Previously in Leeford Village: Leeford day is planned, based on information from Howard Smithson. Gail and Gary have apparently eloped. In the process, Gary has helped Gail to break impersonate a guard and break out of prison. It looks like Vera will get off with a warning (if she behaves), and Zack’s friends are hopeful that he will re-join the band after Clare re-states her affection for him as he looks out from his bedroom window, Juliet-style. Linda has been meditating, and claims to be focussing on a packet of crisps...
‘Thanks for setting this up, Nick.’
‘That’s alright, Frank, it is Leeford Day after all.’
‘If you’ll excuse me, I must have a word with the others. Cody is collecting Howard and Ethel’s helping him. They should be here soon.’
Nick gazes at Frank as he moves across the hall to find out if Howard has left the nursing home. Frank is subdued tonight, he thinks.
‘They’re here!’ shouts Sheri, seemingly attempting to clear excess wax from Frank’s right ear.
‘Do you mind, Sheri?’
‘Sorry Frank, it’s the excitement,’ she says, as she strides over to welcome the honoured guest.
‘Lovely to see you again, Mr Smithson.’
Cody, in charge of the wheelchair for the day, seems desperate to ask a question.
‘Door next to the kitchen. Gents first on the right.’
‘Thank you, Sheri. That’s not why I was trying to attract your attention.’
‘What is it?’
‘I think we have a problem.’
‘Why does everyone insist on answering a question with a question?’ snaps Cody.
‘What... sorry Cody, but what do you mean?’
‘I daren’t tell Frank, but he’ll have to know eventually. You know that Howard said today is Leeford Day, the anniversary of the creation of the village...’
‘I’ll have to know what eventually?’
‘Ah, sorry Frank, didn’t know you were standing behind me.’
‘Well? I’m listening.’
‘Ok’ says Cody, trying to stand behind Ethel for protection, but she shuffles sideways, gently nudging Cody’s arm as a signal for him to move forward and make some sort of announcement.
‘Bear in mind,’ continues Cody, ‘it’s difficult to rely on everything that Howard says. To be fair to him, he’s ninety-six, and his memory isn’t what it was. He’s been talking a lot to one of the service managers, Katy.’
‘What Katy did next!’ pronounces Sheri.
‘You know, the Susan Coolidge book.’
‘I’m getting tired of this. You’re as bad as Jack, quoting stuff all the time.’
‘Go on, Cody, what did Katy tell you?’ asks Ethel.
‘Thank you for that sensible question, Ethel. She relayed some of Howard’s ramblings.’
‘About Leeford?’ asks Frank.
‘Well, yes. The first thing was the origin of the name.’
‘You know the brook that runs at the back of the police station? That is what remains of the River Lee, and, going back two hundred years, it crossed what is now East Banfield Road, creating a ford. It was a road of sorts, but more of a dirt track. Hence the name ‘Lee-ford’.
‘So,’ says Frank, ‘what’s the relevance of that?’
‘Nothing really, but it sounded interesting, and it’s the second thing that got me thinking.’
‘You know this date he gave us, today’s date.’
‘Yes,’ says Ethel, very slowly and deliberately, in the style of Charles Burns from the Simpsons.
‘Well, I don’t think it’s Leeford Day after all.’
‘What makes you say that?’
‘Today is the day that Howard was captured at the front by the Germans. He was in one of their camps for nearly two years. He kept a diary for ages and always marked this day as significant.’
‘Good grief,’ declares Frank.
‘This isn’t Leeford Day at all ! I must talk to Nick. We’ve got to close the event.’
‘You ok, darling?’
Linda slides out of bed, slipping on her short dressing gown. Allen can’t take his eyes of her.
‘What are you looking at?’
‘What do you think?’
‘Do you still want that coffee?’
‘Not really, Linda, it’s you I want. Get back in.’
‘Allen, we’ve only spent one night together, but I think I’m falling for you. Do you feel the same?’
‘I want to stay in this flat with you forever.’
‘One problem, love – my kid sister.’
‘Where is she?’
‘Staying with one of our cousins. She’s not back till tomorrow. Stay the night again and we’ll have a long lie-in.’
‘You don’t have to ask me twice, Linda.’
As he takes her in his arms and his lips meet hers, and they shiver at the touch of each other’s skin, the imperceptible sound of a key in the lock of the front door does not reach them. Their passion has no bounds, and the innocence and trust of Linda’s seventeen-year-old sister is in danger of being shattered. Sherry gently closes the front door, keen to avoid disturbing her older sister. As far as she is concerned, Linda is alone, in bed, asleep. Only one of the three is true.
I’ll pop my head round the door and see if she’s asleep, Sherry thinks. She’s a funny old stick, but I do love her and I’ve missed her the last few days. As she places her hand on the door handle, she senses that something is wrong. The shoes in the hallway, sub-consciously absorbed, only just recalled. Size ten at least, she thinks. Linda’s got a man in there.
‘You awake, Gail?’
‘Only just. You ok?’
‘If I try not to think about the court case, the fact we’ve broken the law and that Stephen probably wants to kill me, I’m fine.’
‘But are you happy?’
‘Come here,’ says Gary, as he pulls back the duvet and slips under.
‘Do you like it here?’ he asks.
‘What, do you mean Sunrise Lodgings or Borth in general?’
‘Both, I suppose. Funny being “Mr and Mrs Brown”, isn’t it? Just like the movies.’
‘Bonnie and Clyde?’
‘Hope not. They went down in a hail of police bullets, didn’t they? Or was that Butch Cassidy?’
‘Don’t really care, Gary. I’ve got you, that’s all I care about. How we managed to keep it quiet for so long, I don’t know. Didn’t Stephen suspect?’
‘Don’t think so.’
‘Gary, what do we do now?’
‘I’ve got a few ideas.’
‘No,’ she says with a smile, slapping him playfully on his bare shoulder, ‘I mean about running away. Where do we go?’
‘We’ll work something out. For now, all I want is you.’
‘You romantic police constable, you.’
‘I might be romantic, my darling, but I won’t be a copper much longer. Not after this.’
There was a time when Jason Owens had a lot in common with his younger brother, George. They loved to go fishing, and, in conversation, could drop seamlessly onto any topic, switch back and forth and instinctively know the point each was trying to make. It’s not like that these days. Jason works in Spendfields as a till assistant, but dabbled in a number of businesses over the years. At fifty-nine, he is ‘winding down’ as he calls it. A novel is on the cards - he’s threatened it for ages.
Living in the house he inherited from his parents in Green Crescent, not thirty yards from George’s flat, would be enough of a red rag for any sibling, but it’s not even George being left out of the will that caused a generation-length chasm between the brothers. Affairs of the heart strike deep and true. George has never recovered and he blames Jason. However, the day of George’s fifty-sixth birthday prompted Jason to attempt a fraternal reconciliation. He has an idea why George took against him, but the severity of his brother’s anger and the thirty-five year silence has always seemed an excessive punishment for something that Jason had not planned – however guilty he felt at the time.
No response. Jason waits until the lady checking out a mobility scooter for her son moves on. She does.
‘George. How are you?’
He’s cornered. No customers to protect him or give him an excuse. He looks across at the other stalls. No one responds, no one gains eye-contact so he can engage with someone – anyone other than the brother he claims to no longer love. On this occasion, for the first time in decades, defeat is conceded.
‘What do you want?’
‘At least you’re speaking.’
‘Get on with it.’
‘George, I’ve never properly understood what happened. You know I’m sorry, but there must be something else. One mistake. I hurt you, yes, but how many times must I say sorry?’
‘Sorry doesn’t cut it, Jason. Now, I’m busy, do you mind?’
Jason pauses, and then steals away from the situation, the market, his embarrassment, and his only brother. Walking along Market Street towards Green Crescent, he unconsciously recalls the last happy day they shared. He smiles as he remembers the joke. He links George with that play on words.
George, the younger brother at twenty years of age, and Jason, twenty-four:
‘Not yet, Jason. You?’
‘Three tiddlers, oh, hang on. Dash it – missed the blighter.’
‘I’ve got two.’
‘That’s paltry,’ says Jason.
‘No it’s not, it’s fish!’
‘I’ll throw you in if you carry on like that.’
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