Authors: Susie Martyn
The early days in her new home passed in a blur, as h
aving hastily acquired some gardening tools of her own, Lizzie continued to work on Darius and Angel’s garden. After months of a desk-bound existence, the work was both backbreaking and tiring, but in the evenings she was spurred on by an urge to feather her nest
needed a good clean from top to bottom just as Bert had said and first she’d washed the worn brick floors, memorising their random patterns before moving upstairs to scrub the wide oak boards in the bedrooms. That done, she was ready to begin with the painting.
had helped her move in, somewhat horrified.
‘God, Lizzie, you’ve hardly a damn thing in here…’
Shocked, she’d disappeared and returned with a mattress and some bedding, as well as a kettle and teabags. And having most happily departed from the Star, it was heaven, Lizzie decided, to be lying in her own bedroom, gazing out of bare windows at starlit skies, while dim silvery moonlight filled her room.
Impatient to check out her new home,
Darius and Angel too had been over complete with a cast-off sofa which was far superior to anything Lizzie would have chosen. Angel had tutted at the state of her kitchen and stared in abject horror at the old Rayburn.
‘It’s archaic, flower,’ he told her firmly. ‘From the Dark Ages.
Promise you won’t cook on that thing - you’ll probably
from some horrible disease
…’ before absolutely insisting that they buy her a cooker as a house-warming present. Her objections – Lizzie had rather fancied giving the solid old rayburn a whirl - fell on deaf ears.
too had stuck his head in, between clients, suggesting that she and Katie should come for dinner, next time Katie was staying. Noting with interest a slight flush as he mentioned her, as soon as he’d gone Lizzie texted her friend to tell her.
Vet in my kitchen wants you in his kitchen x
hrough it all, her mother’s letter was never far from sight. Every so often Lizzie re-read it to remind herself. Already life was taking shape in ways she could never have imagined, with doors opening all around her, so that all she had to do was take a small step through the right one. Like the one into Rose Cottage, for instance. In every respect it was perfect for her – and all she’d done was meet Bert up here that first morning, and now, here she was. In the safe haven, the port in a storm, she’d always craved, where she could batten down the hatches and shut herself away from the world. Except she didn’t want to shut this new, friendly world out.
appeared frequently, usually early in the evening clutching a bottle of something which they’d start on before going to the pub. As well as the mattress, she’d lent Lizzie some ancient garden furniture – a table that wobbled no matter where you stood it and three equally dilapidated chairs of various shapes and sizes.
‘You’re welcome to
them darling,’ Antonia had said. ‘Was only going to turn them into firewood. Don’t let any fat people sit on them whatever you do… ’
But the chairs were more than up to
holding Lizzie and Antonia, neither of whom were very big and they’d sit outside in the evenings, ever warmer as June passed, putting the world to rights.
‘This malarkey with the sheep doesn’t seem to be working,’ said Antonia
distractedly, as she poured some wine. It was homemade elderflower that she’d found in a cupboard in her kitchen. ‘And Lord only knows what else we can do…’
‘I’m sure it’s got a bit quieter,’ said Lizzie. ‘Erm, why don’t you have a chin-wag with William about it?’
‘Tried that, darling… actually it was rather odd. He went awfully pink and didn’t say much at all. Not like him…’
Methinks our William has a crush,’ said Lizzie wickedly. ‘He’s probably harbouring some secret fantasy about al fresco sex in one of your stables… After all, you’re the only woman who can hold their own when it comes to talking about sheep and land rovers. You’re perfect for him!’
ollocks, darling!’ Looking surprisingly flustered for Antonia, she swiftly changed the subject. ‘You know you really ought to go to Rumbleford. It’s full of shops you’d probably love – you know, those so called antique shops that are full of junk. Think there’s a Saturday market too… No offence, just you’re not exactly an Ikea sort of girl, are you darling?’
Lizzie didn’t imagine Antonia was either, but then
she didn’t have any priceless antiques like Antonia did, and Lizzie wasn’t proud – junk shops sounded just fine. And she’d indulge in some window shopping in Darius and Angel’s emporium, if they were open.
‘I’d come with you,’ Antonia continued. ‘But Hamish is having his physio…
poor little darling jarred his fetlock.’
an idle thought popped into Lizzie’s head. What if she’d married Jamie... She shivered as she imagined herself, a manicured, over-styled corporate wife-types, hardly able to breathe without permission. They’d be on that honeymoon by now indulging Jamie’s fascination for all things cultural, staying in a cheap and cheerful hotel in Edinburgh. Where was the romance? The excitement? When there was a whole big world out there… Lizzie had suggested a tiny island in the Caribbean, imagining a deserted beach at the ocean’s edge and sipping cocktails with her hair in braids. Or going on safari, eating round a camp fire to the haunting sounds of bongo drums. Hardly surprisingly Jamie had dismissed both.
We’re just not those sort of people, Eliza…
was what he’d said.
That weekend Lizzie followed Antonia’s advice and did indeed venture into Rumbleford. Belying its name, the Rumble trickled benignly through the town centre under the single arch of an old stone bridge, before meandering away into the distance. On either side, cobbled streets held a captivating array of little shops and cafés which Lizzie couldn’t wait to explore.
found the junk shops straight away. Antonia had been right and they were exactly Lizzie’s thing. Almost immediately she spotted a large pair of old lanterns, perfect for her cottage. Next came a painted metal wall clock and a battered coffee table, followed by an old milk jug and piles of old flowerpots for her garden. Colour – everywhere! Nothing beige
, she thought with satisfaction, paying without batting an eyelid.
the first shop, she made for the next and so on, completely absorbed and oblivious to the hours ticking by. She found some woven throws in vivid blues and greens, and a gorgeous vase of dark green glass, which she couldn’t bring herself to leave behind. It instantly brought to mind one of Jamie’s pompous little asides -
accent colours are so passé Eliza…
Defiantly she bought the lot.
fter traipsing to and fro depositing her various acquisitions in her car, across the river something else caught her eye, irresistibly drawing her like a magnet. Above a dazzling window display, ‘Sparkie’s’ was spelled out in artfully crooked pink letters which even at a distance seemed to catch the sun and twinkle right back at her. Only narrowly missing a passing car, Lizzie crossed the road towards it.
exclaimed out loud, as she stepped through the door.
inside glowed a soft gold and as she looked around her eyes took in the words stencilled intricately on them – ‘
the earth has music for those who listen’…
shop could have been put together with Lizzie alone in mind. It wasn’t just the colours, the designs, the mix of vintage and new, it was the ambience, the décor, the hint of something in the air – like cinnamon or bergamot, guessed Lizzie, only more exotic.
loral prints hung alongside bold Pucci-esque tunics and maxi skirts that looked as though they came from the sixties. Denim in every shade imaginable… Her eyes alighted on a rail of Bohemian style dresses and faded flared jeans. Clothes she’d loved in the days before Jamie and the suits - it was years since she’d even looked at such things.
Long having forgotten how the right clothes can make you feel, Lizzie perused everything with delight, touching with delight the soft, sheer fabrics, running her fingers through silken scarves, pulling things out and holding them against her - completely losing track of time, until ages later the salesgirls were starting to look concerned. Eventually one of them came over.
e wondered if you’d maybe like some help!’ she said in a gentle sing-song voice. She wore a glittery name badge with ‘Nola’ painted on it, and was clearly dressed in their own clothes from the shop. Her long hair was streaked with green which matched the striking eyes that looked anxiously into Lizzie’s. ‘Only Julia and I, we were getting a little worried about you. Weren’t we Julia?’ she called over, her eyes not leaving Lizzie.
‘Oh! I’m so sorry,’
Lizzie blushed to the tips of her ears, then looked at her watch. ‘That can’t be the time! Have I really been here that long? Only these are the loveliest clothes I’ve seen in years. It’s all just so….just lovely…’ she added lamely. ‘Sorry, I better go…’
Nola and Julia looked at
‘You’ve been in here about two hours…’said Julia
, just as gently, ‘hasn’t she Nola? And really, it doesn’t matter at all! We were just a bit worried about you! Are you sure you’re ok? We were just about to have some herbal tea – would you like some?’
Lizzie flushed beetroot. And then realised she’d had nothing to drink all day, and that herbal tea was really quite appealing.
Thank you! And well, maybe you could help me…’ she started hesitantly. ‘I can’t seem to decide. I used to love wearing clothes like this, only it was ages ago! I’ve been living in suits for years…’
The girls looked at each other
, then led Lizzie over to a sofa she hadn’t seen until now.
Why don’t you sit here? Your feet must be aching horribly,’ they said sympathetically, which they had been for ages. Then having brought her some chamomile tea, their favourite, they told Lizzie, because it was very relaxing, they quizzed her.
‘Tell us a bit about you,’ probed Nola. ‘It helps us to find the right clothes… but only if you want to,
I used to work for a magazine. Now I’m a gardener. And I’ve just moved to an old cottage. From London…’ She hesitated, not quite wanting to delve into the whole Jamie business.
‘What do you do when you’re not at work?’ asked Julia.
‘Oh, more gardening! My own, which is old and very neglected, unless my friend Antonia comes over with a bottle of wine. I’ve only known her since I moved here. My other friends are in London.’ My other
, she silently corrected herself. ‘Oh, and I’m decorating my cottage…’
The girls looked at her thoughtfully, then at each other before springing
efficiently into action.
There was no
doubt they knew their clothes. Restored by the tea, Lizzie watched in awe as somehow every item the girls suggested was absolutely right. Uncannily so and just half an hour later, she walked out ecstatically clutching half a dozen carrier bags of the loveliest things she’d ever owned. As she thanked them, they’d made her promise to call in soon. Not to spend any money, they assured her. Not at all, but just come in and say hello. Sparkie’s was already up there with Joe’s in Lizzie’s book, another oasis of calm, and she couldn’t imagine ever shopping anywhere else.
‘Now that you’ve found us, Lizzie
, you must come back! For lunch, or just herbal tea! You know where we are if you need us.’
Assuring them she would,
Lizzie completely missed the looks that they exchanged as they closed the door behind her.
She looked so lost…’
She’s run away, hasn’t she?’
‘What from, I wonder…’
But we helped her, didn’t we? Maybe more than she knows…’
And she’ll be back, I’m sure of it.’
Now that she knows we’re here...’
And then later on, just when Lizzie was happily engrossed in organising her accent colours and rusty lanterns, Bert the estate manager turned up, carrying a large box which he handed to her.
‘Present for you Miss.’
‘Oh!’ Lizzie stood back as the top opened on its own and a furious, spitting head emerged followed by a long, tabby coloured body that barged its way out and would have fled if Bert hadn’t slammed the door in the nick of time.
You’ll be needing a good mouser. He was going spare, like… thought he might be useful, young Darren… He’s about five now. Nice chap really. Take no notice of all that racket. Had him since a kitten – think he’s one of Mrs Einstein’s. Don’t think he’s ever bin in a box before…’ Bert chuckled to himself, adding ‘won’t be any trouble…’ which of course Lizzie believed implicitly.