Chapter 18. Discovery.
Between all of them, Maeve was the only one who could see Edward. Ada had ‘temporarily’ lost her gift, Orla seemed to communicate with younger spirits, so for the moment it was only Maeve. Periodically, Maeve went into the kitchen for tea or snacks and each time she called him, now she was whispering his name, in case he was hiding. Nothing. He wasn’t there.
Before Orla got into her updates, she blurted out,
“Can Adam bubble with us?”
It took Maeve by surprise. Less than a year ago if someone had said that, she wouldn’t even know what they were talking about. Now she knew all too well. Ada had warned her that the girls were growing up. She hadn’t found the time to talk to Pascal about it. But that didn’t matter; she knew what he would say, and she was just putting off making her own decision. No way out now. In those few seconds which felt like hours, she regretted not facing up to her feelings for Steve. If Adam stayed in the house with them, then she wouldn’t be able to add Steve to their bubble. She smiled to herself thinking, well at least I know what I feel about Steve now.
Orla misinterpreted Maeve’s smile as a ‘yes’. So launched in with,
“I love you Mum. You are the best. He can’t go home and if he doesn’t come here he would be all on his own for Christmas.”
Well that’s that decision made, thought Maeve, who didn’t have the heart to crush Orla’s excitement.
“But for Christmas?” Marianne was not happy. For her Christmas was a sacrosanct family time, just the three of them, with of course Ada coming over on Christmas Day for present opening and Christmas dinner. This year in particular she had been counting on Christmas as a special time of childhood rituals. Like a puppy that’s outgrown its basket, she was trying to convince herself that it didn’t matter what happened she could always snuggle in at home, and that would never change.
“How could you! You don’t think of anyone but yourself!” Marianne shouted at Orla as she burst into tears and ran upstairs to her bedroom. Of course there was an element of ‘how could Orla bring a man into the house before she did’. It just wasn’t fair.
Maeve was taken by surprise a second time, she hadn’t seen this coming.
“Orla, that’s fine, we will work it out. There are practical things to be considered. Where will he sleep?” Orla flushed. Practical solutions were Maeve’s forte, she would probably muddle through that way, without ever talking directly to Orla.
“I can move into your office, on the camp bed.” Orla offered, as they didn’t have a spare room.
So thought Maeve, either Orla is too embarrassed or the relationship hasn’t got to that stage yet.
Maeve had resigned herself to the new addition to the household by the time she went upstairs to see Marianne, having first suggested that Orla tidy the table and get the Panettone out. Time for the first seasonal treat, it might temp Marianne out of a sulk.
Neither Marianne nor Orla ever doubted how much Maeve cared for each of them. But sometimes she found herself in the middle seeing both sides and having to mend fences.
She knocked on Marianne’s door. Hearing some muffled sobs she didn’t wait for an answer. Maeve opened the door quietly, slipped in, and sat beside Marianne, who was lying face down in her pillow on the bed. Maeve rubbed her back.
“It’s okay. I know you want things to be like normal, but they aren’t, so maybe this is a good year to try new things and make some new traditions.” No response, but the sobs were easing. “I know it must have been hard this year. Your first year in college, mostly in isolation. Not at all what you were expecting.” Her voice was soft and it was having a soothing effect on Marianne, who eventually moved round, swinging her legs off the side of the bed, she sat up.
“I was so looking forward to it. Just us. Normal. Everything as it should be.” A few more tears escaped. Maeve handed her a tissue. Marianne blew her nose and the tears stopped. That was that.
Maeve smiled at her, as she gave a good hug,
“Well that was never going to happen. We couldn’t have done our ‘Christmas Eve’ Bluewater trip with lunch at Eddie Rocket’s and a big movie, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, or whatever it should have been. The cinemas are closed, and even if they were open there are no big releases this year.”
There was something in the reality of the facts, and Maeve’s grounded attitude that made Marianne laugh,
“I suppose.” She blew her nose again.
Maeve took advantage of the change in mood, “So this year, should be a year of new traditions. First one being that we can start the Panettone today, now. Hot chocolate and cake is an excellent new tradition.”
Within minutes they were round the table again, Marianne having apologised to Orla.
Maeve got her notebook out.
“Ada was right, it's all getting too complicated. We need a re-cap and then let’s start a ‘to-do’ list.”
Marianne said, “Oh, first, I found a place where you might look for Edward. I didn’t go and have a look because I can’t see him. Apparently it’s the only remnant of the Hales mansion which the young Edward built, it’s an old dovecote. But now it's a chapel. And there are some strange stories surrounding it, including tunnels and more importantly ghosts.” She had their full attention.
“It’s not far. It’s about ten minutes walk away. But I don’t think any of us have ever been there.”
Lists forgotten, they all wanted something physical to do. So wrapped up warm they were out the door in less than ten minutes. They stomped down the hill trying to remember the silly walks Maeve had them do as children to make the journey home from school shorter. Giggling at the silliness, good humour was recovered. There were times, Maeve thought, when she could still see the little girls, but those moments were fast disappearing.
Marianne was the guide and had the map out on her phone,
“Okay so we turn left here, along The Terrace. Of course it all makes sense now, it’s called The Terrace because it was the terrace in front of the large Hales mansion.”
As they walked, she filled in more of the detail. The leaves had completely fallen from the trees by now, allowing them to see the layout of the valley through the bare branches stretching round to St Stephen’s Church in front of them.
“So this flat bit of grass would have been their lawn, looking down over Canterbury to our right, directly across there is the wood where you have been walking. And behind us on that hill where the post WW2 houses are, that’s where the big house was. It was huge.”
This was very familiar to all of them, they just hadn’t thought about it before. Within a few minutes they were walking beyond their everyday world, into a housing estate that they never needed so had never noticed. Round the bend, up a steep incline and there it was. Bizzare that none of them had ever noticed it before. Here was a strange little circular chapel set back from the road in its own green. The building was made of flint with red brick columns, striped with bands of knuckle bones; a porch had been clearly added. The roof was domed with a glass cupola to let in light, and the whole thing was surrounded by a circle of large lime trees, between the trees were gravestones. The gravestones fanned out radially from a central point, probably the chapel. The gate in the outer railings was locked.
Orla, was immediately walking round the full circle, and shouted across from the far side,
“Hey, you can get in here, something has driven into the railings, it’s easy to climb in.”