Beneath the Surface in Great Flyedale. (Part 1)
(Author's note: Although kept quite short this has been a tricky one to create! Like a previous WB effort of mine 'The Sumerian Woman' which was quite well received a couple of years ago, this one requires a degree of thought and deduction from its reader to fully work out all that is taking place – or at least that is the idea! Also, partially to keep the word count down, but mainly to avoid the cardinal sin of 'telling' with too much narrative prose, this one contains both character view point shifts, plus also a considerable amount of time shifting which in turn has required regular tense changes, albeit all within the time frame of a single week overall. Character driven plot, no swearing, no violence (apart from one very minor aside) one strong sexual reference but nothing graphic. All character names fictious, as also is the place name 'Great Flyedale'. Set in the present time. 3,400 words approx.
Reviewers opinions eagerly sought as to whether or not this succeeds in its current form - with thanks!)
Beneath the Surface in Great Flyedale
Damien had been stood at the first floor window following the occasional sets of car headlamps as they passed down the main street for the best part of an hour. The roads in this country seemed so narrow, and everybody drove on the left. Of course, three college buddies away together on an extended British vacation worked out better than only two, though for much of the time since their chance stopping in the Yorkshire Dales just ten days previously three had become two. Douglas, Damien could see, was still engrossed in writing up yet more notes from his recent field visit - some small sponsored dig on a possible Roman farmstead site - over the past weekend. The screen saver on his ever present laptop flashed and contorted distractingly. Not for the first time Damien struck a bargain with himself. If none of the next three vehicles to drop down into the village was them, then he would make his excuses to Douglas and take himself off to bed.
Although whether he would be able to sleep would be another matter. The scorching hot day had given way to an oppressively warm night.
Several more minutes dragged by before a two-stroke motorcycle yowled by beneath the window. Did a motorcycle count? Another pair of headlights appeared, just tiny pinpricks at first, appearing to slowly drop down from the darkened edge of the high moor. The vehicle looked to be slowing as it came into the village. With an exuberant downward gear shift it pulled up at the kerb directly below his vantage point. The diffused lighting from the solitary sodium street lamp several doors up turned the familiar blue paintwork of the old Fiat's roof into a pale grey. A clear view of the car, but none at all of its occupants.
Elongated seconds ticked by. “Is that Jamie back?”
Douglas' enquiry caused Damien to start. “Oh ... uh ... yes. Just now.”
Damien returned his gaze outside. Jamie had exited the passenger door and the Fiat was making a tight U-turn in the deserted main street. Jamie raised a wave which was reciprocated by a hand at the wound down driver's window. The tatty little car swiftly sped off in the direction from which it had come. Damien felt his breath catching as Jamie extracted a handkerchief from his jacket breast pocket and momentarily dabbed his mouth with it.
Douglas strode over to the window and took a perfunctory glance down. “I'll hear of how things went, then I think I may take a bath. I never suspected northern England could be so hot and sticky.”
Damien stayed focused. “An exceptional summer, they keep saying. Like 1976 apparently, so they say.”
Damien noted Douglas' pronunciation - 'bah-th' for instance - confirming him as having the strongest Bostonian accent out of the three of them. Damien considered that ever since the trio had first met up at The Boston School of the Museum of Fine Arts two summers previously Douglas had been, on paper at least, the odd man out. A decent enough person for sure, but enthusiastic to the point of obsession about his archeology (“There's much going on beneath the surface in Great Flyedale!”) studious, and in a lot of ways seemingly detached from the mainstream of life. A future faculty professor in the making maybe! Although it was Douglas' wealthy folks who were putting up the lion's share of the finances for the three friend's vacation, and it had been the tall, geeky Douglas who just eight days earlier had rudely awakened him on the Saturday morning ...
“Damien! Wake up! Jamie didn't come back last night. Look! His bed's not been slept in!”
Damien had reluctantly sat up and peered bleary-eyed in the direction of Jamie's bed. And then at the bedside clock. “Hey, it's no big deal! It's barely gone eight yet. You know how he was disappearing all the time when we were staying in London.”
Douglas looked very different without his spectacles on. “But this could be serious,” he declared solemnly. “London is a city, but Great Flyedale is nothing more than a small, old fashioned market town.”
“All the less reason for concern then, surely?”
But Douglas insisted that they should get dressed and prepare to call the police, not relenting on the demand until Damien reluctantly agreed to do so in exchange for Douglas making coffee in the first floor apartment's well equipped kitchenette.
By the time a further hour had passed even Damien was beginning to feel a little uneasy. There had been no response to the several calls made to Jamie's mobile. Maybe the signal was down? Great Flyedale was surrounded by hills after all. “Okay, maybe we really should call the cops? We could use the land line in the store downstairs. They'll be opening up any minute now.”
As they stepped out of the apartment however the street door down below simultaneously swung open and Jamie made his way up the stairs, slowly and tiredly, toward them. He gave a casual little hand wave before sidling past them and on into the apartment. Damien and Douglas re-traced their steps at once. “Jamie, where have you been? We were getting concerned! Are you okay?”
“Sure. Why wouldn't I be okay?” Making directly for the bedroom Jamie kicked the door firmly shut behind him with no further explanation forthcoming.
And then for the next two nights out of three the pattern repeated itself, more or less to the hour. “Hey, what the hell is this? A Spanish Inquisition?” had been Jamie's irritated response to their ever more pressing questioning. “You two are worse than my parents! I've met someone, okay?”
Never mind the 'I've met someone', the truth of the matter was that ever since the preceeding Friday night when Jamie had wandered into the quaintly named 'Flyedale Champion' public house (a breed of sheep apparently) he had been all but blown away by the part time barmaid there, whom he soon also learned was the proprietress of Great Flyedale's surprisingly successful beauty salon, and who went by the name of Alison.
“Boston? Aye, I've 'eard of it. The Boston Tea Party. When were that again?”
“1773. The King of England put a tax on tea. Which is why we Americans all drink coffee!”
Pausing for a moment in pulling pints for a trio of doughty old farmer types, she had given him a sidelong scrutiny. “Right. An' you've still got a Tea Party in America, 'aven't you? In't that woman me dad calls a bimbo in glasses in it? Oh ... what's 'er name again? Mama Bear? Now me, I'm a Loiner!”
“A Loiner. A native of Leeds. Belle Isle to be exact. Great big industrial city on the River Aire. So me great-gran says, even the Germans couldn't be bothered bombing it in the war!”
At last orders she had, to his incredulous delight, invited him back for coffee!
Until finally, on the Wednesday afternoon, Jamie had relented (or maybe just succumbed to their constant interrogating) and given the word on Alison who worked two evenings per week at the pub and had the beauty salon on the High Street and lived in the little flat above it, and who had a huge extended family in a big city called Leeds some forty miles distant, and who had dyed blonde hair and honey coloured eyes, and who ran marathons and hiked a lot, and drove an aged blue Fiat Punto she called Emanuel, and was a bit older than him (actually by almost three years but who was counting?) and spoke in a kind of funny English accent, and possessed a smile to die for.
“So when do we get to meet this interesting sounding lady?” Damien had voiced the question on behalf of both himself and Douglas.
Jamie had punched numbers into his mobile. “Well, she closes the salon at one on Wednesdays. They call it 'early closing day' over here. Be nice now, okay?”
Momentarily returning to the present, to the here and now, Damien recalled the first time he had seen the little blue Fiat down below the apartment: for the first time since their arrival in Yorkshire it had been raining some that Wednesday afternoon and full of curiosity he had casually placed himself close by the window to catch a first sighting. Not many minutes after Jamie had made his call the small blue automobile had driven up from the high moor end of the main street. The driver's door - as Damien had had to remind himself - came open and a blonde headed figure for the most part obscured by a hastily opened umbrella had scrambled out and darted around the vehicle and up the the street door. Ten seconds later and the upstairs door buzzer had sounded, and Jamie had gone to answer it.
Nothing however could have prepared him for Alison. Damien's immediate rebound thought was of a Hooter's Girl, and an ultimate one at that! Easily five-ten ... oh, those legs! ... golden-blonde hair well below the shoulders (extensions?) ... golden-brown tan (fake?) ... certainly very pretty!
“... And this is Damien, another fellow Bostonian.”
Jamie had been correct about the smile. Although maybe not fatal every time. “Damien, 'ow do! Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
A forced “Hi!” disguising a confused tumble of contrary reactions. Disbelief, envy, admiration, doubt ... and back to envy again. Her hand felt curiously cool as Damien briefly shook it.
Which made the complete about-face on Jamie's part two days later - at six in the evening on the Friday to be precise - all the more unexpected still even in this week of unexpectedness.
“It's finished between me and Alison,” he announced abruptly just as the BBC news commenced reporting on the latest phone hacking developments with News International. “Over, done, finished, period!”
“Has she told you so for sure?” Damien ventured.
“No, you idiot!” Jamie had retorted with uncharacteristic fury. “I'm the one who's finished it!”
There was absolutely no point in asking the obvious - or maybe not really obvious! - so Damien simply bided his time.
In truth, the events of that lunchtime had left Jamie shocked as much as angry, and moreover somewhat bewildered. One minute he and Alison had been enjoying a light salad sat at her kitchen table above the salon during closing hour, and the next it seemed they were embroiled in their first, and very intense, row. It began over a simple request but all too soon she had become adamant that in two days hence, early on the Sunday morning, he was to accompany her to Leeds for the day to be introduced to The Family.
“But sweetheart, we've only been seeing each other for a week!”
“It's 'ow we do things 'ere!” She had angled her salad fork toward him like a makeshift dagger. “Open an' above board. You tell me your intentions are honourable.”
“And so they are. I've told you I'll come back here just as soon as I've graduated, and that in the meantime my folks in Boston would be happy to have you stay over Christmas maybe. But meeting your parents after just one week? Forgive me, but it does seem a tad formal.”
And so like a summer storm bourne on the wings of uncertainty and mistrust, the argument had assumed titanic proportions, only ending when Jamie (nursing a hard slapped face by that time!) had stormed out shouting less than complimentary remarks about 'crazy-mad English damsels' and 'what the hell is it with you Northern English people anyway!'.
“You mean she's hankering after an engagement already?” Damien could see the obvious even if Jamie was still golden-smile-blinded. “And an expensive diamond ring to go with it, no doubt?”
Jamie snorted through his nose. “Well, nothing's actually been said about a ring.”
“Soon enough will be I'm thinking!”
To Damien's surprise Douglas spoke up. “So what do you intend doing about it?”
“Doing?” Jamie looked from one to the other.
“You really don't want this to happen, do you?”
Damien debated asking Douglas if he'd found that one in a hole in the ground.
“She can go to hell!” Jamie retorted.
“You could offer her a cheap paste ring off the market!” Damien ventured. “She probably wouldn't notice the difference.”
“You could try the Flyedale Champion later perhaps?” Douglas had persisted. “Doesn't she work there on Friday evenings?”
“It's where we met,” Jamie conceded. “And I've told you. She can go to hell!”
Eventually, after he'd had the night to sleep on it and thought rationally, Jamie had called her on her mobile shortly before she was due to open the salon for the day. She had told him to call round at seven that evening. Not that Jamie had wanted to say very much about what then transpired, but he had done as she had requested, only for her to make him wait for another hour, and then tell him to come back again at nine. By ten however he was back at the apartment looking much relieved, with new instructions for a good night's sleep and to be up, bathed, dressed, and ready for the trip to meet the family by nine o' clock sharp the next morning.
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