This is a story that my muse dropped on me sixteen hours ago, It took me almost that long to write it.
The cautions are related to the part where Natalia describes the fifth house, they have nothing to do with Aloysius.
Thomas Dinweller watched as the car stopped next to the tiny estate agent's office in the village. Little Bramble, a fairly small village, was lucky to have an estate agent's office, but some of the old buildings in the surrounding area and other parts of the Cotswolds were quite valuable.
The car was a VW Tiguan, perhaps a few years old. The driver's door opened and a man stepped out; he looked to be about 5'10" tall and about 170 pounds with long blond hair. He was wearing a pair of dark grey slacks, a blue dress shirt and a slightly lighter grey blazer.
The man walked into the estate agent's office and stayed there for nearly an hour, then came out and drove away.
Some new person thinking of moving here, it seemed. Hopefully, he'd be useful, not some twink, artist or other weirdo. Thomas smirked. It would be easy enough to find out if the guy did decide to stay, Thomas had been on the village council for almost six years.
Aloysius Braithwaite parked the four year old Tiguan in front of the estate agent's office. He had been surprised to learn that a village as small as Little Bramble even had an estate office, but he was more than pleased to take the opportunity to look at the agent's offerings.
Aloysius was 5'10", about 170 pounds, with shoulder length dirty blond hair and the barely noticeable beginnings of blond stubble on his cheeks, wearing dark grey slacks, a dress shirt and a matching blazer. He turned 33 two months ago, but looked a lot younger than his age.
He parked the vehicle, stepped out, used the remote to lock it, then walked to the estate agent's door, opened it and entered.
His entering the small building set off a bell that rang throughout the space; perhaps two minutes later, a young woman walked out from an office just down a short hallway and greeted him with a warm smile and an offered hand. He shook her hand gently, then released it.
"Hello, sir, I'm Natalia Penderton, I run this little agency, would you please come into my office?" She turned and walked down the hallway toward the office, Aloysius nodded and followed her. Once they were in the office and both were seated, discussion began.
'So, sir, what might I be able to do for you today?" Natalia asked.
Aloysius smiled and replied, "First, I should introduce myself, my name is Aloysius Braithwaite. I'm an artist, primarily paintings and pencil drawings, and I've become a bit of a rising star in the galleries in London, but the city itself just hasn't felt right to me for a while.
"I talked to a few friends I knew, most of them being artists of one sort or another, and a few suggested I look into buildings up this way. I've spent the last two weeks going through the various estate agents in the Cotswolds and haven't seen anything that really appealed to me."
"Well, perhaps one of the buildings in or near Little Bramble may be what you're seeking, we have some rather lovely places here."
"Perhaps," Aloysius replied, "I suppose I should take a look at what you have available."
Natalia spent most of the next hour showing Aloysius pictures of houses in and around the village. They had gone through the whole book, there were a few that looked interesting, so Aloysius asked her to go through the book again and pointed out the ones that interested him.
"Ahhhh, this one is the old Alberts' house," Natalia explained, "They were a banking family here for three hundred years, but changes to bank policies in the last two decades brought them into decline and they eventually put the house up for sale. The house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two sitting rooms, a combination study and library, kitchen, dining area, family room and laundry, it's valued at £320,000.
This one," she continued, "Is the Peterson property, the whole family was killed in a plane crash about a year ago, no other relatives. It's a four bedroom with a sitting room, office, kitchen, dining area, family room, laundry room, three bathrooms plus three acres of land. The house itself is just outside of the village to the west and has a small stable suitable for four horses. The Petersons used to grow modest amounts of several types of vegetables on the land, often selling them in the weekly market here during the summers, the property is valued at £390,000.
This next one," as she pointed at the third picture, "Is the Meredith estate. Jasmine Meredith was a gentlewoman raised here between the first two world wars. She was 96 when she passed away about two years ago, she was an only child, never married, no children, so no relatives. The house has five bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a lovely library with many of the great classics still on the shelves, an office, a parlour, kitchen, dining area, family room, laundry room, three bathrooms, a half-bath, all on 1.3 acres of land, most of which she let the Petersons use as they were next door neighbours, the Meredith property bordering the Peterson one on the south side. The entire property is valued at £450,000.
"Hmmm... this one," Natalia pointed to the fourth picture, "Is the Edwards' house. James Edwards was a fairly decent tailor here, the clothing he made may not have been in the Savile Row price range, but it was well made nonetheless. He died from pancreatic cancer about eighteen months ago, the wife put the house up for sale and left the area. Two bedrooms, office, a small work room, a room that was to be used as a games room but was left unused, two full bathrooms, a half-bath, kitchen, dining area, family room, laundry, it's valued at £235,000.
"Ahhhh, this is the last one you picked out," she continued, "It belonged to the Vaughan family, that one was a bad situation. The father was a pure drunkard, he had a small woodwork shop here, he'd go there for a few hours, get bored, spend the rest of the day and most of the evening in the pub, then go home. There were stories about him abusing the wife and the three children, but it was all swept under the rug until Elsbet, his wife, grabbed a stick that he liked to carry when he went walking and cracked him over the head after he started beating her one night. He died on the operating table in the hospital in Cirencester in the wee hours, and his wife spent the night in jail. She did get to tell her story, the man had been beating her and the twin eleven year old boys and was also molesting their nine year old daughter. When she showed the bruises he had given her just over the last month or two, the doctor examining her was appalled. It was the same with the boys, but the worst was yet to come, examinations of the daughter revealed traces of semen from her vagina and anus. After her lawyer became involved, he'd come from Oxford as soon as he knew what happened, it was decided no charges would be laid. She and the children moved away. The house has four bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a library, kitchen, dining area, family room, laundry, three bathrooms, it's valued at £350,000."
Aloysius and Natalia talked for a bit longer, then Aloysius stated that he wanted to see the Meredith place before any of the others.
Natalia smiled, led Aloysius from the office toward the front door, took her coat from a coat rack and they exited the building. Aloysius opened the car doors, then waited as Natalia sat down in the vehicle and pulled her floor length skirt inside before he closed the door. It took only a moment for Aloysius to be seated behind the wheel, he started the engine, waited a bit, then followed Natalia's directions.
Thomas Dinweller watched from the door of his small antiques shop as the mysterious man drove away, he could see that Natalia was in the car. "She must be showing him a property, I wonder which one that guy was interested enough to actually go and see?"
He continued to watch as the car turned to head west, "Ahhh, the only ones out that way are the Petersons farm or the Meredith place."
Natalia frowned as they drove out of the village, she had noticed that busybody Dinweller standing in his front of shop. He was an ass, that was the best that could be said about him, he'd adamantly opposed every single LGBTQI event the village had either sponsored or had been involved in, some believed that he even went as far as tearing down posters about LGBTQI events, quite a few often went missing.
She smiled again as she directed Aloysius down a side road about a half mile from the village, then had him stop for a moment. She pointed to a lane heading up from the right hand side of the road, "That's the Peterson farm, the Meredith place is just ahead."
A minute or two later, she pointed at a driveway on the right side, and Aloysius turned the car, then followed the driveway to the house.
When the house came into view, he was stunned, it was gorgeous! The house itself wasn't very large, but the style was pure Georgian, except that someone at some point had modified eight of the nine windows on the ground and first floors at the front of the house. They had originally been fairly basic windows, with no parts that opened to let air in, and the renovator had chosen to turn those simple windows into full bay windows, adding some extra space to the house. Aloysius mused that it must have been a fair bit of work to add the extra floors and ceilings.
Natalia agreed, "The house had needed to be upgraded to modern standards, and the company that did the work had suggested changing the windows to let in more sunlight and air as well. Ms. Meredith liked the idea and gave the company a bonus when it was finished."
"I'll take a look at the Peterson house, too, but if I'm not mistaken, this house is the one that I want," Aloysius remarked. "It's... beautiful."
Natalia glanced over at him, slightly surprised; the way he said that, it almost sounded like a girl talking. She shook her head.
They both climbed out of the car, then walked to the front door. Natalia pulled a keyring from her pocket, checked it, picked out a key and used it to unlock the front door of the rather lovely house. They had to walk about ten feet before they reached the front hall.
Again, Aloysius was stunned, it had been a long time since he had seen a staircase like this, starting in the center of the hall area, then splitting about halfway up, each part leading to one side of the house. He asked Natalia, "Is there a back staircase too, the style of this house makes me feel that there were servants here at one time or another, and servants would sometimes have their own set of stairs to use?"
Natalia thought for a moment, then replied, "I'm not sure, I didn't look at everything here, we can find out in a moment."
She pointed to a pair of solid wooden doors along the left wall, "That's the library, lovely room, the books are actually at the back behind a set of partitions to protect them from too much sunlight. The front of the room has a few tables, three chesterfields and two love seats."
She opened one of the two doors and let Aloysius have a quick look into the room. "Nice space, not crowded at all," he remarked.
Natalia walked across the hall, somewhat closer to the front of the building was another pair of solid wood doors. Natalia explained as she opened one of the doors, "This was used as the front parlour, there's seating for about twelve people, but it could be used for larger groups as well. She spent most of her last two years in bed, so it hasn't been used for some time." Aloysius looked in the room and nodded. A dozen or so hard, high-backed chairs were scattered around the room, two or three chairs around each one of five small round tables.
Natalia continued to the next pair of doors, opening one of them, "This is the dining room, the table seats twelve, you can see the hutch and two sideboards." Moving on to the last set of double doors on that side, she opened one, then walked in, Aloysius following her. "This is the kitchen, Jasmine had a cook/housekeeper for many years, the woman made their meals here."
Aloysius looked around, the kitchen was perhaps 16' by 12', a large eight burner stove over two ovens on one side of a single door on the back wall with a six pane window looking out on the extensive back yard; a fridge and a small movable cupboard with its own countertop holding a large microwave occupied roughly half the space on the other side of the door. Next to the small cupboard was the pantry, about thirty inches wide and eight feet long, the back of it being the back wall of the house; there was a door into the pantry about two feet up from the front of the movable cupboard. The rest of that wall was filled with cupboards above a long countertop with a large double sink, with matching cupboards under the counter. Bay windows just like the ones at the front of the house, but smaller, were situated over the stove and movable cupboard.
"Quite a nice kitchen here," Aloysius opined as they turned and crossed under the double stairwells to the other side of the house.
Natalia approached another set of double doors, opened one and stated, "This is the office, not very big, but it didn't need to be big." Aloysius took a quick look, seeing an old roundtop desk, a modern office chair, a filing cabinet and a lazy boy recliner in the back corner.
Natalia moved on, opening the next pair of doors, "The family room, 50" plasma TV, a high end Bose stereo system that's less than five years old, fairly new sofa, matching chairs on either side of it, table and chairs behind the sofas for games and other activities."
Aloysius looked and nodded, "So that completes the tour of the ground floor, upstairs is the bedrooms and a sitting room?"
Natalia giggled, then replied, "Not quite, I forgot the laundry room between the kitchen and the office, if you want to look at it?" She quickly led Aloysius to a single door near the back of the house under the stairs and opened it, revealing a washer, dryer and a large sink on one side, with a long counter on the other side that he assumed had been used for folding clothes and bedding after they were cleaned.
When Aloysius backed out of the room, Natalia turned and headed to the stairwell, climbing up, then taking the left branch to the upper floor.
Aloysius followed her up the stairs, then into a room, once again, there were double doors. He took a closer look, there didn't seem to be a frame between the doors; he thought for a moment, then grinned, both sides could be opened to give more space when carrying things.
He entered the room, there seemed to be a couple of love seats, a settee, a coffee table and some end tables. "Sitting room?" he inquired.
Natalia nodded, then pointed to a pair of doors on the side wall, "That's one of the main bedrooms, there's a lovely canopy bed in there."
Aloysius nodded, then walked to the doors, opened one and entered the bedroom. She was right, there was a very nice king size canopy bed; if he used this room, he'd have to change the canopy, though, pink just wasn't his colour, it never had been. The bedroom was, at a guess, about eighteen feet long and fifteen feet wide, huge bay windows looked out over the property to the east and south. A large wardrobe and dresser were positioned along the north wall, a small sofa sat on either side of the doors from the sitting room, with end tables next to them. A rather nice window seat filled most of the space in the window on the south side of the room, it would be a good spot to relax.
Natalia poked her head in, chuckling, "The other side is just like this one, the only difference is the canopy there is coral, not rose pink."
"Okay, so that pretty much leaves the three other bedrooms, then?"
"That's right," Natalia replied, "They're all smaller than this, but fairly nice, I'll show you one of them, they're all fairly similar in style."
Natalia led the way to the first set of double doors at the back of the upper floor, then opened it and walked inside, followed by Aloysius. She had been right, it was a nice room with two bay windows at the back, the furniture was similar to what he'd just seen in one of the main bedrooms, but this bed was a queen, the wardrobe was a bit smaller, as was the dresser and each window had its own window seat.
"The bedroom in the middle is the smallest, perhaps 12' by 12', this one and the one on the other side are both 18' long. I'm not sure, but I think the bedroom in the middle was the one that was used by the cook/housekeeper, that bed was still made when I appraised the house."
"Hmmm, Aloysius mused, "If the room on that side matches this one, then I assume the one in the middle only has one bay window?"
"That's right," Natalia replied, "other than that, the bed in the middle room is only a double, not a queen. There's just one thing left to show you before we leave here," she continued as she exited the room and walked to the space between the two upper ends of the staircase.
She opened a single door, revealing a large cupboard with a plentiful supply of various sizes of bedding, plus towels and wash cloths.
Aloysius followed Natalia again as she headed down the stairs, then to the front door, locking it after they had both exited the house.
Aloysius used the remote to unlock the car doors, then held her door open like before, waiting until Natalia nodded before he closed it. Natalia laughed, then said, "I didn't see a back stairway in there at all," as he settled into his seat and closed the door, then started the engine.
"I didn't see one either, so any servants would have had to use those stairs to go up or down," Aloysius replied as he started driving.
When they arrived in front of the Peterson House, Aloysius remained in the car, this house didn't spark his interest at all. He turned to Natalia, shaking his head and saying, "This house is depressingly normal, it has no soul; the Meredith house, in comparison, is damn near perfect, even if it is a lot bigger than I would ever need. There's so much light pouring into that house, it almost feels alive, sooo beautiful."
There was no doubt about it at all now; even with the high cost, Natalia knew the Meredith house had a new owner, this nice gentleman.
The drive into the village was quiet. Back in the office, Aloysius pulled a check book from the jacket's inside pocket and wrote a check for £450,000. "The last few years have been good, my paintings have been selling fairly steadily, I even get good prices for my pencil sketches."
Now it was Natalia's turn to be stunned; she'd expected a partial payment, not the full amount, and with no argument at all?
Natalia placed the check in a drawer in her desk as Aloysius remarked that he also needed a shop for his art here. He added, "I'll still provide pieces for some of the galleries in London, but a space here where I can display my paintings and sketches would be nice."
Natalia nodded, replying, "There are shops just up the street from here that I can show you. My job is mostly houses, but a few shops, too."
"Let's take a look at these shops, then," Aloysius responded as they left the building for the second time that day.
Thomas Dinweller noticed the stranger's car as he parked it in front of the estate agent's office. They went inside, stayed there for perhaps fifteen minutes, then exited the building and walked to one of the vacant stores a few doors down from his shop.
They didn't enter the first one at all, it was quite obvious that the guy didn't like it, they crossed the street and headed east to another shop. This one drew an entirely different reaction from the male, he nodded, followed the agent in and spent about ten minutes inside the building.
Eventually, they came out and walked back to the estate agent's office. Now what was the guy up to? he wondered.
The first shop was small, there were hardly any windows, he shook his head as she led the way to the next one.
They stood outside the second shop on the north side of a cross street within sight of Thomas Dinweller's antiques shop.
This one," sighed Aloysius, "This one looks almost perfect. I need to see the inside," he nodded as he looked up at the balcony and windows running across the whole front of the shop up there. Natalia unlocked the shop and they wandered around inside for about ten minutes.
When they came outside again, Aloysius was grinning, "I won't be limited to painting in just the house, that whole upper floor is exactly what I need for a good painting space, although I should probably get some three-piece partitions to block light when needed."
They returned to the office again, Natalia quoted a price of £125,000 for the shop and Aloysius wrote another check, handing it to her.
Thomas watched the stranger get into his car and drive away, perhaps he would go somewhere else, there was something odd about him.
Perhaps ten minutes later, Natalia walked out of her shop, locking the door, then stood there, shaking her head. It was barely two in the afternoon, he noticed as he saw Natalia walking toward the one bank in the village, holding what looked like a check in her hand.
Damn!" he growled, "If that was a check, then that guy bought a place near here and maybe that second shop, too."
He paced back and forth, eventually muttering, "I'm going to have to check this guy out, what brings a flashy one like him here?"
Within 24 hours, the news was known through the whole village, the Meredith property had been purchased by an out-of-towner, and the same person had also bought the shop with the big set of windows on the upper floor at the front on Park Street right across from the tiny park.
Aloysius spent the next week having a company come in from Cirencester and completely clean both the house and shop. While they were busy doing that, he put the house in London up for sale, informing his estate agent there that he would send an address once he had one.
There wasn't a whole lot to pack, mostly several changes of clothes plus his paintings, sketches and a variety of art supplies.
The cleaning company called on the Friday afternoon saying they were finished.
He placed everything in the vehicle Saturday morning, then drove up to his new home, taking the better part of two hours to get there.
Thomas Dinweller watched the VW Tiguan turn onto the west road, leaving the village behind it. "So he's here again, is he staying now? No trailer, so not much in the way of belongings, he'll likely sort it out fairly soon. Will he come into the village today or not?" he mused.
It only took Aloysius maybe thirty minutes to put everything away. His clothes ended up in the wardrobe and dresser in the main bedroom on the south side of the house; the cleaning crew had replaced the pink canopy with one that was a deep blue with patterns of stars on it. A matching canopy had replaced the coral one in the other main bedroom and he was using the wardrobe there to store his completed artwork.
The time was approaching noon, he could take a few items into the shop and drop into the pub to see what they offered food wise.
The bells at the church had just struck noon as he pulled to a stop in front of his shop. He grabbed the easel, a sign, and a small bag containing brushes, tubes of paint, a palette for mixing paints and several sketch pads, locked up the car, then entered the store.
He left the sign near the front door, then carried everything else up the stairs, setting up the easel about ten feet away from the back wall. He dropped the bag with everything in it on the floor, he needed at least a bench or a chair and a small to medium sized table up here.
He headed back out to the car, he'd forgotten the hammer, nails and stepladder; he grabbed them from the car, then opened the front door, picked up the sign and looked at the front of the shop. He noticed that there was a narrow balcony held up by the entry way and two solid stone pillars, one under each outer corner of the balcony. When he'd seen the shop before, he had completely missed the door to the balcony.
He laughed to himself as he put the hammer, nails and stepladder back in the vehicle; he then picked up the sign and dropped it on the back seat. A few minutes later, he was heading out of the village toward Cirencester, he knew there was a hardware store there.
He walked into the hardware shop and waited a moment to speak with a cashier, who called the manager, who arrived a few minutes later. It didn't take long to explain his needs, and twenty minutes after he met the manager, he was walking out of the store with the sign.
It took another fifteen minutes to return to his shop from the hardware store, and five more to have the sign hanging from the balcony railing. He headed back down the stairs, then out of the shop and looked up at the sign proudly proclaiming, "Braithwaite's Artworks".
It had taken him seven hours to get the lettering just right, and another five hours to paint it using the colours seen on PRIDE emblems.
Thomas Dinweller had watched as the guy went into his shop, then came out and left only a few minutes later, headed who knows where.
The guy had returned about an hour later and took a few minutes to hang a sign from the balcony railing above the entrance of the shop. Thomas looked at the sign and swore out loud, "Bloody damn bastard! Not only an artist, but some stinking faggot one, too! I'll fix him good!"
He thought for a moment, then laughed, "As a matter of fact, I know just what to do, and I can do it tonight."
Aloysius wandered over to the pub, which was a few buildings north of Natalia's office, opened the door and stepped into the dim interior. He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust, then walked to a table, sat down and relaxed for a moment.
A girl came over and asked what he wanted, he replied, "A pint of Guinness..." looked at a board by the kitchen... "and steak and kidney pie." When asked for proof of his age, which he thought was rather funny, he pulled out his wallet and showed his identification.
The girl nodded, smiling at him, then headed over to the kitchen, called in his order, and brought the Guinness to the table a moment later.
The steak and kidney pie was brought out to him on a platter perhaps ten minutes later. He ate quickly, manners be damned, he was hungry! Every now and then he would grab a drink from the Guinness, which he emptied just as he finished eating the meal.
He sat there for a few minutes, contentedly rubbing his belly, before the girl noticed that he was finished eating.
She cleared the platter and the empty mug, returning a few minutes later with the bill. He paid and left a decent tip for her.
He then left the pub, returned to the Tiguan and headed for his new home. He would work to set up the shop on Monday.
Aloysius spent a good part of that evening with another easel set up in his bedroom, the early stages of a new oil painting taking shape as he mixed colours and added bits of paint wherever the hand holding the brush decided it should go. Some of his best paintings were done just like this, not by focusing on each part of the painting and working there, but by letting the hand and the brush guide the process.
He truly loved doing this, it allowed him to let go and just see what would happen, sometimes it was so good, it drove him to tears.
Thomas waited for the moon to go down before he grabbed the two cans of bright orange spray paint and walked over to the guy's shop. He spent a couple of minutes trying to hit the sign, but the spray paint wasn't reaching it, so he settled on painting things like 'Flaming Faggot!', 'Homo', 'Ass-licker', 'Bum Boy', 'Queer', 'Poof', 'Fag', etc. all over the outer walls of the shop, as high as the paint would go.
He had almost killed the second can of paint by the time he finished, the walls were a lovely mess now. He walked home, grinning ear to ear.
Natalia headed into the office at 9:30 that Sunday morning, she wanted to look over a few things just to cover the bases.
She was just about to turn up the walk to her office when she noticed a lot of orange flickers from what looked to be Aloysius' shop. She walked closer to the building, then gasped as she realized what had been done. How could anyone be so asinine and cruel?
She took a few moments to pull out her cell phone and snap several pictures so she could show them to Aloysius.
She hurried back to her shop, then grabbed the keys to her Ford Taurus and headed for the Meredith place. Aloysius needed to know now.
Thomas Dinweller watched the estate agent as she walked toward the building he had painted so prettily in the wee hours of the night.
He saw her shocked expression and watched her as she returned to her office, then climbed into her car and drove out on the west road.
Thomas shook his head, he probably shouldn't be surprised that that woman would go out there and tell the guy what had happened.
Natalia stomped on the brakes in front of the Meredith house, she'd been driving way too fast to be safe, but damn, she was pissed!
Aloysius was in bed upstairs and heard the squeal of the tires as the car stopped a few feet from his front door. He threw on a robe, then darn near ran down the stairs, opening the front door just as Natalia was raising her hand to start knocking on it. "What the heck happened?"
"Someone spray painted your store with nasty shit about faggots during the night. I think I know who did it, but without proof..."
Aloysius grabbed her, she was shaking really hard, he led her into the house, then into the library, lowering her onto one of the chesterfields. He sat down next to her, just giving her what comfort he could by wrapping his arms around her until she could settle down.
It was about ten minutes later, she had calmed down enough that she remembered her phone, pulled it out and showed Aloysius the photos. Aloysius looked at the photos rather closely for several minutes, then smiled at her, "It's not as bad as it could be, they only managed to get a few very small bits of paint on the bottom of the sign, those can be scraped off fairly easily and the outer walls can be painted again."
"Just how are we going to do that on a Sunday? Oh... wait a minute... Joe Blackmoor, the mayor, keeps several cans of outdoor primer at his home, he keeps saying that he intends to redo the outside of his house, it has layered siding like your store, maybe you could use that?"
"Perhaps, but the question then is how I would convince him to allow me to use the primer on my shop. Any suggestions?"
"Sure, I sold him that house ten years ago, we've been semi-friends and community members for at least that long, I'll call him."
She took the phone back from Aloysius, then punched in several numbers and waited, hearing it ring four times before it was answered.
"Hello, this is the Blackmoor residence, Joseph Blackmoor speaking, how can I help you?"
"Joe, this is Natalia Penderton, I need your help for the newest member of our community, he bought the Meredith property a bit over a week ago. He also bought a shop in town, the one with the little balcony over the entrance, and someone spray painted it last night."
Joe grunted, "Ouch, that's going to be fun to fix. So how am I supposed to help you with this problem?"
Natalia replied, "You have all that outdoor primer just sitting there, Joe; with that, Aloysius can at least cover the filth on the walls."
"That's close to £65 worth of primer, Natalia, can he afford to replace it?"
"Dammit, Joe, use your head! He just bought a £450,000 property and a £125,000 shop and wrote checks for both for the full amount. Both of those checks were cleared through the bank on Wednesday. He's a citizen here, Joe, we don't treat our people like trash!"
Joe winced, he knew, like many others in the village, that Natalia had a very fiery temper. "All right, all right, send him over here."
"One more thing, Joe, how would your three boys and the Patterson boys next door feel about helping, if a bit of cash were offered?"
"With my three and the three Patterson boys, it could be all covered by dinner time. If they get fair pay for it, heck, yeah, they'll work!"
"Tell them seven pounds an hour, Joe..." Natalie covered the phone and whispered to Aloysius, "Can you cover about £40 each for six kids?"
Aloysius laughed, which Joe heard faintly, then nodded to her and she returned to talking with Joe, "Yeah, £7 per hour for each of the boys."
"They'll be waiting by my front door with the cans of primer, rollers and pans in twenty minutes, Natalia," Joe said, then ended the call.
"Time to go, Aloysius, they'll be ready for us in twenty minutes," Natalia remarked.
"Just one problem with that Natalia, I need to get dressed first, I'll be back in a few minutes," Aloysius laughed.
Aloysius ran up the stairs, yanked off the robe, pulled out a pair of old jeans and a ratty t-shirt, then an equally old denim long sleeve shirt. He grabbed fresh Jockeys from a drawer, thick socks from another one, and within two minutes was dressed, slipping into a pair of trainers.
Grabbing a denim jacket that was almost as old as the long sleeved shirt he was wearing, he ran back down the stairs, keys in hand.
They arrived at the Blackmoor house a couple of minutes late, but the kids were ready for them. They had already put the cans of primer, the rollers and pans into the trunk of the oldest Patterson boy's car, a 2005 Pontiac GTO he'd almost completely rebuilt the summer before.
Three of the boys, presumably Joe's kids, jumped into the back of Aloysius' vehicle, one of them banged his head on the stepladder.
"Oops, sorry about that, I should have removed it, but it might come in handy now, I guess. You okay?" The boy replied that he was fine.
They started moving, they weren't going very far, just a block or two. Nathan Patterson followed them in the GTO.
Aloysius drove around the back of the shop, where there was enough space to park two, maybe three cars if they were really close together. He parked near the back door fo the shop, then got out of the car, followed by Natalia and the three boys in the back seat.
Nathan parked the GTO a few feet away; he and the two boys with him climbed out of the GTO, then pulled everything from the trunk.
Everyone introduced themselves. As Aloysius had suspected, the boys that had been in his car were the three Blackmoor Boys, Joseph, Jr., Benjamin and Simon. The other three boys were the Pattersons, Nathan, the eldest, then Jeremy and William.
Rollers were passed around, cans of primer were opened, some placed in the pans and Aloysius and the boys rolled up their sleeves. Within minutes, they were all hard at work and Natalia just stood there watching; dressed as she was, she'd ruin her clothes in five minutes flat.
Thomas Dinweller was outside his shop enjoying the fresh air when that fag boy's vehicle and a ten or eleven year old GTO went by. He watched as they went behind the shops, then waited and was stunned to see the males all start working on covering what he had done.
Didn't these people know the guy was a flaming faggot, if not worse? He recognized Joe Blackmoor's kids and Rob Patterson's boys, too. Why in the heck were they helping someone who could only contaminate them and the village with his evil filthy presence?
He completely forgot about his shop and watched them through the morning and afternoon as they covered all of his work.
Natalia wasn't happy about not being able to help them clean that filth and crap up; she didn't like standing on the sidelines at all.
At 1:00 PM, she figured they needed some food, so she called the pub and asked for someone to bring over eight Sunday roast platters. She hoped that would be enough to feed Aloysius and the boys, she likely wouldn't eat more than half of hers.
She thought for a moment, then called the pub again and had them add a basket of fries to the original order. While she waited for the food to arrive, she walked to the grocery store next to the pub and bought six packs of Coke, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper and Pepsi.
She was having a bit of trouble with the four six packs, so the store owner called his son over and had him carry the bag for her.
When she arrived back at the shop, where the guys were still hard at work, she thanked the boy, tipped him and sent him on his way. There really wasn't anywhere to out anything yet, so she carefully set the bag with the six packs of pop on the floor.
She hadn't been back in the shop for more than ten minutes when there was a knock on the front door. "Food delivery!" yelled a girl.
Natalia grinned, opened the door, letting the girl in. "Just set it all on the floor, there's no furniture in here right now."
The young woman, Penny, laughed and complied, accepting the payment and a nice tip from Natalia before she returned to the pub.
Natalia opened the door, yelled "Dinner!" and listened to the clatter of rollers being dropped in pans all around the shop. She giggled as she watched them almost stampede into the house, they wanted the food that much! "Dig in, guys, I had the pub send it up."
They wasted no time at all; within fifteen minutes, every platter except hers had been completely cleared and the fries were gone. She was not too far from being full, so she didn't make a fuss when Aloysius scraped half of her leftovers onto Nathan's platter, the rest onto his own.
The two men finished off her leftovers in a few minutes, then they all headed back out to complete the work they were doing.
Thomas Dinweller was definitely not pleased at how things were going, all his effort last night had been wasted!
He wasn't sure what to do at this point, but he knew he would have other opportunities to make that guy regret coming here.
He was still rather upset when the two vehicles came out from behind the shop, the GTO going one way, the guy's car heading out of town.
It had been a lot of work, but Aloysius was glad that it was done; sure, they'd have to paint over the primer, but that could wait a bit. He'd paid all six of the boys, even going so far as to give them an extra hour's cash for the sheer hard work they had done with no complaint.
He took Natalia back to his house so she could get her car, but for some odd reason, she came into the house with him.
He headed upstairs and into his bedroom, stripped out of the dirty clothes, then walked through the sitting room to the bathroom. There was a nice big towel lying on the edge of the sink, that would do for after; he turned on the taps and sat on the toilet as he watched the tub fill.
He used a lot of paints that were often hard to remove from skin, so he kept a few items on hand that did seem to work. Even though it wasn't something he liked, he used a facial scrub containing exfoliants on his hands and lower arms, then waited a minute or two before rinsing and then used an old rag to rub the treated areas. That seemed to work fairly well, so he repeated the process, this second treatment left only bits and pieces of the paint on his skin. He didn't have any citrus fruits on hand, but he did have a jar of baby oil; he wasn't big on the baby oil, but he knew it worked, so he dabbed some on a cotton ball and rubbed at some of the remaining bits of paint. A lot of paint had already been removed, but it took another fifteen minutes and a good twenty more cotton balls to remove the rest of the paint from his hands and arms.
He emptied the tub, then filled it again, glad that there was a good hot water system here.
He relaxed in the hot water, just letting the heat soothe his aches, then as the water cooled, he stood up and used the shower head to wash. He used his foot to grab the chain and pull the plug from the bath as he washed himself, including his hair.
He turned off the shower head, then stepped out of the bath, grabbed the towel and rubbed himself dry. Ahhh, that felt good.
He headed back to the bedroom, where he put on a fresh pair of Jockeys, clean socks, then wrapped the robe around himself and headed down the stairs to see what Natalia was doing. When he finally looked in the family room, she was out cold on a sofa with the TV blaring away.
He headed up stairs, grabbed some bedsheets and a blanket, then went into the second main bedroom and prepped the bed. Once it was ready, he headed back downstairs to the family room where he picked up Natalia, carried her up the stairs and tucked her into the bed.
"She must have been really, really tired," he whispered to himself, "she slept right through me carrying her and tucking her into bed."
He was pretty tired himself, but slightly hungry as well; he headed downstairs again, checked the fridge, cut a nice sized square from a chocolate cake he'd bought in London before driving up here yesterday, filled a glass with milk and sat down at the dining room table. The piece of cake didn't last very long, maybe three minutes, and the milk was gone in three quick gulps, then he headed up to his own bed.
Three months went by, with odd incidents happening now and then, his shop was spray painted four more times, the tires on his vehicle had been slashed seven times with no one seeing anything, three of those had been with the vehicle in front of his house. That wasn't all, on three different occasions when the garbage was put out to be collected, someone had come by, cut the bags open and shoved the trash around.
It was all too obvious that someone didn't want him here and was trying to force him to leave, but that just wasn't going to happen.
It was December 1st today, Christmas was coming, he'd made a few friends here, but they were casual ones, except for Natalia. Natalia was a wonderful woman, sometimes she would come here to spend an evening with him, sometimes he would spend a night at her house. Neither he nor Natalia thought of those visits to each other's home as dates, but they were growing closer and closer together as time passed.
Natalia was sick and tired of all the shit that Aloysius had had to deal with since arriving in her little corner of the world. One night after returning from Aloysius' home, she called Joe Blackmoor, the mayor, then conferenced it to Alonso Feltham, the village's only police officer.
"Joe, Lonnie, I'm getting really worried about this stuff, I'm afraid whoever's doing it might turn to violence soon."
Joe frowned as he listened to Natalia. "Something tells me that you think you know who's doing all of this stuff. Spill, Natti," he growled.
Lonnie listened, waiting to hear what Natalia would say to Joe's implied comment.
"Lonnie, Joe, I'm fairly sure that it's Thomas Dinweller. The guy has a serious hate on for anyone who doesn't fit his hetero-centric ideologies. The morning after the first spray painting, that was about three months back, you remember it, Joe, we used your primer...?"
"Yes, I remember that, I not only got my money back for the primer but also got five cans of fresh primer instead of the four that they used."
"Yes, that sounds like Al. Well, when I saw what had happened, I swear Dinweller was watching me and smirking at the filthy paint job."
"Hmmm... if I'm getting what you're implying, he was interested in seeing what reaction people would have about it," Lonnie stated.
"Yes, Lonnie. It gets worse, when Al, Joe's boys and Rob Patterson's boys all pitched in to cover that stuff with the primer, I ended up going to the grocery beside the pub for some items. I looked across the street at one point, saw Dinweller looking at Al' s shop and he was furious."
"So he was really ticked off at them fixing it? Why would he be ticked off unless... oh, unless he did the spray painting," Joe concluded.
"Right," Lonnie remarked, "Anyone who only wanted to help would have been upset at the spray painting, not at it being fixed."
"Well, guys, if it is him, he obviously isn't slowing down, there's been fifteen incidents in just over three months. Everything he's been doing has been aimed at getting Al to leave, and it isn't working. I'm getting worried that he's going to escalate things eventually."
"So, to stop it from getting worse, we need to do something," Joe muttered, "But what options do we have?"
"Well, we could put cameras around Al's house and the shop, and make sure they're able to record stuff for quite a while, Lonnie replied. "In fact, the security cameras used today can be paired with high end memory devices, for what we need, it would cost about £5,000."
Natalia called Aloysius the next day, passed on the gist of the conversation. Aloysius headed over to the bank, pulled out some funds for the store, food, and other necessities, pus enough to cover the cameras, then drove over to Lonnie's place and handed him the cash.
"Get those cameras, get whatever you need, Lonnie, I want this shit to stop, I like this place, it's nice except for one stupid asshole."
"I'll do that, Aloysius. Tom Dinweller is going out of town this weekend, some conference in London, I'll set up the cameras then."
Aloysius returned home, Natalia dropped over, they had a fun evening, she left for home and Aloysius went up to bed.
The next morning, after having breakfast and getting dressed, he walked out the front door to find all the tires on the car slashed again. He called Natalia, she came over an hour later, took him into town, dropping him off at the shop, then headed for her office.
Once Natalia was in her office, she called Lonnie and passed on the info about the tires being slashed again.
For once, a weekend in and around the village was peaceful. Lonnie had set up the cameras, three covering the shop, four covering the house and a single one covering the area near the road where Aloysius left the garbage for the truck to pick up on collection days.
On the Monday evening, Aloysius dropped two black garbage bags next to the road, then headed back into the house.
At 12:53 AM, the camera that had been hidden in a tree near the roadway recorded Thomas Dinweller getting out of his Audi Q5 and walking to the two bags lying on the ground. He pulled a knife from a sheath on his right leg, then slashed the bags several times. He stood there for almost five minutes looking at the torn bags, then he snarled quietly and kicked at the bags, spreading trash for several feet all around him.
Again, he stood there for a few minutes, then he placed the knife in its sheath, stepped back into the car and drove away.
One of the things that Lonnie had done while setting things up was set a system that would trigger an alarm if a camera saw something at a time when people should not be there. Aloysius was woken up that night by the alarm being set off from the camera down by the road.
He padded into the sitting room where a computer had been set up that was connected to the camera systems around the house. He sat down at the coffee table, typed in an access code, then sat back and watched as Dinweller slashed the bags, then kicked the trash around.
He continued to watch until the camera by the road showed Dinweller leaving, then called Lonnie. "He hit the garbage bags, he's yours."
Lonnie didn't usually need his uniform, cap or nightstick, but tonight, he had them all. Dinweller was screwy enough, he might do something.
At 1:35 AM, Lonnie rapped on the front door of Dinweller's home with his nightstick. Dinweller opened the door a few minutes later.
As soon as the door was open, Lonnie stuck a foot into the doorway, then started talking, "Thomas Aaron Dinweller, you're under arrest..."
That was as far as he got, Dinweller swung a fist at him, Lonnie pulled back, but not far enough, Dinweller hit him in the jaw. Lonnie whacked him with the nightstick across the lower abdomen just under the ribs. Dinweller screamed, folded over the stick, then crumpled to the floor.
Lonnie shrugged, put the stick on a clip on his belt, pulled out the cuffs, handcuffed Dinweller and informed him of his rights.
Not only had this idiot committed seventeen acts of vandalism, he'd just assaulted a police officer. Lonnie laughed. Seventeen charges with possible penalties of three months in prison for each one or a £2,500 fine, plus assault of a police officer exercising his duties. Hoo, boy! The assault, upon conviction, could result in six months of prison time and/or a £5,000 fine. Some people just didn't know when to stop.
It was the day after Christmas, Natalia and Aloysius had made a small but lovely Christmas dinner in his kitchen, then enjoyed it together.
It was perhaps an hour after they had eaten when Aloysius decided he had to tell this wonderful woman everything.
He sighed, then sat down near her on the sofa in the family room and started talking.
"I'm going to tell you everything, Natalia, I love you more than anyone else I've ever met, but there are things you don't know about me.
"I guess the most important one is that I had a different name when I was born, that name was Alessandra Elisabeta Iglesias. No, I'm not related in any way to the singer Julio Iglesias, although he's made some very amazing music that I've enjoyed over the years.
"We left Spain when I was four years old and settled in a town on the outskirts of London, that was my home for almost thirteen years.
"Things seemed normal to most people, but somewhere around the time I was nine, I knew that there was something wrong with me. It took a few more years and the beginning of puberty before I knew what it was, I wanted to be one of the boys and do guy things.
"Well, my parents found out when I was seventeen and the end result of that was that I was on the street with no belongings. My father, the coldhearted bastard that he is, had tossed all my clothes and belongings in the back yard, set them on fire and watched them burn."
For a moment, Aloysius is lost in the haze of memory, and several Spanish swear words pass his lips before he recovers.
"I headed into the heart of London, becoming lost in the big city and survived on the street for a week by stealing anything I could get.
"Then I ran into Anthony Braithwaite, he rescued me from a trio of street punks who were about to beat and likely rape me.
"I lived with him for three years, partied hard and often, married him, we had a heck of a great time for those three years.
That was the way it stood until he drove while drunk and stoned, got hit by a big lorry and wrapped the car around a tree.
"It was a small, shoddy car, the impact with that big oak at the edge of the park pretty much crushed him like you might a bit of paper.
"I didn't learn that he was dead until I came out of the high three days later; two days after that, I was back on the streets.
"I didn't stay on the streets for long, I met a nice lady who offered me a room, all I needed to do was clean her small house for her.
"She died in her sleep about twenty months after I moved in with her. I thought I was going to be back on the streets again, but I found out otherwise when her lawyer showed up two days after she died. He politely and calmly told me that I had inherited everything.
"In the end, that turned out to be the house and £175,000 in a bank account. She'd saved every little bit she could for years.
"I used about £35,000 to fix up the house and make it more liveable, then put my meagre belongings into the main bedroom.
"She and I had been fairly close in size, except I was a few inches taller, 5'10" to her 5'6"; most of her clothes would fit fairly well, but none of them interested me in the least, except for her jeans, and they were too short in the leg for me, so I gave her clothes to a charity shop.
"I'd made some acquaintances over the last twenty months, and one of those passed me on to a doctor. Now, this doctor scared me a bit, but once we started talking, I soon realized that she only wanted to help me, and the serious work of building a new life started.
"About six months after I started seeing her, she gave me a prescription for testosterone, I was absolutely thrilled!
"I continued to see her and took the hormones very day. It took a while, but I found I was eating more and I gained a bit of weight. I was worried for a bit about the possibility that I might become fat, but I used a public gym to run and lift weights, and I started adding on some muscle.
"Before I started taking the testosterone, I weighed maybe 125 pounds, I was pretty darn skinny. I've added a fair bit, but it's all muscle.
"I started the real life test within a month of getting the first prescription, and finished it two years later.
"So the real life part was done but I was living on the money from the old woman's will, and that was decreasing rapidly.
"I'd always enjoyed art, painting especially, so I took some classes; some of it was difficult, but I loved it just the same. The classes only lasted for a single school year, being provided by a local college, so I started putting my skills to work, painting in various media.
"Another year passed, and I was looking at the end of my finances, when a small painting sold in a gallery £2,500.
"Three weeks later, another painting, roughly the same size, sold at a different gallery for £7,100. I was shocked, this could be my income!
Slowly but surely, as the months passed and I became more comfortable as my male self, my paintings drew larger amounts.
About a month before I first met you, I decided that I wanted to leave London, live somewhere else.
I sorted out the financial end of things, put the house up for sale and started looking for a house somewhere in this area of the country.
It took nearly three weeks before I ended up in Little Bramble, and then found the Meredith house through your job.
"You have been a huge part of my life, Natalia," he said as he knelt, pulling a small jewelry box from a pocket, "Will you please marry me?"
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