Little House, Lonesome Road

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<ul><li><p>7/29/2019 Little House, Lonesome Road</p><p> 1/5</p><p>L E Leyland, page 1</p><p>Little house, lonesome road</p><p>I used to love the duska bitter-sweet time of the day. It used to be the time when I</p><p>could begin to relax, days work done but that wasnt so true now, now that I lived</p><p>with Sam, when the nights often had an extra frisson of anxiety. This evening as I drovehome through the winter countryside, after a visit to my daughter, I snatched glimpsesof the sun layering the horizon of the big bleak empty fields with a band of pink and</p><p>gold; then slowly the light went beneath a looming indigo sky. Once in a while I could</p><p>see small squares of bright yellow as farmhouse lights came on, their curtains not yet</p><p>closed. When I was a child in London Id walkhome at dusk through streets of terraced</p><p>houses at that moment of the day when the dark was coming down, when lights were</p><p>being lit but curtains hadnt been drawn; I could see inside to their front sitting rooms</p><p>and imagine the lives that went on in those warm glows. It was a world to dream in</p><p>until I reached my own home, where the street door was unlit and the front room wasshut up and unused and all the living went on at the back of the house away from the</p><p>life of the street. I was too young then to understand why my family kept themselvesprivate.</p><p>I still enjoyed stealing glimpses into strangers lives. You might say it goes with my</p><p>territory. I passed one house right on the roadsideit had a bit of style about it, as if it</p><p>had once been a gatehouse to an estate, but the surrounding countryside had been</p><p>stripped of its woods and hedges so that it stood out, exposed as the only house for</p><p>miles. It would be an easy place to do a job, isolated yet close to the road, no neighbours</p><p>to get in the way. I hadnt long passed it when I felt the car slow down, losing power.Luckily there was a lay-by to pull into. I couldnt think what was wrong then</p><p>remembered the dashboard lights were getting flaky and the petrol gauge wasnt</p><p>showing. I must have run out of petrol. I got out my mobile phone thinking Id ring Samhe wouldnt be too pleased to come out, he had a jobon later. But when I found thatthe phone too had run out of juice I cursed. How hadI let this happen? I suppose I had</p><p>been distracted by the visit to Eve. She blames me for leaving her dad and going off</p><p>with Sam.</p><p>When I was younger I drove old bangers that broke down all the time and in those</p><p>days didnt have a mobile phone. But now I was used to my comforts. I didnt like the</p><p>thought of flagging down another motoristyou cant be too careful. I didnt want to</p><p>walk along the black road for help; I could be hit by a car. But as I sat there thinking inthe dark silence and no cars passed I knew there was nothing for it but to bite the bullet,</p><p>as Sam would say, and go and look for a house with a phone.</p><p>It was a dry night, not frosty, and at least I had a torch. Still no cars passed me but</p><p>as long as I thought no one was about I could cope with the dark. I t wasnt long before I</p><p>came to the little gatehouse Id seen earlier, a small square cottage, with a chimney</p><p>rising from its centre. I felt a bit waryyou never know what youre going to find. Sam</p><p>makes fun of my fears; he teases me and says, Josie, the world is not full of mad axmenor serial killers, but then Sam knows how to take care of himself. The cottage looked</p><p>nicely kept, like an ordinary person might live in it. I know, some ordinary people havenasty habits toobut it helps when I see someone liking the same things as me. A bit of</p><p>money had been spent on renovating the cottage; the little garden had been landscapedwith gravel and evergreens, the windows were dressed with neat roman blinds, and the</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Little House, Lonesome Road</p><p> 2/5</p><p>L E Leyland, page 2</p><p>front door was painted in a washed-out pale blue-green; it reminded me of the house in</p><p>the Jane Austen movie that Eve had taken me to very tasteful. A lot more of their</p><p>money had gone into their caran Aston Martin stood to the side. It didnt look like the</p><p>home of a serial killer, more likely to be a grasping lawyer, and I knew about them. As I</p><p>came up to the door I heard raised voices from inside.</p><p>I wont have it, Adele, do you hear? You mess around and were over.</p><p>Well what did you expect? Everyone at your office knows about your affair with</p><p>Sue. I should have known earlier; they say everyones been in her bed.</p><p>There was a sound of a chair scraping on the floor then a howl from the woman. He</p><p>must have hit her. This was not what I needed. I just wanted to use a phone I didnt</p><p>want to walk into a marital rownot one with hitting going on. Id had enough of that</p><p>with Eves dad. I hesitated for a minute, but I couldnt afford to be choosy so I rang the</p><p>bell. Besides, my turning up out of the blue might stop things getting out of hand. Noone answered my first ring and the voices had dropped so I rang again, more</p><p>persistently; this was no time to be polite. I just wanted to get to a phone and get out</p><p>again. The man opened the dooryoungish, quite good-looking but with a hard set to</p><p>his face. I could imagine him lording it in the Criminal Courts. He stared at me as if Id</p><p>come in with the cat, which I thought was uncalled for. I could see he wouldnt want</p><p>callers at such a time but there was no need for him to look down his nose at me. I</p><p>looked pretty respectable. Id dressed up a bit for my visit to Eve in her Oxford college,</p><p>sort of smart-casual, my leather jacket and a skirt.I explained my predicament. He glared at me and hesitated before he said, Youd</p><p>better come in and use the phone then.</p><p>If I hadnt overheard the row his tone might have frozen me out. But Id alreadydecided he belonged at the bottom of the ant heap and he didnt scare me. There was nosign of her. The front door opened straight into the sitting room; the phone table was by</p><p>the front door and as I dialed Sams number and listened to it ringing I studied the</p><p>room, discretely. I liked the pale lemon yellow velvet couch, the thick dark grey wool</p><p>carpet and the shelf of Clarice Cliff plates with their sunny splashes of bright yellow. I</p><p>wondered if they were genuine but the man didnt look like someone who would have</p><p>fakes on his mantelpiece. Ive handled a few Cliff pieces in recent years. Id love to get</p><p>a proper look at these. Given the bijou size of the cottage this was probably a weekend</p><p>retreat. Maybe Sam wouldnt mind coming to fetch me a fter all, but he didnt answer</p><p>my call. I couldnt remember his mobile number (stored on my own dead mobile) so I</p><p>asked the lawyer-type for his landline number and left a message for Sam to call me on</p><p>that.</p><p>When I finished leaving the message the lawyer-type said brusquely, Youd better</p><p>call yourbreakdown service.</p><p>Im not in one.Then call the garage in Brackleytheyll come out.</p><p>Sams at home hell see the message shortly.But you cant wait here. Please call the garage. He scribbled the number on the</p><p>pad on the phone table and I could tell by his manner that he was used to getting hisway, but I didnt want to call a garage and be charged for a call-out.</p><p>Just give me ten minutes for my ride to call back. I must have sounded pushy buthe didnt make me feel polite.</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Little House, Lonesome Road</p><p> 3/5</p><p>L E Leyland, page 3</p><p>At that moment the woman came into the room. Her face was red and blotchy, not</p><p>only around the eyes but also down one side of her face. She must have overheard our</p><p>talk. For a second I thought I had seen her somewhere before but it was probably</p><p>because she reminded me of Eve. Just like Eve she wore her long blond hair in a plait to</p><p>the side. Its not a style you see much these days.Its alright, James. Barely looking at me she said, Have a seat.I sat down on the lemon couch, unable to resist running my hand over its luxurious</p><p>nap as I sat, and said, Ill give Sam ten minutes then call the garage. I wanted to get</p><p>home as much as James wanted me out. And although I could see that Sam might be</p><p>interested in their little house, I knew it was a non-starter because our number would be</p><p>in the phone log.</p><p>James left the room and the woman sat down and picked up a copy of the Daily</p><p>Telegraph from a side table. I thought she was going to bury herself in it and I began</p><p>studying the Cliff china. I suppose I could have asked her about it but something keptme quiet. She took a couple of glances at me and I could see her mind wasnt on the</p><p>news. Then she put the paper aside and asked how far Id walked, adding it must havebeen horrid walking along the main road in the dark. I said it hadnt been more than</p><p>five minutes and she asked where Id come from.Oxford. Ive been to see my daughter, shes at university there. I was still chuffed</p><p>to be able to say this, still couldnt get used to the idea that shed done it despite me and</p><p>her dad.</p><p>Lucky girl.She deserved it; shedidnt have an easy time the last few years.</p><p>Oh?</p><p>My husband and I split up. She thought it was my fault. He used to hit me, though</p><p>never when she was around. And I never wanted her to know. I stood it for too long but</p><p>then I left him. No one should have to put up with that.She stared at me then murmured, No, thats dreadful.Its all over now. But it was hard with me and her for a while. I surprised myself</p><p>at all this coming out so quickly. Sometimes you can tell a stranger something youd</p><p>never say to someone else. But it wasnt that. This woman didnt lookmuch older than</p><p>Eve. And I had heard what was going on.She changed the subject. This must be awkward, breaking down on a Sunday</p><p>night. Do you have to be up early tomorrow for work?No, Im not doing anything at the moment. Sam looks after me. I knew</p><p>immediately that was a mistake.What does he do?</p><p>Oh this and that My voice tailed off as I thought about how to change the</p><p>subject. I wasnt used to conversations with girls like Adele. I stared at the china</p><p>thinking that I needed to practice this kind of talk, ready for Eves new friends. Adele</p><p>bailed me out.</p><p>Do you like Clarice Cliff? Are you a collector?Noa bit outside my range. But I like it a lot.</p><p>Look, why dont I run you to Brackley? We can get petrol and get you going.</p><p>I protested but she was already getting car keys from the side table and I was more</p><p>than happy to have a lift in the Aston. She said something to James that I couldnt hear</p><p>then we set off. Out on the road I could tell she didnt drive it often, she drove it too</p><p>slowly, though she clearly had a lot on her mind. We hadnt been going a few minuteswhen she said she was a bit distracted; she was upset, there had been a row. I muttered</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Little House, Lonesome Road</p><p> 4/5</p><p>L E Leyland, page 4</p><p>that I was sorry then her whole story tumbled out. Shed had a bit of a fling with</p><p>someone elseshe knew it was a mistake but she knew James was messing around. He</p><p>always used the same old excuses, working late, taking out a client, but she had found a</p><p>hotel billa one-nighter on a night when he wasnt away. He had hit her tonight, and</p><p>not for the first time. She didnt know what to do. She worked in the same firm and shewould have to leave her job if she left him; shed have to go back to herparents andtheyd be so upset. They were so impressed with James and wouldnt understand.</p><p>Theyd nearly bankrupted themselves paying for the wedding; it had to be a grand affair</p><p>for James.</p><p>There was no side to her, no lofty attitude, no glib remarks, but she was on a sticky</p><p>path and I found myself giving her a pep talk, saying she should never put up with</p><p>violence and she should take a risk and find a way.It will be toughthere are no free rides. But dont give yourself years of settling</p><p>for second-best, for being a victim. It will cost you but it will be worth it in the longrun. I surprised myselfI didnt usually speak like this, not to Eve, not to my friends,</p><p>not to anyone. I never even thought of myself as someone with principles, but I felt forAdele.</p><p>As we reached the garage forecourt, busy at this time of the early evening, I saw a</p><p>few heads turn to look at the car, and I watched the same heads look Adele up and</p><p>down, sizing her up. I dont like seeing men look at my own daughter like that and I felt</p><p>like a motherly henand yet, hadntId been eyeing herhouse for Sam, looking her</p><p>home over, wondering what the Cliff pieces would fetch? And there I was giving her a</p><p>lecture about not being a victim.</p><p>As she handed me a petrol can she had brought with us she said, Your daughterisvery fortunate, shes got a great future ahead and you to back her.</p><p>I couldnt answer. My mind went back to walking across the quad earlier in the</p><p>day, hoping I looked the part and wouldnt say the wrong thing. I stared at the pumpgauge, waiting for the attendant to clear the previous customers tally. What if Eveknew how Sam made his money? I could see her now, opening the local newspaper to</p><p>find Sams mug shot staring at the world. Adele, standing behind me, cleared her throat.The pumpsready.</p><p>We were both quiet as she drove me back to my car. As we got near I saw Sam was</p><p>there. When he returned my call James must have told him what had happened and</p><p>being Sam he thought hed make sure I got home. I got out of the Aston and I could seethat Sam didnt know what to do first, talk to me orstudy the ritzy car. While Sam put</p><p>the petrol in my own car, I thanked Adele for the lift, then looking behind me to checkthat Sam was out of earshot, reminded her to think about what Id said. I wished her</p><p>luck. She thanked me then said I should take care of myself too. I said I was alright; I</p><p>had Sam to look out for me. She looked at Sam then at me then back at Sam again to</p><p>give him a longer look.</p><p>As she got back in her car she said again, Just look after yourself. </p><p>What had she seen in Sam? He was just an ordinary-looking sort of bloke, middle-</p><p>aged, not good looking but he kept himself in shape. He would never lift a finger to me.</p><p>But she had looked at him in the same way I had looked at James.</p><p>Then I realised that I hadseen her before. It was the last time Sam was in Court. If</p><p>his alibi hadnt held up he would have gone down then. Afterwards as we stood in the</p><p>Court lobby before leaving, the solicitor came up to Sam with some business and there</p><p>was a woman with him, carrying a pile of files. It was Adele. I remember admiring thelong plait of her own hair as she stood next to a barrister wearing a horsehair wig with a</p></li><li><p>7/29/2019 Little House, Lonesome Road</p><p> 5/5</p><p>L E Leyland, page 5</p><p>tie at the back. Had she recognized me earlier, and decided she wanted me out of the</p><p>house as soon as possible? Or was it only when she saw Sam that she realised? Surelyshe wouldnt have told meabout her and James if she knew I was Sams partner?</p><p>As I drove home, Sam following me to make sure it was only a lack of petrol, Ithought about that last moment with Adele and why I didnt want Sam to hear me</p><p>saying goodbye to her. I didnt want him asking questions, didnt want him to start</p><p>thinking what I had thought when I found the little house. I was not completely sure I</p><p>could trust him to leave it alone even if I asked him. There were plenty of times when</p><p>he ignored what I wanted, when...</p></li></ul>