This story was inspired by twisted-coil's excellent "What if Joe were a King?" I started it many months ago but am only just getting round to posting it. A HUGE thank you and many hugs to 'Miss Twisted' for her generous gift of an idea and for kindly reading through my version of events – the same goes for my partner in writing crime Stoneygem.
The early morning sun seeped over the land, warming the earth and lighting spring, fresh and new. The air smelt glorious, and for the lonesome figure walking along the cliff it provided comfort. The sea below was flat and calm, peace personified and she once again wondered just how she'd managed to stay away for so long. It was, and always would be, home.
Glancing at her watch she sighed and took another deep breath of the chill air. It was still only early, 7:15, she wanted to wait until she was sure the children were at school and the house was empty. She wanted to wait until she was sure she wouldn't have to face anybody and explain anything.
Taking a few steps she realised she was stuck in the mud.
"Oh bother." She murmured eyeing her shoes, designer shoes at that. She had been away for too long, it should be walking boots out here.
It suddenly struck her how ridiculous she must look; sure this outfit was fine for travelling, for hiring a car, for booking into a bed and breakfast for a few hours. It was hardly the attire for cliff top walks. She'd been away too long and lost touch; perhaps time here would help her recover herself, time to remember who she was and where she belonged. Lord knows the last few months had certainly tested her beliefs.
She couldn't help but smile as the first drops of rain slid down her face, merry England. Trudging back to the recently acquired BMW she felt a little jolt of pride, the vehicle was wonderfully chic, wonderfully sporty and best of all, hers. Well there was no better therapy than spending hard earned money, and she'd certainly earnt it. And saved it.
Sinking back into the leather seat she lifted her face up to the sky and allowed the rain to caress her skin. God she was tired, and this day wasn't going to get easier. The only thing for her to do was get on with it.
George Temperant dropped the cigarette to the floor when he heard the crunch of tyres on the gravel drive. Waving to the occupant he glanced at his watch, well she was punctual he'd give her that.
"Good morning Mrs?"
"Miss." She replied as she swung her legs out of the car. "It's Miss. Arcenciel."
"Well, good morning to you." He watched as she leant into the back of the car to retrieve her handbag and a file, probably the one he'd sent to her about the property. She was a fine looking woman, long legs, a shapely curve to her hips, that black dress that just clung in the right places looked expensive.
He licked his lips and watched as she readjusted the patterned scarf around her shoulders. Her shoes were muddy.
"Been for a walk?" He asked smiling.
"Yes, a little, a mistake. I'd forgotten how damp the ground gets here."
She nodded and moved towards him eyeing the property as she did so.
"Europe." She hesitated. "Slightly warmer climate. Shall we go inside?"
"Yes, of course. This way my dear." He said placing a hand on her shoulder.
She shrugged him off and walked slightly ahead, glancing over the garden. She was older than he first thought, when he got closer he noticed the fine lines around her eyes, at first he would have placed her early forties. Her figure certainly didn't give anything away, but her face had a certain amount of experience to it. Perhaps she was in her fifties. If he weren't married he might have asked her out for a drink. Still a woman with the kind of money available to buy a house like this alone, a Miss after all, was certainly out of his league. A widow maybe, she was dressed head to foot in black.
"Well shall we do the kitchen first?" He said as he motioned her inside.
"Whatever you think best Mr. Temperant."
He was impressed; she'd remembered his name from their brief telephone conversation a few days ago.
"Please call me George, the kitchen is right through there. This was of course originally a barn but as you can see it's been renovated to the highest standard, the previous owners spared no expense."
"Where are they now?"
"Moved to Spain, they preferred the warmer climate."
She smiled at him as she glanced out of the window and down the driveway.
She really was quite beautiful. He found himself watching her for a second, almost staring.
"Er, uhm, the kitchen, yes, was recently refitted, all new… modern."
"I know this may sound awfully rude of me but would you mind if I looked around by myself for a while and asked you any questions later? I just, well, I like to get the feel of a property first."
He couldn't quite place that accent, perfectly English of course but from which county? And a hint of something foreign to it, French perhaps, the surname should be a clue, a previous husband? Perhaps the dead husband and she was returning from France to her home land.
"I don't mind at all my dear. Shall I make some coffee whilst you look around."
"Tea, I'd prefer Tea."
"Tea it is then." He smiled warmly, hell he was tempted to bow. "I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."
"Thank you so much."
She turned away from him and slowly climbed the stairs, aware of his eyes on her legs as she did so. Men, they never changed. She hastened her speed and disappeared out of view.
As she stood in the main bedroom over looking the green fields with farming fences and milling sheep she realised her mind was already made up. She would take the house. Sure it was a little expensive but she had the money sitting there in the bank, she might as well use it now when she really needed it. Besides she felt comfortable there, it seemed to suit her.
She folded her arms and smiled feeling, for the second time that morning, proud of herself. She was doing this all on her own, already she'd bought a new car and was on the verge of buying a new home, and she'd only been back in the country for two days.
Yes she would go down right now and tell that funny little man she would take it, she would even pay the asking price.
Rose Mayne turned up the radio and plunged her hands into the hot soapy water. This was her favourite time of the day, when her husband was out fishing, the grand children were at school and the house was still and empty. Even the cat slept as she got on with the housework. The Easter holidays had just passed and as much as she loved having the family around she was once again glad for the peace.
Hearing a car approach she stood on tiptoes to glance out of the window to the main road, probably one of the neighbours. Nice car though, a little flashy for the Cornish coast, especially off peak. She returned her attention to the glasses in the bowl and continued to gently wash them when somebody rang the front bell.
She was drying her hands on a tea towel as she approached the front door, if this turned out to be some salesman she wouldn't be best pleased.
"Yes, I'm coming." She murmured as the bell rang again.
She opened the door and froze, mouth open.
"Hello Rose…" The woman said.
"Clarisse… what the hell are you doing here?"
"Well, I wasn't exactly expecting such a warm welcome…" She teased reaching forward to hug her sister.
Rose returned the hug, murmuring into Clarisse's hair. "It's a bit of a shock, over a year…"
"I know and I'm sorry." She pulled back and tucked a loose lock of hair behind Rose's ear. "But I'm home now."
"You're looking well." The older woman smiled.
"Don't tease, this outfit is very expensive."
"I know, and very inappropriate for country life."
"Yes…" She indicated her shoes. "So I've been reminded, are you inviting me in doors?"
"Of course." She squeezed Clarisse's hand. "But leave your shoes there."
"Yes miss." Clarisse closed the door behind her and watched her sister walk down the hall.
"Tea I suppose." She called over her shoulder.
"Why of course." She smiled sweetly slipping her shoes off.
Bare footed she padded down the hallway stopping to look over the photos on the wall. "Louisa has grown."
"I know, too fast. She's certainly not boring."
"And my niece?"
"Exhausted, as new mother's always are."
Clarisse leant against the kitchen door watching as Rose poured the tea.
"She loved the gifts by the way, that silver frame was exquisite."
Clarisse shrugged. "It's the least I can do, I miss every birthday."
"You're busy, we know that." Rose added.
"Not anymore." She replied choosing a seat by the window and sitting down.
Rose joined her at the table and handed her a mug of tea.
"Sorry no china here dear." She said in a mock upper class accent,
Rose laughed. "I'm sorry." She swallowed her tea. "So tell me, how is palace life?"
Clarisse sipped her tea and shook her head. "I wouldn't know."
Rose stared at her younger sister for a few moments, silently watching her. They were unmistakeably related, their features almost identical. Only Clarisse was fair and Rose a brunette, plus three children had somewhat altered Rose's figure and she was four years older than her glamorous younger sister.
She clinked her mug against Clarisse's in an attempt to ease the tension in the room.
"Is this a flying visit?"
"No. I'm home." She attempted to smile.
"For the moment?"
"For good, I er, bought a house."
"What? Where and when?"
"Penzance and this morning."
"Wha… well you certainly haven't changed, spur of the moment?"
"Kind of." Clarisse murmured taking another sip of her tea.
Now she looked up sharply and attempted to smile. "I got bored…"
"You said you loved it, your first really important role. Don't tell me you got bored after only what, a year?"
Clarisse looked to the floor, stretching out her legs. "11 months actually, well, you know me, always changing."
"Not over this, you fought for that job."
"I know, I know I just… things happened."
"Things, did you meet somebody?"
"Only kind of, what does that mean? The wrong sort of man, I know you."
"No, well yes I suppose, I didn't mean for it to happen."
Biting down on her bottom lip Clarisse attempted to keep her emotions in check but failed miserably. Taking one look at her sister's worried expression she gasped as a sob escaped her. "Oh Rose."
Her sister's arms surrounded her in a second, warm and comforting as she held her, Clarisse sobbed into her shoulder oblivious to her surroundings.
"I'm sorry… sorry." She babbled. "I've held it in for so long, on my own."
"Why didn't you call, if something happened you should have called, I'm here for you, you know that." She kissed the top of her head. "Oh my dear, shush honey, no man is worth it you know that."
"Oh…" She lifted her head up smiling. "And at my age I should know better."
"Yes, you should." She wiped her sister's damp cheeks. "What's his name?"
Clarisse's face darkened and she cast her eyes to the side, avoiding her sister's intense gaze.
"Clarisse, what's his name?"
She took a deep breath before she answered, "Joseph, his name is Joseph."
"Joe… not the King!"
Well i hope you like it so far - please let me know what you think... R