And Nobody Knew

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A solicitor's dream comes true.

Submitted: July 13, 2014

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Submitted: July 13, 2014

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AND NOBODY KNEW

The old house had caught Sebastian’s eye as he was driving along the road that led from one small town to the village where he was about to set up his new home. At first, he didn’t take much notice of it, but as he moved closer he was able to see the outline of the wonderful old building. From the road he was travelling on, it was difficult to discern what condition the house was in. Sebastian was not a young man, but a man who had been burnt by life, and was now ready to start a new one. His wife had died after being ill for many years, and all that time he had remained in ignorance of her state. It had been only at the end that he had known. They had had two daughters, and these were still staying at their grandmother’s till he had settled in properly.

The small house was quite adequate for the needs of father and daughters. Sebastian only hoped that they would be all right in it. Sebastian was a solicitor, but was getting near the age when he needed something different to occupy his hours when not in his office. In his youth he had been very attractive to women, and it was as if destiny had it in for him, as he and his late wife had managed to have two daughters but no sons. The new home was in a village that he had chosen for its beauty rather than for practical purposes.

Sebastian stopped the car just inside the small drive outside his home. He opened the front door with the new key which he had made, so that none of the previous tenants would be able to arrive unexpectedly and give them a bad surprise. The hall was small and led off into several rooms. The whole interior was dark and light, from the dark wooden beams and the pale paintwork. The front door had coloured glass in it which added warmth to the strange hall. The staircase led up to the bedrooms and bathrooms. Sebastian wasn’t bothered with any of this at the moment, he had other things on his mind.

 

Jessamine James was the owner of the large house that Sebastian had seen from the road. She was a rotund woman of middle age and had a perpetual scowl on her face. This had always been there, even when times had been better, but since her husband had died ten years before, the scowl had become permanent. She had two sons but they were never at the house and were not at all interested in it. When her husband had died, Jessamine had been given a white elephant as their inheritance. The pile was far too large to maintain, unless a great deal of money was available for spending on its upkeep. There was no way anyone would want to buy it in the state it was in, so she hung on waiting for the miracle to happen. Jessamine spent her days smoking and drinking and gazing into space wondering and thinking of a solution. She was very unkempt and the local people didn’t hold her in much esteem. They felt it was a pity her husband had died, as he had really loved the old house, handed down from father to son.

 

Sebastian’s daughters were travelling to their new home, they were arguing, as was usual between them. Twenty-year-old Arabella, was saying, “Don’t you think it’s exciting that Dad has got a new house for us in the country?”

Eighteen-year-old Lavender, “No, I don’t think it’s so great. Why do we have to move to the boring country when he could have got something smaller than our old home in a town? There are times when I really don’t understand Dad.”

The train they were travelling on arrived at the station and they were greeted by Sebastian, who was standing by the car waiting for them, and not without trepidation. He knew them both very well and was prepared for anything with them. The family dogs were excited when they saw the two sisters, and although on leads jumped up happily to be stroked and cuddled.

“Dad, is it far to the new house?” Lavender asked feeling her stomach sink at the sight of all the trees and plants that lined the road.

“No, not very far to the house, in fact it’s possible to walk to the local shops from it.” He looked out of the car window as he espied the house that he had seen before and which hadn’t given him a moments peace since.

 

As their new home loomed out of the trees and other houses, the two sisters were busy with their own thoughts. Arabella kept hers to herself. She would give it a try, and then decide what to do with the rest of her life. Sebastian had obtained the services of a lady, Mrs Bird, who helped out with the housework in various houses near to his. He had no desire to have arguments with his daughters about cleaning, and he would do the gardening. He rather liked the idea of wrestling with the earth in an attempt to get plants and flowers to grow. The sisters didn’t take long to express their opinions about their new house. Lavender was the first one, “Dad, is this a joke? How on earth are we all going to fit in?”

Arabella tried to soften her sister’s remark, and said, “Perhaps it’s bigger inside and stretches out to the back. Come on, Lavender, let’s see it before passing judgement,” and so Arabella got out of the car with her father and the two dogs.

The hall light was turned on so that they could see their way upstairs following on Sebastian’s heels. They all had their own bedrooms, and Sebastian said, “Anything you don’t like can be changed. I’ve brought all the things from the old house that you asked me not to throw away. The bed linen is the same, but there are no problems if you prefer a change. I’ll leave you to sort yourselves out with unpacking. I’ll be downstairs.”

They listened to their father’s footsteps as he went down to the garden. Arabella’s room looked out onto the back garden and she watched him as he played with their dogs. Lavender went to her room, that looked out onto the front garden and was next to the girls’ bathroom. Sebastian had the large bedroom that had its own small bathroom. There were no fitted carpets but Sebastian had bought them bedside rugs. This meant that every footstep they made would be heard by the others. Lavender was not at all happy about this.

They all had bicycles, so Sebastian suggested that the car should be left for long distances only, or for carrying heavy weights.

 

The first time Jessamine and Sebastian met, was in the estate agent’s office. The agent had informed her that someone was highly interested in purchasing the house. Jessamine knew that she could command a minimum for the building due to its age, but could not expect what she would have liked as its condition was so bad. Neither Sebastian nor Jessamine paid the slightest attention to each other. He was interested in getting the paper work over and done with, and she only wanted the money. Sebastian was, of course, up to date on the details of the previous wills of Jessamine’s late husband and his family, and whether she was the only person responsible for the property. He had no desire to get involved in litigation about the building after he had started out on his biggest business venture. Neither Jessamine nor her sons could see any objection to selling up. The money that Sebastian had paid Jessamine and her sons without haggling, had made them breathe a sigh of relief at being freed from the ancient family home.

 Sebastian had wanted to have an hotel with a spa, gym, and small restaurant for many years. After he had been widowed, the idea became even stronger in his head. He had no wife to tell him she wasn’t at all keen as it represented a lot of work, which was what Sebastian wanted more than anything. He wanted work that had nothing to do with sitting in his office listening to people’s complaints and signing papers. Now he had the house, he could get down to making his dream come true.

 

After dinner that evening, he told his daughters about the purchase of the large house and invited them to drive up and see it. He had asked Jessamine for permission to do so, and she had agreed. The nearer they got to the house the clearer it became that it was in a rather deplorable state, and would need a lot of money and time spent on it, before it could be used for anything.

“Why are we going to see this lady who is still in the house when she has already sold it to you?” Arabella asked her father.

“She’s getting ready to leave and will be gone in a few days’ time. Her sons are only interested in the money, and have no love for the family home.”

“I don’t blame them, it’s a horrible old dump. I don’t understand why you’ve spent good money on it,” Lavender moaned.

Jessamine was waiting at the door when they arrived and let them in without any preamble. She was a little afraid that the two girls might have the same ideas as her own sons.

“Would you like to see over the house, your father has already done so,” she said.

“I’d like to see everything,” Arabella said.

Lavender said nothing.

Jessamine took Arabella over the house and Sebastian went into the garden with Lavender, where she remained sulking, with her father ignoring her.

Arabella had not the slightest idea why her father had bought the house, and Jessamine knew nothing at all. Sebastian had made up his mind that he’d keep it a secret for as long as possible.

“Do you want any of the paintings or pieces of sculpture?” Jessamine asked him.

“Are you giving them to me or offering to sell them?” Sebastian asked.

“I don’t suppose for one minute that my new abode will have space for all these things, that’s why I’m leaving them here for you. What do you think, do you want them, or not?”

Sebastian thought it might be a good way of decorating the old place when it was done up, so he readily accepted her gift.

 

When the money from the sale was in her bank account, Jessamine took no time in leaving ‘the monster house’, as she had always called it. On her way through the village to the next chapter in her life, not once did she look out of the car windows as she sped on her way to London. Her sons had organized a party to celebrate the very welcome money. That was the last anyone heard of the James family.

 

The next weeks saw Sebastian dividing his time between his office and speaking to architects and builders at the house. A month after Sebastian had become the owner, a huge hoarding was set up in view of the whole village announcing:

HOT SPRINGS PLAZA HOTEL

 

 WITH JACUZZI, SAUNA, AROMATHERAPY,

HOT AND COLD SHOWER, CLOUDY FINE SPRAY,

AND TURKISH BATH CIRCUIT - ALL INCLUDED

Duration one hour and forty minutes.

 

Also there is a multi-functional Gymnasium

included in our two-night stay at the hotel.

 

OPENING DAY - TWENTY-FIRST AUGUST

The office is now open for inquiries.

 

At the bottom of the hoarding was the legend: Sebastian Soames and Associates.

 

Arabella enjoyed going up to the worksite and chatting to those who were working on the project. Neither of the sisters had ever thought that their father would get involved in such a large undertaking. One day when Arabella was up there, one of the young workmen approached her, saying, “Hello, up here again? Why don’t you make yourself useful and make us some tea?”

Arabella wasn’t used to anyone speaking to her in such an easygoing manner, and said, “Well, all right. How many cups do I need to make?”

The young man, whose name was Russell, shouted out, “Who wants tea?” Those interested said ‘yes’, and so Arabella went off to where there was a mobile kitchen installed to make the tea. While she was busy with mugs, tea bags, hot water, and milk, it came to her that Russell had no idea that she was Sebastian’s daughter. She took the tea to the workmen, and asked if they needed anything else. Russell asked her, “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. It all depends on other things I might have to do.”

“If you need a job, there’s one going at the baker’s in the village for the holidays. It might be of interest to you for the extra money,” Russell told her.

“OK. Thanks. I might just look into it. See you. ‘Bye.”

 

Mrs Bird, the lady who helped out at Sebastian’s house, was not employed to do heavy work. Arabella and Lavender were required to do that. Sebastian blamed his late wife for spoiling the two sisters to such an extent that they had not a clue on how to run a house - or anything else for that matter. One of the reasons he had taken them all to live in a smaller house, was to get them to be more aware of how to do things for themselves.

 

Arabella walked to the bakery that was in the main street. It was always overflowing with bread of many different types: cakes, buns, pizzas, and meat or fruit pies. In the centre of the shop window there was an outsized plaited loaf of bread, and there were also animals modelled in bread such as: tortoises, rabbits, fish, and hedgehogs. The aroma of newly baked bread reached the noses of every passer-by.

“Good morning. I’m Arabella, and I’ve come about the holiday vacancy here.”

The baker’s wife, who was serving a customer, said, “Wait a minute. I’ll see you about it.”

Arabella watched as the customer was served and her change given to her. The baker’s wife gestured for Arabella to follow her into a back room which was used as an office. “The job is just for the summer holidays, and will finish when school starts. How old are you and where do you live?”

Arabella gave Mrs Trimble all her details, and even included the information about the hotel and spa being constructed by her father and associates. Mrs Trimble was very happy to hear that last piece of news, as it would get her more attention in the chatting stakes among her friends. “The money isn’t all that, but it’s more than enough for your needs.”

“When do I begin?” Arabella asked, anxious to start work.

“You can begin tomorrow morning at half past seven. I’ll break you in gently. There’s a lot to do here. Your lunch time will be from half past twelve to half past one. Mind you’re punctual, we don’t like tardiness around here. See you tomorrow, then. ‘Bye.”

Arabella thanked Mrs Trimble and left, happy to know she was now employed, and hoped her father would make no objections.

 

At dinner that evening Arabella told her father and sister about her job. Sebastian was pleased with her for having had the initiative to get employment. Lavender thought she was silly, “You’ll have a rotten summer spending every day in a shop selling bread and cakes. I’m after having a good time, you won’t see me working outside the home. Not yet, anyway.”

Mrs Bird had an altogether different opinion, and said to Arabella, “That money you earn is yours. Don’t let anyone tell you how to spend it. It’s yours and yours alone.”

Arabella said to Mrs Bird, “I’d like a scooter for when I have to go to college and not have to catch a bus or train. It would save me the time I’d spend waiting at bus stops or stations.”

“Good for you, but you may only have enough money for a second-hand one.”

“That’s all right. I can always sell it when I have more money to get a car.”

That night Mrs Bird told Mr Bird, “That Arabella will go far. She’s prepared to put herself out, which is more than can be said about her sister.”

 

The Soames family and Mrs Bird settled into a routine. Every day Arabella got up and walked to the bakery and found herself getting fitter and less flabby with the exercise. Lavender got up when everyone had left the house. She was bored, and didn’t know how to remedy it. Sebastian asked her to accompany him to the hotel, which would soon be opened, and Lavender went up there to see if there were any presentable young men. Unfortunately they were not the kind of young men she found the least bit interesting.

One of the surveyors spoke to Sebastian about a weakness that had been discovered in the entrance hall. There was a dip in the centre of the floor, and Sebastian asked, “How is it that it wasn’t seen at the beginning of the works?”

Nicholas Nugent, the surveyor, replied, “The subsidence must have been there, but was made evident by the movement of materials across it from one place to another.”

“What do you suggest we do?” Sebastian asked, hoping he and his associates hadn’t taken on too much.”

“We’ll get the floor up and see what’s underneath.”

Sebastian agreed and went home to have a short nap before Arabella got home. He noticed that there was no sign of Lavender. Mrs Bird had left a note saying that the butcher’s boy had left the meat and it was now in the fridge.

 

Nicholas rang up Sebastian the next morning, and said, “Come on, and get yourself up here. There’s something you must see.

 

Nicholas and the workmen and the other associates were standing around some broken wooden floorboards on the hall floor. “Take a look at this,” Nicholas ordered Sebastian.

Sebastian stared at the broken up floorboards. The soft underlining that was between the wooden floor and the old floor had gone rotten, and it was that which had caused the floorboards to break up and sink. Sebastian ordered the men to remove all the floorboards in order to see what state the original floor was in. The wood was soon taken up and they saw a beautiful sight. Their eyes beheld the previous floor, made of tiny ceramic tiles, in what must have been in glorious colours originally although a little faded with time. The picture depicted was in Greco-Roman style, and was that of a gymnasium, young men jumping and doing somersaults and general athletic activities associated with gymnastics. Sebastian wondered whether Jessamine had known about the existence of what was under the floor, and if that had been the reason she had presented him with the pictures and the sculptures. He knew, then, how he could decorate the spa and the gymnasium.

“Nicholas, I think we should cover it with reinforced glass so that the public can see it, and put a wooden frame around it. It would be a shame to cover it all up again.” Sebastian suggested.

Nicholas thought for a moment, and said that he had had a similar idea.

 

The gym was done out with wooden floors and Greco-Roman pictures on the walls in the colours nearest to the ones in the hall floor. The spa had a black floor and walls with the water areas in white, and, again, pictures of Greco-Roman design in coloured ceramic on the walls. The whole aspect was very relaxing, and the atmosphere that the old floor gave the hotel was carried through into the exercise areas.

 

Arabella meanwhile was busy saving her money and had managed to buy herself an old scooter. Lavender was at once jealous and envious that Arabella had something she didn’t have. Sebastian had paid for driving lessons for the girls the year before, but he wasn’t all that keen on buying them a car till they were a bit older. They were allowed to use his car when he wasn’t using it, although he had asked them not to do so, as it was a waste of money when the village was so small. Arabella got invited to village parties and met young men of all types. Lavender’s ambitions were more upmarket.

 

Arabella arrived home one day, saying. “I’m going out tomorrow with a boy who comes into the bakery, he’s invited me to a harvest festival dance.”

“That’s nice for you,” Sebastian said, happy that Arabella, at least, was settling into village life.

Lavender was angry as no one had invited her. She decided on her revenge.

 

The next day Arabella lent her ‘new’ secondhand scooter to another of the girls who worked in the bakery, who had to go and visit her grandmother in another village nearby. Arabella went to the dance with the boy in his car as she didn’t have the scooter.

 

Lavender saw Sebastian dozing off in front of the television, and said to him, “Why don’t you go up to bed?”

“Yes, I think I will. Arabella will ring if she needs me for anything. Goodnight, Lavender.” Sebastian went up the steep staircase to his bedroom and to sleep.

 

Lavender waited till she was certain that her father was asleep, and stole out of the house with the car keys in her pocket. She knew from memory the number of the scooter and where Arabella usually drove when she was out. All she had to do was to wait until she passed by. The scooter came along the country road, the figure was in riding gear, and Lavender swung into action in the car. She approached the scooter quietly from behind and gave it a nudge. The scooter swerved into a ditch, and Lavender drove on home, thinking that she had taught Arabella a lesson.

Arabella was, in fact, asleep in her room when Lavender arrived home, so the sisters didn’t see each other that night.

 

The next morning Mrs Bird was at Sebastian’s house early, and told him about the accident. Arabella had already left for work and was informed by the baker and his wife of the incident. She told them that the girl in question had been riding a scooter.

Arabella went to the police, and told them it was her scooter and that she had lent it to her work-mate. She went to where the scooter had been taken by the tow-truck. She could have it back when the situation had been cleared up.

Sebastian was upset when he heard from Arabella about the accident, and his thoughts were naturally - what if it had been Arabella? Witnesses said that a large car had knocked the scooter over into the ditch. As few people had large cars in the village, it was soon discovered that Sebastian’s car had been the one involved. The police called on Sebastian, and he told them that he had gone to bed because he had been very tired. After questioning Lavender for a while, she admitted that she had driven her father’s car into the scooter, complaining that Arabella always got everything. Sebastian said, “You know your problem? You’ve never shown any initiative for anything, always expecting someone else to do everything for you.”

The police were not happy about arresting Lavender as she was so young. Sebastian was of the opinion that she deserved a good punishment.

 

The girl on the scooter had been lightly injured. Sebastian and Arabella went to visit her in hospital, an action that her parents appreciated. Sebastian gave them full membership of the hotel and spa and gym.

 

The grand opening went off splendidly, and everyone had to agree that it was a positive business for the area. Lavender was out of the way in an institution to help her see the error of her ways. She got fed up with her fellow inmates telling her what a wonderful father she had.

 

The gym scene in the floor was as big a success as the new gym itself was. The spa took off really well, and it helped the locals to feel that they weren’t so out of touch by living in the deepest, darkest countryside. 


© Copyright 2018 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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