Discover more from Heaven & El
Chapter 35: Chapter 4
It wasn’t until several hours later that the rain started up again, this time even louder than before. Thankfully though, Josh had done a stellar job of fixing my roof. A couple of the tiles had shifted, thanks wind, so it hadn’t taken much for him to get them fixed back into place and I was no longer in danger of having soggy feet when I got into bed. It wasn’t quite the start to village life that I’d anticipated but at least it had got me out and I’d met some new people.
Speaking of people, Oliver had popped round after school. I’d been in the house getting more cake so I hadn’t heard his knock on the door at first. I turned to take the refreshments out to Josh and, caught by surprise, he’d made me jump and I’d practically thrown them at Oliver instead. Given how good Judith’s cake was that seemed like a terrible waste.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s okay, I was just taking some more cake out to Josh. Do you want a piece?”
“Is it Judith’s?” I nodded that it was. “Better not, she’s not my biggest fan.”
“Why, what did you do?”
“Oh it’s silly, nothing really.”
I waited for Oliver to go on but instead an awkward silence hung in the air. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“For me?” It was like Oliver had forgotten that he was the one who’d called round. “Oh, yeah, sorry, I just wondered if you fancied coming down the hall with me tonight? There’s a quiz on, it’s usually a bit of a giggle.”
“Tonight?” I glanced around at the cardboard boxes still littering my front room. “I should probably give it a miss. I’ve got all this unpacking to do.”
“Awww, come on, it’ll be a laugh. I’ll help you unpack after the quiz if you like?”
Something about his cheery attitude swayed me, not that I wanted him poking around my stuff, I’d do that myself later, but maybe an evening at home alone wasn’t the best idea. I’d gotten used to my own company over the last few months but I wasn’t a natural introvert and too much thinking sounded like a recipe for disaster.
“Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. I won’t hold you to the unpacking though, just the quiz will be fine.”
“Great! I have to set up the music so is it okay if I meet you down there, about seven?”
“It’s a date!” I felt my face flush. Why had I said that? Two new friends attending a quiz in the village hall did not constitute a date. I found myself searching for the right words to cover up my mistake, back-pedalling rapidly, but Oliver didn’t appear to notice. He was already out the door and striding up my little path, arms swinging and whistling tunelessly. I smiled to myself and shook my head. I really didn’t know what to make of him.
What does one wear to a quiz in the village hall? I’d struggled with social etiquette over the years and with no girlfriends around to ask for advice, I found myself falling back on the jeans and shirt I’d been wearing all day, promising myself that tomorrow I would definitely unpack my clothes. The rain had stopped so I ditched the wellies for ballerina flats but soon regretted that decision, it was freezing! I marched at a swift pace down the hill toward the glow of the village hall, butterflies in my tummy. This was unfamiliar territory for me. Back in Southampton I’d known my neighbour on one side but otherwise had lived a fairly anonymous existence. I had friends of course, and colleagues in work would invite me out for drinks from time to time, but you could go quite easily from one day to the next without much in the way of conversation. The idea of getting together, the whole community, well that was just totally bonkers. Must remember not to say that out loud!
When I got closer to the hall I couldn’t see Oliver waiting for me outside and my toes were under threat of frost bite so I took a deep breath, pushed open the door, and went in. The door opened into a deserted corridor and having geared myself up, I felt momentarily let down. Noise was coming from a room ahead of me so I took another deep breath and tried again. Christmas music flooded my ear drums and I paused, allowing my eyes to adjust to the light. A large crowd was gathered at the bar and I could see more people scattered around six or seven tables. No one had noticed me, thank goodness, and I scanned the room looking for a familiar face. I’d hoped I might see Judith or one of the teachers but if this were a village quiz night, it seemed that someone had forgotten to invite my neighbours.
It was then that I spotted Oliver, on the side of the stage sporting a pair of flashing antlers. He looked up, saw me and waved, so I made my way towards him.
“You made it! Hello! Here, these are for you …” He handed me a pair of antlers that neatly complimented his and I pulled a face. “Don’t worry, we’re all wearing them.” He pointed over to a table where three other people were sat in similarly matching head gear. “Let me introduce you.” I reluctantly put the antlers on my head and followed him toward our team.
“Amy, this is Gareth, from the garage, I think you met him this morning?” I nodded and smiled. “And this is his wife Diane.”
“Nice to meet you.” I smiled and gave the both of them a shy little wave.
“And this young gent is their son, Mark.” Diane nudged Mark and he looked up from his phone, nodded his head in my direction, and then promptly stuffed his earbuds back in.
“Sorry about him, he doesn’t mean to be rude. You know what teenagers are like. It was hard enough getting him to wear the antlers.”
I did know what teenagers were like and Diane had my utmost sympathy. I was about to say as much when Gareth interrupted my thoughts.
“So you’ve just moved into the village? Where you to?”
“I’m sorry …?”
Gareth looked at me as if I were an idiot and repeated his question. “Where you to?”
Oliver took pity on me. “Amy’s moved into the Peterson’s old place.”
“On the sunny side?” He gave me a look that made me shiver.
“Uh, yes, at least, that’s what the estate agent told me. Not seen much sun yet though.” I laughed too loudly and Oliver joined in. Gareth didn’t laugh.
“I think you’d better leave.”
I looked at him and laughed again. This had to be a joke.
“Do you see me laughing. I mean it, get out!” The room had suddenly fallen silent.
Oliver stood up and, taking my arm, we edged past the now staring faces and back out into the cold. I turned to Oliver, tears in my eyes.
“What was all that about?”