Echoes From The Past – Episode 33

“You’re sure you’ll be all right, Aunt Bea?”

Bea had invited a friend from the church to call in, but she wasn’t due for another hour. This would be the first time Holly had left Bea for any length of time without Angela in the house. She had been absent for as long as it took to buy the paper and a pint of milk, but not for an appointment at Dunskillen Castle, which was what she was now booked for.

“I’ll be absolutely fine,” Bea assured her. “I promise I won’t attempt to clear out the loft before Jean gets here. Anyway, I can walk fine. Look at me.”

Bea was about to attempt a twirl, and then thought the better of it. She looked up at Holly with a grave expression.

“I solemnly swear I will do nothing to endanger my health and hip. I will have the hospital’s written instructions on my person at all times. I can do the Brownie promise as well, if you like. The bit about doing my duty to God and the King.”

Holly grinned.

“The King? Really?”

“But of course. And a fine king he was, too. Now, get yourself organised and off to work.”

“Right. I’ve left everything ready for Jean to make the coffee, and I should be back well before lunch, but in case I get held up –”

“Don’t worry. I can reach the fridge, and I can put on the kettle. I’ll be fine.”

“OK.” Holly turned away, and then back again. “You promise to phone me at any time if –”

Bea looked half amused and half exasperated.

“This time I really will give you the Brownie promise. Get going or you’ll be late.”

“Right,” Holly said again. And this time she went, with a quick peck on Bea’s cheek and a wiggle of her fingers.

Yet again, as Holly drove down the gentle slope, the view of Dunskillen Castle made her smile. It was impressive and delightful at the same time, and Holly could only hope she had captured something of that in her design for the hanging.

Halfway down the drive, a door opened in one of the outbuildings, and an elderly man appeared. He was wearing an ancient flat cap and even more ancient jumper and cords, so that Holly wondered how the Hepburns put up with someone who looked so dilapidated. On the other hand, the old man’s fierce expression indicated that he might well be the kind of person that did not take kindly to criticism or suggestion.

He slammed the door and set off across the drive, directly in front of Holly’s van. She stood on the brakes, too surprised to toot her horn. He saw her belatedly, then carried on round the hedge on the opposite side.

“Well,” she said aloud. “I’m not putting you into the design, that’s for sure.”

She didn’t dwell on the incident, but it did cross her mind to wonder what the man’s function was, and what his connections were to the family.

However, by the time she had parked and made her way to the front door, she had forgotten all about the ancient retainer. Even though she was confident of her skills, there was always an apprehension that the client might not like her ideas. She was willing to adapt and change, but she did hope that the integrity of her design wouldn’t be too badly affected by alteration.

She took a breath, and rang the bell. One minute later, Anne Hepburn appeared, looking smart in her blue blouse and tailored cotton trousers.

“Come in, Holly. You’re just in time for coffee.”

The welcome was so different from that offered by Brenda Harris that Holly smiled with pleasure.

Keeping the paper well away from the coffee cups, Holly spread it out on the kitchen table. The picture itself was a thing of beauty, since Holly had painted it in attractive translucent watercolour.

“My goodness!” Anne exclaimed. “This is absolutely beautiful! I could just frame this instead of the patchwork.”

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!