There’s no sign of Lol

Here is the next part of my short story which seems to becoming something much longer! Lol and his un-named girlfriend who is narrating the story have inherited enough to buy  a big house in the country. It and the grounds are totally dilapidated, but Lol insists on trying to rescue a summerhouse or folly from rampant brambles and ivy. She is used to his obsessions, but this one is becoming annoying. However she realises that he’s not alone when he’s working down there – she hears voices but never sees who he’s talking to. They must hide when they hear her coming, for some reason, At first she’s annoyed and then more concerned than annoyed about his secrecy. She decides to take him a flask of tea but when she gets there, all the tools are scattered about but there’s no sign of Lol.

I knew immediately what had happened. I used to love Lol’s spontaneity and impulsive nature, in fact we’d had some marvellous and fun times doing something unexpected – like climbing over what was now our wall, following the track and discovering our house.
So, say his new friends had suggested doing something, going to the pub maybe, going to see some nearby standing stones – there were some we just hadn’t managed to get to see them yet… I dismissed my stupid thought of another woman, Lol wasn’t deceitful – forgetful maybe, but he’d not… he’d not do anything… he’d not…
I stood,  flask in hand, staring at the loppers still entangled in a bundle of ivy. Maybe Lol was bored, not with me, but being such a sociable bloke, just stuck with one person, even the person he loved, day after day with only the occasional foray to the shop, hardware store or pub, maybe when he met some new people it was understandable… It had happened before many times when he’d done something without me, not because he didn’t want me to be with him, it was just an opportunity presenting itself.
I smiled remembering the time he had come home soaking wet having fallen in a river while punting, yes punting. He’d met up with a couple of friends and they’d decided punting was just the thing to do. He’d no doubt been clowning about and tumbled in, not only losing the punt pole, but also his wallet in the plunge, and his shoes. The punting chums lived in the other direction so he’d squelched home bare foot… I’d laughed like a drain, ran him a bath and heated some soup…
I walked slowly back to the house, and I confess, I did feel a little lonely, wishing he’d thought to come back to ask me to go with them.

***

Remembering the soup I’d made when he’d fallen in the river, I decided that I’d make some for dinner, I hadn’t made any for a long time and if Lol had already eaten when he came back it would keep for tomorrow.
Vegetables chopped and into the pan, yesterdays’ gravy – or was it the day before? Days merge… whatever the day’s gravy went into the pan, added the undrunk third of a bottle of wine and I stirred it vigorously.
There was a clatter somewhere in the house which made me jump. It wasn’t loud, but I wondered what it was. A window left open? I went to investigate, maybe a bird had come down a chimney, or a squirrel, or maybe a feral cat – not that I’d seen any, or maybe a heavy footed mouse. I went into the large hall and there was a noise from the front room where I’d been painting earlier.
I flung open the door and got the shock of my life to find someone in there, and a further shock to realise it was Lol, paintbrush in hand.
“Lol! Where have you been?” I cried, my heart thumping.
He turned slowly and looked at me as if surprised. “What do you mean?” he asked. “I haven’t been anywhere.”
“I went down to the summerhouse and you weren’t there!”
“I came back here,” he was puzzled.
So how had I not seen him when I stormed down to the folly? How did we miss each other?
“You’re dripping paint on the floor,” I said, my heart was returning to normal.
“I’ll clean it up in a minute,” and he turned back to the wall.
I watched him moving the brush slowly up and down. I can’t say why or how, but he didn’t look the same as normal. He’s usually full of energy and does things at a hundred miles an hour.
“Are you alright?” I asked, concerned now. Was he poorly? Had he come inside because he got too hot slashing away at the weeds of the overgrown undergrowth?
“Yes, thank you.”
He didn’t seem alright to me, but I said nothing except to ask if he wanted a cup of tea.  He said yes please and I went to make it. I called through that it was in the pot and went out and walked slowly down to the summer house to collect the tools he’d left scattered about.

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