Villanelle – Blimey that was hard.


Just outside collecting sweet chestnuts when the migrating geese flew over. Breathtaking as always. Fly well and bon voyage feathered friends it reminded me of this poem I wrote a while ago.

Originally posted on Diane's Stories Site - This is not the Children's site. :

so the Flash poetry thread I am currently enjoying gives us a challenge each week.  Hence the Sonnet a while ago.   This week the challenge was to write a Villanelle.  

I had never heard of one.  Sorry Stephen I know it’ll be in your book The Ode less Travelled but I haven’t got to it yet.  The form is very very specific.



This is the instruction we were given.

Five stanzas of three lines
One stanza of four lines.

The first stanza sets up the refrain – with a non rhyming line between.

This refrain is repeated – as the last line of stanza two 

And as the last line of stanza three so they skip to the bottom of the following stanzas in turn and then in the final stanza of four lines, they make up the last two lines.  The middle lines of each…

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Bus Stop – Chapter 41

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do Jed.  I’ll stay as long as I can.  Providing I don’t see her again I’ll stay until the paperwork is all done.  How long do you reckon?”

“It could be a while yet, a couple of weeks at the very least.  There’s no problem with funding, the solicitors will do searches, but most of that has already been done by the developer’s legal team anyway, so fingers crossed it’ll all be smooth and easy.  The contract was in the last package for your aunt to sign.  Sometimes there can be hiccups just before completion, but I hope not, that’s why we were so careful about who we took this to.”

“That sounds odd, you saying that.  I’d never really thought about the fact that I was dealing with a relative.”

“If you like we can carry on calling her The Owner.”

“Yes, I’d rather.  Anyway that stuff should come back in the next day or so.  If I don’t see my mum again, if she’s decided there’s nothing here for her – then I’ll stay until it’s all done.”

“Thanks Libby.  I know you’re doing this to make things easy for me, so thanks.” She grinned at him, the quirky, cheeky grin that he had come to like so much.

“There is something though.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you remember you tried to give me a ‘phone a while back?”

“Yes, I’ve got it here, in my work bag.”

“If it’s still on offer I wouldn’t mind having it now.  I was being a bit high maintenance and stupid and it was all a waste of time anyway wasn’t it.  Hiding, running, keeping my head down it hasn’t made any difference in the end.  If you give me that I can ring you when the paperwork comes back and it’ll make things easier, might finish it all quicker.”

He rooted in his bag and brought out the shiny box.  “It’s not an expensive one you know.  Just a phone, no internet or anything.”

“It’s okay, I don’t do much of that stuff, just now and again in a cyber café if I need to search for something, or check my mail, but – well.”  She swept her hand around her, taking in the little flat. “This is me, small and ordinary.”

“It’s nice though Libby, really cosy.”  She turned her head to look at the compact space.

“Yeah it’s been a nice place to live.”

“It’s a shame you didn’t know about it before, you might have been able to come and stay, it’s your family after all.”

“No, you’re not listening to me.  This is not my family; this is nothing to do with who I am except for history.  Anyway it’s all being sold now.”

“Yes.  That’s true. Right, as I said my contact details are in there and I have the number of that phone in my own.  If you need me Libby, if ever you need me just ring.”

She laughed, “I’ve never had a bodyguard before.”

“Don’t be daft – I just meant you know, if you wanted someone to talk to, to have a drink with.”

“What you mean like a friend?”


“Hm, I never had one of those before either.”

“It’s time for me to go.  This has been nice Libby, I’m sorry about all your trouble but yeah, this has been a nice evening.”

“Okay, you can go down the main drive, I need to lock the gates in a bit, when I’ve cleared this lot away, I open them for the bloke who does the grass.”

“Do you want a hand, with the dishes and stuff?”

“No, no I’m a bit of a fusser, it’s better if I do it myself.”

She went with him to the door and this time he bent and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. She pulled back and raised her hand to her face and he was shocked to see the glint of tears come into her eyes.  Before she could become embarrassed he turned and jogged down the steps.  He strode out down the grand drive towards the main gates.  She stood at the top of the steps to watch as he disappeared into the gloom.

Just a few minutes later, in the vegetable garden a rat, nibbling at an overlooked windfall lifted its head, turned and scurried away from the slender shadow moving towards the back of the house.


She had no fear of the dark, Libby had known for a long time that sometimes dreadful things happen in the full glare of the sun.  She took a torch in case of need but didn’t bother to turn it on.  The night was cool with a waning moon silvering the partly denuded branches.  She stopped for a moment to listen to the shift and sway, and the faint sound of the river in the distance.


 “Sarah, is it you.”

“Of course it’s me you stupid woman.  You have to understand that now there is only me, no nurses, no home help, just me. They were easy enough to get rid of, just a phone call or two and it was done.  That was how much they cared, you were nothing to them, a cash cow that’s all.  Money, money, money – it’s all that mattered to you isn’t it, and all that mattered to them, karma they call it.  You never cared about anything else, your standing, your reputation, that’s it. Well see where it’s got you now.”

“What do you want Sarah, just tell me and I’ll give you anything if you will only take me back to my room.”

“Oh no, you can let that idea go – you have no room, you have no home, you have nothing, just this bottle of water, here you are – that’s what you have left.”

“Oh thank you, thank you put it into my hand please, I can’t see.”

“Yes, you can have it but first sign this…”

“More papers, what are they all – oh it doesn’t matter, help me, I can’t hold the pen, guide my hand, help me and then give me the drink.  But, Sarah – please don’t lock me in again, don’t leave me I beg you, please just take me back to my room.  I’ll give you anything, anything.”

“You have nothing, nothing to give me.  Here, take your water.”

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Bus Stop – Chapter 40

“This is lovely, Libby.” Jed wiped round his plate with a piece of baguette.

“I used to make stuff a fair bit; you know when I was with her.  She was a pretty good cook, when she was happy and she taught me.”

“It’s sad, all of it – really unfair and sad.”

“Yeah well, I’ve learned that the only thing you can do is just get on with it and make the best of things.  It was okay when my dad was there, we used to laugh and he was so gentle with her so she was better then.  After he’d gone though, she just got worse and worse.  I should go back, shouldn’t I?”  She had lowered her head now and fiddled with the edge of the breakfast bar, running her nail back and forth along the rim.  “I know I should look after her.  She’s my mum after all and she’s got nobody else.”

“But, if she’s found you – here – then she must be able to function.”

“Oh yes, she can.  A lot of the time you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with her but when she freaks out, she’s a different person, and then she can’t look after herself.  Over the last year, every now and again I have nearly gone back.  I’ve thought about her, maybe sitting on her own, her clothes dirty, not eating and I’ve felt so guilty.   But, I know if I go back that’s it I’ll be giving up any chance of a life of my own.”

“How old is she, Libby?”

“She’s in her early forties.  You wouldn’t think it to look at her though; she’s slim, same build as me really.  When she’s not well she doesn’t eat and the weight drops off her but yeah, really she’s about the same as me.  We used to get mistaken for sisters sometimes.  I guess we do look quite a lot alike, except she’s a smarter dresser, neater, normally.”  He thought about the desk set and the woman he’d seen in the street near the office.

“Do you think she might have been here before?”

“Hm, No, I don’t think so, how could she? Why?”  He must tread carefully now lest the newfound intimacy be lost.

“You did say that you thought that sometimes the place seemed disturbed.”

“Yeah, that’s right.  But, no, I mean why would she?”

“Do you think that maybe she has just come back?  Come home?”

“I guess that’s possible, it’s not likely though – is it?  She can’t be living here can she?  I mean if there was someone living here I’d know, wouldn’t I?”  As she looked at him he could see the doubt creep into her eyes.


“Okay, the thing is that the temping agency told me that the house was empty.  All I’m supposed to do is go in now and again and do a walk around.  I have to make sure there are no water leaks or anything, that sort of thing.  I have to keep the garden a bit under control but just stuff like picking up the apples in case of rats and make sure nobody comes in and wrecks it all.”


“Oh, this is going to sound stupid and as if I’m just saying it now because of what’s happened.”

“Go on.”

“Just sometimes I’ve been in there and I’d have this feeling, just a sort of idea that there was somebody there.  I don’t believe in ghosts, at least I don’t think I do, but now and again I sort of wondered if the place was haunted.”  She turned away, her face had reddened.  “Oh, listen to me haunted, it’s ridiculous, stupid.  Don’t take any notice.”

“Maybe she has been coming, without you knowing?”

“But, why would she do that, why not just live in it or something?”

“I don’t know,” slowly, carefully, “perhaps if she’s so bitter, maybe she thought she could take some things.  You know if she feels as though she’s entitled to something from the family.  He stopped as she shook her head again.

“But, how would she know it was empty Jed, how would she know that my great-aunt isn’t here.  Anyway there’s nothing missing, I’d have noticed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, unless it was really small stuff yeah, I mean if there was furniture or whatever, I’d notice.  I go in a couple of times a week.”

He wouldn’t push it any more now, he felt relieved, but there was something more important on his mind. “What are you going to do Libby?  You can’t just take off and leave.”

“I can, I’ve done it before.  It’s easier than you’d think.”

“But, have you thought about this though, if this house belongs to your great aunt maybe you should try and let her know who you are.  You’ve got contact details, just tell her the truth.  Maybe she could help with your mum. Maybe you don’t have to be on your own.”

“No, no – I’ve got no family.  No, that’s not the way it’s going to be.  I’m on my own, I just am.  Remember Jed, they didn’t want me; we weren’t good enough, me and my dad.  No, I don’t want anything from this family, shit I got my mum and that’s more than enough.  Oh, sorry I shouldn’t have said that, this wine it’s gone to my head a bit.”

I am still here, why.  Please take me now.  If there is a God, if there are angels carry me away.  I can’t abide any more.  Why am I still here when people die suddenly the world over.  Have I been so evil that I must suffer so greatly for so long.  Take me now.


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Bus Stop – Chapter 39

“I brought some beer and some red wine.  I wasn’t sure what’d go with what you were making.”

“I made a chilli so – whatever you like I guess.  Let’s have a beer first though eh.  We can sit in the garden and watch the sun go down.”  He was surprised by her mellow mood, she had been so very distressed earlier, and yet now she was calm.  She smiled as she passed him a small bowl of crisps and a glass for his drink.

“There y’go you take those and I’ll bring a blanket.  The grass is a bit wet.”  He had never seen her so, ‘normal’, it made for a much more relaxed atmosphere, but he hoped the quirky, spiky character was still there behind the more usual façade.   Of course it could be the effects of her marijuana and he had no doubt that she’d indulged in an attempt to calm her nerves.  Briefly he considered whether or not she used anything else.    He enjoyed being with her and even when she was picking at him and sniping he hated to think that she may fall victim to the modern scourge.  He pushed the thoughts away, it was none of his business after all.

“You seem a bit better, Libby, a bit calmer.”

She shrugged and grinned at him, “Yeah, went a bit ‘off on one’ didn’t I.  I was so shocked though, I never imagined I’d see her – here.”

“No, I realised that.  Anyway, have you had any thoughts about what you’re going to do?”

She shook her head and fiddled with the beer bottle, picking at the label.  “No, thing is, I knew this was all coming to an end.  I wasn’t bothered, I’d done what I wanted.”

“What was that?”

“I’d seen the place – lived in it, sort of and, you know.”  She raised her hand and pointed towards the lake and the river in the distance.  “Something like that, in your past – you wonder about it.  Now I don’t have to wonder anymore.”

“How do you mean?”

““I’ve seen where it happened; they went into that big pipe. They picked the bodies up in the river.  My dad told me about it, trying to explain how horrible it was for her, why she was the way she was.  Seeing it all I think it helps me to understand her, my mum, a bit better. It’s helped me to settle it in my mind a bit.  I don’t really know how much she actually saw, she never could talk about it without going to pieces.  She carries such a lot of guilt – it spilled over, I felt it.  If she hadn’t been pregnant with me maybe it would all have worked out better for her.”  She turned to watch the glow of red as it spread across the surface, so calm seen from where they sat and yet in fact disastrously deceptive

He would never tell her that he had seen her, beside the water, sobbing.  The things he had since discovered about her made the guilt he already felt about his actions that day even sharper.  “But, what will you do?”

“I’m just going to have to go aren’t I?  Unless I want to get back into the mire with her, I know you probably think I’m horrible but I need to live my life.  I deserve that, don’t I?”

She turned to him and met his eyes with her own level gaze.  She was a strong, young woman and no-one could argue that she had a right to live as she wanted, but he didn’t want her to go.  There it was, the truth.

“Have you any idea how she found you? Do you think the agency told her you were here?”

“No, that’s ridiculous, I mean for a start she didn’t know where I was or what I was doing.  How could she possibly find an agency that I’d signed on with?  I don’t use the same name, the name that she calls me.  I learned from my dad that you only need to change things a bit to fog things up.  She has always called me Elizabeth so Libby wouldn’t click with her and Carlton is my middle name.  When you’re dealing with temping and casual agencies they don’t look into things too much, a couple of bills with your name on and it’s pretty much enough for them.”

“Oh I see.  Trouble is now with the internet and everything you just don’t know where your details are.”

“I suppose really it doesn’t matter, the end result is that she has found me and the only thing I can do is go.”

She slid a hand into her pocket and took out the thin cigarette, “d’ya want some?”

“No, no thanks.  I don’t like to do it often.”

“Right.  You probably think I’m at it all the time.”

“None of my business really is it?”

She gave a short laugh, “No but I see your face.  Anyway I don’t use it so much.” As she spoke she peered down at her hand and, with a grin she just pushed the joint back into her pocket.  “There you go, see I’m not an addict.”

“No, I didn’t think you were – well, I didn’t think about it really that much.”  As he lied he felt his face growing warm.

“You are funny Jed, You know sometimes you seem so – oh what’s the word – innocent.”

“You think I’m a wuss.”

“No, it’s nice.  You’ve had an easier life than me haven’t you, it shows.”

He took a chance, “Have you used other stuff?”

“No, I haven’t.  Never been tempted to be honest, not after I’ve watched my mum.  Why.”

“Oh, it’s just that one time you said you could tell me about other stuff, stronger, more scary.”

“Yeah, I could.  My mum, believe it or not is pretty clever. She has a degree in pharmacology, she had a job in a hospital and everything before all the drama.  She used to still take an interest.  She always said she was going back to work, but it was all a load of rot.  She couldn’t hold down a job, not now.”  She had the books though, and the magazines and she used to keep an eye on things on the internet.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Yeah, and she used stuff – some of it was with a prescription and some of it not.  I learned a fair bit by keeping an eye on her medication. Anyway, come on let’s go and eat and talk about something else.  You can tell me what you think they’re going to do with this place.  I bet it’s going to be nice.  It is pretty special isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is.” And they turned and climbed the few stairs back to her small home as the compact red car pulled tight against the long wall.  A figure climbed out and reached for the old iron handle.


My mind is clear.  Clearer than it has been in an age. 

I know I am dehydrated and breathing is agony. I have no strength, I can barely stand to reach the bucket to pass water.  I have not needed it for a long time now, and so in a way the dehydration is a blessing, though I know it will contribute to my demise.  Every movement sends shards of agony through my body but my mind is clear while I am awake.  When I sleep, and mostly I am in a stupor, I dream, I hallucinate that I am diving into deep pools, swimming in crystal water and then I see it so clearly.  Estelle and Francis, and the horror of it all, and always the same outcome and nothing ever to be done, I can’t bear it. 

So, here at the end I can think and remember and grieve, but I can do nothing because I simply don’t have the strength and anyway it’s all too late. 

Why, why has she done this? For many years I have searched and searched for her, to ask her to forgive us, all of us for our narrow minded attitude and our snobbish behaviour. 

All too late and nothing to do now but wait for the end.


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Bus Stop – Chapter 38

“I have to go back to work Libby.  But, I’m sure once you get over the surprise you’ll see it’s not as bad as you think.  She’s your mother after all, okay she has problems, but – she’s just your mother.”  Before he had finished speaking Libby raised a hand to stop him and she shook her head.

“No, you don’t have any idea.  I’ll bet you get on really well with your mum don’t you?”

“Yeah ‘course.  She’s lovely my mum, fusses a bit now and then but, yeah we get on okay.

”So, you can’t have any idea. She’s so possessive.  She’s so – oh I don’t know what the word is – needy -I suppose.  She just wanted me there all the time; she panicked if I was gone for more than an hour or so.  She has screaming sessions and times when she just can’t talk to anyone. She doesn’t trust anyone, not even me.  She used to go through my stuff, she once threw out all my clothes so I couldn’t leave the house, she stuffed them in the Sally Army recycle bin.  All I had was what I stood up in.  She’s not always so bad but you just never know what’ll set her off or how long it’s going to last.   I know it looks bad that I left her; I know I should have stayed.  But, I had no life and she’s not old, people used to sometimes think we were sisters.  I couldn’t face it years and years of it.”

“No, and you shouldn’t have to. There must be help that you can get though, agencies and so on.  Did you not ask for help?”  She didn’t answer him, just stared across the table and he realised that asking for help was beyond what she would ever countenance.  “But you could you know.”

“Could what Jed?”  He saw the spark of temper in her eyes.  “I could go backwards, back to where I had to run from.  Really, I know it’s selfish but I don’t want to, I just don’t want to.  I wish she was okay, I wish she was happy but I couldn’t do that for her, and there was this, “she pushed up her sleeve to reveal an area of shiny puckered skin – “look, nice isn’t it?”

“What’s that, what happened to your arm?”

“A pan of soup.”

“Oh God.  Did she do that?” she didn’t need to answer, the silence spoke for her.  “What I don’t understand is how she found you?”

“I don’t know, I’ve no idea.  It’s over a year since I left.  After she did this.”  She gently touched the damaged flesh, “I’ve moved around all over the place, I even went to Spain, worked in a bar for a bit.  I just don’t know how she found me; it’s bloody scary to be honest.”

“There’s the other thing as well isn’t there?”

“What other thing?”

“Your great aunt, where is she.  Didn’t you say she was in Africa?”

“Did I, Oh right, right yes.  Well, I don’t know it’s just that she used to live there, years and years ago and so I just assumed I guess.  But, I suppose I don’t really know where she is.  If she’s sick perhaps she’s in a nursing home or something.  I never saw her; it was an agency that did the recruiting, you know a temping agency.  All they told me was that the main house was empty and I would have a flat.

“So how come you knew it was for sale.  Back at the bus stop when you first told me that it was to be sold?”

“I got a message saying that it was to be sold and so they couldn’t give me another six months contract.  I told them I had a contact in the Estate Agency business.”  She grinned at him and took a long drink.  “I did once I found out where you caught the bus.  I reckoned they might give me some commission or something.”

“Fair enough, nothing wrong with that, enterprising of you really – so it was just a coincidence.”

“Pretty much yeah, and a bit of sneaking about on my part to be honest, sorry about that.  I guess I did sort of use you.”

“Don’t worry, it turned out to be my lucky day eh? But, that still doesn’t explain how your mother has found you.”

“No, no it doesn’t – shit.”

“You know this could be a good thing.”

“How, how d’ya reckon it could be good?”

“Perhaps if you see her, your mum, and talk to her maybe try and get her help.  I don’t know , but perhaps that way you can really move on.  Not hiding and running but just having your freedom.”  She pursed her lips and shook her head vigorously. I can’t I just can’t.  It’s been a hell of a year, difficult you know, I’ve been skint most of the time, and sometimes I had to sleep rough.  You’ve no idea, and if I see her, if I go back it’s all been for nothing.  I can’t.”

“So what will you do, where will you go, you can’t just leave?”

“Oh shit – I don’t know.  I’m going to go now and pack my stuff so I can get out quick.  Will you come, Jed?”


“Come round tonight.  Will you, just come and keep me company for a bit.  I know if I’m there on my own I’ll be listening for her, watching out.  Just for tonight come round and I’ll make us something to eat.  It’s been fun, you know talking to you.  I never get the chance to know people much and…”  She blushed and lowered her eyes to the half empty glass.

“Yeah, that’d be nice.  We’ll talk about it all calmly and see what we can come up with.  That’d be nice Libby.”

“Right, yeah good.”

“Can I give you some money, if you’re going to do food it’s only fair.”  He thought she might bite his head off but in the event she simply grinned at him.

“Oh, don’t worry you won’t be getting caviar and quails eggs.  No, it’s okay – bring something to drink yeah.”

“Yeah.  See you later then.” And he left her finishing her beer and walked back to the office and though it had been an upsetting and confusing hour he felt happy.  He was looking forward to the evening.  It was a horrible situation but maybe they could come up with something and he’d do whatever he could to help her. She was moody and prickly and just a bit weird but being completely honest he did like her, he liked her a lot.

I must be going to die soon now, I drift, I don’t feel the cold so much anymore.  I have seen my mother.  She was smiling at me, Estelle was there also, she was crying.  Don’t cry lovely Estelle, we’ll be together soon and all the problems, all the fear and the worry, all the despair will be over.  I am ready.

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Bus Stop – Chapter 37

He burst out laughing, he knew it was unfeeling and probably rude, but just couldn’t help himself.  “Your mother!  Oh Libby, I thought this was something serious.”  She gripped his arms, the ends of her fingers digging painfully into flesh.

“It’s not funny. She’s a nut case.”

“Come on, don’t be silly.  We all think that about our parents at times, that and more besides.  You’ve got yourself all upset about nothing.  Come and let me buy you a drink.”  He shifted and took hold of her hand in his, trying to drag her with him towards the pub.

“No, Jed.  She is, she’s really ill.  She’s been in hospital, over and over when I was a kid.”

“Oh, oh well I’m sorry.  I thought you were just, you know using the term to mean…” he shrugged.

“Yeah, I know but unfortunately in my case it’s actually true.  Okay, come on let’s go and get a drink. I need a drink.”

They sat in the window space, around them was the low murmur of voices and the clash and clatter of cutlery and glassware, it was ordinary.  “Okay.  My mum is totally nuts.  It runs in the family, apparently.”

“But, you’re okay.”  As he said it Jed saw the look on her face and could have bitten off his tongue.

“Am I?  You don’t know.  You don’t really know me.  I could be a raving axe murderer, how would you know?”

“Well, the axe might be a giveaway.”  In spite of herself she laughed.

“Yeah, I guess.  No, listen.  My grandmother was what they referred to as mentally fragile. That was the start of the problems.  My mum, well nobody even thought about her, when she was young.  They were always too busy trying to protect Estelle.  This is just what I’ve been told.  I never knew any of my relatives.”


“Anyway, my mum got pregnant.”

“You.” He raised his finger and pointed at her, she nodded.

“My dad, he was okay my dad but he wasn’t good enough, not for the posh family that my mum comes from.  They wanted her to have an abortion.”  She stopped for a moment, “that would have been that wouldn’t it, probably better all round.”  Jed reached across and laid his hand on top of hers where it was curled around the moist glass.

“Don’t say that Libby.  Please don’t.”

“Well, whatever.  My mum wouldn’t and there was a row.  A humdinger of a row apparently, went on for days and then –“She stopped again and frowned, “then my grandmother committed suicide.”

“Shit.  That’s horrible.”

“Yeah, it gets worse.  She decided to drown herself and threw herself into a lake.  My grandfather saw her do it.  He tried to save her and – well in the end they both died.  He couldn’t swim, he was asthmatic, he’d never learnt but he jumped in anyway and they were both swept away.”  The sounds in the pub had receded; Jed shook his head, just once.

All the stories, the rumours, they flooded his brain.  “Libby, not the lake at The Willows.  It wasn’t that lake was it.”  She nodded. “Bloody hell.”

“Yeah.  Well afterwards my mum went to pieces, she completely lost it.  She was put in a hospital.  They kept them apart, her and my Dad until after I was born.  As soon as he got the chance he took us away.  He reckoned that being there, at that house was the cause of her problems and so he just collected us both one night and left.

We moved around all the time.  He wouldn’t let her talk about it and he wouldn’t ever hear of coming back.  He was right; she was never quite – erm – ‘normal’.  She used to have terrible down times and a few occasions she had to go into hospital.  It was so hard for us all.  Dad kept it together but then he was killed, a car accident.”  Her voice wavered and again she had to raise a hand to brush away tears.  “I tried to look after her but it was all too hard and then one day I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I ran.  I know I’m weak and horrible, but I just couldn’t cope with it.”

“But the house Libby, how come you’re at the house?”

“I was in London and I was looking at the adverts for work, just cleaning and gardening and stuff, it’s all I can do.  We were never in one place long enough for me to get much in the way of exams.  We were abroad some of the time, in Scotland for a while, way out in the wilds.   Anyway, I saw the address of the place; I couldn’t believe it and I thought it would be cool.  Sort of getting my own back, you know getting to live there in that house.  My mum always said that it should have been ours, but we’d been cheated out of it.  She said that they’d cut us off.  She didn’t understand that dad had done everything he could to make sure they couldn’t contact us.  We had PO Boxes for the mail and he used to change the spelling of our name, little things like that but they just muddied the waters.  We kept moving, he was a plumber and took cash in hand work on building sites or casual stuff.  He was very bitter, he reckoned that if they’d just let them get married right at the start none of it would have happened, but I don’t know.  He was just trying to protect her, to protect both of us.  Once I got older I could see what was going on, but she was confused and eaten up with bitterness and everything was twisted in her mind.”

“But, who is it that owns the house?”

“It’s my aunt, or actually my great aunt.  That’s who I have been communicating with, by email.  I don’t know where she is or anything though.  You can’t tell can you, not these days?  She has no idea who I am.”

“But everyone I’ve spoken to says that she’s old and sick.  The solicitor, the woman from the care agency.”

“What care agency?”

“Well, she had carers and then they were cancelled and they were told that her niece was moving in.  That was you then was it?”

“No, no that doesn’t make sense.  I never said I was related and anyway I’ve never seen her, I’ve never seen anyone.  I haven’t spoken to any care agencies.  I’ve been on my own, least that’s what I thought until today and then – shit – then I saw my mother.”

They sat in silence in the middle of the hustle and bustle.  Jed was trying to process the information and Libby’s sipped at her beer and occasionally, sighed.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He leadeth me beside the still water. The Still Water. Beside the Still Water, I need water.

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Bus Stop – Chapter 36

“Come on old woman, open your eyes.”

“What is this? who is this? – let me be.  Sarah – Sarah is that you?”

“Sit up, come on sit up.  You have to sign this.”

Leave me be, leave me alone.  I am in pain.”

“Pain, you have no idea about pain.  You old witch, sign this paper and let’s be finished with this.”

“What is it, what is that?”

“It’s the end, that’s what it is.”

“The end of what?  Oh leave me.  Sarah, I can’t see you – what is this all about?”

“It’s about justice you old bat.  Justice and – yes revenge.”

“Help me, please take me back into my room.  I’m ill, I can’t breathe properly.  Please Sarah, help me.”

“Your room.  Help you.  You can’t breathe.  It’s all about you isn’t it – always has been, all about you.  Nobody helped me, nobody gave me a room when I was destitute and miles from home.  Nobody cared when I was ill and nearly died.  Nobody helped when I had to raise my child on my own.  Nobody cared when Brian had gone and then she left me and I was alone.”

“Sarah, Sarah, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  What are you talking about?”

“No, you wouldn’t know would you.  You wouldn’t know because you never cared, you never tried to find out did you?”

“Sarah, I don’t understand.  I thought you’d come back home.  I thought we were family again.”

“Family, don’t make me laugh.  What would you know about family?”

“Oh Sarah, don’t don’t.  You are all I have left.  Don’t do this.

“No you evil old bugger, I’m not all you have left.  You have nothing left.  Nothing, do you understand.  You are going to sign this paper and then you truly will have nothing.”

“What is it?  If I sign it will you help me, will you get me the doctor.  Here let me sign it, if you will just take me back to my room.  There, there it’s done.  Sarah, no – don’t leave me, don’t lock me in, Sarah.  Please, come back – please.”


“Libby, hey what’s up.”  Jed had lifted his head to see the girl standing by the front window staring in at him.  She flapped her hand frantically and as he stepped through the door she pulled him away and round the corner into a narrow alley.

“I’m sorry – I’m really sorry.”

“What, how do you mean?  What have you got to be sorry about?”

“It’s really gonna screw things up for you and I never meant that, I’m sorry but I’ve got to go.”

“Go, how do you mean?  You’re not making any sense.”  He’d never seen her so nervy and disturbed.  The vision of her sitting on the rock beside the lake flashed across his mind.

“Look if you’re in trouble Libby, perhaps I can help.  Is it money? I’ve got a bit.”

“No, it’s not money.  I’ve made a stupid mistake.  I’ve been made an idiot of and I’m sorry.”

“Look come over to the café.  Come and tell me what the problem is, stop apologising.   Libby if you leave where will you go?”

“It doesn’t matter. I can go anywhere but it’ll screw things up for you won’t it.  If I’m not there at the house.”

He was struck dumb.  In the frantic effort to calm her and try to help, the true import of her words hadn’t struck home.  He didn’t know how to respond.  It was true that loss of the connection between the agency and the house owners could potentially be disastrous, the paperwork hadn’t come back yet.  “Shit, Libby that’s not what matters right now. Anyway I am sure it can be worked out somehow.”  As he spoke the words he was surprised to find that he truly meant them.  She was upset and all he wanted to do was help her.

“Tell me why, tell me why you think you have to go.”  She took a deep breath.

“I’ve been hiding from someone, I thought it was okay and then today I saw them.”

“Who, who have you been hiding from?  Is it to do with drugs?  Is it a gang or something, we could go to the police.  Are you in danger – I mean you know, will they come and hurt you?”

She shook her head and he was amazed as tears ballooned on the bottom lids of her eyes, and as they overflowed she raised a trembling hand to brush them away.

“No, it’s nothing like that.  It’s something else.”

“What then, just tell me?  Tell me who you’re hiding from, you owe me that at least.”  He hadn’t wanted to make her feel any more guilty than she obviously did, but he had to try and get through the confusion of words and feelings and find some facts.  “Where did you see them?”

“At the house.  I was just going back and I use a short cut from the river bank.  As I went across the lawn I saw.  There was a car parked outside and she came through the gate…”

“Shit Libby who the hell was it, who did you see?”

“It’s was my mother.”

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Bus Stop – Chapter 35

“Jed, phone for you – Mr Irwin.”

“Thanks Molly.  Good morning Mr Irwin how are you?”

“Fine thank you.  I have just had a word with, Miss Carlton.”

“Oh right, good.”  At least she had turned up.  A frisson of nerves brought out the goosebumps as he waited to hear the next part.

“I have to say that it all seems rather odd, but she has put my mind at rest somewhat.  She brought with her a contract of employment for her position as caretaker and so on.”

“Oh, right good.”

“She refused to give me any contact details though Jed, she is a very determined young woman isn’t she?”  Was that a note of admiration he heard in the solicitors tone?

“Yes, yes she can be.”

“It seems, that she is unwilling to give me contact details as she had been tasked with the running of the property and the progress of this sale.  She did also point out that if Mrs Carmody had wanted me to be able to contact her she would have left her details.”  Jed was sure he heard a chuckle.  “Well, that did rather put me in my place!  No matter, she has agreed to let our client know that I would like to have a word and we have left it at that.  I have to say I was impressed by her attitude; it is rare these days to find someone so committed to following instructions.  So, we will see what happens next.”

“Right, good.  So, we’ll just continue then shall we?”

“I don’t see any reason why not.”  Jed replaced the receiver and lowered himself to his chair.

“You okay, Jed.”

“What, oh yeah fine, just had a surprise that’s all.”

“In a good way?”

“Yes – it’s fine Molly, thanks.”


All seven developers had submitted bids and the envelopes had been locked in the safe until the deadline. Now it was here.  They were making quite a thing of it, champagne had been poured and the senior staff had gathered in the conference room.  There were big grins all round and as Charles handed Jed the first envelope a flutter of excitement spread through the room.

It was brilliant.  They had all come up to the suggested asking price and three had gone beyond it.  There was even a smatter of applause as the last envelope was opened and Jed felt his face burn.

Now though it was time to go through the bids carefully and find the one that had the best chance of going all the way to completion.  The partners took their seats and began reading the reams of documentation.

It was a result though, a real result and though he tried to behave professionally Jed felt his face creasing in a grin.  He looked up and Charles winked at him – Charles, actually winked at him!



As he pushed open the old wooden gate Jed had very mixed feelings.  Yes he was flushed with success, everyone was delighted.  They had spent the last few days in conversation with lawyers and money men, the planning department at the local council and the developers themselves.  In the end The Willows was probably going to become a Spa and Conference Centre.  Charles had been correct in his assessment about building new homes so near the river, and so the old house would be saved, changed yes, but the essence would remain.

Now he had brought the paperwork for Libby to send on to the client for approval.  As far as he knew contact was still limited and Irwins were very twitchy about not being able to speak directly to Mrs Carmody, but there was seemingly nothing to be done about it.  He was surprised to find her in the vegetable garden.  She was pulling the last few apples from one of the trees.

“Oh hiya.”

“Alright.  Do you want an apple?”  She tossed one of the fruits to him, but he was off guard with his brief case in one hand and the other still on the gate, so it crashed to the floor at his feet splitting on the old flags.

“Butterfingers” She laughed. “D’ya want coffee?”

“Yeah – great.  I’ve got some papers for you to send on.  Are you in touch with them?” He’d crossed his fingers as he spoke, if the owners were still away it would complicate things no end.  The purchaser was itching to move things along.

“Yeah, I had an email yesterday.”


They moved into the bedsit and she bustled about with the kettle and mugs.  “Libby did they get into the cellar the other day?”

“Nope, wanted to take a crow bar to the door didn’t they.  I told em to bugger off.  I’ve asked about it though, last night by email. Haven’t had an answer yet.”

“Right, of course it’s not a deal breaker, nobody seems to think it’ll be a problem.  According to the plans it’s only a little space and doesn’t impact on the foundations or anything.”

“Right, so is that it then.  All sorted.”

“Pretty much if the owners are happy.  Look Libby I do know that this complicates things for you and I just want to say that if there is anything I can do to help, you know find you a new place or whatever…”

“Thanks.  Really thanks, that’s nice.  I’m not sure what I’m doing after this though.”


I don’t want to open my eyes, I don’t want to be here and yet I know I am.  I am so cold, this blanket is damp, everything is damp.  I cough continually and someone has sneaked in while I was, well what, not sleeping – it is too uncomfortable for sleep but not awake at any rate.  They left a tiny light and a bottle of water; it is no comfort to me. 

My only comfort now will come when I die.   Sarah has deserted me, it must be so or surely she would have searched, she would have torn the place apart to find me.  Unless, they have lied to her, perhaps they have told her I am ill, in hospital.  I fear not though, my heart is broken and I don’t understand why.  I am alone and I want to die and now at this last the dizziness and nausea that have been my constant companions are abating – how cruel are the gods.


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Bus Stop – Chapter 34

“What’s this for?”  Libby pointed at the twelve pack of lager.

“Well, you know just to say thanks for your help.”  Jed walked into the room and deposited the beer on the floor, near the pedal bin.

“It went well yesterday.  I should think we’ll get some good bids.”  She didn’t answer but moved to the sink and began to fill the kettle.


“Thanks, yeah.”

Once the drink was made they moved outside and perched on the top step in a patch of weak sunshine.

“Did you shift the plants out of the cellar?  I was grateful to you for moving them, but now a couple of people want to come back and just see that last place.”


“Yeah. “

“Nope, not me.  I put the plants over in the woods, I put some old wood over them.  Cellar would have been too cold.  The woods were too cold really but no, not me.”

“Well, have you got the key?”  She pursed her lips and shook her head.

“It’s never been locked.  I’ve only been down there a couple of times, it’s dark and smelly but no it’s never been locked.”

“Can I see your keys Libby.”  He expected an explosion of anger or an out and out refusal but she uncurled from her seat and leaned inside the door.  The bunch of keys hanging on the hook wasn’t as big as he would have expected, just five keys and a leather fob.  She handed them over and bent to pick up their empty cups.

“This is the one for the house yeah?”   She stood beside him and reached out for the ring.

“House, main gate, my place, the one for that bedroom, it doesn’t fit any of the others, bit odd that but,” she shrugged” and that’s for the garage main door.”

“Well the cellar door was locked yesterday.”

“Do you want to go and see now?”  She was in a really good mood, he was a little taken aback but would make the most of it.

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”  He was even more surprised when she reached out and laid a hand on his arm.

“I’ve been a bit of a bitch, I know, stuff on my mind.  Sorry.” And with that she turned away and jogged down the flight of concrete stairs…

Jed rattled and shook the great wooden door.  He had wondered if it was just swollen with damp but that didn’t seem to be the case.  It moved in the frame but wouldn’t open.  Libby stood at the top of the four steps with her arms wrapped around herself.  He turned back and shook his head.

“Any ideas?” He heard her sigh and as she turned away she called to him over her shoulder.

“Come back to my place.  We need to talk.”

Inside the little bedsit was as clean and neat as on his first visit, no matter what else, she was particular about her living space.  She pointed to one of the chairs and flopped down in the other.

“Okay, look I need to tell you something but don’t let on – yeah?”


“I got this job on the understanding that I’d be here to look after the place.  Thing is though the pay is crap, I mean really bad.  They take the rent out of my wage and it means that they don’t even have to pay me the minimum.  I have to pay my own bills – leccy and so on and it makes things really tight, I have some debts, other stuff.”  This wasn’t what he had been expecting but as she leaned towards him Jed didn’t interrupt.  “So, I’ve got another job, it’s in one of the shops, up by the bus stop.  It’s cash in hand, just for a few hours a day in the stock room and it really helps out.  Course it means that I’m not here all the time, not like I’m supposed to be, so…”

“Right – I see, so what you’re saying is that things might happen here and you wouldn’t know about it.”

“Pretty much yeah.  I think that someone else comes sometimes.  It’s just a feeling but now and then it feels – oh I don’t know – disturbed.  If you tell anyone I might lose the job.  Well, I know I’m going to anyway but I was hoping I’d have a bit of time.  So, I guess that’s it.  Well, not quite it, there’s another thing.”  She stopped for a moment, considered and then shrugged her shoulders, “well it doesn’t matter, we all have stuff don’t we?”  For a moment he felt a like a wimp as he thought back and tried to find some ‘stuff’ in his past but he knew instinctively she wasn’t talking about pinching jelly worms from the Pick and Mix at Tesco.

“Don’t worry Libby.  I won’t tell anyone.  It doesn’t make any difference to me really, although it does mean that the place isn’t that secure doesn’t it.”  In the back of his mind was the desk set, could it be possible that he had misjudged her so badly, but then if she had debts.  He couldn’t ask, not now that she had confided in him, not with the re-warming of their relationship.

“Do you think that, whoever is coming in could have locked the cellar?  Why though, why would anyone do that?  It doesn’t make sense.”  She shook her head.

“I don’t know, all I know really is that I didn’t lock it and the couple of times I’ve been over there it’s been open.”

“Bloody hell, what’s this all about?  Look there’s something else, the solicitor that will handle the legal side of things.” Jed paused he didn’t know how she would react now but maybe with her in this new mood it could be easier than he had imagined.  “He’s a bit bothered about the fact that I haven’t ever met the owner, and, well just the way I’ve handled things.  He asked if you’d go in and see him.”

“Me – Why?”

“Well, to be honest I don’t really know now you mention it but, would you.  He wants to ask about the contact details and so on.”  Her answer took him by surprise.

“Oh well, okay then.  I’m handling this though you know, that hasn’t changed.  Anyway they’re away.  Last time I spoke to the woman, it’s on the internet mostly, emails, PMs that sort of thing, anyway, she said they were going to a place where there’d be no phone or anything.”

“Well if you just tell him that and then it’s up to him I guess.”

“Right, will you arrange it.”

“I will, thanks Libby.”

She leaned to the coffee table and opened the little wooden box that was in the middle.  She lifted out a spliff and waved it at him.  She grinned as he nodded just once and then lifted the plastic disposable lighter and held the flame to the twist of paper.

Has she gone, oh has she?  Is it too late?  Sarah, was that you, did you not hear me?


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Bus Stop – chapter 33

“Sorry to have to bring you in, Jed but I really am so snowed under I can’t get away from the office today.”

“It’s fine Mr Irwin.  I was just coming back from The Willows anyway.”

“Ah yes, viewings today I think.”

Jed nodded, come on get on with it.

“And how was Mrs Carmody?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean.  We didn’t see her, she’s not there.”

“Ah – right well that was why I needed to speak to you.  I have been trying to contact her.”  The solicitor leaned back and folded his hands across his chest. Now he was ready to get on with what he had really wanted to say.  “I have to admit that I was surprised to receive the paperwork from your office.  I can’t claim that we have acted often for the family, but over the years we have been involved with their legal business, and I would have expected that she would have let us know that the property was to come to the market.  I wondered if we had done something to offend her, so…” here he just raised his hands palms upwards and paused, obviously Jed was supposed to say something.

“Well, I don’t know anything about that Mr Irwin, I have never met her myself of course.  Your practice was named on the documents and so we sent your courtesy copies.”

“You’ve never met her?”


“But, then how are you receiving her instructions?”

At the bus stop, from a difficult young woman who smokes pot and bites my head off on a regular basis.

“Well, I have a contact, the caretaker at the property and they have asked her to deal with me directly.”  He was trying to put a good spin on it but he could see by the look on the other man’s face that he was puzzled and confused.

“But, who is this caretaker? Do you mean the helpers from the care agency?”

“No, it’s a young woman, living in the apartment above the garage.  She’s there on her own.”

“But, in that case where is Mrs Carmody?  I have tried to contact her, I telephoned but imagined that the number we have is out of date when there was no answer.  I did drive around there a couple of times but found no-one at home.”

“No, well she’s still away, I think it’s Africa isn’t it.”

“Away – Mrs Carmody.  Well, this is very confusing Jed, very confusing indeed.  Mrs Carmody has been in poor health for a while to my certain knowledge.  She has always been quite a solitary soul anyway, since her sister and brother in law died so tragically, and” he waved a hand in the air, “all that awful business with her niece.  I find it very difficult to believe that she is ‘Away’ as you say.”

Jed shrugged his shoulders, he had no response.

Irwin pulled out the file.  These copies of your instructions that you so kindly sent, they are genuine I suppose?”

“Genuine, well yes of course.  I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, the signature seems to match those we have on record, a little shakier perhaps but that’s to be expected as she must be quite old now.”  He peered at the papers on his desk and shook his head.  “I’m uneasy Jed, I am very uneasy.  Perhaps you could ask this caretaker person to see me.  I would like to set my own mind at rest that all is well with our mutual client.  I find it very difficult to believe that she has gone anywhere at all – let alone abroad, it just seems so unlikely.  Of course people change and I haven’t seen her for a couple of years but still…”

“I’ll speak to Libby, I’ll see if I can arrange something but in the meantime do you see any reason why we shouldn’t carry on with the sale.  We are asking for sealed bids by a week next Wednesday?”

“Well of course I can’t expect you to act on the strength of my ‘feelings’ can I so I suppose you must carry on.  Please Jed, I would ask you as a personal favour to try to have this woman come in to see me or at the very least give us a number so that I can speak directly to Mrs Carmody.

He went to the off licence and bought a crate of lager.  He would go in the morning and speak to Libby.  It was time to get tough, he must insist on speaking directly to this mysterious Mrs Carmody.  The thing was underway now, rolling on and from the point of view of Bailey and Herriot it was all just a case of seeing the way to make the most money from the whole thing.  Surely there was no way for it to go wrong.  The papers had been signed and witnessed, so okay he hadn’t seen that happen, how could he when they had been thousands of miles away.  Perhaps, after all he should have been up front with Charles and Simon, told them the exact situation, their experience would have been such a comfort, their approval of the way he was handling things.

Who was he kidding, no-one in their right minds would approve of what he had done, it was flaky at best.

Tomorrow he would be stronger, he would get it all on a proper footing and then he could enjoy the bids and the finalising of the deal.  No more pussyfooting around.

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