Echoes From The Past – Episode 15

Angela appeared the following morning, she looked even more worried than usual. Holly automatically put the kettle on to boil, thinking that hot sweet tea might be the order of the day.

“You look done in, and it’s barely elevenses,” Holly said, trying to be direct and sympathetic at the same time. “Are you all right?”

Angela smiled weakly.

“Aye, I’m fine. It’s just our Ryan again. He’s running around with a crowd I don’t like. He’s no angel himself, mind, but I just wish – well, never mind. You’ll not be wanting to hear all my troubles.”

“If I can help at all –”

“Thanks, but I don’t think anyone can.”

“What does your husband say?”

Angela sighed.

“He thinks I exaggerate. The thing is, Ryan behaves fine when Jim’s at home, but the minute he’s off on the rigs, Ryan goes daft again.”

“Do you have other family, Angela?” Holly put out a selection of Bea’s favourite chocolate biscuits, thinking Angela needed a bit of cheering up.

“Aye, I’ve got a married daughter up in Perth, but I don’t get the chance to see her very often. She’s busy, mind. She’s a hairdresser, so she works Saturdays.” Angela smiled tentatively. “That tea looks brilliant. I’ll just have a quick cup and get on. I think the upstairs bathroom to start with, don’t you?”

“Whatever you say, Angela. The bathroom looks pretty good to me, but you’re the expert. How do you get such a shine on the taps?”

For the next ten minutes, conversation was mostly about the house and about Bea, but there was the odd mention of Ryan and his mother’s concern that he might be into petty crime, or worse.

“I just have this horrible fear that I’ll open the door one day and there’ll be a couple of bobbies on the step,” she confided.

“Is he still at school?”

Angela nodded.

“Aye. He’s still a few weeks off his birthday, but after that, I don’t know what he’s going to do. He doesn’t want to work in an office or a factory, even if there was work for him. He’s no brain box, our Ryan, but if something came up that took his fancy, I think he’d try his best. Provided his friends don’t derail him. I’m sure they’re nice enough boys –” she was suddenly angry “– no, they’re not! It’s unchristian to say so, I know, but some of them are pure evil. I don’t want him getting into serious trouble, but I’m scared that’s what’s going to happen.”

She fought back unexpected tears, and Holly felt suddenly inadequate. What made her think she could help? What did she know about wayward boys? She leaned across the kitchen table and patted Angela’s hand.

“I wish there was something I –”

“Och, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be burdening you with this. I don’t know what’s got into me today.” She gave a watery smile. “I’m fine really. I’ll feel better when I’ve got stuck into the cleaning.”

Her theory seemed to work, for it wasn’t much later that Holly heard her singing off key, her voice resounding round the highly polished bathroom tiles, clashing momentarily with the sound of Holly’s mobile. Holly reached across the dining-room table past her patchwork pieces and picked it up.

“Hello?” the voice of what sounded like a middle-aged lady said. “Am I speaking to Ms Holly Seagrave?”

“You are.”

“My name’s Hepburn. Anne Hepburn. I picked up one of your flyers when I was in Stirling. I live in a place called Dunskillen Castle – nothing like as grand as it sounds – and I’ve got a bit of wall in the hallway that needs enhancing, if that doesn’t sound odd. I’ve been thinking of a painting or a sampler, but when I saw your advertisement, I thought your work might well be the kind of thing I’m looking for. Would you be interested in giving me an opinion?”

“I certainly would, Mrs Hepburn.” Holly tried to keep the surprised delight out of her voice. This was as fast an answer as she could have hoped for. Here might well be something she could focus on and really get her teeth into. “So, where is Dunskillen?”

Anne Hepburn gave her directions to the castle, and by the end of the conversation, they had fixed a time for Holly to visit, still within Bea’s time in hospital. They had also exchanged a few basic ideas, but it was deemed sensible to wait till Holly saw the place before they carried the discussion any further.

So it was a really upbeat Holly Seagrave that waved Angela off a couple of hours later. Angela, too, seemed a bit happier, as if scrubbing and polishing had done for her what the prospect of a new commission was doing for Holly. It was as Holly lingered on the doorstep, enjoying the touch of warmth in the scented air, that she saw the car again, the one she had seen the day she took Bea into hospital. As if on cue, the anonymous grey saloon slid quietly away from the kerb, and followed Angela along the road. The warm air suddenly chilled. Holly came back inside and closed the door.

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!