possibly more if May wished to make any changes. From now until the concert we were going to be working hard and there wouldn’t be very much time for anything else.
After dinner I went straight to work on the programmes, May came in before she went home, “I’m seeing Pauline tomorrow, she’s taking the dresses to the cleaners have you made up your mind what you want to wear for your solo?”
“I thought my white dress would be good. I haven’t worn it yet, it needs pressing.”
“Fetch it and I’ll put it with the other stuff.” She nodded at the drawing board; “Pauline has said she will get the Music Society’s printer to quote us for the programmes. When do you think you will have it ready?
“Early next week unless you change things about.”
“No, I’m keeping it the way it is.”
“If you can ask the printer how he wants the artwork; CD, flash drive or camera ready artwork I’ll have it ready to go.”
“Great,” she picked up the clothes and made for the door, “You okay with the jive in the rock and roll section?”
“Yes, it’ll be fun.”
She nodded, “Right but I think we’ll go easy during rehearsals I don’t want you with a twisted ankle on the big night.”
“Sssh, don’t tempt fate. I’ll walk down with you and give you the dress.”
I went straight back to the artwork after she had left and had finished the roughs for the adverts by the time the girls wandered in from clearing up after dinner. Allen and Adam were with them and they settled themselves in the armchairs and started chatting. Maria joined us soon after and came over to where I was working and watched for a short while until I closed the layout pad, stretched and yawned. All done, everything else can be done on the computer but I’m doing no more tonight.
“You want a bottle of champagne opened?”
“No, mummy, leave them for the party after the concert.” We went over to the others and sat down, I had changed before dinner and was wearing the short skirt and realised that they were definitely not ideal when trying to sit in low armchairs whilst wearing stockings and I had to pull the hem down to cover my stocking tops. Adam I noticed was looking and making no attempt to conceal his inspection. I wriggled a little and achieved my goal but I was going to have to keep perfectly still. I daren’t cross my legs so I sat like a little Miss Prim with my knees tightly together and Maria and the girls were all grinning, which didn’t help. Barbara tried to help by suggesting I get the video of the jive out so we could all watch it again, I hate that bitch.
“What video is this?” asked Adam.
“We had a video made of Helen and I jiving this afternoon,” explained Allen. I hated him as well, in fact if I had a pair of hand grenades I would cheerfully have pulled the pins on both, stuffed one into Barbara’s bra and the other down the front of Allen’s trousers.
Adam must have sensed my discomfort and came to my rescue bless him, “It’s getting late and May asked me to ensure you all had an early night so we’ll have to leave it and I’ll invoke the lights-out rule.”
There was a groan of protest from just about everybody so I decided to cancel the hand grenades and use a tactical nuclear missile instead.
I stood up again, had a fight with the skirt but got the hem down, looked at Adam out of the corner of my eyes, he was looking at my bum now, “Be back in a moment, there’s something I need from my room.”
“The video?” asked Maeve, I gave her the finger and went for the portrait. When I came back I went straight to the drawing board, adjusted it into the upright position and placed the portrait on it, loosened the wrapping so that it needed only to be pulled off and went to Maria, “I have something for you.” I took her hand and led her over to the board, “You need only to pull off the paper to unveil it.”
She lifted the paper and stood looking for quite a while and then said, “Is beautiful, thank you.” She wasn’t crying but when I looked into her eyes I could clearly see my reflection. The portrait was beautiful, the photographer had mounted it in an ornate frame that set of the pencil sketch and made it look like a black and white pastel. “I was going to tint it but the photographer said no.”
“He is right, picture is good, I like it as it is, thank you.” She hugged me and turned to the others, “Come see the beautiful Maria.”
The next morning I was up early and helped Maria with the breakfasts and once we had finished, the girls went off to a lesson in beauty care. I would like to have joined in but I did need to take a turn with the chores so stayed and helped Maria clean the kitchen cupboards and the fridge. When the lesson had finished, they all trouped back for elevenses. Adam had gone for a couple of days and Allen had disappeared into Chichester leaving Boris. He popped his head round the door, looked at the coffee and doughnuts, licked his lips, looked at me with puppy dog eyes and told Barbara that Paul had telephoned him and would she call him. I rose from the table when Boris gave the doughnuts a second look; I gave Barbara my phone and told him I would bring a coffee and doughnut to his office. He beamed at me, “You always were my favourite,” and vanished.
When I came back to the kitchen, Barbara was just finishing her call and said, “Paul wants to talk to you.”
I took the phone and Paul said he was coming to pick me up after lunch and to wear a warm coat it was chilly outside. I put the phone away and looked at Barbara, “Why is he picking me up? He ended the call before I had a chance to ask.”
Barbara shrugged, “Me as well, he’s cleared it with Boris but wouldn’t say what it was other than he had something to show you. He wants me to come and help.”
I frowned, “All very mysterious, help with what?”
Again Barbara shrugged, “It might be a dress or something he thought would suit you and you’d need me to advise you.”
“Men don’t do things like that. Did he say where we were going?”
“No, only that it was a twenty minute drive.”
I looked around the table and then at Maria and all I got were shakes of the head except Diane, she suggested that perhaps Paul had seen the film of the jive and was planning to sell us to white slavers. “It can’t be that, April jived as well.”
“But I was wearing tights not stockings and it isn’t as erotic.”
I was going to throw my last piece of doughnut at her but I was hungry and ate it instead. “I suppose I’ll have to get changed.”
“No need, that skirt and blouse are okay, just wear your chunky knit and raincoat.”
Paul arrived with the Lexus and as we started our mystery tour I asked, “Where are we going?”
“West,” said Paul, “There’s something I think you need but it’s a surprise.”
I looked at Barbara beside me but she shook her head, “Is it another car?” she asked.
“Nope and stop asking, I told you it’s a surprise and we’ll be there in twenty minutes so play I-Spy till we arrive.”
We turned off the main road almost immediately onto a B class road and soon the few houses petered out and there was farmland on both sides and after about ten minutes a row of half a dozen detached two storey houses and then a lane on the left. We drove along the lane for about a half-mile; on the right were detached chalet bungalows, each with large, well-tended front gardens and on the left houses similar to the ones on the B road. We then came to a church and here the soft verges were replaced by pavements. Adjoining the church was a small car park and a pub restaurant on the corner of a narrow lane. Past the lane were a few more houses a service road that ran round behind a tobacconist with a sub post office, a baker, an empty shop then the service road again and beyond that a mini-market and a second pub with a large village green opposite. After the pub was a row of about twelve terraced two-story cottages and the pavement ended to give way to soft verges and fifty yards further on we came to a farmhouse. Paul stopped the car and reversed into the farmyard and turned round and drove back to the pub and stopped. “Like it?”
“Is this what you’ve brought us to see, a village green?” protested Barbara.
“It is very pretty,” I said. “Look at that lane on the other side of the green with all the maple trees their autumn colour is special. What’s up there, Paul?”
“You may not believe if but there’s more than a hundred houses. The lane runs for about a mile and comes to a dead end like this.”
Barbara peered out, “Well it is nice, I’d like to live in a place like this. As we’re here, shall we go into the pub, it’s open?”
“Fraid not, we haven’t time, there’s something else to show Helen.” He started the engine and we returned the way we had come and turned left at the larger of the pubs. Again there were chalet bungalows and then we passed the back of the churchyard and after a short distance came to double gates on the left and Paul stopped again and pointed at a two-storey house behind the gates. It was built of stone well back from the road with a brick drive running to it. The house was side-on to the road and on the gable end nearest us was a double garage. The main door had a small semi-circular terrace one step high and further along was a second entrance.
“The second entrance is to a one-bedroom granny flat. The main house has four bedrooms all upstairs, a large kitchen at the rear with an arch leading into a dining room and a second arch leading into the main reception room which is, about thirty eight feet. There’s a large garden at the rear with a conservatory and behind the garage is a utility room and walk in larder. The front door leads into a hall with double doors into the reception. At the end of the hall a passage leads to second door which opens to the kitchen and a flight of stairs up to the bedrooms and a door to the granny flat. The reception room has full width French windows into the garden and the kitchen has two long windows…”
“Paul, you sound like an estate agent, why the sales pitch?”
“Because my beloved, Helen’s flat is under offer and this is up for sale and has been so for nearly a year with no offers.”
“I couldn’t afford this, Paul. I have the money but it wouldn’t leave me with enough to have as a buffer if my job bombed.”
“How much was the accepted offer on your flat?”
“The asking price for this house is five hundred thousand and the agent tells me they will definitely accept an offer of four seventy five, possibly four fifty and the price includes a great deal of the furniture as well as the usual carpets and curtains. The current owners are moving to be with their family in Australia and are becoming a bit anxious to sell. Helen it’s a bargain.”
I looked again at the house, “Four seventy five for that and my apartment in Chichester is two seventy, it doesn’t add up.”
“It does if you take into consideration that your flat is in one of the best parts of Chichester, is well appointed, has a safe parking area and is about ten minutes from the city centre. This house has no mains gas, though I am told it will be coming in about a year, no fibre optic broadband though that is in hand as well and does get cut off after heavy snow.” He opened the glove compartment and pulled out a sheaf of papers, “Here’s the full spec. Could you afford that, about two hundred and twenty plus the money from the flat?”
“I could afford that, yes,” I sat and thought about it, it was a beautiful house in an ideal setting with a nice village centre ten minutes’ walk away, “Could we arrange to view it. I am tempted, it’s the sort of place I had in mind, well almost except with the granny flat it’s about twice the size.” I didn’t say anything about the feeling I had that the house was calling to me, crying to be bought.
“You could let that out to somebody, a friend perhaps.”
“I’d have to think about that carefully, Barbara. It would certainly have to be somebody I knew well.”
Paul started the car; he had to drive past the property to a small circus where there were four other largish houses before he could turn round and head back. As we passed the house again, I looked at it and the feeling came back – Buy me!
“Let’s have a drink and I’ll telephone the agent,” said Paul when we were at the pub.
We were on the point of leaving the pub and returning to the Café when Paul received a call back from the agent. The owners of the house had invited us to go and view right away as we were in the village.
I viewed the house, it was huge but beautiful and I did as it bade me; I bought it, on the spot. I bought a house and a granny flat a small mixed orchard, a vegetable garden and all the carpets, curtains and furniture. They explained that they had just about given up hope of getting to Australia in time for Christmas and they obviously didn’t want to ship the furniture out. I bought it for four seventy-five and we each agreed to pay the extra legal costs for fast tracking the sale. We phoned the agent and our solicitors and told them to get a move on and unless there were hidden snags I could possibly move in at the end of November. As Paul drove down the drive I looked back and was it fancy or did I hear the house call out. “Thank you.”
Mentally I hugged myself, I was on a wonderful journey, travelling from my new home, which I would fill with happiness and love to my other home, the Café that was already filled with love, happiness and a family.
This is the end of Volume 1, the series continues in ‘Volume 2 The Concert’ or in ‘Vesta’s Hearth, ‘Complete, Volumes 1 to 4’ available on Amazon Kindle.
Murmuring with Starlings will be available for Easter 2017 via Amazon Kindle on Hatbox. I plan to post chapters here as well, beginning next week.
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