The folly

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. Eventually he turns up back at the house but in a strange, subdued mood.

After weeks of pleasant weather, this afternoon it seemed chilly. I picked up the loppers, shears, secateurs and saw, a single gardening glove with a weird bright green stain across the palm and put them in a pile by a gnarled tree. I’d no idea what sort it was, not a chestnut I would have recognised that, nor a beech.
I stood and looked at the folly. The mound of brambles which had been like the outer wall of a hill fort was mostly gone; Lol had said it looked like a savarin it was so rounded in shape. I’d laughed at him, I remembered, we’d both laughed at him, we hadn’t laughed much recently.
The lump of the building was covered in ivy and honeysuckle, now in bloom, wild roses and more brambles, plus a creeper with big flappy leaves. I could see now that in fact the building was made of wood – I’d wondered if it might be stone, but this made me think it was more likely to have been a summer house rather than an outbuilding of some sort. Lol had done well to clear so much, but gee, there was a lot more to do. I could make out part of a glazed window, the pane staring blankly at me.
There was no way I could get nearer, Lol must have climbed over the remains of the brambly mound to get near enough to work. Maybe I would come down with him tomorrow and rake up the strewn cuttings into a pile. We could make a bonfire once they were dry enough.
I walked right round, it was difficult somehow to grasp its dimensions. It didn’t look that big but seemed to take a while to circumnavigate.  I must say I didn’t like it very much, couldn’t see what Lol saw, but maybe when we had cleared it all, painted it, maybe white and green, maybe get some climbing roses, maybe…
I picked up the tools, and carried them awkwardly back to the house.

8

I suggested we went to the pub in the village; it was about seven miles away so too far to walk and back again, but I volunteered to drive. Lol had continued to be quiet, he looked tired, and maybe he was after his frenetic activity over the last however long.
He agreed but in a lacklustre way – maybe he’d already been to the pub with his unknown friends, maybe they’d had a falling out which was why he was quiet. Maybe a few beers would jolly him along.
We set off, me behind the wheel and followed the winding drive down to the gates. We passed by the copse where the folly was, I hadn’t realised the lump of it was visible from the drive, but it seemed to be looking across at us, even though I couldn’t see the building. There was a glint of reflected light in the exposed window from the setting sun as we passed.
“Don’t you find it a bit creepy?” I asked Lol as we slowed, reaching the gates. For no reason at all we kept them shut even though anyone could clamber over the broken down walls.
“Find what a bit creepy?” he asked, opening the car door.
“The folly, don’t you think it’s a bit creepy?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” and he got out, opened the gates then stood aside for me to drive through before closing them and getting back I beside me. We drove the rest of the way to the pub in silence.

***

The pub’s called the Golden Lion and it was just a nice ordinary village pub which still had a public bar and a lounge. At least ‘ladies’ were allowed in the public now and that’s where we usually went. The lounge was full of older people, stuffy, Lol always said, talking about golf and foreign holidays.
I went to push the door into the public open just as someone pulled it from the other side so I made an awkward and unexpected lunge and fell against the man who was coming out. Embarrassed I apologised as he did too and then he greeted us.
“Hello there, hello Lol,” of course we go into a pub and someone knows Lol, it was reassuringly normal.
Lol bucked up and greeted the tall dark haired man who was called Tony apparently. I remembered he had done some of the plumbing on our house when we first moved in and were virtually camping. He was with another man who also looked vaguely familiar, a big, gingery blond, bearded man.
They’d stepped back into the pub, and I was focusing more on Lol, who seemed to come back from whatever strange place he’d been and was talking to them quite normally. I went to the bar and got a pint for him and a coke for me. I thought the woman behind the bar was a bit short with me, maybe she didn’t like or approve of women in this bar. Too bad, I wasn’t in the mood to care what she thought.
The two men were on their way out, the dark one still talking to Lol who had definitely cheered up. Maybe he’d just been feeling guilty.
“I’m going to be free in the next couple of days to come over,” the gingery bearded man said to me. I had no idea what he meant. “Finish off your doors? Do the stairs?” he said seeing my blank look, and then I remembered he’d done also done some work on the house, front and back door, made it secure, a few other things, I hadn’t paid much attention at the time, I was in an over-excited frenzy of dashing from room to room trying to do everything at once in an excited muddle of enthusiasm.
“Oh thank you, yes, that would be marvellous! Sorry I didn’t recognise you!”
He said he’d be in touch, and followed his mate out of the pub, and we went and sat at a table by a big stained glass window with a golden lion in the middle.
“Fancy a game of doms?” Lol asked, completely back to being himself. And yes, a game of doms would be perfect.

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