There’s Always Tomorrow – Episode 19

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

The decision having been taken to trial the new venture, Lorna drove to the lawyers in Stonehaven to sign a short-term lease and get the keys.

While they were waiting for her to come back, Helen and the others tried to make a start clearing the three years’ worth of circus posters which had been pasted on to the solitary front window of the little shop.

From somewhere, Wullie unearthed an ancient wallpaper brush and rusty scrapers; Larry scrounged a metal pail and filled it with water from a neighbour’s house.

They took turns at attacking the layers of old posters.

“This is tougher than I thought.” Helen sighed.

Smothering them with water from the brush was easy enough, but the posters were designed to fight off the weather, and simply let the water run down without absorbing any.

Helen had expected scraping would be the harder task, but after two buckets of water, it was still pointless to begin.

“Let’s try this.” Wullie took his old penknife and scratched long horizontal lines across the surface to let water get through.

His trick worked, after a fashion. Some water did get in to soften the poster, and Larry returned with the scrapers slightly sharpened against a kerbstone.

Even so, progress was slow, taking up most of the morning.

Helen’s hands were sore by the time Lorna returned with the keys, and there was still almost half the window to clear.

“I hope these circuses lasted as long as their posters did,” Helen remarked.

“If Larry and Wullie can finish this, I’ll come in and help you brush out and scrub the place.

“There’s only room for one to work at the window,” Wullie pointed out. “Larry’s taller than me so he can reach the higher bits. I’ll sweep the place out – there’s a brush in my car.”

He scuttled off before anybody could argue.

“Will you manage on your own?” Helen asked Larry.

Larry sighed.

“I’ll have to.”

Soaking the remains of the posters again, he set out, pacing himself for a marathon.

He was a sergeant and would cope, Helen thought with a smile.

Nurses and sergeants had much in common. People expected a lot from them, and they usually delivered.

Though not always. She winced, then put the memory from her mind and followed Lorna, who had opened the shop door and was edging carefully inside.

Thick layers of dust were everywhere; cobwebs hung inside the window and from every inch and corner of the ceiling.

Lorna groaned.

“I hate spiders.”

Wullie returned, brush in hand.

“No’ as bad as I thought,” he said, looking around. “Where will I start?”

“With the spiders,” Lorna told him.

“Spiders are meant to lucky,” he replied.

“Well, this lot’s luck has just run out,” Lorna said firmly. “Start pulling down the cobwebs with your brush.”

Wullie looked at Helen.

“She must have been a foreman when the Egyptians were building the pyramids.” He sighed. “Even if she disnae look that old.”

“I’ll get water,” Lorna said, ignoring him. “I’ve pails and scrubbing brushes in the car. Where did you get the water for the windows?”

“Next door,” Helen said with a frown. “But I think we’re wearing our welcome thin.”

From a safe distance she watched Wullie bring down the cobwebs, then start brushing down the shop counter, then the floor.

Huge clouds of dust left her coughing helplessly.

Wullie sneezed.

“In the old days we used damp tea leaves,” he said, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. “They soaked up dust a treat, but teabags are worse than useless.”

“That’s the price of progress.” Helen smiled, her eyes gritty.

It was so strange. She had chosen this place to hide away from people and to come to terms with life on her own.

Yet here she was, with strangers who felt close to becoming friends. Mucking in with them, enjoying the banter and the hard work.

As for Larry, she thought, he already was a friend. A good friend who had gone out of his way to help her settle down.

She frowned, already sensing there was a danger he could become much more than a friend. And she wasn’t ready for that.

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.