A Penmarris Story
I smiled as I turned over and spooned into Abby’s warm and cuddly back. Then, typically Penmarris, a cock crowed and I wasn’t sure if he was early, late or just the usual nut case that this place seemed to breed with abundance.
Sighing, I went to sleep to the sound of Abby snoring gently and a cat jumping on the bed and taking up half the space—
This was the life and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
And now the story continues…
As our Christmas and New Year festivities were faded into a dim memory, things carried on the way they always did in the picturesque Penmarris Cove—for a while anyway.
As the winter gradually turned to spring, the trees started budding and plants decided to wake up and promise some early blooms. Living in the west country meant that we tended to be ahead of the rest of the UK in this respect—or so I had been told by the old sages and soothsayers.
I couldn’t believe that I had been in Penmarris for such a relatively short space of time. So much had happened to me in such a short period, I hadn’t really had time to draw breath. I had so many friends now. I realised that my pre-Penmarris life had centred around Olivia. On reflection, despite all the pain and the heartache, finding Olivia performing sexual gymnastics with that man was probably the best thing to have happened to me.
Oh, I regretted and felt so much sorrow that Olivia had died so tragically and in my heart of hearts I knew that a small piece of me died when she passed away. No one who shares your life and is so important to it can leave the scene without there being regret, sorrow and a sense of loss.
The fact that I had found love and fulfilment with Abby and our darling Heather meant everything to me. Now we were eagerly awaiting another addition to our family and we could hardly wait to see our new baby.
The winter had been a harsh one for us in Penmarris—harsher than usual, I was informed by many of my friends and that made me wonder where all that global warming had gone to. Anyway, not being one to miss an opportunity, I had been along the cliff tops a couple of times and down by the harbour when the weather was at its worst. I wanted to capture in my mind all the seasons of this wonderful place so I could put everything I had seen on canvas.
There is a wild and savage beauty in the way waves crash against rocks and I got soaked through more than once and told off by Abby as a consequence. In fact, one afternoon I was down on the harbour wall and a huge wave came up and gave me a drenching. I went home looking like a drowned rat and promptly caught a nasty chill that turned into the flu—putting me out of action for nearly two weeks. Now Marcia Sinclair, my esteemed friend and doctor said that no way do you get influenza from a soaking as it’s a virus and probably lurking around in my body ready to pounce, but that didn’t stop Abby banning me from going out in rough weather after I recovered; how I love it when she’s forceful!
Anyway, as I say, winter eventually turned into spring and it was good to see everything springing back to life again. I had gained about a pound over the winter and Abby, bless her, had added about twenty-five. She was now getting rather big and moaned a lot about her size, her back and the constant need to use the loo. She looked so beautiful and I jokingly called her my little barrage balloon—she didn’t see the humour of it for some strange reason.
The harbour looked strangely empty while the good ship Lollypop aka Penmarris Surprise was away on manoeuvres—well not manoeuvres really, but wearing my business hat, I had arranged through agents to have the yacht chartered out to selected companies for use when I or my friends were not using her. This meant that my captain and crew were kept employed, expenses were minimal and I would have some sort of return from her. All profits were to go to the Lady Fairbairn Children’s Foundation that Mummy and I had set up and were trying to organise.
Katie was going around like she had lost her favourite pet while her nautical boyfriend was away at sea and she sometimes found it hard to focus and frequently I found her gazing wistfully out to sea. Her soliciting—or whatever it’s called—kept her busy though, as she threw herself into her work. We all thought that she was on the mend as her sighing was down to once every ten minutes and the crying fits were now controllable—just.
Returning to the philanthropic thingy, we had found a large mansion about a mile away over the hill past the church. It was a bit run down and needed work doing, so we managed to acquire it quite cheaply with the help of Millie, our friendly estate agent. It was ideal for our needs with lots of bedrooms and large grounds for the little kiddiewinks to play in.
One fly in the ointment was regarding the essential council permissions and change of use necessary for such a venture. The fly in question was Mummy’s arch-enemy and bête noir, Ms Prendergast, Lady Mayor and right royal pain in the arse.
For those of you not in the know, Ms Prendergast and Mummy Dotty hated each other due to a fight that they had over Mummy’s hubby, Tremaine back in the year dot.
Anyway, Ms P took every opportunity to make all our lives a misery in the normally peaceful and tranquil Penmarris. Planning permission for anything more than a bathtub was refused unless it was a bathtub owned by her cronies. She blocked anything and everything she could unless she wanted it—like the extension to her ample house, for example.
One wonders how she managed to get elected year after year and the general consensus was that she fiddled the figures but no one quite knew how.
Mummy Dotty was spitting bullets over the problems we were having with the Prendergast person. I had enough on my plate without worrying about that, thinking, in my rather positive way that things would turn out okay in the end. So I left that one to dear Mummy and I had hopes that she might be able to sort things out without actual physical violence—but I wasn’t holding my breath!
Winter was a time for catching up with all those jobs that needed doing, like decorating the new baby’s bedroom, sorting out which masterpieces were to be sold in the gallery, doing yucky accounts stuff for the unspeakable taxman and also generally gearing oneself up for the coming summer when Penmarris would once again be full to the brim with holidaymakers doing all they could to spend money so that we could sit out the following winter once again in some comfort.
Abby was busy doing her pottering whenever she could. She began to complain that her basketball sized bulge was getting in the way when she was throwing pots, but she managed somehow to produce piece after piece of wonderful pottery. She was six months gone now and according to our eBay baby book, the little one was no longer very little, being about a foot long and still growing at an alarming rate.
Baby was quite active and could now kick quite strongly, making us think that we had another Susan or Mark Hurst in the making. Anyway we were thrilled to bits with baby as we were with Heather who was now crawling at warp speed and eating like a goodun. Changing her nappy was sometimes a bit of an adventure and gas masks were on order.
When not working, we spent a lot of time—weather and Abby aches and pains permitting—on walks in the brisk air up on the cliffs or just around and about the village. Abby wanted to make sure once the baby was born, that she wouldn’t gain much weight or lose her fitness. Mind you, the symptoms that she was getting as she gradually grew in size made me wonder if I could have stood it all—if I had been a GG, that is. She had constipation, cramps, dizziness, backache and to top, or is that tail, it all—haemorrhoids.
Still, in spite of everything she was happy to be pregnant—most of the time!
Spring arrived on the vernal equinox—20th of March. We didn’t go by the new fangled view of the 1st of March and anyway, it snowed on that day for once, so any thoughts of it being spring-like were laughable.
One day late in March, I was in the gallery sorting out some things to go on display. Tracy and Tammy were doing some cleaning and general tea duties and Heather was playing in her lobsterpot playpen. Barry Pearson, my other—rather shy but nice—assistant had man flu, which meant a runny nose and was confined to bed for a few days by his fussy and protective mum.
All was at peace with the world and I was humming ‘Money, Money, Money’, slightly out of tune according to the tone deaf Tammy, when I caught a whiff of Chanel No. 5 of all things coming from I knew not where.
Now where had I smelt that fragrance before?
I stopped humming and ignored the sighs of relief coming from girls who don’t know good music when they hear it. The door opened with the jingling of the bell thing that rings when somebody opens it.
There was a chill in the air.
The fragrance was almost overpowering.
The hairs on the back of my neck rose as one.
Looking up from my work, I frowned and my heart flip-flopped.
It was Victoria Manning.
She closed the door behind her and looked around with apparent distaste.
‘So,’ she said looking down her nose unpleasantly, ‘this is what is being paid for by my son’s hard-earned money.’
She looked the same as she always had. I knew that she was about seventy-five now, with short, almost severe, iron grey hair. She was tall, thin and decidedly prune-like. She had a slash of red on her lips—the only concession she had allowed in the way of makeup. Her coat was grey and long and the skirt beneath was of a similar colour. Don’t think she was a frail old lady though, she could have done a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson and still not have been out of breath. All in all, she looked as she always had—a bitch of the first order.
‘Tracy, Tammy, go and powder your noses.’
‘What?’ they said in unison.
‘Have an early lunch,’
‘It’s only eleven…’ said Tracy who obviously wanted to stay.
I looked directly at her and she turned a nice shade of white. Maybe my features gave her an insight as to how I was feeling at the moment and the fact that I wasn’t taking any crap from her today.
They grabbed their handbags and ’phones were out of there as quick as their clicking heels could take them.
The door tinged shut and I was alone with her.
‘So, you have started ordering around little girls now? About your level that. You never had the spine to talk back to Olivia and as for my son, you nearly peed in your pants every time he spoke to you.’
‘Why are you here, Victoria?’ I asked, trying to hold my temper.
‘It’s Mrs Manning to you. How is it that they let a pervert like you work with real girls? Come to that, Heather should not be with you. She needs a father as well as a mother and you are neither of those. A so-called man, dressed up like a woman? Nice clothes don’t make you a woman. Makeup doesn’t make you a woman. Having bits cut off you doesn’t make you a woman. You should not be allowed to have any contact with children—you will poison the sweet innocence of that child with your perverted and ungodly ways. I hear that you live with a woman. Does she know what you are? Have you had some sort of disgusting sex with her? She has your defrosted seed in her I hear, despite my protests that they should have been destroyed. You were not good enough for Olivia and she had to go to a real man to have sex. Now you have caused her to die and you have stolen the baby that I should be looking after.
She suddenly fished around in her handbag and pulled out what looked like a kitchen knife. Then she walked over towards the lobsterpot where Heather, despite all the noise, was sleeping, cuddling her favourite cuddly toy—Upsy Daisy.
‘I am taking her with me and you will not stop me. She belongs in a stable home with a real woman—’
Without thinking, I was over to her in three strides and with one hand I chopped her wrist making the the knife drop to the ground with a clutter and then slapped her on the face. She fell to the ground, looking undignified with her legs open and her peach Directoire knickers on display to all and sundry.
I kicked the knife away and it went under a bench in the corner. I then turned to the still prone and shocked-looking ex-grandmother-in-law and let rip.
‘How dare you come in here and insult me like this? I have done nothing to you. I have always tried to be polite, despite that fact that you have been a dried-up cow for as long as I’ve known you. Trying to get Heather taken away from me was a despicable act. Getting the authorities to try to arrest me with trumped-up drugs offences puts you the same league as that scum of a son of yours. The fact that Nigel was murdered had nothing to do with me, but the world is a better place without that poisonous monster around. My only regret was that he and you put a wedge between Olivia and I and gave us no chance of a decent marriage. Now you act like your despicable son and use violence. I now know from whom he got his vicious streak.’
She had risen as I spoke and appeared to be on the verge of an apoplectic fit because she was shaking with rage. She had a vivid red mark on her cheek where I had slapped her. I hoped that she bruised easily—it would be a reminder not to come between me and mine.
I glanced at Heather and couldn’t believe that she hadn’t woken up—and here was a girl who would normally wake up if a gnat farted—
‘I told you, I mean to have Heather. You are not a fit parent and it’s an abuse against God that a person like you should have custody of an impressionable child——’
‘—an abuse against God? You come in here with a knife, ready to no doubt use it if you didn’t get your way and then spout about God? You make me sick. There is only one place where you deserve to go and that’s hell. So get the hell out of here and don’t come back. If you do, I will have you charged with attempted murder and kidnap.’
She had stopped looking as if she was just about to peg out on the spot and her colour (apart from her livid cheek) began to return to its normal puce colour. She was breathing heavily, but apart than that, looked distressingly normal.
‘You have no proof, you fool. You sent those girls out and you can hardly ask the child to give evidence.’
I hated that smile; it was as if nothing had just happened and she was in command of the situation—but I was about to burst her smug bubble.
‘I think that you might need to get some glasses. If you care to look up at the ceiling, you will notice there are several fine cameras up there. Those cameras are on all the time—day and night. Our friendly local bobby suggested that we installed some security as a precaution. All your antics and comments have been recorded on camera. Now I’m not a cow, unlike someone I could mention and I will do nothing about your actions on condition that I get your assurance that you will go away and never come back. I will not tell the authorities unless and until I have to, but the tapes will be lodged with my solicitor as a precaution. The choice is yours: go now and nothing will happen as long as you leave us alone. Fight me and you know what I will do.’
She looked like she was about to explode and I was sure, given a chance, that she would strike me down there and then. I was glad that the knife was out of harm’s way.
Her hands clenched into fists and she stepped toward me—I stayed put. I was not going to be afraid of her, despite that fact that she was, I realised, as mad as—if not madder than—a hatter.
She bent down and picked up her crocodile skin handbag. She then looked across at Heather and finally at me.
‘This is not over by any means,’ she spat, turning on her heels and pulling the door open; she slammed it behind her with such force that the little bell over the door fell off and clattered tinkling on the floor.
‘ Ah well,’ I thought, ‘that bell was getting on my nerves, anyway.’
I could hear snuffling noises behind me and, turning, noticed that Heather was finally waking up. I went over to the lobster pot and with her eyes still shut she smiled such a sweet smile.
I burst into tears.
To be continued…
Please leave comments…thanks! ~Sue
My thanks go to the brilliant and lovely Gabi for editing, help with the plot-lines, pulling the story into shape and especially the bits in the church.
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