Read Staverton Online

Authors: Caidan Trubel

Tags: #Romance, #Gothic, #Fiction

Staverton (5 page)

BOOK: Staverton
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I looked up. “Maisie, wasn’t it?”

“Yes and she says they do some A-level courses there. I’m not sure which ones, if they’re the same ones you were doing at St. Catherine’s.”

“I can find out,” I said. “I’ll go today, pick up a prospectus and see if there is anyone around I can talk to about joining in September.”

Freddie smiled. “I reckon, that is a really good idea.”

I set off after breakfast. It had stopped raining, but dark clouds hung ominously in the sky. It was a thirty-minute walk to the bus stop, and despite slipping and skidding on the treacherous mud all the way down the track, I managed to stay upright. Arriving at the bus stop with my shoes caked in mud, I looked at the bus timetable. And did a double take.

Surely not. Four buses a day, that was ridiculous. Luckily, today I only had twenty-minutes to wait until the next bus was scheduled, but the minutes dragged. The clouds overhead grew darker, threatening yet more rain. I zipped up my raincoat and leaned back against the bus stop, looking at my watch every few minutes.

When the bus was five minutes late, big fat raindrops began to fall. I scowled up at the sky. It was July, and it didn’t stop raining for more than a day at a time. The bus finally rumbled down the road fifteen minutes late. Clambering aboard, in a bad mood, I made a sharp comment to the driver about the time. I was rewarded with a grunt and a demand for four pounds, for a return ticket. It was extortionate, but I paid up. It wasn’t as if I had much choice.

I was positive the bus took the long way round, choosing the bumpiest roads to ensure the most awful bus experience ever. The bus deposited its passengers in the town fifty minutes later, and after asking a couple of passers-by, I set out to find the college. It didn’t take long to find, and it was only a ten-minute walk from the bus stop, but that still made a total journey time of two hours. And that was only one way.

The college stood out from the other buildings in town, not in a good way. It had been built in the sixties and looked like a concrete box. A group of girls my age, standing in a huddle smoking, turned to look at me with curiosity. I smiled, trying to appear friendly, but their hostile glares made me hurry toward the entrance.

Inside, the receptionist greeted me warmly and gave me a copy of the prospectus. I sat on one of the chairs in the reception area and flipped through the glossy pages.

The list of A-level courses were at the back, all three of them. Business studies, sociology and politics. So much for that. I had been studying art, maths and English at St. Catherine’s, so if I came to this college I would have to start all over again with new A-levels, and to make things worse the subjects on offer held absolutely no interest for me at all.

It was five in the afternoon when I got back to the cottage, and Freddie was still at the garage. I took the pyjamas out of the washing machine and hung the wet clothes over the radiator in my room. Bert looked up at me, perplexed, as I stalked around the cottage, unable to sit still.

When Freddie opened the front door and saw me, he asked, “How did it go?”

“Oh brilliantly.” I put my hands on my hips. “Not only did it take me two hours to get there, that would be four hours travelling a day, by the way, they also didn’t do any of the subjects I was studying at St. Catherine’s.”

Freddie pulled off his raincoat and winced. “Four hours?”

“Yes. When would I be able to study if I am travelling for four hours every day?”

“You’ve got a point there,” Freddie said.

I nodded, warming to my theme. “Yes and the subjects are rubbish. Three choices, that’s all.”

“Right, so it’s not an option then?”

I shook my head. “No, it wouldn’t work. It would be a complete waste of time. I may as well forget my exams and get a job!”

“Okay,” Freddie said and ran a hand through his hair, which was damp from the rain. “Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I guess I could use some help in the garage.” He frowned, then his face lit up. “What about at The Anchor? Bess said she needed to get some help. Someone to do a bit of waitressing and whatnot.” He looked at me. “What do you think?”

I paused, not sure whether Freddie was serious. My parents always used to back down during any argument over chores if I suggested my schoolwork might suffer, and here was Uncle Freddie suggesting I give up my education. “You think I should be a waitress?”

Freddie frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with being a waitress.”

“I didn’t say there was.” I clenched my fists. I resented the implication I was a snob. “But I didn’t expect you to encourage me to forget about my schooling.”

“I’m not saying that, Lucy. You’ve had a horrible few weeks, and I don’t want to see you put yourself under any more pressure. You could get a job for a year, then rethink your options.”

“I never really saw myself as a waitress.”

Freddie gave me a sharp look. I knew he thought I was stuck up, but I was used to my parents and teachers constantly telling me how important my education was, and now Freddie was telling me to forget it, as if that was a viable option.

“It wouldn’t be forever. Just something to keep you busy, and earn a little money.”

I nodded. I could use some money. I needed to buy credit for my phone, and it would be nice to be able to give some money to Freddie for letting me live here. I needed to do something while I considered what to do next. Maybe I could do it for the summer. “You’re right. It makes sense.”

Later that night, Freddie returned from the pub with flushed cheeks, and bright eyes. I wasn’t sure whether his heightened colour was down to the beer or Bess herself. He called out to me as soon as he opened the door.

I wandered into the sitting room from my bedroom, where I had been lying on my bed reading. I still held the novel, marking my place with one finger.

“Good news. I spoke to Bess, and she said you can start tomorrow.” Freddie grinned.

“Tomorrow?”

“Well, only on a trial basis, but you’re a smart girl. She’ll want to keep you on.”

“But I don’t know anything about working in a pub.”

“You’ll pick it up, and Bess knows you’re new to it. She isn’t expecting an expert, just someone to help clear the glasses and do some washing-up.”

“Right,” I said. It didn’t sound too bad. I should be able to cope with washing a few dishes, and it wasn’t forever, perhaps just the summer, until I decided what to do next.

***

The following morning, before my lunchtime shift at the pub, I was trying to read, but I couldn’t concentrate. Freddie had left for the garage early this morning but came back to the cottage at ten.

“I wanted to catch you before you left,” he said and handed me a white carrier bag.

I opened the carrier bag and pulled out something soft, wrapped in white tissue paper. I frowned and looked at Freddie.

He shrugged and looked embarrassed. “It’s not much.”

I peeled back the tissue paper. It was a dress. A purple dress with frills and flounces. The kind of dress that, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be seen dead in. I held it up against me. “It’s for me?”

Freddie beamed. “For the dance.” His smile wavered a little. “You do like it? I got it from the boutique in the village, so you could always exchange it.”

I shook my head. “No. It’s lovely.”

I suddenly felt overwhelmed, and tears pricked my eyes. It was such a lovely gesture. I moved over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

“You’ll be able to go to the dance now. You’ll be a knockout.” Freddie put an arm around my shoulder and squeezed.

Chapter 6

My first shift at the pub didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I’d taken away a pint glass from a customer before he had finished his drink, and he’d made a terrible fuss, even though there was less than a mouthful of liquid left in the glass. Then, I knocked a full glass of orange juice over a woman while I was collecting glasses. Finally, topping off a disastrous first shift, I scalded my hand on the coffee machine.

Luckily, Bess was an understanding boss. She was a tall, handsome woman, around the same age as Freddie. She was proud of her pub, with its traditional décor, gleaming brass ornaments, and the bar was polished to a shine you could practically see your face in. Bess was keen to play down my mistakes, but I could tell I hadn’t gotten off to the best start.

“You’re doing fine, sweetheart. Just fine, but perhaps we better have you in the kitchen for the rest of your shift,” Bess said.

I was grateful to escape to the relative quiet of the kitchen, and away from the glaring man whose glass I’d taken too early, depriving him of a tiny drop of beer.

I turned on the hot water tap, put the plug in and added a generous squirt of washing-up liquid. Bubbles filled the sink. I scraped off the plates and deposited them in the sink with a splash. Bess had a dishwasher, so I stacked it with glasses and decided to wash the rest by hand. Within a minute, my hands were wrinkled from the water.

I let my mind wander while I washed the dishes. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad working here for the summer. I did some mental calculations, trying to work out how much I could save. Not enough for St. Catherine’s of course, but perhaps enough for a distance learning course, maybe an art foundation degree.

I felt a sharp pain and instinctively raised my hand. The white soap suds contrasted against the red blood running along my fingers, heading towards my wrist. I looked down and saw the sharp edge of the knife in the sink. I hadn’t been paying attention. My head spun, and I reached out for the edge of the sink to steady myself.

“Bess?” I called out.

“Yes, sweetheart,” Bess said, as she bustled into the kitchen. “Oh God.” Her face lost all its colour. But she pursed her lips and took hold of my arm, peering at my bloody hand. “I don’t think it is as bad as it looks.”

Bess led me over to a chair, then got a clean kitchen towel and dabbed at the blood with it. I closed my eyes and turned my head away. My stomach churned. I wasn’t exactly afraid of blood, not all blood anyway. I just wasn’t too keen on seeing my own.

“There now,” Bess said. “I told you that it wasn’t as bad as it looked.”

I took a deep breath and looked down, expecting to see half a finger chopped off. Instead, I saw a tiny little cut. “Is that it? All the blood came from that.” I shook my head.

Bess patted me on the shoulder. “It should stop bleeding soon, but I think you’ve probably had enough excitement for one day. I’ll give Freddie a ring and see if he can pick you up.”

“There’s no need. I can walk back.”

Bess frowned. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

But I insisted. Stories about how inept I’d been on my first day at work would reach Freddie, eventually, but I didn’t want him to know how pathetic I’d been any sooner than he had to.

I trudged back up the hill, with my finger covered in enough bandages to wrap a mummy. It stung a bit, but it wasn’t really all that bad.

I kicked at a bit of gravel on the path. It was my own stupid fault for putting the sharp knife in the sink along with the rest of the washing-up. I walked slowly, not keen on getting back to Freddie and answering his cheerful questions about my first day at the pub. I thought waitressing was going to be easy, but I’d messed it up. Freddie was going to be so disappointed.

***

Freddie stood by the kitchen window, sipping a cup of tea, watching out for Lucy. Bess had rung and let him know she was on her way home. Before the call from Bess, he’d had another telephone call, and he struggled over whether he should tell Lucy about it.

He saw Lucy reach the crest of the hill, her fair hair blown about by the wind. Her shoulders slouched, and she took heavy, deliberate steps. He thought working through the summer would be good for her, but maybe it was too soon.

Freddie had never had to look out for anyone, other than himself, and he didn’t find it easy with Lucy. She had obviously had a privileged upbringing, and working at The Anchor would be good for her. Freddie imagined St. Catherine’s as a type of bubble, set apart from the real world. Clearly, Lucy needed qualifications to have the kind of career she wanted, but mixing with real people and earning her own money were lessons St. Catherine’s couldn’t provide.

That was why he couldn’t decide whether it was the right time to tell Lucy about the phone call from Mrs. Hawksley. There had been no genuine warmth in the woman’s voice when she called to tell him about the scholarship. After she bestowed the news, she paused, waiting for him to thank her. But he hadn’t. He’d informed the headmistress he would tell Lucy about the scholarship and let Lucy decide whether she wanted to accept it.

Bert trotted over to the front door as Lucy let herself in. She bent down to make a fuss of him.

“How was work?” Freddie asked.

Lucy stood up and wiped her hands on her jeans, when she answered she kept her eyes on Bert. “Not too bad, cut my finger, though.” She held up her hand for him to see the bandage.

“Bess told me. Said it wasn’t a bad cut.”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “I suppose she also told you my first shift was an absolute disaster?”

Freddie tried to hide his smile. “You can’t expect to be perfect at everything straight away.”

He noticed the dark circles under her eyes. “Have you been sleeping okay?”

She nodded.

“Well, I have some news, which might cheer you up.”

Lucy flopped on the sofa and looked up at him.

“I had a phone call from Mrs. Hawksley, your old headmistress at St. Catherine’s.”

Lucy sat up straight, and turned to face Freddie properly.

“Apparently, there’s a scholarship available for next year, and it is yours if you want it.”

Lucy stood up. “Really?” She looked stunned for a couple of seconds, then broke into a broad grin. She ran up and hugged him.

“You’re pleased I take it?” Freddie said, smiling back at her. Her happiness was infectious.

“Yes. It’s fantastic news. I thought I was going to be stuck up here.” The smile slid from her face, and her hands shot up to cover her mouth. “Oh, Uncle Freddie, that came out wrong... I didn’t mean that...You’ve been good to me, and it’s been so nice to see you again.”

BOOK: Staverton
11.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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