He was sitting at the table in the middle of the large, farmhouse-style kitchen that had replaced the funny old add-on from her days in the house, eating a sandwich. He gestured to a second one on a plate opposite and she sat to eat, more composed than she thought she would be.
He swallowed. “Are you alright? I’m sure we can find somewhere else for you to stay.”
“No, honestly, this is fine. The interior is so different, in a good way, I’ll forget I’m even in the old house.”
“The garden will probably be different too. One of the owners is a bit of a hobby gardener.”
“Yes, I vaguely noticed the front garden looking quite a bit more abundant than before. I’m looking forward to seeing the back.”
He looked at her closely. “Are you really?”
She sighed. “Yes and no. I will be fine here though, there’s no need to worry about me being overwhelmed by nostalgia or anything. Pythia’s list of projects is far too long for me to have any kind of time for that.”
That earned her the smile she’d been aiming for and he left soon afterwards with a stern order to call if she needed anything at all.
Alone, she wandered from room to room, wondering why she was so reluctant to step outside. The kitchen blended into a conservatory, and the view of the garden beyond looked lovely. She scowled at herself, retrieved her camera from her chosen bedroom and marched out of the conservatory door.
Once in the garden, her feet followed an automatic path, past the herbs and vegetables in their raised beds, across the paved terrace where her father had liked to sit and unwind on summer evening, over the lawn, now carved with flower beds, and into the little wood separating the garden from the fields beyond.
Just before the fence, she found it, her spaniel, Trixie’s grave. It was still there, and it looked like someone had been taking care of it. She knelt, running her fingers over the clumsy little headstone she’d placed there. The ink from the black marker pen she’d used to write Trixie’s name and a short tribute on it had faded to nothing more than a few odd little marks, but it was still there, and she finally let herself crumple and cry.
Eventually, her tears ran dry and she lay curled on the ground, next to the memory of her dog.
The sound of a throat clearing from the other side of the fence made her wish that ground would just open up.
A man spoke. “I’m not wanting to interfere or anything but, well, do you need any help?”
Calypso stayed where she was and shook her head. “No, thank you. I just needed a cry.”
“Alright then, but if you find you do, need anything I mean, I’m just over the wall. I’m in the Old Stables.”
Oh what a wonderful way to meet the neighbour. She pushed herself up to a sitting position, horribly aware of the dirt and leaves decorating her hair, skin, and clothes but when she turned to speak to him, he had gone.
She trudged back up to the house, drained and exhausted but somehow cleansed.
At the door, she remembered her camera, dangling from her wrist. She turned to take a quick snap of the garden, then froze. A huge owl was sitting in one of the old oaks, its amber gaze fixed on her.
She brought the camera up, zoomed in, and clicked a photo, then went inside.
She slept well, and woke early, wandering down to the kitchen still wrapped in a warm fog of doziness. Tea in hand, she went to look out at the garden and nearly dropped the mug. The owl was there again, or maybe still there.
She opened the door and stepped onto the flagstones outside. The owl tipped its head to one side, then opened wide wings and took off into the soft morning light.
The weather closed in at lunch time, so the weekend was spent indoors, reading, researching and working on the various projects and tasks Pythia had outlined for her.
She caught glimpses of the owl every morning and evening through the rain. She wondered if he’d made his home in the wood at the end of the garden and was offended by her intrusion, or whether he was keeping an eye on her for other reasons.
It was Tuesday before it was dry enough to venture outdoors again and even then, she had to stay on the roads and pathways. The shoes that had taken her all over London in the quest for interesting photos simply could not stand up to acres of wet grass and mud.
As it turned out, she felt so awkward wandering the place without a dog at her heels, her walks usually ended in the village high street with an unnecessary trip to the CoOp. Which had changed hands in her absence, she didn’t recognise any of the people working there, nor any of the people coming or going.
On Friday she went through an email from Pythia, the paperwork had been completed for her business formation and Pythia announced she was working with Hercules to transfer her photography use agreement over to that bank account. Something to do with tax.
She’d just decided she needed to do a book-keeping course along with everything else when someone knocked at the front door.
Whoever she may have been expecting to be on the front door step, it was not Hermes. Complete with scowl.
“Nice place to bury yourself Princess. When’s daddy coming to rescue you.”
Calypso shrugged casually. “I haven’t heard from him. And I don’t have his non work contact details. It seems someone’s put a block on me contacting anyone at Z Corp via their work emails or numbers.”
Hermes’s face cleared in comprehension. “Ah, now this delivery makes a bit more sense. Still stupid, but not quite as stupid as I’d assumed.”
“You’re actually here on business?”
He snorted. “You think I’d trek all the way out here if didn’t have to? Still, they could have waited until you got back to civilisation.”
“I presume you’re going to start making sense eventually.”
He handed over a large envelope. “Here, a bunch of lists and notes and things from various of your soft-minded admirers.”
She took that and went to close the door.
“Not so fast, Princess. There’s something else.”
He reached into the back seat of the white, two-door Mercedes he’d arrived in and pulled out a full length garment bag.
Holding it high, he returned to the door and shoved it towards Calypso. “You need to try this on and…”
She choked. “She didn’t.”
“She hasn’t yet, this is the template. You need to try it on and send it back with any alteration notes. And you can do that by way of one of your shiny pretty-boy friends. Sneaking this out of the building under the various top level noses on that floor was no picnic.”
“You enjoyed it.”
He smirked. “Just doing my job.”
With that, smirk still firmly in place, he gave her a jaunty salute and got back in his car.
“See you back in the big smoke next week. Make sure you let me know which bridge you’re sleeping under so I can make any other deliveries.”