Echoes From The Past – Episode 44


It was as Holly got further from the castle that she realised she was not alone.

She turned to face the gardens as they fell away from the terrace, and saw several people talking and gesturing and taking photographs with cameras much larger than the one she had. They seemed to be as surprised to see her as she was to see them, though not so embarrassed.

One of them detached himself, and came towards her. It was Daniel, dressed in gardening clothes and looking half annoyed, half pleased.

“I’m so sorry, Daniel,” she said, taking the initiative and walking towards him. “I realised I didn’t have enough photographs, so I came back. I tried to find someone to ask permission, but I couldn’t find anyone.”

Dan grinned.

“That’s because they’re all here.” He swept his arm to indicate the large group, among whom Holly could discern Anne, her husband Lewis, and a recalcitrant Eric, standing with a long-handled spade and a glowering expression.

“I can see you’re busy,” she said diplomatically. “I’ll get out of your way.”

“The thing is,” he said, taking a breath, “they’re from a television company. They’re making a series of programmes about castles and their gardens, and they want to feature us later in the year. This is a kind of trial run.”

“Oh, I say! How lovely!”

He grinned.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that it all works out. Nothing is signed and sealed yet, but it will be great if it comes off.”

He indicated his ancient trousers and checked shirt that was overdue for the charity shop.

“Excuse the gardening gear. Eric and I have been working like slaves to get it looking its best. I try to take most of the load off him, but he’s a determined old so-and-so. And as you can see, he’s thrilled about the whole thing.”

Holly laughed. Old Eric looked progressively more thunderous.

“He knows we’ll make a few bob out of the exercise, but his heart’s not in it. Maisie’s more alert to the possibilities.”

“Maisie?”

“Eric’s wife. You haven’t met her yet? Maisie’s a one-off. She’s never been known to smile, but she is the most economical housekeeper you will ever find. I don’t know why, but she’s very aware of money. Not that they ever spend it. They’ve not had so much as a week in Saltcoats, far less Florida, as far as I know.” He paused. “I shouldn’t be talking like this. I don’t mean to sound disloyal. I think I’m on a bit of a high.”

Holly smiled.

“My lips are sealed.”

Dan looked suddenly anxious.

“Can I ask you not to say anything about this programme, either? It’s still very much under wraps.”

“Of course.” Holly nodded. “It sounds terrific. I do hope it all works out.”

“Thanks.”

Dan looked at her, and all at once, everything stopped. The voices of the TV team receded, and the colours of the garden paled. There was nothing there but the two of them, and the moment between them. It seemed to go on for hours, but eventually Holly found her voice.

“I’ll let you get on, then,” she said, with a slight squeak.

Daniel nodded and collected himself.

“Take as many pictures as you like. Just not the team, please.”

“I promise. I’ve finished now, anyway. I’m sure I’ve got enough.”

“Come back if you have to,” he said, stepping backwards. “Any time.”

Back in the van, Holly sat for several minutes before she trusted herself to turn on the ignition. What on earth had just happened? She was deeply flattered that Dan had entrusted her with sensitive information. He hadn’t needed to do that. She would have left without any explanation, and not said anything. She wouldn’t even have speculated. But he had told her, just as he had been open about Eric and Maisie. It was as though he felt completely comfortable with her, and how could that happen after just a couple of meetings?

Holly started the van, trying to ignore the strong feelings now speeding up her heart rate.

lucycrichton

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 150 years of 'Friend' fiction!