Thursday, November 17, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 7

 Chapter 7

Lia froze. This couldn’t be happening. She glanced at Harry who was pale and wide eyed staring at Larry. She grabbed his hand instinctually. Larry was stood in the doorway, still except for his jaw which was trembling. No one seemed to know what to do or how to react. Things like this just don’t happen in real life.

Someone pushed through the small crowd and grabbed Larry into a tight hug, but he stayed rigid in her grip. The bundle of people shifted and seemed unsure whether to look away or try and take charge of the confusing situation they found themselves in.

“Where is he?” Asked the man who had been leaning against the car, “I mean, I suppose, where’s the body?”

“Upstairs.” Said Larry, wiping his face.

“Did you touch anything in there?” Said the woman who had hugged him, who must be his partner, their intimacy was obvious.

“No. Why?” Larry frowned at her.

“Well, it’s a crime scene isn’t it?” She whispered, “I don’t want you to…” she stopped, leaving the rest unsaid, but clear as day in everyone’s minds. The shifting intensified as suddenly everyone wanted to help and flee all at once.

“We should call the police.” Said car leaning guy, and there was nodding.

“Good idea, Tim.” Larry nodded. Car leaning guy, now Tim, moved away to make the call. Lia looked back to Larry who seemed to have aged a thousand years in the last half an hour.

“What do we do?” Harry asked, his voice shaking a little, “Presumably we need to stick around to give statements? Or is that just something that happens on TV?”

No one seemed to know. A gentle rain was falling and Lia couldn’t remember whether it had been raining the whole time or if this was a new thing. It was very surreal being in the centre of something she had seen as drama so often but never expected to experience. No one was shouting or arguing, if anything, it felt like one of the calmest groups of people she’d ever been in. Everyone just seemed bewildered.

“Do you think we can go inside?” Larry’s partner said to him, Larry having seemingly become the defacto leader of the scene since his announcement.

“I don’t know,” Larry shrugged, still deep in his shock, “I guess we’re all regulars? Our finger prints are already all over the pub? How much worse can we make it?”

“A lot worse!” A voice shrieked from the back of the group, “I’m not going in there. No way. What if it’s haunted?”

Heads whipped around to look at a scared looking man.

“We’d stay downstairs, obviously.” Said Larry, “Not going to go tramping through a crime scene.” 

“No way!” The man insisted. “No way am I getting mixed up in something. Look, I’m sorry for Paul and everything - he was a top bloke.”

“Stop it.” Said Tim, rejoining the group, “No one is going to make you go in Mike, but that’s enough. Not the time. Go or stay, but shut up.”

Mike left, and no one objected either to his leaving or to their own entering of the pub, although more because the rain was intensifying than because they actually thought it was a good idea to go in. There was a double horror in Lia’s mind of being in a building with a corpse, and of possibly mixing herself unwittingly into the potential suspects.

The pub was gloomy, but Tim marched over to the enormous pad of light switches and flicked them all up - bathing the room in electric light. The enormity of electric light gave the scene a normality that Lia was definitely craving. It was still cold - the heating wasn’t on and lighting the fire seemed too much, even for a bunch of strangers trespassing in a murdered man’s pub.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked, and Lia nodded without hesitation despite not knowing. What counted for alright in these circumstances?

“I just can’t believe it.” She whispered, “We only saw him this morning. Oh god, Harry, what do you remember of seeing him this morning? We might get questioned?”

“Lia, calm down. We just waved to him stood in his own car park. That was it.”

“But we don’t have an alibi for the afternoon?” Lia’s panic was beginning to build to an insane point where she was having to actively remind herself she had nothing to do with it. With the murder. Her world, already upside down, had swiftly done another about turn and rather than righting itself had gone through a wormhole to another dimension.


There was a loud and insistent knock at the door and everyone in the pub jumped, especially Larry’s partner who let out a loud squeak. Lia almost bit off the the end of her own tongue.

“Police! Open the door!” Came a voice, and every head in the pub turned towards Larry. He stood up, a little shakily and headed for the door, pulling the large handle and opening it. Two police officers stood in the doorway peering in to the pub. Lia felt the fear run through her again that by entering the pub they had made themselves far more connected than they should have. 

“Where is the body?” The taller officer asked, while the other seemed to be making notes of how many people she could see in the room. Lia practised her innocent face.

“Upstairs.” Said Larry, “I shall show you?” The taller officer nodded and followed Larry out of the main room of the pub towards the back stairs to Paul’s living area.

“Did he live alone?” Lia asked Larry’s partner, who was sitting alone now, right next to them.

“Yes.” The woman nodded, “He split from his wife a few years ago and she left. Are you the ones staying in the van?”

Lia nodded and Harry replied, “Yes, we’re Harry and Lia.”

“Gina.” The woman offered a polite hand to shake and Lia and Harry took turns to briefly shake it and smile. They fell back in to silence. It felt a little like being in a detention for something. As close to being in an Agatha Christie as they were every likely to get, or so Lia fervently hoped.

The shorter officer was left looking at the pub full of frightened people. Lia was happy to see she wasn’t the only one shifting uncomfortably in her seat: perhaps some of the others had also seen all the true crime documentaries she had seen about people being wrongly accused and losing their freedom. She squeezed Harry’s hand.

“We don’t want you to worry,” the officer said, pulling out a chair and sitting at an empty table nearest the door, “But we are going to ask you all to remain here. We have apprehended a man on suspicion of the crime, but at this early stage it’s impossible to be sure of the details and therefore we remain open to following any line of enquiry. If you are open to answering some questions I would like to collect as much detail as possible.”

One by one the huddled punters in the pub made their way over and gave as much information as they could. Lia and Harry went together but couldn’t offer much more than that they’d had a nap and walked over.

“And you didn’t hear anything?” The officer asked, raising an eyebrow at Lia.

“No, not a thing.” Lia shook her head vehemently and then worried that her denial would look like over acting. “We have a dog in the camper van too - she didn’t hear anything either.”

“Have you checked with her?” The officer asked.

“No we didn’t think…” Lia started but then noticed that Harry and the officer were smiling. How were they so calm? She understood how the officer was calm; she did this sort of thing all the time, but Harry? How was he suddenly so surprisingly comfortable being on the scene of a murder?

Eventually a group of four or five crime scene specialists arrived. It had taken them a little while to scramble and make their way from Cardiff and some of them looked very annoyed at not being at home for the evening off they presumably thought was in store. The taller officer and Larry came back downstairs, leaving them to gather their samples and take pictures. Larry took a seat and grasped hands with Gina.

The taller officer cleared her throat, “Thank you very much for your patience this evening. We completely understand how traumatising and shocking this must be for you all. Paul was a very much loved member of this community and we will miss him dearly.” Lia realised with a pang that while the crime scene specialists might come from the city, these two officers were locals and just as likely to have been regulars in this pub as any of the rest of the people here. “We apprehended a man this evening who has made an admission of responsibility for the events here tonight. It’s too early to say any more than this, and we ask you to try not to spread any rumours or gossip in order to allow the legal process to play out justly. We only make you aware so that you can feel as safe as possible in your homes this evening.”

Lia shivered. The thought of going back to the thinly walled motor home now made her feel very unsafe. Perhaps they should head home, or try to find a hotel?

“Now we are going to have to ask you to leave, but please make sure you leave contact details with myself or my colleague as there may be more questions we have to ask you.”

There was general rustling as people began gathering coats and bags and making their way to the door of the pub. Lia and Harry looked at each other and stood up.

“Back to the van.” Lia said shakily and Harry nodded, frowning.

“We could go to a hotel?” Harry offered, and Lia began considering it but a voice broke in on her thoughts.

“Oh! Of course, you don’t want to be alone in your van this evening. Please, we have a spare room and we would happily host you so you don’t have to be alone?” It was Gina, Larry’s wife and her eyes flicked beseechingly from Lia to Harry and back again.

“Oh! That’s so kind, but, we have our dog with us and -“

“It is no bother.” Larry said, standing behind Gina and rubbing her upper arms, “We have two dogs and would be happy to have all three of you to stay if you would like company?”

Lia felt like it was a definite yes but looked to Harry for confirmation. He nodded slightly and she jumped at his agreement. And that was how Lia, Harry and Florence found themselves in the back of Larry and Jean’s car and on the way to a house they had never seen, to seek comfort after the murder of a man they barely knew in a town they had only just arrived in.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 6

 Chapter 6

Harry’s eyes settled on the gift shop corner of the museum over to the right of the door they had come in through. “I bet they sell them in there,” he said, “come on.” And took Lia’s hand to lead her over.

There were shelves around the walls with various books about the local area and folk mythology from around the world. By the till was a rotating stand covered in magnets and bookmarks. As Harry spun it round to face them, they saw that hanging down the third side were about 35 necklaces that looked identical to the one Lia held in her hand. Some had names attached on a small silver extension underneath the gem and others were plain as hers was.

“Ah!” Lia exclaimed, comparing the necklace she had found to the ones hanging. They were cleaner and newer, having not spent days or possibly weeks/months living in a field, but they were undoubtedly the same.

“Wait, did you think we had stumbled upon the necklace of a real life witch?” Harry’s eyes sparkled as he grinned at Lia and pointed a finger at her.

“Well…” Lia instantly blushed, wondering if that’s what she had thought, “No… but…”

“Oh babe, I’m so sorry,” Harry teased, good naturedly, “I should have just whisked us out of here to seek her out by a lake. I was too straightforward. Hang on, pretend you can’t see the necklaces and we’ll go on a literal witch hunt.”

She batted at his coat half heartedly, laughing hard at his mockery and her feeling of silliness at having momentarily wondered if she had indeed found a spooky souvenir that belonged to a witch. She didn’t even believe in witches and magic for goodness sake! How had she managed to have that half moment? Life truly had turned upside down!

“Stop bullying me.” She mock pouted at Harry, “Come on - let’s get back to Flo Rida. That’s my new nickname for Florence by the way. She’ll be wondering if we’ve abandoned her.”

Still laughing and taking the piss out of each other they wandered back out to the camper van. Florence didn’t seem to have been particularly worried about them; as they opened the door to the interior she merely raised her head and looked at them, wagging furiously but making no attempt to jump off the sofa seat and go to them. She clearly hadn’t slept well over night either.

Harry drove them back to the campsite and they parked back where they had been the night before and decided to treat themselves to a little self-indulgent nap. Lia pulled her laptop out of her rucksack and they put a film on to ignore while they dozed.

As the credit music roused Lia from her nap, well over an hour later, Lia stretched like a cat on the little bed. “I haven’t had a nap in years!” She yawned.

“I have one nearly every day,” Harry said, he was lying on his back looking more relaxed than Lia had seen him in a long time. As he spoke he pressed his palm up against Lia’s and seemed almost to be comparing their hands. His palm was bigger than hers but her fingers were longer, and slimmer. She let him play with her hands.

“Every day?” She said, twisting round.

“Yeah. Work was so boring. The first time I was just tired and I really had to close my eyes for twenty minutes because I was barely focusing on the screen. And I slept for like, half an hour, and no one seemed to notice at work at all. I just said I’d been working on a project when I apologised for a reply taking a while. No one questioned it at all. So then… I just started doing it more often and for longer. I pretty much slept for a full hour every afternoon. To be honest, I’d started to wonder if I wanted to maybe have someone notice. If I’d got told off, or fired, or whatever, it would have been proof I was necessary at the job. When you can literally be unconscious and not have anyone notice… it’s not very fulfilling.”

“I don’t think I’d get away with that at work.” Lia mused, scrunching her fingers and forcing harry’s fingers down to match hers, “Viv’s nice and everything but I think if she just found me curled up under the non-fiction for an hour a day she would want to have words.”

“Yeah, you’re lucky.” Harry pulled his fingers away and back under the duvet.

“Maybe you should be job hunting?” Lia said, turning over to properly face him. “What do you want to be doing that you wouldn’t want to just nap through?”

“What that would pay the same as I’m on now?” He sighed.

“Well, not necessarily. We’d have to have enough coming in to stay afloat, but we don’t need you to be on exactly as much as now.”

“But if I take a pay cut, we take a huge step back don’t we?” He said, still staring at the increasingly dark ceiling.

“Step back from what?” She was propped up on her elbow now, looking at him intently.

“From all the next steps… you know… maybe paying for a wedding or whatnot?”

“Oh shit who you got to buy a wedding for?!” Lia sprang her eyebrows up in mock surprise and grinned stupidly at him.

“So you wouldn’t want to get married then?” He turned onto his side to face her and she sensed that he wasn’t playing around.

“Harry.” She bought herself time with his name, “Honestly?” He nodded. “I wasn’t feeling so great about us before this.” She gesticulated into the air to signify their trip away being “this”. “I wasn’t feeling so great about it all. Clammy, remember? Suddenly, I feel like you’re back and I hadn’t even properly processed that you’d been away. So… so if you want to change jobs and it keeps you here then I think I can forego a big party and a white dress.”

The silence that followed was big.

“What do you want to do for dinner?” Harry said eventually and Lia laughed out loud. “I can’t choose a new job on an empty stomach.” Harry protested, “We can talk and eat.”

“We still failed to go to a supermarket.” Lia pointed out, “I blame Flo Jo.” Florence didn’t move at all, still dozing at their feet.

“We have some bread, or those pot noodles?” Harry craned his neck at the kitchen portion of the van. “Or…” he said, just as Lia also said it, “Yeah, let’s go back to the pub.”

“We can hand in the necklace just in case any local is absolutely forlorn at the loss of their souvenir.”

“God I bet every single kid who lives round here has had to go there on a school trip at some point and either has that necklace or a pencil sharpener from there.”

They clambered off the bed and began to change into slightly more presentable outfits. Lia brushed her hair and peered at her make up bag before deciding she couldn’t be bothered. There wasn’t a mascara in the world that could erase the “I slept under a van last night” look.

She shrugged, still contemplating the necklace, “Yeah well, you never know. And if no one claims it I can always just fling it back into the grass and see if it makes its way back to the pixie of the loch or wherever.”

“I can’t believe you thought for a second there was going to…” Harry started again and Lia threw a pillow at him.

“I obviously didn’t really think there was going to be, I was just pointing out… Oh shut up! I know there’s no such thing as witches.”

They locked up the van, being careful to take both sets of keys and carry them in separate pockets for maximum chance of not having to live a repeat of the night before.

“There’s no lights on.” Harry said, flicking the torch light momentarily up onto the side of the restaurant.

Lia groaned, “Oh no, don’t tell me they’re not open! I’m starving!”

As they came round the side of the building, however, there were plenty of cars in the car park and about ten people milling about around their cars or near the door. There wasn’t a light in sight on the front of the building either.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked someone stood leaning on a bonnet and removing their phone from their ear.

“They don’t seem to be open,” the man replied, “we just turned up for a drink but Paul seems to be AWOL.” Lia guessed that Paul must be the Liverpudlian landlord’s name. “Tried his mobile but no answer.”

“Were they definitely meant to be open?” Lia asked, shivering slightly in the cold breeze.

“Always are. Only shuts when he has to, does Paul. Plus that couple over there had a reservation for the window table, and Joe, the new bar guy is stood shivering his nuts off because he was on the rota and can’t get in.”

“Wouldn’t a chef have been in early?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, that’s a good point.” The man said, straightening up and pushing himself off the bonnet, “Larry, wouldn’t Dean have been in by now?”

A man, Larry presumably, looked up and wandered over. “Yeah, that’s a good point. Where’s Dean?”

Lia and Harry hung back unsure what to do, “Shall we just go back to the van?” Lia said quietly, “Maybe he’s not very well? We can just have those pot noodles.”

“Maybe the witch got him?” Harry joked and Lia swatted ineffectually at his coat and then leant in for a kiss. “Let’s give it a minute. Maybe he was having a nap too and that banging will wake him up.”

They watched a group of four people wander round the back of the pub to see if they could discover Paul.

“It’s a nice community, isn’t it?” Harry said cheerily, “Like, if a pub was shut near us we’d just drive off and find a new one. It’s nice that they know him well enough to know this is weird and they stick around to work it out. Maybe we should move here?”

Lia frowned, “Harry, I love you, and I really want to find a way for you to be happy again, but there is a limit and that limit is this idea. No.”

Harry laughed loudly, “Fair enough. Well, maybe we just need to make more friends round our way.”

“Even if they do open tonight, it’s not going to do my rumbly tummy much good if there’s no chef.” Lia mused, rubbing her empty stomach and wishing that the museum gift shop had stocked sandwiches alongside the witch necklaces.

“Good point.” Harry conceded, “Yeah, come on, let’s trudge back. We can open that bottle of wine and then we won’t notice that those pot noodles are gross.” They turned to go and as they took their second or third step, lights flicked on in the pub and a cheer went up from the punters in the car park.

“Oh!” Lia said, “Oh well that’s good, shall we stay for one? Might as well make it worth his while opening?” Harry nodded and they went to the cluster of people stood by the front door. There was a scraping sound as the bolt was pulled within and then the door opened to reveal the man they assumed was Larry. A small cheer went up from the customers waiting but it dampened quickly when they caught the look on his face.

“He’d dead.” Larry said, looking from face to face in shock.

“What do you mean dead?” Someone said, pushing forward to the front of the small group.

“I mean we found him… there’s blood everywhere. He’s dead. He’ll never speak again.”

“Blood?” Said another voice, shocked and scared at once.

Lia looked at Harry in alarm. What on earth was going on?

“There was a knife.” Larry muttered, “Paul… Paul is dead. I think he was killed by someone?”

So! There’s been a murder!

You dreadful people killed poor Paul!

SO, what happens next, and as we’ve had such a dreadful outcome here with a mysterious option I’m going to let you straight up choose…

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 5

 Chapter 5

It was probably one of the best and worst nights of Lia’s life. After about the age of 13, maybe 15, you don’t expect to giggle through an uncomfortable night of sleeping on the floor, but there she was: snorting with laughter every time she thought too hard about where they were and what they were doing. She would settle down and think she was drifting off and then feel the shaking of Harry’s silent laughter next to her and it would set her off again.

They tried their best to keep Florence tucked between them so her poor joints would be as warm and dry as possible but she clearly got annoyed with the squirming and noise coming from Lia and Harry and so squirmed away to lie down near their feet.

The cold burrowed deep into the muscles around Lia’s back and shoulders and she felt all night as if she were at least partially awake. The rain thrummed and tinked off the camper van and while she stayed dry she felt achingly stiff and cold. Despite this though, every time she thought she was so cold and tired she might be about to get grumpy and sad, she refelt the ridiculousness of it all sink back in and she began to laugh again. And the laughter seemed to let the tight muscles of her cold spine relax. Morning would come. She held Harry’s hand and tried to see the entire night as an anecdote that they would interrupt each other in the telling of.

At first she wasn’t sure if the sun was coming up, but then the greyness of the light creeping in turned into colour and they emerged from under the camper van.

“That,” Harry said, rubbing his face vigorously, “was awful.” And Lia laughed all over again.

“Yes, yes it was. Right let’s look for those keys shall we?”

They retraced their steps back towards the pub, eyes fixed on the ground, combing the grass for a glint of silver.

“It was roughly here wasn’t it?” Lia said, feeling hope draining from her that they were going to find the keys and avoid an expensive locksmiths call.

“I think so. Do some sniffing!” Harry said, huffing great lungfuls of air in and making Lia laugh again. She’d missed laughing at him. Her heart twanged again at the realisation he’d stopped playing and she’d failed to notice.

“What are you doing?”

“Well, we only lost the keys because we were poop collecting,” Harry explained, sniffing in again, “Maybe there’s a remnant that can lead us there?”

Lia belly laughed, “What a disgusting trail of breadcrumbs!” They moved slowly through the dewy grass hoping the grumpy landlord wouldn’t see them and think they were totally mad. “Wait, what’s that!” Something glistened in the shiny beads of water on the grass and Lia pounced. “Aha!”

But when she lifted the shining object out of the long grass, being careful to look out for stray swipes of dog excrement, it wasn’t a key at all but a locket on a long chain.

“Key?” Harry said excitedly, stepping closer to where she was inspecting her find.

“No!” Lia held it out to show him, “it’s a necklace.”

“Oh wow, that’s really lovely.” Harry tried to flick the locket open with his thumb but it was stuck fast.

“It is,” Lia agreed, “but I don’t think it’s going to help us get to clean clothes and a toothbrush. My mouth feels like it’s full of moss.”

“I’d love a shower that wasn’t just Florence’s tongue.”

Lia pocketed the necklace and they continued their search - necks aching from craning down. Lia’s boot stepped down and she felt something hard under it. “Oh!” She jerked her knee up quick and there, lying innocently beneath her foot was the key. “Harry! I’ve got it!”

“Oh Lia yes! Oh thank god!” They raced back to the van, with Florence loping excitedly next to them, probably wondering what these bizarre humans were up to. They immediately put some water on to boil for some much needed caffeine and then took in turns to shower and clean the night off themselves.

They persuaded the grill to produce some seriously uneven toast and settled into the squashy seats of the van to eat breakfast.

“Well,” Lia said, chewing her toast and already dreaming of the next slice, “The night time was a bit of a disaster but this morning bit is good! Maybe if we’re a bit more careful we can complete an entire nice day on this trip of a lifetime?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, adding more jam to his toast, “Speaking of which, what do you want to do today? Tired? Want to stay here? It’s very quiet isn’t it?”

“Dude I work in a library, I’m ok with quiet.” Lia said, standing up to offer more innocent bread to the whims of the grill. “I actually fancy exploring though - what do you reckon?”

“Yeah, me too! I’m glad you said that. Shall we see what’s in the area we could do? I think my battery should have some charge in it by now.” He leaned across to where his phone was creeping back to life and then began scooping through his browser looking for local excitements.

They finished up breakfast, even enjoying doing the washing up due to the novelty of the camper van. Harry offered up options for their day inbetween drying plates and knives and they eventually settled on a local folklore museum that seemed like it would either be very interesting, so underfunded it was actually quite funny or, both. They unhitched the camper van from the electricity post and Lia let Harry negotiate back across the grass and out onto the road. The landlord was stood, silently, in the car park as they pulled away. They waved to one another but did not say hello.

From the outside of the museum, it seemed like their second guess about the funding of the museum might just be accurate. It was tiny looking. Barely more than an extended shed really but the sign outside it looked so lovingly made that they decided to go in and enjoy.

A friendly woman on the door welcomed them and exchanged their cash for two raffle tickets to prove entry paid. Lia wanted to giggle at the unnecessary admin, but received her raffle ticket with glee and slipped it into her coat pocket. They followed the instructional arrows to the start of the displays and began to look at the artefacts and plaques that were laid out across the shelves and tables around the edge of the room.

The first table was filled with pottery and other finds from archaeological digs that had taken place in the region over the last decades. There were pots that indicated Roman invasions, various weapons and building tools and bits and pieces of pottery and jewellery.

“If you could live in any time from history, which would it be?” Harry asked, musing past some spear shafts.

“Am I a woman still?” Lia asked, following him slowly.

“Yes, why?” Harry frowned at her.

“Well, it makes a huge difference doesn’t it? I’m not going to go back to most times as a woman because it’s basically signing up to torture until I die. Maybe romans? If you could social climb or manipulate well enough you could be pretty powerful as a woman then.”

“Yeah ok. What about as a man?”

“Probably still Roman. They had good food and wine.” They both laughed, “How about you?”

“I know it sounds weird, but I’d be interested to go and be some sort of pre-Roman Celtic tribe maybe? Maybe I’m just still bored and frustrated with life, but I could go for some hunting and gathering. Some rugged living!”

“One night under a camper van wasn’t enough for you?” Lia laughed, massaging the spot where she could still feel the ghost of a stone lodged in her shoulder blade.

“Good point. Can I be a hunter gatherer with a pillow?”

“I think that depends how good a hunter you are.”

They continued moving round the displays and finally came to the end of the museum.

“Ah, the Grasping At Straws section.” Harry muttered quietly so none of the staff would hear. It was a collection of local tall tales and myths of different sprites and spirits that supposedly haunted and protected the area. “I like this guy.” He said, and read Lia the story of a spirit that haunted local waterways spooking fish into hiding if fishermen didn’t offer up at least half of their sandwiches.

“What about life pre-sandwiches?” Lia whispered, and Harry muffled a giggle. “How about this one?” Lia read Harry the details of what to do if you encountered a pixie who wanted to read you a riddle.

“I’m surprised she didn’t stick her head under that van last night. A good riddle would have been the icing on the bloody cake!” Harry whispered.

“I could have done with a little heat from this dragon.” Lia said, pointing to a medieval sketch of a dragon who had apparently been seen nearby. “Then my back wouldn’t be so stiff right now.”

“Speaking of stiff…” Harry started and Lia raised her eyebrows at him. He grinned and looked at the floor, swatting her arm, “Filth young lady. No, I mean we should get back to Florence.”

“Yep,” Lia agreed, and she was just turning to leave the display when a drawing caught her eye. It was right down in the bottom corner of the display, faded a little and partially hidden by a book leaning against the display board. She moved the book and looked closer at the sketch. It was a necklace. A very familiar looking necklace with a long chain and a dark green gem on the front of it. “Harry look.” She said, directing his attention to the drawing, and pulling the necklace they had found that morning from her pocket.

“The Lost Locket of The Lake Lady,” Harry read out, “God that’s a tongue twister isn’t it. The Lost Locket of the… yep, we get it, The Lost Locket is said to have been stolen from the Lake Lady during her hundred years of weeping. She took to a cave in a nearby lake to mourn the death of her one true love and as she wept, an unknown thief snuck in and stole the locket from her. The locket was said to contain the final piece of her heart and without it she is unable to ever rest. Whenever there are floods nearby it is said that the Lake Lady, whose name was Ceridwen, is weeping again and may continue to weep until she is reunited with the missing piece of her heart and allowed to die. Crikey. That’s some rough bloody luck for Ceridwen.”

“Harry look, though… look at the necklace I found this morning?” She shoved the necklace towards him and pointed again at the drawing, “they look exactly the same!”

“Oh wow, yeah that is weird…” said Harry and glanced up to look around the room.

Is there a gift shop?




Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Laura Lexx Writes You A Book - Chapter 4

 Chapter 4

Viv nodded sympathetically and looked back to her computer monitor to check rotas. “Of course we can organise that,” she said, although her face looked less certain in the light of the screen, “It’s too important not to.” There can’t be many bosses in the country this nice, Lia thought to herself and then said it out loud to Viv. “We work in a library, not a surgical theatre.” Viv said, smiling, “Books are the most important thing in the world, after people.” Lia felt her eyes prickling a little bit.

She and Harry had stayed up well into the night talking. It felt like it had been months, years maybe, since they’d talked so far beyond the contents of the current day. Since they had had discussions that weren’t shopping lists and work schedules, television choices and meal prep. They talked big.

“Let’s jump out then.” Lia had offered up, “I know you feel stuck, and I’m not saying we can fix that all in one go, but we can at least blow the dust off.”

“What do you mean?” Harry shifted his weight off his left arm where he had been leaning over. She watched him shake the blood back down to his hand. Florence had burrowed her head down into the elbow of his other arm and Lia watched with affection as he tried to get comfortable without disturbing her.

“Well look, I know we can’t do anything we want all the time, but… it’s not like we’re hand to mouth. Let’s go somewhere? Take some time off work and go and do an adventure.”

“How are we going to pay for it?” Harry frowned.

“We’ve got the savings account.”

“That’s savings.” Harry said automatically.

“And what are we saving for?” Lia felt buzzed.

“The future.” He replied limply.

“What future? If you’re sad now, what’s the point of building that all up and being sad and getting sadder? Sorry, I don’t know if sad is the right word. I don’t want to be getting this wrong.”

He just smiled, “Sad seems about right. Small. I feel like a small person.”

“Well you’re not. And we’re not. And, look, we’re lucky people who have savings and don’t have to be stuck. So let’s get out.” And so they built a plan. “What are you craving?” She asked, leaning over the arm of the sofa to grab the notepad that kept all their board game scores in.

“An adventure that’s not frightening. And to go home. And to be far away. Somewhere familiar and refreshing. Can you make all that happen?” He had his eyes closed and was laughing to himself a little bit. Lia felt it hit her for the millionth time that evening how different he was being. She was looking at him and thinking “yes this is Harry” and then wondering who he had been for the previous months if not this, and how she hadn’t noticed him changing?

“Cor you don’t want much do you? Ok… let me have a think.”

She’d gone to bed swirling. A mix of euphoria, and fear that all the ideas would seem grey and unrealistic come the morning. But the trick to making a plan realistic was to kick it into action and the first stop for that was Viv.

“Three weeks then?” Viv looked at Lia. Lia nodded. “Are you ok?” Viv asked, and Lia swallowed and blinked away the instant heat across her face and chest.

“I’m… I’m very sad.” She said, “But, I hope we caught it in time. Maybe I’m about to remember that I could be happier too?”

Viv nodded. “Off you go then.” She said cheerily and rubbed a hand briefly on the back of Lia’s.

“Oh, no, I can work today - I don’t want to leave you short and Harry is working anyway.”

“I’m sure we can cope. It’s a Wednesday in Taunton library. It’s basically a place for parents at the end of their budget and patience to hide in for free until relief arrives. We can manage with three of us.”

So Lia got on the bus. The bus she had craved for so long, and cursed Harry silently for not letting her be on. It smelt of damp and other people and stopped every 15 yards between the library and their suburb. She found herself furious at the bus. How dare you have turned my head from a man who I love. Stupid bus.

She put her key in the door and pushed it open to find Florence bouncing around on the door mat wanting to say hello. This was definitely a better way to come home. Ok dog ownership, you win this one.

“Lia?” Harry’s voice cam through from the front room.

“Viv is cool with it!” She called back, leaving her keys on the sideboard. And kicking shoes off between much requested rubbings of Florence’s head.

“I see that!” Harry met her in the door way and she took a moment to hold his waist and kiss him in greeting. They held eye contact and she focused on him, on his face and tried to make a moment for them.

“So, I’ll call the guy and see if I can collect the van tonight then?” She grinned nervously at him. “God I hope it’s as nice as it seemed last night?!”

“Yeah. Are we mad?” He smiled back and she had to break eye contact, feeling too close, too exposed.

“Maybe. But we’ll deal with that later. We’re sorting out sad right now.”

He’d gone back to his desk for one last meeting and she’d gone upstairs to pack. They got a taxi out that evening to the van and drove it home immediately having fallen in love with the shabby little bed they barely fit on and the miniature kitchen. What on earth were they doing.

Thursday morning they loaded everything they could possibly assume they needed into their new home and set off, fervently hoping Florence wasn’t the car sick kind of dog.

The Brecon Beacons felt right. Home, but new to them. Far away, but not scarily far away. Beautiful, windswept, refreshing, and near enough to a city that if this whole idea was ludicrously less romantic when they started doing it they could give up and find a hotel.

The van was much less intimidating once it was on a motorway and Lia was trying to get to grips with it before they reached the windier roads of Wales where manoeuvring would be more complicated.

They listened to loud, nostalgic music and sang and laughed. Lia made sure to keep reaching out for Harry when he took over the driving, and she noticed his hand creeping over hers on the gear stick when she was in the drivers seat. It was nice. Within a few hours of tarmac they were pulling into a rather bleak looking field behind a very isolated pub and hooking the van up to an electricity main.

“Toilets are there. It’s got a sink. Are you eating with us?” The man who owned the pub and field asked. He was a short man with curly hair who looked like he’d been born in a wax jacket. Lia and Harry looked at each other.

“Yes,” Lia said, reading Harry’s eyebrow raise, “Yes, we’ll eat with you.” The thought of getting the van back out of the field and finding a supermarket now was not appealing. The landlord left them too it and they pulled on their wellies and marched Florence out into the wilderness for an explore. She stuck by them, clearly not too eager to delve deep into hedges unknown and Lia felt very in synch with the dog’s priorities. There was rain threatening and so at the point where Florence started to slow, her joints clearly not as greased as they once were, they headed back to the van and sat in the near silence.

“We did it.” Lia said. “We changed the world.”

“Yeah.” Said Harry. “Yeah.”

“I can’t believe this time two days ago I was pre-emptively mad at you for being late to pick me up and now we’re in Wales in a van with a dog and no plan.”

“I forgot you could just do different stuff.” Harry said.

“Yeah.” There was a companionable silence while they both breathed it all in. “You still want to go for dinner at the pub? Not too late to change that too if we want!”

“No, let’s go! I assume dogs are welcome?”

They put more music on while they got ready and then tramped across the field to the pub. Florence did a very neat piece of business on the way and Lia had her first experience of scooping a poop, having quite resolutely left the garden ones to Harry so far. Depression or no depression the dog was his idea and therefore the poops his responsibility. She knew she’d have to get over that at some point though and yanked a poo bag out of her pocket and got stuck in. Not too bad. Squashy, and one of the only times where warm was repulsive, but not too bad. The drizzle was now coming through on its threats and so they hurried across to the pub.

They were the only ones camping so the field was dark and quiet but when they pushed open the heavy wooden pub door they were pleased to find a good number of people inside despite zero cars outside it. Absolutely no one keen to be the designated driver, even on a Thursday.

Dinner was filling and hearty, with a much better vegetarian option than Lia would have expected. She would have felt guilty for expecting badly of such a remote location but all her guilt strings were twanging a Neglect of Harry note and so she just pushed it away for now. It would find her again in the middle of the night some time when she desperately wasn’t interested in thinking about it.

It was only as the landlord was clearing his throat and standing near their table holding a large ring of keys that Lia looked up from the conversation and noticed they were the last people left in the pub. Somehow, three hours had raced by full of conversation and food and an absolute focus on being in the present. They apologised for not noticing they were holding him up and made their exit. They heard the bolt scrape on the door as it closed behind them and they giggled and linked arms, Harry’s spare hand shining a torch ahead of them.

“Oh no I feel terrible! How long did we keep him going for?”

“I don’t know! I didn’t really notice people leaving!”

“I’ve not had a night like that where I wasn’t thinking about tomorrow in a long time!” Lia giggled. “I’m not even drunk, I was just fascinated by you!” They stopped in the dark and kissed. It was beautiful, until Florence wondered what the stopping was about and jumped up Lia’s legs to get her attention. Lia laughed into their kiss and they broke apart, Harry leaning his forehead in to rest it on hers.

“I love you.” He said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t talk to you earlier.”

“It doesn’t matter.” She said, and they held hands as they made their way through the rain across the mud and back to the van. They stopped outside and Lia removed Florence’s lead while Harry unlocked the door.

“You’ve got the keys.” Said Harry, as Lia straightened up from removing the lead and realised he hadn’t been unlocking the door.

“Oh sorry,” she said, and patted her pockets listening for the jangle. Nothing. “I don’t think I have?” She looked at him.

“You locked up, as we were leaving didn’t you?” He patted his pockets to check. Lia felt her stomach sink.

“Yeah, I did… I locked the van, would have slipped the keys in this pocket along with the… Oh god. They must have fallen out when I pulled out a dog poo bag. Wasn’t there a spare?”

“Yeah it’s in the van.”

“Well that’s not helpful!”

They stared at each other and then laughed a touch hysterically.

“Where did she poo?”

“Erm, somewhere between here and the pub… oh we’re never going to find the keys tonight. It’s so dark.”

“Shall we go back to the pub?” They turned to look across the field and just as Lia’s eyes landed on the building the last light in the windows went out. They couldn’t help but laugh.

“What are we going to do?”

“Erm…” Harry looked around, “Under the van?”

“What about it?” Lia was blank.

“Do we try and sleep a bit under the van and then seek out the keys in the morning?”

“I suppose… I mean… Oh god. Poor Florence. She needs to stay dry. Yes ok… I mean… let’s try it.”

Trying to persuade a spaniel to join you in crawling under van in the pitch black onto damp grass is not easy but they managed to get her to creep underneath with them and placed her in between them and inside their coats so that she could stay as warm and dry as possible.

“The poor thing. She’s going to wonder what she’s got herself into.” Lia muttered, stroking Florence’s soft head. Harry began to shake with laughter. “What?” Lia asked, trying to make out his face in the dark, “I mean… except for the obvious? What?” She tried to shift her weight and he shoulder caught on the underside of the van. This was ridiculous.

“Those poor people from the dog shelter. They worked so hard to check we were absolutely the right people to take care of her and it was such a waste of time. That very careful home visit asking where she’d sleep and where her food and water would be and the little monkey is here in Wales sleeping under a van in the rain.”

“Are we terrible people?” Lia asked, Florence was already asleep so Lia wasn’t terribly worried about her at the moment, but she didn’t know enough about dogs to know whether this was going to scar her for life.

“I don’t know,”Harry said, “but at least I vaguely feel like a person again.”

So, the next morning… do they find the keys?

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Yes, and something else
  4. No, but they meet someone