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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 110

Episode 110: A visitor arrives


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Ted and Nigel are involved in an altercation, witnessed by Vera who calls the police. Edward accuses Revd Peterson of holding up his and Ethel’s marriage and is then told by Pippa that The Cross has been visited by the ghost of Billy Lucas. Agnes reveals that Daniel Windrush is Adam’s real father, after receiving a letter from Daniel saying that he wants to be involved in Adam’s life.

 

~

‘What’s this nonsense, Pippa?’ asks Ethel, pushing to the front of the queue. Pippa shuffles papers on the counter.

‘Hello Ethel, I didn’t know…’

‘…that I was here. Obviously,’ says Ethel leaning towards the perspex screen in front of her, a screen for which Pippa is very grateful.

‘Well, if you must know…’

‘…I must.’

‘I heard that Billy’s ghost has been seen twice now in The Cross. Once by Ted and once by Sally, who was so shocked she fainted and had to be revived by paramedics.’

‘The ghost of Billy? My Billy. Rubbish!’

Pippa looks offended. ‘I’m sorry, Ethel, but I heard this from a very reliable source.’

Ethel looks at Edward, who shrugs his shoulders.

‘Go on,’ urges Ethel, ‘who is this “source”?’

Pippa goes to speak then changes her mind. Then she changes it back again. ‘I can’t possibly reveal my source. I am nothing if not the soul of indiscretion.’

Edward steps in to correct Pippa, but is prevented from doing so by Ethel’s outstretched arm.

The two women stare at each other for a while. There is tangible tension among the customers in the queue.

Ethel speaks first.

‘Well, Pippa, it can’t be my Billy in The Cross.’

Pippa looks nervously towards Edward, who shrugs again.

‘Why’s that, Ethel?’

‘Because Billy lives in my house. I speak to him every night before I go to bed.’ With that, she turns and walks quickly out of the post office, swiftly followed by a nonplussed Edward.

The next customer moves into place in front of the counter.

‘Well, maybe he just pops out for a pint every now and then. When Ethel’s asleep,’ says Pippa.

 

~

 

Jasmine pours boiling water into a teapot, places a crocheted cosy carefully over the top and lines up two mugs. She leans on the worktop.

‘So, what are you going to tell Daniel?’

Agnes shakes her head. ‘I’ve no idea. He hasn’t ever wanted access and, anyway, Adam is 26 years old. He could tell Adam who he is, without having to have permission from me.’

Jasmine pours milk into both mugs and a spoonful of sugar into Agnes’s.

‘He’s being quite decent then,’ says Jasmine.

‘Decent?’

‘Yes. Wanting to discuss it with you first.’

‘I suppose so.’

Jasmine removes the cosy, gives the tea a couple of stirs and pours. She takes the two mugs to the table. Agnes cradles the hot mug.

‘We never had what you would call a relationship. I was spending a lot of time in clubs, performing.’

‘Performing?’ says Jasmine, sounding surprised. ‘Like, singing and stuff?’

Agnes blushes slightly. ‘Erm. No. I was a strip-o-gram.’

Jasmine splutters.

‘You mean you…’

‘Yes, Jasmine, I did. The whole strip-o-gram thing.’

‘Were you with Cody?’

‘Yes, but early days. He didn’t know about it until very recently, when he found some of my, er, outfits.’

‘Well, well. You’re a dark horse.’

Agnes smiles. ‘Not really. I know it’s a cliché, but I really was young and I really did need the money. I gave it all up for Cody, though he never knew.’

‘So, when does Daniel come into the picture?’

Agnes sighs. ‘A one-night stand. After a party. Well, during the party, actually, but we don’t need to go into details.’

Jasmine takes a sip of tea.

‘How did you know Adam was Daniel’s?’

‘Something told me the baby wasn’t Cody’s, so I did a paternity test. Of course, I told Daniel and made it clear I was going to bring up Adam with Cody as his father. He argued with me at first, but it was clear he didn’t want a child around him at that time in his life. He agreed with my plan and assured me that Cody would never know.’

‘Have you spoken about Adam with Daniel since?’

‘Funnily enough, no. I mean, we see each other at Burry’s and he comes in for a chip supper occasionally. It’s never awkward. Thankfully, he’s not one of The Cross’s regulars, so he and Cody don’t often come into contact with each other.’

‘And Adam looks like you, so I suppose no one suspects.’

‘Yes, that’s a blessing, too.’

Agnes stirs her tea but doesn’t take a drink.

‘What bothers me is why he wants us to come clean now, after all these years. I’m worried that there’s more to it than him just wanting Adam in his life.’

 

~

Edward, after a great deal of exertion, catches up with the nimbler Ethel. He puts his hand on her shoulder, but she keeps moving and causes him to stumble. Once he has regained his composure he sets off again in pursuit. This time she is too quick and begins to open up a sizeable distance in front of him. He stops.

‘Ethel!’ he wheezes, just loud enough to cause her to stop, though she doesn’t turn round.

‘Wait,’ gasps Edward, bent over with his hands on his knees.

He fills his lungs with air and lets the breath out slowly. At school, he was a very good cross-country runner, but his physique was less equipped for sprinting. Once he has almost started breathing normally, he walks up to Ethel who has stood motionless while Edward was gasping for breath further down the road.

‘Why are you going so fast, my love? I can’t keep up.’

Ethel turns her head away from him.

‘Oh, my dear, you’ve been crying,’ he says, putting his arm around her.

This causes Ethel to burst into tears and bury her head in Edward’s chest. He backs away, initially, then wraps his arms around her.

‘What is it, my love? Surely, not that ghost nonsense back there?’ he says.

Ethel’s sobs are muffled by Edward’s Fair Isle sweater. Eventually, she pulls away and wipes her eyes with a tissue.

‘I’m sorry Edward. I got upset. It just made me think of my Billy.’

‘Your Billy. I see. Do you think of him often?’

Ethel sniffs. ‘Yes, of course.’

Edwards drops his hands to his side.

‘I see. And does it always upset you like this?’

Ethel stuffs a tissue up her sleeve.

‘Not all the time. Sometimes the thought of him makes me smile, but not this time. I suppose it’s Pippa saying he’s a ghost. I can’t imagine him like that.’

Edward strokes his beard.

‘How do you imagine him, Ethel?’

Ethel starts walking, Edward by her side.

‘In the café. Smiling at everyone who walks through the door. Joking with the customers, making them laugh. He had such a sense of humour. He was never serious, always up for a bit of fun.’

‘Unlike me, then,’ says Edward, under his breath.

‘Sorry, love. I didn’t hear that,’ says Ethel, quickening her pace.

‘Never mind,’ says Edward. ‘I think I’ll leave you to it and go into Banfield for a few hours.’

Ethel stops. ‘I thought we could have a bit of lunch and maybe spend the afternoon together. It’s my day off.’

‘Some other time, Ethel. Not now.’

Edward kisses her on top of the head and walks quickly away.

 

~

 

Allen Gomez is striding among the market stalls, his new assistant, Zack, by his side. As they pass each trader, Allen gives their stall a shake and tugs at the overhead canopy, much to the annoyance of the stallholder.

‘Health and safety, Zack. Priority. A gust of wind and…’ (Allen raises his arm in a swift upward sweep).

‘I get it Mr Gomez. Priority.’

‘Good. One accident and …’ (Allen makes a slicing motion across his throat).

‘They’ll close us down.’

Allen tugs at another canopy, dislodging some of the trinkets the stallholder has painstakingly lined up on small sets of shelves.

‘Close us down? Throw us in the clink, probably,’ says Allen.

‘Prison? If there’s an accident?’

‘Yep. Prison. “Negligence”. That’s what we’ll be charged with.’

‘We?’ says Zack, imagining for a brief moment him and Allen Gomez together in a prison cell.

‘Yep. See how important health and safety is?’

‘Priority,’ states Zack. Allen pats him on his back.

They are about to move onto the next stall when a man dressed in a long overcoat, rather heavy for the time of year, steps in front of them.

‘Excuse me,’ he says but the rest of the sentence remains unuttered for the time being as Allen raises his palm. He steps in front of a stall selling handmade shopping bags and gives the frame a rattle. He tugs the canopy and frowns.

‘Bit loose,’ he says to the stallholder, a lady in her seventies who has worked the market for the past twenty years. ‘Sort it out for tomorrow please.’ He taps the side of his nose. ‘Health and safety. Right, now what…’

The man in the overcoat is engaged with Zack. Zack is signalling a route with his hands. The man says, ‘thank you’, several times and shakes Zack’s hand. When he has walked off, Zack goes back to Allen.

‘What a nice chap.’

‘What did he want?’ asks Allen.

‘He wanted to know where the laundrette is. He called it a laundry-rette.’

‘Oh? Did he say why he was going there?’

‘No, but he asked if I knew Sherry Cross. When I said I did, he grinned then thanked me and shook my hand. Many times.’

‘He asked about Sherry? Did he have an accent?’ asks Allen.

‘Yes. I’d say it was Spanish.’

‘Spanish or South American?’

‘Actually, South American Spanish might be closer.’

Allen scratches the back of his head.

‘What’s up, boss?’ asks Zack.

‘I know who he is. I need to call Sherry,’ says Allen reaching in his pocket for his phone.

 

~


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