The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 32


The Pocket Novel cover for The Lombardi Emeralds with woman in a green dressing, man in a black shirt behind her on a seaside backdrop at sunset

With her head spinning, May didn’t immediately realise someone was knocking on her door.

Vin’s muffled voice sounded urgent.

“May, are you there? Open up.” His face was covered in oily streaks and his eyes were etched with fatigue. He sagged against the doorway as if he were about to pass out.

Supporting his weight under her shoulders May staggered into the studio. Vin collapsed on to a chair and cradled his head in his hands. Hurrying into the kitchen she poured some water into a glass.

She held the tumbler steady as she passed it over.

“No, don’t speak,” she cautioned.

“Thank you.” Vin wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

May put the glass down on the table with her right hand, aware Vin was still clutching her left hand. Gently easing her fingers out of his grasp, she perched on the chair next to him.

“Can you update me?” she asked in as steady a voice as she could manage.

“I don’t know how it could have happened.” Vin was still shaking his head.

“You’re talking about the accident?”

He nodded absently as if his mind were elsewhere.

“It wasn’t your fault,” May tried to reassure him. “Florence’s argument with Rebecca would have seriously unsettled her and she wasn’t paying full attention to the conditions. She should have known better than to go out on the circuit.”

“She is such a careful driver. She never takes professional risks.”

“The storm would have made the circuit extra slippery – the accident was a force of nature.”

“Do you think so?” Vin turned a hopeful face towards her.

Earlier the maid had lowered the blinds in the room. The storm had passed over and now the afternoon sun was painting psychedelic shapes on to Vin’s face as it seeped through the slats.

“All mothers and daughters argue.” May recalled her recent experience with Tish. “This argument had unfortunate consequences.”

“One of the mechanics heard raised voices coming from the office about the time the storm started.”

“All I could get out of Rebecca was that Florence was very angry with her.”

“I should have forcibly taken the keys from Florence, but short of physically attacking her there was nothing I could do.”

“There was nothing anyone could have done, given the circumstances.”

“Her actions might have compromised the future of the autodromo.”

“You’re being unnecessarily harsh on Florence,” May tried reasoning with Vin.

“There will have to be endless reports and enquiries. You have no idea how strict the authorities can be in these matters. We could lose our licence or worse still be closed down.”

“I’m sure it won’t come to that.”

“Everyone has worked so hard to make the autodromo a success. I can’t let it go under.”

“If anyone is to blame it’s me,” May insisted.

“How can it possibly be your fault?” Vin demanded with a puzzled frown.

“If I hadn’t come out here none of this would have happened.”

“No,” Vin protested, “the accident was nothing to do with you.”

“Betta would disagree with you.” “What’s Betta got to do with it?”

“No-one told me she is Florence’s mother.”

“How did you find out?”

“When she collected Rebecca, she was like a tigress protecting her cubs.”

“What did she say to you?”

“The usual stuff, how my presence here had stirred up old grievances – grievances better left buried in the past. She blames me for everything.”

“If she’s looking for someone to blame, it’s Florence.”

“Betta doesn’t agree with you.”

“It was Florence who invited you here in the first place.”

“But she didn’t invite me, did she? She invited my mother.”

“I’m too tired to argue about it now.” Vin sagged back in his seat.

May could smell the motor oil on his skin. The top studs of his boiler suit were undone and she could see a pulse throbbing at the base of his neck. It required a superhuman effort on her part not to put out her arms and hug him.

“Would you like some coffee?” she asked instead. Vin gave a tired nod. “Have you eaten anything?”

“I’m not sure,” he admitted.

“I’ll rustle up a sandwich. There are a few emergency supplies in the fridge.”

Looking out across the courtyard as she prepared their snack May could see villa life going on as normal. The gardeners were tending to the damage inflicted by the recent storm, collecting up fallen petals and clearing the pathway of damp leaves, their rakes scraping the sodden surface of the walkway.

Picking up the tray, May carried it into the small sitting-room. In her absence Vin had made an effort to tidy himself up. He had run a comb through his hair and made liberal use of her lime-scented soap to wash the worst of the oil off his face. She poured out some orange juice and nudged the plate of sandwiches towards him. Vin caught May looking at the stains his hands left on the paper serviettes.

“My fingers look a wreck, don’t they?”

“I’ve seen worse – especially on location.”

“On location,” he repeated thoughtfully. “Do you do much filming away from home?”

“Not often.” May grimaced, remembering the way she had been casually let go from her last production.

“You don’t like what you do for a living?” Vin enquired.

“I did.”

“Would you miss it if you changed career?”

May refused to dwell on what had happened between her and Archie Fisher. “I sense my life could be at a crossroads and I’m not sure what direction it’s going to take.”

“Like our relationship.” Vin’s voice was so low May had to lean forward in order to hear what he was saying.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!