Read Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts Online

Authors: Talli Roland

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Short Stories & Anthologies, #Short Stories, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #Romantic Comedy, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Contemporary Fiction, #Single Authors

Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts (4 page)

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
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He came back downstairs sporting
a smart-looking black wool coat and a camel-coloured scarf draped around his neck in a casually cool way. Instantly I tugged at my own ragged scarf I’d picked up at a car boot sale, all too aware the cream had turned the unattractive colour of Beano-pee. It was definitely time to get rid of this thing.

Let’s go.’ Heath put a hand on the small of my back and guided me through the door. Outside, the soft glow of streetlamps lit the night, and the air was cool and crisp. The hum of the city – voices, footfalls, and the whoosh of buses in the distance – surrounded us.

here are we headed?’ I asked, after we’d walked for a minute or two in silence. As much as I wanted to fill up the empty space with chatter, every time I opened my mouth, the words seemed to dry up. What
it about this man that made me so nervous?

Heath turned toward me and grinned, and some
thing stirred inside. God, he was almost another person when he smiled. ‘Well, it’s a cold night and I’m in the mood for something filling. There’s a great curry house over in Whitechapel, if you don’t mind a stroll?’

Curry house? Visions of candles and meaningful looks fled, and my tension eased. A busy curry house was just what I needed to feel comfortable with Heath. ‘That would be fantastic.’

We chatted companionably about the museum and the remaining tasks as we wound our way down Brick Lane, past all the tourists chomping on cheap Indian, and over to Whitechapel Road.

Almost there.’ He pointed to a building with a queue snaking out the door. ‘There’s always a bit of a wait, but I promise it’s worth it.’

My stomach rumbled loudly at the thought of food. Heath laughed then placed his gloved hand against my belly. Even through my thick coat, I could feel its warmth. I tilted my head up, surprised to see an almost-tender look in his eyes. Then, his usual mask slid into place, and he let his hand fall away.

Table for two?’ The maitre d’ asked
a few minutes later, leading us into a buzzing restaurant packed with happy diners laughing, eating, and chatting. The smell of fragrant spices drifting through the air was amazing, and I turned to Heath.

Wow!’ I took a deep breath in, filling my lungs and soul with the heady scent.

Heath nodded as he shrugged off his coat and settled into his seat. There was barely enough room to pull out the chair, the tables were packed so tightly. ‘I know. I love this place.’

So what do you usually get here?’ I scanned the menu, totally out of my depth. Gareth and I
had been more along the lines of French brasserie than fiery curries.

Why don’t we order a selection of dishes, so you can try lots of different things?’ Heath said. ‘Some have a lot of chillies. Do you like it hot?’

Er . . . w
ell, to be honest, I don’t really know. I’ve never tried anything super spicy.’ It wasn’t exactly romantic, was it? And with Gareth, I’d always wanted to be sure to end the evening in bed, not the loo.

Heath raised his eyebrows. ‘What? You’ve never tried something spicy?’ The way he was staring at me, you’d almost think I’d said I never brushed my teeth. ‘Well, you’ve come to the right place. They’re known for their heat here. Don’t worry, I’ll take it easy on you this time. After all, I need you.’

We laughed and I felt myself relax even more. ‘So, Heath, tell me a bit more about your grandmother.’ I was curious about the woman behind the museum.

He dropped his eyes
and I wondered if he was going to clam up. Then his shoulders heaved in a sigh. ‘I miss her,’ he said finally. ‘She took me in after my mother . . .’ He shook his head, as if to clear a bad memory. ‘Well, after my mother couldn’t take care of me any longer.’

Maybe that was what had turned him into such a sceptic? An image of Heath clasping the gold locket ran through my mind, and my brow furrowed. Where
that locket? I hadn’t come across it in my cataloguing. It must be in one of the last few boxes I had yet to organise.
‘How old were you?’ I asked.

Six.’ The waiter put
a plate of fluffy, steaming bread in front of us, and Heath tore it apart with a vengeance. ‘Yes, I was only six. Gran took me in and raised me.’

And have you kept in touch with your mum?’ By the look on Heath’s face, I’d probably overstepped the line on that question. I was here to impress him with my skills, not pry into past hurts. But I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

Heath bit into the bread and chewed slowly, his eyes unreadable. Finally, he swallowed, and said: ‘Mum would drop by every once in a while, when she had the time. Usually when she wanted to ask about Gran’s will. I don’t keep in touch with her anymore.’

Is it drugs?’ The words popped out and I clapped a hand over my mouth. God, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like having an addict as a mother.

Heath gave a short barking laugh. ‘No, it’s not drugs, but she’s just as addicted to her work. Mum owns a chain of pizza places. You know, ParteePizza.’

While they weren’t know for their quality, ParteePizza had sprung up everywhere across the UK. There was practically one on every corner, and they were always mobbed after the pubs and clubs let out. Heath’s mum owned ParteePizza? She must be rolling in it. So why was she so interested in the will? And how could she have given up caring for her son to focus on a business?

I guess she had to work hard for that,’ I said, trying to keep my tone neutral.

Heath’s face twisted. ‘Yeah. Hard. At first, I remember she’d drop me off at Gran’s early in the morning, then pick me up when it was dark. I don’t even remember spending time with her. Eventually, she just . . . decided it was better if I stayed with Gran until the business was set up. Well, I got through primary school, then secondary school, and then I moved away for uni. And Mum never came to get me again. Sure, she’d come by every once in a while and send us money, which Gran saved up for me. But Mum was always too busy to really get involved.’

And you don’t see her anymore?’ I asked, breaking off a piece of bread.

Heath shook his head. ‘She visited Gran about two years ago. I just happened to be dropping off some groceries at the same time. When I went inside, she was grilling Gran on the property value of the house, saying Gran should sign over power of attorney to her.’ His eyes flashed. ‘I sorted that out.’

I gulped, just imag
ining the angry words. How sad that a business – especially one like ParteePizza, which tasted more plastic than pizza – had come between mother and son. I thought of the locket again and the way Heath had just stood there, clutching it. If that had belonged to his mum, obviously he
still care about her.

Oh good, here’s the food.’ The
serious expression left Heath’s face as a waiter set plate after plate of steaming, aromatic food in front of us. ‘I can’t believe you’ve let me blather on like this; I haven’t talked so much in ages. Here I am, inviting you out to dinner to get to know you, and all I do is blab about myself.’ He gave me a lovely lopsided smile, and I couldn’t help grinning back.

I do have that effect on people – Gareth used to tell me I was
the perfect listener. He would go on for hours about his hopes and dreams . . . okay, sometimes I wished he would ask me a question in return. And sure, his hopes and dreams could be a teeny bit boring, and I’d often resort to thinking about chocolate brownies. But it’s not exactly romantic to interrupt someone spilling out their heart and ask them to be interested in you, is it?

’ Heath spooned some chicken swimming in a red, yummy-smelling sauce onto my plate. ‘Tell me about you. Where does your family live? Fill me in.’

I took a bite of meat
, loving how the warmth and spice oozed down my throat and into my belly. This place wasn’t dark and candle lit, and I had to shout to be heard. The man across from me was my boss, and already I could feel my lips burning from the spicy food. But somehow, it all just seemed right. And possibly even a touch romantic?

Get real, Rose, I told myself firmly.
was not romance. Now maybe if Heath leaned across the table and spooned some curry between my parted lips . . . my cheeks heated up as I envisaged the scene, and I coughed to clear the image. Heath glanced at me, eyebrows raised.

Too hot for you?’ he asked.

I shook my head. ‘No. It’s fine. Just fine.’





The next morning, I made a beeline for the
unpacked boxes in the corner of the cellar. It was just after seven, and Heath usually didn’t get in until eight. I’d been thinking about it all night, and if that locket really had belonged to his mother and he’d been gripping it with such intensity, he
want a resolution – whether he realised it or not. Today, I was determined to track down that piece of jewellery and find any clues to its ownership. I glanced around at the stacks of items, neatly filed and catalogued. All these objects might be the products of broken relationships, but maybe one story could end on a positive note.

I pictured the tearful reuni
on between mother and son, liquid spilling from their eyes as they wrapped their arms around each other.

I’m so sorry I let you go,’ his mother would say. ‘I don’t know how I ever thought my work was more important. Nothing is more important than family.’

hey’d both turn to me, and Heath would take my hands in his. ‘Rose, we can never thank you enough for bringing us back together.’ Then, he’d draw me against his solid chest, and . . .


My head snapped up to see Heath silhouetted against the light shining down from upstairs. ‘Oh, hi.’ It figured he’d be early the one day I wanted to poke around in his past. My cheeks coloured as he thumped toward me, his tall frame seeming even bigger in the tiny basement confines.

What are you doing here? I thought since I didn’t get you home until late, you might come in at a reasonable hour for once.’ He shook his head. ‘And here you are, getting stuck in already. I’m really lucky to have found someone as dedicated as you.’

you’ll give me that curator position when you leave
I asked inside my head? If I did manage to engineer a mother-son reunion, he’d be so happy, he’d probably give me a job here for life.

It’s my pleasure.’ I smiled
up at him. ‘Thanks again for last night.’ We’d lingered over dinner as long as we could, laughing as I shared my tales of terror from the British Museum. Heath’s cool, staid exterior had thawed, and he’d been relaxed and easy to talk to. He’d walked me back to the Tube, before heading off to . . . God, I still didn’t know where he lived. Funny, after the initial outburst about his childhood, I hadn’t learned much else about Heath’s life.

Right, well, I’ll be upstairs if you need me.’

I nodded as he went
back up the steps, pausing until the floorboards above me stopped creaking and I was certain he’d gone to his office. Then, I selected a box and carefully combed through its contents. No locket there. Onto the next one . . . still nothing. I was about to get seriously annoyed when a flash of something metallic caught my eye. Afraid it would disappear back into the box’s depths, I reached in gingerly, relief flooding through me as my fingers closed around a thin chain. Swinging from the end was a slightly tarnished gold heart-shaped locket. Holding my breath, I clicked it open.

Inside was a
photo of a woman who had Heath’s dark eyes and regal nose. Or rather, Heath had
eyes and nose. She was beautiful, smiling into the camera playfully. And in her arms, looking up with adoration and the beginnings of a grin on his chubby face, was a toddler I assumed was Heath. With such a striking resemblance, this had to be Heath’s mum – but just to be sure, I’d look her up on the ParteePizza website. As the owner, there was bound to be a photo of her there. Then, I’d . . . well, I’d figure out what to do next. Somehow.

Excitement filtered into me and I shoved the locket down deep into
the pocket of my jeans for safekeeping. I couldn’t wait to get this happy ending underway.


For the first time since starting this job, I left the museum promptly at five. There was only one box left to catalogue anyway, and I could finish it tomorrow morning before Heath and I began setting up rooms in the afternoon. Heath had ordered in all the extra furniture we’d need to make everything look genuine, and I couldn’t wait to see my idea come to life. Now, though, I wanted to get home and track down Heath’s mum on the internet. My heart pounded at the thought of wiping away the hurt and resentment on Heath’s face whenever he spoke of her. This would be a new beginning for them both.

The T
ube ride home passed in a blur and before I knew it, I was turning the key in the lock of my flat. Beano pressed against my legs and I absently picked him up, breathing in his kitty scent as I poured food into a dish. Then, with Beano busy crunching and munching his tuna treats, I flicked on my ancient laptop. As it rattled to life, I dug into my pocket and drew out the gold locket, popping it open again. God, Heath’s mother was gorgeous, I thought, staring at her face. Hopefully she hadn’t changed much in the past few years so I’d be able to recognise her now.

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
5.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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