Saturday, 29 September 2012

Chapter 2, part 1

Lucy didn't see her new neighbour again till the next weekend.  She was in the garden undertaking some necessary gardening chores.  She loved gardening and she always felt that it connected her with her mother who had also loved gardens and had created the pretty little area around the cottage.  It was a beautiful old-fashioned garden full of roses, with wisteria covering a pergola and huge European trees that made it a cool haven on the hot days of midsummer.  She heard someone calling from the front of the cottage, and getting up from the flowerbed where she had been kneeling, she stretched her back and made her way round the side of the house to see who it was.

Yackandandah High Street
He was leaning against the door, wearing clothes that looked much more Australian than he had worn before – khaki shorts, a crumpled white open-necked shirt and Blundstone boots.  Even dressed like this, he looked absolutely stunning.  In fact, he looked even more handsome than he had in his more formal clothes, if that were possible.  Lucy found herself once again breathless and tongue-tied.  She flicked her eyes involuntarily over the powerful sinews in his brown forearms, the muscles in his thighs and calves.
“I just came to apologise,” he said, “For leaving you so abruptly last time.”
“Not at all,” she stammered.  She noticed, however, that he offered no explanation for his sudden departure.  After he had taken his leave so abruptly on the previous occasion, she had gone over to the piano to look at the photo of her mother, puzzled, to see what it was that had made him behave as he had.  She took down the frame and examined it carefully, and suddenly the full force of the fact that she was all alone in the world had hit her and she had had a bit of a cry, but she was no closer to understanding why he had departed in such an unfriendly way.  There had been a few other things on the piano, one or two magazines, a vase of flowers and a small box in which she kept precious mementoes from her childhood.  She had racked her brains, trying to work out what it was that had affected him so, yet she still had no idea.  She was tempted, now, to ask him, but felt shy, and was afraid of driving him away again.
“How are the renovations going?” she asked.
“A complete mess,” he replied, “Everything's higgledy-piggledy, the builders are complaining, the council is complaining, and it looks as though nothing has happened even though it's been a week since we began.  But I haven't given up hope.  Many of the timbers of the upstairs floors are sound, the staircase, apart from a squeak or two, seems to be fine.  In fact, it's rather a beautiful staircase, a very elegant curve.  I would say it's from the Art Deco period, but it can't be because it was built before that.”  He turned to her, “Why don't you come up and have a look?”
“I'd love to,” she said, her heart quickening, “But first let me change – I won't be a moment.”  She was wearing a battered straw hat, torn jeans and an old flannel shirt.  She couldn't know that it set her off to perfection, that her lovely slimness and ripe curves were made all the more attractive by being displayed in these informal clothes.
“If you must,” he smiled, “But really, it's rather dusty up there – I wouldn't wear your glad rags!”  He indicated his own dusty shorts in a self-deprecating way.  She loved his accent.  The way he clipped his words neatly and cleanly made her shiver with pleasure.
They started off up the hill.  It was one of those hot, still days you get in country Victoria in summer, where the leaves of the gums hang motionless, and the air shimmers blue with heat.  As they toiled up the slope to the mansion, Lucy began to feel that this might not have been a good idea.  She was convinced that she would start to sweat like a pig and put him off.  Then she reminded herself that she stood no chance anyway, that the fact of the matter was, Lucy Grady was never going to get married – not now, not in the future.  When they reached the great house, she saw that the front door was propped open with bricks, there were builders' trucks all around and the sound of banging and demolition was audible from within the building.  She turned round to take in the view.  The site for the house had been carefully chosen.  The ground swept down to her little cottage in the valley and about a kilometre beyond the cottage the town was visible, with its river winding through, an inviting blue.  There was a huge raised terrace in front of the house, shaded by a roof of rusty tin sheets.  On the edge of this verandah, there was a railing made of stone, elegant and old-fashioned, like pictures she had seen of the grand houses in Europe and England.
At intervals along the edge of the verandah there were stone urns and she was astonished to see petunias flowering richly in them.
“Surely,” she asked, “These petunias cannot have survived all these years by themselves?”
“Oh no,” he said, “I planted them.  The urns looked so forlorn without flowers in them.”  He added quietly, “I so love gardens.  With all my businesses, I have very little time for gardening, so really,” he said ruefully, “It's a gesture rather than anything.”

“Oh really?” she exclaimed, “I love gardens too!  You must come and see the garden at the cottage because my mother spent a lot of time planting it and I think it's very beautiful.  You'd love it!”  Immediately she was embarrassed, hearing the childish enthusiasm in her voice. 

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  1. Oh, this is delightful!!
    A man who loves gardening...sigh. My man.

  2. "Then she reminded herself that she stood no chance anyway, that the fact of the matter was, Lucy Grady was never going to get married – not now, not in the future."

    I wonder if this might be another mystery or if Lucy just has a bad self image. I guess I'll just have to keep reading. The wife, sends a nod of approval.

    1. All will be revealed. Lucy's heart was broken by a scoundrel. But maybe there's more to his story too ...