Chapter 25. Feelings
Adam was taking Marianne the long way round. The sun coming through after such a lot of rain was very welcome. The blue sky lifted their spirits. They walked through a small gate to the back of the youth centre off Military Road.
“Are you sure we're allowed in here?” Marianne was not one for trespassing even in the name of historical research.
Adam bobbed his head vigorously.
“Yes, yes, this is a public monument. Sometimes it makes me sad so see things like this overgrown, broken down. But then maybe that’s what keeps it safe.”
Backing onto the same woods that Maeve and Orla were walking through, they had arrived. It seemed to be a private garden. Behind the parked vans belonging to the youth club, there was a small building fenced off. It was overgrown with ivy and brambles, but once they got close Marianne could see that there was an old style stone arch over a doorway, in a flint wall, which had bits of redbrick topping it and a roof.
“You see, what people don’t understand is that water is essential to life. This is ingenious.” Adam was clearly in his element. “When Prior Wilbert came up with this system, which I am sure was inspired by Roman engineering……”
Marianne wanted to be interested but really she was just enjoying spending time with Adam. Who probably wouldn’t have been her first choice but she had decided was handsome in a ‘boy next door’ way, so not intimidating. Friend or love interest she wondered so she wasn’t paying attention as he explained the rivalries between the different monastic settlements where access to water was crucial. She nodded as that seemed to be expected, concluding that there were a lot of deeply unpleasant people connected to the church with only a few good ones. Switching the conversation to something more inline with her thoughts.
“And Orla. You two kept in touch since that awful night in the Cathedral?” Marianne was feeling guilty that she had made such a fuss when Orla suggested Adam stay with them. Was there something going on between them that she should know about. Orla hadn’t said anything directly, but clearly liked Adam, again the question, friend or lover was in Marianne’s thoughts.
“Yes, yes. In different ways I owe Orla, and also your mother, my life. I don’t know how to repay them. I thought, maybe if I came to stay I would be able to see what I could do.” Adam hung his head.
Marianne decided that so far the Orla-Adam relationship was platonic.
“Well, let’s enjoy the good weather and see if we can come up with something.” She had an extra spring in her step.
As Adam was still going on about water and how it shaped Canterbury they took the path by the Stour through the town. Staying on green paths most of the way.
The river had broken its banks by Sainsbury’s car park, and had flooded into two large puddles, one with two little girls in boots splashing as the parents watched on, the other with a little boy on a bicycle freewheeling precariously through the deeper water with a father watching holding his head in his hands as he shouted the useless “Be careful!”.
It gave Marianne and Adam a sense of normal life. Lockdown made it feel like a Sunday, everyday.
They passed the Millar’s arms, going into the adjacent park crossing the mill race.
“History has so many answers.” Adam was still talking. “You see the mill, which used to stand over this part of the river, burned down because of shoes.”
“Are you trying to make me ask the question, why? I don’t like quizzes. So just give me the answer.” Marianne had raised an eyebrow, indicating that this could wear thin.
“Ha, ha.” Adam couldn’t understand anyone who wasn’t interested, so assumed she must be joking, “They say that one of the millar’s staff had his shoes repaired with nails in the soles. When he was walking on the stone floor he made some sparks. And poof” He clicked his fingers. “A little spark on dry corn, made a big fire.”
They left the park, staying by the river and passing the Marlowe theatre. Marianne tried moving off the history tour.
“So you grew up in Greece? But you are English.”
“My father was English and my mother thought it a good idea to have a British passport. I have two passports, so personally Brexit is not a problem.” Adam was less interested in present day matters so left it there.
“Tell me about Greece.” Marianne tried again, and quickly added, “not the history, tell me about your home. I’ve read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and that’s all I know.”
“I love my home. But without history there is not much to tell. I can stand on the road by my house and see the sea on one side of the island, then turn and see the sea on the other side. I can hear the bells tied round the goats in the fields.” He was pulling up the familiar picture in his mind's eye. “In the distance in front of me I can see a row of three old windmills that have been converted into holiday homes, and behind me there is an old church.”
“That sounds pretty much like the descriptions I have read. Idyllic. Beaches?”
“Yes of course. You can take a car or a moped for two minutes to the beach. There are two restaurants right by the sea. Blue water. Rocky coves. For English tourists it is perfect.”
His answers were short and there was something about the idea of being an ‘English tourist’ which didn’t sit well with Marianne. This time Adam made the effort,
“Actually, I may have made a mistake. I want to do something meaningful with my life and make a difference. I thought important decisions are made by the government so politics would be the right way into government. And then I thought Cambridge was the best University, so Cambridge. Because my family are from Ireland and France we never had that background knowledge or connections with Oxbridge.”
Marianne needed to talk this through since she got home but hadn’t found the opportunity yet. This was helping her to think. “But I should have done PPE sorry Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, because in the real world ten out of the last thirteen Prime Ministers went to Oxford. Cambridge is for scientists and comedians, they have over seventy Nobel laureates to Oxford's fifty-five.” She sighed, “Now, I’m not sure what to do.”
She hadn’t meant to pour her heart out but he was the first person to ask, and she felt he would understand.
“Hmm, maybe you are looking at this the wrong way. One way to make a difference is to make the laws, that way politics would be the path.” Adam paused to see how Marianne was taking his comments, he didn’t want to offend her. “The other way to make a difference is how you apply the laws, defend the innocent people, or prosecute the guilty.” Sometimes when he wasn’t trying too hard Adam could be very perceptive. “I think you are better with brains than being an actor. Politicians have to be actors, to influence people with speeches. You seem more private.” He tilted his head to one side as he checked in again to see he had lost her before adding. “Law yes, and choose the area of your passion, then be careful not to be misdirected by money.”
Marianne was impressed, she was wrapped in her own thoughts. They had been moving all the time, crossed the high street, and they were halfway down Stour street when Marianne suddenly perked up,
“Oh yes, I’d almost forgotten, Fond’s coffee. Let’s get our coffees now.”
Masks on, they ordered two piccolos, takeaway, and a slice of chocolate tiffin to share, chatting to Kieran and Colin as they waited.
“We’re all right, Pret and Nero’s haven’t opened this time. But we have our regulars which is the most important thing.”
They picked up their coffees as the door opened.
In walked Steve.
Kieran gestured that he had seen Steve and automatically started brewing his flat white.
Not confident in the latest mask wearing and distancing protocols but glad to see Steve, Marianne said,
“Why don’t we pull up a chair for you outside? If you have the time.”
Steve had kept minimal contact with Adam after the events earlier in the year, but he was glad to see that Adam was okay and hadn’t suffered any long term damage.
By the time he joined them, the conversation had turned to Maeve.
“I look around, and I can not see what gift would be right?” Adam paused, “I mean this is not a ‘box of chocolates’ or ‘bottle of wine’ occasion.”
Then Adam looked at Steve as he sat down. Steve’s presence caused a number of thoughts to drift across Adam’s expressive face, as an idea dawned. “Maybe it would be good if I give you a holiday in Greece, on Folegandros? What do you think?” Adam was beaming at his brilliant idea.
Steve looked uncertain, “Isn’t this about Maeve?”
Adam was grinning, “We have three holiday houses, so room for all of you. You get the flights, I do the rest.”
“What about your mother?” Marianne was running through the practicalities.
“She will be fine, she wants to know what I have done to thank you all, this way she will be part of it too. All good.” Adam was absently humming to himself, foot tapping.
Steve and Marianne looked at each other. Marianne didn’t want to answer for the others but it sounded fabulous. Steve was wondering how the accommodation would be arranged, which could be exactly what he wanted and amazing, or a complete disaster. Steve came to the conclusion that it was time Maeve came over to his place.
In unison they said, “that sounds fantastic, but ask Maeve first.”