Echoes From The Past – Episode 12

Daniel Hepburn whizzed the cursor up and down, checking and adapting the drawings on his computer screen. His business was going well, with customers asking for garden designs to suit their own specifications, but he liked to play about with new ideas at the same time. It was always good to be ready with novel suggestions.

Any hope of a quiet hour or two, however, was sabotaged first of all by Maisie Taylor, on the hunt for gardening clothes. Maisie was a large woman, not much given to smiling. She came in with a heavy tread, carrying a green plastic laundry basket.

“I’m doing a dark wash,” she said lugubriously. “Eric says he left some dungarees here.”

“Ah,” Daniel said, getting to his feet and looking around. “There they are.” He could see the mud-stained gardening clothes stuck down the side of a filing cabinet. They had got shoved aside and overlooked. Daniel reached for them himself, rather than have Maisie plod her way through the furniture.

“There’s some big socks as well,” Maisie said, moving closer to the desk and staring blankly at the screen.

Daniel scooped up the clothes, including the socks, and turned back to Maisie, who now appeared to be intrigued by Daniel’s drawings. Dan clicked his tongue in annoyance. He had never had the slightest cause to doubt either Maisie’s loyalty or her discretion, but he liked to keep his plans very close to his chest.

“Here you are,” he said, holding out the clothes.

Maisie turned her head for a better view of the designs.

“Maisie.” His voice was sharper than he intended, but had the desired effect.

Maisie looked up and held out the basket.

“Anything else? How about that old anorak?”

It was amazing the effect a good drying day had on a laundrywoman. His mother was the same. She hunted the house for things to put into the washing machine on days like this.

“Yes, all right.”

The anorak was lifted off its hook, and Maisie made her way to the door, which opened before she reached it. It was Anne Hepburn.

“Just passing,” she said. “Oh, there you are, Maisie. Just the day for a dark wash. Did I tell you, Daniel, I picked up a flyer in town, about someone who does patchwork to order? I think I’ll phone her and maybe fix a time for her to come to see the space in the hall.”

“Fine,” Daniel said. “Let me know the price.”

“Don’t you want to be in on the design?”

“OK. That, too.” The mixture of laundry and needlework was making him feel less manly by the moment. That was when Fiona appeared.

“Hello, all. My, this is quite a convention, isn’t it?”

The office space was indeed becoming congested as Fiona Webster pushed her way in. Fiona was one of the tenants in the converted outbuildings on the estate. Hers was a flat over the garages, referred to in the estate brochure as a mews apartment.

Fiona herself was a pretty woman in her late twenties, with blonde hair swept up in a carefully disarranged chignon. Her smart charcoal-grey suit and white blouse showed she had just come in from work, a little earlier than she would usually. Fiona was personal assistant to a business executive in Stirling.

“Fiona,” Daniel said with the kind of foolish smile his mother didn’t like to see in a man. “You’re back early.”

“The boss had to go to a funeral, so I took the opportunity to bring some work home.” She looked about. “It’s quite nice being here during working hours.”

“What can we do for you?” Anne asked briskly.

Fiona gave her sunny smile, the polar opposite of Maisie’s permanently solemn expression.

“It’s the shower,” she said. “I think it’s leaking.”

Daniel groaned.

“OK. I’ll come and have a look.”

Recognising that his own time with his designs was over for the moment, he closed down the computer and chased all the women out of his office.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!