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 (6 page)

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
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Oh.’ Her eyes softened and for a split second, I caught a glimpse of that happy woman in the locket.


I’ve seen Heath
staring at this, over and over.’ Well, maybe not
over and over
, but still. ‘He obviously cares about you.’ I paused for a second, choosing my next words carefully. ‘And he needs your help. The Museum of Broken Hearts – your mother’s museum, as you know – is scheduled to open the fifteenth of December. But there have been a few hold-ups with the planning permission, and it could be delayed. It would mean a lot to Heath if you could help him push the permission through . . . ’ My voice trailed off as the tender look on Liz’s face morphed into anger faster than I could say “extra cheese”.


That bloody Museu
m of Broken Hearts!’ Liz spat out. ‘Most delusional idea my mother has ever had. I wanted that building to launch our flagship East London branch of ParteePizza, you know – we even had the designs all drawn up, ready to go. But oh no, Mother had to go down the sentimental route once again.’

Liz got to her feet and strode over to the window, her back to me. ‘I can’t believe Heath is going along with it. That boy should know better, after all his training in the City. Looks like he’s inherited his grandmother’s sentimental streak.’ Her voice rang with derision, and I swallowed hard. This was not how the conversation was supposed to go. Given what Heath had told me, I’d known the building was a potential source of conflict between them, but I’d just thought . . . well, I’d thought once I mentioned the locket and Heath’s emotions, that would pave the way.


Look,
you might not be the museum’s biggest fan, but it would mean a lot to Heath if you could help,’ I said. ‘He’s been working so hard to make the museum a success.’ There must be a heart somewhere inside this woman!


We
ll.’ Liz waved a hand in the air dismissively. ‘I do have some influence with the council after all my investment in the area, but Christmas is a very busy time of year. I don’t think giving even a second to help that museum is a good use of my time.’


But
what about giving a second to help your son?’ The words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop them.

Liz leaned toward me. ‘If Heath
does
still want me in his life – and if my help means so much to him – why hasn’t he asked me himself?’

I gulped. ‘Um . . .’

She pushed back from the desk and got to her feet. ‘Exactly. Thank you for coming. Now, if you don’t mind . . .’ Liz looked pointedly toward the door.

I stared
at her, frantically trying to think of something to say. But words failed me, so I grabbed the locket off the desk and turned to go.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

Early the next morn
ing, I hurried to the museum. The streets were dark and empty with streetlamps casting eerie halos in the thick fog. I shivered, quickening my pace. This was Jack the Ripper territory, and at moments like this, it was all too easy to imagine.

Forget Jack, I told myself. Just think of the day ahead. Setting up exhibits was my favourite part of the whole process – when the hard work of cataloguing and organising ended, and the items really came to life.

After returning from
ParteePizza yesterday (thankfully, before my boss had come back from the bank), Heath and I had positioned all the furniture he’d ordered in, making the house look lived in and
real
. Today, I’d place the artefacts in strategic positions in each room to make it look like they’d been left there by their owners. Above each object on the wall – in tarnished frames I’d tracked down from an antiques dealer at Spitalfields Market – would be an accompanying letter, detailing the item’s story. As museum-goers filtered through the rooms, they’d almost feel like they had wandered into the owners’ lives . . . or so I hoped. Now I’d see if my concept actually worked, and I was practically shaking with nerves and excitement.

But all of that would come to nothing before Christmas unless we could get the proper planning permission to open the museum. Poor Heath. Although he hadn’t said anything while we worked yesterday, I could sense the tension in the air. I’d longed to throw him an encouraging word – to be able to say that his mother was on the case – but the way yesterday’s conversation had unfolded, I suspected Liz would rather cut off a finger with a pizza slicer than help this museum succeed. I could hardly believe she hadn’t jumped at the chance to make amends. Maybe she just needed more time to psych herself up?

Sighing, I unlocked the museum door and flicked on the lights. No more cold cellars for me; yesterday, we’d brought up each and every neatly labelled item, all ready to go. I grabbed the collection for the child’s bedroom and made my way up the stairs.

I was just about to place
a well-loved teddy on the bed when I heard the door downstairs opening. Shaking my head to clear it, I noted with surprise the skies outside had lightened. Dust motes danced in the sunlight streaming in through the large sash window. I’d been so absorbed in getting the bedroom just right, I’d barely noticed time passing.

I stood back now, smiling as I observed my handiwork. Almost all of the items had been positioned, and the space looked as if a young one had just popped out to play. I’d even left the bed covers slightly rumpled, like someone had been lying there. Running my eyes over the objects of the broken-hearted, I couldn’t help shivering. Now that the room was set up, the items seemed even more poignant; more real.


Wow!’ Heath appeared in the doorway, his cheeks red with cold. ‘Brilliant job in here. It looks fantastic.’

A feeling of pride swept over me. ‘It does, doesn’t it? I’m going to do the adult bedroom this afternoon, then the lounge and kitchen tomorrow. Then, all we need to do is mount the frames, fill in any missing gaps, and we’re ready to go.’

Heath’s face twisted. ‘
Except for the bloody planning permission from the
bloody
council.’

Oops.
In my excitement, I’d forgotten about that. I gnawed on my lower lip, thinking maybe I could plan another visit to ParteePizza. There must be
something
I could say to convince Liz to help.

But
a few hours later, just as I was trying to toss a tatty trilby onto a hat stand, Heath burst into the bedroom. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes twinkling. I’d never seen him so revved up.


We got it!’ He took my arm and spun me around. ‘We got the planning permission!’


Oh, fantastic!’ I
couldn’t help laughing as I lurched off balance and tumbled onto the bed. ‘What happened?’ It must have been his mum! A thrill of happiness mixed with nerves went through me. Had she told Heath I’d paid her a visit? I risked a glance up at him, but his face told me nothing.

Heath shrugged and collapsed onto the bed beside me, his shoulders sagging with relief. ‘Who can understand the mysterious ways of the council? All I know is that they rang me up just now and told me everything’s been approved. Guess my grovelling yesterday with the councillor worked.’ He got up and pulled me to my feet. ‘Forget all this for now. Let’s get a drink to celebrate.’

I glanced around the room. ‘Okay, I guess I can. I’m almost done here, anyway, and we have another week to put the finishing touches on things.’

Heath met my eyes, a slow smile spreading across his normally serious face. ‘Thank you for working so hard. I couldn’t have done it without you.’

My cheeks flushed and I jabbed a curl away from my face. ‘Er, that’s okay.’ I almost said he should be thanking his mum, but I snapped my mouth closed just in time.
Had
Liz hurried things along? And if so, why hadn’t she said anything to Heath? Didn’t she want to make up with her son?


Are you okay, Rose?’ Heath gave me a puzzled look, and I realised I’d been shaking my head back and forth as I tried to puzzle out recent events.


Sure, sure,’ I mumbled. ‘Now come on, let’s go get that drink.’ God knows I needed one.

 

CHAPTER
NINE

 

 


I think we’re all set.’ I turned and smiled at Heath as the two of us completed our walk-through of the museum. It was almost eight o’clock the night before the opening, and the two of us had been working our fingers to the bone the past few days to get everything sorted. There were always those last-minute details that took up so much time – clocks on the wall, missing vases, fresh flowers, and candles – not to mention dealing with umpteen visits from the caterers and even a few eager members of the press who wanted to interview Heath before the opening.

The rap
of the doorknocker made me jerk, and Heath raised an eyebrow. ‘Who on earth could that be?’ He looked at his watch, then thumped toward the entrance. ‘Not another reporter, surely.’

I heard the creak of the door as it swung open, then Heath’s startled voice: ‘What are
you
doing here?’


I couldn’t make your grand opening tomorrow, so I wanted to come have a look at the premises tonight. My goodness, you’ve been busy.’ The controlled tone of none other than Liz Hough floated through the air toward me, and my heart jumped. Could this be the grand reunion I’d been dreaming of? Right here, right now? I’d been so busy this week I hadn’t had a chance to even think more about Liz and if she’d been behind pushing through the planning permission. If she was here now, it must have been her, right?

A smile lifted the corners of my mouth and warmth rushed through me. I couldn’t wait for
the two of them to patch things up. Scooting over to a settee in the corner of the lounge, I grabbed an old magazine from the nineteen-fifties and flipped through the pages, trying to look like I wasn’t listening even though every bit of me was tuned to the voices in the foyer.


Well, aren’t you going to show me around?’ Liz asked.

Heath let out a puff of air. Uh-oh. I knew that puff of air, and it wasn’t a good sign. I could just picture the expression on his face, eyebrows knit together and brow crinkled.


Why?’ he asked
. ‘So you can make fun of Gran’s idea? Tell me how I’m wasting my life here? Size up the building again?’

I caught my breath at the fury in his voice.

Liz laughed without a trace of happiness. ‘If I wanted this museum to flop, I wouldn’t have got in touch with the council to approve the planning permission so quickly, now, would I?’

The old house fell into silence, and I strained to make out what might be happening. Had Heath fallen into his mother’s arms with appreciation? I got up off the settee and tiptoed over to the doorway, peeping around the corner.

Oh.

No hug. Nothing. The two of them were standing stock-still in the entrance, facing each other like a Mexican stand off.

Finally, Heath spoke. ‘How did you find out about the planning issues, Mother? Surely you haven’t lowered yourself to hiring a private investigator to check into my affairs.’

Liz gave that same hollow laugh again. ‘Private investigator? I’ve better things to do with my time. No, I had a little visit from your assistant, Rose, who took the liberty of filling me in. One call to the councillor reminding him of all the investment ParteePizza has made in this area, along with the promise to open up a few more franchises, and he fell in line with the museum soon enough.’


What
? Rose got in touch with you?’ I could practically see the wheels spinning in Heath’s head, and I ducked back inside the room and leaned against the wall, holding my breath as a smile spread across my face. He
had
to be happy I’d taken initiative.


Yes, she’s quite the assistant. Not only worried about the business, but also about you. And our relationship.’


Our relationship?’ Heath’s
voice was dangerously low and my grin started to fade.


Well, our lack of a relationship.’ Liz let ou
t a puff of air similar to Heath’s. ‘Look, don’t you think it’s time to put everything behind us? And maybe try to get to know each other again?’

I held my breath. Please say yes, I chanted inside my head. Please say yes.


I know Gr
an was very important to you, Heath,’ Liz continued. ‘I understand you want to honour her wishes. But you don’t have to throw away your whole life on this museum because you think it’s what she wanted. Do it for a few months, sure, and get it out of your system. But then move on. I can’t imagine the museum will be financially viable.’

Uh-oh. I winced. She’d started off fine – Heath had only planned to do this for a few months, anyway – but now I sensed she was heading into dangerous territory.


Once you start making a loss, we can turn this place around quickly. Give it a new identity as the premier ParteePizza East London destination restaurant. You can work for me. I could use a good corporate lawyer.’

Oh no.
My heart hit the floor. I’d thought Liz helping would show Heath she’d moved past money as the number one factor in her life. But her last words – whether she’d meant them that way or not – only served to show ParteePizza held the top spot in her heart.

BOOK: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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